My 10 Favorite Indie Games
I love gaming but I’m not a fan of open worlds I need hours to understand. I prefer short out-of-the-box experiences that challenge the norms of genres and gameplay. That’s why I’ve always been a big fan of small games made by indie studios. Today, I wanna share my 10 favorite ones – all of them are wonderful artsy experiences I highly recommend whenever you wanna escape the world, even if just for some minutes.
#10 Night in the Woods (PS4, X1, PC)
The coming-of-age platformer Night in the Woods revolves around kitten Mae who returns home after having quit college for unknown reasons. She tries to reconnect with old friends who have their own young adult issues: dating, queer love, mental health, feeling stuck. Along the way, a mysterious murder occurs and no one but Mae seems to be interested in solving it. Night in the Woods isn’t perfect and feels stretched at times. In its finest moments, however, it’s a beautifully crafted and heartwarming game about growing up.
#9 A Desktop Love Story (PC)
One could argue that A Desktop Love Story is not a game in the strict sense because it only consists of some folders and files, there is no interface or in-game graphics. Among the data, you will find two files that are in love with each other. There is just one problem: The two files are in different folders and don’t know how to communicate with each other. As a user, it is now up to you to bring the two closer together so that digital love can develop. Quirky, unexpected and with a lot of heart!
#8 Dr. Langeskov, the Tiger,… (PC)
… and the terribly cursed Emerald: a whirlwind Heist surprises not only with the length of its name. In-game you end up “backstage” and receive the message that the game itself is currently occupied and you will have to wait. Until the other player is done, however, you can pass the time as an intern on the production floor. You’re being asked to make it rain, switch lasers on and off, release a tiger at the right time. Or you can mess around and watch what happens. Full of entertaining surprises!
#7 GRIS (PC, PS4, Switch, Phone)
Superficially, GRIS is a basic platformer with easy puzzles and simple controls. What stands out, however, are the handcrafted watercolor graphics and the beautiful sound design. GRIS is a lost yet hopeful girl in a grey world that gets more colorful as you advance and learn more special moves. As an example, you can make GRIS’ dress turn into a solid block of rock that crashes underlying surfaces. A meditative ride!
#6 Journey (PC, PS3/4)
Journey is a title that gained recognition for its beautiful art style and emotional storytelling. You play an abstract character on their long journey from a desert up a mountaintop. You run, jump and flow through the world and even though there is not one spoken word in-game, you can truly feel the struggle and the pain of the main character. The perfect game for anyone searching for a beautiful two-hour experience.
#5 Dys4ia (PC)
Dys4ia is a tiny emotional flash game, which can be played within the web browser. The ten-minute linear adventure was developed by Anna Anthropy and tells her story of gender dysphoria. In short sections, you go through Anna’s journey on her way to becoming a biological woman. Although the graphics and sound effects are kept simple, the game is captivating and emotional at the same time.
#4 Inside (PC, PS4, Switch, X1)
Inside is the follow-up game from the creators of Limbo and uses the same 2D sidescroller principle mixed with stealth and action passages. Don’t let this naive description fool you because Inside is definitely not for the faint of heart! The aura of this game is twisted and macabre and playing it I was terrified many times. However, I truly love this game because of how far it pushes the player. Mostly, I was surprised (and shocked) about how the game does a complete 180 turn towards the end – and if I’d show you, you would be too. But no matter how much I’d like to, I won’t spoil anyone’s fun and rather dare you to find out for yourself.
#3 Undertale (PC, PS4, Switch, X1)
In Undertale, humans and monsters live together, yet many of the monsters are not at all threatening. In general, many things are not the way you expect them you be in an RPG. You can complete the game relying solely on pacifist strategies. For example, you can encourage an opponent to express his feelings for another monster. That way, they fall in love with each other and go out for ice cream instead of fighting you. Absurd characters are Undertale’s greatest strength: you’ll meet murderous flowers, a skeleton with an affinity for bad puns and a killer robot who wants to become a movie star. Even though the visuals are simple, the story is engaging and heartfelt. Undertale was even named PC Game of the Year 2018 by IGN.
#2 The Beginner’s Guide (PC)
The Beginner’s Guide comes from the same maker as the more popular Stanley Parable. You play levels of different gameplay styles and graphical quality that are fully disconnected from each other. They only have one thing in common: The person who created the levels and his biggest fan who is narrating the story. In 2-3 hours you will finish the game and will probably go through a variety of emotions. I recommend not googling this game before or after playing it and just reflecting on what kind of a weird but satisfying experience you’ve just had. I wish I could make everyone play this game, that’s how much I cherish it. But I’ll do the next best thing and highly recommend it.
#1 What Remains of Edith Finch (PC, PS4, Switch, X1)
The top of this list wasn’t hard to choose because What Remains of Edith Finch does something better than all the other games on this list. I’ve said this about many titles on this list, but this game is an even bigger emotional rollercoaster than all the others. You play Edith who returns home to the abandoned house of her big family. You visit each person’s room, learn more about the twisted family history and eventually end up jumping into the memories of the dead family members – playing their very final moments! This thrilling and artsy adventure has cut deeper under my skin than any other game I have ever played. And, as I imagine, any other game ever will. Do yourself the favor and play it. Today. Like now.
I hope you enjoyed this list of recommendations. Do you have any other gaming tips for me?
Suggested further reading: