This list is just my own personal favorites and is by no means comprehensive, but I wanted to share some of the indie titles that saw commercial release in 2013 that I spent a lot of time with and really enjoyed. I did not include many excellent games that are still in beta or alpha or on mobile devices in this list.
I noticed that a lot of my picks are games that are conducive to quick bursts of playtime or turn-based and this probably because I spend a lot of time working behind the scenes at IGR so I like things I can jump in and out of without much ado. It’s also likely the reason I have a couple of time management games on the list, since that is where my head is at a lot of the year, especially years with an insane amount of new titles to contend with like the one we just got through.
Also, these writer-based lists do not include titles we may have voted on for the main IGR list, and that’s where some of the best games we collectively feel came out this year are included.
I hope this helps shine some light on some titles that you may have overlooked or are in search of some solid buys.
In no particular order:
Sword of the Stars: The Pit Gold Edition
Windows PC, Steam, Desura
While some called The Pit “too vanilla” as a Roguelike – that is exactly what I liked about it; a good old fashioned Roguelike set in space. You make a move, and enemies make a move the same number of tiles in tandem except that SOTS uses field of view, so sometimes you can’t tell where those pesky creeps went.
A huge skill list for assigning your points when you level up, and with the subsequent Mind Games DLC and Gold Edition, the devs added a handful of new playable classes, including some of the very monsters you were battling in the original version. I loved the controller support and found it to be very easy to play, and hard to master. A personal fave for wiling away the time as I thought about other stuff.
Skulls of the Shogun
XBOX 360, Windows PC, Steam, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows 8
A three-man team of ex-Microsoft Studios developers put their money on themselves under the name 17-Bit Games, and built this terrific turn-based strategy game set in feudal Japan with hilarious dialogue and a really nice looking cartoon cutout style. I spent many hours playing it on XBLA, but it now also available for Steam and iOS devices.
Super Amazing Wagon Adventure
Windows PC, XBOX 360, Desura, Steam
This is what you would get if an Atari 2600 had a procedurally generated take on Oregon Trail and a very dark sense of over-the-top humor. “Laura Ingalls on Bath Salts,” I called it.
No two games are alike, and some endings may take you to some truly outlandish places, like asteroid showers you have to blast away with your trusty tarp-covered wagon. Too much fun for the price of a candy bar with high replay value.
Windows PC, Mac, Steam
140 was a knockout sleeper hit in 2013. Primitive colored polygons are all that is used to create a pulsing, rhythm-based puzzle platformer with boss fights! The mashup of genres really works too. It’s easy to play but definitely requires a sense of rhythm to get through. And the tunes are killer too.
Oh yeah and it was made by the director of a little game called “Limbo,” so there is that.
Cook, Serve, Delicious
Windows PC, Mac, Desura, Steam
The most surprisingly deep and decidedly non-casual casual game of the year. While on the surface CSD looks like so many time/resource management games flooding the mobile market, this one actually makes you roll up your sleeves and do some serious albeit entertaining work.
Building up from an out-of-the-way greasy spoon towards the aim of reclaiming the glory days of a Five-Star restaurant called “Cook, Serve, Delicious,” you are tasked with purchasing stock and equipment, designing a menu, serving customers their custom orders in a timely fashion while still remembering to wash the dishes, take out the trash and unclog the toilets. A lot of fun and a legitimately engaging restaurant management sim.
Windows PC, Mac, Steam, iOS, Android
I love the Shadowrun universe, and was really excited to see it making a comeback after Shadowrun Online lost support from XBOX. What we got is a perfectly reasonable isometric CRPG with excellent sound design, a decent combat system and a great big campaign.
Even better the modding community has built dozens if not hundreds of new custom chapters you can try out (via Steam Workshop). It is also available for your iPad or Android tablet.
Potatoman Seeks the Troof
OUYA, Windows PC, Mac, Linux
There were a slew of really hard side-scrolling platformers this year, Volgarr the Viking and House of Super Dead Ninjas come to mind. But Potatoman, from Pixeljam distilled it all to its essence with a single-button test of wits, timing and memorization wrapped up in a package that looks like a lost title from Intellivision that I kept going back to try and beat. It also gets stranger as you get into the deeper levels and that counts for something in my house.
POTATOMAN SEEKS THE TROOF – OFFICIAL SITE
Reach for the Sun
Windows PC, Steam
RFTS is a time/resource management sim where you are a plant trying to grow and produce as many seeds as possible before the arrival of winter. What is cool about it is that it is actually rather scientific – you must contend with getting enough oxygen, sunlight, nutrients and water while expanding your branches and warding off insects. It’s fairly short and sweet but it does teach you something about botany so you can game guilt free and see your dying houseplants in a whole new way.
Windows PC, Mac, Linux, Steam
There is nothing earth-shatteringly new about Steamworld – it is Miner Dig Deep with a serious coat of sexy paint. But it also makes Miner Dig Deep into the game I always wished it was. Drill down into the ground, using a water reservoir you carry to create steam used to power up a series of special abilities.
When your satchel is full of precious minerals and ore, find your way back up to the surface to sell them in exchange for better gear. Rinse and repeat, but mind those strange creatures living way down under the areas that your old robot uncle never quite got a chance to talk about…
Note I am talking about the PC port here, and not the 3DS version from which it was adapted that is built for two screens.
Windows PC, Mac, Steam
After years of being available as a free beta, Desktop Dungeons finally had its commercial release in 2013. There is nothing quite like it out there – a puzzler/Roguelike but not really either. You can pick up a session and play a round in ten minutes, but, like anyone who has ventured in will tell you, that ten minutes gets multiplied by a factor of ten very quickly. Insanely addictive, the new graphics, city expansions and other updates made this a complete and excellent indie title by any standard.
What were your personal indie titles released in 2013? Did you play any of the above? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!