As gaming technology moves forward, better game development tools become open to the general public. These days, anyone can develop an indie game with professional caliber tools, provided they put in the work needed. This is great because as AAA game budgets bloat and development cycles keep expanding, indie games are there to help fill the gap. At the same time though, there’s very little quality control on these titles. With indies coming more frequently than ever, it’s easy to be burned by poor purchases (see: The Letter). With that in mind, we’ve composed a list of five indie studios that have put out titles worth your hard earned money.
5. Yacht Club Games
Yacht Club Games is an indie studio that was founded by Sean Velasco, former director of WayForward, and is the only studio to have just one title to it’s name. Fortunately, that title is the amazing 8-bit throwback indie game called Shovel Knight. We could go on forever about what makes Shovel Knight special, but to sum it up quickly: Yacht Club Games took elements from Megaman, Castlevania, Legend of Zelda, and others. Then they used their Nintendo-esque mastery of level design and tight controls to make an indie game that’s truly greater than the sum of its parts. If their future endeavors continue to be as good as Shovel Knight, they’ll continue to produce games of that upper echelon; games deserving of purchase regardless of genre.
4. Supergiant Games
The first indie game produced by Supergiant Games was a refreshing little title called Bastion. It had presentation down in spades. The game looked and sounded beautiful, had a unique setting and story, and the narrator, that was a touch of genius. The only complaint levied against the game is the gameplay, a terrible sin in the world of gaming, but it wasn’t bad, just a little mild. It was enjoyable, but got repetitive. There was a lack of challenge for the most part.
Enter Transistor, the latest title from Supergiant Games. Any developer can get lucky and catch lightning with their first title. Transistor is the proof that Bastion wasn’t a fluke. It shows Supergiant Games isn’t a one trick pony by creating an all new world and story, and fixing the gameplay complaint, making it more engaging than Bastion.
3. Capybara Games
Capybara Games has been producing indie games for a while now, and good ones at that. I would consider these guys the Platinum Games of the indie world: They can make a game of any genre and absolutely kill it. With Puzzle, Strategy-RPG, Adventure, and Sidescrolling-Shooter games under their belt, Capybara Games has shown capability and skill in a variety of genres. Their upcoming title Below takes players back to the “rogue-likes of yore” and boast difficulty reminiscent of the Souls series.
Flow was the debut title for thatgamecompany, and it sets the tone for all of their following contributions to the gaming community. Every game they release is a relaxing creation that you experience. Journey was an amazing title, and the less you know about it before diving in, the better. Artsy games can forget they’re games in the first place, I’m looking at you Proteus, but thatgamecompany has found the magical balance that straddles the domains of art and the the art of video game design without becoming pretentious garbage. There’s a reason Journey was the most downloaded game on the PlayStation Network in North America and Europe.
1. DrinkBox Studios
Oh man, DrinkBox Studios has really shown their ability with the sublime Metroid-Vania indie game Guacamelee!. They had success before with their Tales from Space line of games, but Guacamelee! is a triumph of game design that combines combat and platforming seamlessly. You name any element of a video game, and they show you how to do it perfectly with their big sweaty luchador. DrinkBox Studios put out what I can only call a fully matured and realized video game with Guacamelee!, and you can tell by how they made the game that it wasn’t a one hit wonder. They know what they’re doing.
There you have it, 5 indie devs that make games head and shoulders above the garbage that some try to pass off as indie games today. As with any list of this type, it’s just opinion. We’re not saying there aren’t others deserving of your attention, but if you think we really missed on a great indie dev, lay it on us in the comments below. Word of mouth is of great importance to indie devs, so show your support by helping them get their names out there for others to see.