The complete list at a glance:
10. Retro City Rampage
9. Tiny and Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers
8. FTL: Faster than Light
7. Mark of the Ninja
6. Hotline: Miami
5. The Legend of Grimrock
3. Thomas Was Alone
2. Natural Selection 2
Any one of the games in our Honorable Mentions list could have taken a place in the top ten, but for one reason or another got moved into this group. As we said in the introduction, any one of these is utterly deserving of your attention and we hope you take the time to check them out. They are, in no particular order:
The Dream Machine
Original US Release: May 11, 2012
This entire game was shot in traditional stop motion/claymation. There are only a handful of developers who have ever attempted this – one of them being DreamWorks with The Neverhood, Platypus on the XBLA platform, ClayFighter for the SNES in 1993 and Cletus Clay.
(Black Forest Games)
Original US Release: October 23rd, 2012
An incredibly well-crafted remake of a controversial Mario Bros offshoot. With superb, luscious visuals akin to those found in Frozenbyte’s Trine titles, and a game mechanic gimmick that actually worked and made sense within the context of the play, Giana Siters was a truly mesmerizing, if somewhat traditional platformer and it deserves your attention.
Original US Release: March 13th, 2012
A beautiful and manifold experience from the makers of Flower, flOw and Cloud. Its successes lie in that it flourishes as an interactive art installation piece with no reward and punishment structure inherent in most games. Journey’s highlights came from its creative implementation of online multiplayer to create a unique pseudo-social space. What struck people most was the moment in which another avatar just like you appeared in the game, though you had no real way to communicate except by blowing on your magical fife and simply by participating in the sublimely crafted experience together.
– Read the original IGR review of Journey by Callabrantus
If you have been direct-linked to this page, we recommend you read the opening statements to better understand why this is on the honorable mentions list.
Dust: An Elysian Tail (XBLA)
Original US Release: August 15th, 2012
“Dust: An Elysian Tale, an indie ‘Metroidvania’ action platformer from the work of one man – Dean Dodrill, a pro cel animator who worked on the game for almost as long as Phil Fish did on Fez (four years in this case).”
…Dust tries to bring to us an action platformer with the animation quality you’d expect in a feature film. You need only to watch a trailer to see how that turned out. Gorgeous, is a word you could use. Lovely hand-painted parallax backgrounds unfold behind you as you navigate the various levels. And even though many of the enemies appear to be Flash-style paper dolls with jointed limbs, the player character is highly animated.
The enemies, however, are not just stiff cut-outs. Whether blocking you, or attempting to land blows upon you, the style of their animation makes them easier for the player to read and peform to their best abilities, without any deaths feeling ‘cheap’ because something hit them that didn’t telegraph properly.”
– From the original IGR review of Dust: An Elysian Tail by HappyWulf
Really is just an excellent platformer with beautiful hand-drawn Disney-style animation, and some neat powerups along with some RPG skill tree upgrades. It didn’t change the genre in the way something like Braid did, but it brought it to its dizzying heights.
Original US Release: October 25th, 2012
Incredipede is a puzzler / physics 2D sidescroller wherein you can add legs and arms to your little pod named Quozzle, or even legs to legs or arms to legs as needs dictate in order to negotiate obstacles in your path. With an amazing wood-cutting art style featuring muted earth tones and a quirky score, this was quite unlike anything else around it.
(ELECTROLYTE and LAST17)
Original US Release: May 20th, 2012
Bill Whorton says of Reprisal:
I played Reprisal a little bit, just to check it out. Like I say, the big thing for me was that it’s entirely in the browser, and it’s not like a Flash game, or Java, or anything. As far as I can tell, it’s all HTML5, which is really, really cool. I remember when the standard for 5 first “hit the streets” people were doing all sorts of tech demos. Some band that I don’t remember made a video where you could type a sentence in the beginning and at the end of the video people would arrange themselves in the shapes of the letters. Another group of people put together a top-down Zelda-esque MMORPG. It was really basic, very bare-bones, but it was all in HTML, which was absolutely mind-blowing.
Reprisal is the first full-blown game I’ve seen that is written in HTML, and I think that’s a huge deal. Especially with the move towards “software as a service” and cloud-based apps, I think Reprisal is significant. I’m not saying that I think the platform-specific, locally-run game is dead, but I think that Reprisal is a sign of things to come as far as the viability of web-based gaming as an equal to traditional gaming.
Play Reprisal for free by clicking on its title above.
Go to the next page to see even more incredible indie games that made our short list in 2012!