It’s easy to look at the gaming industry nowadays and be overwhelmed and yet welcome by hundreds of great AAA games. Nonetheless, some indie titles have graced players with some of the best experiences out there.
While most indie titles serve to be smaller in almost every aspect compared to a triple-A game, it’s usually the story, unique visuals and well-written characters that capture the hearts of players. So, we’ve compiled a list of five indie titles that have astonished us over the past decade!
5. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
“I will give you my soul,” and so you shall. What Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice accomplishes is unlike any other game before and after it. Hellblade opened the eyes of thousands of gamers to the reality of mental illness in a way that no other game has.
What Senua goes through here, both emotionally and mentally, automatically applies to the player because of the human connection you form with Senua. In many ways, Hellblade isn’t even just a game but an experience that delved deeply into the harsh themes of loss, hate, anger, betrayal and tragedy.
Hellblade’s simplistic, yet satisfying gameplay mixed with sombre visuals brought a world into gaming that felt unique and powerful.
This title shocked everyone when it released. It called on players, and what it did was create an impactful story, and it never held back on what betrayal truly means. Unlike many games of a similar genre, our protagonist isn’t invincible, or gifted with unlimited power. The game relies on Senua being strong-willed and mentally ready for the pain she’s to endure. Easily, this is a game that everyone needs to play.
4. This War Of Mine
11 Bit Studios created a harsh outlook on war back in 2014 in the form of This War of Mine. What makes this game so special is its nature in making players understand the meaning of survival. Pitting players into a group of strangers, adults and sometimes children, and forced to survive an ongoing civil war.
Victories are rare, resources are scarce, and the world is cruel. Small victories become a necessity for your characters, and yourself as you realise survival may not be an option. What is easily one of the most potent experiences in gaming comes from a side-view game, proving you don’t always need a massive open-world or the best graphics to prove your point.
The focus on linear gameplay, haunting visuals, and the constant sounds of bombshells and gunfire in the background set the tone for the rest of your experience.
It’s not an easy game and I don’t mean difficulty. It’s a hard game to digest as characters can die with any mistake you make. Hard choices are pushed upon players, but if you want to survive this cruel world, you’ll need to do whatever it takes to stay alive.
Playdead created one of the most brutal, visually pleasing indie titles with Inside. Playing as a young boy was ingenious, making players feel that sense of helplessness that a child often feels. What’s happening around you? Why do guards want to stop you? Where exactly are you? These are all questions that will push players forward as you unveil the plot twists, the reveals and the story within Inside.
Useless side quests, cutscenes and even dialogue aren’t part of this game. However, the introduction of this game alone is better than many AAA games that focus on having as many side quests and unnecessary complications.
The absence of dialogue meant that players needed to digest and break down what was happening through what they saw. Inside takes on an almost noir-style that expands on the feeling of being trapped — not trapped in the sense of being in a single place, but by continually being apprehended by danger and this sense of darkness that you cannot escape.
Most puzzles within the game are rather simple enough, but also satisfying as our protagonist is a child. The ending of Inside is satisfying for sure, but left some questions open on purpose, leaving players starving for more.
2. Hollow Knight
A mixture of great gameplay accompanies the eerie visuals, as well as beautiful story-telling. The hand-drawn animations are some of the best in any indie title I’ve ever played, and the acoustic soundtrack further amplifies the experience. Discovering new areas is a blast as new enemies begin to venture into the game, forcing players to be smart in how they approach combat.
There’s also a similar system to Dark Souls in that if you die, you lose all your money, and a shadow of your past self awaits you. Killing the shadow means you get your money back; however, die again and you lose your money for good. Journeying through Hollow Knight never felt dull, and was always followed by pleasant surprises when venturing into new territory.
There is no shortage in content, lore and well-written characters, making Hollow Knight one of the best indie titles out there right now.
1. Ori And The Blind Forest
Without a shadow of a doubt, Ori and the Blind Forest is the best looking game on this list. The vibrancy of certain areas contrasting the purely darkened areas is immaculate here.
The beautiful animations don’t only lend themselves to the world, but the characters who are thriving with life. Dialogue isn’t an included aspect, but you can understand and sympathise with the main characters as you realise what’s happening. It’s never an easy task to include no dialogue, but rely on visual story-telling, and yet Moon Studios make it seem effortless.
When talking about Ori and the Blind Forest, it’d be a sin not to mention the sound and music design. The music within the game is truly magical and amplifies the experience of embarking into a dangerous adventure. The atmospheric sound effects, whether it be the sound of harsh rain or the simple grunts emitted by characters, was always exceptional.
“We’ve been working on Ori And The Blind Forest for four years to craft something special.” Moon Studios fulfilled precisely that and so much more.
Also read: Top Ten Games Of The 2010s
Let us know down in the comments what your favourite indie titles of the past decade are!