If there’s anything 2012 can be remembered for, it’s the year that the gap between downloadable and retail games was narrowed to the point where the two are barely distinguishable from each other anymore. Game quality, storytelling, art design, and mechanics have all vastly improved in the Indie space over the years, and this year is the one that saw them finally stand side by side in comparison to one another.
But what studios managed to capitalize on this the most? Which ones managed to create the most memorable and ambitious experiences of the year?
5: SUBSET GAMES
Haven’t heard of them? The name might not be familiar, but the game certainly is. Subset Games is the studio behind Faster Than Light, a text-based Sci Fi game that sees you commanding a ship as you travel through space carrying sensitive information and avoiding capture by an infamous rebel fleet.
The game is the result of a Kickstarter project that happened to take off upon its release, claiming a wide fan base that even led to its eventual nomination by several notable websites as a game of the year contender.
It’s not the most visually impressive thing you’ve ever seen, but there’s a fair amount of depth to this seemingly simple game. Perma-death ensures that you’ll have to carefully manage your squad to prevent them from dying, upgrades will have to be purchased if you want to survive enemy fire fights, and randomized events with varying consequences await you at every planet you come across.
Are you a PC gamer? Then stop reading this for a second, pull up Steam, and spend the $9.99 to add it to your library. You won’t regret it.
4: DOUBLE FINE STUDIOS
While it’s debatable whether or not Double Fine fits as an indie studio, it’s hard to deny the influence they’ve had on the industry here in 2012.Thanks to their surprisingly fruitful Kickstarter campaign, it seems like everyone and their grandma are putting up projects to get the go ahead from various backers on the crowd funding website. While it certainly wasn’t the first game to be successful on Kickstarter, it was the wild success of Double Fine’s project that changed the conversation of how we support and pay for games in today’s market.
3: KLEI ENTERTAINMENT
The Shank developer enjoyed mild success and a fairly lukewarm reception to their beat-em-up action game back in 2010, but it was their two releases in late 2012 that proved the studio was worth more than just a mediocre game.
First came Mark of the Ninja, a fantastic 2D stealth action game met with wild acclaim and great critical reception. The game’s mechanics were smooth, gameplay was fun, and you got a real sense of badassery from sneaking around the world in a 2D sphere.
But even more interesting was the release of the Beta for Don’t Starve, a Minecraft-style survival-based adventure that tasks players with surviving in a demon world while battling enemies and gathering supplies to sustain themselves. Featuring a unique art style and interesting mechanics, the game already runs smoothly in its beta form, months before its release.
With the success and ingenuity of Klei Studios here in 2012, it’s hard to not be excited to see what else the developer could come up with in the future.
Few games this year have managed to spark discussion quite like Thatgamecompany’s Journey. The PS3 exclusive blends seamless multiplayer and unique gameplay into one of the most interesting experiences you’ll have in a game.
In Journey, you’ll work alongside other players to traverse a highly stylized and beautiful world in order to reach the goal of the game; a mountain in the distance, surrounded by mysterious country. With breathtaking visuals and an experience individual to those who play it, Thatgamecompany created not only a classic of 2012, but of the generation as a whole.
1: TELLTALE GAMES
Few games this year have been as big as a surprise as Telltale’s adventure game series The Walking Dead. While expectations weren’t necessarily the highest for it initially, The Walking Dead took the community by storm, weaving together a compelling narrative and building characters with such strength that it led to many a misty eye at the game’s epic conclusion.
Claiming multiple game of the year awards here in 2012, few games have been the topic of discussion as The Walking Dead. And now that Telltale’s proven what they can do with the franchise, we simply can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
Who are your personal favorite Indie Developers of 2012? Tell us in the comments below!