Indie Game of the Year 2012

2. Fez

After what seemed like a near eternity in development, Polytron finally reached the finish line and released Fez — albeit only on Xbox Live Arcade — this year. We’d been waiting for the game’s arrival since its announcement way back in 2007 and were thrilled when we realized this inventive puzzle-platformer had been well worth our patience.

While played from a 2D, side-view perspective, Fez is actually a 3D game in that you can — and in fact have to — rotate the camera (or the world, depending on how you look at it) in order to navigate the environment and solve puzzles. So, what might look like an unreachable goal from one point of view might not from another, or a puzzle might not make any sense until you give the world a twist. Still, the finely tuned gameplay and creative puzzles are just part of the absolutely wonderful overall adventure. The others are lovingly hand-drawn graphics that exists somewhere between 8- and 16-bit and a soundtrack that you won’t be able to get out of your head.

Once you play it, you honestly won’t be able to look at other platformers the same way again.

1. FTL – Faster Than Light

Our free time was occupied by a number of fantastic indies in 2012, but none absolutely consumed our lives the way FTL – Faster Than Light did. This deceptively simple strategy title with decidedly low-fi graphics managed to bring the starship battles of ours favorite science fiction universes to life like never before, keeping us coming back for more even when we died for the tenth, hundredth, or thousandth time.

FTL isn’t a huge strategy game in the sense of Homeworld, where you command entire fleets. Instead, it’s far more intimate, focusing entirely on your one ship and its all-too-fragile crew. You’re not even playing the long game; you’re focused on the here and now, struggling just to make it from one battle to the next. There’s very little in the way of story. Its tales are the ones you’ll tell your friends of barely avoiding destruction or the time you had to sacrifice a crew member in order to extinguish a fire.

While you have to fill in some of the grander elements of space combat in FTL using your imagination, the game handles the little details marvelously. Things like opening airlocks to extinguish blazes, transferring power from shields to squeeze off one more laser blast, or finishing off an enemy craft just in time to escape a supernova are moments you’ll only find here, and there are so many of them in countless combinations. Trust us: If you’ve ever wanted to be a starship captain, there are few better primers than FTL.

So, now that you’ve seen what we chose for the year’s best indie titles, let’s have a look at what you had to say. We asked our Game Front readers to vote on their favorite indies via Facebook earlier this month and here are the final tallies:

2012 Readers’ Choice Indie Game of the Year

5. Conquest of Elysium II (Tie)
6. The Light (Tie)
6. Fez (Tie)
6. Hotline Miami (Tie)
6. Lone Survivor (Tie)
4. Mark of the Ninja (Tie)
4. Natural Selection 2 (Tie)
3. Lengend of Grimrock
2. Slender: The Eight Pages
1. FTL – Faster Than Light

Check out the full results on our Facebook page, and let us know what you thought of our picks in the comments!

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