These are the indie titles we most enjoyed last year, but there are plenty of contenders we are yet to play. Even so, we think this list is a good reflection of the breadth of experiences delivered by indie developers in 2013, and hopefully it will point you in the direction of a couple you haven’t checked out yet.
The Stanley Parable
There were a number of bold experiments in redefining what a video game narrative can be in 2013, but The Stanley Parable was the one that most resonated with me. The player’s every move is wittily narrated by an omniscient guide, and the simple office setting is in reality a labyrinth of potential outcomes, each with its own commentary on storytelling, gaming conventions, choice or expectations. Well-written, inspired and utterly charming, The Stanley Parable is an unforgettable experience.
Papers, Please is a puzzle game that will leave you feeling distinctly uneasy. Set in 1982 at the border crossing of a fictional Soviet bloc country, you’re tasked with checking the passports and other paperwork of anyone wanting to enter. The moment to moment gameplay and wider story evolve with Arstotzka’s political situation, and the stark subject matter is paired with very effective pixel art and masterful audio.
Surgeon Simulator 2013
One of the funniest games of the year, Surgeon Simulator is exactly what it sounds like, except with its tongue firmly planted in cheek. It ramps up beautifully too, eventually asking players to perform surgery in the back of a moving ambulance, then in space. Pure, absurdist genius.
2013 wasn’t just the year of the indie; it was also the year of the roguelike. Don’t Starve grabbed our attention thanks to its unique hand-drawn visual aesthetic and open-ended gameplay. The day/night cycle played a big role in the game’s rhythm, and while death meant starting all over again, each playthrough taught valuable lessons.
You can grab Don’t Starve discounted on Amazon.
An ode to table top gaming, Dungeon Dashers (which is currently available via Steam Early Access – the final release will be in early 2014) is a combat-focused dungeon crawler with puzzle elements. The combat itself is turn-based, but Dungeon Dashers more than lives up to its name – encounters are fast-paced and really good fun. Great sense of humour too.
Grab Dungeon Dashers [Online Game Code] dicounted on Amazon