Thanks to platforms like Xbox Live Arcade and the App Store, it’s easier than ever for developers to put out small, awesome games ready to be gobbled up by plenty of hungry gamers. This has led to a rise in independent game studios: teams of developers sometimes made up of just a handful of people. But because of their limited resources, it’s very common for these developers to fly under the radar, especially when they’re competing against the likes of Blizzard and Ubisoft. Thankfully GR is here to help, with a list of 26 of the best and brightest developers the indie scene has to offer.
If you never played World of Goo, shame on you. Whether it’s the PC or WiiWare version, the clever and charming puzzle game is a unique and refreshing gem. And it was made by just two guys. Though the follow-up to World of Goo has yet to be revealed, if it’s half as inventive as 2D Boy’s first game, it’s sure to be the next big indie hit and a game that will take up way too much of your time.
The point-and-click adventure may not be the big genre it once was, but Czech studio Amanita Design is keeping the fire burning. After getting started with the bizarrely compelling Samarost games -- as well as Flash titles for the likes of Nike and the BBC -- the team finally hit its stride with Machinarium, a beautiful, dark, and minimalistic adventure starring a skinny little robot on a mission to find his missing girlfriend and stop a bomb from destroying the city.
It all started with Alien Hominid. A deliciously difficult 2D side-scroller with gorgeous hand-drawn artwork, the game went from a Flash title to the GameCube and PS2 before taking Xbox Live Arcade by storm. Then came Castle Crashers, which, while not quite as revered as its predecessor, still managed to squeeze in some wonderful visuals and solid 4 player co-op action. Plus, you could kill aliens with a carrot. And with the mysterious and strange BattleBlock Theatre on the way, the studio is showing no signs of slowing down.
Brawsome consists of just one man intent upon keeping adventure games alive. After getting his toes wet with Flash and freeware releases and working on casual games like Avenue Flo, Andrew Goulding released one of this year’s sleeper hits: Jolly Rover. A Monkey Island-style adventure with a cast of dogs, the game is as funny as it is clever, with excellent puzzles and even better writing. It also features some great 2D artwork that will definitely appeal to those turned off by Telltale’s 3D Monkey Island games.
There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Swedish indie Jonatan “Cactus” Soderstrom. And there’s an equally good chance that if you ask another indie developer who inspires them most, the answer will be Cactus. Prolific, inventive, and at times downright crazy, Cactus’ site features everything from first-person shooters to platformers to puzzles. In 2008 alone he released 16 different games; all distinctly original. For example, his recent game Norrland is all about life in Northern Sweden and includes shooting off animal heads, punching bears in the face, and guzzling beer.
Prior to last year, few had heard of the tiny Toronto studio known as Capy, but thanks to a pair of hits -- the gorgeous and addictive PSN puzzler Critter Crunch and the unique DS puzzle/strategy game Might & Magic Clash of Heroes - Capy is practically a household name – well, in its employees’ own houses, at least. But the team isn’t resting on its laurels, with a trio of new games either out or in the works, including an HD version of Clash of Heroes, the intriguing iPhone adventure game Sword & Sworcery, and the mysterious WiiWare rhythm action game Heartbeat.