10 Indie Games So Good, You’ll Forget They’re Indie At All

aaaindiegame   10 Indie Games So Good, You’ll Forget They’re Indie At AllIndie games are often associated with colorful retro graphics and simple, yet refined gameplay. Titles like Braid, Fez and Mark Of The Ninja are examples of the best indie has to offer and provide experiences that you just won’t find in AAA titles.

There may be times, however, where you want something different from the indie norm. A game that follows indie values, yet is made with the quality that top-shelf AAA games are known for. Titles like this are rare because games with stunning graphics, good sound design, and solid content are expensive to make, but a small group of indie developers have managed to create top-notch titles on a shoestring budget.

Zeno Clash

zenoclash   10 Indie Games So Good, You’ll Forget They’re Indie At All

The spawn of Chilean developer ACE Team, Zeno Clash came out of nowhere to impress gamers in the spring of 2009. Back then, indie games were just starting to gain traction, and most efforts were graphically simple. Then this game arrived and stunned everyone with slick visuals and unique gameplay.

Zeno Clash is a first-person fighting game at its core. While there are a handful of ranged weapons available, they’re of secondary importance; you’ll spend most of your time throughing punches and countering attacks. The game’s strange storyline propels the player through a variety of other-worldly locals, each rendered with Valve’s famous Source engine.

You can pick up Zeno Clash for $9.99 on Steam. A sequel has been introduced, but has received far worse reviews, so I suggest starting with the first.

Torchlight 2

torchlight2 1   10 Indie Games So Good, You’ll Forget They’re Indie At All

The original Torchlight was a breath of fresh air in the Action RPG genre, but also a short and simple game. Runic Game’s follow-up, predictably titled Torchlight 2, expands the original’s fast-paced gameplay and cartoonish graphics with a new class, new skills and far more content.

What sets this game apart from its peers is its focus on old-school values. The game doesn’t include a skill respec option, loot is abundant, no Internet connection is required to play, and mods are easy to install. Runic Games has also modernized the game’s boss fights, graphics and sound design, improvements that contribute to an incredibly polished experience.

Torchlight 2 is $19.99 and available via either Runic’s website (for the DRM-free version) or Steam.

Path Of Exile

pathofexile   10 Indie Games So Good, You’ll Forget They’re Indie At All

Path Of Exile, developed by Grinding Gear Games, is also an action-RPG, yet it couldn’t be more different from Torchlight 2. This game is a free-to-play title that requires an Internet connection, yet the developers make full use of that fact by providing a wide range of challenges which players can participate in to earn extra rewards.

Gameplay is also entirely different. Unlike the rapidfire Torchlight 2, this title is a slow game with meaty sound effects and a focus on strategy and planning instead of split-second reactions (though the latter certainly won’t hurt your chances). This is topped off by a spiraling character customization tree that provides more options than any other game in the genre.

Path Of Exile’s game client is free to download.

Retrovirus

retrovirus   10 Indie Games So Good, You’ll Forget They’re Indie At All

Long-time MakeUseOf readers may remember Retrovirus from my feature “When Kickstarters Fail.” Though Cadenza Interactive’s attempt at crowd-funding didn’t work out, it did attract an independent investor with the funds necessary to finish the game. And that’s great, because Retrovirus is among the most attractive indie games on the planet.

Two things set this title apart. First, it’s a six-axis shooter, developed in the spirit of the long-dead Descent franchise. Second, the game has a fantastic art style that imagines a computer’s internals as a sort of underground city. The title is a visual treat and the gameplay is, at times, incredibly tense.

Retrovirus is $19.99 on Steam.

Star Conflict

starconflict3   10 Indie Games So Good, You’ll Forget They’re Indie At All

This indie game’s developer, Star Gem, is so indie it doesn’t even have a proper website. All the developer’s efforts have gone into its first game, Star Conflict, which is one of the best dog-fighting games to come out years and among the most graphically advanced indie games on a planet.

I’ve already penned a review of Star Conflict, so I’ll direct you there for details instead of repeating myself. Or you can just try the game out on your own; it’s free-to-play!

Star Conflict is only available through Steam.

Trine & Trine 2

trine2 1   10 Indie Games So Good, You’ll Forget They’re Indie At All

The original Trine was, along with Zeno Clash, among the first indie games to prove small developers could match the quality of major studios. Developer Frozenbyte somehow managed to deliver an incredible physics-based platforming indie game and top-notch graphics. And the game shipped with co-op play, a feature many indie games neglect.

Trine 2 is very similar to the first game, but everything’s turned up to 11. The campaign is a bit longer, the puzzles a bit more devious, and the graphics more detailed. Co-op play is back, and unlike the first game, Trine 2 is available on consoles as well as the PC.

Trine is $9.99 and Trine 2 is $19.99. Both games are available at multiple online stores on a variety of platforms.

Unity Of Command

unityofcommand   10 Indie Games So Good, You’ll Forget They’re Indie At All

War games went indie long before most other genres, but no one seemed notice, perhaps because the genre is difficult for outsiders to understand. There is one game, however, that stands out both for its (relatively) intuitive gameplay and excellent presentation; Unity Of Command.

Set on the Russian front of World War 2, this war-game places an emphasis on the logistics of supplying a massive army. Cutting off an enemy’s fuel and ammo is the key to success, so each battle becomes a non-stop struggle to out-flank the enemy. Developer 2×2 games doesn’t let the experience become boged down by fiddly details, however, and offers an excellent tutorial to explain the game.

Unity Of Command is $9.99 on the developer’s website. The game’s expansion, Red Turn, sells for $4.99 and adds over twenty extra scenarios.

Anomaly: Warzone Earth & Anomaly 2

anomoly 2   10 Indie Games So Good, You’ll Forget They’re Indie At All

Tower defense is a popular genre, yet painfully predictable. So 11 Bit Studios asked; what if the genre was flipped? What if, instead of defending, the player was in charge of invading?

This idea became fully realized in Anomaly: Warzone Earth, one of the best indie strategy games released in 2011. Though fairly short, the game’s clever campaign is polished to a gleaming sheen and supported by some of the best graphics found in any strategy game, ever.

Anomaly 2 is more of the same, but that’s not a bad thing, as the first game wasn’t long enough to fully explore the concept. The sequel also boasts amazing graphics and adds competitive multiplayer that lets one player control the invading humans and another control the defending aliens.

Anomaly: Warzone Earth is $9.99 on Steam, while Anomaly 2 is $14.99. The original title is also available on iOS, Android and Blackberry; the follow-up is only for PC and iOS (so far).

Conclusion

These ten indie games are among the best indie games have to offer, but what really sets them apart is their polish. These are titles that conceivably could be presented as a new franchise from Electronic Arts or Ubisoft to a gamer who didn’t know better, yet none of the games on this list cost more than $20. That’s incredible value!

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32 Comments -

Zenphic

Path of Exile is an excellent game. Storyline is a bit short for the moment, but gameplay is top-notch.

Chris M

I wish I could say the same about it being top notch…I can’t progress out of normal because of an 8 month old known bug…It makes me cry…

Cheryl Boyer

All guy games. Sigh.

Ed

Sigh all you want. My wife plays several of these games with my friends and I. She loves Torchlight 2 and Path of Excile. Try something new or continue playing your “girl games”.

Aleksandra H

Fully agree with you.
I am girl of 37 years :) and love Torchlight and Torchlight 2 even more, and just couple weeks ago discovered Path Of Exile, and like it a lot. After reading this article, I’ll try Trine.

Matthew

Aleks, you will NOT be disappointed with Trine. It’s fantastic. Trine 2 is even better, and the cooperative play on both… great! And beautiful graphics. I only complaint I have is that my boyfriend doesn’t play it with me enough :(

Aleksandra H

Just found Trine [Download] on Amazon for $4.99, definitely will try it

bben

What would you like to see in a girl oriented game? Or one that could be enjoyed by both sexes? Or by both together?
And yes, this is a serious question. My GF is not interested in any of these either, but she cannot tell me what she really wants in a game.

Cheryl Boyer

First, eschew the graphic violence. Something with characters and perhaps a mystery to solve or an adventure (sans graphic violence) to have. Of course I’m just one girl so others MMV

Matthew

Cheryl, while some of these games may be graphic in their violence (I haven’t played most of them), I do really recommend Trine, as I was saying to Aleks up above. It’s cartoony violent, but most of the game focuses on solving puzzles. Kind of a side-scrolling “Portal” type experience. You oughtta look into it :)

-Mattchew

Neralo

I wouldn’t call the skill system in Path of Exile a skill tree. Maybe more like a “Skill Forest”. Or “Skill Galaxy”

tguhh

You forgot to put Bastion & Limbo to the list :D

Matthew

And Braid!

Marko D

he also forgot chivalry

Matt Smith

I think both are obviously indie, although Bastion is more arguable than Limbo.

lanete_08

i would like to try all of these. Excited. :D
Thnx

Daniel Joshua

What about Limbo

Matt Smith

Limbo is fun, but it’s obviously an indie game.

Daniel J

absolutely! and now the team has released the game in the AppStore

Adly Asraf

Been playing Torchlight for years now and this game became one of my favourite

Benjamin

Thank you for these amazing pointers. It is a bit of a disappointment though to go through your mouth-watering reviews and fire up Steam full of expectations, only to discover that a couple of the titles that I’d have bought right away are not available for my platform.
It would be a nice service to mention if a game you recommend is not available for one or another platform (although: “sorry, Windows-users only!” doesn’t sound much like a recommendation). Or maybe a little bar of icons next to the screenshot indicating the available platforms?

Craig Snyder

+1 for Zeno Clash, Torchlight, and Path of Exile. PoE is seriously the best ARPG I’ve ever played (although I should mention I’m a little shallow in that genre).

Casey

Meh – most are online crap.

Multiplayer games are pathetic – they either can’t be bothered, or just can’t, when it comes to making a decent single player game any more..

Chris M

You must be a console “gamer”. there’s really no comparison between playing a game on a console (jsut button mashing) and playing a real game on a comp. The is SO much more interaction on the PC. and you can actually get to know the people you play with. Not jsut the name XXXbLaStYoUrAzZXXX.

Chris M

I’ve been playing Path of Exile for about a month. My highest character is lvl 41, but I can’t advance. I get the killing blow on Piety and the game locks up. I have no change to grab the key she should be dropping. It is the exact same problem asw when I try to warp using a portal to town. This bug has been in the game since december, at least. But its still not fixed.

Howard B

“most of your time throughing punches” *throwing* Jeez!

Underboss

So good we’ll forget they are indie? So you are saying they are so good they look like a corporate asshole threw money at them, forced them to beef up the graphics, throw out the game play, and sell a 6 hour piece of shit that could have had a better plot as a still frame art piece? No thank you. Some of these games are actually good though. But never compare them to anything but what they are. Indie games. Indie is where innovation and depth exist. Nowhere else. Be proud to be indie. :)

Pint

Everyone should also check out —Kerbal Space Program— in this game you can design and build rockets and space planes and develop your own space program to deliver rovers and landers to distant planets and moons. The feeling of satisfaction when you eventually (after lots of failures, explosions, staging accidents, and landing failures) get a lander on the closest and easiest to get to location, the Mun, is incredible. It’s completely open ended and you’re free to build and launch whatever you want to whatever planets you want in the kerbal solar system.
There’s also a great old-school styled RPG called —Eschalon Book II— It’s classic dice roll stuff with a solid story and a great attribute, levelling, combat and magic/skill system. It’s incredibly fun but very unforgiving, most enemies are tough on their own or when in 2’s, especially at low levels but sometimes if you camp for too long you can find yourself surrounded by 3 or 4 very powerful enemies… Also an optional necessity to eat and drink of else you suffer damage and eventually die from starvation and thirst. It’s also an open world type game complete with towns, side quests, etc…
I highly recommend these games.
Game Dev Tycoon is also pretty fun.

Ravi

Forgot to put Faster than light in the list. Graphics wise it reminds me of 8 bit era when games are all about better game play. Game mechanics of FTL is just great. If you’re looking for challenge FTL will make you sweat.

leandro

Trine and Trine 2 has an amazing graphics and gameplay. As far as the other games are concerned i haven’t tried them except for Zeno Clash.

I have also collected couple of must play Indie Games.

http://smartnoob.blogspot.com/2013/05/best-indie-games-revival-of-old-school.html

iamthelol

I think dwarf fortress should be in here. The crowned king of indies.

noob

These are not indie. Stupid list..You have no idea what an indie game is u noob