50. Audiosurf 2
Often overlooked, despite being one of the most successful rhythm action series’ of all time, Audiosurf is every music fans dream game. The premise is simple, you upload music to the game, or use the already available in-tracks, and control a vehicle through a series of notes not much dissimilar to something like Guitar Hero. The obvious difference being you are piloting the vehicle and not hitting notes on a plastic guitar.
Snaking through technicoloured environments of pulsating sound you careen across winding environments of never-ending notes. Even on moderate difficulty, it requires fast reflexes and precision but it doesn’t take long for you to master its speedways. It’s this fusion of music and video game mechanics that makes Audiosurf so special. It creates a new way to experience an album or artist you enjoy.
It makes music physical and active in ways in which many other games have failed. It’s a simple concept that never gets old, as long as you have fresh music to feed into it. Just remember, this game is almost begging you to use high-quality headphones to play it. In fact, I don’t think it’d be quite the experience it is if you didn’t.
49. Enter The Gungeon
One of the finest rogue-likes available on PC, or any console for that matter, Enter The Gungeon is a must for fans of the genre. You play as one of several ‘Gungeoneers,’ each with a distinct playstyle, such as The Convict, with a sawn-off shotgun and Molotov cocktails; the Master Chief-esque Marine, with a sidearm and body armour; or The Hunter, equipped with a crossbow and hunting dog companion.
If you’ve played The Binding of Isaac or other similar rogue-likes you’ll have a rough idea of what to expect here: delve into procedurally generated dungeons to slaughter waves of enemies and rock-hard bosses, gather loot and make as much progress as you can before dying and trying all over again. There are over 300 weapons to find and unlock so it’ll be a long time before repetition sets in, and some snappy bullet-hell action keeps the moment-to-moment gameplay satisfying throughout.
Enter The Gungeon is renowned for its difficulty, as with many of its peers. But whereas it was initially perhaps too formidable for some, recent updates have softened the punishment somewhat while still keeping things challenging. A good time to give it a try then, eh?
If CHUCHEL was a facial expression, it’d be a grin. A big, wide grin, toothy and daft – just like that of its titular character. CHUCHEL provides several hours of pure nonsense and joy, as you play a scraggly little mite with a penchant for cherries. So much so, in fact, you’ll make your way through a bonkers world in pursuit of a single one, while meeting a roster of bonkers characters and getting yourself into all sorts of mischief.
CHUCHEL comes from Amanita Design of Samorost and Machinarium, so they’re no strangers to making a point-and-click adventure game. But this one is pared down into the absolute essentials, most scenarios contained within a single screen and with no proper inventory to speak of. It keeps the experience marvelously light and breezy, and most of all, fun. Not to mention, CHUCHEL is damn funny, with it all too easy to fall in love with the rogue of a protagonist and his mad antics.
47. Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Psychological survival horror games rarely rely on monsters to scare you. Once the player has seen the biggest threat in the game, after all, there’s nothing left to be scared of. It’s a concept games designers have been implementing throughout the history of scary game development and yet none have approached the theory from quite as original a position as Frictional Games. Amnesia: The Dark Descent takes the fear of the unknown as a central mechanic. Your main enemy is the dark, and the only threat is your own mind. Sure, there are monsters lurking in this mysterious castle, but if you keep your wits about you, they’ll let you gather information and solve puzzles quite happily. Spend too long in the dark, however, and there’s danger afoot.
The sanity meter of Amnesia is one of the most innovative game design implementations in recent indie history. As your protagonist spends more time in the dark or watching disturbing events, their sanity will decrease, leaving you with visual and auditory hallucinations that are bound to alert the prowling monsters around every corner. Spend time in the light, and keep your match supply topped up for a few brief moments of relief from this intensely psychological experience.
46. Cities Skylines
A God complex is rarely an attractive feature. Unless you’re a fan of Cities: Skylines. The community centric city building simulator gives you a plot of land, a few grand in the bank, and some stretches of road. Before you know it, you’re the overseeing lord of a sprawling metropolis.
Manage traffic, emergency and public service routes, transport solutions, and education to keep your civilians happy and your industries thriving. Everything in this world is about balance. Sure, fulfil the need for more commercial zones but keep an eye on your education level or you won’t have enough workers to meet demand. Create a bustling street of offices and malls, but make sure there’s enough transport around your commercial hub to keep traffic flowing freely. It’s all manageable until it’s not, and that’s when the game really starts.
If you fancy more of a creative experience than a balancing act, there’s always mods and community content designed to make your city building as easy or difficult as possible. There’s plenty of hours to be sunk into Cities: Skylines, and a new appreciation of a good traffic intersection to come out of it.
45. The Banner Saga 2
In case you didn’t know, The Banner Saga is a highly successful trilogy of games that take tactical battle role play and inject it with the personality and emotional depth of an interactive narrative. The Banner Saga 2 was the highlight of everything that makes the series so popular. Taking place mere seconds after the first game rolls its final credits, The Banner Saga 2 uses player decisions and tactics carried over from their experiences in the original title, and provides an extra degree of detail on top. As you lead your troops across the lands to destroy the evil Darkness that looks to consume all, you’ll have to deal with threats from outside your convoy as well as relationship tensions within it.
A simple misguided comment or an act one character deems unfair can obliterate your strategy and destroy your guild from the inside. You’ll have to pay just as much attention to the morale of your convoy as you will the enemies on the battlefield; in The Banner Saga, they’re just as dangerous as each other. What makes The Banner Saga 2 the best in the series? With so many new characters and interactions at your disposal, this second instalment is a marked improvement on what was already an amazing foundational title. But possibly the biggest draw is that The Banner Saga 2 is accessible to all. If you’ve played the original you can keep you conquest going and enjoy a fairly light tutorial slog, but if you’re new to the series you’ll find those streamlined tutorials incredibly effective, allowing you to unlock the majority of the game’s depth early on in your playthrough.
44. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth wasn’t without its controversy on release in 2014. The original title had existed only as a Flash game from Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl, and had even then garnered its fair share of raised eyebrows. When McMillen wanted to take the game further, Rebirth was created. A remake with significantly more powerful tech under the hood and brand new gameplay mechanics and multiplayer support, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth took its controversial subject matter and turned it into a highly tuned gameplay experience.
Isaac has just escaped his Mother’s attempts to sacrifice him in the name of God’s work and finds himself in the basement. From there, its dungeon after dungeon of rogue like combat where your own tears are your weapon of choice. It’s a difficult story to tell, and McMillen was criticised for the graphic imagery he chose to tell it. The game has been rejected by platform after platform because of its violence around its subject matter, but The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth still stands as a modern masterpiece of independent fame.
43. Dead Cells
Indies have done some incredible things with the rogue-like genre, and Dead Cells is one of the most recent and impressive examples. Possessing the body of a prisoner at the start of the game, you fight through castles, dungeons and sewers in an attempt to reach and assassinate the king. This being a rogue-like, of course, you’ll wind up right back at the beginning should you die.
Along the way, however, you collect cells that can be used to unlock some persistent bonuses, like new weapons and extra potions. Whereas purists will argue that a rogue-like shouldn’t have any progression between runs, this system gives a sense of satisfaction that you’re always working towards something, even if you’ve had a couple of bad runs in a row.
Dead Cells is notable for its fantastic presentation and level of polish. Its pixel art manages to be simultaneously dingy and vibrant, and the combat is spine-tinglingly fast and responsive.
Subnautica is an open-world survival game, which may instantly bring certain expectations to mind – resource gathering, crafting and keeping your character fed, watered and healthy. Yes, Subnautica features all of this, with a tech tree expanded by scanning objects you find across the landscape and deep base building mechanics, not to mention the inevitable food and water meters you need to keep topped up. But when I think back to my time with Subnautica, this isn’t what sticks in my mind the most.
You see, what really makes Subnautica special is the exploration. Not only is the majority of the game underwater, which is cool enough, but it’s underwater on an alien planet. The flora is mesmerising at times, from thick vegetation to barren, haunting seascapes, with a range of different biomes that feature dramatically different features. It verges on horror at times, dark and inhospitable areas with terrifying, deadly sea creatures. Come up for air and you can even explore lush islands and mysterious alien sanctuaries. To combine this thrill of discovery with meaty survival mechanics was a masterstroke.
41. Super Hexagon
Oh boy, is Super Hexagon one hell of a drug. It has only two buttons: left and right. The most rudimentary 2D graphics. But this simplicity only helps it burrow itself inside your brain all the quicker, with its addictive ‘one more go’ nature.
You control a triangle pointer in the centre of the screen, with rotating shapes quickly closing in around you. You simply need to keep rotating to the gaps to avoid crashing. To start with, you’ll probably only last a few seconds, but as your muscle memory and perception builds this’ll grow. And then you won’t be able to put it down. The banging chiptune soundtrack certainly doesn’t make it any less habit-forming, either.
All you need to know is that writing this reminded me how great Super Hexagon is and made me redownload it. I couldn’t help myself – I stopped writing several times just to play another round.