10 Indie games of 2013 you should’ve played
Fall 2013 saw the release of the most powerful gaming consoles to date, but also brought the release and reveal of some of the most promising indie games in the genre’s history. Independent development has received a serious boon in recent months thanks to new, open publication platforms and development opportunities, so we’re sure to see the indie scene maintain its momentum going forward. So, let’s take the opportunity to reflect on the fantastic independent titles and hidden gems that we found this year.
In no particular order, here are 10 of 2013’s best indie games — that you should have already played.
In contrast to the typical horde of rogue-like titles, the puzzle side of indie gaming saw a resurgence this past year and has since grown into a sizeable archive of brain-benders. Sitting pretty atop that puzzling tower is Antichamber, a first-person adventure title that takes the player on a philosophical romp through non-Euclidian nonsense. Gravity is negotiable, time and space swap hats as they please, and colors are only as trustworthy as their distance from you — these traits and more define the controlled chaos that is Antichamber. Any fan of puzzles owes it to themselves to pick this one up.
The Stanley Parable
Although there were several compelling entries this past year alone, video games don’t hold a reputation as narrative masterminds. Luckily, games like The Stanley Parable are working to change that—and everything else you know about video games. Simple on the surface but perplexing practice, The Stanley Parable is an ostensive deconstruction of interactive entertainment. What does it mean to design a game? What does it mean to play a game? How should the player view a game? These questions and plenty more are asked, answered, and bounced off walls throughout The Stanley Parable, and the result is a unique mix of wall-breaking introspection masquerading as an excellent adventure title.
Gunpoint is unique even among indie titles for its treatment of guns as a means to an end rather than the answer itself. Conventional shooters rely on magazine size, various scopes, firing rate and other bits and bobs of firearms to build depth, whereas Gunpoint forces the player to analyze their way through situations with the trigger left as a last resort. Stealth pervades the puzzle aspects of the game, and a refreshing sense of humor dominates an overt espionage theme that would have James Bond blue in the face. Gunpoint is definitely the perfect not-shooter for every PC gamer—if you don't believe me, check out our full review.
Ah, the rogue-like; where would indie development be without it? Well, it’d probably be significantly more coherent, but that’s beside the point.
The point is that Rogue Legacy has innovated upon the concept of randomization by expanding the depths of its own randomness. The game is built upon a progression system that sends the player stumbling down an ever-lengthening lineage of incredibly unfortunate knights. Comical ailments run amuck, and because each new hero is several shades darker than their parent, you’ll never approach the equally random dungeons the same way twice. Add that to a delightful retro aesthetic, a surprisingly deep construction system in the form of castle management, and a die-hard adherence to crushing difficulty, and you’ve got Rogue Legacy, the most enjoyable bag of deaths since Dark Souls. More on that here.
Even when you’re shooting things, you’re not really shooting things in Sanctum 2. You’re simply picking up the slack that you’re no-doubt formidable defenses have let slip through. A fitting sequel to the original hit, Sanctum 2 is a hands-on approach to tower defense that hands the player all the management and tactics they can ask for, and then a gun, to jump into the waves of enemies themselves. First-person tower defense hasn’t gotten any less fun since the original game, and with gorgeous visuals and immense weapon variety, Sanctum 2 is a must-have for any strategy or shooter fan. If you happen to be a fan of both, you won't even need to read our review to know you'll like this one—but you totally should anyway.