The term, admittedly, has been bastardized beyond all recognition. Or maybe that’s too strong, but “indie” certainly doesn’t mean what it used to. It does, however, still evoke a particular…flavor—an expectation. Here are some games for you to gift to those that play a little off the beaten path.
Firewatch (Multiplatform) — $19.99
Straight up, Firewatch is not for everyone. (Most of the games on this list aren’t, but this one in particular definitely is not.) It wavers in and out of some heart-pumping moments, but it’s mostly just you out in nature as a mystery builds around you but necessarily with you. There’s no one to interact with save for a voice on a radio, there are no enemies per se, and there’s nothing to win. It’s just you, a watchtower, and the high risk of a forest fire.
Available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC/OS X/Linux.
Quadrilateral Cowboy (PC) — $19.99
Brendon Chung of Blendo Games makes weird things. Some of them aren’t even what you’d largely consider games, which is why I said “things” instead. But what he makes is rarely not interesting, and Quadrilateral Cowboy is nothing if not interesting. It’s limited to keyboard-based platforms by the very nature of the game, but if you can get into some serious logic problems and learning something about the discreteness of programming, then there’s a lot awaiting you here.
Available for PC, OS X, and Linux.
Obduction (PC) — $29.99
Obduction is brutal. It’s slow, it’s plodding, and it’s enigmatic. Oh, and it’s fantastic. This is a game evokes everything that made Myst a classic but brought up to the common sense of its contemporaries. It weaves an intense and taut world of abundance yet dire, almost spartan mystery, and it does so all through its design and its puzzles. If you have the patience, Obduction has your rewards.
Available for PC.
The Bunker (Multiplatform) — $19.99
Goodness there’s a lot that’s weird about The Bunker, perhaps chief among them is that it’s quite good despite its many oddities. It takes a somewhat trite concept while also taking away your control for a good portion of an already agency-free genre of FMV games and makes a surprising, enthralling, and weird thing. Adam Brown in the lead role is perfect and gives you an incredible sense of pure innocence pushing against an Insomnia sort of loss of direction and self.
Available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC/OS X.
Alone With You (PlayStation 4) — $9.99
I’m sure we’ll never hit the bottom of the barrel from which video game genres emerge. It’s just not gonna happen. That means you constantly have to be aware of what’s even possible in the industry, and that includes dating simulators. If you haven’t ever tried one, you’ll never know if you’re into them. Luckily, there’s Alone With You, which is not only good at being that but also eases you into it with one of the best switcheroos in the biz.
Available for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita.