As we near the end of another banner year for gaming, there’s so many titles big and small that it’s almost impossible to play them all. With games like Cadence of Hyrule, Fire Emblem Three Houses, Control, and Death Stranding among the waves of titles crashing into digital and retail shops every week, you’ve undoubtedly missed or overlooked some truly incredible games. Not to worry, we’ve gone through and highlighted seven indie titles that may have fallen through the cracks and thus off of your radar.
Mixing minimalistic art design with an adaptive jazz-funk soundtrack, Ape Out stands apart as not only one of the best games of 2019 but blends frantic fun with tunes in a way I’ve rarely experienced in games. Each set of levels is catalogued as an album that all bring their own setting visually and aurally. Fans of twin-stick shooters will find barrels of fun here, with each run of a level having variation due to some randomly generated elements. A dash of blood over Ape Out‘s construction paper aesthetic results in an entire experience that’s wholly unique.
Hand drawn art, a cavalcade of musicians, and stellar voice acting are merely the frosting on an over the top shoot ’em up from the minds at Wide Right Games. While Freedom Finger aligns with other games in the genre, it introduces some interesting mechanics like the ability to punch and grab your foes, turning certain enemies into weapons in the process. While ‘shmups aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, if you’re looking for a side-scrolling shooter with a delicious aesthetic and smooth gameplay, Freedom Finger not only quenches that thirst but delivers something cohesive and interesting altogether. Coming across as a Saturday morning cartoon fueled by caffeine and booze, you’ll want to skip the cereal and crack a cold one for Freedom Finger.
Take everything you’ve learned, compound it, and bend logic. Baba Is You is one of the most mind-numbing puzzle games I’ve ever played. Loaded with intelligent game design that teaches you the language of the puzzle mechanics and builds off of it as the game progresses– similar to how The Witness taught you its puzzle mechanics. You play as Baba, moving word blocks that affect the physics and rules of each level allowing for rewarding eureka moments when you finally figure out the puzzles. Baba Is You can become very challenging the further you get but the sense of accomplishment is worth the mind gymnastics. For a deeper dive on Baba Is You be sure to check out my full review here.
Mashing pinball with a hack-and-slash dungeon puzzler, Creature In The Well blends gameplay elements from other genres to concoct a stylized adventure with buttery smooth controls. One of the most satisfying games I’ve played in 2019, so enjoyable that I finished it on Switch and then on Xbox One with a hundred percent completion on both consoles. From the setting, to the sound design, every aspect of Creature In The Well compliment the delightful gameplay and those willing to take on the harder challenges or search for hidden areas will be rewarded with tools that’ll make your journey easier. For my full review on Creature In The Well step on over here— but seriously this isn’t a game to be missed.
Arguably the best golf game ever made that isn’t actually a golf game but actually sort of is– but I guess by that definition everything may just be a round of golf when you analyze it down. Regardless, What The Golf? is a shining example of how to take something that people may understand and completely subvert their expectations. And it continues to do that the further along you play, introducing new gameplay elements constantly. There was never a moment where I felt I knew exactly what to expect. If there’s an aspect of What The Golf? that may make it seem like it’s not for you, I encourage you to seek out some gameplay or give it a shot first. You may be surprised by the hole in your life you didn’t know you had.
This game. I just really want everyone to play it. Everyone. It’s magic. Sayonara Wild Hearts is touted as a playable pop album and although its rhythm aspects are minimal and more nuanced in the actual gameplay, it won’t stop your body from becoming enraptured by the melodies. I listen to this album almost daily, seriously it connected with me on a spiritual level. An anime-infused aesthetic drenched in bubble gum hues, and gratifying gameplay result in endless replayability– especially if you care about high scores. Please go play this game. If you really need more convincing here’s my full review. Still not convinced? I dressed up as The Fool for Halloween.
For as long as I’ve been able to understand and play games that had a competitive edge, I’ve always dipped my toes in various pools always looking for the right ones that click. Some games stick around in my group of friends and become staples of our competitive rotation. Games like Super Smash Bros., Overwatch, Capcom Vs. SNK 2, Towerfall and Halo are some that linger and remain in our stable. Killer Queen Black is undeniably part of that handful of games. Not only is it balanced and addicting, but Killer Queen Black is full of jaw-dropping moments that decide rounds and matches feverishly forcing everyone to hop right back in. With three ways to victory for both teams every round, it’s just as important to manage your teammates’ focuses as it is to being skilled at the actual gameplay. Most competitive games are analyzed and grow over time due to the understood meta or tier list, I perceive each match as having an evolving meta within the confines of every round that can make for truly tantalizingly electric showdowns. Both local and online play, Killer Queen Black is a competitive experience that is easy enough to understand for new players and possesses a seemingly endless ceiling of growth for those seeking to sharpen their skills. A welcoming and supportive community of players awaits you if this sounds like your type of game. For my full thoughts, check out the review here.
It’s clear that many of these games have one through line– they all bring something unique to their genre. With every year that passes becoming overwhelmed is an understatement due to the amount of amazing experiences available from studios of all sizes. Hopefully you’ve already played some or all of these indie gems, but if you’ve stumbled across these suggestions and haven’t I highly recommend you do or let someone who you think would enjoy them know about them.
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