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Originals

Top 10 Indie Games of 2011

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Posted by: David Sanchez

The year has come and gone, and over the past 300+ days we've played some awesome games. A lot of these were mainstream releases that we'll never forget such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. There were also a bunch of indie titles that really left a lasting impression. These games provided us with some truly spectacular experiences, and they did so through innovation and pure fun.

Sadly, I could only include 10 games on this list, so a few had to be left out for one reason or another. Minecraft, for example, is a game that a lot of people may feel deserves to be on this list. While I certainly won't deny the greatness of Minecraft, so many people had played it before 2011 that I decided to leave it out and let other games shine in the spotlight. Limbo's recent release on the PlayStation Network and Steam also warrants some attention, but at the end of the day, this amazing puzzle platformer is a game a lot of people played in 2010.

With all of that said, let's take a look at the Top 10 Indie Games of 2011.

10. The Binding of Isaac (PC)

Leave it to Team Meat's Edmund McMillen to successfully draw inspiration from the magical Legend of Zelda for the NES and cram all of that awesomeness into one shooter / RPG / roguelike hybrid. What makes The Binding of Isaac so enthralling is its high level of challenge. Every time you play, you get a bit closer to the end. Then you die and it's back to the start. The game constantly encourages you to try again and again until you ultimately conquer it. And with its randomly generated levels, The Binding of Isaac stays fresh every time you play.

9. The Cat and the Coup (PC)

The Cat and the Coup was such an odd game that I couldn't even give it a score when I reviewed it back in June. Regardless of that fact, however, I felt that I truly needed to urge people to play this game. From its wonderfully magnificent art style to its political and historical awareness, this "documentary game" is worth a play-through by anyone who wants to check out something a little different. It's over after 15 minutes, but it's an excellent indicator of just how creative developers can get.

8. Bastion (XBLA, PC)

While its core foundations are certainly rooted in the traditional RPG mold, Bastion is host to many tropes that really make it a worthwhile endeavor for any gamers looking for something special to spend their time playing. From its incredible art style to its impressive narrator, this game will hook you, and it will keep you coming back for more. Bastion is a great example of how to properly create a downloadable RPG.

7. To the Moon (PC)

If you ever doubted video games as a true storytelling medium, you need to play To the Moon. Yes, we've all played games with excellent plots, but To the Moon really pushes the boundaries, providing one of the deepest, most compelling experiences of the year. Add to that great story a rich art style and some fun adventure gameplay and you've got the makings of a wonderful indie gem.

6. Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally OK Now (B.U.T.T.O.N.) (PC, XBLIG)

More an interactive party experience and less an actual video game, Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally OK Now is a prime example of just how crazy some developers can get with their games. Copenhagen Game Collective managed to get pretty wild with B.U.T.T.O.N., delivering one of the most involving party games in years. This is a game that both gamers and non-gamers alike can play together, and it's easily the best party game to come along in years.

5. Soul Brother (PC)

It may only take you about 30 minutes to get through on your first play-through, but Soul Brother is a game that could easily be transformed into something much bigger. Developer Jasper Byrne created something special here, and the game's wondrously old school art style, enjoyably odd music, and nostalgically retro puzzle platforming gameplay make it a browser game worth playing for fans of indie games. There are plenty of hidden trinkets to discover and rewards at the end, so even despite its short length, Soul Brother is an excellent game worth revisiting many times over.

4. Treasure Adventure Game (PC)

A lot of indie devs take the old school approach when designing their games and create something that would fit in well back in the glorious days of the NES. Treasure Adventure Game from Robit is a great example of those types of experiences. The game has a deliciously colorful and pixelated aesthetic, and its music is significantly retro-sounding. Treasure Adventure Game is one of those gems that you just need to play if you fancy yourself a big fan of indie games. Now, go and explore the seas and search for that treasure!

3. Terraria (PC)

While the initial reaction upon Terraria's launch was to draw comparisons to Minecraft, this open world side-scroller is more than just a 2D version of Mojang's revered title. Terraria combines stellar action-adventure gameplay with addictive building mechanics and allows you to play with others and go questing as you see fit. There's a ton of freedom in Terraria, and the game truly feels like an amazing sandbox. Allowing you to play it any way you see fit, this is a title that any fan of both retro action-adventure games or modern indie titles can really sink hours upon hours into.

2. Inside a Star-Filled Sky (PC)

Not only is Inside a Star-Filled Sky an excellently executed indie game, it's also one of the best shoot 'em ups of the year. This infinite game allows you to enter enemies, power-ups, and even yourself--everything is fair game, and inside each of these entities are new levels ... each with their own set of levels. Yes, you can spend a ton of time repeatedly entering new stages within stages, and that's what makes Inside a Star-Filled Sky a game worth experiencing. It's a limitless shooter that's fun to return to again and again, and it's pretty challenging to boot, which is definitely a good thing.

1. Where Is My Heart? (PS Minis)

Simply put, Where Is My Heart? is the perfect example of how to take a well-known genre such as the platformer and absolutely turn it upside down. Developer Die Gute Fabrik did just that, but it didn't stop there. Where Is My Heart? is a great indicator that you can do something new and engaging, and it does so by taking levels that would probably be pretty easy to clear, breaking them up into panels of varying sizes, and reorganizing them on the screen. The result is a crazy puzzle that requires you to go from start to finish, but not necessarily from left to right. The game is challenging, the music is outstanding, and the visual style is simply divine. Where Is My Heart? is a game that you need to play, because it's so different and so beautiful that it deserves to be played.

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