Independently developed video games or ‘indies’ as they’re more commonly referred to are increasingly becoming the backbone of many digital game fronts. On the console space especially, the current gen PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles have seen a vast increase in the quantity of Indie games compared to their predecessors. With AAA development costs spiralling as they are and less AAA games being made as a result, there was a vacuum left that is being filled by these indie games.
AAA releases can be sparse for extended periods of time but there’s always a flurry of new indie games coming to the console space and PC space almost every week. Granted, not all these games are going to be of a high quality but Indie games take risks and chances that are often forgone in AAA development. Back in the Xbox 360 days, I excitedly looked forward to events such as the ‘Summer of Arcade’ as this was one of the only times of the year back then when we would receive some of these high quality indie titles; fast forward to 2016 and it seems these high quality indie titles are coming more and more frequently.
For those who want to pursue a passion project without a major publisher controlling their every move or just want to break the mold of typical development tropes then the Indie scene is the place where it’s happening. Some of the industry’s best designers are working at Indie studios and they’re working at pushing the envelope further every day with how Indie titles can blow expectations out of the water.
Most recently, Playdead – the studio behind Limbo – released their most recent game titled Inside on the Xbox One on June 29. The reviews are staggering and the game currently sits on a score of 92 on MetaCritic, allowing it to become the best rated Xbox One game ever. The game is headed to PC on July 7 and presumably other platforms down the line but it currently resides as the third highest multiplatform game on the console, just being beaten by giant AAA multiplatform titles Grand Theft Auto V and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
At the turn of the new year back in January, we reviewed Oxenfree; an Indie title from Night School Studio and I was personally astonished that Oxenfree left a lasting impression on me. Since, I’ve replayed the games 4 times and it never loses its unique intrigue. In our review, we praised “the authenticity of how these teenagers behave and interact which provides a genuinely original and refreshing experience with Oxenfree”. Likewise, IGN called Oxenfree “One of 2016’s most honest, gorgeous, and weirdest games.” In our review we gave the game a 9/10, a score many AAA games this year have not received.
In that same month, gamers were treated to The Witness – the latest game from renowned developer Jonathan Blow. Jonathan Blow was at the nascent beginnings of the indie game scene, developing the puzzle-platformer Braid which has since earned its spot as a classic. The Witness is the latest game from Jonathan Blow and is one of the most in-depth modern video games, which is counted among the most underrated games of 2016. It was staggering to me that there was two amazing Indie games releasing within the same month in the very first month of the year. It dawned on me that we had come a long way from the previous generation of consoles.
In February another slew of great indie titles were to release. In particular, indie titles such as Firewatch and Unravel released in February of this year. Firewatch was praised for being an “enigmatic adventure that offers a compelling meditation on love, loss and loneliness”. And while scoring highly with reviewers, it was another example of one of the most in-depth modern video games which was sadly underrated games in terms of public exposure of 2016. Unravel surprisingly came from EA whom one would not expect to help out an Independent developer but it turned out to be a beautiful game. In our review, we praised it for being a “Truly gorgeous and beautifully detailed game.”
The ensuing months further brought with them some more excellent Indie games. Games such as Adr1ft, Salt and Sanctuary, the Banner Saga 2, Thimbleweed Park are all examples of great indie games that have released in the first half of this year and the latter half of 2016 is showing no signs of slowing down for the Indie game scene. We can expect highly anticipated titles such as Cuphead, No Man’s Sky, Below, Tacoma, We Happy Few and many more to release. If anything, there’s certainly quantity for 2016 but it sure seems like the Indie games are bringing the quality.
We’ve already seen some high-quality indie games such as The Witness or Unravel in 2016 and that trend looks to be continuing up to the end of the year. Inside just released on June 29 and is remarkably enjoying playing. Indie games incite these feelings of praise because they’re the games that are more likely to take an approach that breaks the mold. For instance, games like Cuphead due out some time later this summer is drawn in the style of 1930s cartoons which IGN noted that “It’s dropped the jaw of anyone I’ve ever shown the trailer to, including non-gamer family members.”
Merely a few years ago I would have never given games like these a chance. For many years, I was a gamer who primarily played the big AAA blockbuster games such as Call of Duty and Halo but the growth in the size and quality of the Indie scene in recent years has genuinely caused a transition in my gaming habits. I haven’t played Call of Duty this year – a game I would have played almost every day just years ago. Instead, I pick up and complete some puzzles in The Witness – one of 2016’s most underrated games. Or, I’ll run a play through of the hauntingly beautiful Oxenfree. The point here is that Indie games are now bigger and better than ever and these games deserve to be given a chance; Indie developers take huge financial and creative risks and for that they should be praised. This year alone, it’s safe to say that Indie games are taking 2016 by storm.