In the space of little over a decade, the games industry has seen a deluge of acclaimed independent titles. With less risk place on the outcome of a games’ success, more freedom to create as the developers see fit, and with passion trumping money as the main motivating factor for development, we’ve seen a wave of indie games that have changed both the way we play games and the way they are perceived. Join us as we look at 25 notable games from the last decade that shaped not only the indie canon of the last generation, but will also be remembered for shaking the foundations of game design.
Developer: Supergiant Games
Beautiful, deep and full of emotional resonance, Bastion is a dungeon crawler that has forced many to rethink what a downloadable title could be. There’s the throaty narration that blurs the line between player agency and authored experience, the gradually forming and shifting world, the deceptively deep RPG mechanics; it’s a near poetic experience, proving that even XBLA games can harness the power of poignancy. From this point on, ‘downloadable’ didn’t need to just mean ‘fun’.
24. The Stanley Parable
Developer: Davey Wredent (mod), Galactic Café (remake)
In your choice to abide with or rebel against the narrative voice, The Stanley Parable plays on the illusion of free will in videogames, pushing games into a new era of self-aware, postmodern introspection. It’s titles like this that will be remembered for exploring and pushing against the defining characteristics of the medium.
23. Dear Esther
Developer: The Chinese Room
Release: 2008 (mod), 2012 (remake)
Dear Esther’s flaunting of videogame convention has seen many question its validity as a game, but Dear Esther’s story couldn’t be achieved in any other medium. Like Myst, it’s a visual experience, immersing players in a narrative, the pacing and discovery of which wouldn’t work within the pages of a book or in a cinema. It’s about ownership of narrative, and thought provoking no matter your criticisms of the game.
22. Papers, Please
Developer: Lucas Pope
Working as a border control officer of the communist state of Arstotzka, your job is to approve the passage of civilians into the country. As immigration laws change, you soon find yourself separating loved ones and keeping parents apart from their children, all in order to keep your own family healthy and warm. The game forces you to look inward, confronting your own capacity to commit atrocious acts.
Developer: Jason Rohrer
In five short minutes, Jason Rohrer’s Passage takes us on a journey of birth, life and mortality, all on a field of 100×16 pixels. The experience has been known to make many a player cry, evoking universal truths through its simple, powerful design. It’s proof that games don’t need mo-cap suites and high-paid voice actors to be emotionally resonant – they need only stir what already exists within the player.