The Year of Indie Games: 2008’s Ten Best Independent Games

5 Jan 2009 2009-01-05

The Year of Indie Games: 2008’s Ten Best Independent Games

Posted by Jared Newman

Check out our historic favorites below, then check out the latest headlines with these Video Game videos:

In a year dominated by corporate titles like GTA IV and Fallout 3, the independent video game industry has begun to strike back.  Designed in basements, bedrooms and offices by small, dedicated startups, indie gaming is about something that many corporate titles have missed– pure, unadulterated fun.  To celebrate the work of the unsung heroes of gaming, here is GearCrave’s list of the 10 best indie games of 2008.

Number Ten: ROM CHECK FAIL

Like a bad dream after a long night at the arcade, you’re at one moment driving the Spy Hunter car and shooting Goombas over the backdrop of a Pac-Man level, when suddenly you hear the crunch of a computer glitch and everything has changed. Now, you’re Mario, trying to stomp Space Invaders in a maze of Arkanoid bricks. It’s a hilarious mashup that tests not only primitive gaming skills, but the ability to change gears at a moment’s notice. [Free Download]

Number Nine: N+

The instant replay mode of this platform jumper is a testament to the impressive ninja skills you’ll be showing off in every level. With speed, timing and the ability to jump from walls, your tiny avatar narrowly avoids rockets, lasers, machine guns and electric drones, all in the name of reaching the next exit as quickly as possible. [$10 Xbox Live, $20 DS and PSP]

Number Eight: You Have to Burn the Rope

It’s pointless to read too deeply into this two-minute flash gag and its eponymous hand-holding. But maybe Swedish developer Kian Bashiri is right about games becoming too easy. Yes, you have to burn the rope to beat the boss. Also, YHTBTR has the catchiest credits theme song since Portal. [Free Flash]

Number Seven: Gravitation

Jason Rohrer’s breakout game, Passage, dug deep and jumpstarted his career of using computer games to make small, abstract gestures instead of sweeping blockbusters. Gravitation sports the same simple play mechanics and intentionally pixilated graphics, but with a “Cat’s In The Cradle” message that’s typically unfound in game culture. That’s because Rohrer proudly exists outside of it. [Free Download]

Number Six: “The C Word” (NSFW)

The game that gets its name for a part of the female anatomy, and features a part of the male anatomy attacking it, is fiendishly fun. Too bad you can’t play it around anyone who isn’t in on the joke. Edmund McMillen created this shoot-em-up mostly to assert his artistic independence, but he suggests there could be subconscious hints of misogyny lurking about. No kidding. [Free Flash]

Number Five: Aether

Because it wouldn’t be fair to present only McMillen’s sick side, Aether is a meditation on the dangers of introversion. A boy meets a monster when delving into his own imagination, and together they swing from planet to planet, encountering happy-looking, but deeply disturbed creatures at every turn. The looping soundtrack is appropriately dreamy. [Free Flash, or check out McMillen’s compilation CD for $10]

Number Four: Crayon Physics Deluxe

The imagination runs wild in this physics puzzle game, in which you draw ramps, see-saws, pulleys and big, swinging hammers to move a ball around the screen. Each level captures that youthful sense of wonder, where anything seems possible. Even though the PC version doesn’t drop until this week, we’re counting this one because of its late-December iPhone port. And because it’s awesome. [Pre-order for $19.95]

Number Three: Karoshi 2.0

The expanded version of Karoshi, which is Japanese for “death from overwork,” has little respect for the fourth wall or other standard gaming conventions. The goal of killing yourself in each level starts with a few cathartic leaps onto spikes, but quickly becomes a game of developer vs. player. Don’t be surprised when you’re booted out to Windows, only to move your mouse and have the game launch again while being told that the joke’s on you. [Free Download]

Number Two: Braid

Braid is this year’s golden boy of indie games, garnering buzz phrases like “long-awaited” that are typically reserved for AAA titles. The hype is justified though, as this title plays on the platform genre with mind-bending time manipulation puzzles. The plot, of a man who wonders about changing the past in the wake of lost love, is masterfully applied. [$15 on Xbox Live]

Number One: World of Goo

No game in 2008 so deftly combined all the things that we love about indie games. The task of stacking goo balls into wobbling towers and connecting them to drainage pipes is easy to learn but ruthlessly difficult by the game’s end. Wry humor and a cartoon art style make World of Goo personable, and its download-only availability for the Wii hints at a retail-free future where even the little guy can shine. [$15 on WiiWare, or $20 for PC]

Thanks for reading, GearCravers, Diggers, Stumblers and otherwise.  Did we miss any indie game that you would have included here?  Would you have arranged this list differently?  Leave your thoughts in the comments!  Also, if you enjoyed the article, be sure to share it with your friends and vote it up on your favorite social media site.  Come back soon, ya hear?

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