TR's 10 Best Indie Games of 2013

By Kyle LeClair in Daily Lists, Video Games
Friday, January 3, 2014 at 6:00 am

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Well, another year has come and gone for the gaming world, one that gave us a new generation of video game consoles as well as several astounding triple-A video games that pushed the limits as best as they could, delivering some truly enjoyable games in the process. Which makes it even sadder that this generation and these last few years feel like they've given birth to even more cockheads, stubborn and annoying fanboys, and a so-called insufferable "master race" who won't stop whining and pecking at each other over who's right, who's the best, and what's supposedly utter crap in a world already full of games we've only dreamed of since our youth.

But when it comes to indie games, we seemingly call a truce and find some common ground that we can all agree on (for the most part). After all, the whole motley crew of gamers that we are can definitely all agree that the world of indie gaming is one that's full of creativity and effort, and the types of games that are always welcomed with open arms by us. And with 2013 having brought us whole cornucopia of such games loved by all...well, except for Gone Home, which was acclaimed by critics but somehow seen as pretentious by everyone else and got nothing but vitriol towards anyone who dare praise it. But I digress, this year gave us some truly amazing indie games that we honor today. So without further ado...



10. Resogun

Now I'm typically not the type to give into flash over substance, but in the case of Resogun HOLY CRAP DEM GRAPHICS...*ahem* So yes, as a showcase for the PS4's sheer power in terms of graphics, Resogun definitely succeeds. Thankfully, though, it's just as much of a damn good shoot-'em-up as well, so the flash and substance are pretty much equal here. Resogun may appear like your standard '80s-style destroy-the-aliens Defender-esque spaceship shooter, but it's one filled to the brim with mounds of action, frantic gameplay, massive bosses, a lust for high scores and a use of voxel graphics so jaw-dropping that the game pretty much blows it all up at the end of every level just to show off. So what we have here is basically the classic arcade shooters of your youth juiced up with the technology you've always wanted, and the result is a perfect way to start off the PS4's career.

(Oh, and Peter was right: Hearing "SAVE THE LAST HUMANS" through your controller at the beginning of every level is flippin' awesome indeed.)

9. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

When I first played Brothers back at E3, I had dismissed it as too much of an "artsy" game with some clunky controls. But now having spent more time with it, I'd definitely like the opportunity to go back in time and smack my younger self upside the head over how wrong he'll be. Brothers starts out as a unique, dual-stick controlled, single-player co-op game (yes, you read that right) about a journey of two kids out to save their ailing dad, but it quickly becomes so much more.

What you end up doing is exploring a gorgeous world straight out of a fairy tale...an early Grimm fairy tale full of the occasional disturbing imagery, to be precise, but a fairy tale nonetheless. A highly impressive (albeit brief) adventure with some captivating gameplay and an engaging story that leaves you wanting to see more, Brothers is an amazing and even heartwarming tale that one should not miss out on.

8. Charlie Murder

If there's one type of game I definitely don't mind having more of, it's successors to River City Ransom, one of the greatest beat-'em-ups ever made. Except we really don't actually have a lot of those games, so that just makes me glad for a game like Charlie Murder even more. The game involves the titular band Charlie Murder as they fight to their reclaim their glory as the best punk rock musicians possible, which just happens to involve battling their way through what feels like the contents of the entire purge from The Cabin In The Woods.

It's a violent, brutal, action-packed brawler that captures the whole "punk" feeling damn nicely, offers up some unique little gameplay mechanics (such as using in-game cell phones to scan for QR codes), and allows for some terrific co-op events that you and your anarchy-loving buddies will enjoy greatly. So indeed, Charlie Murder has earned a little place alongside some of the best beat-'em-ups ever...preferably a place with a 24-hour Ramones soundtrack.

7. Rogue Legacy

It seems as though roguelike games are becoming more and more popular among the indie circuit now, so how does a game like Rogue Legacy stand out among the ever-growing crowd? Well, pretty much by being really, really ood. Okay, there's a little more to it than that. The fun lies in the game's central mechanic of having entire generations of your family sent out on treks to explore a gigantic castle whose layout is randomly generated each time. Every time you die (and you will die), you start over with a new descendant with a potentially different class and set of traits.

Maybe you'll get an extremely large descendant who can't be knocked back, maybe one with dementia who sees imaginary monsters, maybe even one with irritable bowel syndrome who...well, you get the idea. This is a game as tough as nails that requires you to play it through as long as you can countless times in order to raise enough cash to get all the upgrades necessary to have even the slightest chance at surviving everything. And it's all done so perfectly, we wouldn't want it any other way.

6. Ridiculous Fishing

The late, great Peter O'Toole's speech from the end of Ratatouille has been on my mind a lot lately, largely the part about how even the best works can have humble origins. And while it is incredibly easy of us to dismiss most mobile gaming as a haven of so-called "casual" games that seem more and more geared towards marketability and merchandising than anything else, there will indeed occasionally rise a true work of art that shows what mobile games are capable of.

Ridiculous Fishing is indeed one of those works of art, and one that just happens to involve blowing twenty fish into smithereens at once with the help of a fully-loaded Uzi. And while Ridiculous Fishing's gameplay of catching fish, flinging them into the air and blowing them away may seem as easy as somehow exterminating some sort of animal contained in some small enclosed area, you soon learn that this is another perfect case of "easy to play, hard to master" and that your attempts at mastery will soon turn into an addiction. A well-earned addiction, though, as this is one of the best mobile games out there now easily worth a few bucks. Now go out there and make some chum, dammit.

5. Papers, Please

Well, given that Papers, Please was one of the year's most talked-about indie games, its inclusion here shouldn't be much of a surprise. What is surprising is that one of the year's most intriguing titles revolves around bureaucratic border control in a dystopian communist country circa 1982...then again, we also thought that games about lawyers and home cooking wouldn't fly before as well.

In the fictional nation of Arstotzka, your job as a border guard is to make sure anyone attempting to get through has all of their papers in order and is not, say, a criminal planning an assassination, all while attempting to make enough money to provide for your family. Now, those of you who work in menial jobs for a living here may ponder where the hell the fun in something like this is. Well, "fun" is a bit relative here, but the enjoyment here lies in the emotional stakes involved. For example, will you let someone's long-lost love through even though their papers aren't in order, even if it means getting penalized and having your pay docked? It may feel like menial work, but it's work where it actually feels like you make a difference in people's lives, and it has to be played to be believed. Glory to Arstotzka!

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