2016 has come and gone and left in it’s wake many memorable games, from budget indie releases to blockbuster AAA hits. It was also the year I joined the staff here at ThisGenGaming and rekindled my passion for reviewing games. In the span of about 11 months I reviewed 46 games for ThisGenGaming in addition to 22 games for my former site along with a guest review for one of my favorite podcasts. If you follow me on Twitter you know that I enter a lot of giveaways and frequent Skype and Beam chats in hopes of winning even more games. Suffice it to say, I get my hands on a lot of indie games and there is definitely a range from horrible to amazing.
When it came to piecing together an Indie GOTY list, that’s where things got a little more challenging. I didn’t want to limit myself only to games I reviewed, or just the ones with the highest review scores. My top 5 indie of the year for 2016 are ones that stuck with me for one reason or another and odds are you won’t agree with them. That’s ok because this is a personal list designed to recognize the hard work of developers and publishers. I’ve linked their twitter accounts in addition to the Xbox store page where you can buy these great games. My colleague, Justin, and I share the reviewing duties for indie games, check out his author’s page if you want to see his opinion on the games I didn’t cover. Without further ado:
Nearly every indie game of the year list (or even regular game of the year) is going to have Firewatch, Virginia and/or Inside on them. I did not review any of these games but I beat them all and earned their achievements. All three are great games but after beating them once, there isn’t really any reason to play again (Aside from Virginia’s achievement for beating the game twice). If I were creating a top 10 list they would all make it, but unfortunately short games with no replay value can have a hard time cracking the top 5. A couple other games I really enjoyed this year were Silence: The Whispered World 2 which I gave an 8.5 and Gryphon Knight Epic which earned an average of 4.8 on a 5 point rating scale.
Created by a small Russian developer, Brainy Studio, and inspired by Earth Hour…TurnOn is a game you likely missed when it came out on Xbox One in May. You play as an alien creature who takes the form of an electric spark that must turn on lights, restore power to buildings, collect lightning bolts and help citizens on your way to fully illuminating the city. In addition to being a family friendly game with a positive message, TurnOn was the type of game I could spend hours exploring at my own pace. Here is a snippet from my review:
“The challenge of earning 3 lamps on all stages will provide some replay value along with the 82 achievements that you likely won’t need a guide for. The game is all about helping people and the community, which is a great message for kids, and frankly adults too.”
Among the Sleep
One of the most terrifying aspects of horror games and movies is the feeling of helplessness when it comes to the main character or characters. You don’t get much more helpless than a toddler. Joined by your stuffed companion, Teddy, Among the Sleep has some incredibly creepy environments, tense moments and thoughtful puzzles. I gave it an great score of 8.5/10 and had this to say in my review:
“I felt genuine feelings of sadness, fear, joy and anger throughout the 4 hours I spent playing. In a marketplace where a puzzle or shooting game is released every week, Among the Sleep was a very refreshing change”
Ghost Town Games
It was very hard to find negative things to say about Overcooked when I reviewed it earlier this year. It could have benefitted from online multiplayer, sure…and the follow up DLC The Lost Morsel was pretty bland. Everything else was amazing as Ghost Town Games managed to capture the need to multitask and frenzied environment of restaurant kitchens perfectly. Overcooked earned an incredible 9/10 score and thankfully it’s getting mentioned on mainstream game of the year lists.
Also, thanks Team17 for the review shoutout in your release trailer!
Here’s a sample from my review:
“Overcooked is not only the best cooking game I have ever played; it’s one of my favorite co-operative games, period. Although it’s best played with four players, there is still fun to be had for a solo player as well. Challenging time thresholds kept me replaying levels and striving for three stars.”
Check out Overcooked on the Xbox Store here
Amazing Princess Sarah
It’s not often when a game of the year contender comes out in January, but here we are with Amazing Princess Sarah. The game is an action platformer with a retro graphical style. Your father, the king, has been kidnapped and it’s up to Sarah to battle skeletons, bats and other monstrous bosses to rescue him. I did not get a chance to review Amazing Princess Sarah, but if I had it would have earned very high marks. A single run through the campaign doesn’t take long, with only about a half-dozen stages…but to get the final ending you must complete 6 more new game plus modes. Each mode has a bit of a gimmick, whether it’s a ghost who follows you relentlessly or drunk mode where the screen bobs side to side. It had its share of frustrating moments but the feeling of conquering everything Haruneko tried to throw at me was incredibly satisfying.
Saturday Morning RPG
Mighty Rabbit Studios
When I sat down and thought about my favorite indie games of 2016, I was actually a bit surprised that Saturday Morning RPG ended up at number one. Traditional RPGs are not usually my favorite genre, but Mighty Rabbit Studios hit an absolute home run with this game. Everything about it felt catered to me and fellow gamers of similar age. First off, there are tons of 80s and 90s pop culture references and the art style looks straight out of the Sega Genesis era. The turn based combat was easy to learn but still required precise timing and thinking when it came to creating your weapon load out. Saturday Morning RPG earned one of my highest review scores of the year, a 9.3/10. I had this to say about it:
“I want to see and do everything in this world, I want to replay missions, I want to own every item. That is rarely the case for me as I haven’t been this hooked by a RPG since Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door.”
2016 was a great year for both indie and traditional games on home consoles. It’s been a pleasure to play so many games, express my thoughts through reviews and create relationships with industry developers and publishers. With new consoles on the way in 2017, things don’t look to be letting up any time soon. Thank you for taking the time to read my first article on the site and please comment with some of your favorite indie games of 2016!