I don’t know if you noticed, but a lot of indie games came out in 2016. So many, in fact, that game websites are currently running articles talking about how almost 40% of all games released on Steam came out this year. While the quality of the vast majority of those games is…questionable to say the least, the list of genuinely good indie games that came out this year is well beyond what I could squeeze into just a single Top 10 article.
Before I get on with it I want to stress this is just my own list. I’m only going to be listing indie games I personally played, and I’m going to be leaving out any games that are still in Early Access. If your favorite indie game of 2016 didn’t make the list, it’s probably because I haven’t got around to playing it yet.
So, presented in no particular order, here are 10 of the best indie games in 2016.
Enter the Gungeon
$14.99- Available on PC and PS4
If you’ve ever read any of my other articles, you’ll probably already know that I love rogue-likes/lites of all types, and Enter the Gungeon is one of my favorites released this year. Imagine The Binding of Isaac with less gross-out body humor, more bullet hell elements, and guns. Lots and lots of insane and totally impractical guns, including a homing rocket launcher that shoots bees. If you like challenging top-down shooters with rogue-lite elements, then you owe it to yourself to add Enter the Gungeon to your game library.
$19.99- Available on PC
Released during the summer after nearly a year in Early Access, Brigador is a tactical, vehicle-based isometric shooter that harkens back to titles like Syndicate. You play as a Brigador, a ruthless mercenary hired by a shadowy organization to liberate the city of Solo Nobre following the death of its brutal dictator. You can choose from around 45 vehicles in total, each with their own unique play styles and weaponry. It’s a flawed gem to be sure, but Brigador really nails the feeling of piloting a big, stompy mech with enough firepower to level five city blocks.
Image & Form
$19.99- Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, iOS, Vita, and 3DS
The original SteamWorld Dig was a fun platformer/dig ’em up set in a strange Wild West-like world of steam-powered robots. With SteamWorld Heist, the developers kept the core setting but took a totally different approach to gameplay. This time around you lead a crew of robotic space pirates as you board, loot, and escape from massive cargo ships. It actually plays quite a bit like Valkyria Chronicles mixed with Worms, where each “turn” consists of you moving around one of your characters and lining up trick shots in a 2D environment. It’s available on basically every modern gaming platform, so you don’t have an excuse to miss it.
$24.99- Available on PC
In 2006, an action RPG named Titan Quest was released by the now-defunct companies THQ and Iron Lore Entertainment. After a fairly lengthy development cycle, the former developers of Titan Quest launched their latest action RPG, Grim Dawn, early this year. In many ways, Grim Dawn is the Diablo 3 that many fans were looking for, with its grim atmosphere, meaty combat, deep character customization, and epic loot drops. While Diablo 3 has dramatically improved over the years, Grim Dawn is my current go-to when I want to explore a dungeon, smash some monsters, and find some awesome new items.
$2.99- Available on PC, iOS, and Android
Taking a break from all the PC and console games, Reigns is one of the few mobile titles that really grabbed me this year. This simplistic yet engaging kingdom management/adventure game is inspired by, of all things, the dating app Tinder. Your goal is to rule your kingdom for as long as possible by swiping your screen left or right when presented with various choices. It’s a lot more difficult than it sounds, as the game has a tendency to kill you over and over again. While you can grab it on PC, Reigns really shines on mobile.
Red Hook Studios
$24.99- Available on PC, PS4,
Darkest Dungeon is a really unique party-based dungeon crawler that combines the best elements of rogue-likes and psychological horror. Recruit adventurers and explore the catacombs below your family’s estate after it has been overrun by eldritch abominations. The most unique aspect of the game is the Affliction system that seeks to crush the mind and spirit of your adventurers. The monstrosities that lurk in the depths are simply too terrifying for mere mortals to comprehend, forcing you to constantly rotate your party to prevent crippling mental breakdowns or even heart attacks. The endgame stage of Darkest Dungeon is easily the weakest part of the game, but the journey is still “enjoyable” enough to warrant a purchase.
$14.99- Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One
If exploring the suffocating darkness of monster-filled dungeons is too stressful for you, why not relax with Stardew Valley? This country life RPG takes more than a few cues from the classic Harvest Moon franchise, but dismissing it as a mere clone would be a grave injustice. Build and manage your own farm, go fishing, settle down with one of the town’s bachelors or bachelorettes, and help a devastated country town get back on its feet. The game is still being frequently updated with new content, so Stardew Valley has a ton of content for the price.
$24.99- Available on PC and Xbox One
Original developed over the course of a week for a game jam, SUPERHOT is a prime example of the unique experiences that can be created by merely combining game genres. SUPERHOT is an FPS where time slows to a crawl when you aren’t moving, allowing you to carefully think out your next moves and emulate the crazy action scenes you see in movies. I must admit that I personally think the game is a bit lacking in content for the price, but it’s still well worth checking out.
Hyper Light Drifter
$19.99- Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One
Hyper Light Drifter gained an insane amount of attention during its Kickstarter campaign towards the end of 2013. It managed to raise over $600,000 at a time when many journalists were declaring that the crowdfunding bubble had burst. All that extra funding unfortunately delayed the game’s release date significantly as it ballooned in scope, but the end result was an excellent homage to classic adventure games with Studio Ghibli-style world building. The 60 FPS patch released several months back made the game even better and fixed many of the issues critics had with the game in its original form.
$24.99- Available on PC
Finally we come to Owlboy, the highly anticipated indie adventure that released last month. With a development cycle that lasted just shy of a decade, Owlboy defied the odds and became one of those few vaporware games that ended up being completely worth the wait. With it’s fantastic pixel art, soundtrack, and engaging story and mechanics, Owlboy sets a new standard for retro-inspired indie platformer/adventure games. Hopefully Anderson and D-Pad Studio’s next adventure won’t take another decade to release.
Despite a few high profile flops, 2016 was another great year in gaming. A mere Top 10 list really doesn’t do this year in gaming justice. There’s still many indie games I could list that were great this year, and even more titles that I still haven’t gotten around to. Say what you will about 2016 as a whole, but when it comes to video games the year was pretty kind to us.