Want Games? An In-Depth Indie Game Guide

IndieGames.com is delighted to be partnering with indie game news site TIG Source, which recently posted a detailed guide to '50 Really Good Indie Games', edited by Derek Yu. The list is as close to a canonical countdown of the best independent games that we've seen, so we're pleased that they have allowed us to reprint it here.

The introduction to the list, as it originally appeared on TIGSource.com, follows:

"This is in no way meant to be a "best of" list or any kind of indie gaming canon, although every game in this list is recommended highly. The purpose of this list is to aggregate a diverse collection of high quality independent games, and say a little about the significance of each one... The hope is that both newcomers and those familiar with independent gaming will find something new and interesting to play or think about! The list was pared down from a bigger list of over a hundred favorite independent titles from the TIGForums community."

The Indie Game Guide: (1-10)

Cave Story (FREE)

Cave Story invariably gets mentioned whenever independent games are discussed, and for good reason: it's a sublime video game. Daisuke "Pixel" Amaya has paired finely tuned game mechanics with a sad but sweet tale involving an amnesiac robot soldier, a power-hungry mad scientist, and a race of rabbit-like creatures called Mimigas. The graphics and music are decidedly retro, but serve the simple elegance of the game. Cave Story is a true classic that takes a beloved genre to a near-perfect excellence.

Darwinia ($20)

Winner of the 2006 IGF Grand Prize, Darwinia deftly combines action, strategy, and puzzle elements. In the game, the player is charged with saving a virtual world from a terrible virus. Darwinia was one of the first independent titles to achieve true mainstream critical acclaim, and rightfully so: its unique blend of game mechanics and striking visual style bring classic gaming back in a very new way.
Also by this developer: Defcon, Uplink

flOw (FREE)

Born from Jenova Chen's undergraduate thesis on dynamic difficulty adjustment ("DDA") in video games, flOw is a landmark experiment in game development. Whereas most games rely on tension and forced challenges to keep you interested, flOw draws the player in by allowing them to adjust the challenge themselves through actions performed during the game. With crystalline graphics and soothing, ambient music, the result is an experience you can truly get lost in.
Also by this developer: Cloud

Dwarf Fortress (FREE)

The depth and complexity of Dwarf Fortress couldn't be described in a hundred pages, let alone a paragraph, but suffice it to say this is probably the most detailed simulation ever created! Zach Adams, an ancient history major and aspiring writer, crafts fantasy yarns which little brother Tarn, a math PhD, makes possible within Dwarf Fortress's massive game engine. The result is a Roguelike game where unscripted drama and storytelling arises from the real life concepts that are as varied as emotional attachment and soil erosion.

Gish ($20)

Before Loco Roco, there was Gish, the story of a ball of tar in search of his girlfriend. The physical properties of the main character were ground-breaking for the time - Gish was able to roll, squeeze, hop, harden, and stickify himself in order to save the day. Defeating enemies and making your way through each level required clever usage of all of Gish's physical arsenal. The game's one-of-a-kind theme was more than enough to make it the Grand Prize winner of the 2005 Independent Games Festival.

Varicella (FREE)

Adam Cadre's Varicella is a seminal Interactive Fiction game that mixes wit and history with equal amounts of aplomb. As Primo Varicella, the Palace Minister at the Palazzo del Piemonte, you must engage in a vicious power struggle with the other ministers of the court, as well as contend with other interesting palace residents, such as Charlotte, the insane wife of your dead younger brother. This is truly a game where nothing as it seems and every event must be considered and reconsidered.
Also by this developer: Photopia (same link as above)

The Shivah ($5)

A cynical, down-on-his-luck rabbi is the main character in this independent adventure game. The Shivah, named after a Jewish mourning ritual, is an engrossing, well-written detective mystery that touches upon questions of faith and morality. PC Gamer exclaimed that it's in games like The Shivah that "gaming really starts to measure up to conventional literature for emotional and intellectual integrity."

Toribash ($20)

Toribash is a unique physics-based game that does a better job of capturing the improvisation and grittiness of unarmed combat than most other fighting games. And yet it's turn-based! But therein lies the beauty of the game, where, instead of using preset moves, you are allowed to tweak and turn your fighter's joints at various intervals in order to attack or defend. When all is said and done, the results can either be laughably awkward or graceful and grisly.
Check out: Gameplay Footage (YouTube)

Knytt (FREE)

Knytt sets you in an alien landscape as the titular hero, seeking pieces of your broken spaceship so that you can return home. It is a lonely world, full of mysterious creatures and people whom you cannot interact with, forcing you to imagine what their lives are like, or what their purpose is. All of Nifflas's games are imbued with an incredible atmosphere (and a certain longing), but this is arguably his strongest.
Also by this developer: Within a Deep Forest
Also try: Seiklus

Warning Forever (FREE)

Warning Forever is a shoot 'em up game that pits you against a constant stream of battles against a singular foe that gets stronger as you progress, its evolution steered by how you choose to attack it. Because of its bold central theme and intense gameplay, it's considered to be one of the canonical indie shooters and a great addition to the genre overall.
Check out: An Introduction to Doujin Shmups
Also try: Fraxy
The Indie Game Guide: 1-10 11-20 21-30 31-40 41-50

About The IGF

UBM TechWeb (producer of Game Developer magazine, Gamasutra.com, and the Game Developers Conference) established the Independent Games Festival in 1998 to encourage innovation in game development and to recognize the best independent game developers.

The competition, now in its 13th year, awarded a total of nearly $50,000 in prizes to deserving indie creators in Main Competition and Student Competition categories at the IGF Awards Ceremony, held in March 2010 at the Moscone Center, San Francisco, CA, as one of the highlights of the Game Developers Conference.

The Independent Games Festival will return in March 2011 at GDC in San Francisco - look for more information soon. [More information...]

About The IGS

Featuring lectures, postmortems and roundtables from some of the most notable independent game creators around, the Independent Games Summit is a yearly event, with iterations thus far taking place in March 2007, February 2008, March 2009 and March 2010 at Game Developers Conference.

UBM TechWeb (which curates the IGF and runs GDC) plans to continue and grow the Independent Games Summit in subsequent years. [More information...]