Independently developed games have come a long way in the last 10 years. In fact, 10 years ago they weren’t actually termed “indie games” at all. They were actually called Shareware titles… games that were often free but of lesser quality than the mainstream title. While that definition can still ring true for some games today, the indie games industry has grown exponentially in the last ten years. While I’m sure most of you would have a hard time naming a single indie game made pre-2007, I’m doubly sure you could name at least 5 from 2009, especially if your reading this site regularly.
Anyways, with a new decade just around the corner, I thought it would be fun to revisit some of my indie favorites throughout this decade, one for each year starting with the year 2000. Keep in mind these games are in chronological order starting with the year 2000.
1. Ikachan 
Ikachan was probably one of the first metroidvania genre game outside of the actual Castlevania/Metroid games. It was a very unique game that, while had rudimentary graphics that resembled something closer to the NES than anything else available at the time, was actually a lot of fun. Even today the game’s uniqueness has not been outdone by competing indie metroidvanias.
The game takes place entirely underwater, where you play as a squid named Ikachan. Through a series of earthquakes, Ikachan gets trapped in a labyrinth of underwater caves that he must escape, something that is made harder by the game’s villain Ironhead, a large fish who is also trapped but has begun to manipulate the populace into swearing allegiance to him in this catastrophe. Throughout your journey you’ll collect new items and encounter different obstacles and enemies, just like with any metroidvania.
[download from Tinsanity]
2. Uplink 
Uplink is an amazingly unique game even by today’s standards. Anybody who has played the game before can attest to that. The game was not a traditional platformer, puzzle game, or shooter like many indie games were/are today. It was more of a simulation game.
In Uplink you play as a mercenary hacker in a futuristic digitalized world, not much different than our own today — keep in mind this was 2001 however. You, the player, would accept missions given from a faux forum/internet that would entail you ruining people’s lives, credit scores, or hacking into personal files and databases. From there you’d acquire more money, get new gadgets and tools that would assist you with hacking, and get tougher and more serious missions.
The game had a fairly heavy learning curve, but if you could get beyond that, it was actually a really fun experience that has yet to be repeated.
[Buy from Steam]
3. Black Shades 
Black Shades is an incredibly simplistic game wrapped around an extremely difficult proposition. The game is basically a body-guarding type game. You must follow a man in white and protect him from would-be assassins. While this may sound simple, the game makes this all the more challenging my not giving you any real indicators that somebody is an “assassin” until they are already about to pull the trigger or knife your victim.
The game is actually a FPS, but an incredibly simple one. Not only in gameplay, which is often categorized as brilliantly simple, but also in graphics. While the game is technically 3D, the actual graphics are simpler than even that of the old Doom games. Still though, the game doesn’t require state of the art graphics because what lies underneath is gameplay that is pure and simple fun.
[download from Wolfire]
4. Samorost 
Many will, probably, immediately recognize the Samorost games by now. Not necessarily because they have played the games before, but rather because the game’s designer is none other than Amanita Design, the very same developer who created Machinarium, our game of the year for 2009.
Samorost, like Machinarium, is a simple point and click adventure game. However, what made it different was it’s unique art style and puzzles that entailed the use of common sense as opposed to knowledge of what’s already happened or other spacial type puzzles which are a favorite for the genre.
While Samorost is comparable as a game, it’s clearly the artwork that made this game stand out from the pack in 2003. Much like Machinarium did this year, Samorost in 2003 featured one of the most beautiful games of the year, despite not using a cutting edge graphics engine.
[Play at Amanita Design]
5. 7 Days a Skeptic 
7 Days a Skeptic was the sequel to the hit adventure game 5 Days a Stranger. The game actually takes place about 400 years after the original title featuring a story set in space aboard a ship called the Mephistopheles. Upon stumbling across a box that holds the remains of John DeFoe the ship beocmes inextricably haunted by the same apparitions in the first title.
7 Days a Skeptic runs off the Adventure Game Studio engine, which has much of the same functionality found in the old Sierra adventure games. As such, 7 Days plays much like an old Sierra game only with a unique story. In fact, one of the reasons why this game is so good is due to the story, which mixes mystery and horror very well.
[download from TIGSource]
6. Guardian of Paradise 
Guardian of Paradise will look very similar to those of you who ever owned an SNES. The reason being is because the game instantly strikes a comparison to the old Zelda: A Link to the Past game. Which, as anybody that has ever played that game can tell you, is absolutely not a bad thing. Of course, Guardian of Paradise doesn’t only look like the old Zelda games, it also plays like it. Featuring an expansive world, multiple items, and interesting dungeons/puzzles the game is clearly an indie homage to the great Nintendo franchise.
In Guardian of Paradise you play as Tela, a boy who is searching for a cure to his sister’s illness. Unfortunately, finding the cure seems to be the primary problem as nobody knows exactly why she’s fallen ill. So, banking on a old legend, Tela sets out find the healing waters of Paradise, a fabled land.
While the story may seem a little bland, believe me when I say that the game is definitely worthy of such an honor given it’s brilliant Zelda-inspired gameplay. I’ve seen and played many Zelda-likes in my time, but few come as close to the real thing as Guardian of Paradise.
[download from Pixel Art Games]
7. Knytt 
Knytt, by developer Nifflas, is an amazing Metroid-like that features an expansive world, multiple/unique items to acquire and with absolutely no combat whatsoever. The game isn’t designed to be a action title, but rather an exploration title.
The game starts out with you playing as a creature called a Knytt when an alien ship abducts you for no apparent reason. From there you must explore the ship, find items that help you overcome obstacles and figure out a way to get back home.
Anybody who has played the more popular, newer Knytt Stories will feel right at home in this quasi-prequel.
[download from Nifflas]
8. Knytt Stories 
I know, I know… two very similar games in a row? But it’s true. Just like Knytt was the best indie game in 2006, Knytt Stories was heads and tales above nearly everything else in 2007. The game is very similar to the predecessor, Knytt, in that it’s a Metroid-like game that features exploration above action/combat. Additionally, the game shares much of the same graphics. However, where the two become different is in the story.
Knytt Stories isn’t about aliens, or escaping from abduction. It, instead, has a more profound message attached to it. One about environmentalism and saving the land. In Knytt Stories your tasked with helping a friend stop a machine from destroying the land and turning it into darkened husk. Before you can do this, however, you must first find the appropriate items in order to stop the machine.
Of course, Knytt Stories goes beyond just the game itself. Nifflas, this time around, decided to include a full level editor so people could create and share their own Knytt Stories with the world. Something that gives this title a near limitless replay value.
[download from Nifflas]
9. Braid 
2008 was probably the year that will be marked as the year when indie games and developers were truly brought to the mainstream consumer. No other title showcased this as well as Braid, a small platforming puzzle game that not only captured the hearts and minds of the mainstream press industry, but also the average Xbox 360 gamer as well. The title is still one of the few XBLA games to have sold over 100,000 copies.
Braid is a unique game, and one that is well worth this accolade. Aside from the game’s interesting story and beautiful artwork, it’s the game’s puzzles and gameplay that really excel. Where most games would be content offering a simple puzzle platformer, Braid went above and beyond by incorporating various time elements to each of the game’s 5 worlds. This, inextricably gave the game an immediate memorable feel to it. While many of the puzzles were very challenging, never did the game lose its luster for great gameplay.
Despite worthy challengers such as World of Goo and Castle Crashers, Braid takes top honors for 2008.
[buy from Steam, Xbox, PSN]
10. Machinarium 
This should really come as no surprise for anybody who read our 2009 Editor’s Choice awards. Machinarium is both an amazing adventure puzzle game as well as a brilliant piece of art. While the game hearkens back to the classic adventure games of the mid 90′s, everything else about the game feels very fresh.
The game tells a simplistic story about friendship and love. In a world where robots control everything, the protagonist has found himself on the losing end of a conspiracy to assassinate what can only be seen as some sort of ruler of the robots. Through no dialog whatsoever, a story unfolds throughout the game of betrayal, love, and heroism. Simply put, Machinarium is a masterpiece of story telling and artwork.
Bottomline, anybody who has even a passing interest in adventure games owes it to themselves to look at Machinarium. The story is good, the artwork is amazing, and the puzzles are quite challenging.
Did we miss a game you really enjoyed? Let us know below!