Top 20 BEST Indie Games of the Decade You Should Own


With the decade wrapping up, it’s time to
take a look at some of the best indie games of the past 10 years. Welcome to Get Indie
Gaming and let’s get cracking into the top 20 indie games of the past 10 years Let’s begin at number 20 with Undertale.
First out in September 2015 with more recent launches onto consoles, Undertale is a JRPG
themed story of a boy having fallen into a world full of monsters whose king is after
the boy’s soul. The hook that had me then as it still does today comes from Undertale’s
combat system that enables you to complete the game without dealing out any physical
damage to any of the enemies you come across. Now this does take some real skill to pull
off and for me, getting a no kill completion by essentially solving the inter personal
puzzles at play in Undertale was a sheer joy. It still is and while many will play this
in a traditional style, going down the make friends not war route remains a hugely gratifying
experience. At number 19 we have Florence, an office worker
who spends her commute flicking thorough images on her phone while letting the evening pass
by while at home in front of the TV. The story unfolds as a collection of interactive
mini-games by way of a simple touch and swipe mechanics. These puzzles and the narrative
tell a touching tale similar to La La Land while
Florence is tough to discuss without spoilers as a view into romance and love it is for
better and worse, it is brutally honest and far closer to a real life depiction of romance
and relationships than we usually see within this medium. At number 18 The Witness came out on the PC
and PS4 in January 2016 with ports onto other platforms later on. With hundreds of intricate
puzzles to solve with the solution rules set out almost wordlessly, there’s a staggering
amount going on here. While mostly maze puzzle based, the witness is easy to spoil though
so I’ll not delve too deeply although in a field where most puzzle games guide you
with plenty hand holding, The witness delights in rewarding your knowhow, intuition and intelligence
where deductive reasoning opens the paths to success and accomplishment. From Matt Makes Games Towerfall Ascention
from 2014 is our number 17 best indie game of the decade. At launch I recall thinking
it looked every bit another retro nostalgia pixel art led romp and yet back then as it
remains today it’s still a superbly enthralling experience. I’ve stayed with towerfall ascention
over the years for the multiplayer and while each match is short, they are fast and frantic
where blinking is very much a no no and need for accurate spatial awareness is key to seeing
off the waves of enemies. This remains one of the most entertaining combat focussed local
co-op games ever made. Gris at number 16 launched late last year
onto the home PC, iOS and the Nintendo Switch and is one of the most beautiful looking games
of the past decade with its almost water color like visual quality surpassed anything previously
used as the yardstick when describing a game as having a painterly nature.
Grease earns its place in this countdown for many reasons – while mostly of an abstract
nature, its intricate gameplay, the spine tingling musical score, the masterful implementation
of the sound effects such as the rain and water, what it can show and teach us all about
the nature of fear, how it uses analogy in harmony with the visuals that all together
build on the work from such games as Electroplankton, Journey and Ori and the Blind Forest to further
elevate and push forward and legitimize the perception of video games as honest to goodness
pieces of interactive art by way of their visuals, narrative and empathy they can elicit
while playing – as the verge said back in late 2018 in their review, Gris is more like
an animate film which lets you play along with it and I’m in total agreement.
For what it does within the medium of indie gaming Gris sits at the very top . Next up at number 16 with a beta from the
summer of 2011 with a full launch in April 2015, Kerbal Space Program is literally all
about rocket science. I’d love to know how many people currently working in or contemplating
going into this field have done so with this game as inspiration. Sure it’s a mighty
complex game to get your head around and yet its been executed with such skill that it’s
nothing short of being truly and pleasantly addictive. The onus to just have another go
to make your crafts actually work is such a driving force to keep playing as are the
visuals and ever so cute cast of characters. With a follow up expected some point next
year, if you have yet to try this one out please go get this played. At number 14, and from the team at playdead
Limbo launched in 2010 today as it did back then, it remains the first indie game I suggest
people play if they are generally not into playing video games. As a platform based puzzler
and with its suggested narrative at launch, it did so many different things at odds with
what everyone else was mostly focusing on at the time. It’s also so very easy to play
with three controls and a difficulty level that grows so beautifully with never a spike
to unsettle or confuse. Sure, death here is frequent and always your fault and while good
players can complete limbo in say an hour, to play it even close to 10 years after it
launched remains a fine use of those 60 or so minutes. At number 13 and another puzzler from very
late December 2017, Gorogoa works equally as well within a portable mode as it does
on the screen of a TV. I remain smitten by this one in how Jason Roberts in his first
game makes you the player feel so darn clever as you work your way through the beautifully
hand drawn image manipulation based puzzles. While often surreal and melancholy, Gorogoa
is another game in this list that’s as satisfying to play as it is to look at with it rewarding
multiple play thoughs where things are as delightful for the 5th time as they were the
first. Up now at number 12 is Star Dew Valley. If
you don’t know, start the heading away from a corporate life and set off to the country
where you’re inherited a farm with with you having a view to live off the land.
The game can be played pretty much indefinitely and I often found myself passing comment during
the day about how my crops were doing and whether or not I would have time to harvest
some of them during our lunch break. It’s a magical and captivating experience and a
wonderful way to unwind over the evening or weekend of Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing
will feel right at home. All in while not the first of its kind, it is arguably the
definitive farming simulator of the decade. Up now at number 11, Shovel Knight came about
following a successful kickstarter campaign and launched onto home pc, the Wii U and 3DS
in June 2014. Since then it has seen numerous updates and additions with it more recently
coming to the Switch which is where I’ve recently gone back to play it again. Shovel
Knight remains an exquisite platformer and over the years it’s been steadily improved
in pretty much every way and the silky smooth nature of the combat is as it has always been
another key highlight. The story is also perhaps surprisingly well written for this type of
indie game and if you are new to it, make sure you pick up the Treasure Trove edition
which is my personal favorite of all of the Shovel Knight’s expansions. Into the breach our number 10 launched in
late February 2018 and comes from the team who brought us FTL and with it comes a familiar
roguelike system and finger nail biting tension and is the only turn based game to make it
into this best indie games of the decade showcase. My interest in turn based games over the years
has come and gone and then come back again and looking back, I’ve played many more
such games of late than I first thought. What puts Into the Breach ahead of all others
this past decade comes wholly down to the combat and associated gameplay loop. While
the games tend to be short, between 5 to 10 mins,
It’s exact in how it plays particularly on how a poor first couple of moves can really
set you back. At times this game had me feel genuine anger
upon setting up and actioning a duff choice to see the destruction unfold when in hindsight,
it’s perfectly obvious the move to have taken was right there staring me in the face
whole damn time. Into the breach is that wonderful kind of
game where you pick it up thinking 30 mins of play will be a fine way to round off an
evening and then before long you look up and it’s 3am – yes, it really is that kind
of a game. At number 9, Hollow Knight took me long, long
time to come around to its charms and let’s remember, everything here is purely subjective
so I understand how such a turn of phrase in not being grabbed by the lapels by this
one within 5 seconds could be difficult to understand.
Having put the effort in rather than walking away as I mighty have done, eventually Hollow
Knight revealed its charm firstly through the art style and subtle musical score and
then within the boss sections with the more I played the more it one me over as a overall
package. Combat is tough and precise and once you have
a feel for the fight ahead of you and your eye in the game, the challenge and play in
seeing off the adversaries becomes a delight. Aside from how Hollow Knight looks and plays,
considering it was made by only three people, there’s so much here to explore and as far
as cross overs go between the mechanics of a Super Metroid and the world creation of
the Dark Souls franchise, there’s nothing really quite like it. At number 8 , Celeste tells a story of a young
women making her way up the titular mountain with it coming out late January of last year.
Paired back to basics, Celeste is a survive the room type of game requiring at times pixel
point accuracy within its platforming a devilishly difficult leaning curve.
While the gameplay is compelling throughout, it also delivers an equally well constructed
narrative with an overriding sense of goodness and hope. Likewise the characters are likeable,
well written and easy to relate to while the colorful pixel art is as good as anything
else we’ve seen this past decade. While Celeste is hard, it’s one of the best
examples of games with accessibility options that can help remove difficulty related content
gatekeeping. The assist mode where players are able to
adjust a number of options to aid the overall access and opportunity should they want to
play for example at a slower speed or with say infinite stamina. Now I’ve benefited
from this having gone back to play it over the past month or so. An accident earlier
in the year which happened after I first played Celest has seen me loose much of the fine
motor control in my left thumb. Without the ability to tweak the settings I’d simply
have no chance of making any real decent progress here and I’m hugely grateful for it’s
inclusion. Sure, purists may take issue but that’s by the by.
Celeste is brilliant on many levels and the fact with the assist modes I’m able still
to play it with a left thumb well past its prime is a beautiful piece of empathy from
the developers. At number 7, return of the Obra Din from Lucus
Pope, the developer behind papers please is exceptionally classy and by far the biggest
surprise of the year. The Obra Din has drifted into port having
disappeared some six years ago and your role is to find out what happened to those on board
with assistance from a rather special pocket watch.
You see this time piece gives you a view into the last moments of the crew and passengers
and tell who they were, how they died and if necessary, who killed them. The cause of
death is usually fairly easy to work out, a tragic accident, being shot by a crew mate
or something way more sinister. The visuals while minimal are in places breathtaking.
The sound too from the musical ditties to the voice acting is magnificent throughout
and the story, well we can’t discuss that in detail as it so key to the experience and
yet its superbly written and wonderfully engaging – we just wanted to keep playing to see
and hear more of it. What’s more astounding in what the Obra
Din does is how it interacts with players – there’s no hand holding or guides with
it assuming you have the grey matter to figure it all out – now in these terms, the Orba
Din is a highly empowering experience and well deserving a place on this rundown. Next up at number 6 and while originally out
as freeware in 2008, Spelunky qualifies for this rundown with it getting a remake for
the xbox 360 in 2012. Now Spelunky was my first experience in knowingly playing a game
with procedural generation and back then, this was a hugely exciting thing for me with
it offering a different and dynamically produced game world with each and every play. Having
played it again recently on the PS4 I’d forgotten how challenging it is and yet like
all great games, the challenge is never unfair and keeps you coming back for more. While
of course there have been many others that followed what Spelunky did, none of them have
quite matched the sheer enjoyment I get from playing, or even thinking about Spelunky.
With a sequal out perhaps next year, it has a long way to go to match or better its first
iteration. At number 5 for the best indie Games out this
past decade, What remains of Edith Finch first came out in April of 2017. Edith Finch from
the team at Giant sparrow is a masterpiece of storytelling and even though the subject
matter drifts towards the melancholy with sum total of this gaming experience is quite
majestic. In Edith Finch we have a interactive journey
through the lives of a number of the Finch family, all of whom are destined to meet untimely
ends with the family suffering from tragedy after tragedy. You play as Edith having returned
to the family home after a period of absence where you make your way along the corridors
of the ramshackle Finch home as you piece together a family history by way of visualisations
of her family members on the day of their deaths. Looks and sounds wise Edith Finch is gorgeous
throughout offering some of the finest environmental immersion of any of these types of experiences.
It’s also hugely clever and unique in the way the stories combine and interleave with
each other and without spoilers, the twists when they come are beautifully screened. What Remains of Edith Finch was my game of
the year 2017 and like Gone Home and Firew watch, will remain a yardstick by which others
in this genre shall be measured. At number 4 and just missing out on a podium
position, Axiom Verge came out in 2015 on the playstation 4 and since then has been
ported onto many other platforms. I’ve recently gone back to Axiom Verge by way of the version
on the switch and to be honest, it feels right at home on this hand held portable as for
me it rewards shorter play meaning I can have play sessions say on the way to work although
it’s equally fun to play on a big screen while docked to a TV.
What’s also true across each variation and port is how it manages to create and build
such an unsettling atmosphere particularly as you edge towards and then begin one of
the memorable boss fights which even today, are some of the finest I can recall in anything
outside of this countdowns number 1 and those of the Souls franchise. The sheer amount of
exploration within Axiom Verge is another high point with repeated visits post weapon
upgrade to areas you’ve been before more often than not giving you access to a new
path to follow. While there have been hundreds of games like
Axiom verge there are very few that have stuck in my mind as much as this one has. That said,
this isn’t the last metriod vania game to feature in this rundown and so with that,
lets get down to the very pointy end of the countdown. At number 3, Sam Barlow’s Her Story was
by a country mile my game of the year when it launched in 2015 and while it has a simple
premise and takes only 4 our so hours to play, and while not a new concept, it’s unique
take on the full motion video format was a step change for the genre and paved the way
of it’s successor telling lies and the equally as enjoyable and hugely undervalued Eliza.
In her story, you play as an unnamed protagonist where you look at a police computer with it
having hundreds of video clips relating to a fictional murder from 1994.
The task ahead of you is to work out what happened by way of searching through the police
computers database with key words while you then use your mental ability to piece together
the story. While the writing is top notch, everything is brought together by the acting
skill of the character in the video. While interactive video games have come and
gone over the years, in 2015 I hadn’t played anything quite like this and I’m certain
her story will remain the central reference for these interactive games for years and
years to come. The runner up, Journey from that game company
came out in 2012 and until last year, was to my mind the best indie game of all time,
let alone this past decade. While all of the art and the music are very nicely done, my
admiration for Journey comes from how it delivers the online co-op element with everything being
taken back to the bear minimum and for my tastes, this is co-op perfection.
Its all so very subtle and I can see how people over the years have said they were not aware
of the game having a co-op side to it with some thinking the other characters were AI’s
rather than fellow players. While only 3 or so hours long, I’ve spent
many hundreds playing Journey and I come back to it once or so a month.
Recently I started a fresh game and played with my eldest son. Early on we were joined
by one of the so called white robed clad players meaning they had unlocked every secret and
challenge journey has to offer. Who ever they were they stuck with us thoughout
the 3 hours play time and helped guide us towards the secrets and other things we should
be looking out for. All this of course being done with little more than chirping sounds
and follow the leader exploration because after all there’s no direct communication
between players. Come the end which I’m not going to spoil
here we parted with a few more playful chirps and while we didn’t quite get our own white
robe this time around, I’m quite sure we will some time soon enough. Of the hundreds of indie games I’ve played
since the start of the decade, for me, Dead Cells is subjectively the best of the entire
bunch. What Motion Twin have done with Dead Cells
is to create an extraordinary and powerful piece of theater and having put hundreds of
hours into the game across three different platforms, each time I pick it up again Dead
Cells still feels as fresh as ever and as I’ve said before, it gives me the same feeling
as the best roller coaster rides but without the long slow drag to the top before the drop.
From the beginning combat is white-knuckle levels of fun, the weaponry’s substantial
and while a hard game, the difficulty is handled and implemented in a way that facilitates
accessibility to its content largely though the permanent nature of the player upgrades.
Dead Cells also benefits from how adaptive it can be to suit whatever style of play fits
you and your mood of the time. You can play this as a puzzler, as a platformer – you
want strategy and exploration well it does all of that so very well.
It’s not however faultless, the use and implementation of random generation does give
odd level layouts and the combat can be heavily weighted against you particuallry at the start.
Early doors you find many occasions with having zero chance of getting the better of your
assailants and even though this comes as a frustrating annoyance, it’s still an entertaining
annoyance which is after all why we play video games – to have fun and to be entertained.
Factoring in the artistry and sound design, Dead Cells is not only the best indie game
of the past decade, to my mind, it’s the best indie game ever made. So which indie games do you like the most.
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