The 100 Best Indie Games of All Time
60. Dream Daddy
Game Grumps Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator, was one of the most successful games of 2017. The gameplay follows a single, widower father, having recently moved to a new town with his daughter Amanda. Upon arriving in the new town, he discovers that it is populated entirely by eligible, gorgeous, datable Dads!
The game brings so many wonderful well-developed characters, all of whom have their own secrets and insights. With multiple endings, the player’s answers and choices decides the fate of their Dadsona, as well as affecting their relationship with their daughter. The player discovers more about each Dad during each date, as well as getting to enjoy some pretty fun minigames.
Dream Daddy was a landmark in LGBT themed games, that also explored the relationships people have with their parents. This game looks and is incredibly gorgeous (you’re also never going to get that theme song out of your head!)
59. Path of Exile
Path of Exile is free to play gaming done right. Grinding Gear Games’ action RPG monetisation takes the form of completely optional, yet awesome cosmetic effects. Combined with an incredibly in-depth character building mechanic, random itemisation and communicative and responsive devs, it’s understandable why Path of Exile still has a large player base more than four years after launch.
Regular updates have kept the game fresh throughout its life, bringing countless new mechanics alongside competitive challenge leagues, regularly mixing up the meta. Grinding Gear Games aren’t afraid of introducing balance changes, ensuring there are countless builds and playstyles for players to experiment with.
The game also provides what is often lacking in the genre, a deep and interesting end-game. Maps taking the form of randomised and customisable items open new areas for players to loot, ensuring Path of Exile will still keep players addicted for some time to come.
DrinkBox Studios’ releases consistently ooze with style and attitude. There is perhaps no better example of this than Guacamelee. A metroidvania with strong Dia de los Muertos vibes, players assumed the role of Juan as he acquired luchador superpowers and sought to take down the dastardly undead Carlos Calaca.
Not only was Guacamelee a solid platformer; it was a cracking beat ‘em up of sorts. Juan used his newfound wrestling talents to pummel skeletons and other nasties into a pulp. Special ‘Choozo statues’ broken throughout the game granted Juan new abilities useful for both combat and platforming.
The true genius of Guacamelee lay in the ability to instantly switch between the land of the living and dead. This would influence a level’s platform layout, its enemies, and even the tone of the (frankly superb) soundtrack.
After the meteoric rise of the (still) janky DayZ, the survival shooter genre was established as the perfect medium for the then, still new, early access marketplace. Of all the games that rose and fell, never having achieved their goals, Rust is one of the few to have not only survived, but flourished and carved out its own niche. We can probably chalk that down to the fact that no other game offers running away from bears while entirely naked as a regular occurence.
Rust has built a reputation as a particularly harsh game, with a community that is always eager to take advantage of your inexperience and naivety, but there is still a brutal kind of beauty to be found. The hulking monstrosities that are the player created buildings have a striking impact on the game’s vistas and the aggressive gameplay and hostile environment have resulted in a strong bond and companionship inside regular player groups.
Rust has only recently crossed the arbitrary finish line that is 1.0, but it remains a unique game with an inexorable draw – just be sure that you can handle it.
Supergiant Games has really done a fantastic job at elevating their standards with each new game they release. Both Bastion and Transistor made the indie -and not so indie as well- community tremble with appraisal and compliments for two titles that achieved so much in gameplay, graphics, music, narrative and overall experience. But with Pyre, Supergiant showed how much a game can make us feel. Fantastic music album, hand-drawn stunning graphics and a compelling story with gripping gameplay, as well as the creative uniqueness of inventing a new language just to be used by characters in the game, made Pyre stand very tall through 2017.
55. Titan Souls
Scale has always been a difficult thing to convey in 2D games, particularly those with a fixed isometric perspective, but it is something that Titan Souls not only succeeded at, but excelled in. In this brutally difficult game, you face off as a tiny archer against giant monsters and titans, far bigger and more powerful than you are. Armed with only a single arrow, Titan Souls is a game of patience and timing, while you carefully wait for your enemies to expose themselves and allow you a chance to strike.
With clear comparisons to be made with Shadow of the Colossus, if not in presentation but in spirit and style, Titan Souls is yet more proof that indie games can achieve the same feelings of epic scale and insurmountable odds, as their AAA cousins.
54. Telling Lies
Ask someone to think of a skateboarding game and the odds are they’ll bring to mind Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, or perhaps EA’s Skate. Roll7 put a whole new spin on the genre, however, with OlliOlli.
OlliOlli stripped skateboarding down to its absolute basics, with a side-scrolling 2D pixel art aesthetic and very simple controls – literally just the X button, shoulder buttons and the left analogue stick. Yet these simple building blocks still provided so much depth. A flick of the analogue stick translated to a flip of the skateboard, allowing the player to perform a wide range of tricks.
It was surprisingly tough and bailing led to instant failure. Yet levels were encouragingly short, and the rush of nailing a humongous combo or particularly tricky challenge was enough to spur the player on. Also of note was the soundtrack, an esoteric mixture of chill ambience, electro and even smooth jazz, lending OlliOlli an edge of coolness.
Cyberpunk is certainly in vogue right now, and few games have managed to realise that particular brand of neon-soaked brutality, as masterfully as Ruiner. Packed to the brim with tough as nails, bloody violence, Ruiner struck a balance between style and substance, with a deeply challenging experience that was great to look at.
A narrative based loosely around themes of revenge and arbitrary justice, thematically Ruiner is a grim and dark game, that rarely lets up its sometimes wearily tough demeanour. While a dash of self-awareness or humour could have improved the broth, Ruiner remains a well crafted and visually (if perhaps not narratively) evocative game.
Pinstripe is the living proof of how a single entrepreneur can create a polished, high-quality game in the tranquillity of their rooms.
Pinstripe’s art, music and intriguing yet tragic story is a reflection of how platform games have evolved through the years and are now the go-to genre for indie developers to work with. But make no mistake, that’s not enough. Thomas Brush poured his songwriting, composing, illustrating and creative skills to work in order to get this narrative-driven, emotionally moving game. You can find out more about Thomas Brush’s experience building Pinstripe in our interview with him.