Best Indie Games of 2011
Without a doubt, 2011 was an outstanding year for gaming. We were swarmed with good games this year, which makes picking the best of them even harder. Luckily, we’ve got you, the readers, to help us out.
Every day this week, we’ll be revealing our staff choices for the best games of the year in a variety of categories. We’ll also be reporting the results of our Reader’s Choice voting. So, without further ado, let’s get things started with the Best Indie Games of 2011.
This was a tough year to pick indie games. The scene exploded, especially on the PC. It seemed like every week another good indie game was launching, not to mention the large number of cool indie bundles. Still, we narrowed our field down to five after much debate.
The nominees were:
- Jamestown – Read our review!
- Minecraft – Read our review!
- SpaceChem – Read our review!
- Terraria – Read our review!
- The Binding of Isaac – Read our review!
A steampunk reimagining of history but with bullet-hell shooter sensibilities, Jamestown has a lot of heart and a great 16-bit look. It takes place in 1619’s alternate New World – Mars. There, you’ll have to fight Martians and their Spanish Conquistador allies while flying around on a battle sled that would make Flash Gordon proud. With huge battles filled with enemies blasting away at you, large-scale boss fights, a fun but slightly goofy storyline and an old-school feel, Jamestown makes a pretty good case for indie games and top-down shooters of yore. Plus, Jamestown packs local co-op for up to four players, provided you have a few spare gamepads or mouse-and-keyboard setups – and we all know great games are even better with friends.
4. The Binding of Isaac
From some of the minds that made up Team Meat comes the disturbing, rogue-like The Binding of Isaac, and at a mere $5, it should be a must-purchase for everyone. Randomly generated Zelda-like dungeons, tons of items and a whole bunch of gross enemies litter the game, which takes lots of its cues from religion. There’s a ton of content in this tiny package and hours of replayability, not to mention it’s hard as hell but completely addictive. More than 100 items exist to find and use against foes, there are multiple bosses and various other kinds of enemies, and no two runs through the Binding of Isaac are exactly alike. Plus you get multiple endings and unlockable characters. All for five bucks.
Anyone who has ever built a model railroad will tell you: setting up a a complicated system and then sitting back and watching it go can be surprisingly fun. SpaceChem is a delightful indie puzzler that combines sci-fi, chemistry, and rudimentary computer programming to create an engrossing, original challenge. Using customizable conveyor belts called “Waldos” and a variety of specialized, automated tools, players will construct elaborate molecule factories, bonding exotic elements together and synthesizing compounds for fun and profit.
An attractive, stylized design makes it easy to keep track of the intricate processes at work, and a stirring soundtrack accompanies the often mind-bending work. The game even boasts a narrative story, rare in a puzzle game, but a welcome addition. You might not learn the first thing about actual chemistry, but SpaceChem will keep puzzle addicts hooked harder than C17H21NO4.