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A Year in Review: The Top 5 Indie Games of 2012

/ Dec 4th, 2012 No Comments

Sure is pretty

Botanicula: Sure is pretty

As the Christmas season goes into full swing and the year comes to an end, it is time we look back at some of the most notable indie games to come out in 2012. Often these games can go overlooked or underplayed, so it’s only fitting they get a final recognition before the year is out. Obviously this is not a complete list but instead a listing of the indie games that proved not all the fun can be had by the big AAA games.

5. Lone Survivor

Don’t let the retro graphics fool you; Lone Survivor is a challenging yet thrilling game. Although it starts out familiar enough—a post-apocalyptic survival game—players must collect supplies while protecting their brittle mental state. Due to isolation and the destruction of society caused by a mutant infection, players run the risk of falling into madness. To combat psychosis, players are forced to scavenge for food and return to a safe house to sleep. Combat is downplayed and replaced with sneaking around mutants. Resources are few, and firing your gun can often miss approaching enemies. Instead, players can hide in shadows to avoid conflict or use meat as a distraction. Lone Survivor exploits the protagonist’s weak state of mind by introducing bizarre characters or having rooms change upon second visits. Additionally, how players interact within the game leads to different endings with the influencing actions shown during the credits.

4. Thomas Was Alone

Any game that can make players care for a red square deserves its place on this list, and that’s exactly what Thomas Was Alone accomplishes. Playing as a red rectangle named Thomas, the player completes increasingly challenging chapters while picking up friends along the way. Though each friend is much like Thomas—a colored square—all have distinct personalities and skills. Using its clever writing, engaging narration and beautiful music, Thomas Was Alone transforms rectangular characters into endearing companions.

3. Botanicula

Botanicula is proof that cuteness and charm can go a long way. Aesthetically, Botanicula is delightful. The hand-drawn style and warming atmosphere produce a bizarre yet pleasant environment. The game follows the point-and-click adventure model and at times solving puzzles or advancing can boil down to just clicking the screen until something happens. Despite these occasional slow moments, the gameplay is entertaining as puzzles require constant experimentation. Everything from the pleasant music and ambient sound to the cute characters and creatures makes this a must play for indie fans. Despite being only a few hours in length, Botanicula is a great experience and is worth a play.

2. Fez

First announced in July 2007, Fez took its sweet time in development. Plagued with legal problems, the game was often delayed and redesigned before finally being released in Apr. 2012. Despite the holdups, Fez was a hit and easily one of the most noteworthy indie games of the year. In the game, gamers play as a two-dimensional protagonist named Gomez. After finding a large, floating cube called the Hexahedron the world becomes corrupt and the mysterious Hexahedron is scattered throughout the world. The game follows the familiar 2D platforming template with running, jumping to platforms, and the occasional puzzle. What makes Fez unique is its clever use of both 2D and 3D mechanics. After coming into contact with the Hexahedron, players can shift their perspective in 90 degree rotations—opening up new locations and revealing hidden platforms or doors.

For a more in-depth look at Fez, make sure to check out the Fez Review.

1. Journey

Talk about lonely

Brought to us by the same studio that created Flower and Flow, Journey is easily one of the most influential games of the year—indie or otherwise—and finds itself as the number one indie game of 2012. Created by Thatgamecompany, Journey has players explore a vast desert and work their way to a distant mountain. The developers stated that the purpose of the game was exploration and the sense of wonder. Although players can work together cooperatively, they cannot communicate. The intended purpose is to create an intuitive connection between individuals with minimalistic interaction. Universally praised by critics and fans alike, Journey became the fastest-selling title on the PlayStation Store upon its release. Beautifully crafted, both visually and mechanically, Journey stripped itself down to the basics and replaced the typical shoot-and-kill mechanics of most games and instead created an emotional voyage.

Journey was one of the top games of Gaming Illustrated’s Best of the First Half of 2012 and for more on the game, check out the Journey Review

Stephen Vinson

Stephen Vinson

Contributor at Gaming Illustrated
Stephen is a contributor to Gaming Illustrated and part of the editorial team. He regularly reads game reviews, keeps up with gaming trends, and follow news stories about the latest game or console rumor.
Stephen Vinson
Stephen Vinson

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