Five indie games you need to play

Jake Hughes
April 09, 2018 - 10:02 am

(Image Courtesy of Dreamstime)

If you were to look at the top selling games on Steam, you'd see the usual suspects: Skyrim, GTA V, Player Unknown's Battle Grounds, Rocket League, etc. All fantastic games, yes, but all made by major game publishers. By "The Man," if you will. It's easy to make a great game when you have millions of dollars behind you. Of course, that doesn't stop some publishers from putting out crap games (*obviously fake cough* EA *obviously fake cough*).

But you know what takes real skill? Making a great game with little to no budget, without a team of dozens of highly trained artists and programmers at your side. Just you, a few close friends, and a lot of passion for making games. Indie games get a bad rap, I think. Yes, it's true, there's a lot of crap out there: cheap knock-offs, unplayable troll games, flimsy excuses for naked anime girls, etc. But underneath the dead pine needles of the indie forest, there are some damn good games that deserve your time. Here are five games you really should check out:

1. Cuphead

There's no way I could start any list of indie games and not start with Cuphead. Subtitled, "Don't Deal With The Devil," this game has been called the "Dark Souls of 2-D platforming." I loathe people who compare every hard game to Dark Souls, but that's another article I'm working on. Yes, Cuphead is a difficult game. The screen is constantly filled with obstacles to dodge, all while you have to aim and shoot to beat the stage. For me, however, it's the art style that wins this game. The hand-drawn 30's animation aesthetic, complete with cigar burn effects, and an amazing soundtrack are stunning, especially when you consider that, again, this wasn't made by a studio with lots of employees.

2. The Forest

This is survival horror like you haven't seen before, with an extra emphasis on the "survival" part. It's one of those games where you're not given a lot of direction. You are the apparent lone survivor of a plane crash. Given only what tools you can scavenge from the wreck, you have to survive in a hostile woods inhabited by mutated cannibals, all while searching for your lost son. You'll build shelters, hunt for food, set up traps to ward off cannibals, and explore the most mysterious island since Lost, with only half the plot drag. I've played this game to the end, and while I will not spoil it for you, I will tell you that it goes to some weird places. It's still in the Early Access phase, so more and more is being added all the time from the small team of four people behind this game.

3. Doki Doki Literature Club!

Remember what I said earlier about games that are flimsy excuses to show scantily clad anime girls? Well, on the surface, this game seems to be just another one of those. Labeled as a visual novel and dating sim, you play as a hapless student at a high school who gets roped into an after school literature club by your best friend Sayori. Very soon, you find out that, le gasp, this club is filled with cute girls! You got all your anime girl tropes on display here: the playful one, the shy one, the tsundere one. You'll "write" poems by choosing key words that will make you more attractive to the girl of your heart's desire. Honestly, it's surprisingly a lot of fun, and the dialogue is well written. Oh, wait, what's this warning that "This game is not suitable for children or those who are easily disturbed."

4. This War of Mine

We've all played games where you are the genetically enhanced super soldier or the squad leader of a plucky group of hardcore soldiers. Well, This War of Mine would like to remind you that, "in war, not everyone is a soldier." Set in a war-torn city, you play as a hapless survivor caught in between two warring factions. Living in a crumbling apartment complex, you'll have to scavenge for food and medical supplies, all while avoiding patrols of soldier that will do you in thinking you're the enemy. You'll have to decide whether to aid random groups of survivors, or save your precious supplies for your own group. It's a very bleak, stark look at a war of attrition from the perspective of a civilian.

5. Stardew Valley

Let's move on to something a bit more... bright, shall we? Stardew Valley is, on the surface, a simple farming simulator. Armed with only hand-me-down tools, you have to start a life of your own, living off the land. But it's not just endless farm work. You'll explore mines filled with enemies in a very basic hack 'n slash gameplay, while trying to mine ore to improve your tools. There's a thriving town in the valley, and you'll get to interact with other members of the community. The game is very grindy, but the fun of discovering new tools and crops overrides any sense of repetitiveness.