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IndieGAF recommends: The 50 Best Indies of 2013

Toma

Let me show you through these halls, my friend, where treasures of indie gaming await...
Mar 25, 2006
26,213
0
1,510
www.wasfuersohr.blogspot.com
This thread is a love letter, celebrating games, creativity, imagination, developers and fans. This thread wouldnt have been possible without 12 months of preparation and dedication. Over the past year, a few people got together in the monthly Indie threads to share their passion about this hobby, played countless games, voted on them monthly, discussed the positives and negatives of these games and ultimately recommended the ones they fell in love with to others. This group of people together played over 600 games that got mostly ignored by the mass media, found great games where they didnt expect it and also enjoyed the heavy hitters of the Indie scene.

After 2013 ended, we decided to come together and hold a community voting, the end result you can see now in this thread. These 50 games were the games that ranked the highest in that voting, but ordered alphabetically. The reason for that is that we wanted to avoid giving this thread a focus on "WHY IS X GAME ABOVE Y" and instead focusses purely on the games. If there are games on this list you didnt know yet, we encourage you to look into them. Not every game will be a 100% fit for everyone, especially because Indie Games can be very diverse in their approach, style, gameplay and overall goal (if there even is one), but we hope that a few people out there will see this thread, check out a game they havent heard about it before, and love it as much as we did.

We know its a daunting task to try to stay ahead of the millions of games released every year with our Steam backlog growing ever bigger, but these games arent running away and yet so damn worth playing. Feel free to check back and refer to this thread over the coming year if you havent heard about most of these and want to try one of these occasionally. Not all of these are great, epic adventures. Some are small ideas, others are mere concepts, but they are all good enough to deserve this shoutout.

Feel also free to use this thread to post about your favourite Indie Game last year. Anything we didnt include here, but you still want to share with others? What was your favourite Indie last year? Why? Any reasons why you love Indie Games in general?

You are also welcome to join us over in the monthly Indie Games threads if you want to share our passion and play and discuss some smaller games with us, the current thread being February:
http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=761651

And without further ado, the 50 games that this voting resulted in (also a huge round of applause for the regulars of the Indie threads that helped providing these texts):

Antichamber - $19.99 (PC)
http://www.antichamber-game.com/


Perhaps better than any other recent game, Antichamber is mindfuck distilled to interactive form. Set in a world where the impossible is the norm and reality plays by a different set of rules, you need to learn those rules and adapt to every new mind-bending room and mechanic. Deducing the way the world works and using that knowledge to overcome the game's abstract puzzles never ceases to satisfy. Antichamber works equally as a challenging puzzle platformer and as an exciting journey through its weird non-Euclidean halls.


Defining moment: Antichamber is the kind of game where every room and every turn offers some new crazy moment, but it was probably the looping red-blue staircase that first made me pause and think the first of many "WTFs?"

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Bleed - Free demo/$5 (PC, Mac, XBIG)
http://bootdiskrevolution.com/usefulDead/newSplash.html

Don't overlook Bleed because of its colorful cutesy style, because behind the visuals lies a fast paced action game that combines bullet hell mayhem with acrobatic platforming. It's one thing to wall run and evade enemies, and it's another to do it Bleed style, as you air dash, slow time, and weave between countless enemies and bullets. Between the wild pace, fun weapons, crazy bosses, and finely tuned gameplay, Bleed is pure arcade fun.

Defining moment: Triple dashing between an onslaught of rockets in slow motion while slicing through enemies with a katana and then shooting down the rockets with rockets of your own.

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Broforce - Free Demo/$10 (PC, Mac)
http://www.freelives.net/broforce-game

The game set out to be an ode to 80's and 90's action movies, the Expendables in video game form, and it succeeds on every possible level. Neo, The Terminator, Blade, Rambo, and many more are already on the growing roster, with recent additions like the Boondock Brothers adding even more diversity.

Each level is a fully destructible playground filled with explosive barrels, propane canisters, and many many enemies ranging from simple goons to suicide bombers to guard dogs and mini-gun wielding mini-bosses. The stylized graphics are nicely detailed, with blood, dirt, smoke, and fire flying with every explosion. The destructible environments adds an layer of depth, allowing you to tunnel beneath enemies to flank them or collapse the ground under their feet or crush them beneath trucks and heavy debris. All those tricks and fast reflexes will be needed because the game is not easy. You die in one hit.The tight controls, the over-the-top destruction, the fact that you're playing as some of the coolest action heroes in movies, and the fast-paced challenging gameplay make Broforce an addictive and fun experience.


Defining moment: When one bullet set off a minute long chain reaction of explosions, flying gore, dying enemies, collapsing bridges (but really there are too many great moments to count)

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Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons - Free Demo on XBLA/$15 (PC, XBLA, PSN)
http://store.steampowered.com/app/225080

Aid two brothers on their quest to find medicine for their ill father by taking control of both at the same time. On your journey, you will come across all kinds of creatures and civilizations - dangerous enemies, unexpected friends and deeply troubled beings, like yourselves.

Defining moment: One of the game's many strengths lies in the way it conveys your progress through the world. And what a world it is: The sense of scale, the picturesque environments, the obstacles you have to overcome and the way their implemented into their surroundings - everything is part of a big, breathing tableau. By the same token, every single moment is no less remarkable than the previous ones, and picking one would be inadvertently unjust. Aside from the divisive ending sequence, not a single part of the experience stands out jarringly, and the player quickly becomes immersed in an inner and outer journey that feels as natural as it is poetically refined - with the all the subtlety and all the splendor that comes with it.

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Card Hunter - Free (Browser)
http://live.cardhunter.com/

One of the best card games in recent memory. Card Hunter combines character inventories with their skill set and deck building, which you can improve to be better prepared for combat situations by finding better cards. The combat itself plays out on a map in which you can employ the skills you equipped which gives the feeling of vast possibilities for customization. Progressing and finding good cards to equip feels incredibly rewarding and considering the basic game is free, there is no reason not to check this game if you like card games.

Defining moment: Starting out with simple cards and gradually building up your possibilities and working on better synergies is as rewarding as it could be.

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Cart Life - Free /$4,99 for an additional character (PC)
http://www.richardhofmeier.com/cartlife/

A simulation unlike any other, mixing social interaction and needs of a street vendor with calculation and the necessity of economic success, where you need to manage to balance hunger, time and conversations to make money and still be able to take care of the ones you love. A brutal look at how excruciatingly difficult even a simple life can be and a magnificient example of gameplay that enforces the narrative.

Defining moment: Barely scraping by and earning just enough cash for yourself to satisfy the worst hunger, until you notice that you arent the only one you need to feed and falling into a downward spiral of despair.

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Clairvoyance - $5 (PC)
http://www.gameofclairvoyance.com/

You can compare this a bit to chess, or Frozen Synapse if you know that game. You are giving orders to your robots and then the actions of both players are being run in turns. Action 1 of player A, then Action 1 of player B, then action 2 of Player A, etcetc. The fun of this kind of game comes from the mind games you are having with your opponents. You can shoot, move, turn and throw bombs and your task is to correctly judge what your opponent might do to conduct the perfect counter attack. The game is not as deep as Frozen Synapse because there are less options and less "fine tuning" needed, but its still highly enjoyable, especially since its also more quicker to play.

Defining moment: Double guessing your opponents moves and countering his really smart attack move with a perfect counter is one of the ... most amazing emotions these type of games can envoke, and Clairvoyance pulls that off splendidly.

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Depression Quest - Free (Browser)
http://www.depressionquest.com/

An interactive (Non)fiction about living with depression. You are given a series of everyday life events and have to attempt to manage your illness, relationships, job, and possible treatment. This game aims to show other sufferers of depression that they are not alone in their feelings, and to illustrate to people who may not understand the illness the depths of what it can do to people.

Defining moment: Being annoyed by the fact that you cant choose certain character actions in a "game", before you realize that these are actions that might simply not be on the table for a person suffering from depression.

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Divekick - $9,99 (PC)
http://store.steampowered.com/app/244730/

Divekick is fighting game that started its life as a parody on the effectiveness of divekicks in fighting games. However, the concept proved to be more enjoyable than its joke game origins would have you expect. The main goal of the game is to win a set of rounds with your character via dive kicking. Its a game that thrives upon intricate mindgames that explode into a fast conclusion, since every hit is a 1 hit knockout that ends the round.

Defining moment: Dancing around the level with your enemy just to find that 1 perfect opportunity to get the K.O. never feels old because the tension is being held constantly high.

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Don't Starve - Free browser version/ $14.99 (PC, Mac, Linux, PSN)
http://www.dontstarvegame.com/

In a cursory glance, one might believe Don't Starve is yet another Minecraft/Terraria spin-off, with its reliance on collecting materials and crafting items in a vast open wilderness. But spend any time with Don't Starve and you'll soon find that the game is so much more. Perhaps what makes Don't Starve so engaging is its atmosphere; the world you explore is a far cry from similar games' sunny pixel/voxel environments. It's a dark lonely place, full on unknown threats to the new player and danger encroaching from around and within, drawn in a unique 2.5D style that just feels off and ominous. It's a place where the creatures that roam both above and below aren't your only hazards, where your own mind can and will betray you as you weakly cling to life through the long nights and longer winters. The focus on survival, maintaining sanity, and crafting more advanced technology and equipment further separates Don't Starve from other games in the genre. Klei's fantastic post-release support has only fleshed out the experience into a must-play filled with depth.


Defining moment: No moment defined Don't Starve for me more than the first time my character slowly went insane from lack of food and supplies as night fell and the encroaching shadows soon became something much worse.

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Door Kickers - Demo here /$14.99 (PC, Mac, Linux)
http://inthekillhouse.com/doorkickers/

Frozen Synapse may be king in the multiplayer arena and it may offer more depth thanks to mechanics like crouching and destructible environments, but Door Kickers has become my go-to game for tense tactical action. Not only does the grounded SWAT aesthetic appeal more and not only are the controls more intuitive, there's something so satisfying about devising the best plan possible, where efficiency, speed, and coordination are all key to masterful execution. There are no FPS skills to fall back on in a crutch; fail to plan well, forget to check your corners, don't have a guy covering your back while he picks a lock, your team will pay. Similar to Prison Architect, it's an Early Access game that feels like a game rather than a concept of one, with consistent game-changing updates and a dedicated community-friendly developer.


Defining moment: Dividing your troopers into two groups, clearing the exterior of a cartel complex with suppressed weapons, then coordinating dual breaches with flashbangs and charges to clear a room with no causalities and perfect precision.

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Dust: An Elysian Tail - $14,99 (PC, Mac, Linux, XBLA)
http://store.steampowered.com/app/236090

A platforming and adventure game in the vein of Castlevania and Metroid with a surprisingly wonderful story and highly satisfying combat. The scenery and the art is gorgeous and the game was developed by only one person.

Defining moment: Getting used to the combat technics and applying it in the fights.

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Factorio - Free Demo/$13 (PC, Mac, Linux)
http://www.factorio.com/

Its basically the optimisation process of SpaceChem, mixed with light Tower Defense elements and a bit of Minecraft-style crafting thrown in. If you arent familiar with the mentioned games, it basically works like this: In the beginning you'll run around gathering resources. Then you'll use those resources to build simple mechanisms via exhaustive crafting options, and THEN with those mechanism you'll create mechanism that help you automating everything, until you planned built a huge factory that produces several dozen item in chains automatically. Incredibly rewarding genre mix and my (Toma) personal GOTY 2013.

Defining moment: Starting off with nothing, mining ressources by hand, only to eventually create a huge self sustaining factory that mines several ressources and builds dozens of products/items that depend on each other.

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FEZ - $9.99 (PC, Mac, Linux, XBLA)
http://polytroncorporation.com/61-2

Mechanically Fez isn't a very difficult game. Death or failure doesn't have much consequence. But when playing Fez, perhaps it's best that you're not thinking about pixel-perfect timing and precision jumps. Because then you wouldn't be able to fully appreciate the unique art style and the perspective shifting mechanic that, at least for me, never gets old. What's more, Fez's depth is more cerebral than most, due to its weird ciphers and language to interpret and solve.

Defining moment: The first time I entered a world and found a narrow tower to climb, only to rotate the level and realize that this "tower" was merely the side of an entire building.

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Fjords - $7 (PC)
https://gumroad.com/l/FJORDS

Similar to the more famous Starseed Pilgrim, this game revolves around exploring not only a world, but also the rules of this world. Additionally, it allows you to hack into this world itself and carve your own way. How much you'll like this game hinges entirely on your mindset regarding exploring a world at your own pace, but if you do like these kind of experiences, it doesnt get much better than Fjords, which in my opinion also outshines the more famous Starseed Pilgrim.

Defining moment: Finding out how you can bend the world to your will and progressing from a state of feeling helpless in a dangerous world, to a world in which you are making the rules.

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Full Bore - $8 (PC, Linux)
http://www.wholehog-games.com/fullbore/

You're just a lonely boar who finds himself trapped in the mysterious mining operation deep beneath the earth. Weird machinery and logs of anomalies hint at some unnatural happenings in the tunnels and bored out caverns and as your adventure progresses, the pieces slowly come together. The world of Full Bore is sprawling and expansive and quite pretty, stretching from dark lava filled depths to the sunny green surface; doorways found throughout the world lead to puzzle filled rooms and other areas. And while the sense of exploration and discovery is fantastic, the puzzles, charming graphics and animations, and just the sheer amount of gameplay is even better.

Defining moment: Due to the freeform nature, it was tough to pick one that encapsulated the whole game, but for me, no moment was more exciting than that first fall in the beginning, as you plummet deep underground and pass all the different layers and levels you'll come to explore later.

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Toma

Let me show you through these halls, my friend, where treasures of indie gaming await...
Mar 25, 2006
26,213
0
1,510
www.wasfuersohr.blogspot.com
Gods Will Be Watching - Free (Browser)
http://www.deconstructeam.com/games/gods-will-be-watching/

Gods Will Be Watching was like reading a short story. It was a confined and taut experience, laser-focused on delivering its bleak hopeless tale, but that only made its moral quandaries and tough choices that much more tense. Not only does Gods Will Be Watching sport a great pixel art style, it's just a bleak, dark game where every choice was grey, either bad or worse. Like SuperHOT, it's more of a snapshot of what the expanded game will offer, but when a snapshot is this affecting and unique, it deserves all the attention and acclaim it gets.

Defining moment: I think the first time you unceremoniously die because you forgot to deal with the campfire speaks volumes about the tone and bleakness of the game.

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Gone Home - $19,99 (PC, Mac, Linux)
http://www.gonehomegame.com/

It is June 7, 1995 and you return back home after spending a year in Europe. The house seems empty. Is really nobody there? You quickly learn that 'no', the house is crowded - with memories, mementos, scribblings, books, CDs, trash - and secrets of all kind. Rarely do you find a story so well told, so expertly voice acted and so powerful like in this game. You can under- or overestimate the importance of 'Gone Home' - the divided reaction is a testament to everything the game does right.

Defining moment: Watching the credits, thinking about the past few hours, smiling thankfully.

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Gorogoa - Free Demo (PC)
http://gorogoa.com/

This game is a celebration of creativity and imagination. Its lovely, intelligent, interesting, thoughtful and most of all blurs the line between interactive storytelling and videogames. The game clearly has adventure like puzzles to push the story forward, but at the same time it employs some mechanics that are so "unvideogame-y" that people can just view it as a toy to play around with and bathe in amazement. A game that shows the potential of joy and wonder like only a few games are able to.

Defining moment: Getting your mind bent by watching this world and your perception of it change over and over again.

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Guacamelee - $14.99 (Windows, PS3, Vita)
http://store.steampowered.com/app/214770/

If you're a Metroidvania and you don't have a little Mexican in you, but you would like some, then Guacamelee is the game for you. Explore the world of the living and the realm of the undead as an agave farmer/luchador on a quest to rescue the love of his life and the world itself from eternal damnation. Combat makes great use of wrestling maneuvers and feels smooth, the referential humor is well done and the journey is of an acceptable length with plenty of secrets peppered throughout the world.

Defining moment: Guacamelee's defining moment is not really a moment at all. It's the fact that it's a Metroidvania that isn't set on an oppressive alien world of in the bowels of Castle Dracula. The game takes its setting, revels in the culture surrounding it, and makes an absolute celebration of itself. The melee-based hand-to-hand wrestling combat is also a breath of fresh air, as firing beams and swinging whips is something we've all done too many times to count in games like this.

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Gunpoint - Demo on Steam/$9.99 (PC)
http://gunpointgame.com/

While games like Uplink and Hacker have focused purely on delivering a "realistic" hacking experience, Gunpoint makes hacking your weapon. Armed with your superior agility and your Crosslink device, levels become your playground, turning the security measures meant to stop you into tools at your disposal. Not only was it simple and intuitive, it was just fun to mess around with and create long chains of connected devices.

But Gunpoint's strengths were more than just the fun applications of its Crosslink device. The game offered an engaging story, with witty dialogue and interesting twists. It was also a challenging stealth game, where speed and planning allowed you to create split second opportunities to slip out of sight and infiltrate heavily guarded locations. Some have said the game is short, as short as three hours, but the real challenge is using your plethora of gadgets to ghost each level or complete each mission non-lethally. And if the campaign left you craving for more Gunpoint, a robust level editor allowed for players to test their skills in user-made challenges.


Defining moment: Planning out a Rube Goldberg network of Crosslinks and then timing it perfectly so the guard that tries to shoot you shocks himself with an outlet, knocks out the guards on the two other floors with swinging doors and shuts off all the lights.

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Kentucky Route Zero - $24,99 (PC, Mac, Linux)
http://www.kentuckyroutezero.com/

With only two episodes out, Kentucky Route Zero has already established itself as one of the most lauded narrative experiences of 2013. The story of Conway, the truck driver, and his odyssey through the dark, surreal streets and lanes of Kentucky is a mysterious, "magic-realistic" wonder. It manages to pull in the player like few games do, as you stumble from one encounter to the next, baffled and perplexed, bewildered and reverent. Two (free) mini-episodes, titled 'Limits and Demonstrations' and 'The Entertainment', set between episode 1 and 2 respectively, offer further material to immerse yourself in. Enthrallingly written and beautifully realised, Kentucky Route Zero is well on its way to becoming a modern classic of the genre.

Defining moment: The opening scene at the gas station. Right away you get the feeling that this game is special - the atmosphere, the look, the dialogue - and right away, the game substantiates this feeling of yours. You'll fall in love right there and then.

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Knock Knock - $9,99 (PC, Mac, Linux)
http://store.steampowered.com/app/250380/?snr=1_7_15__13

The Lodger is wandering the rooms, evading the unknown, counting minutes till morning. But it's only in the night that he can solve the main puzzle and find the answers. What's going on? Are the Guests real, ot are they just figments of his insomniac imagination? What'd happened to the forest? What's happening to the cabin? Is there a line between reality and imagination?

Defining moment: Managing to not go insane until the sun finally rises.

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La-Mulana - $14.99 (PC, Wii)
http://store.steampowered.com/app/230700

La-Mulana is a remake of one the first games NIGORO released. It's heavily inspired by Indiana Jones and 8-bits platformers games, influence you can see be it in the lack of the control during the jump and the unforgiviness difficult of the game. You play as Lemeza Kosugi, an archeologyst that seeks to discover the secrets that lies inside the ruins of La-Mulana.


Defining moment: The first time I was able to solved a puzzle solely based on the hints provide by the stone tables you translate.

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Little Inferno - $9.99 (PC, Mac, Linux, WiiU)
http://store.steampowered.com/app/221260/

Little Inferno is a simple game you buy things, burn them to earn money to buy more things to burn to earn money to buy... Besides the simple premise the game can keep you hooked with all the combos you can perform while burning things.

Defining moment: It was one of the first games that I started to discuss and reflect about the metaphors presented in it's theme. Little Inferno is not a game for everyone, one must play it without a negative bias towards it.

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Mercenary Kings - $14.99 (PC)
http://mercenarykings.com/index.php

A strange chimera of a game which despite having its two major influence, Metal Slug and Monster Hunter, being completely opposite ends of the gaming spectrum, somehow works. Mercenary Kings invites you and a few friends to battle across various wartorn jungle and city environments against a multitude of super mutants and giant robots. All while using loot gathered from these encounters to alter and upgrade your weapony into whatever suits your play style best.

Defining moment: Finding that one piece of loot from the last boss that turns your minigun into one that shoots acid, or your shotgun into one that shoots faster then most assualt rifles, or your sniper rilfe that can one shot almost everything. Then taking those weapons back out out to the field.

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MirrorMoon EP - Early concept demo (PC, Mac)/$9.99 (PC, Mac, Linux)
http://www.mirrormoongame.com/

Mirrormoon EP is not about story or complex gameplay or moral choices or brain-twisting puzzles. It's about discovery. From the moment you start, you're immersed in an abstract universe that begs to be explored. It's hard to talk about Mirrormoon's gameplay, for some aspects are best discovered on one's own, but the puzzle, while slightly repetitive, are not the focus. The highlight is exploring and in that aspect, Mirrormoon is a resounding success. The game is a visual masterpiece that, combined with the wonderful yet alien soundtrack, invokes a sense of awe every time you explore and witness a new abstract landscape.

Defining moment: Moving the moon for the first time and watching the landscape shift as you turn night to day and vice versa

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Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine - Free Demo on XBLA/$15 (PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox Live Arcade)
http://www.monacoismine.com/

A game of stealth, quick wits, team work and a lot of stealing. You and a group of friends are tasked with breaking into increasingly heavily guarded buildings and making off with the loot inside. Rapid character movement and ever shifting vivid graphics gives the game a breakneck speed which will ensure that even the best laid plans will generally results in the thieves running into a guard and scattering in all directions. One for people who like to laugh in the face of chaos and mass panic.

Defining moment: Using all your characters abilities in perfect timing to stealth past a group of guards, only to have the Mole smash through the wrong wall and bring them all down on your head anyway.

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NEO Scavenger - Demo on Steam/$9.99 (PC, Mac, Linux)
http://bluebottlegames.com/main/node/2

A roguelike set in a brutal gritty apocalyptic world where life is short and cheap, and death can come from any angle, from the raiders tracking your footsteps to the cold night air. Sleep in the rain without a sleeping bag? Prepare to come down with severe hypothermia overnight or maybe you'll just freeze to death. Run away from bandits over treacherous terrain? Maybe you'll trip and break a rib. Forgo sleep and stay on the move? You'll pass out from exhaustion. Get cut in a fight? You'd better have painkillers and bandages to prevent the wound from getting infected. Forget to hide your tracks before sleeping? The raiders will have found you by morning. The wealth of options and variables to consider are astounding.

The combat is ruthless and brutal, akin to the quick violent encounters seen in The Road or No Country, and while the encounters are experienced through menus and text, you always have a wide array of tactics at your disposal, ranging from simply fleeing to trying to break line of sight and hide to forcing enemies to surrender or just surrendering yourself. Raiders and bandits are numerous and merciless, but the otherworldly creatures and mutants that roam the map are even more dangerous. All those elements make NEO Scavenger one of the most intense and immersive experiences I've played in a while.


Defining moment: Suffering from infection, down to a glass shard, I attempt a desperate ambush on a pair of bandits. One goes down in the struggle, the other leaves for me dead in the rain with broken ribs and fractured skull. I don't last the night

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One Way Heroics - $1.99 (PC)
http://playism-games.com/games/onewayheroics/

A turn based roguelike where you need to keep moving right because the darkness that approaches from the left is consuming everything. Your objective is defeat the Demon Lord to save the world. One way heroics may looks simple, but there are a lot of depth to this game in form of secrets you may find, the best skills combinations to use with classes or trying to discover how to unlock the other characters.

The dimensions are randomly generated and some of them have special events, such characters to help you trough the journey and increased difficult.


Defining moment: It's difficult for me to feel tense while playing a videogames, and One Way Heroics is one of the few games that can make me feel worried during all the gameplay because the threat is always there and you need to consider it in your decisions.

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Outer Wilds - Freeware (PC, Mac, Linux)
http://outerwilds.com/

We all exploration, and finding new vistas and areas to explore. While Mirrormoon appealed with its abstract environments, Outer Wilds awed by delivering an incredible and intriguing solar system to explore in its short play time. Each attempt offers a new opportunity to head off in a new direction, to practice zero gravity flight, fly a remote drone. To admire the beautiful planet and star filled sky. To land your craft on unexplored worlds, meet new species both friendly and hostile.

Defining moment: That first launch from your landing pad, as you rise through the atmosphere, watch the ground shrink away and ascend into unexplored space for the first time.

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Papers, Please - Early beta here/$9.99 (PC, Mac)
http://papersplea.se/

Strip away all its other elements and Papers, Please would still be a fun game of logic and matching. But amidst the story and premise, that simple game of logic and studying documents becomes a thoughtful experience with surprising emotional resonance. From your tiny booth, you hold incredible power; with your stamp of approval, you can allow the tired huddled masses into your country or turn them away. At its core, that's the extent of the gameplay: look for discrepancies and signs of errors and forgeries, interrogate the suspicious citizens, and make your decision. But Papers, Please is so much more than that. From your little window slot and desk, you become the linchpin in fates both big and small, from the entire country to the individuals before you to your very family.

Defining moment: For such a mechanical simple game, Papers Please hold tons of depth, but it really hit home when I returned home with my meager wagers and found my family sick and starving, and I could only help one of them,

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Proteus - $9.99 (PC, Mac, Linux, PS3, Vita)
http://www.visitproteus.com/

If you step into Proteus' world looking for a goal to accomplish then you might be disappointed (or not ;)). Instead, take some time to look at the beautiful world that has been created just for you (via procedural generation). As you explore the island, take note of the gorgeous vistas, the indigenous animals and the mysterious stone formations. Listen to the sounds the world makes - abstract enough to not truly sound familiar, but thought through carefully enough to sound fitting.

Defining moment: The first time you see the sun pulsing in the sky making a ringing sound that signifies a season change from Spring to Summer. Whether you realize the season has changed or not, you'll probably stand in awe looking at the sun having taken a slightly different form than it just had and once you do realize the season has changed you wonder - will I get to see Autumn? And Winter?

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Toma

Let me show you through these halls, my friend, where treasures of indie gaming await...
Mar 25, 2006
26,213
0
1,510
www.wasfuersohr.blogspot.com
Reus - $9,99 (PC)
http://store.steampowered.com/app/222730/

A mixture between a god game,a puzzle game and some 4X elements thrown in (research, expansion, war). Not directly a puzzle game, but how you need to make sure that your village prospers with limited amount of space and within the scope of that, there seem to be tons of possibilities for different plants, animals, minerals, which all have a different symbiosis to something to enhance the effect, giving it a bit of a 4X touch as well. Its really charming and considering the surprising amount of variation and possibilities (100 plants), you will easily get your moneys worth if you are a person to tinker around with perfect setups. Marvellous and very well crafted game.

Defining moment: Minding your own business and creating a planet setup, until you, for the first time, reach a time period in which humans are not content with just following your will anymore and you need to consider stomping your people out of existence to save the future of the planet.

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Risk of Rain - Free Demo here/$9,99 (PC)
http://store.steampowered.com/app/248820/

I remember reading about Risk of Rain in one of the monthly indie threads but for some reason I didn't pay much attention to the game besides a simple comment how good and interesting it looked mainly because of the time mechanic, for those who don't know there is timer in the game and as the time increases harder the enemies become. When the game was near to be released I tried the demo and it got me hooked and wanting the complete experience.

The controls are tight and precise and considering how much you need to jump and evade in this game if they were bad I couldn't have enjoyed the game like I did. My firsts attempts were fruitless, I couldn't even finish the first boss but once I understood that I needed to manage my abilities and what items to buy and look for I started to progress in the game, be it unlocking new items, classes, logs or finally finishing it.


Defining moment: Reaching the second stage and being constantly crushed by the "Parents" and "Children", I was worried I could never progress in that stage and when I was able to reach the teleporter, kill the boss and the remaining enemies the sensation of reward was immensely satisfying.

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Rogue Legacy - Free Demo/$15 (PC, Mac, PSN soon)
http://roguelegacy.com/


'Rogue Legacy' doesn't do anything crazy with its rogue elements. Sure, the 'Legacy' part of the equation is fun until you've seen all the quirky traits your character can inherit - but that's not why you'll stay and keep playing. The game instead aims to make your character progression feel meaningful, while keeping things interesting with various classes, sub-weapons, abilities, items, loot, etc. There is no way you will not get further and further into the castle if you just keep at it. Thankfully, keeping at it becomes easy when a game feels ridiculously satisfying and is almost too charming for a product with 'rogue' in the title.


Defining moment: Amassing a huge amount of money in a run and actually looking forward to dying to get the chance to spend it all on upgrades.

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Shelter - $9,99 (PC, Mac)
http://store.steampowered.com/app/244710/?snr=1_7_15__13

Experience the wild as a mother badger sheltering her cubs from harm. On their journey they get stalked by a bird of prey, encounter perils of the night, river rapids crossings, big forest fires and the looming threat of death by starvation. Food is to be found, but is there enough for everyone? You will learn that the cubs need food not just to survive, but to enable them overcome the varying challenges they will face as they make their way through the world.

Defining moment: Before learning how important cover really is, running out in the open and losing one of your cubs because of your own stupidity and needless rush.

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Skullgirls - $14.99 (PC, PSN, XBLA)
http://store.steampowered.com/app/245170/

Skullgirls is a fast-paced 2-D fighting game that puts players in control of fierce warriors in an extraordinary Dark Deco world. Featuring all-new game systems which test the skills of veteran fighting game fans while also making the genre enjoyable and accessible to newcomers.

Skullgirls is a modern take on classic arcade fighters with a hand-drawn high-definition twist. It’s a one-of-a-kind, action-packed competition complete with awesome combos and an intriguing backstory.


Defining moment: It's hard to choose a defining moment for a fighting game, but I can say the moment I saw how fluid the characters movements are it got me hooked in the game.

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Spelunky - Freeware version here/$14.99 (PC, PSN, XBLA)
http://spelunkyworld.com/

I was late to the Spelunky party, but I was not disappointed. Its cute veneer hides a challenging game of quick reactions, strategy, and overwhelming odds. But like the best roguelikes, the difficulty only serves as the drive to improve and overcome. Adaption, flexibility, superior skills are keys to success in Spelunky's hazard filled depths. The platforming is tight, survival is tough, and it's the little details that make the game so memorable, from the human sacrifices and the shopkeepers to the infamous Ghost.

Defining moment: Spelunky loves to punish you, but for me at least, the first time the Ghost appeared because I was being too cautious and then my careful exploration become a frantic race for the exit was when I knew I'd love the game.

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Starbound - $14.99 (PC, Mac, Linux)
http://playstarbound.com/

While Outer Wilds captured the essence of exploring an unknown frontier, while Kerbal Space Program made the technical side of space travel fun and engaging, and while Mirrormoon EP turned it into interactive art, Starbound presents another facet of the experience, the kind of that perhaps was summed up best by Star Trek. That desire "to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before."

Thanks to its procedurally generated universe and myriad systems and mechanics, Starbound is probably the first title to fully realize that bold proclamation. The world of Starbound is one of endless mystery and infinite discovery, where weird otherworldly creatures lurk over the next hill, where the grand structures and abodes of other civilizations wait to be found and landscapes both hostile and inhospitable wait to be explored, tamed, endured. While it's still in Early Access, Starbound already feels like a well rounded experience, a deep game rather than a facade, and the updates and content to come mean that its depth can only grow and evolve with time.


Defining moment: It's a simple thing, but I found that moving off-planet for the first time to an adjacent moon and seeing that planet you were just exploring looming large in the star-lit sky made the world feel more cohesive than any other moment I had previously experienced.

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Starseed Pilgrim - $5,99 (PC, Mac)
http://store.steampowered.com/app/230980/

A game that is more about discovering the rules than any other usual gameplay incentive. The game has some more traditional puzzle like challenges, but the experience this game got all the praise for lies in its first 1-2 hours where you have no information about the game and just need to explore its possibilities. If you arent bothered by not having a concrete goal, this game is certainly a unique experience worth having.

Defining moment: Not knowing what a game might task you with and then gradually learning HOW to play it, IS the defining moment.

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SteamWorld Dig - $9,99 (PC, 3DS eShop)
http://store.steampowered.com/app/252410/

A mix of games like Boulder Dash, Metroid, Clonk et al., 'SteamWorld Dig' has an addictive quality to it. The urge to go for one more dig, cash in the minerals, get some upgrades, maybe go for one more, exploring a puzzle room, finding the next game-changing tool, going deeper down, laying out teleporters, more upgrades - it's a trip that doesn't overstay its welcome in the slightest.

Defining moment: Looking at the alarm clock in disbelief, drawing up the blinds to confirm that it is indeed the morning of next day and you're still digging away in SteamWorld.

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Super House of Dead Ninjas - Free Flash version/$6,99 (PC)
http://store.steampowered.com/app/224820/

Descend a seemingly-endless tower, wielding an arsenal of deadly ninja weapons and attacks, as the fearsome Crimson Ninja. The controls are tight, animations are slick, lots of powerups and randomly generated levels for tons of replayability. It's a fast, tough game, the timer keeps you moving forward constantly, there are Mega-Man styled bosses every 100 floors (you start on floor 350) and you only you get two continues per run. The kind of game that rewards you for getting better and improving your skills and punishes you for carelessness and disregarding its rules.

Defining moment: Learning the controls and eventually managing to master them and then quickly slashing through hordes of enemies with pinpoint precision makes you feel like a master ninja.

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SuperHOT - Free (Browser)
http://superhotgame.com/

SuperHOT may not be that long or that deep, but it's an fantastic promise of what's to come. The minimalist visuals only add to the beauty of slow motion killing, as enemies crumple from your gunfire and blood sprays gracefully through the air; the red-white pallet makes every shot, every impact stand out. You have to constantly be on the move, be counting your shots, be positioning yourself, and be aware of your enemies and surroundings. SuperHOT is still merely just the genesis of a upcoming expanded game, but this early version is still incredibly well-designed, down to the slick slow motion effect, the minimalist visuals, and the puzzle-shooter gameplay.

Defining moment: The first time you sidestep between bullets as your own rounds blows an enemy away and the blood spray lights up the clean white rooms...all in wonderful slow motion.

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Teleglitch - Demo here/$12.99 (PC, Mac, Linux)
http://diemore.teleglitch.com/

Teleglitch certainly makes an impression. Take the lightning fast pace of Hotline Miami, with the dread and challenge of your favorite roguelike, and that's Teleglitch in a gritty sci-fi nutshell. It may not have Crysis-level graphics, but the chunky pixels make the indistinct creatures that much more terrifying and the visual distortion that accompanies each gunshot gives your weapons a powerful satisfying heft.

But what matters is the gameplay and in that aspect, Teleglitch shines. The tension of the unknown, the joy of finding a new gun or a medkit, the fear when you're low on health and ammo, is fantastic. When you enter a room armed with only two shotgun rounds, 25 health, and one explosive, and a horde of mutants and zombies rush out of the area where you can't see and you just turn and flee the other way...it's worth every penny.


Defining moment: Down to only a sliver of health and your knife, barely escaping an ambush, then finding a cangun in a side room and obliterating an entire incoming horde in one shot

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The Stanley Parable - Demo on Steam/$14.99 (PC, Mac))
http://www.stanleyparable.com/


The Stanley Parable is a game of contradictions. It's about a man named Stanley, but it's also your story. It's a game about choice, but also the lack of choice. It's funny and humorous, but also surprisingly existential. The Stanley Parable is many things, but one fact remains consistent: it's something you need to experience.

The Stanley Parable may last only four or five hours but it's a one of a kind experience that will have you smiling, chuckling, laughing, confused, reeling from momentary shock and surprise in response to the myriad paths your choices will take you. It's a game tailor made for discussions and excited recollections of your favorite moments and discoveries. More than any other experience this year, it's a game for gamers, in the way it plays with, subverts, comments on the expectations and tropes of the medium. You need to play The Stanley Parable.


Defining moment: The thing about Stanley Parable is that you can't talk about anything specific without spoiling something great, but there was one moment that made me smile and surprised me more than anything else I've played all year. Let's just any gamer will get one hell of a kick out of it.

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The Swapper - $14.99 (PC)
http://facepalmgames.com/the-swapper/

If there's one phrase that best describes The Swapper, it's "hauntingly atmospheric". Roaming the eerie corridors and expansive spaces, the dimly light rooms, entering zero gravity, the lighting, the unnerving unsettling implications of your device, The Swapper is an game that just oozes atmosphere and tension, even though it's not even a horror game. The game also impressed me with its subdued storytelling. The story is never in-your-face, aside from the rare moments of dialogue from another individual, but for the most part, the story was told through the ominous atmosphere of the ship you traversed and the unsettling consequences of your Swapper device. Even the logs you found were never clear or straightforward, giving the whole game this tense and creepy tone

The Swapper combines so many polished elements in a single package, all working in harmony: the unsettling atmosphere, the visually cool uses of the Swapper device, its tactile clay art style.


Defining moment: Jumping from a high ledge, swapping into clones as I fell, landing safely, and then my other bodies slamming into the ground around me.

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Volgarr the Viking - $11.99 (PC)
http://www.volgarrtheviking.com/

You will die. A lot. Enter the world of Volgarr The Viking with that knowledge and accept it. This is a game built from the ground up to deliver old-school hard-as-nails challenge and it does not disappoint. The retro games that inspired Volgarr may be before my time, but as a fan of Dark Souls and brutal platformers, I feel right at home

The combat is the highlight for me though. I haven't felt so satisfied with combat in a game since well...Dark Souls. Every enemy must be taken seriously because every hit is dangerous. The smooth controls and animations combine to make you feel like a Viking badass in every encounter. Combat is no button mashing affair; button mashing will only get you killed faster. Instead every fight is a combination of timing, reflexes, and split-second reactions. Each death is a learning process, from which you become better and better until you can master each world.


Defining moment: After dying again and again and again (and again) on the first world, finally clearing the level and defeating the boss in a finely tuned flow of perfectly timed attacks, jumps, rolls make you feel like the ultimate Viking warrior.

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Waking Mars - $9,99 (PC)
http://store.steampowered.com/app/227200/

You are discovering Mars and its ecosystem. Mars is a dead planet? Indeed it was, until it has been visited by you and awakened from its slumber. Its your task to bring back life to this planet and all the while start to awaken something bigger. An ancient secret hidden deep underground, but you will need to understand the ecosystem and use the plants and seeds at your disposal.

Defining moment: Every single time you are encountering a new plant and discovering the possibilities that this plant opens for you.

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Zeno Clash 2 - $14,99 (PC)
http://store.steampowered.com/app/215690/

Combine first-person punching with liberal doses of mescaline, and you also might be able to design a game as insane as Zeno Clash II. ACE Team brings the weirdness in this beat-'em-up, a game every bit as bizarre as its 2009 predecessor. Just like the first entry in this wacko franchise, this game is memorable for its psychedelic world designs and its focus on hand-to-hand combat. Although the button-mashing brawling zips along quickly enough to be somewhat hypnotic, the main reason to stick around for the eight or nine hours of the campaign is to see what kinds of dengue fever dreams the developers have concocted.

Defining moment: Punching the crap out of weird looking things doesnt get old.
 

Toma

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The info is now in, if there are any wrong pictures, links or whatever, let me know in this thread. I assume it wont explode to 50 pages over night, so I'll correct anything mentioned in the thread tomorrow.
 

Toma

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Great year! :)

Indeed it was, I'd love some stats on decent and released Indie Games over the year, but I am sure it would state that those numbers are rising every year, and with that every upcoming year could hold potentially more promise than the last one.

I definitely cant complain about 2013, considering it gave me Factorio <3

;)
 

inkls

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Gunpoint deserves to be on that list, such a fun game. I think I replayed it 4-5 times just to get all the endings.
 

Toma

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Gunpoint deserves to be on that list, such a fun game. I think I replayed it 4-5 times just to get all the endings.

I actually considered going back after I read that someone put up a community hub for Gunpoint levels. I should check that out sometime:
http://www.gunpointlevels.net/

And naturally, we think that all of those games deserve to be on that list :p I am sure there are a few games for everyone that he hasnt heard about yet (unless he was following the monthly threads closely).
 

epmode

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Amazing thread. Thanks for putting it all together.

I wanted to note the absence of Consortium until I checked and saw it was released in early January!
 

Toma

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Amazing thread. Thanks for putting it all together.

I wanted to note the absence of Consortium until I checked and saw it was released in early January!

We actually excluded December releases too (because of reasons that are too long to explain), and should include Consortium in the march thread.

It hasnt been mentioned yet in the monthly threads, if you could put a post there, we'll include it next month and then hopefully get to play it :p
 

Toma

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Why are games with publishers on the list? If they have publishers, how can they be considered indie? I know you got an answer for this, Toma. Don't leave me hanging.

In the monthly threads we dont really care all that much about the distinction, since "Indie" is such a broad term based on distribution, gameplay, concepts etc. that it basically means everything and nothing.

We decided on a simple rule that did us well so far:

If one person (unjokingly) considers it an Indie Game, it counts and we talk about it. Keeps the community open and we avoid 99,9% of all the terminology discussions which lead nowhere anyway.
 

KodeAndGame

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Additionally, some other great Indies that didnt make the cut for the top 50, but still deserve a mention:
I need some help with these. Left to right, row by row, I see:

??, Prison Architect, ??
The Wolf Among Us, Paper Sorcerer, The Castle Doctrine
??, Westerado, ??
??, Tetrobot & Co, ??
Gateways, Sentinel, Hexcell
 

Toma

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Brothers, Don't Starve and skullgirls(soon again) are also available on PSN
Why are games with publishers on the list? If they have publishers, how can they be considered indie? I know you got an answer for this, Toma. Don't leave me hanging.
Personally I think a distinction like that only muddles and complicates the whole discussion, and not for the better. Rather than focusing on a factor like that, I consider the game itself, the mechanics, the themes, just the overall experience

From an opinion piece I wrote a few days ago. I think this best describes what I feel separates indie games from more mainstream games
Indie developers are free to express ideas, values, narratives that just wouldn't be profitable or perhaps be deemed unfit for mainstream gamers. Would Rockstar or Ubisoft seek to tackle the subject of cancer and its effect on family (That Dragon, Cancer) or lead a player through a world crafted from the history of typography (Type:Rider)? Would a game about a troubled girl's childhood (Journal) focus test well enough to see release or would an experience about building massive self-sustaining autonomous factories on alien worlds (Factorio) be considered too complex and complicated to be released without hand-holding and myriad tutorials and tips? Indie developers are able to breathe life into their wildest concepts and most personal experiences, unfettered by the restrictions and barriers of AAA development, able to tackle concepts and themes that big mainstream developers can't or won't.
 

CrackPebbles

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Nice list! Here are two of my favorites from 2013

Aces Wild: Insane brawler, as an action game fan I felt right at home, learning curve, rad combos, rewards skill. Really fucking impressive game, although ill keep it at that since I don't feel I have played enough to come to a conclusion on it.

Rain Blood Chronicles Mirage: Multiplayer action game, you get two characters who play distinctly, style-based combat system, It obviously tries to appeal to fans of action games like Devil May Cry, hell its even got its own “Tower”(Bloody Palace). Again, ive been to preoccupied to give it a fair chance in my opinion, but I enjoyed the 10 hours or so I spent playing.
 

TheLetdown

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Floor-duh
Cheers for this.

I skipped Broforce because I made the rookie mistake of rolling my eyes at the name. That gif and that description, though...
 

Nibel

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Oh man, I have to play a bunch of those.. indie games have come a long way, and it shows; great stuff!

Also, big thanks to Toma - I really appreciate what you are doing here for a long time now :)
 

BPoole

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2013 was a fantastic year for indie games. I spent more time playing games found on this list than I did playing big AAA games.

My favorite of all of these would be Guacamelee. Such a delightfully dumb game that constantly had me sitting there with a cheesy grin on my face. The combat, difficulty, controls and boss fights were excellent throughout.
 

Toma

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no toki tori 2 ? :(
Didnt land in the top 50, I think the biggest issue of the game was its predecessor. Considering the different focus and gameplay style, they should have just given it a different art style and name.

Though I need to admit that I didnt find the time yet either to look into it.

Oh man, I have to play a bunch of those.. indie games have come a long way, and it shows; great stuff!

Also, big thanks to Toma - I really appreciate what you are doing here for a long time now :)

You are welcome guys :) Its been a fun year with great,great stuff. Hope some people find a few games in that list they havent heard about yet and end up loving.
 

davonaytor

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I never post in the IndieGAF threads, but I just thought I'd say that you always do an awesome job of compiling everything and exposing a lot of awesome indie games Toma. Really appreciate it.