Indie game developers don't just make games -- they play them too. Prominent indie game developers told Gamasutra sister site IndieGames.com about their favorite games of 2012.
Last year saw hundreds of games released, many of which were developed by a single person or small team. Many of these games could easily and inadvertently pass under the radar of even the most avid follower of video games, lost among the noise of big-budget campaigns and high-churn app stores.
Luckily, we have access to some of the most prominent indie game developers, each of whom are deeply ingrained in the development community. Part one featured a gaggle of big-name indies, and now here's the second part of a series about the indie games that indie developers loved in 2012.
"GTA: Vice City is one of my favorite games of all time, in large part due to its amazingly stylish setting. Hotline Miami turns that up to 11, and complements it with fast, brutal and fun gameplay. Cactus has such a unique creative vision. His games always seem to have an authentic coolness that I just can't get enough of."
"I was worried this game would be big on concept but not that fun in execution. I'm glad I was wrong. This worked my brain in all the right ways, and I quickly fell into a comfortable rhythm of switching between the 3D world navigation and the 2D platforming. The simple and intuitive rules allow you to traverse levels that look impossible at first glance."
"George Fan's Ludum Dare 24 entry is a small little gem that really shows how much awesome you can squeeze out of a simple but tightly designed game. Once I started playing, I couldn't stop until I had built my ideal octopus of doom."
"I'm pretty sure I had way too much fun playing this. One of the most memorable and off-the-wall gaming experiences I've ever had. It was really able to capture a feeling of unexpected discovery that I don't get from games very often anymore.
"Derek [Yu, Spelunky creator] pointed me towards Punch Quest, and it has become my favorite on-the-go game. It adds just enough spice to the endless runner formula to keep things fresh, and the retro aesthetic is spot on."
"Hotline Miami is the first proper 'revenge game' and tells its strange, surreal story the way action games ought to: without interrupting the blistering and uncompromising violence. Everything about Hotline exudes the cool of a good exploitation flick without boring player by turning into one."
"Doom 3 often felt more like a game of sequential jump scares than an action or survival horror title. Teleglitch, on the other hand, marries the two genres skillfully and artfully with an elegant scavenging system and smart use of randomization. Also, it's a small detail, but I love the way the guns feel and sound when you fire them."
"It's a beautiful platformer that celebrates the fundamental joys of speed and finesse in these types of games. Thoughtful design asks you to play levels over and over again until you perform perfectly, and it rarely gets tiresome. The animation and audio are top-notch as well."
"Almost Human created a pitch-perfect tribute to the first-person dungeon crawler with their first game. Clever puzzles, gorgeous 3d graphics, and loads of secrets make Legend of Grimrock a worthy addition to the genre. Personally, it's my favorite one yet.
"Though the graphics are amateurish and its randomization often feels shallow, FTL hits enough of the right notes to make it my favorite roguelikelike of the year. I'm in love with the theme and the real-time battles are quite inspired. It's the perfect foundation for a sequel of some sort... make it so, devs!"
Dust: An Elysian Tale creator Dean Dodrill's picks:
"My list is heavy with randomly-generated worlds, reflecting my maturing preference in unscripted entertainment, and probably my interests as a budding programmer."
"No game this year held my attention like FTL did. While the visuals and music were fantastic, it was my attachment to every ship and crew member that made this a memorable experience. Every encounter, friendly or not, was met with a series of hard choices, and sometimes I had to go against my sense of morality and do what was best for my struggling crew. Their plight became my own, and while I've yet to defeat the enemy command ship, deep inside I'm still rooting for the little guys."
"I've been a long time fan of Derek Yu's Spelunky on PC, and was thrilled that the XBLA version retained everything I loved about the original, while adding tight controls, beautifully painted visuals, and an added layer of persistence. Once again, it's brutal and occasionally unfair, but that never kept me from giving those caves another run."
"This runner/match three hybrid came out of nowhere for me. While the presentation is simple, the strong sense of progression, along with the satisfaction of maintaining a ridiculous combo had me hooked for weeks. I'm a big fan of genre-mixing to create something fresh, and 10000000 nailed it."
"I regret getting into Teleglitch so late, because it's definitely one of the more interesting action games I played in 2012. The visuals are very cool and bring to mind the pre-dedicated-videocard era when experimentation was king. The procedurally generated layout of the world every time you start is well done, and there's a great balance of tense exploration and balls-out action."
"Between the unique vision of Phil Fish, the programming genius of Renaud Bedard, and charming pixel animations from artists such as Paul Robertson, Fez provided me with one of the most enjoyable spaces to explore this year. The way the world is tied together, and ultimately disassembled before your very eyes created one of those rare water-cooler moments that most developers only dream of.
"The Unfinished Swan will probably set in everyone's minds as "the game where you shoot black pain to see the world," but once The Unfinished Swan was actually was released, it proved there was a lot more going on. A collection of clever mechanics makes Unfinished Swan engaging and interesting beyond its memorable introduction."
"Hotline Miami is like putting on a sweaty, stinking tracksuit with a strange crimson stain on the front, listening to speed metal and pounding on a steel barrel with a lead pipe. For hours. I'm not sure if there's a word for that feeling, but if there is, Hotline Miami is that."
"You would think a game self-described as "astronaut gardening" would be dull, but Waking Mars offers exploration and system-y crunch in an lonely setting. Smart without being vague or posturing, Waking Mars is confident and brainy in the way more games should be."
My game of the year. I didn't really like the PC version that much, never got used to the controls, so I had pretty low expectations when I first played the 360 version. But I was pretty much blown away when I started playing it with Dennis. I think it probably delayed the release of Hotline Miami by a couple of weeks!
"I haven't had a chance to play through Lone Survivor yet, but the time I did spend with it made an impression."
"Kentucky Route Zero isn't out yet but I got a chance to play an early version and it caught me by surprise. Very well made and feels super fresh despite being a point and click adventure game, which is a pretty big feat.
"Proteus [by Ed Key] was another game that I felt stood out as a unique and interesting release. I wish I had gotten more free time to play other games that peaked my interest: Journey, The Real Texas and qrht-phyl comes to mind."
Journey executive producer Robin Hunicke's picks:
I am interested in Experimental Games, and always looking for things that create new or unexpected feelings when I play. I've grouped my choices for 2012 into 3 categories: Self, Systems and Sound.
Self: This year there were three games that caused me to reflect on notions of self, interaction between people, and how even the smallest changes in how we act or appear to others will have huge implications: Dys4ia, Mainichi and Lim.
These games are compact, directed and measured. They were crafted to express very important and powerful points. And due to their singular focus, they really made me stop and think about how I am perceived and how I perceive others. Go play them - now!
Systems: My next three games dove a bit deeper into the moment-to-moment experiences of a particular character: Gamer Mom, Cart Life and Papo & Yo. Each let me problem-solve for someone else, and experience their challenges within the context of a larger system.
Gamer Mom is a lot like a sketch or one-act play: the idea being contained within the system of single conversation. Cart Life is more like a soap opera, presenting choices over the course of a week as the characters push through a variety of relationships, regulations, and transactions. Papo & Yo blends the everyday with the surreal, creating a child's daydream and nightmare within the same space. The style and ambiance of these games are expertly crafted, and really drive home the plight of their characters. I was moved by them, and hope you will be, too.
Sound: The last three spots on my list this year go to Proteus, January and Plink. Music is a wonderful medium for expression, something I think a lot about. These selections took music and blended it with interactivity in ways that surprised and delighted me. Proteus created a mysterious and beautiful space that I just enjoy being in. January evoked strong memories of my childhood. And while both of these games present a relatively low-fi and simplistic exterior, there are lovely complexities just below the surface.
Plink is probably the least "game-y" of these selections, but it was definitely one of the most joyful online experiences I had this year! I went in with no idea what to expect, and suddenly I was jamming with 3 complete strangers. Having a genuinely unselfconscious experience of collaborative music creation with was a real treat. What a bonus that it's completely free!