Amnesia: The Dark Descent is, arguably, one of the pioneers of this decade’s H.P. Lovecraft themed revival in indie game development, which was followed by Darkest Dungeon (also in this list), and which had previously been started by the Call of Cthulhu video game series and many board games.
This game is a must play for any horror fans out there who like the idea of not being able to defend yourself, like the Outlast games so masterfully embraced. Its dark, chilly ambiance and the helplessness it transmits is only a part of this game’s appeal, as its intriguing storyline captivates from start to finish in a terrifying, yet fulfilling way.
A two-player co-op adventure is nothing new, but Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was special in that it was essentially a co-op game controlled by just one player. The titular two sons in Brothers were controlled by an analogue stick each. It was a genius mechanic which made for some brilliant puzzles.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons had clear parallels with Journey, featuring an expedition across beautiful locales and intimate encounters with nature. Yet the more hands-on approach to its puzzling let the player feel like they were truly influencing and interacting with the world rather than merely exploring it.
What also set Brothers apart from its peer was a remarkably heartfelt tale of strife, determination and loss. It was near-impossible to not feel invested in the journey of the young, very brave sons.
Subnautica is a game of absolute duality. On one hand, there has never been as serene an experience in games than building an underwater base in the beautiful Shallows area. On the other hand, a game has never been as soul chillingly terrifying as Subnautica is when piloting a sub through a pitch black underwater chasm, while unspeakably huge and terrifying creatures swim above and below you.
Taking the very best elements from its contemporaries in the survival genre, Subnautica found the perfect way to balance beauty, discovery and a sense of home with terror, loneliness and the fear of losing your hard won progress. The strong gameplay and atmosphere in Subnautica is tightly knitted together with a narrative that is mostly driven by the innate need for progress in games, with the player’s drive to unlock new areas and mechanics pushing the story of survival and escape further, and further.
Whether you just liked to splash around in some pretty water, or braved the crushing depths, Subnautica succeeded at taking us to new places and deserves its place on this list.
It’s hard to say that the Hundred Years’ War was particularly fun. That didn’t stop A Plague Tale: Innocence, a survival adventure game taking place in the heart of The Black Death, from hitting store shelves in 2019, however.
Fun is definitely off the table in its traditional sense, but what replaces it is a gnawing sense of a desperate need to survive born only out of the most hopeless of vulnerabilities. That’s exactly the situation that two young children of nobles find themselves in during the opening scenes of this grim tale.
Unexpectedly thrust into these dirty, crime ridden streets with throngs of guards out to get them, it’s down to teenager Amicia to keep herself and her brother Hugo safe. With a heavy focus on stealth gameplay, you’ll be creeping through the streets with your heart thumping through your headphones, at once terrified of the fate that sits before you and in awe of the atmospheric game world created within these streets.
66. A Way Out
A Way Out will probably be seen in the near future as a revolution in cooperative video game development. Who would have thought that it would be possible to make Prison Break a game, and multiplayer to boot! The fact that it’s an indie game, but features such high quality graphics, gameplay and overall design takes has helped it to contribute to taking AAA indie games to another level. The proof is in the pudding, with over 1 million copies sold.
Swedish-Lebanese video game and movie director Josef Fares deserves a place on this list for his ambition and place in the audiovisual industry, and proving that indie developers can work hand by hand with large companies like EA without compromising their artistic vision.
Tacoma is a game which unashamedly showcases what indies are and can be. Fullbright’s latest entry has been somewhat reduced to “Gone Home in space”, (which is understandable given that it’s made by the same company) but Tacoma is far more than that.
Tacoma has the player investigate an abandoned space station, trying to retrieve parts of ODIN which are essentially virtually created ghosts who display data in the form of reenacted the conversations and encounters of the six people who lived on the station. Like a futuristic fly on the wall, players bit-by-bit piece together what happened to the crew, while also gaining an insight into their lives.
While not for everyone, Fullbright’s second release puts players in the aftermath of the action, allowing them to soak up the feeling of what it was like to live in a home without gravity, and depicts an understanding of space as loneliness, not simply bangs, gunfire and explosions.
With its neon look, red-caped protagonist and a sense of style to rival fashion guru Gok Wan, Furi is a game all about dodging, parrying and slicing. Set with the challenge of escaping a prison by killing the wardens, this boss-rush game sought to answer the question ‘can boss fights be fun?’ The Game Bakers delivered with a resounding ‘yes!’
As players go from fight-to-fight deciphering the attack boss’ patterns, knowing when to avoid an attack, parry it or blast the enemy straight in their face is all part of the fun. Furi is a well-tuned game which combines twin-stick shooting and stabbing excellently. It doesn’t try to be anything else, it sticks to its guns (and sword) delivering an action-packed game and perfect for those who want to kill tough opponents with combat which is easy to master and completely satisfying.
A game set on a freezing cold mountain should not have been so heartwarming. Celeste welcomed players into its embrace and didn’t let go. The sublime smoothness of the animation, art style, and controls made the crunching difficulty much more bearable. Celeste followed tough platformers like Super Meat Boy and N++ and created the most accessible, hard as ice platformer ever. In a gaming culture where accessibility is a dirty word to purists, or a compromise to help sellability, Celeste demonstrated how challenging games could be for everyone. For anyone that turned away from this charmer on release, play it, even if it’s just to meet the friendliest, nearly-Instagram-famous hipster, and doting undead hotel manager you’ve ever met.
Despite any indignation that fans of Terraria might have at it being labelled “2D Minecraft”, the sooner they accept that this is a compliment, the better. Terraria took the same construction and resource gathering, laced with survival elements, that Mojang popularised and compressed it into a varied and imaginative experience.
Terraria built upon that same sense of constructing a home that Minecraft so successfully realised, but it has done much to carve out its own place, outside the shadow of its monolithic contemporary. Since its release way back in 2011, Terraria has continued to be supported with content updates and improvements, and its community remains vibrant and dedicated to the game.
Terraria’s popularity is evidence that there is more than one way to paint a picture, and to each of its fans the trick continues to be in the details.
There’s so much to say about Deconstructeam’s narrative driven, insightful cyberpunk tale. For any fan of point-and-click adventures with deep storylines and player choices, The Red Strings Club is a great addition to the collection.
It’s hard to explain how a game that has no voice acting and a lot of reading can be so emotionally moving through such a believable set of characters. The Red Strings Club dives so deep into our values, preconceptions and life motivations that when the game ends we’re bound to say “thank you for that”.
An honorable mention to Fingerspit, the game’s score composer, who crafted a synth wave soundtrack that fits perfectly into the game, takes the wheel and drives us through an unforgettable ride.