Top 8 indie games of 2013 (Casper’s list)
2013 is coming to an end, so there is no better time to look back at the many games we have played this year (doing it in July would be a bit weird) and share our thoughts on the year’s ups and downs. CJ has told me that I shouldn’t be so negative all the time, so today I would like to share with you my top 8 best indie games of 2013. If you haven’t played any of the titles on this list yet, then consider this a list of recommendations.
As for rules, I’d like to keep this list fairly straightforward:
- Only games I have played
- Obviously, they have to be released in the year 2013
- Re-releases and Early Access count, but regular ports do not
- These are only the horror games I liked, but I’d like to give a shout-out to Skullgirls and the PC port of Dust: An Elysian Tail, both of which are excellent games.
#8: Paranautical Activity
The story behind Paranautical Activity’s development is pretty sad, so I was happy when the game finally released. While the version I got to preview was rather flawed, Code Avarice has released a lot of patches and new content since then, all of which add new stuff to a game that was already fun to play at its core.
It’s a fast-paced, action-packed roguelike first-person shooter with a neat art-style for the weapons and enemies. Each weapon feels very different and each new item adds new strategies and complications to your play-style, which is exactly what items in a roguelike should do. The surreal atmosphere of the game was also very cool and, no matter how hard I tried, I could not come up with any other game where it’s possible fight an erupting, floating whale. Sadly, there is no indication of when the game will be finished, so those waiting for a final version might end up waiting for a long time.
#7: Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army
The Sniper Elite franchise has always been an interesting beast, but it only got weirder when Rebellion took the series in a new direction and threw zombies into the mix. While a first-person shooter wherein you team up with a maximum of three others and have to fight your way to safe-houses might not sound original anymore, it’s made interesting by the game’s focus on using your sniper rifle and the bullet-cam included with it. Now that we are fighting against zombies, the many traps you can use are suddenly a lot more useful and holding out against a horde while inside a building is a lot tenser when enemies actively pursue you, as opposed to staying outside and firing in your general direction.
Some of Sniper Elite’s old habits did rear their ugly heads once more, so the level-design is a bit dull and some enemies are a bit too bullet-spongy for my liking, but there was also constant potential for hilarious chaos that’s hard to achieve in more carefully-designed games. This is definitely a game I wouldn’t pay full price for, but if you can round up enough friends during a sale, it is definitely good enough to entertain you for a few nights.
#6: Don’t Starve
Klei Entertainment has been one the forefront of indie games for a while now, so we were all excited when they released Don’t Starve, a horror-themed survival game with a unique art-style. In the game you would take control of one of several gloomy characters and your goal would be to not die. It’s essentially a wilderness-survival game wherein you had to constantly maintain meters for physical health, sanity and hunger and the art-style was very reminiscent of Tim Burton’s works.
The finished product was rather original and I appreciated many of its clever innovations. I was especially fond of the crafting system, which would categorize all the different items you could make and display what you needed for them. The unique twist on the sanity meter, which would replenish whenever you act civilized, was also very nice and the progression system that unlocked new characters, as well as the constant stream of patches, also kept me playing for longer than I usually would. It goes without saying that I am looking forward to what Klei will release in 2014.
#5: The Stanley Parable
This one might be a bit of a stretch (and there’ll be another one soon), but I agreed with CJ that The Stanley Parable deserves to be mentioned on this site. It is a difficult game to summarize without spoiling it, but essentially, it is a game based around choice, wherein your every action is narrated by an enigmatic man.
Everything in the game is a mystery and the smallest actions can lead to drastically different endings (of which there are many.) The game manages to be both existential and comedic at the same time and it’s super-cheap, so if what I just said sounds even remotely interesting, then go check it out. For additional info, I recommend CJ’s article on the subject.
“And then one day, something very peculiar happened. Something that would forever change Stanley.”
There is no shortage of roguelikes in the indie scene, but most of those are turn-based affairs. Teleglitch, just like Paranautical Activity, throws this out of the window and instead focuses on quick-paced shooting action.
Teleglitch is a top-down shooter with an elaborate crafting system and randomly generated levels that is sure to keep you busy for a while. You play as the last-surviving employee of a research facility and have to flee from said facility after a fate-tempting science experiment went horribly wrong and turned everybody into monsters. The accurately named “Die More Edition” released on Steam earlier this year is extremely difficult, but also very satisfying and intrinsically fun to play. The graphics are a bit messy, but if you are into games that make you work for your ammunition and force you to think each action through, then Teleglitch comes highly recommended.
#3: Saya No Uta
Originally released in 2003, this little bundle of horror finally escaped from Japan this year. First of all, this is a visual novel, so those not into reading might want to skip it. Secondly, don’t even bother starting with this if you are not absolutely sure of yourself.
Song of Saya, as it is called in English, is the story of a man who started seeing the world and everybody in it as if it was made out of flesh. His old friends are bloated, pus-ridden monsters, everything he touches feels squishy and even his food tastes like rotten chunks of unidentifiable meat. The only person he can perceive as a human entity is the titular Saya, who has more than a few mysteries surrounding her. The game actually gives you the option of removing or obscuring the gore before it even shows you anything, but for the true experience you have to keep it on. It’s definitely the most violent and gory work of fiction to be released this year and that alone would net it a place on this list, but the writing also managed to suck me in completely, even if I found the amount of sex-scenes to be a bit overkill.
As Extra Credits put it: “I won’t get into the topic of what age you should or shouldn’t be to play a game, but let’s just say, I am not sure if I am old enough to play it.”
#2: Shadow Warrior Classic Redux
The original Shadow Warrior from 1997 was one of my favorite first-person shooters of that era. It featured not only tight controls and good weapons, but also some really clever level-design, challenging enemies and showering anime girls. What more could you ask for?
Shadow Warrior Classic Redux is simply a re-release of the original game, but with a remastered soundtrack and visuals, as well as the two expansions Wanton Destruction and Twin Dragon. It might not sound fantastic, but being able to re-experience this gem of an FPS feels amazing and all of the positive traits I just mentioned have been maintained perfectly.
Of course there was also the remake this year, which I didn’t like very much due to its more linear nature and kinder difficulty. However, I will admit that the dialogue was rather humorous and the sword-based combat was pretty rad; it also kept the showering anime girls in all their 2.5-dimensional glory, so that’s a plus too.
Eldritch is in a very awkward position where most people who see it, perceive it as something that might as well have been a Minecraft mod and I can’t deny that they are slightly correct about that. The cube-based level-design and pixelated aesthetic has been done before by many other games, but if you are willing to put that aside, then you will quickly see that Eldritch is so much more.
This is a true Lovecraft-inspired game, in the sense that it takes place within the actual Cthulhu mythos and features the actual monsters, as well as several elements the designers came up with themselves. As the player, you are put in the role of an Amnesiac hero who has to travel into the eerie lairs of Dagon, Nyarlothep and Cthulhu to obtain their souls and discover your true destiny.
It plays out like a first-person action-adventure game with a roguelike structure. The randomly generated levels in this game are simply amazing and feel genuinely maze-like in structure, featuring multiple floors, stairs and traps that you will have to overcome. Enemies can be manipulated, tricked or even trapped and you have complete freedom when it comes to picking your weapons and tools. It is roguelike gameplay and the designers already produced a free bit of downloadable-content, which adds The Mountains of Madness to the list of locations.
I can’t recommend this game enough, so do yourself a favor and give it a try already.