In my youth I was a Triple A guy when it came to video games. It was all about the big titles, purely because I believed they had the money and the time to make bigger, better games, and as someone who grew up playing Fallout 1 & 2, Arcanum, and Baldur’s Gate, I’m a sucker for depth.
But as I aged, I began to make the switch to indie titles and these days I genuinely believe that there is more depth, more passion and more beauty in these games that you will ever find in Triple A titles. Big graphics or not, you’re not going to beat the following:
5. The Stanley Parable
A very funny game with a uniquely British sense of humor and a great twist on the storytelling standard. As someone who struggled to get a good comedy writer for a previous project and has been frustrated with several failed attempts at “funny” AAA titles, I really understand the value of a genuinely funny script and they nailed it here.
Perhaps not as in-depth and as majestic as some of the other titles on this list, but it’s an immersive game that draws you in and that’s key.
4. This War of Mine
This is everything that an indie game should be for me and everything that I try to replicate with my own (much less impressive) tiles. This War of Mine is a strategy game where the only goal is to survive through a war torn city.
You spend the days building, repairing and surviving, and the nights either scavenging for goods or fending off attackers. You can choose to buy guns and kill people in order to steal from them, or you can choose to make do with whatever scrap you can find and whatever goods you can make yourself (alcohol, cigarettes).
It’s also very challenging, as I died many times trying to make it to my first completion. I was hooked while that was going on and the only negative from my point of view is that when I finally did it, when I finally survived the length of time (which is randomly chosen) I lost interest. There were more quests and scenarios, but they were all very similar and the fact that I had completed it was both the end of the game for me and a huge disappointment.
However, if I heard that they were making a sequel, with more cities, towns and ways to interact, I would be the happiest man alive. Even happier than if someone told me that old-school Fallout games and Baldur’s Gate were making a return.
3. Night in the Woods
I am not a big fan of platform games. I have been won over somewhat by indie titles that have taken this genre by the scruff of the neck and kicked it into a less cartoony and much more vivid world, but it’s still not something that appeals to me.
Night in the Woods came close to changing that for me. If I had seen videos or images of the game before I purchased I would have never bought it simply because it has that “platformy” look to it. But I didn’t. I read the synopsis, I played, and I was mesmerized.
The storytelling is beautiful, and while simplistic, the graphics are stunning. There is something so beautiful in this type of simplicity, in the movement of 2D characters and the way in which the world interacts around them.
This game follows a celtic warrior who is suffering from psychosis, and it draws you into her world by showing her madness and letting you listen to what’s inside her head. It’s best enjoyed with a pair of headphones as you have the surround sound craziness going on, making it creepier and more immersive than any AAA title.
It’s also a game that shows you everything you should and should not do as an indie developer. They got the actual developing down to a tee and made an awesome game, but they slipped up with the marketing. A few reviewers encountered game breaking issues early on and because there were no review embargos and pre-release reviews, there was no time to fix these issues and then await positive reviews. Instead, the reviewers were in such a hurry to be the first that they just posted the reviews anyway and slated the game.
You live and you learn, and it’s a good lesson for other developers, but this title was very nearly destroyed by that mistake and was only saved by the fact that it won a couple of major awards.
1. What Remains of Edith Finch
I bought this game for my partner on the Playstation 4 several months back. She’s not one for playing action games, sports games and pretty much 99% of titles out there, but she loves story-driven games (Beyond Two Souls, Detroit: Become Human) and from what I heard, this was made for her.
I like those sort of games too, but I had a lot of work to do, she was off for a couple weeks, and so it seemed a better fit for her.
But I was in the room while she played, and while I should have been working, I slowly became entranced. The game revolves around a young woman who returns to an old family home and gradually unlocks its mysteries. But there’s so much more to it than I could ever do justice.
At the time I was doing some basic work for one of the biggest and best online casinos on the web, a client of mine that essentially paid for that game and everything else, but I was so lost in the game that I didn’t actually do any work.
The thing that makes it so appealing is that you find out the story of each character who lived in the house, and then play it through their eyes in a unique perspective. In one you—kind of a SPOILER ALERT—play through the eyes of several animals as a young girl dreams; in another you learn about a boy who seemingly went missing inside a painting; and in the best one of all you play two games in one as a man working a mundane job at the canning factor begins to daydream.
You are there every step of the way, and even though I didn’t play a single minute of the game, I watched it all and it is on my list of my favorite games ever.