Indie gaming has been rapidly changing and morphing. The genre has moved from a niche category aimed at the PC crowd to a genre with wide appeal for gamers across all platforms. As creating games independently becomes easier and more accessible, defining indie will become more difficult. Now, gamers can enjoy indie games on every platform imaginable from mobile to console to handheld to PC. With many memorable indies gracing all platforms, 2013 was a great year for indie games.
Rogue Legacy – While not the first indie game to incorporate roguelike elements, Rogue Legacy does it in such a manner that makes it a less maddening experience. A leveling system was incorporated where earning gold in previous outings allowed players to level up their future warriors. This makes tackling the castle’s four bosses a delightfully manageable task instead of a continuous exercise in sadism. That is not to say the game becomes less about skill because knowing how enemies behave, how to utilize different warrior classes and weaknesses, and how to navigate the continually shifting castle still require amazing memorization and quick reflexes to reach and defeat bosses.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons – One of the biggest surprises this year was Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. It tells a touching, wordless story of two brothers’ attempt to save their father by venturing on a dangerous journey to retrieve a rare elixir that can cure him. The gameplay involves using both brothers at the same time to solve various puzzles. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons features breathtaking landscapes and environments that are imaginative, beautiful and sometimes tragic. From the terrifying underground troll prison to the bloodied battlefields littered with giants, the world of Brothers is mesmerizing. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a beautiful game that evokes some of the same feelings that Journey and Limbo did before it.
Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine – Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine is an insanely chaotic and exciting multiplayer experience. The game sets players into various heist scenarios where they must utilize different classes to accomplish a specific goal. The game shines brightest online with friends. Going into the game’s various heists often begins with a clear plan of how to sneak past guards quietly and cleverly using character’s perks to the gang’s advantage. Those best laid plans often quickly get thrown to the wayside once one buddy decides to grab a few extra coins only to trip an alarm or alert a guard. Heists turn into utter chaos involving everyone scrambling to complete the objective and escape. Giving gamers a chance to experience that controlled chaos is Monaco’s biggest strength.
Gone Home – Gone Home offers an experience that needs to be played in order to understand fully. What could be so compelling about going through a house looking for pieces of paper? Playing through the game and discovering each new scrap of paper that reveals another one of Samantha’s journals is gratifying. Exploring the house is a puzzle that, once complete, paints a picture of the the Greenbriar family’s struggles. As Katie explores the house, she not only learns about the existential journey Samantha has been dealing with, but also what has been happening to her mother and father. The empty and desolate house ravaged by renovation and apathy in Gone Home could easily be the scene of a horror film. What makes Gone Home memorable is how it ends, which you just need to experience.
The Winner – Gone Home
Gone Home is a powerful and moving experience. It nails the 90s time period through immaculate set design and music without ever feeling cloyingly nostalgic. More than any of the other nominee, Gone Home operates on multiple emotional levels. Samantha’s very specific journey accurately depicts the uncertainty, confusion and difficulty of finding your identity in high school. Not only is it a powerful and moving experience, but it is also a transformative experience.