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Top 10 Indie Video Games for the Holidays

Add Comment! By Jeffrey Rosen on December 19th, 2008

Here are some kick ass independent games to play while you are waiting in-between alphas of Overgrowth!

Why should you check out indie games? I think Ron Carmel of 2D Boy says it best: "The video game medium has been in a bit of a rut for about a decade. Many truly great games have come out in the last 10 years, but the market is dominated by big-budget photorealistic sequels and movie tie-ins produced by large public companies. Many of these games are the equivalent of second rate airport novels, straight-to-DVD movies, formulaic TV, and synthetic tween pop."

There are a lot of truly awesome independent video games and as an independent video game company, at Wolfire, we play so many video games for "research" that we think we have come up with a pretty good list. Remember, when you are buying or giving away one of these games, be sure to get it from the creator's website directly, which could mean the difference between the author getting 100% of your sale or 30% depending on where you find it.

1. World of Goo

World of Goo

This game kicks ass. For an in-depth look at what makes it great, check out David's design tour. World of Goo is available for Mac, Windows, and (almost) Linux, but the Nintendo Wii version is possibly the most fun. You can play four player co-op! This game is one of the most successful indie games in recent history, so it is worth looking at very carefully for that reason alone.

2. Braid


Braid is the other indie behemoth of 2008. It offers an exciting twist to 2D platforming by incorporating the element of time travel. Some of Braid's puzzles will seem daunting at first but wrapping your brain around the game's time manipulation system to beat levels is very rewarding. Beyond innovative gameplay, Braid's artwork, music, and storyline combine to give the game a beautiful and nostalgic texture. It is only available on XBLA right now, but if you own an Xbox, definitely check it out.

3. Aquaria


Another IGF winner: Aquaria takes place in a vast and immersive underwater world where you join Naija on her quest to find her family. Movement, spell casting and combat are all nicely woven together in one intuitive and streamlined system. The amazing diversity of creatures, quests and puzzles in Aquaria leads to countless hours of enjoyable underwater spelunking punctuated by spurts of intense combat. Bit-Blot offers a free demo on their web site, so go check it out.

4. Mount&Blade

Mount and Blade

Mount&Blade is incredibly addictive third-person, medieval fighting game. What's most unique about it is the scale of the battles in the game. You can accrue and army of dudes who fight next to you and just personally fight hundreds of enemies in a single skirmish, taking them out one by one. I bought this game back when it was in beta and was little more than a kick-ass sandbox. TaleWorlds actually was able to create a huge following before the game was even finished yet, and we are shamelessly copying their business model.

5. Gish
Gish is a 2D platformer that demonstrates how a few, simple but elegant controls can combine to create high-quality gameplay. For in depth analysis, check out David's Gish design tour.

6. Castle Crashers

Castle Crashers

Castle Crashers is an Xbox Live Arcade game that addicted Wolfire for a few days until we completely beat it. Basically, it's a side-scrolling beat em up, sort of like Golden Axe, but a lot more intricate. It's one of the few local multiplayer games out there, so it's an awesome game to play with friends -- 4 players.

7. Multiwinia


Don't let Multiwinia's intentionally minimalist graphics fool you. Multiwinia has all the trimmings of a proper RTS. You can battle your friends in multiplay with up to four players in one of six exciting battle modes. A free demo is available on Introversion's site. Survival of the flattest!

8. Cortex Command
In the history of mankind, mining for gold has never been so fun or so dangerous. Cortex Command depicts the distant future where prospectors battle each other for control of resources on an earth-like planet. Imagine Worms Armageddon, but in real time with extremely detailed pixel-art physics and damage modeling. There's something very satisfying about landing a dropship on a group of soldiers and watching the guts and gears go flying.

9. Droid Assault

Droid Assault

Droid Assault is a retro arcade game for Mac, Windows, and Linux. I have to admit I'm the only guy at Wolfire who had heard of it, but I'm a huge fan and got totally addicted to it. Basically, you are a little robot and you must shoot or "take over" other bigger robots. You can amass an army of robots who help you out along your journey.

10. Schizoid


Shizoid is another XBLA title that we've really enjoyed. It's a top down cooperative game. One player controls the red ship and can only kill red enemies and will die if touched by blue monsters. The other player has the blue ship and can only kill blue enemies and must run from the red ones. Sounds simple, but when you account for Schizoid's twisted level designs and devious AI, you and your friend end up on the edge of your seats screaming survival strategies at each other. Just in case the regular co-op challenge isn't hard enough, you can also play the Uberschizoid mode where you have to orchestrate the whole two-ship ballet by yourself.

If I missed some of your favorites, please let me know in the comments! Also, please share this list with your friends using this new ShareThis widget I just added below!