Every click counts
There are an absurd number of great indie games out there, and each of them would love the chance to get some mainstream exposure on Valves unshakable Steam platform. But for every standout indie title, there are a bunch that just arent ready for primetime. Valve had the perfect solution for sorting them all out: Put the power in the hands of the Steam community with Greenlight, a program that lets users give thumbs up to the games theyd gladly download, while keeping the less-savory games at the bottom of the heap.
That means that even the best of the best cant get onto Steam without your help. But with over 730 submissions and counting, there are so many titles to sort through that one can barely keep track. Never fear--weve done a lot of the legwork for you, separating the polished diamonds from the amateur rough. These are the games youll actually want to play once theyre released on Steam, and the sooner, the better
Dead Space isnt the only way to do survival horror in space. Routine takes a decidedly different approach to terrifying tension amid the stars, taking a Kubrickian aesthetic for its space station akin to 2001: A Space Odyssey or Moon. And theres a major twist: Death in Routine is permanent, so itll be that much more frightening trying to keep yourself alive as youre pursued by unseen forces. Toss in striking graphics, an eerie atmosphere, and multiple endings, and youve got one of our most anticipated indie horror games since Cry of Fear.
See also: The Intruder, a Slender-style game that has you searching for a gun to defend yourself with, instead of goofy crayon-scribbled notes.
The Last Phoenix
Heres a different kind of air combat game: Instead of dogfights between been-there-done-that jets, why not fly the unfriendly skies as a majestic, fiery phoenix? In place of machine guns and rockets, youll actually engage in melee combat with your like-taloned foes. The better your flying skills, the quicker youll restore the balance to the environment, shifting it from a decaying wasteland to a verdant forest with each downed enemy. The Unreal-powered graphics are equally beautiful; its probably the first time in a quite a while that weve actually wanted to play a flight simulator.
See also: AirBuccaneers, a Vikings-versus-Buccaneers airship battle that requires teamwork to even think about winning.
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. This retro-themed archaeological tomb raider is one tough cookie, but to those who have played it, its an absolute treasure trove of adventure-platforming goodness. The original La-Mulana was a tribute to the 8-bit MSX games not often seen outside of Japan; this is the 32-bit remake that sports even more wondrous temple ruins, collectible items, and cryptic hidden secrets. Picture La-Mulana as the lovechild of Super Metroid and Spelunky, and youve got an inkling of why this modern indie classic is so beloved by its fans.
See also: Castle In The Darkness, a retro platformer with the gameplay of Zelda II and the enemies of the early Castlevania titles.
It seems like PC gamers have been pining for this Half-Life game almost as long as Episode 3. A Source-powered facelift to the original, Black Mesa promises to make the near-perfect pacing and action of Gordon Freemans debut adventure feel new again. That means new models, new music, new dialogue, new scenes, new textures, new achievements--you name it, its probably new. To top it all off, its being made freely available thanks to Source SDK Base 2007s entry fee of nada.
See also: Miasmata, an intriguing first-person survival game that has you stalking--or being stalked by--a vicious cat creature in a dense jungle outpost.
We thought Sound Shapes was one of the prettier games out there--then we watched the trailer for Flyn, and all of a sudden Sound Shapes looks like crud by comparison. The concept is similar: Youll float around as a spherical organism collecting doodads amidst extremely eye-catching environments. Only, you wont have to do your puzzle platforming as just one imaginative creature: There are four characters, dubbed Buds, each with their own unique abilities, like gliding through the air or sticking to walls. If inserting crisp dollar bills into our disk drive would make Flyn release sooner, wed do so in a heartbeat.
See also: Incredipede, an artsy mix of Spores creature creator and World of Goos building-blob puzzles.
The moment you see Project Gianas world-shifting gameplay twist, youll wish you could start installing it immediately. This colorful puzzle platformer looks to have the lush graphics of Trine and gem-collecting goodness akin to Marios running and jumping. But to overcome certain obstacles, youll need to warp Gianas dream between her light-hearted and punk personalities, oftentimes on the fly or mid-jump. Watching the environment shift between the different forms is stunning, and collecting every last gem looks like its bound to become our new addiction.
See also: BANZAI PECAN: The Last Hope For the Young Century, an all-female anime beat-em-up loaded with bunnygirls and amazing in-jokes like Youre so S-rank!
Octodad: Dadliest Catch
Loving father. Caring husband. Secret octopus. Such is the clandestine life of Octodad, wholl have to waddle, flop, and fumble his way through even more domestic scenarios. If the popularity of the original Octodad is any indication, the sequel will offer up scads of the same challenging physics and wacky humor. Weve already given Dadliest Catch the thumbs-up in our list of our favorite indie games of PAX Prime 2012, but it couldnt hurt to guarantee a Steam release with the simple click of the Yes icon.
See also: McPixel, a wacky, quick-reflexes adventure game thats equal parts Monkey Island and urine humor.
Akaneiro: Demon Hunters
Akaneiro offers beautifully styled feudal Japan aesthetics mixed with the isometric hack-n-slash gameplay of Diablo. Just let that sink in for a moment--then try to refrain from dying due to an explosion of pure bliss. Developed by Spicy Horse, the studio behind Alice: Madness Returns, this infinitely cooler retelling of the Red Riding Hood fable has all the addictive trappings of an action-RPG. And, astoundingly, youll be able to play this gorgeous, loot-gathering game for free. Folks, it doesnt get any better than that.
See also: Anodyne, a top-down action RPG that resembles an artsy, full-color take on Game Boy classic Links Awakening.
Its a scientific fact that Zombies Ate My Neighbors is one of humanitys most amazing achievements, and Zombie Grinder instantly reminds us of ZAMNs timeless 16-bit glory. But this game isnt limited to two-player co-op; this delightfully styled top-down shooter prominently features multiplayer--a magnificent feat given Grinders two-man team. Besides classic cooperative zombie slaying, you can also use your expansive arsenal to gun down your buddies in PvP deathmatches and more. If youre not down with this game, its safe to assume that we shouldnt be friends.
See also: Bleed, a frenetic 2D run-n-gun platformer starring a gleeful purple-haired maniac named Wryn.
OIO - The Game - Enlarged
It takes a lot for an indie platformer to stand out from the pack in this day and age--but OIOs utterly beautiful visuals will have you entranced from the moment you lay eyes on it. Like other contemporary platform games, this one features inventive physics puzzles--but instead of mundane magic, youre growing wooden beams to aid your advance. With additional levels and achievements in store for the Steam version, we pretty much demand that this game get greenlit this instant.
See also: Oozi: Earth Adventure, a cartoony platformer that evokes the unique mechanics, humorous aesthetic, and rock-solid controls of Rayman Origins.
Oh hells yeah. The first thing youll notice about this shmup (shoot-em-up) are the gorgeous 2.5D graphics, and the fact that the screen isnt ceaselessly obscured by pink bullets, as in most modern-day scrolling shooters. But underneath the lustrous visuals of angular space-jets against a futuristic cityscape backdrop are some truly intriguing weapon mechanics. As the trailer so delightfully demonstrates, your ships weapon outfit and rotating firing axis will greatly determine your style of play. Its not often that we get to brandish lightsabers or flamethrowers in a shmup--but now that we know its even possible, we feel that we cant live without it.
See also: AQUA KITTY - Milk Mine Defender, a shmup that boldly features feline pilots in search of a scarce, necessary resource: milk.
Ethereal exploration games arent for everybody--but if games like Dear Esther or The Path were up your alley, then Montas needs to be on your radar. Things start out simple enough, as you explore your urban surroundings from the perspective of pencil-pushing accountant Joseph Walker. But things take a turn for the twisted when Walker starts being plagued by nightmares and hallucinations. The photo-realistic visuals really sell Walkers paranoid visions and make the mysterious plot sound all the more immersive. Additionally, if you feel like taking an even deeper walk in Walkers shoes, Montas promises to have Oculus Rift support.
See also: Dream, an incredibly varied exploration of mindscapes both serene and ominous.
Tower defense games seem to be a dime a dozen these days, but Radiant Defense has us enraptured with its captivating neon-overload visuals. Besides the unique, luminous enemy designs and groovy techno soundtrack, the interesting level layouts let you plot out your tower maze well before the more demanding waves start to spawn. Like the trailer says, millions of aliens will die over the course of the games 12 stages--but at least theyll look pretty as theyre blasted to glowing smithereens.
See also: Pulsen, an equally-colorful techno-and-chiptune-centric rhythm game thats the new gold standard for PC-based DDR clones.
Momonga Pinball Adventures
What do you get when you combine cute cartoon graphics with adventure-style pinball action? Utter delight, thats what. Like Mario Pinball Land, this has you making precision flipper shots on colorful, themed tables--only instead of a spherical plumber, youll be batting around an adorable flying squirrel. Admittedly, were suckers for any halfway-decent pinball game, but this one looks like its more than worthy of heaping praise.
See also: Armillo: The Parallel Universe Mystery, a cross between Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario Galaxy that has you speedily rolling around obstacle-filled planets.
Edge of Space
Its TerrariaIN SPAAAACE! Well, thats a bit of an oversimplification--Edge of Space has darker, higher-res visuals, alien (literally) environments, and extremely unique enemy designs. As in, theres a chance youll encounter a shark with a jetpack during your intergalactic travels. You can also pilot some radical mechs, or craft weapons based on long-lost extraterrestrial technology. Sounds like just the kind of sandbox game we can get into.
See also: VolChaos, an often-hilarious twitch platformer starring a depressed gem-seeking explorer and the talking fireballs that torment him.
Project Black Sun
Cave Story and Metal Slug are easily two of our favorite platforming run-n-guns, and Project Black Sun looks like it incorporates elements from both. With classic, unforgiving gameplay, satisfying exploration, and superb spritework, Black Sun will remind you of your favorite NES masterpieces. Just make sure youve got a gamepad before you start playing--the keyboard controls leave something to be desired.
See also: SmashBox, a puzzle platformer with a pink-haired, crate-crunching protagonist.
In Verbis Virtus
Heres a nifty one for all those would-be wizards and witches out there. In Verbis Virtus plops you into the depths of an ornate-but-creepy dungeon, with nary a weapon to defend yourself with. Then again, you wont need one--using your PCs microphone, youll cast arcane spells using the power of your voice. Combining Unreal graphics, a first-person perspective, and verbal input is as good a combination as any for a completely immersive experience. No word yet or whether or not Expelliarmus will be effective, though.
See also: Purge, a super-stylized first-person platformer that looks like Mirrors Edge with Borderlands graphics.
Are you down with the concept of tabletop dungeon crawling, but cant stand the fact that there arent any graphics? Dungeon Dashers has the cure for what ails you, with some top-down, turn-based RPG action and a pleasing old-school vibe. Your classic quartet of adventurers--Wizard, Assassin, Knight, and Ranger--must tackle monsters, traps, and disputes over sweet loot as you delve deeper the pixelated dungeon. With single-player or online co-op, wed take this over D&D any day.
See also: Unepic, a comedic side-scrolling RPG that pits an ordinary tabletop gamer against the forces of medieval evil.
Trash TV is a nifty puzzle platformer that stars a gun-brandishing sentient television. Need a logical explanation for that? Too bad! With shadowy, foreboding levels offset by a cheeky dark humor, this tricky puzzler is laden with crates full of deadly weapons, to help you conquer the brain-teasing traps and laser-triggered crushers. Death for the poor boob tube looks like itll be as frequent--and as funny--as in indie megahit Super Meat Boy.
See also: Rot Gut, a 1920s noir, pixelated platforming shooter thats almost all black and white.
Eador: Masters of the Broken World
Eador has all the trappings of a cult-classic tiled, turn-based strategy game, provided youre into that sort of thing. With lush, colorful graphics and an intriguing medieval territories floating in space theme, fantasy strategists would do well to keep an eye on this one. Plus, its got a totally evil wizard on the cover--the hallmark of any great game.
See also: The Sea Will Claim Everything, a verbose, artistic adventure game with simple graphics that mask its intellectual, heart-felt depth.
More winning indies
We love us some quality indie games, and well be keeping close tabs on future Greenlight submissions--but if you feel weve missed your favorite standout, show it some love in the comments and well be sure to check it out. Support indie developers, cause theyre the ones who hold the keys to our future! Or something to that effect. Who knows--maybe the next Minecraft or Canabalt will be amongst the Greenlight games on this list.