This article has been a long time coming especially in conjunction with our IGM awards which will be announced very shortly. I’m going to start by covering all the games that made it into our IGM nominations and then move onto the games that we missed.
Starbound by Chucklefish
How could the spiritual sequel and successor to the immensely popular Terraria not make this list? While Chucklefish is a new studio, it was started by Tiyuri one of the designers behind Terraria and their game Starbound looks to be incredibly grand in scope. Starbound begins with you fleeing your homeworld in a space shuttle, just as it’s destroyed by an unknown enemy. With nothing to guide it, the escape pod shoots into space without direction, becoming hopelessly lost in a sea of stars. Starbound promises to expand on Terraria’s core gameplay mechanics by mixing in influences from Diablo, Metroid, Castlevania, and Pokemon while promising an endless number of procedurally generated planets to explore.
Gnomoria by Robotronic Games
Gnomoria is clearly inspired by Dwarf Fortress, a game that I could never quite get into because of its crazy ASCII graphics and steep learning curve. Gnomoria makes the core gameplay and depth of Dwarf Fortress much more accessible. For those that don’t know, Gnomoria is a sandbox village management game. You help a small group of gnomes start a new kingdom and survive as long as possible. The game has already been in development for over a year and was one of the first games to get Greenlit despite being in alpha. Gnomoria already has huge promise and a ton of features even in it’s current state so it will be very exciting to see what the full and final release entails.
The Banner Saga by Stoic Studio
The Buzz for The Banner Saga started with a massively successful Kickstarter (raising $723,886) partly due to the fact that Stoic is made up of a bunch of Bioware RPG veterans in the industry. The game boasts a fantastic art style that harkens back to the fluid 2 dimensional graphics of adventure games like Dragon’s Lair, Monkey Island and more. The Kickstarter was so successful because of the amazing trailer that oozed production and the faith that gamers have in folks from Bioware, but it’s the solid Multiplayer in the current beta that has us so excited for this epic RPG to come out.
Project Zomboid by the Indie Stone
One thing the Walking Dead tv series and the slew of zombie movies out there have taught us is that When the Zombie Apocalypse happens, you eventually die. One of the coolest things about Project Zomboid is that there is no winning. The game is all about how long you can survive said Zombie Apocalypse. At it’s core the game is a survival RPG sim with plenty of ways to die: starvation, exposure, disease, mental breakdown, zombie bite… you name it – you can die from it. It’s great to see the game building up a community of modders and fans especially after the theft and setbacks that struck the development team. That’s all behind us now and each new update to the game proves that Project Zomboid’s isometric survival game may be one of the best indie games of 2013.
The Witness by Jonathan Blow
What the heck has that guy who made Braid been up to? Jonathan Blow has been hard at work on the Witness since late 2008. The Witness is described as an exploration-puzzle game on an uninhabited island. Blow has been tight-lipped about what the game is about, so there is a degree of mystery surrounding the game. That coupled with the fact that Blow made Braid makes this game one to add to your watchlist.
Kenshi by Lofi Games
Here’s another game that was recently greenlit that is still in the early stages. Kenshi is an open ended, squad-based Strategy RPG that revolves around some cool concepts: You can play the game as 1 character or 50 and the player characters and NPCs are always on equal footing making survival an ever present struggle in Kenshi. The open world spans 400km and is seamless and open. All of these features work together to create an enticing, interesting and different kind of RPG.
Proteus by Ed Key and David Kanaga
Proteus represented on the Indie Awards circuit last year picking up a slew of nominations and awards at the IGF, IndieCade, and AMAZE. Proteus is also very close to being “released” as a final version (it’s been playable and purchaseable in beta for quite some time). Described as a game of audio-visual exploration, Proteus really isn’t about anything more than stopping and smelling the digital flowers. It’s an escape, a gaming vacation if you will. Now is the time to buy your ticket.
Now onto some other amazing indie games that were overlooked in our nominations process back in November…
Kentucky Route Zero by Cardboard Computer
Kentucky Route Zero is a surreal and gorgeous point and click adventure game about a mysterious and secret underground highway in Kentucky. This game is a finalist in pretty much every IGF award category (Audio, Visual, Narrative) along with the Seamus McNally grand prize. Act I was recently released (watch for a preview on IGM) and with 4 more to go, Kentucky Route Zero promises to be a magical adventure in 2013.
Antichamber by Alexander Bruce
Antichamber is right around the corner and coming to Steam on January 31st so it won’t be long before this game mindFu@k$ us all. Antichamber totes a ton of awards (and actually won at the IGF awards two separate years and was part of that whole controversy and subsequent change) and is all about destroying your perception of reality. This game requires you to change your ways of thinking to progress and is more reminiscent of Portal than most other “puzzle” games out there on the market.
Super T.I.M.E. Force by Capy Games
At its core, Super T.I.M.E Force is a platform shooter similar to Metal Slug or Contra. At the start of a level, you select a character and are immediately dropped into the action. Characters range from a soldier wielding a gatling gun, a sniper with a laser that can shoot through walls and a melee dude with a riot shield. After selecting your character, you’re thrown right into the action but the beauty of Super T.I.M.E Force is that you are not penalized for dying. In fact dying is fun because it means that the game will rewind to the start and allow you to select another character. Your previous character’s ghost recording will fight alongside you and you can even save previous versions of yourself and then go back and add on to that recording. This game is one of the absolute best games I played last year despite it being far from finished. The core gameplay mechanic, variety of character and time mechanics make it an absolute blast to play. Buy this game as soon as it comes out on XBLA this year. You won’t regret it.
Gunpoint by Tom Francis
In GunPoint, the player takes on the role of a freelance spy, infiltrating high security buildings with subterfuge, gratuitous face-punching, and an unusual type of electronic sabotage. It’s tongue-in-cheek and has a good sense of humor, but more importantly it’s an incredibly engrossing game because of the variety of gadgets and solutions to each level. If the video above doesn’t get you excited for this game, there’s nothing else to say.
The Iconoclasts by Konjak
The Iconoclasts is perfect for anyone out there who grew up playing Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis. Better yet, this game comes from the same mind that brought us Noitu Love 2 and Chalk (among others). The Iconoclasts is an action adventure game about Robin, a mechanic, in a world where her hobbies are considered illegal. Konjak’s games feature some of the best pixel art around and Iconoclasts even in this early alpha state looks gorgeous. I grew up during the 16-bit era of gaming and love when indies revisit what made those 2D games so special. Iconoclasts should be on every retro gamer’s top games of 2013 list.
MegaByte Punch by Reptile Games
What do you get when you mix MegaMan, Super Smash Brothers, Castle Crashers and Metroid together? MegaByte Punch is an incredible amalgamation of some of the best and most popular Nintendo games. At it’s core it’s a fighting game that features fully customizable robots and abilities. Create your own perfect warrior and play your friends in multiplayer or try out the awesome co-op adventure mode where you fight through and explore huge stages on you way to fight a boss and acquire his ability. The game is very playable in it’s current alpha state. If you’re a fan of Smash Brothers, you have to give this indie fighting game a chance. Even if you’re not into brawlers, MegaByte’s unique take on a Fighting Game’s single player adventure is worth sampling.
Monaco by Pocketwatch Games
Monaco started out as a short 15 week project by Andy Schatz that he submitted to the IGF back in 2009 and won the Seamus McNally grand prize and Excellence in Design at the 2010 IGF awards. Since then, he’s spent almost 3 years evolving his short prototype into a much larger and fully realized project. If you didn’t know, Monaco is a heist game for up to 4 players that’s played from a top-down perspective. Assemble your team of thieves from a variety of heist archetypes (all with different abilities of course) to case the joint and make off with the loot. Consider what Andy can do with Monaco in 3 years after winning the IGF with something he spent 15 weeks on. Get Ready for Monaco in April 2013 for XBLA and Steam PC.
Guacamelee! by Drinkbox Studios
Guacamelee! is a Metroid-vania style action-platformer set in a Mexican inspired world. One of the coolest things about the game is that it can be played in 2-player co-op on the same screen for the entire story. Another core mechanic is the ability to instantly switch between parallel (but similar) worlds. This dimension concept applies to combat as well. Enemies can exist in an alternate dimension (and appear as silhouettes) and can attack you, but are invulnerable to your attacks unless you switch to their dimension. When you have multiple enemies in multiple dimensions, things can get crazy. The mechanics and humor of Guacamelee make it a game to watch for in 2013. That flaming pumpkin is hilarious!