As we get closer and closer to the end of the 2017, it’s a great time to take a step back and reflect on how great this year was in terms of video game releases. Frankly, 2017 was an embarrassment of riches when it came to games that saw huge levels of critical and commercial success, from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, to Persona 5, to NieR: Automata, to Horizon: Zero Dawn, to the numerous others released throughout the year. The list truly goes on.
However, 2017 was also filled with a bevy of rich indie experiences, and so the DualShockers staff gathered their thoughts about the indie games that deserve a chance to appear on everyone’s radar. While they often come with budgets and scopes that are a fraction of many AAA releases, indie games this year have shown no less creativity or willingness to expand what gaming can do, and these are just a few of the experiences that we wanted to highlight from this year to make your own.
Tomas Franzese, Staff Writer
Graceful Explosion Machine
Back during February’s Nindies Showcase, the one title caught my eye more than any other was Graceful Explosion Machine. Developed by Vetex Pop, Graceful Explosion Machine is a sidescrolling arcade shooter akin to titles like Fantasy Zone, which I enjoy. In addition, the game employs a beautiful and vibrant art style that is only bolstered by the titular “graceful explosions,” which players can create with a wide variety of unique weapons that work well in tandem with each other.
After picking up Graceful Explosion Machine about a month after I got my Switch, it has been one of the titles I return to most on the system to just let off some steam and destroy things, which is a great feat for a system with so many great games. The game is also available on PC and PS4, so if you are a fan of sidescrolling shooters, specifically Fantasy Zone (or others like it), I would recommend checking out Graceful Explosion Machine; you definitely won’t regret it.
Jordan Loeffler, Staff Writer
In a year full of stellar titles, Sundered was a little Metroidvania-style game that dominated months of my gaming time. From the start, the game captured my attention with its exceptional art style, but the sheer brutality of the gameplay drove me to keep playing, to persevere, and to brag to my friends about its unique plot and extensive progression system.
Speaking as a huge fan of RPGs, Metroidvanias, and anything resembling Eldritch horror, you might discount my opinion. But after you’ve tried Sundered for yourself, you’ll find that its developer, Thunder Lotus Games, has done so much more than just mash genres together.
It’s true that the game tends to punish you the further you play, but that’s also part of its charm! With each forced death, you and Eshe (the protagonist) must press onward, leading the player to learn a little more about this fractured world, grow stronger, and (perhaps) grow madder.
Throughout Sundered, you are asked to make the difficult decision of whether you will give into evil (over and over again) to make Eshe a little more powerful (and a little more badass). These decisions also have repercussions on the overall story, ultimately affecting which boss you will face in the end. To get the full experience, you have to play through the game three times; but for a title that looks and plays this good, going back into the fray is always a reward.
Azario Lopez, Staff Writer
Children of Zodiarcs
Honestly, there are so many great indie games from 2017 that I could list off for you, but Children of Zodiarcs is one that I think every fan of tactical RPGs and story driven narratives should pick up. The game blends board games and deck building games together to create a unique and impressive gaming experience.
The cast of characters is one that won’t be easily forgotten as each member experiences some type of growth over the campaign. I have had such a fun experience with Children of Zodiarcs that I just had to recommend it and show support to its dedicated developer, Cardboard Utopia. Also, since I have your attention: check out Sundered and Battle Chasers: Nightwar, too.
Taylor Lyles, Staff Writer
Hover: Revolt of Gamers
Anyone who knows me well would know my predictable choice would probably be Cuphead, and while I enjoyed my time with the 1930s-style run-and-gun platformer and all its appeal, there was another indie title that didn’t get as much attention this year as Cuphead, but I feel like deserves it.
Hover: Revolt of Gamers came out earlier this year and I had a chance to get my hands on the game a month early before it was released. Having grown up playing Jet Set Radio on the Dreamcast as well as its original Xbox successor, Jet Set Radio Future, I was finally able to satisfy my desire for a new Jet Set Radio game despite the game only being available on PC right now (it is also set to come on PS4, Xbox One, and Switch in the near future). It’s an indie title I can’t recommend enough, especially if you love Jet Set Radio, Mirror’s Edge, or other titles like them.
Scott Meaney, Community Director
I have to go with Cuphead. I expected very little from this game and ended up surprisingly impressed. I prefer games that don’t hold my hand; a good game, for me, forces the player to rise to the occasion. Cuphead follows that line of thought perfectly: you need to earn your place. It is definitely not a game for everyone…and that’s what makes it so special.
Ignoring the gorgeous, painstakingly detailed art style, it’s just an excellent game. I pop it on to kill time whenever I have a few quick minutes; heck, I’m still fighting against Cuphead’s bosses well after release. That’s the mark of a true classic.
Ryan Meitzler, Features Editor
What Remains of Edith Finch
Indie games have always held a special place in my heart for their ability to take risks and transport players into unique visions and styles of gameplay that we don’t often get to see, and without a doubt What Remains of Edith Finch is one of those titles that I’ve kept thinking about this year.
I had the chance to review the game back when it released earlier this year, and even in the months since it landed on PS4 and PC, What Remains of Edith Finch and its captivating story have long been on my mind, and more than anything that should be a compliment to developer Giant Sparrow’s keen sense of storytelling.
Recounting the tales of the Finch family and the moments before each of their deaths, What Remains of Edith Finch sounds (at first) dour, but truly leads players through an experience that encompasses so many different emotions. Swinging between stories that are brilliant, uplifting, heartbreaking, and inspirational, What Remains of Edith Finch is an experience that speaks to the power of story in games, and is truly something special that everyone should play.
Logan Moore, Staff Writer
Nex Machina isn’t just my favorite indie game of the year, it’s what I believe to be one of the best games in 2017. The tight twin-stick mechanics in this arcade shooter make up one of the best pure gameplay experiences I’ve had in the last few years.
Despite only boasting six total levels, Nex Machina is a game that I have found myself going back to time-and-time again in the pursuit of mastering its simple controls and moving my way up the high score leaderboard. With developer Housemarque now pivoting away from projects in the arcade genre, Nex Machina will be the last game of its kind for quite some time, which makes me even more likely to return to it over the years.
Tanner Pierce, Staff Writer
When I think of my favorite indie game from 2017, the first title that pops into my head is ChromaGun. The concept is incredibly unique: you use different colors in order to attract droids so they can activate plates.
To do this, players use a gun that can shoot three different colors of paint, but it doesn’t stop there. You’re also able to mix colors, which adds a whole other level of gameplay to the title. On top of that, there is some pretty hilarious dialogue that plays in the background of each level.
Combine that with some challenging, but fair, puzzles, and you’ve got yourself an indie game that will keep you entertained for a while.
Michael Ruiz, Staff Writer
Emily is Away Too
As video games progress as a medium, more and more experiences elicit emotions that that you would think impossible for a game to evoke. Emily is Away Too is one such title that had me genuinely upset — in a good way — because of my choices.
Set in the mid-2000s, the indie title is a text-based adventure where you make choices by typing into a quasi-AOL Instant Messenger chat box, and each choice you make with Emily and Evelyn affect the outcome of the story. With it being such a short experience, each decision has weight and typically ended in terrible fashion after each playthrough.
I think I played it 5 or so times to try to get a good ending…I failed each time, but it was still a blast to see what my choices would culminate to. Emily is Away Too is an incredible and powerful game that everyone should try out.
While these are just a few of the indie games that we chose to highlight from this year, obviously there are plenty more where that came from. What were some of your favorite indie games from this year? Add to the discussion in the comments down below!