Indie Games, where the heart and soul is!

Michael Hicks Top 10 Indie Games of 2011

Article by: Michael Hicks from Michael Arts

Throughout the year I’ve had the opportunity to play some amazing indie games, and there are so many more that I still haven’t played. I feel like I really discovered some gems when Honor in Vengeance II was in peer review, I had a lot of extra time to play other people’s games and a few of the games on this list I discovered during that time period.

These games are in no particular order, and most are XBLIG, since I literally played 100+ of them this year!

Image from The Fall of Gods
The Fall of Gods (XBLIG)
This game is a perfect example of how music can make or break a game. The soundtrack of this title set the mood for a super nostalgic adventure that had a very thoughtful story and fun gameplay.
Image from Train Frontier Express
Train Frontier Express (XBLIG)
I never played with trains as a kid, but this game really left an impression on me. I felt this game was a good eye opener to those who criticize 3D indie games as “limiting”. There is enough content here to keep you thrilled for quite a few hours.
Image from Cute Things Dying Violently
Cute Things Dying Violently (XBLIG)
CTDV’s creator, Alex Jordan, is not only an awesomely nice guy but he also knows how to make some great design decisions. I had not played this game until I was scheduled to appear on a podcast alongside him. I hastily downloaded the trial and had a blast; as I continued to play it became more and more obvious that some great thought had went into this game’s design. Even when things get tough, you still have a blast watching the little critters…. well, die violently!

The Binding of Isaac (PC)
It’s hard for me to talk very positively about this game because I still can’t get past the second dungeon! Despite some of my personal frustrations, this was quite possibly one of the most important indie games to be released this year. The controversial story was pure genius, and I hope will inspire developers to take greater creative risks with their own storylines.
Image from Plague
Plague (XBLIG)
This game was the biggest surprise for me this year. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I fired it up, but what I found was an addicting shooter that provided hours of fun. This is a game that all XBLIG fans should play.
Image from The Dishwasher: VS
The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile (XBLA)
One of the few XBLA releases I played this year, Vampire Smile was the most inspirational game I played in 2011. Not only is the gameplay super intense, but I felt VS has some of the best art direction to be found this year. I found myself staring at the menus and levels, admiring the fact that this had been created by a very small team who started off on XBLIG.
Image from Raventhorne
Raventhorne (XBLIG)
When it comes to Raventhorne, I’ve heard a wide range of opinions. Here is mine though, I thought this game was well polished and reminded me a lot of MediEvil for the PS1. I enjoyed my time with Raventhorne and it is definitely a standout title of 2011.
Image from Bonded Realities
Bonded Realities (XBLIG)
Another nostalgic RPG, boy XBLIG was full of them this year! I remember having the honor of testing this game a few weeks before it was released. This game brought back a lot of childhood memories and feelings, and as a game developer myself the number one thing I want to do is evoke emotions from players. I hope to see similar titles from Red Crest Studios in the future!
Image from Who is God
Who is God (XBLIG)
A very simple game that is hands down the most addicting game I’ve played this year. I don’t know how many times I said “just one more round.” Make sure you have enough time to kill before firing up this title.
Image from Avatar Legends
Avatar Legends (XBLIG)
The amount of content in this game blew me away, this is a great example of what XBLIGs are capable of. Not only was this a really fun game, but it came with a really awesome level editor to boot!

In closing, the XBLIG community is the best community on the web. =-) Here’s to 2012!


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