Many, many indie games get released each year. Big ones, small ones, ones that suck, ones that are great. In fact, in some ways, the indie “industry” isn’t all that different from the mainstream video game industry. We have our superstar, sure-to-be-a-hit titles like: Torchlight, Machinarium, and Trine and then we have our sleeper hits like: I MAED A GAME WITH ZOMBIES!!!, JUMP! and Osmos. Finally, we also have our games that should have been a hit, but, for whatever reason, just seemed to slip through the cracks of the gaming world. Here are our top ten picks for 2009′s most under-appreciated titles:
Before I begin, allow me to simply state that I am, in no way, calling these titles a commercial failure. I don’t know the goals set out for these titles, nor do I know the final sales numbers. This list is largely based on my own opinion about games that should have been more appreciated but, ultimately, weren’t. For all I know, every single one of these titles could have been a commercial success.
10. The Three Musketeers (RPG)
Who would have ever thought that a decent RPG based on Alexandre Dumas’ novel would have ever been released to the public? Well it did, and, according to our own Erik Johnson, the game was actually pretty good.
The RPG followed the novel in fairly strict fashion. While the game, itself, wasn’t flawless, it certainly seemed to be a fresh take on the usual Three Musketeers tales simply because it didn’t deviate from the novel on which it’s based as so many other movies and games are wont to do. You play d’Artagnan in the element in which he was originally created and something as pure and simple as that is rare, even in the indie video game world.
[Buy/Try from Dingo Games]
Developed by the same guys who did JUMP! (Arkedo Studios) their second XBLIG title didn’t recieve nearly the amount of fan fair that their first title enjoyed. As such it was never truly experienced by the masses.
SWAP!, for those who didn’t read my review, was a fairly typical “connect-4″ style puzzle game. While the actual gameplay was fairly typical, albeit decent, it was actually the presentation of the game that made me love it so much. Anybody who played JUMP! can attest to Arkedo’s unique style and SWAP! was brimming with it all the same. Like JUMP! before it, SWAP! is definitely one of the prettiest games available on the XBLIG service and fans of the puzzle genre can do much, much worse on Xbox
[Buy/Try from Xbox Live Indie Games]
8. Metal Drift
Released last October, metal Drift was one of the few multi-player oriented indie games to be released this past year. As many people know, multiplayer games that don’t agrner enough media attention always seem to fall by the wayside. Metal Drift seems to, unfortunately, be a prime example of this.
Metal Drift is a unique, arena styled combat game that is based in the future when the primary sport is not football, soccer, or baseball but rather a team-based, goal-oriented destruction derby. With two teams, upgradable hover tanks, and decent graphics Metal Drift has a lot going for it. If only the game wasn’t so dependent on bots at this point and, instead, had a stable community of players.
[Buy/Try from Steam]
7. Gerbil Physics
Who couldn’t possibly love gerbils? Well, apparently the XBLIG crowd. While the game got a fairly decent rating from those who played the game, it didn’t actually garner that much attention from the channel which is a shame because the game already wins on one front: it has gerbils…
Gerbil Physics is a game that is about physics… and gerbils. Each level is designed so that you have to knock a series of gerbils off various locations to get them below a certain threshold. This means sticking bombs to stacks, pulling certain gerbils around and other stuff like that. The game was a lot of fun for a physics-based puzzler and was made even more awesome by the great presentation.
[Buy/Try from Xbox Live Indie Games]
Windosill was one of the craziest, most bat-shit insane puzzle games I’ve ever played. Which makes it doubly hard for me to say that it also wasn’t a huge seller. Released back in May, the title, orginally a browser flash game, just couldn’t garner any attention desite offering fresh, unique, puzzles in an excellent package.
Windowsill has no real storyline to it. It’s just one room after another that has puzzles in it that you must complete in order to move on to the next room. But the puzzles weren’t typical, they were abstract and, at times, incomprehensible which made for a great alternative puzzle game. While some of the rooms could be infuriatingly hard, it was always satisfying when you finally figured it out.
[Buy/Try from Steam]
5. The Impossible Game
Another Xbox Live Indie Game, The Impossible Game was a brilliantly created, simplistic title that just never broke through the fold on the channel. Which is heartbreaking because, while simplistic in nature, The Impossible Game is easily one of the most addictive titles on the service.
Like Windosill, The Impossible Game has no storyline or even levels/rooms/whathaveyous. The game is just a single track that moves at a constant speed. On this course will be obstacles that you must jump jump over. While that may sound simple, it’s actually very hard and very addicting at the same time. The Impossible Game is exactly what it pronounces itself to be… impossible. Well impossible for me at least.
[Buy/Try from Xbox Live Indie Games]
Released back n November, Aztaka was never really picked up on by any mainstream press or even the mainstream consumer. Which is a shame because the game actually had a lot going for it in terms of originality and gameplay.
Aztaka, right off the bat, already does two things that are immediately original to the video game world: 1. it’s based on the ancient Aztec society; and, 2. it’s a very good platform/RPG hybrid. Both of these combined make it so Aztaka is a brilliant title that needed to be played, but, unfortunately wasn’t. I mean, the mere fact that you get to explore ancient Aztec temples should be enough to convince most to at least give the game a look, right?… Right?
[Buy from Impulse]
Rocketbirds was one of my personal favorite games of 2009. I was convinced, at one point, that this would be the game that finally convinced mainstream gamers that browser games could be equivalent to most downloadable titles available today. While I still stand by that statement, it’s unfortunately probably not going to happen by way of Rocketbirds seeing as nobody actually played it.
Rocketbirds is an amazing title that not only has an interesting story and great cast of characters, but is also one badass Metroid-like. The game plays exactly like an 80′s and early 90′s action movie does, which means there are tons of explosions, hundreds of dead bad guys, and the most insane villains ever. All, of course, wrapped in a bird themed game. Absolutely genius…
[Buy/Try from RocketBirds]
Released last December, Emberwind never garnered any sort of attention aside from us and maybe one other blog. Which is a travesty because, as far as platformers go, Emberwind takes the cake for 2009. Yes, Trine will probably go down in history as the best platformer of 2009, but I’d argue that Emberwind had much more character and, ultimately, a better sense of platforming than Trine had… but nobody played it.
Emberwind is a story about an invasion of gremlins and a night watch-Gnome by the name of Kindle Elderwood. For some reason, the viscous Gremlins have decided to invade your land and cities at the same time as your kingdom’s knights have disappeared. So, naturally, it’s up to you, as Kindle, to save the land one level at a time.
Of course, me adding Emberwind to this list, in particular, is hilarious because back before a release date had been announced I actually declared Emberwind as one of 2010′s top ten break out indie games. Funny, right?
[Buy/Try from TimeTrap]
Oh Hammerfight, you did so many things right with your game and it seems like nobody paid you any attention at all. Released late last year, Hammerfight, from developers Konstantin Koshutin, provided one of the most unique games mixed with some of the best physics I’ve ever seen in an indie game. I just wish it would have been experienced by more players than it was.
Like I said above, the game offered a brilliant take on physics gameplay set in a brilliantly designed world with political factions and nations. The game played simply enough, you fly around in a hover-copter that swings around a great big hammer/ball and chain. What made this so great, however, is the awesome physics that was applied to your swings — controlled, literally, by you swinging your mouse around in a circular motion. Whenever you’d get a good swing going it almost felt like your arm was literally getting pulled by the game’s physics. It was, to say the least, astonishing.
[Buy from Steam]
Well that’s it. Those are my most under-appreciated games for 2009. Each one could have been popular were it given the time of day, but, unfortunately, that’s not how the indie world works. With so few getting any attention at all there are bound to be titles that simply get brushed aside.
Did I miss a game you really loved? Let me know in the comments below!