Indie games are awesome. They're little slices of gaming excellence: all the excitement of a new concept, without the need to invest eight hours to see it all through to the end. But with so many indie projects out there, it's hard to parse out the standouts from the same-old. We want to help out with that--hence the creation of Indie Corner, GamesRadar's dedicated hub for whatever indie games we feel like spotlighting.
Whenever we experience a fantastic indie, be it old or new, we're likely to add it to this list. And if we're fans, we bet you'll be too, so do yourself a favor and try these games out for yourself. Some are free, others cost a pittance--either way, you're guaranteed to get your money's worth. Sharing is caring, and we want to sing the praises of these outstanding indies to anyone who will listen.
Great puzzle platformers often revolve around one ingenious concept; an unexplored territory that presides over the entire game's design. Askiisoft struck gold with their first game, Tower of Heaven, a simple platformer that revolved around rules decreed from on high and monochromatic Game Boy-style visuals. Long story short, you should play it. It'll be the perfect prep work for the greatness that is Pause Ahead.
This puzzler shares the same stellar quality, bumping up to the visuals to colored 16-bit and offering more ear-stimulating chiptunes. It invents an even more mind-bending mechanic than Tower of Heaven's commandments, one that turns the simplest room into a trial of logic and dexterity. We don't want to spoil the surprise--just play Pause Ahead to find out. Also: be wary of the Architect.
We've said it before, but it bears repeating: Vlambeer has mastered the craft of arcade gameplay. The two-man dev team knows how to make easy-to-learn gameplay last hours upon hours; for proof, check out Super Crate Box, Luftrausers, or Ridiculous Fishing. Nuclear Throne--the randomly generated roguelike formerly known as Wasteland Kings--is Vlambeer's latest, and we dare say it's their best. From the very moment you boot it up the game, you feel like you're being punched in the face by the fist of style incarnate.
Maybe it's the winning concept: a group of profoundly mutated misfits gunning down droves of baddies in top-down, shoot-em-up gameplay. Maybe it's the aesthetic: bold, colorful pixel art that, when combined with all the running and gunning, evokes the 16-bit classic Zombies Ate My Neighbors. Or maybe it's the trippy music, baddies' vicious gurgling, or the sweet sound of gunfire. Whatever it is that makes Nuclear Throne so special, we can't get enough.
Blood of the Werewolf
Looking for a hardcore indie platformer to set the Halloween mood? Blood of the Werewolf will sate your lust for difficulty, and then some. Taking cues from Castlevania (with a crossbow in place of a whip), this 2D sidescroller has you swapping between human and humongous wolf form, piercing and chomping whatever ghouls cross your path. It's even got a Ghouls n' Ghosts-esque map crawl before each level--a reminder that this game, like GnG, doesn't mess around.
Werewolf's graphic style is delectable--cartoony but elegant, with 3D models set against straightforward 2D backdrops. And the enemies standing between you and your kidnapped son are inventive takes on classic movie monsters, like Dracula and the Mummy. As is typical of hardcore platformers, the controls are tight, upgrades are carefully hidden, and your death count will skyrocket during particularly tricky segments. But that just makes it all the more satisfying when you finally devour the still-beating heart of your quarry. Blood of the Werewolf just got the Steam Greenlight, so expect it to be available shortly.
Normally, we snoot our noses at dubstep music--but in the case of Savant: Ascent, we'll gladly make an exception. This arcade-style shooter will make your adrenal glands sing with the way it mixes waves of enemies with a disgustingly (in a good way) bass-heavy soundtrack. Playing as Savant, the masked avatar for a Norwegian musician by the same time, you must ascend a tower while fending off waves of incoming robots.
The pixel art in Savant is to die for--unsurprising, given that this game was made D-Pad Studio, the team currently toiling away on Owl Boy. And while we don't want to spoil it, defeating the hilarious final boss unlocks an insane extra mode that'll make you eager to play Savant all over again.
Volgarr the Viking
So, you think you're good at video games? Volgarr the Viking would like a word with you. This brutally difficult platformer is a throwback to an era when games had no mercy--which historians have dubbed the "8-bit" and "16-bit" dynasties. Memories of dying in games like Rastan, Rygar, and Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts will come rushing back to you as you jump and slash your way through this delightfully old-school challenge.
Like Capcom's Sir Arthur, Volgarr's armor is his only lifesaver, and his jump trajectory is fixed; once you've double jumped, there's no going back. The level designs are tough but fair; when you die, they'll be no one to blame but yourself. And best of all, you'll feel yourself getting better as you continually press on, just like the hardcore games of yore.
Too often, games in the horror genre are so preoccupied with scaring you that they completely neglect to spin a captivating story. Not so in Ib, an indie horror game made in RPG Maker, which follows the exploits of a little girl lost in a haunted art museum. Foregoing combat entirely, Ib will hook you with its gratifying puzzles, clever use of dialogue, and genuinely creepy ambiance. Fine art has never been more unsettling.
Even with 16-bit era, top-down sprite graphics, Ib will effortlessly frighten you once you lose yourself to its ominous atmosphere. The game knows just when to give you a break in the tension, before plunging you back into a state of anxiety with a single errant sound effect. With charming characters, multiple endings, and some truly frightening moments (that arent all-too-easy jump scares), Ib may end up being one of your favorite horror games of all time. It's also inspired tons of amazing fan art, including the awesome Erebun piece you see above.
Retro platformers are a dime a dozen these days, not that were complaining. But few have ever busted out such a nostalgia suplex on our heartstrings like Ninja Senki, an old-school platformer by one of the minds behind the equally great Wizorb. As the pixelated ninja Hayate, youll traverse sixteen levels rife with tough-but-fair obstacles, hurling human-sized shuriken with the same satisfying tempo as Mega Mans buster shot.
Ninja Senki captures the perfect pacing of the best NES games, wordlessly easing you into new mechanics through gameplay alone before pushing your newfound skills to their limit. The charming Game Boy Color-style graphics give it that extra coat of authenticity, and the level and boss designs are fantastic. If youve ever enjoyed an NES platformer, download this now and prepare to love your life.
Legend of Princess
Imagine if Zelda 2 was prettier, faster, and had 100% more pink hair on its protagonist. Thats Legend of Princess in a nutshell. Made by Joakim Sandberg (who you might know from the also-awesome Noitu Love 2), this brief-but-thrilling platformer parodies and plays off of everything that makes sidescrolling Zelda gameplay great.
Even if you can blaze through this lavishly drawn pixel cavern and defeat the evil worm King Gohnad (heh), theres still tons of replay value here. Depending on which double-jump and ranged items you pick at the start of the game, your trip through the Dirt Temple will be wildly different from the last. This is everything that a short indie fan game should be: easily digestible and thoroughly exciting.
Mighty Jill Off
How far would you go to please your queen? Thats the question posed by the retro-fashioned Mighty Jill Off, which tells the tale of a high-jumping, rubber-clad S&M heroine. After a boot-licking fiasco, Jill (who you might recognize from her Super Meat Boy cameo) is punted down a giant tower, and must slowly make her way past spikes, spiders, and blocky flames to her domineering queens loving arms.
The gameplay lampoons Mighty Bomb Jack, a simplistic but challenging NES game. The only tools Jill has at her disposal are an incredibly high leap and a cape-powered glide, but youll be forced to use these abilities in new ways as you scale the pixelated spire. If you ascend the tower in under 12 minutes, youll get a special surprise: an even more grueling tower to climb. We wouldnt have it any other way.
Mix one part Speed Racer, two parts Tron, and a dash of F-Zero GX. Cook it under the exhaust of a jet engine, and youll get Nitronic Rush, a high-adrenaline arcade racer that puts plenty of paid games to shame. Made from scratch by a team of DigiPen students, this is one of best school projects weve ever seen (and played), with a bevy of futuristic, high-adrenaline tracks that live up to the games unique genre: experimental survival driving.
Youll take the drivers seat in a tricked-out racecar/jet hybrid, complete with nitro thrusters that let you bust out sweet flips or just straight-up fly through the air. But as you cruise the space-age streets, jamming to your ride's thumping techno, youll start to realize that the neon cities youre zooming through seem designed specifically to kill you. Play it, and youll know the extreme thrill of chasing the fastest time while trying your best not to drive directly into a gigantic sawblade. Its as crazy--and awesome--as it sounds.
Wind and Water: Puzzle Battles
You know a puzzle games good when you start seeing its patterns every time you close your eyes. Wind and Water is a simple-but-deep puzzler that comes in the single-player and head-to-head varieties, and its tile-rotation action is infectious. With fundamentals as solid as Tetris or Bejeweled, insanely charming pixel art, and a wealth of content, W&W deserves a place in the indie hall of fame alongside Cave Story and VVVVVV.
Whether youre playing with friends or taking on the games Story Mode (which clocks in at dozens of hours long), theres an abundance of addictive puzzle gameplay here. Fun fact: This puzzle games such a success, it got its own Dreamcast version in 2008. Thats one of the true marks of indie game awesomeness.
Lets face it: Your monochromatic game diet as of late has been abysmal. The cure? Hero Core, a black-and-white shooter that marries simplistic graphics to fantastic shmup gameplay. As the dinky rocketeer Flip Hero, youll explore a massive Metroidvania-style space station, encountering some reflex-testing bullet walls along the way.
Incredibly, the games layout is completely up to you--but good luck taking on the games final boss right out of the gate. Its the kind of engrossing indie game that reminds us that great things can come in visually stark packages.
Were on a bit of an arcade running kick as of late, what with the indie greatness that is Runner 2. But theres another running game out there that deserves your attention--one played from the first-person perspective, with vector graphics akin to Rez. Its called Fotonica, and its one of the best one-button running games around.
This futuristic runner plops you into a stark wireframe world, making you sprint across segmented train tracks and through polygonal forests at incredible speeds. All the while, your ears will be caressed by driving synth music. Watch the trailer, download the demo, buy it, whatever--just make sure you see it in motion, because its truly a sight to behold.
Jelly no Puzzle
So, you think youre good at puzzle games? No problem can match your boundless intellect? Its time you tried Jelly no Puzzle, the untimed puzzler that delivers a running kick to your egos balls with each new brainteaser. The game looks simple enough, with nothing more than mouse clicks to move cubes of colorful jelly in the correct sequence.
And yet, some of these addictive puzzles are liable to drive you to madness, as you spiral into a gelatin-based insanity full of block-shifting possibilities. Sure, you could look up the solutions online, but the satisfaction of finally cracking each jelly conundrum is nothing short of blissful.