8 Indie Games From PAX East You Need to Know About

Size doesn't matter.

While PAX East had no shortage of great AAA titles this year, there were almost too many wonderful indie games to keep track of. Here are some of our favorites, straight from the event's Indie Megabooth.

Gods Will Be Watching

Games inherently require decision making, but unlike most, Gods Will Be Watching forces you to make difficult choices during dire situations. Imagine that you're the leader of a small team that's stranded in the middle of a toxic landscape. You could potentially survive on your own accord, but you’re ultimately responsible for the well-being of the entire group. You’ll have to figure out ways to provide necessities including warmth, protection, and food, but you also have to maintain morale to ensure that your crew can assist you with said tasks. If you fail to feed them often enough, they may die. If you allow your medic to suffer from anxiety, he may run into the woods to never be seen again, thus ruining your ability to create an antidote for the virus that permeates the atmosphere, ultimately jeopardizing the entire crew. When there’s only time for five actions per day, it’s difficult to recognize what should and shouldn’t be a priority, making it seemingly impossible to keep everyone sane and alive. In situations like this, it’s troubling when your best intentions come up short and people suffer as a result. But, that’s sort of the point to Gods Will Be Watching; morality may seem black and white, but in most situations, the path to righteousness is rarely clear. -- Peter Brown

Below

Over the past few years, there's been a renaissance of sorts in the gaming world. Hard games are back. And not just hard, but difficult, punishing, tough-as-nails games that revel in killing you over and over again. But games like Dark Souls and Spelunky aren't just tough for the sake of being tough; they employ death as a tool for teaching you new things, letting you learn from your mistakes and become a better player for it. Below is very much a part of this wave of games. It's a roguelike with randomly generated environments that you explore as you descend deeper and deeper into its vast underground world. No words appear on the screen, no explanations are given--it's up to you to figure out how to make it past increasingly deadly enemies. But what makes Below really stand out is its gorgeous aesthetic. Each environment is dark and atmospheric, but somehow serene and beautiful. The ambient soundtrack builds on that art design with its sparse, moving accompaniment. In that regard, the presentation is a lot like developer Capy's previous work on Sword & Sworcery, but applied to a far larger and more ambitious concept. -- Shaun McInnis

Hyper Light Drifter

There are many good reasons why Hyper Light Drifter was one of the most popular indie games at PAX East. Sure, its neon color palette and stylish sprites may be the first thing that a lot of people notice, but there’s more to Hyper Light Drifter than just an attractive presentation. Once you get into the game, you’re treated to a world that inspires wonder, which is heightened by a haunting soundtrack and the lack of any text or dialogue. As you explore this world, you face dozens of unusually dangerous enemies. Fortunately, they’re easily killed, but unfortunately, so are you. By default, you’re stuck with a short sword as your primary means of defense. Secondary skills allow you to keep your distance, but they pull from a unified resource meter that drains quickly, so, you’re better off honing your skills in close-quarters combat as soon as possible. Hyper Light Drifter isn’t a walk in the park, but that makes it all the more satisfying when you can overcome its challenges and delve deeper into its captivating world. -- Peter Brown

Mushroom 11

Mushroom 11 is a game built around one simple game mechanic: the ability to reshape yourself. In this case, the you happens to be an amorphous blob of green goo with hypercharged cells that reform almost instantly. Click or tap on yourself (the game will be coming to both PC and tablets) and that part of your blob will disappear, quickly followed by the appearance of new cells elsewhere on your blob. It's the type of input that feels odd for a few brief moments, but soon becomes second nature. That's good, because Mushroom 11 employs all manner of puzzles and platforming obstacles (and even the occasional boss fight) as you explore the ruins of a city after some cataclysmic event. You might lop off your right half so that the new bulk on your left half shifts your balance just enough to topple you across a gap in the ground. You might navigate a narrow tunnel by erasing a bit of yourself on the bottom end so that the top end squeezes through like a tube of toothpaste. Hell, you might even need to just split yourself in half entirely so that part of you can trigger the switch to open a door while the other half actually passes through it. There are any number of applications for this clever mechanic, and it looks like Mushroom 11 is taking full advantage of it. -- Shaun McInnis

Transistor

There are some obvious similarities between Transistor and Bastion, the previous release from Supergiant Games. Both feature silent protagonists, action-oriented gameplay, and an isometric view of a colorfully illustrated world. In practice, however, the two games are far more different than they first appear. There’s no longer a narrator describing your every move. Instead, there’s a brooding spirit inhabiting your sword, Transistor, who acts as your guide. You're constantly under thread from The Process, a mysterious force that’s determined to eliminate the both of you. You can fight its robotic minions in real-time, but you can also stop time and issue a series of commands that play out in rapid succession. It’s an important strategic aid during combat, but it’s a useful puzzle solving tool as well. Like its battle mechanics, Transistor’s environments are rich and provide compelling depth. Neon hues line every inch of the its futuristic cityscapes, and in comparison to Bastion’s island-in-the-sky design, you get a sense that you’re a part of a greater world. Transistor is wonderful on its own terms, and it doesn’t need to be compared to Bastion, but if you’ve played the latter, you’ll recognize a worthy successor to one of the most beloved indie games of the last generation. -- Peter Brown

Roundabout

Everything about Roundabout is completely and utterly ridiculous. This is a game where you drive around in a powder blue limousine that is constantly spinning in circles. Oh, and it also happens to possess the ability to leap straight up into the air. Your job as the driver is to contain that absurdity as you weave through traffic and avoid--or don't avoid--pedestrians every time you pick up a new client. But it's the way that Roundabout employs all of this ridiculousness while scratching the Crazy Taxi itch that makes it so appealing. Frantically racing from one location to another, seeing new characters introduced in the form of full-motion video cut scenes, trying like hell to take shortcuts through narrow alleyways when you're car just wont' stop spinning--at no point does this game ever take itself seriously. And that's precisely why it's so much fun. -- Shaun McInnis

Not a Hero

So, you want to run for Mayor. For your first step towards office, do you appeal to the desires of your constituents, reach out to community leaders for support, or, hire mercenaries to sabotage your opponents’ campaign headquarters and murder their political aids? If you opt to commit brutal acts of violence, you’re probably the star of Not a Hero, the latest game from OlliOlli developer, Roll7. It’s a cover-based shooter that looks a lot like the classic arcade game Elevator Action, and it plays a little like it, too, but Not a Hero offers creative methods for dispatching your opponents, and a bit of dark humor to lighten the mood. Sure, you shoot pixelated political-types in the face and burst through windows, live grenade in hand, but that doesn’t mean you can’t chuckle now and then, right? With secondary items like the adorable cat bomb, which is quite literally an explosive cat that coyly woos your enemies into a fiery death, there’s no shortage of things in Not a Hero to laugh about. But, beware, because like OlliOlli, it’s also incredibly difficult to master. -- Peter Brown

Fenix Rage

Fenix Rage is being compared to Super Meat Boy, and those comparisons are fairly apt. Like Super Meat Boy, Fenix Rage is a 2D-platformer where you’ll need precision, skill, timing, and a deep well of patience and inner resolve to successfully navigate its tricky levels. Title character Fenix can jump in mid-air an unlimited number of times, making him an extremely maneuverable little tyke. Add in a quick dash move and the occasional ability to take on the properties of surfaces he lands on (such as lava blocks, which turns Fenix into a fiery munchkin that can slam through blocks of ice), and you’ve got a great platformer hero. In the dozen of levels I played, Fenix controlled extremely well, and I can’t wait to see what the next couple of hundred levels have to offer when the game release later this year on PC. And also, the in-game collectibles are cookies. Collect enough and the game will give you a recipe you can use to make cookies in the real world. And who doesn’t love cookies? -- Randolph Ramsay

See more coverage of PAX East 2014

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Discussion

48 comments
tandukbadak
tandukbadak

Fenix Rage, Rage Quit. LOL!


I shouldn't judge the game yet, but my thought is it wouldn't be as enjoyable as Super Meat Boy. Though, I'm curious about the cookies recipe.

abcdefgabcdefgz
abcdefgabcdefgz

I like below and fenix rage. Only two there I could see myself getting.

ziproy
ziproy

Isn't Gods Will be Watching already out?? I remember watching Danny do a Random Encounter with it

drwhoiscool
drwhoiscool

Not A Hero reminds me of Avoid the Noid & what they said, BlackThorne.  Might get that one.

Jasurim
Jasurim

Definitely looking forward to Transistor but Below and Gods Will Be Watching also have me intrigued.

NeverMore0
NeverMore0

There are plenty of indie games I like, but to be honest, all of these look pretty bad to me.

coight30
coight30

I wonder with the indi games that go for the minimalist 8bit look if they would have run on older systems like a megadrive or maybe even earlier? If so isn't it a shame we didn't have those beautiful looking games back then!! At least we have them now :)




vduong942
vduong942

In the "Not a Hero" video, I like how he says "If you're under the age of 13, it's like Gears of War.."

amdreallyfast
amdreallyfast

Transistor excites me.  Roundabout amuses me.

cratecruncher
cratecruncher

Below sounds pretty cool.  I'm going to focus on that one.

seven7swords
seven7swords

Hyper Light Drifter looks interesting, but... I think my problem with indie games is they always seem weird to me. I appreciate what these independent developers are trying to do but just not my cup of tea. I need something fast paced and action packed like Dishwasher: Vampire Smile. Favorite indie game right there. Transistor looks interesting, too.


Needs moar bladez!

AyatollaofRnR
AyatollaofRnR

I'm looking forward to Below and Transistor.

rogerpenna
rogerpenna

Maybe it´s just with me, but in the last months, GAMESPOT ads run SMOOTHLY without any loading at all. But the videos themselves just freeze after a few seconds and take ages to load.

TERMINATOR-SSD
TERMINATOR-SSD

i love Independent developers. They remind me of a time when making a game is not just graphics but gameplay, new ideas, new designs, risks, keeping things simple 'in some cases', affordable, fun. and most importantly creating games for its customers and not for publishers and investors telling them what to make. 

pedrovnone
pedrovnone

All them are good but "BELOW" is perfect!!!!!!!!!!  BELOW!!!!!

TacticaI
TacticaI

I've been looking forward to Transistor for a while now, but Hyper Light Drifter piqued my interest as well. 

RetroSEAL
RetroSEAL

Jim Guthrie needs an award for his video game OSTs. They literally make the game what they are.

blackothh
blackothh

Darkest Dungeon by Red Hook is the one I was most excited about as an indie game


IanNottinghamX
IanNottinghamX

why do most Indie games I see look like Nes or dumbed down Snes games? Its 2014...why arent they pushing envelope a bit more ?

benleslie5
benleslie5 moderator

Hyper Light Drifter is the only that catches my attention on that list

bdiddytampa
bdiddytampa

Another one that looks great is Chasm :-)

10854
10854

Gods Will Be Watching, really keen on it.

BrunoBRS
BrunoBRS

wait, hyper light drifter isn't coming to PC?


T_T

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

Well would you look at that, indie titles for all platforms of choice! :)

Gamers rejoice!

faizanhd
faizanhd

DAMN !!!!! 

Hyper Light Drifter looks good.

And it should. The original kickstarter goal was $27,000 . They reached  $645,158........................

tonytones21
tonytones21

The only ones that interested me were Hyper Light Drifter and Transistor.

dipdish
dipdish

Hyper Light Drifter will be amazing on PS Vita. 

jack00
jack00

I have been following Hyper Light drifter since forever, can't wait to play that game, looks so freaking good.

Vortigrom
Vortigrom

Is it a requirement for Indie games to look like they were made in 1990?  Hipster appeal must rank high with these developers.  

gamerno66666
gamerno66666

Can't wait for hyper light drifter. It looks so gorgeous.

blackace
blackace

Transistor and Below have my interest. RoundAbout looks funny. Where the hell were No Man's Sky, Rime and Helldivers? I would have thought all 3 of these games would be shown at Pax.

Gallowhand
Gallowhand

Transistor is the game I am most excited for.

SaudiFury
SaudiFury

Transistor, Hyper Light Drifter and Below have had my interest for the longest time since i've known about them. but neat to see a game like Roundabout though. 

sleepyinmorning
sleepyinmorning

Cool list,didn't know roundabout was something to look frwd to though transistor cool too

andybauman
andybauman moderator

@ziproy  I think it was originally made as a Ludum Dare project and that version was available to play but they are making a fully fledged game out of it now.

hystavito
hystavito

@rogerpenna  They don't take ages to load for me, but they do pause a lot.  I was using Chrome to browse GS but recently switched to Firefox, and I am seeing less pausing so far.

abcdefgabcdefgz
abcdefgabcdefgz

@TERMINATOR-SSD I agree some of my favorite games have been games like super meat boy and binding of isaac. My only real gripe is I wish they put more effort into higher quality graphics like more snes then the nes era art

AyatollaofRnR
AyatollaofRnR

@IanNottinghamX  It's a bit of a trend these days. They'd probably call it a stylistic choice. But I think the heavily stylized look is over done.


Perhaps it depends on the resources available to them. T

Dannystaples14
Dannystaples14

@IanNottinghamX  That is my issue with them as well for the most part. 

Sure they are working to a budget and they are potentially pushing their creativity to the limits but is there any reason they need to go backwards about 6 console generations at the same time?

Alves_911
Alves_911

@BrunoBRS   of course is coming you silly! sony probably pay someone so that only it's logo appear....  

TERMINATOR-SSD
TERMINATOR-SSD

@abcdefgabcdefgz the problem with this tho is because then people want 'better', 'better' and 'better' graphics if you get me. I agree to some point i wish it had more of a snes feel in many of the games. But the idea is to use a old style that is redundant but then turning it on its head to enhance the gameplay side of things, something that just was not possible back then with the nes days. But also added a graphical enhancement inside of that style, ie making it 3D, particle effects, destructible terrain etc. 


For the last 5years graphics are not what impresses me anymore, its the 'fun' 'new' 'gameplay' features that impress me. My gaming rig can handle anything, but i love these indie games and a few free 2 play games. I love that Sony has opened its arms to indie developers, the one reason why i bought the console. Not for next gen graphics....but for next gen gameplay entertainment.

Jedilink109
Jedilink109

@Dannystaples14 @IanNottinghamX  Yeah exactly because when the SNES was the main console I kept asking myself why aren't more developers making games that look like they're from 20 years in the future?  And it's obvious there were never any SNES games that are still spectacular games today and still hold their own against current releases.


They frickin make these games this way because they want to.  They also make them this way because they're INDIE DEVELOPERS and therefore cannot afford to make something like Mass Effect and Call Of Duty.  These games are often times some of the first retail titles they've ever made, and therefore they're going for their first dip in the pond, they aren't buying a lake to swim in because it's far too impractical for them.


They make games like this often times because they want their first retail game to be a full expression of how those older games made them feel.  They want to rekindle that initial sense of fun and excitement that those older games gave them, and show how important those titles were to them not just as a person but in their career as well.


If you don't like retro styled games then don't play them.  But don't complain because some game developers are selling these games to a fanbase who highly enjoys these kinds of titles.  Perhaps these developers will make 3D games for their titles in the future, but a good game is still a good game whether it's in 3D or not.