The 10 Most Definitive Indie Games of the 2010s: #5 – #1
25 Dec, 2019
The 2010s gave us the greatest crop of indie games ever made, and we’ve compiled a list of the most important ones. Here’s the second half.
Back when this decade started, indie games were a firm niche of their own with a passionate, but small fanbase. Over the decade, the means to create indie games have expanded and improved, and we’ve seen games emerge from all corners of the world. Even as the borders between what is indie and what isn’t have blurred, we’ve consistently seen the indie space explore with the video game medium to create new experiences.
In the games below, we’ve mined blocks, played football with cars, processed paperwork, explored a family house, and cried through mother’s basement. Of the indie games that came out in the 2010s, we think that these defined the landscape as we know it.
Check out entries #10 to #6 here.
#5 – Gone Home (2013)
Gone Home wasn’t the first game to be slapped with the ‘walking simulator’ label, but it certainly was the one to popularise the genre. A rather quiet and unassuming game, Gone Home had you playing as a young woman exploring her family house after returning from overseas. With no one home, she explores each of the house’s rooms progressively, unravelling the lives and secrets of its occupants.
Sure we had the likes of Tacoma and Firewatch later in the decade, but it’s hard to imagine a world of walking simulators without Fullbright’s debut adventure.
#4 – Papers, Please (2013)
Papers, Please proved that you can tell a deeply atmospheric and meaningful game while confining your player to a tiny booth in an authoritarian state. As you process people entering into the glorious nation of Arstotzka, you must juggle increasing kinds of paperwork and hope that you don’t let in the ‘wrong’ sorts. All the while, you must also manage your own bleak family life.
Papers, Please’s experimental nature did not stop it from becoming a well-known success. Before we knew it, there were similar riffs on the formula that had us managing the press or surveillance data. In an industry dominated by the tales of the extraordinary, Papers, Please hit us right in the mundanity.
#3 – The Binding of Isaac (2011)
The Binding of Isaac is an ingenious cross between Zelda-like dungeons and top-down shooter gameplay, all drenched in a vat of roguelike sensibility. With random luck guiding your every playthrough, The Binding of Isaac was hard to beat and harder to put down, which only made it all the more alluring.
Of course, you can’t ignore the unique art design by creator Edmund McMillen: a cute take on all the most disgusting things in the world, and bolstered by a story in which your final boss is your own religiously fundamentalist mother.
#2 – Rocket League (2015)
Rocket League is really, really simple. It’s so simple, it left us baffled by why this wasn’t a thing before. You take rocket-powered cars, and you put a giant ball in an arena, and then you make them hit the ball into a goal. It’s football with rocket-powered cars, and this simple idea was executed with such skill, that developer Psyonix ended up crafting a very rare fully indie esport. With regular updates and ongoing support, Rocket League remains an indie success story powered by rockets.
#1 – Minecraft (2011)
There’s video games, and then there’s Minecraft. It started out with quite the “jank”. Instructions were sparse, and often involved looking up things on the Internet. It was a game in which you mined, chopped wood, constructed structures, and did lots of other things in a world full of blocks. What started as an obscure indie project snowballed into a social phenomenon, to the point that its developing studio was bought up by none other than Microsoft.
Today, it’s hard to look at how popular Minecraft is beyond audiences that typically play video games, and imagine that it was once a quaint indie game. It’s a game that permanently changed the landscape of not just the indie space, but video games as a whole. There can be no indie game more definitive of the 2010s than Minecraft.
Be sure to check out the Into Indie Games Awards for our picks of the best games of the year. If you’re looking to make use of the year-end sales, then you might want to glance at our Christmas guide.