Getting tired of checking your kill-death ratio in Advanced Warfare or fruitlessly searching for the best sniper rifle in Destiny? Sometimes video games can feel a little stale - I've been there too, buddy. Luckily, there's a whole industry of indie games shaking things up. Ever play Braid or The Binding of Isaac? Then you know what's up.
Now is a great time to check out the most promising indies on the horizon. If you're still enjoying your triple-A experiences, don't worry: these guys borrow from modern and classic blockbusters, but each title brings its own twist. Let's get started - severed limbs, dance floors, and cupcakes await!
Like Shadow of the Colossus? Try Titan Souls
Why should you try it? You have to be a fan of big, tough boss fights if you've played through Shadow of the Colossus, and Titan Souls serves up the same menu of ginormous entrees. It's not about whittling down a giant health bar, but figuring out how to damage each Colossus. Most strategies involve latching onto limbs as the boss draws near, and many of Titan Souls' contenders require a similar level of trickery.
What's the twist? Colossus killer Wander wields a bow, and so does the hero of Titan Souls except he only carries one arrow. Fire it, and you'll have to manually pick it up or draw it in like a boomerang to fire again. Legolas would surely kick butt regardless, but the rest of you will have to take careful aim - especially since you die after a single hit.
Like BioShock? Try We Happy Few
Why should you try it? For a game set deep under the sea, BioShock sure has "atmosphere." Oxygen jokes aside, the enrapturing art deco style is definitely evoked by We Happy Few's retro-futuristic 1960s London. And where Infinite's white-washed Columbia was packed with psycho supremacists and pseudo-religious freaks, Few's city is inhabited by Brits at a disturbing level of constant happiness, thanks to a government-mandated drug
What's the twist? If the Splicers or the Order of the Raven gave you a hard time, you could dispose of them with a few shotgun blasts or semi-magic Plasmids. That sort of behavior is a no-no in Few's overly enthusiastic world. All you can do is sneak around, blending in with your perpetually smiling neighbors. Trust me, you don't want them catching you.
Like Punch-Out? Try Severed
Why should you try it? I'd like to tell you that the team behind Guacamelee secured a Mike Tyson cameo, but alas, the ear-chomping boxer is not to be found here. That said, taking down Severed's enemies and bosses is a matter of memorizing patterns, just like with Punch-Out's totally-not-racist cast. Swiping across the Vita screen to parry attacks or deal damage is all about timing and memorization. There's even an equivalent to the Star Punch: the game takes its name from a finishing move that slices baddies to bits.
What's the twist? But unlike Punch-Out, you're not stuck in a boxing ring forever. Severed's world is explored in first person by moving from screen to the next, much like iOS cult classic Infinity Blade. The team also calls Severed an "RPG-lite," since you can collect bad guys' dismembered body parts to boost your health and strength.
Like Metroid? Try Axiom Verge
Why should you try it? You leap across boulders in a river of lava, scale a tower, and slay a Space Pirate - all to reach a chamber containing the heat-resistant Varia Suit. Now you can run right through that lava river! Powerups like these are what make Metroid games great, and Axiom Verge delivers the same wardrobe of game-changing apparel and attachments. It's all about exploring, finding new abilities, and re-exploring in new ways, all across a mysterious alien world.
What's the twist? The 60-plus items and powerups in Axiom Verge are already impressive. Even better, some weapons in Axiom Verge have two modes of fire. The Nova, for instance, can fire a large single shot or burst into six smaller ones. Bet the Galactic Federation doesn't have that in its arsenal.
Like Hitman? Try Party Hard
Why should you try it? Call me crazy, but finding a unique way to off someone and get away with it is exciting in Hitman, of course. Party Hard offers the same opportunities to set traps and find multiple routes through places like clubs and crack houses. There's an intensity to trying to not get caught, and a sense of satisfaction if you manage to pin the blame on someone else.
What's the twist? While Hitman provides chef hats and clown costumes to let you move around undetected, the 'hero' of Party Hard has no disguise. In fact, you can only hit the dedicated dance button to boogie and blend in with the plebes you're trying to murder. And yes, that's plural. Agent 47 has one target to off, but your party guy must kill everyone in the place. That's hardcore.
Like Bionic Commando? Try Ronin
Why should you try it? "What's so special about platformers anyway, Ernie?" "Gee, Bert, it's just great jumping around and using fun things like jetpacks. It's the way we move that's so fun." The Sesame Street bros are right, and NES classic Bionic Commando proved it by replacing the ability to jump with a robo-arm-embedded grappling gun. Although Ronin's heroine can jump and grab ledges, she also has a handy dart rope for swinging around, and it's the key to slipping through windows and rooftops undetected.
What's the twist? Nathan 'Rad' Spencer never stopped for a turn-based battle, but our Ronin warrior certainly does. Combat isn't about aiming a gun - you'll have to plan your moves to avoid enemy fire, leap around, and slash foes with your trusty sword. Not bad for a one-armed warrior.
Like Fire Emblem? Try Game 4
Why should you try it? Turn-based RPGs are fine and dandy, but tactics games like Fire Emblem and The Behemoth's tentatively titled Game 4 set combat atop a grid system - it's much better than standing in a line taking hits one at a time, really. Moving about the grid puts an emphasis on troop placement and attack order, so you have to strategize instead of spamming fire spells each turn.
What's the twist? When the team behind Castle Crashers gets into the tactics game, you can expect two key features: cuteness and absurdity. Where Fire Emblem includes archers and infantrymen, Game 4 sends hordes of living cupcakes and blonde cyclopses after you - don't be surprised if the ambush is interrupted by crashing pirate ships or UFOs either. It's also more forgiving than its hardcore counterpart: there's no permadeath mode, and fighting your way out of corners is very doable.
Like Dark Souls? Try Necropolis
Why should you try it? If you play Dark Souls, you're going to die. As for Necropolis, well 'necro' ain't the prefix for 'life,' pal. The Souls series isn't just about dying though; there's a ton of little quests that can turn NPCs against each other. Likewise, the creatures of the Necropolis have a designated food chain - you can use survival of the fittest to your advantage.
What's the twist? The thing about Dark Souls is that you can memorize enemy and placement and environments, making your journey a tad easier. As for Necropolis well, 'necro' doesn't mean 'repeatable' either, bub. Necropolis is procedurally generated, making each dive into the hellhole just as dangerous. You can manipulate the layout to get around, solve puzzles, and uncover treasure, but that doesn't mean the adventure will be any easier.
It's good to try new things
See? Not every video game is a near-future shooter or a medieval RPG - there's some intriguing stuff out there. And these are just a few of what's coming. Did one catch your fancy? Is there another indie you want to spotlight? Let me know in the comments!
Looking to get into some more obscure titles? Here are 12 amazing indie games you never played (opens in new tab). And for a look at how tight the indie community can be, check out the Top 7 best indie crossovers (opens in new tab).