In recent years, there has been a movement away from flashy action-packed shooters and strategy games that have put more focus on shadow detail rather than the elements that comprise the gameplay. Stripped-back indie titles like Orwell and Her Story focus more exclusively on the mechanics of gameplay over the equipment needed to run them, and have been at the focal point of gaming communities looking for something more thought-provoking than a mainstream £60 pocket-burner. There has even been a growing interest in browser games; although there is some debate about which browser is the best to handle them. Below, we’ll look at some of the best indie titles to have been released in recent years.
A Bafta-awarding game that is as bleak as it is compulsive, Papers, Please puts you in the shoes of an immigration officer tasked with deciding whom to let in into the dystopian country of Arstotzka. You have to inspect arrivals’ documents to determine whether their papers are in order so as to weed out who might be a terrorist or an undesirable. The player can interrogate applicants and demand further information in an attempt to find enough proof to deny the applicant entry or have them arrested. If a player makes a mistake and lets through the wrong person, however, they are penalised with demerits. After a point, any mistakes made will materialise in the form of daily salary deductions which limits the funds the player must use to pay bills for his or her family.
The political climate between the fictional countries involved changes the gameplay when document and visa policies are shifted. The player is also placed in various moral dilemmas in which disregarding the law might save an immigrant or reunite loved ones. When Lucas Pope designed the game, he wanted to emulate the emotional strains that both immigrants and immigrant officers are subjected to.
What happens if you take A Clockwork Orange (with added ultra-violence), sprinkled that over a GTA framework, then imbibed everything with some late 80s Florida gang culture and a hypnotic high-production electronica soundtrack? You get a depraved masterpiece by the name of Hotline Miami. This is a 2D top-down action video game that combines perspective with stealth, extreme violence and a lurid, surreal storyline influenced by everything 80s.
The plot involves protagonists Biker and Jacket as they receive phone calls instructing them to carry out various massacres against the Russian mafia. To do this they use a variety of weapons as well as various masks (rooster, owl, and horse being just a few of the options) which bestow added benefits and perks.
Don’t Starve is less of a title and more of an instruction. The aim of the game is to do just that: not starve, and by extension, stay alive. You play as Wilson, a male scientist who is trapped in a mysterious wilderness world and is forced to use his cunning and anything he can find in his environment to survive. The object is to collect various items and exploit your environment during the day to ensure that you survive the night when all sorts of monsters and oddities lumber out of the darkness.
As you play, your health, sanity, and hunger have to be maintained. As they decrease, the player’s abilities and their effectiveness change in different ways. It’s odd and quirky, kind of like a Tim Burton production married to an open sandbox game like Minecraft, but definitely worth a play, having won awards from the Indie Game Reviewer, Independent Games Festival and more.