It’s common to hear that games from big companies (the so-called “triple A” titles) lack in innovation, and cling to used formulas that once proved successful in the past, and keep beating the dead horse until something really bad happens. And if by this sentence you thought about Assassin’s Creed or Call of Duty, you are right.
In the recent years, a few titles received a lot of praise from the gaming community, specially for bringing innovation, challenge and new approaches to old game styles. Most of these games are from small studios that invested years and about all their money to make a product that they would be proud of. All this breeze of fresh ideas came from the Indie Games, and I’d like to point a few of the most impressive to me so far.
Spelunky is one of my favorite indie games ever created, and the single reason I haven’t sold my PS Vita yet. Simple, straightforward, challenging and 8-bit inspired, every detail of the game must have been carefully constructed to be there for a reason. Every detail can be a reference, every different block can be a secret.
You assume the role of a spelunker, and must endeavor for 4 different stages to bring back the riches of the Golden Idol, trusting only your whip, your ropes and your bombs. You navigate through mazes of stages in caves, jungles, egyptian scenarios, and even the arctic pole.
There are secrets everywhere, and most of them can take you to different paths in search for new challenges. You unlock several different characters, and since every stage is randomly generated, there are very few chances you can know exactly where to go.
Super Meat Boy – Team Meat
Super Meat Boy is an instant classic, released to the XBox Live Arcade in 2010. It combines a simple story line, humor, speed and precise jumping to advance the game in the 6 stages of the game, while searching for Bandage Girl, Meat Boy’s girlfriend.
This game checks all the box of a good game on its design: combines simple level design with basic controls in the early stages, does not waste time of the player after a fail attempt, and loads every stage quickly to keep the player engaged during the whole game. It also included several secrets, warp zones, unlockable characters, and speed run modes, to every type of player out there.
It’s really impressive that a team of 2 enthusiasts was able to produce such a fun and engaging game. In less than 2 year, the game sold more than 1 million copies, and a sequel is currently in development. If you would like to have more details about the process involved in the creation of Super Meat Boy, the documentary Indie Game: The Movie has several stories of games about to be released in 2010, and this game is included there.
Shovel Knight – Yacht Club Games
One of the best platforming games from 2014, Shovel Knight follows the story of Sir Shovel, a retired hero forced back into action to defeat the Order of No Quarter. Mixing a simple 2D platforming scheme with known pogo and slash attacks, Shovel Knight can be instantly placed in the Best Adventure category, specially when compared to re-used ideas in the genre.
Funded through a Kickstarter campaign, Shovel Knight was eventually released in several consoles, including different secrets for a few of this platforms (you can battle Kratos, from God of War in the Playstation systems, and one of the Battletoads on the XBox version).
The game received several praises for its style and gameplay, and a DLC was released shortly after the port to every system, with a new adventure using one of the villains in the game. Including all the version, the Kickstarter backers, and the DLC, Shovel Knight surpassed 1.5 million copies, as of June 2016. An enormous success to a product coming from crowdfunding.