Independently-developed games tend to take more chances when it comes to gameplay mechanics, story and presentation than mainstream, publisher-backed AAA games do, and as such they are often more satisfying to play than the latest military corridor-shooter.
With the Steam Sale currently underway, it’s a great time to grab some of these excellent ‘Indie’ games that you might have overlooked. Here are five titles we highly recommended from personal experience, which you can pick up for cheap before the sale ends on July 22.
All prices are in US dollars and they are accurate at the time of writing, but they may change over the course of the sale. The current exchange rate is around the R10 to the dollar mark.
Bastion is an action-RPG that uses beautiful level design, a large number of ways to customise your character, a ton of weapons and loot and a charming, engaging story that narrates your every move to keep players engaged right up to the end. It’s so good, in fact, that it stays with you long after the game has been completed and encourages multiple playthroughs just because it’s such a wonderful experience. It is both simple and varied, leaving players to enjoy the experience while keeping things fresh all the way through, and the way the levels come together right before your eyes is a visual treat that just doesn’t get old. Between Bastion and a large pizza this weekend, we highly recommend skipping the fast food and going for Bastion’s action-RPG goodness instead.
This very strange yet charming adventure game mixes an 8-bit graphic style with an offbeat game world, to create a story about a hero’s quest that manages to be beautiful, poignant and somewhat creepy and menacing, all at the same time. It’s a very different, highly unique and surprisingly detailed game that will take you places you’ve quite literally never been before in any other game, an experience which is worth the 30 bucks on its own. Puzzles are less brain teasers than they are a test of your observational powers, requiring you to click on objects that stand subtly out from the rest of the scene, and the results of solving them are often quite magical to watch. The developers even included the ability to Tweet right from within the game with updates on your latest exploits and quotes from the quirky characters you’ll come across that you’ll definitely want to share. If you’re looking for something truly unique, Superbrothers: Swords a& Sworcery will definitely scratch that itch.
Hotline: Miami was a surprise smash when it launched last year. It reintroduced incredibly challenging gameplay reminiscent of old-school arcade titles, requiring players to perfect their sense of timing and reflexes in order to clear out levels full of fast-moving bad guys and avoiding having their fragile bodies pummeled/shot/stabbed to death. Gamers play as a hitman in the 1980s who is hired to various “jobs”, and despite the 8-bit graphic style, the game manages to convey the sheer brutality of the required killing with excellent sound effects, just the right amount of blood spatter and the occasional, sick-to-my-stomach reaction from the masked protagonist. The psychedelic, pulsing 80s dance soundtrack is particularly praise-worthy, accompanying players with rather out-of-place cheerfulness as they bash, shoot and bludgeon their way through levels.
Gunpoint is the result of one man’s quest to create an indie puzzle game involving guns, jumping, espionage, puzzles and cybernetic pants, and it’s absolutely fantastic. It’s a brilliant example of the kind of innovative gameplay indie developers can bring to life: it’s a 2D side-scrolling puzzle game that challenges players’ brains, reflexes and creativity with clever level design and a puzzle-solving mechanic that has them rewiring the levels’ various electrified gizmos, and avoiding or taking out patrolling guards to succeed. The story knits everything together with genuinely witty and often-hilarious dialogue between the game’s protagonist and the people he completes the various high-tech espionage jobs for. It’s not a long game, but it’s incredibly satisfying when everything goes right as the later levels become rather complicated, without being unfair.
This fun little racing game comes highly recommended. Anyone who enjoyed the old Micro Machines games will love it: it has a bunch of tiny cars racing around small tracks, collecting cash for powerups and nitro boosts in a mad dash for the finish line, and it’s an absolute blast to play. Races become increasingly difficult as the game progresses, requiring that players upgrade their cars, improving their handling, speed, the intensity of their nitro boosts and their durability in order to keep winning. There are a ton of tracks to race on, too, at varying times of the day, which keeps things fresh. The AI is a little sketchy and the controls sometimes feel like they’re fighting you, but overall MMR EVO is a fun little racing game that’ll eat up the occasional hankering you might have for some quick, casual, racing action.