Feature Article

Indie Games You Need to Know About From E3 2014

Independently awesome.

by

There must have been magic in that Hooters parking lot. A block away from the convention center, scattered across a series of trailers baking in the L.A. sun, lay an exhibition that showed how electronic entertainment goes beyond the spectacle that dominates our attention. Braving the mid-afternoon heat to see Devolver's games was worth getting a little sweaty for, though. Its collection of independent games captivated me so completely that it was easy to forget the heavily hyped fare that was being shown across the street. Indies have risen to a place of prominence both inside and outside the convention center, and Devolver wasn't the only publisher with an intriguing lineup. Some of the following games were in a stuffy trailer, others were in front of a plushy couch, but one constant remained: They're worth getting excited for. Here's a glimpse at what awaits us in the future.

Titan Souls (PC, PlayStation 4, Vita)

Inspired by Dark Souls and Shadow of the Colossus? It's as if the developers knew exactly how to draw my attention, though starting from such a lofty place can spell doom if your game doesn't deliver. From what I've seen, the only failure in Titan Souls is how frequently you'll meet your own death. From a top-down perspective, you have just one arrow to kill a monstrous boss, and whoever slices the other's weak point first claims victory. The rules are simple because the conquests are anything but. A stone colossus tries to crush you under its fists as you frantically roll to stay alive; a gelatinous blob duplicates whenever it's struck, surrounding you with its malevolent clones; a yeti rains down icicles while waving its naked derriere. Just try focusing when you have that rump waving in your face. That's the real challenge.

[Read our full E3 preview]

The Talos Principle (PC, PlayStation 4)

A puzzle without context is like a hamburger without a bun. In The Talos Principle--a beautiful first-person adventure set in a desolate forest--doors bar your path, so you must make clever use of the environment to uncover the secrets many secrets. And though I felt an undeniable relief when I completed a puzzle with the development team staring on, it was the philosophical musings punctuating my mental struggles that made this demo so fascinating. When a voice from the heavens spoke to me, I wondered what my purpose was, and why I was solving puzzles in a forest. Thoughts of identity swirled through my head when my hands were revealed--robot hands--and I could only ponder what kind of creature I was. It's a game of intrigue, of questioning our ultimate purpose, and those big ideas are even more exciting than whatever puzzles are sure to stump me.

[Read our full E3 preview]

Not a Hero (PC, PlayStation 4, Vita)

This might seem like a strange thing to say, but I've always thought murder and skateboarding had an awful lot in common. With all the screaming and blood in both activities, you'd be forgiven for confusing them. The development team behind the skateboarding game OlliOlli has taken the fundamental appeal of its Vita debut in a slightly different direction. The smooth action that defined OlliOlli has been twisted into something unrecognizable here, but it's just as engrossing from what I've seen. Glide into and out of cover, gunning down the bad men trying to kill you as you move as efficiently as possible. It's a crazy concept that makes great use of its simple facade. Setting high scores is your ultimate goal, so figuring out how to deliver a speedy end to your foes is what makes this game so appealing. And even if you fail, at least it's not as painful as missing a 180 backslide.

[Read our full E3 preview and watch our stage demo]

Everybody's Gone to the Rapture (PlayStation 4)

Alone in the remains of a once-proud civilization, you have a choice: wallow in the pervasive sadness, or discover the humanity that's still out there. The English countryside is so depressing, and yet so welcoming, as you gaze at the beautiful world with the thought of your own loneliness interrupting any sense of calm you might feel. There are whispers of past lives to discover, glimpses of who once lived in such a place, and hints at where they have disappeared to. Everybody's Gone to the Rapture is about first-person storytelling, but instead of explaining what it wants you to know, the story lets you decide how much you want to learn. There's no telling what message will slowly reveal itself, so decide for yourself if you're happy living in ignorant bliss or you'd rather know what became of your home.

[Read our full E3 preview]

Ori and the Blind Forest (PC, Xbox One)

Here's a fact that you might not know: the expression "beauty is only skin deep" was invented by an ugly person. All right, that may or may not be true, but there's no reason to turn your nose up at beauty. Ori and the Blind Forest is downright gorgeous, and I would gladly spend hours upon hours exploring its hand-drawn world if the rest of the game looks as good as the demo. Heck, I've already been caught staring at the screenshots, and those only hint at how enrapturing the environments look in person. Beauty would be enough of a reason to write about Ori, to be excited for it, but there's even something here for people who believe that old saying. Ori is a platformer focused on movement and about empowering you to venture deeper into its mysteries, and the emphasis on those two elements has made me giddy at the prospect of being set loose in this world.

[Read our full E3 preview]

Road Not Taken (PC, PlayStation 4, Vita)

Describe Road Not Taken in a quick synopsis, and you're going to sound like a marketing parrot reciting the latest buzzwords. A roguelike, top-down, puzzle-solving relationship builder? Why not call it a multiplayer online battle arena, add Oculus Rift support, and end this parody of gaming trends in one fell swoop? Well, Road Not Taken isn't just a complicated description; those labels mean little on their own. The roguelike part, for instance, looks to be more than the endless cycle of death that designation usually means. It's about inheritance. You play as your sons when you die, and then their daughters, and so on down the line, and that familial presence is supposed to make you care about your actions. Now it matters who you choose to romance, and how far you can take this character you've grown attached to. Road Not Taken is an interesting experiment that tries to add emotional context to expected actions; we'll see how it shapes up down the road.

[Read our full E3 preview]

Night in the Woods (PC, PlayStation 4)

Time is the greatest foe of all. It's the one opponent that no one has been able to best, and is the main antagonist in Night in the Woods. This isn't a time-traveling venture like Super Time Force, though. Rather, it's a combat-free, platforming adventure in which growing up, and the inevitability of change, is at the heart of your strife. Or is it strife? The natural flow of time isn't something that can be fought against. You can view your past with nostalgic desperation, with a wish that things could return to how they once were. Or you can embrace whatever the future holds. It's a decision that cannot be made rationally. Rather, whether or not you can let go of who you once were is emotional. The Night in the Woods demo was poignant and sad, carefree and happy. If the final game can embrace all of life's peaks and valleys like we saw already hinted at, it could be something special. We'll see if that promise holds true when the game comes out.

[Read our full E3 preview]

Axiom Verge (PlayStation 4, Vita)

I would love to say that I've saved the best for last, but that would be an unfair statement. Axiom Verge was my favorite game from E3 2014, but there were so many outstanding games at E3 that it's impossible to elevate just one above the rest. This game is definitely worth keeping your eye on, though. A single man is behind this free-flowing adventure inspired by Metroid, and it's shaping up to be even better than I imagined it could be. The controls are so smooth and so sharp that movement is incredibly fun, and the inventive weapons and crazy enemies are enough to make me want to explore every inch of this world. For those who lament what has happened to Metroid of late, keep your eyes on Axiom Verge, because it might be the game you've been waiting so long for.

[Read our full E3 preview]

Those are eight of the best indie games that we wrote about at E3 2014, but there was so much more that we didn't have a chance to cover. EarthNight is a gorgeous combination of roguelike and endless runner that (as expected) defies being pigeonholed by those constraining terms. Hyper Light Drifter is an exciting action game that proves how important Kickstarter is for risky ideas. And N++, well, it's just about the best platformer around (if N+ is anything to go by), especially if you're playing cooperatively. Then there were indie games that were shown only in trailer form, such as the undersea adventure Abzu and the lonely platformer Inside. There were too many excellent games to count--hidden away in out-of-the-way corners or proudly displayed in the heart of popular booths--and seeing the variety and excellence of the many offerings made me thrilled for what the future holds. This is an unbelievable time for games, and indies are leading the way.

Discussion

144 comments
themc_7
themc_7

alright then, not much here for Xbox owners.

rskueem
rskueem

Looking forward to Ori and the Blind Forest ^^ @TomMcShea  Lifeless Planet, Inside, Never Alone, ABZU ?

leeko_link
leeko_link

Ori and the Blind Forest and Axiom Verge look nice. I will be looking forward to both of them alongside Shovel Knight, 

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, Alphadia Genesis, Pier Solar HD, Insanity's Blade, and SteamWorld Dig.

cratecruncher
cratecruncher

The Talos Principle looks like a fun-for-my-brain type game.  I enjoyed other environmental puzzle games like Portal II, Kairo, and Antichamber so this one looks like a no-brainer, so to speak.

nobody490
nobody490

Everybody's Gone to the Rapture sounds like a cool sequel name to Bioshock. :D

bunchr
bunchr

Only one indie for my ONE :(

cratecruncher
cratecruncher

Nice to see some coverage for the little guys.  Indie games are about the only reason I'm still a gamer.  The recycled AAA stuff just doesn't do it for me anymore.

epitaphios
epitaphios

What is that grayscale screenshot from?

thettt
thettt

what about gunman clive ?

Ailurusf
Ailurusf

This looks awesome! Night in the Woods seems quite promising indeed. Talos described as a philosophical puzzler sounds like they searched for everything that interests me. And Ori is simply gorgeous!

Indie games are amazing. It's nice that so many teams are willing to take risks and provide us with such quality. 

enuo9
enuo9

Axiom Verge looks amazing.

Minishdriveby
Minishdriveby

I beat the Ludum Dare version of Titan Souls earlier this year. Is this version a face lift or are there new bosses? The original game was 15 minutes long.

warriors30
warriors30

 Cuphead came out of nowhere, at least for me, but I can't wait to play it. 

pinicolaroxa
pinicolaroxa

Cant keep up with ps4 master race and the hundred of games that can run on my  gramma pc.

spectralmerc
spectralmerc

It says a lot about Microsoft when all this interesting games but one are not coming out on the XOne, or the X360...

Skhuff
Skhuff

So hard to believe that games like "Everybody's Gone to the Rapture" is an indie game.

Indie community will save the planet. 

kimjong-un
kimjong-un

'Glorious Leader' #1 game all time

seanmp5
seanmp5

People:

There is supposed to be this (small) Big indie-only Expo-ish thing held more or less parallel to E3. I do believe that Phil Fish (Fhil Fish?) was set to show Fez 2 there last year...

Anyone - perhaps, gamespot - got anything on that Expo for 2014...?

spacecadet25
spacecadet25

Those were the games I had to know about?  Barf.

Sevenizz
Sevenizz

Spy Party is the only indi title I'm looking forward to.

Personally, I'm tired of side scrolling - anything.

TomMcShea
TomMcShea moderator

@rskueem @TomMcShea  I mentioned Abzu and Inside. The big write ups were just for games we had covered in some capacity, I couldn't do anything for Never Alone or Lifeless Planet.

gunnmetal
gunnmetal

@bunchr theres way more just not mentionned

checkout child of light and super time force

TomMcShea
TomMcShea moderator

@gameransa I mentioned both Abzu and Inside. Extremely excited for those two. There's not much to talk about right now, though.

console_war_vet
console_war_vet

@thettt  Is there a new Gunman Clive game? Man, I played the crap out of that on my phone a few years back.

TomMcShea
TomMcShea moderator

@Minishdriveby That was made in three days. it was after that version was well received that the team decided to flesh out it.

R4gn4r0k
R4gn4r0k

@pinicolaroxa Don't worry, you'll get a game every so often that truly shows the power of the PS4. If you wait long enough...

jrcast84
jrcast84

@spectralmerc There are XB1 and 360 indie games coming out, Tom did not include them on this list because he did not get a chance to play them.

spectralmerc
spectralmerc

@jrcast84 @spectralmerc You're right. I'm not a fan of X360 or XOne, but I shouldn't have trusted on Tom to deliver an unbiased article. A disclaimer announcing at least the EXISTENCE of indie titles on Microsoft's platforms would have been nice.

Skhuff
Skhuff

@jrcast84 @Skhuff Exactly. Stuff like these makes me think again about big AAA companies like Activision who just roll out another COD every year. Innovation is coming out by Indies only. 

R4gn4r0k
R4gn4r0k

@Skhuff @jrcast84 "Innovation is coming out by Indies only. "


Which has always been the case. Most of the innovation by AAA developers is just smoke and mirrors.

Look at the multiplayer in AC, first introduced in Brotherhood: it's ripped directly from the indie game 'the ship'. Ubisoft hired those devs, took their idea, and fired them.

jrcast84
jrcast84

@Skhuff @jrcast84 It is much easier to try new things when your indie, than AAA companies that do not want to take risk.

TomMcShea
TomMcShea moderator

@jrcast84 @Skhuff Is it? If one of these games fails, it could really hurt a team. Activision, EA, etc could complement their surefire hits with risky ventures if they wanted to. It's a choice.

Skhuff
Skhuff

@jrcast84 @Skhuff I agree. They just want to go with whatever is working in the market. Long live the indies!

R4gn4r0k
R4gn4r0k

@Skhuff @R4gn4r0k @jrcast84 Not your fault. These things aren't very well known.


If an AAA game does something 'new' you can bet that 9 times out of 10 a smaller or lesser known game has done it before.

Skhuff
Skhuff

@TomMcShea @jrcast84 @Skhuff Yes, I agree. But only due to the extra passion these Indies have, we are able to see fresh and innovative content. But big companies like Microsoft take time to bring out something fresh to the table, like Sunset Overdrive. 

jrcast84
jrcast84

@TomMcShea @jrcast84 @Skhuff Thats one way to look it at, but I think with the growing cost of development they would rather not have a total flop. You could be right though they have the deep pockets.

TomMcShea
TomMcShea moderator

@jrcast84 @TomMcShea @Skhuff It's not like EA has to spend tens of millions on a game. Look at what Ubisoft's doing? Child of Light and Valiant Hearts have indie sensibilities.

Titan Souls More Info

First Release on Dec 31, 2097
  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation Vita