Okay, so those who know me probably know that I’m a video game fanatic. I could go into too much detail about my favorite older video games—the ones that, in many ways, helped shape me—but I wanted to challenge myself and list only current games (released within the last five years) in this blog.
There are some amazeballs game companies that are producing quality, quality games. I’m not talking about the AAA companies. There are some good ones, for sure, but in the last decade or so, I’ve noticed a marked decline in the games these corporate giants put out. While visually stunning, those games often seem un-playtested, or are so full of cut scenes that the gameplay is lacking.
I’m talking about games with heart. Games that’ll break yours, or fill it with joy. I’m talking about indie games.
Released by the incredible 12-person team Supergiant Games in 2014, Transistor is one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking games I’ve ever played. The combat is incredibly unique (the same can be said of their subsequent release, Pyre, as well). The combat mechanics mirror module-style “learn to code” games, in that the player gets to program a series of actions and then see how those actions play out.
Transistor features a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack that is actually a part of the story. The player also has a lot of agency when it comes to combat. They can choose which skills to use and how to use them.
Playing Transistor is a unique experience that you will never forget.
Solo developer ConcernedApe released his first game, Stardew Valley, in 2016. This quirky little farming game is more than meets the eye. The player character’s interaction with the townspeople, and their own growth seen through dialogue and events, will earn Stardew Valley a special place in your heart.
Even throughout the repetitive elements of the game—farm work like planting and taking care of animals—the developer has hidden easter eggs for the player to find. I’m wary of saying anything more for fear of spoilers, but I’ll just leave you with this: Things will happen in this game… surprising, sweet, wonderful, and sometimes downright weird things.
The Witness at first seems to be a game consisting of nothing more than simple puzzles to solve on a series of screens. As the player progresses, however, they come to see that there is much more to the mysterious island of puzzles. I don’t want to spoil any surprises, so let me just say three words: environmental perspective puzzles. Enough said.
Indie developer Wizard Fu released Songbringer in 2017 to critical acclaim. Think procedurally generated Zelda-like worlds… in space. That’ll give you some idea of what you have in store. Songbringer also uses metroidvania mechanics in player exploration. Customizable tools, awesome retro graphics, and a fantastic soundtrack all combine to create a gaming experience you don’t want to miss.
This one really surprised me. I really didn’t think an arcade-style game would make it into my Top 5, but my husband and I couldn’t stop playing it. This is a 2017 first release from Team Shifty. Mr. Shifty uses a teleportation “shifty” mechanic that is all kinds of fun, along with a combination of stealth and punching. The best thing about this game is the humor. Honestly, the dialogue is just fantastic. Give it a go.
- A 2013 release from a little indie shop called Matt Makes Games
- Art by one of my favorite pixel artists, Pedro Medeiros
- A super fun party game
- Easy to pick up
- Released in 2016 by Heart Machine
- Interesting gameplay mechanics
- Stunning graphics
- An atmosphere that tells a deep history
- A Failbetter Games release in 2015 this roguelike as
- Ties into their interactive fiction Fallen London
- Exploration, Roguelike, and Choose Your Own Adventure elements
- Very well-written
I also volunteer with some wonderful local organizations including Enterprise Week and Tri-City Area Gaming.
Email me if you want more information about volunteer opportunities! sara @squidandcrow.com