Besides our hard-wrought best of the year list, there are always more things to say and games that are loved on a more personal level. Thus we maintain an annual list of IGR writers’ personal favorites, an event that makes us happy, since it may shine the spotlight on some lesser known indie titles worthy of attention:
Indie Game Reviewer Writers’ Personal Favorites of 2017
Four Last Things
by Joe Richardson
“After Adam and Eve do the unthinkable, we are cast into a decoupage animation – Terry Gilliam style – of renaissance paintings as a comedic point-and-click adventure. Terrifically funny and worthy of a play, you are tasked with recreating the seven deadly sins so that the local church can absolve you of them (sins need to be committed in their district, otherwise you gotta go elsewhere).
The way the dev linked paintings from different eras and artists is incredible, and taken from any angle this is a unique, entertaining and even educational way to spend your time.” ~ Indie-Game-Freak
by Auburn Sounds
“Some people will say that playing video games is a method for escapism. While I don’t consider myself someone that uses them for such a purpose, this is a game for those who do. Vibrant has the unique ability to completely take over your senses.
The physics and fast pace are fantastic, especially considering it first saw the light as an MS-DOS-based, triangle-rendering engine 15 years ago. This simple arcade shooter gives you a time limit to complete, making it perfect for a quick break during the day.” ~ michael.duhacek
by Freebird Games
“In this sequel to To the Moon, Dr. Watts and Dr. Rosalene once again had me laughing at their banter, then two seconds later sobbing at the beautiful somber story that played out so charmingly before my eyes. Venturing through a dying patient’s memory to grant their final wish isn’t an easy task, but rather a very emotional one. My heart still weeps.” ~ Amanda Bower
by GO Studio
“A one-man project, Walking Heavy has a simple premise – assassinate rival drug suppliers in an endless series of procedurally generated urban English neighborhoods – but gives it a lot of depth. Sparse graphics and the interplay of light and shadow are both incredibly evocative and crucial to success as players learn to navigate lines of sight (and steer clear of the coppers).” ~ InfinityWaltz
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
by Ninja Theory
“I really like that these developers decided to tackle some uncomfortable subjects in an interesting way, even bringing in experts so that they could more thoroughly explore psychosis with some authority. Also, the production values here are impressive.” ~ Kit Goodliffe
by Olli-Samuli Lehmus
“Looking like BroForce but playing more like Super Meat Boy, this ode to 8-bit precision jumping is tough but fair.
I’m not going to lie and say I never rage-quit, but this addictive multi-level run-and-gun gem created entirely by one person isn’t frustrating, it’s addictive and fun.” ~ InfinityWaltz
The Witch’s Isle
“The Witch’s Isle is a refreshingly crisp premise and design about a cursed woman who haunts a remote island, letting none leave until her conditions are met. The multi-level side-view world is filled with interesting characters and locations to explore and discover but will not allow you to progress until you satisfy a certain chain of events.
Never fear, though! The bristling little world is filled with life, and should you ever get stuck and clueless, the NPCs will eventually go ahead and solve their own problems anyway. What comes next isn’t inevitable, though there are various sad and happy endings.
The Witch’s Isle is a fascinating method for telling a story, both in how it fosters engagement and curiosity with everything and everyone in its diorama and in the way in which its monochromatic, pixellated painterly style evokes the eerie mood while you do it.” ~ Indie-Game-Freak
by Thunder Lotus Games
“Sundered takes a couple hours to really pick up, but once it does, it sinks its claws deep into your soul. I couldn’t put this game down for hours. A detailed skill tree rewards multiple deaths, and randomly generated exits to the same map give replayability a huge boost. With the most fluid and intuitive character controls I’ve experienced all year in any game, Sundered holds its own against the triple-A titles.” ~ michael.duhacek
by 14 Hours Productions
“This little gem takes the old-fashioned light gun game a la Duck Hunt to artfully convey a tale of violence in a bizarre but fascinatingly hinted-at cyberpunk wild west setting. It’s all too brief – you can get through the whole thing in 10 minutes even if you’re terrible at the ‘shooting’ part – but brilliantly written and left me wanting more. Oh, and it’s free, so you can’t argue with that!” ~ InfinityWaltz
Doki Doki Literature Club!
by Team Salvato
“It’s really tough to describe this visual novel without giving away spoilers. Make no mistake, this is a horror game expertly disguised as a dating simulator. The clever writing and game design expect a lot more from a player than is usually demanded from fans of visual novels. Think Danganronpa meets Corpse Party meets Pony Island. Not recommended for the computer illiterate or the easily offended.” ~ michael.duhacek
“Nex Machina is a swirling, unrelenting but wonderfully accessible 380-degree twin-stick shooter from Finnish company Housemarque. Originally titled “The Jarvis Project,” due to one of its chief consultants being Eugene Jarvis – the classic arcade developer behind Defender, Robotron and Smash TV (coincidentally, three of my all-time favorites) – I was impressed by the neon and particle-spewing level designs.
Save all the humans, flush all the bad guy robots, dash-teleport through the laser barriers…rinse, repeat, add new variables. Tune into the Force, and you might waltz through without breaking a sweat. But don’t stop and think, or it’s lights out. Magic energy maker.” ~ Indie-Game-Freak
Deep Space Waifu
by Neko Climax Studio
“Deep Space Waifu may be one of the most lewd titles you will find on Steam, but this satisfying bullet hell will keep players coming back for more with its relaxing synth soundtrack and multiple difficulty settings. When the object of the game is to shoot the clothes off of anime women, some might feel embarrassed to have this on the top of their yearly favorites list.
Vulgarity aside, this game is absurdly addictive and heavily supported and improved upon by the developer and the fans. This year, the developer not only delivered an HD update and DLC but also a complete stand-alone title complete with an actual story mode. It seems there’s no end in sight for a creepy main character on a motorbike that makes Duke Nukem seem as innocent as The Legendary Starfy.” ~ michael.duhacek
“Crawl‘s boast is that you can mash your way through challenging dungeons by embodying the monsters that dwell there in an attempt to gank one of your friends, who plays the role of the hero. They die, and you or one of your two other buddies swap in to the protagonist’s role.
It works fantastically well, with a real-time feel that straddles DOOM, Hidden in Plain Sight and Dungeon Keeper. What surprised me though, is that there a full-borne solo-vs-AI mode that lets me do the same without having to share my Twizzlers. Great, fast-paced, strategic-laced, madcap fun.” ~ Indie-Game-Reviewer
The Sexy Brutale
by Cavalier Game Studio
“It’s a beautifully well-crafted little world both in space and time. I really think more games should be exploring time in the way that this game does (I can’t, off the top of my head, think of another game, barring The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask) that does this.” ~ Kit Goodliffe
Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!!
by Vertigo Gaming Inc.
“I can’t stop raving about this game. The art is fantastic, the gameplay is frantic, and the entire package as a whole is incredibly refined. The second installment in the series is so vastly improved from the first, it may as well be Cook, Serve, Delicious! 6!!!!!!
At this rate, the third game in the series will probably have the player forming food from projected holograms and digitally serving it to real people. Hopefully, we won’t have to be flushing virtual toilets… I’ve experienced enough of that this year…” ~ michael.duhacek
by Team Cherry
“There is no doubt that Hollow Knight is a brilliant and visually stunning experience. The adventure of this little fellow is unlike any other.” ~ Amanda Bower
“Beautiful artwork and really fun. I’m also a sucker for anything remotely reminiscent of Dark Souls.” ~ Kit Goodliffe
by Studio MDHR
“The retro art style used here is interesting and I think it shows how games need not default to one of the handful of popular aesthetics that seem so prolific in the medium.” ~ Kit Goodlife
Night in the Woods
by Infinite Fall
“With its comical anecdotes, unforgettable characters, and intriguing story, Night in the Woods still has my heart to this day.” ~ Amanda Bower
“Like many of us, I fell so in love with this game’s characters that I wanted to start playing again the moment I finished, even though I already knew how the story would play out. Between its cute – but not saccharine – anthropomorphic character design and a slowly building sense of dread that seems to effortlessly combine the political with the personal and the supernatural with the mundane, Night in the Woods is at once a coming-of-age-tale, a horror story and a subtle political commentary.”
Fidel Dungeon Rescue
by Daniel Benmergui, Jeremías Babini, Hernán Rozenwasser
“Back in 2010, I wrote of QCF‘s diminutive dungeon crawler Desktop Dungeons that it was “more addictive than crack.”
The article’s headline propelled it to viral status. I stand by that statement to this day: having a number of limited moves to clear increasingly higher levels of bad guy to clear your way out of a level, while deciding what loot and power-ups to grab, made it more of a slide puzzle or Sudoku, but it felt as good as Rogue.
An imitator may have cropped up here and there over the ensuing seven years, but nothing challenged Desktop Dungeons for the crown…until 2017. Fidel Dungeon Rescue about a dog with a limited number of moves trying to hit a target number of monster kill points to unlock the exit, adds the challenge that – like arcade classic Centipede – you can’ t cross back over the path you’ve left.
Every new play-through is randomly generated and always as devilishly daunting, and far more accessible to a puzzle-solving hater like me who could never have the mettle get through The Witness. Pick-up puzzle perfection.” ~ Indie-Game-Freak
Whether widely popular or hidden gems, these were some of our favorites of the year.
What were your favorites? Let us know if there’s something we missed out on in the comments.