Many dedicated gamers have, after so many years of playing, grown tired of the more homogenized brand of video games. Enter Indie games. Small developers with big ideas — lovingly titled “Indie developers” — these new companies are constantly at the forefront of innovative video game design. In celebration of that, Steam has started another one of its famous sales (or maybe infamous would better describe it here, seeing how badly it ravages my wallet), this time focusing on Indie games. To anyone looking to get the most out of the sale, I’ve compiled a short list of games that are worth your time (and money), and why I enjoy them.
First and foremost: Castle Crashers.
Castle Crashers is a game that’s been around since almost the very beginning of Indie popularity. It’s one of the games that really ignited my enthusiasm for smaller, interesting games, and if you enjoy side-scrolling beat-em-ups, there are few more outstanding choices than Castle Crashers. Its extremely cartoony, exaggerated art style adds to the crude (albeit highly enjoyable) humor that pervades everything about the game, from the deer that propels itself with literally explosive diarrhoea, to the fact that you can wield a fish as a weapon. The game was ported pretty well to the PC (previously having been an XBox 360 Arcade exclusive), with the only real hiccup being the iffy control scheme; meaning you’ll probably want to hook up a controller. The game is silly and enjoyable when you play on your own, but as with so many other games, where Castle Crashers really shines is in its co-op. Grab three friends and hack and slash your way through one of the most colorful and creative Indie games in the sale. $8.99 on Steam.
Next up: To the Moon.
To the Moon is a very strange game, and while it isn’t for everyone, it is one heck of an experience. The basic premise of the game is that there is an agency which grants last wishes through the power of near-future technology. You play two of the company’s agents: Dr. Eva Rosalene and Dr. Neil Watts. The latter is the goofball who knows his job, knows he knows his job, and while he enjoys a good (or, as is more often the case, really bad) joke, he isn’t willing to compromise his morals for the sake of an easy paycheck. Eva is stricter than her companion, insisting on getting the job done according to the normal operating guidelines. To the Moon takes you through the patient’s memories through advanced virtual reality technology, allowing the two Doctors to jump slowly back through the patient’s life until they reach a point where they can alter his memories to simulate achieving his last wish. It’s a fascinating game about a whole lot of themes, and while the controls are a little stiff, it’s worth the few hours just to see the story through to its conclusion. Freebird Games, the developer of To the Moon, announced that the second installment of the To the Moon series will be released some time this year. $3.99 on Steam
Another one of those very early Indie hits; Braid tells a strange story through puzzles of all kinds. The game plays like old Mario games (and even makes reference to its similarity within the game), with the caveat that you have to solve puzzles that require the use of your strange ability to reverse time. There are no lives or any sort of real health system — if you come in contact with something deadly, you have to reverse time until you are no longer dead. It’s a wonderfully smooth use of a mechanic that was already required by the game to eliminate player frustration. That said, the puzzles are fiendishly clever, and even I found myself looking up solutions online. Despite its difficulty, it tells a touching story made interesting by the fact that it is given to you in small fragments, and then in the incorrect order. Braid is a wonderful expression of its creator’s ingenuity and love of the medium, and is an excellent example of Independent Game development done right. $3.99 on Steam.
Limbo is for all of you gamers who enjoy a good psychological thriller. This disturbing game places you in control of a small boy whose only defining characteristics are his glowing eyes and shadowy form. Most of the world, actually, is a silhouette, and part of what makes the game both difficult and frightening is that you can’t always tell what’s dangerous. Limbo isn’t as forgiving as Braid, with the main method of progression being repeatedly dying. That being said, many of the puzzles are fairly obvious after you die a few times going about it the wrong way. All in all, Limbo is a fun puzzle-platformer with a decidedly disturbing theme. $3.99 on Steam
Ticket to Ride
Some of you may be familiar with Ticket to Ride in its original incarnation as a board game. As a video game, the only real change is that you can play online with friends who own the game, meaning you don’t have to actually be in the same room with the person. Depending on the person, this may be better or worse for you. Regardless, the whole point of the game is to build as many connected railroads as you can. Train car tokens are represented by different color cars, and by playing these cards, you place train cars on the board itself. You earn points by placing cars, of course, but the main aim is to complete your routes. When you start the game, you draw a few Route Cards, which are visual representations of two cities linked by a railroad. The farther away that one city is from another, the more points you can earn. Once you’ve completed your routes, you have the option to draw new ones to try and gain even more points. The danger in doing this is that if you don’t finish a route before the game ends, you lose the points that you would have gained from completing the route. Ticket to Ride is another game that is great on its own, and gets even better when you sucker a few friends into getting it too. Base game is $3.99 right now on Steam.
These aren’t the only games worth getting from the sale, mind you. I picked these games because I thoroughly enjoyed them and, most importantly, have played them myself. There are many, many more Indie games that you can get cheap from the sale. I myself have three in my cart right now, and before the sale is over I’m sure my wallet will suffer greatly. Remember though, the sale only lasts until the 29th. Get to it!
What’s your favorite Indie Game? Let us know in the comments below.