2013 was a great year for indie games and now that it is gone, we’re excited for what the next year has in store for us. Some previously unknown names of both studios and individual designers were thrust in the spotlight over the last year gaining recognition and revenue for their amazing craftsmanship. Proteus smashed orthodox views of what defines a game and Don’t Starve dazzled gamers with its stellar use of hand-drawn artwork. Some genres evolved throughout the entire year; the multitude of innovative puzzle-types released last year includes some amazing experiences like Antichamber and Papers, Please. We saw interesting new ways of delivering narrative, way more art styles than we could ever count, and an overall sense that designers were now truly willing to step outside of the box when it came to designing new game play mechanics and challenging the established norms. Now we turn our gaze to the future to see what great things will come from the artists out there creating experiences for those of us who love what they do. In no particular order, here is what we at IGS are most excited about.
With a beta launch back in December that has now sold more than a million copies of an unfinished game, UK developer Chucklefish have reached the pinnacle of what any indie studio strives for. They have managed to create something that has made more money before the official launch than most indie games will make in their entire existence. This one I have been personally test driving myself since the beginning of the year and can attest to its greatness. From one of the solid programmers, designers, and all around wizards from the Terraria dev team, it is no shock how incredibly immersive this game is. The use of mining, building, and exploring a procedurally generated universe in this title guarantees that we will be seeing images of personalized apex space ships and monolithic brick creations all year long on the internet. Yeah, that is my ship in that picture…
From the creators of the fantastic ride that was Bastion in 2011, comes an action RPG that is set in a sci-fi, futuristic world. The art style of this game looks absolutely amazing, some of the concept art is the most beautiful I have ever seen and we love to see this quality of artwork used in the type of visual storytelling that Supergiant Games is capable of. The characters we fell in love with from Bastion, the kid and the voice of the narrator, prove that telling a great story with memorable personas that resonate with the human experience is one of the major focuses for Supergiant and we look forward to their story set in this intriguing world.
With the slew of 8-bit clones out there it is nice to see pixelated artwork that looks organic. Say what you will about pixel art and how it is everywhere in the Indie community, anytime I see it done as well as it looks in A.N.N.E. it makes me all warm and nostalgic. We first saw a playable demo a year ago at PAX East and game developer Moise “Mo” Breton is considering this his magnum opus. The game is a 2D platformer/SHMUP with some nice RPG elements thrown in the mix that had a great month on kickstarter last year. We at IGS cannot wait to help out this robot on his quest to find all the pieces of his robot-girlfriend…. How else would you want to spend a weekend?
4. The Witness
This title hardly needs any lengthy introduction if you know anything about who’s who in the land of successful indie games. Jonathon Blow, the famed creator of Braid from 2008 and a team of stellar designers, artists, and programmers have created an amazing world for us to explore. We at IGS are looking forward to this game strictly for the level design; demos we have seen over the last year show an enchanting and colorful place that we cannot wait to wander around in. There is so much architectural design experience within the development team that it guarantees some of the most beautiful level design we will see all year, indie or otherwise.
5. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number
This follow-up to the successful, bloody, and ultra-violent Hotline Miami has been on everyone’s radar since it was announced toward the last quarter of 2012. Capturing the same visceral joy that its predecessor cashed in on, Wrong Number should prove to be an amazing experience for adult gamers. What has us excited is that the story is a chopped-up continuation of the original story, there should be some gripping explanations and reveals about the characters and situations from the first Hotline and, of course, plenty of graphic murder and mayhem that makes AAA games like Grand Theft Auto so popular.
This next title will allow us to establish and maintain a colony on an alien planet as part of Earth’s first “extra solar colonization program,” while this setting or these game mechanics are nothing new this one has caught my eye. Part of last summer’s Steam Greenlight program this game feels indie and amateur but looks absolutely amazing. Labeled as a god game by some media outlets, this one is actually available on Steam right now although it is an unfinished early access version.
This next title is from Thomas Was Alone creator Mike Bithell and it features one of my favorite focuses in gameplay: stealth. There are many joys that a gamer experiences in his or her lifetime and making good use of a well-designed, organized, and complex stealth system to progress a character is one of the best. Mike Bithell is a designer that really does a great job of using game mechanics to tell an engaging story; we saw this in Thomas Was Alone and we here at IGS are really excited to see it in Volume later this year.
8. Heart Forth, Alicia
Although we have been waiting for this one for a long time from game creator Alonso Martin, the work that we can see on the development blog looks amazing. This platformer/RPG hybrid will tell an amazing story about Alicia, the last of the wizard bloodline from a floating island called Auster. With a back story that encompasses hundreds of years of history, quick magic focused combat that looks smooth, and enough personalization through accessories and combat upgrades to satisfy any RPG fan, we can’t wait for our turn to level up this mage.
This upcoming title from Celsius Games features all the things we love about indie games; space travel, procedural generation, asteroid mining, trading economy, even space pirates. Celsius Game’s earlier title, Red Nova, was released in 2010 for all Apple devices and enjoyed a whole lot of praise and nods from the Apple gaming community. Celsius’s track record for quality development speaks for itself and has us pretty excited about our time in space. Danny Baranowsky is the man behind the sounds for this title and his amazing work on Canabalt, Super Meat Boy, and Cave Story 3D prove that this will be a stunning ride for both the eyes and the ears.
10. Super Time Force
This upcoming platformer from the skilled developers at Capybara has been on our radar for quite some time now. With mentions at IGF, E3, Indiecade, and PAX Prime, this unique spin on the traditional platformer mechanics has us all watching excitedly for a release date. Recent news includes that Super Time Force will be available on the Xbox One, which is awesome news for Capybara. With another huge indie in the works at the studio, Capybara has done nothing but impress and we look forward to the future of indie games with studios like this and titles like Super Time Force to fill our 2014!