This year we decided to break our most anticipated titles into a separate list because there are just so many of them. Also, this list gives us a way to handle those games that fall outside our strict criteria for inclusion in our Top Ten Best of lists – so though some of these are already available for purchase on Steam as early access or Desura, they were not technically fully released in 2013. Others are just a twinkle in their Kickstarter campaign’s eye, but show enough development/funding/both to likely see the light of day.
Many of these have Greenlight campaigns, paid betas/alphas in addition to Kickstarter, IndieGogo or even personal crowdfunding campaigns ongoing, so be sure to lend your support to those that interest you!
The list of indie games we are most looking forward to in 2014, in no particular order:
From the minds behind Multiwinia and Uplink, this top-down construction/time management focuses on the optimal building and planning of a prison – obvious enough. Additionally, you are tasked with hiring personnel, dealing with the financial statements all while keeping your inmates from rioting.
This first person shooter Roguelike has the same over dark relentless tone of ultraviolence as Hotline Miami (link to our review) but in an uber sterile environment that looks more like an empty Target Superstore. The gimmick here is that when you stop moving so does the game, hence our Roguelike descriptor.
This time-freeze mechanic gives you the space to consider what your very next split second move will be, but be careful even as you move to incite that action, the enemy’s bullets will be moving towards you in a very Wachowski Bros style bullet time flavor. There’s a reason this awesome concept got Greenlit on Steam in a mere 24 hours.
Watch the Greenlight trailer for Superhot:
Winner of IndieCade 2013’s Grand Jury Prize, Brendon Chung’s latest blockhead title takes us into a strange version of the future that blends Syd Mead’s Blade a runner with 1980’s futurist chic, and some clever puzzles and Easter eggs to boot.
Brendon has always been very interested in using game tech as a new means for storytelling, (his other titles include 30 Flights of Loving and Gravity Bone as well as Atom Zombie Smasher (link to our review) and Flotilla) so though QC is more actual gameplay oriented, it most certainly will also involve some well crafted-narrative methodology.
The Castle Doctrine
Rohrer’s latest and perhaps most emotionally charged title (we’d say personal, but all of his titles are deeply personal, for all their abstraction) caused quite a polarized reaction upon its initial release to the critics. The Castle Doctrine involves building up security for your home even as you need to plunder and loot the homes of others advancing the moral and ethical quandary of what is right and wrong when you are becoming indistinguishable from the “bad guys” who might just be your neighbors in a predicament not so different from your own.
IGR contributor Eric Weiss spent a good chunk of time with the original build, and found it to be an unsettling, but captivating piece of business. Read his take on the preview, but bear in mind that significant equalizing tweaks have been implemented since.
The Castle Doctrine – Official Site
The Long Dark
Probably for good reason, the past year saw a lot of games centered around the idea of survival. Unfortunately many of them also involved zombies, which, in is writer’s opinion actually dilutes the interest. We are in a fast changing world where overpopulation, food and water shortages, melting polar caps and an over-reliance on fragile technological infrastructures is very real. So games provide an ideal space to beta test real world eventualities. The likelihood of a zombie apocalypse is slim, but the power going out much less so.
This is the focus of The Long Dark – a cel-shaded survival game for purists; no jump scares or paranormal things or sci-fi narratives. Just a global blackout event, you, your body heat and the winter snow. How long will you last through the long darkness ahead?
If your first reaction to seeing Hohokum is “WTF?” You’re in good company. Hohokum’s imagery will remind you of that time you mistook expired cat tranquilizers for a bowl of wine gums (we don’t judge). It’s like Locoroco and Yellow Submarine came together in the era of free love.
While there are set goals, there are no tutorials, so you’ll just have to figure it out as you go. And that’s all right, because Hohokum isn’t about objectives, points or time limits. Instead, settle in to the truly bizarre surroundings, breathe in the visuals and sound effects. Now, marvel as your universe changes while the Long Mover soars along. You’ll get where you need to be eventually, but the exploration is where you’ll discover the real fun.
Hohokum – Official Site
Pick a point in the sky, and fly there. Second star to the right, and straight on till morning? You can totally follow through on that.
No Man’s Sky is one of the most ambitious projects we’ve heard of in recent memory, and if it comes to fruition, we can’t wait to be blown away by its magnitude. It is an MMO that takes place in a procedurally generated universe. Each star in the sky is its own solar system, circled by planets, comets and other cosmic entities. Tired of trekking through the stars? Descend to the surface of any of the planets, and see what marvels are lurking there.
Number None, Inc/Jonathan Blow
Sir Jonathan Blow’s latest piece de resistance is a maze-navigation puzzler on a colorful, mysterious island. The puzzles on the island don’t demand being solved in any set order, and other areas become accessible as new puzzle mechanics are revealed, allowing for the more advanced solutions to be tackled. Honestly, if Jonathan Blow was releasing a cheeseburger in 2014, we would line up around the block for said cheeseburger.
Super Time Force
It’s being touted as a single-player co-op experience. Take control of a crack commando team comprised of heroes from various eras throughout history. each member carries his own weaponry but is equipped with time-reversal technology that can undo a situation, even if that undoes a death. Surely, if you had the ability to rewind, and switch places with teammates, every mission would be a cakewalk…right?
Not hardly. You have a ridiculously short amount of time to complete each mission, so even with your finger on the chrono-trigger, you’re still going to have to be in a hyper-caffeinated mode to work through the waves of adversity that will repeatedly wash over you. Super Time Force is all about making the totally impossible into the sorta-kinda-might-be-remotely possible, and then spanking it with enough high-powered artillery to sway the balance in your favor.
STF’s visuals may be of a stripped-down retro essence, but the action is wicked intense. If you’re not yet sold on the experience, check out what would likely be our “game trailer of the year” if we had such a category:
Night in the Woods
I’m kinda trying to keep myself in the dark about it as much as possible. I want to be surprised, but the overall gist appears to be that of a side-scrolling sandbox that is also heavily story and character-driven. You play as one of a crew of drop-outs, rogues, and gangsters and interact with your crew, and your environment, or simply explore the city or surrounding area. The game also features a very intriguing Eastern European folktale aesthetic starring a variety of forest animals.
Night in the Woods Kickstarter
Sir, You Are Being Hunted
In what feels like some sordid Dr. who episode, you are dumped on a remote part of a UK-future inlet, and I tasked with collecting scraps and assorted detritus to survive whilst Evading highly tuned Victorian-era hunter-bots as you seek the pieces of the obelisks that may somehow lead to your escape from said highly-stylized prison.
Sir, You Are Being Hunted – Official Site
RawBots is a build-your-own Tank/bot sandbox and combat arena. Not only does the Lego-esqe build-it make every would-be mecha designer salivate, but you can also set every input, so your bot can be as simple or complex as you desire.
RawBots – Official Site
Ether One uses a kind of Fatal Frame pic snapping mechanic as you restructure the world around you using memory artefacts to solve puzzles.
Watch the Ether One trailer – [Epilepsy Warning]
Rollers of the Realm
Take the precision aim mechanics of pinball, and add a ton of gripping RPG aspects. Chimera much?
Rollers of the Realm is a rare mashup, indeed. As you make your way through the quest, additional characters – represented by different pinballs – will join your party. Each has unique powers to lend to your team. Switch between various classes to clear stages of foes to advance. But beware! If your foes aren’t toppled quickly enough, their shots will hack away at your flippers, making it a lot easier to drain the ball. Boss battles, unlockable abilities and more all promise to elevate this beyond the realm of the common silver ball cabinet.
Rollers of the Realm was Greenlit on Steam, and so we wait…
We had a chance to talk with the developers of Rollers of the Realm at IndieCade 2013:
Framed is an exciting comic-book styled narrative puzzler in a gritty noir setting. What you do in one panel will affect subsequent panels. To get why we are so jacked on this one, check out the trailer below:
Artizens blends the addicting gameplay of Monster Hunter‘s non-stop boss battles and crafting trophy progression with side-scrolling gameplay like that of an old platformer.
Add into it the ability to visually customize every part of your weapons, armor, and character (yes you can be a velociraptor dual-wielding light sabers) plus weapon stat options that balance with positive and negative modifiers, you have a truly fully customizable one-of-a-kind character.
Roberts Space Industries
Star Citizen will become the new standard of player immersion. You are not just a ship in space, but an actual pilot in a cockpit. Other ships in space have real destinations, goals, and cargo. If you’re playing in the online service once the game has gone live (In 2015) every ship will likely be a player as well.
Your ships are crewed, they have living quarters, a bathroom, and a coffee nook. You can set your ship’s autopilot and get out of the driver seat, walk over and make a hot cup of joe, talk with your crew… With full Oculus Rift support or face recognition animation for when speaking to them. (Think LA Noir quality character expressions!)
This is as close as we will come to living the life of a Star Wars or FireFly character without actually living in space.
Starbound is everything that made Terraria great, with an endless galaxy to explore. More of everything, and so many randomized worlds and monsters you’ll literally never be able to see everything the game can potentially produce. Some features include boss fights, online PvP and decorating your own planet. Lots of stuff to enjoy here.
LiaDS from Toronto indie developers Asteroid Base has been on our radar for a good long while. It is a fast-paced local co-op game (which is a nice change for this list) where players work together commanding a giant pink spaceship that looks not unlike a hippie Death Star to save planets and fight space robots.
Players run back and forth between battle stations, operating their star craft and doing all the other things that need getting done. File somewhere between Guns of Icarus (link to our review) and Space Team with a design not unlike Jumpman.
From the makers of breakout hit Dungeons of Dredmor (link to our review), comes a Victorian-Steampunk-themed colony building game, with upper, middle and lower classes, factions, rewards and consequences for your social engineering. The game also features up to 4-player online multiplayer in a round-robin style.
Of all the games we saw at IndieCade 2013, [code] was perhaps the most intriguing. In it, you play as the @ symbol, fighting bad guys by negotiating an actual block of pseudo-code. The code is clickable and alive and in spite of the fact that yo are plugging in variables and even formulas, no prior knowledge of coding is required, though you will likely walk away with a rudimentary grokking of its essence.
Space Base: DF-9
Double Fine Productions
From Tim Schaffer and company comes a space sim/time management game that feels like a cross between Rymdkapsel (link to our review) and Will Wright’s The Sims – the former because you are building from a starting node towards mineable space resources, using a variety of specialized space colonists, and the latter because said colonists each have their own distinct personalities, specializations, mood swings and necessity maps.
Every so often new space travellers will hail you and ask to come aboard for a variety of reasons, which you must consider before allowing them to join you.
Our time with the early access version proved highly engaging and new additions were being added at a generous rate with each update from the time we started testing. Plus, Double Fine.
Ice Cream Truck Games/Singapore University of Technology and Design Game Lab
In this top-down action/puzzler title you move your scientist who happens to work for an evil mastermind, avoiding the light so you can skulk about in the darkness doing his evil deeds.
The game features a terrific black and white, bloom-saturated style with terrific level designs. We can’t wait to get out hands on a full version.
From the mind that brought you Gary’s Mod comes a caveman-populated persistent online multiplayer co-op survival game with craftables items and buildings. Even in very early access it has been a huge hit on Steam with many entertaining tales of battle and defeat being reported from early adopters.
Special thanks to Callabrantus and HappyWulf for contributing to this article.