Contributing writers: Thomas Ling, Michelle Liu, Jorge Sandoval, Andrew Lane
Ah, 2020: we thought we’d have flying cars, labor androids and quarantines by now, but you only gave us the least desired one of the three.
But leading up to 2020 is a different story – as we sit in quarantine, we fondly look back at some of our favorite indie games, circa 2010-2020!
1. Journey (Playstation 3, 2012. Playstation 4, PC, iOS, 2019)
One of the decade’s earlier entries comes from our own IMGD alumni Jenova Chen with his masterpiece, Journey. Directed by Chen and developed by his studio, Thatgamecompany, Journey has been critically acclaimed as one of the best games of this century. Equipped with nothing but a magical scarf and the ability to sing, the player traverses through visually stunning environments as they work their way through puzzles that impede their progress. Journey also features an emotionally resonant co-op system, where players may run into each other by chance and find themselves temporarily working together with no means of communication beyond singing. Accompanied by a breathtaking soundtrack, Journey masterfully blends the spirit of adventure and a sense of personal growth with the poignant realization that the journey can’t last forever.
2. Faster Than Light (PC, iOS, 2012)
Subset Games breakout hit Faster Than Light (FTL) is every Trekker’s dream come true. In this top down, roguelike, real time strategy game, you command the crew of a spacecraft. Your mission is to voyage across perilous cosmos, delivering key information that will stop the resistance uprising plaguing the galaxy. Along the way you will encounter numerous dangers such as space pirates, rebel soldiers, and giant alien spiders! If this wasn’t hard enough, you have to do this while also managing your ship’s energy consumption, crew’s health, and weapon functionality. Faster Than Light is an indie gem that is absolutely worth the time and effort.
3. Hotline Miami (PC, Playstation, Nintendo Switch, 2012)
Hotline Miami is a crazy, action-packed top down shooter from Dennaton Games and Devolver Digital. Filled with intense run-and-gun missions, Hotline Miami lets you dive into its odd world as you tackle requests from a slew of mysterious, unknown callers. With an array of weapons and different collectable abilities, it’s up to you to figure out the best way to take down every enemy that stands in your way. Not to mention, the music in this game is phenomenal, and does a great job matching the adrenaline that the gameplay already sets the stage for.
4.The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth (Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS, PC, 2014)
From the creators of Super Meat Boy comes a game about a boy who must fight the monsters in his basement to defeat his abusive mom. We know it sounds dark, but trust us: once you start playing, there is no going back. This Legend of Zelda inspired roguelike shooter is chock full of unlockables, secrets, levels, and enemy/boss types. In fact there is so much in this game that no two playthroughs are ever alike. The Binding of Isaac is a perfect mix between challenging, freaky, scary, and fun!
5. Crypt of the Necrodancer (PC, Playstation, Nintendo Switch, 2015)
From Brace Yourself Games, Crypt of the Necrodancer is another phenomenal entry into the roguelike genres… with a twist. Every movement, every action, every decision dictated by the beat of the music. It’s a challenging, addicting, and rewarding experience as you start from struggling just to stay on the beat to clearing waves of enemies without flaw. And, is it any surprise that a game based on rhythm has a killer soundtrack? In fact, it has seven versions of its soundtrack from several stellar musicians such as Danny Baranowsky, FamilyJules, Chipzel, and the Overclocked Remix Team.
6. Lieve Oma (PC, 2016)
Lieve Oma is a stunning, point-and-click visual novel about a young girl following her grandmother through the woods. Along the way, they pick mushrooms for dinner and open up to each other. Florian Veltman, the author, created this game as a tribute to his beloved grandmother. With its beautiful color scheme and heart-felt conversation, we’re certain that each player can find something in this short 1-hour game that resonates with them.
7. VA-11 HALL-A (PC, Playstation, Nintendo Switch, 2016)
Time to mix drinks and change lives. In an unknown future teeming with dystopian chaos, a little bar known as VA-11 HALL-A is filled with surprising faces. From newswriters and androids to streamers who are “live” 24/7, Sukeban’s VA-11 HALL-A offers a comical, yet thought-provoking narrative that puts a spin on the traditional visual novel format. It’s a great game to relax to, with its basic gameplay, vibrant synthwave soundtrack, and many, many possible endings.
8. Hollow Knight (Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Mi, PC, Wii U, 2017)
This Metroidvania style game will have you spending countless hours exploring its subterranean insect world. Its expansive catacombs have so many nooks and crannies filled with secrets and lore for you to discover. Every path has some sort of boss, power up, secret or breathtaking view. However what sets this game apart from all the other Metroidvania games is its atmosphere. Its beautifully drawn worlds and killer soundtrack make its creepy-crawly theme cute instead of daunting. With its satisfying combat, massive world to explore and breathtaking views, Hollow Knight is a definite must play.
9. Cuphead (Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PC, 2017)
Do you love classic cartoons like Looney Tunes or Felix the Cat? Well, do we have the game for you! Everything in this beautifully crafted “run and gun” was painstakingly hand drawn, inked, then digitally re-drawn. As a result, Cuphead has a gorgeously unique art style that compliments its gameplay. However, this happy, nostalgic art style hides a dark and scary fact: this game is freaking hard! Although this game can get challenging at times, instead of making you want to throw your controller like Dark Souls, it makes you want to go back and try harder. After beating this game, you will feel like a better player.
10. Slay the Spire(PC, Playstation, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, 2019)
Slay the Spire, developed by Mega Crit Games, is an amazing crossover between the roguelike and deckbuilding genres. Every run has something new to offer as you ascend your way towards unforgiving enemies, elites, and bosses while collecting cards and relics to strengthen yourself along the way. With four unique characters, it’s easy to lose track of time in the challenge it offers.