The 10 Best Indie Games to Play in 2013

With the rise of the App Store and a divergent wave of mobile gaming, independent developers are finding it easier to get their ideas out there. It’s still hard to publish a full Xbox 360 or PS3 game because the most popular ones are found on shelves and available in disc format. The PlayStation Store and Xbox Games Store are beginning to change the way titles are distributed by pushing digital delivery methods; new consoles, the PS4 and Xbox One, are helping pave the way for this change with more storage and even some cloud capabilities. Valve’s Steam platform has understood this concept for a long time, and it’s now moving into Apple’s domain with Steam for Mac.

The App Store, though, is still where the indie action is. Since the App Store has made it so much easier for developers to promote their creations, there are some amazing new indie titles making their way to players like you. After a good deal of research, AppStorm wants to share with you the best indie games available right now, along with reasons why they’re worth purchasing.

Action and Adventure

Bastion

Bastion

From a small San Jose, Calif.-based developer comes a classic role-playing game filled with witty voice-overs, exciting gameplay, beautiful graphics, and a solid story. The game is over 1 GB in size, which isn’t too bad for a fully-featured RPG. It even performs well on a MacBook Air (I’ve tested it on the late 2012 model). I’ve beaten the entire game and I must say, the best part about it is the world’s presentation. It’s like a piece of art from the Renaissance has come to life, and you are allowed to wreak havoc on the structures and “squirts”, your main foes. There’s a cool array of weapons and upgrades available, too. While the story isn’t too shabby, it’s not gripping, so if you’re looking for something with more than just well-written dialogue, skip to the next entry.

Our score: 9/10
Bottom line: Bastion is great for the days you want to pick a quick fight with some worthy foes. Conquer it one area at a time, one day at a time.

Price: $14.99
Requires: OS X 10.5 or later
Developer: Supergiant Games

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Braid

Combining platforming gameplay and the iconic hero-rescues-girlfriend-in-other-castle story, Braid is the best indie game of the past decade; it’s the greatest game I’ve ever played. Things are pretty straightforward: you play it like any other platformer, stomping on the bad guys when need be and making your way to the end of each level, but here there are two twists. You must collect the pieces of a puzzle in each area to complete it. While doing so, you must deal with time, which can be your greatest adversary and most irritating foe. In this game, you can go back and forth in time to accomplish your goals, unless the key for that door you’re trying to unlock sparkles (then it’s unaffected by time travel). This puzzling adventure game is incredibly simple, yet covertly complex in little ways. It’s a masterpiece that should be played by every indie game lover.

Our score: 9/10
Bottom line: Braid is the most beautiful epitome of “indie game” available today.

Price: $9.99
Requires: OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: Number None (Jonathan Blow)

cave

The Cave

Double Fine had some very unique thoughts when it created this game. Bastion has fun dialogue, but the main narrator here, which happens to be The Cave itself, trumps that — by far. He’s hilarious, always picking you up when you fall and giving you unhelpful hints to your triumphant inevitable referencing of a walkthrough. The Cave has quite the personality. It’ll keep you paying attention even when it’s frustrated the wit out of you (which will happen). It’s hard to call this a puzzler since it’s a mix of adventure and puzzle game. As for the story, it’s also quite hilarious. You basically choose a lineup of three out of the seven available characters and then dive into (literally) The Cave for a tour, which ends up revealing the darkness in each of the characters’ hearts. The only downside to this game is that it doesn’t take too long to beat. However, there’s always the option of choosing different characters and playing again.

Our score: 9/10
Bottom line: The Cave will cheer you up on a bad day, and ruin your good ones with its perfect combination of art, story, and dialogue.

Price: $14.99
Requires: OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: Double Fine Productions

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LIMBO

LIMBO is an enigmatic game for the black and white type. Without color, it should be easy to explain Playdead’s creation, but it’s sort of confusing. The description is simply, “Uncertain of his sister’s fate, a boy enters LIMBO.” What is it, really? A horrifying 2D side-scrolling masterpiece. Rather than the boy-rescues-girlfriend story, Limbo tells the tale of a boy who searches a grand, frightening abyss bearing the game’s title. The gameplay forces players’ hands by making sure they encounter impossible circumstances and end up dying. It’s a very strange, yet artful approach to horror. The best part is that it ends on a hanging note.

Our score: 9/10
Bottom line: It’s an intriguing piece of art, but don’t expect any redeeming traits.

Price: $9.99
Requires: OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: Playdead

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Trine and Trine 2

Frozenbyte’s small two-part franchise is a spectacle. It’s got goblins, walking skeletons, witches, and other silly things from fantasy stories. Once you discover that you can change between a wizard, thief, and knight, this game might interest you. You can either pick up an enemy, shoot an arrow or grapple, or throw a Thor-like war hammer. The visuals along the way are stunning. From lush forests out of a true dreamer’s imagination to chilly, blue hills, it’s a diverse wonderland with exciting possibilities. You can upgrade your weapons, too. The story never did keep my attention, but other than that each game is a good time.

Bottom line: If anything, play it just for the remarkable graphics.

Price: $9.99 and $14.99, respectively
Requires: OS X 10.5 or later
Developer: Frozenbyte

Puzzle

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Blast-A-Way

In this cleverly-punned title, you make your way through an intriguing world of fabric, metal, plastic, stone, and wood with three robot “hero” characters at your disposal. Your mission is to rescue Boxies, which are child robots with a penchant for getting themselves into all sorts of mischief. The game plays a lot like 3D platformer Super Monkey Ball: you are on a hovering platform navigating your way through obstacles to your goal.

Bottom line: With very nice-looking graphics and entertaining gameplay, this puzzler can be great for all sorts of folk.

Price: $4.99
Requires: OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: Illusion Labs

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Machinarium

Artful presentation and beautifully-crafted worlds are the most common traits in indie games. They go beyond the efforts of a corporate developer to create something incredibly unique. Machinarium is yet another great example of this. It takes a cartoon-like approach to things. The whole world is presented in a very beige hue with vintage undertones. Everything is worn, yet beautiful. The gameplay is perfect for such a world, employing point-and-click controls. As for the puzzles, they’re complicated little ones. If you get stuck, there are two hints available in each level. Sadly, the game is very short and doesn’t take long to complete.

Bottom line: Spend a weekend on this game, but don’t expect too much more from it.
Our score: 9/10

Price: $9.99
Requires: OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: Amanita

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Strata

The developer describes this game as, “A truly unique puzzle experience embracing simplicity, elegance, and challenge”, which is not an overstatement. It’s got fancy flat graphics with linen backgrounds and dashes of color in all the right places. The game’s purpose is simple: help you to weave colored ribbons onto a canvas. While sounding easy, it’s actually quite hard to do. It’s the brilliant combination of color and patterns that makes it confusing and rather challenging to any mind.

Bottom line: If you want to play a quick puzzle game like Dots on iPhone, but are at your desk with a Mac, this is the perfect equivalent.

Price: $2.99
Requires: OS X 10.6.6
Developer: Graveck

Goocon

World of Goo

Navigate the world … of goo! No really, that’s what you do in this game. Basically, you have a certain amount of Goo Balls for each challenge to build a bridge or ladder so that you may ascend to the next level. Navigate the puzzling world of balloons, cliffs, and other humorous situations, then check up on your status at the World of Goo Corporation. While the graphics for this game aren’t anything special, the gameplay makes up for that in its amusing and sometimes ridiculous ways of forcing you through a level. And if you really like it, their team has another game — Little Inferno — where you get to play with fire, literally.

Bottom line: It’s a fun game for your inner child, or maybe just for the days you are bored and need some inspiration. For example, I should be playing it as I write this to make my run-on sentences less present.

Price: $9.99
Requires: OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: 2D Boy

What Other Great Games are There?

That’s it for our roundup, but you can contribute as well. In the comments, tell us what your favorite indie games are and why we should check them out. If you’re a developer, even better! We’d love to take a look at your title. Until next time, then?


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