Road to Game of the Year 2013

No Budget, No Problem: 2013's Top Indie Titles

It's all about the ideas.

On December 9, GameSpot will officially unveil all of the nominees for its Game of the Year awards for 2013. But in the meantime, why not look back at what 2013 had to offer to see what games could possibly, maybe, make the nominee cut? This week, we've already looked at the year's best sequels and outstanding new IPs. Today, we're leaving the world of megabudgets and heading to the smaller, more-personal independent games space.

The huge worlds AAA games have shown us in 2013 may be dazzling in scope, but size isn't everything. Some of the best game experiences this year have come from smaller, more-personal games, or games created by small teams working with even smaller budgets. These teams of independent developers--working outside of the "mainstream" system and often without major publisher support--have shown it's not the size of the budget that counts, but the strength of the idea. Will any of these games be named as a GameSpot Game of the Year nominee?

Gone Home

Gone Home executes on its ambitions flawlessly.

GameSpot Editor Carolyn Petit

One of the best-reviewed games of the year is also one of the most intimate. To move through the Greenbriars' house in Gone Home is to experience the intricate, moving stories of what feels like a real family. Story-driven games that pack the emotional weight and authenticity of Gone Home are few and far between.

Check out our review of Gone Home.

Guacamelee

Guacamelee is one of the strongest games on the PlayStation Network, period.

GameSpot Editor Peter Brown

Luchadores are fearsome and awesome fighters, and Guacamelee certainly landed with the impact of a luchadore executing a suicida when it was released on the PlayStation Network earlier this year. The game--created by DrinkBox Studios--topped the PSN charts in April, before eventually being released on the PC a few months later. This Metroidvania-style action platformer is fun, fast-paced, and more than a little goofy.

Check out our review of Guacamelee.

Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien

Runner 2 ensnares your emotions with an artful cocktail of music and gameplay, sweeping you along in its rhythm and lighting up a smile on your face.

GameSpot Editor Chris Watters

Music is central to Bit.Trip Presents...Runner 2 Future Legend of Rhythm Alien's very being (also, running). The game’s soundtrack responds to every obstacle you overcome, every item gathered, resulting in a blissful synesthesia as you become more masterful. Few games meld their aural and gameplay sides as seamlessly as Runner 2 does, making it a multisensory delight that’s also quite challenging. Plus, Runner 2 features a character called Reverse Merman, which is an amazing achievement in and of itself.

Check out our review for Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien.

Papers, Please

Papers, Please will stress you out. At times it may even make you hate yourself. And while it's weird to call such an experience "enjoyable," the gameplay itself is not a miserable time.

GameSpot Reviewer Britton Peele

A game that lets you play as a low-level border-crossing customs official and whose main gameplay mechanic involves having to examine various pieces of paperwork hardly sounds like Game of the Year material. But in Papers, Please, the dull act of determining the veracity of documents is elevated to a nerve-racking, emotional experience. There are few sounds as stressful in games this year as the sound of Papers, Please's in-game dot matrix printer spooling out another infraction notice for a mistake made, knowing that mistake could have cost you the credits needed to buy medicine for your ailing son. Papers, Please is one of 2013's most unique game experiences.

Check out our review of Papers, Please.

Path of Exile

Considering that Path of Exile costs you nothing beyond some Internet bandwidth, it provides an embarrassment of pleasures.

GameSpot Editor Kevin VanOrd

If any game this year exemplifies the fact that amazing, immersive games can be made outside of the mainstream video game system, it's Path of Exile. Made by a small team of developers based in New Zealand, Path of Exile out-Diablo's Diablo, presenting a complex and deep action role-playing experience with its own individual twists. Path of Exile also does free-to-play right: this may be a free-to-play PC game, but it's no pay-to-win; cosmetic changes are the only things requiring real-world cash. If Path of Exile is the future of free-to-play on the PC, then that future is looking assured.

Check out our review of Path of Exile.

The Stanley Parable

It's exciting to play again and again, because the choices you make can take you down such wildly different paths.

GameSpot Editor Carolyn Petit

What is The Stanley Parable? The Stanley Parable is a game about the choices you make in games or, rather, the lack of choices you actually have. But if that sounds all too academic and boring, The Stanley Parable is also about standing inside a small cabinet and having an in-game narrator berate you for not moving the narrative forward. The Stanley Parable is also very, very funny, and is an often-surprising adventure.

Check out our review of The Stanley Parable.

Outlast

From start to finish, it never loses sight of the "survival" component of survival horror, and in such a way that reminds us that few things on this earth can be as terrifying as our fellow human beings.

GameSpot Reviewer Leif Johnson

Survival horror used to be one of the most popular types of games, but its decline in recent years has left the genre in the hands of small independent developers like Red Barrels. And Red Barrels has produced one of the year's finest spooky experiences in Outlast, a game set in survival horror nirvana: an out-of-control mental asylum. In Outlast, you play as an investigative journalist who journeys into the aforementioned asylum armed with only a camcorder. So yeah, you play as a not-very-smart investigative journalist.

Check out our review of Outlast.

Rogue Legacy

Rogue Legacy's few blemishes are easy to overlook when the game is so good at rewarding persistence. Rogue Legacy is simple yet deep, easy to pick up yet hard to master.

GameSpot Reviewer Britton Peele

In Rogue Legacy (as in other roguelikes), death is permanent. Progression, however, doesn't reset with the demise of your character, adding a compelling layer to this challenging action platformer. Each death results in new heroes that are born with interesting traits. A lot of your new heroes will feature useful abilities, and some will not (such as a hero with bad eyesight who makes the screen fuzzy), and the fun lies your gradual, constant progress as you grow stronger with each new generation of characters.

Check out our review for Rogue Legacy.

Antichamber

There are moments in Antichamber that remain with you long after you've uncovered your last clue and solved your last puzzle.

GameSpot Editor Mark Walton

Antichamber will hurt your brain as well as your innate sense of geometry. It's a puzzle game that breaks all the normal rules of logic while simultaneously presenting its own, forcing you to think and to experiment with its many puzzles. It's also an independent game in every sense, made by a one-person development team (Aussie Alexander Bruce) as a passion project over several years.

Check out our review of Antichamber.

What other independent games took up a lot of your gaming time in 2013? Tell us which indie games we may have missed in the comments below. And come back tomorrow for the final part of our Road to Game of the Year series, where we take a final look at some of the other possible contenders for Game of Year places.

Discussion

255 comments
rIVAL_sWORD84
rIVAL_sWORD84

Guacamelee on Ps vita and Runner 2 on wiiU are the best of indies, though GS has left so many other indies, but whatever

No_SuRReNDeR
No_SuRReNDeR

POE = Epic WIN Free and better than Diablo?... yeah Its really hard to believe. and Iam at least 200+hrs in that at this point still hooked


chyng85
chyng85

Gone Home is very potential~

Tremblay343
Tremblay343

I still don't know how walking simulator:the game gets good reviews.


PoE one of my favourite games this year though.  120 hours in and not even close to done

freedomspopular
freedomspopular

What's really sad is that I recently upgraded my PC to some pretty beefy hardware, but all my excitement is about indies nowadays. There's a couple AAA games I'm looking forward to, but I just couldn't care less about most of them anymore. I can't wait to see what this list looks like next year after a lot of the major Kickstarter-funded games will have been released.

BenderUnit22
BenderUnit22

Word of advice: Don't pay full price for Gone Home. It's a nice, little story, but it's an hour of running through a house while occasionally someone reads their diary to you. Get it on a sale and you'll have a good time.

Jacanuk
Jacanuk

Crazy that a interactive book Gone Home gets on a list of the best indie games.





makryu
makryu

It feels like the indie scene this year was particularly prolific. This list isn't even close to exhausting 2013 great games...

shreddyz
shreddyz

Nicole Kidman should sue GGG for using her likeness w/o permission.

cwatz12
cwatz12

Rogue Legacy isn't just the easy best indie game of the year, its in my top 5 games of the year.

dpclark
dpclark

Where is Epic Street Sweeper Phantasy 3?

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

Rogue Legacy and Indie Dev Tycoon have taken up more hours of my time recently than any "AAA" games.

Shouoken4Peace
Shouoken4Peace

I'll echo other community members with my Don't Starve endorsement. Papers Please and Rogue Legacy are awesome - glad they made it to the list.

joe_b1_kenobi
joe_b1_kenobi

Hoping more of these games come to consoles. Cant wait to play outlast but really want to try gone home and the Stanley parable

docwoo
docwoo

What about State of Decay??!  I'm not sure if Undead Labs would be considered an Indie Developer, but that game came out of nowhere and practically consumed my entire Summer!   

ahpuck
ahpuck

Rogue Legend is my favorite in this list. Path of Exile is a no brained, you gotta have it. Outlast is really good as well, Capcom can learn a thing or a hundred from this game. Guacamelee was a fun time waster, I only played a couple of time tho'. Gone Home, was a waste of money, most boring game I have played in a long while.

ut40755
ut40755

i am not saying i hated, or really even disliked diablo 3, but i have put more hours into path of exile since i downloaded it last week since diablo 3 came out...  i've been telling all my friends about it and i used almost the same line "it out-diablo's diablo".  IT'S FREE GO GET IT!

zillaman101
zillaman101

I hope Outlast gets on the list. That looked pretty sweet.

thorn3000
thorn3000

Guacamelee was great, awesome combat system, fun powers and lot's of secrets...Gone home was overrated, but not too bad story-wise...Stanley parable was interesting at first, but quickly wore out it's welcome...Outlast was repetitive and ultimately boring...

weakan
weakan

Path of Exile looks very promising, the Diablo sequel i always wanted x3, also wondered about about what the fuss is al about in Stanley v.v, Guacamelee and Runner 2:D

warriors30
warriors30

I've got to admit, I've only played "Papers, Please" but this game definitely deserves to be here.

curiousarman
curiousarman

is it just me or does the GOTY background looks like mimicking the sims?


oh... it's a clue...

rawkstar007
rawkstar007

I already have 200 hours logged into PoE. I can attribute at least 20% of that to spiting Blizzard.

RussianMeatClob
RussianMeatClob

The lack of Don't Starve is disturbing.  Other than that Stanley has my vote!

Succumbus
Succumbus

No Risk of Rain? That game is seriously great.

AjenoMerveilles
AjenoMerveilles

'The Swapper'. Omitting this game is an error on your part. Part morality tale, part genius puzzler all wrapped up with a distinctive ethical choice at the end of the game.


For shame.

BradBurns
BradBurns

I didn't know Guacamelee was a metroidvania style game. That may get me to play it.


To be honest, I was always put off by its vaguely (or overtly?) racist aesthetic.  


I also hat flash animation, and it seem to have that.

Gue1
Gue1

the Path of Exile chick looks like Nicole Kidman.

PhazonBlazer
PhazonBlazer

Shame there isn't much talk of Rogue Legacy. It's one of my favorite games of the year.

naserc
naserc

outlast, path of exile, and the stanley parable for me r the best indie experiences of the year, and also among the best gaming experiences of any kind!

lloydbergenson
lloydbergenson

Well, that's because it's not an "interactive book."

nate1222
nate1222

@ut40755 Some of my friends have been saying similar things about Torchlight II. "It's what Diablo III SHOULD'VE been."

shreddyz
shreddyz

@ut40755

wait until you get to merciless.You will want to kill someone! The desyncing is horrendous.

ps and don't waste money on the microtransactions because they are a complete ripoff. For the cheapest thing you can buy another game!

thorn3000
thorn3000

swapper had a good mechanic...but then again, many 2d games have a special mechanic...if you've already played dozens of game like that, swapper is not a memorable one

thorn3000
thorn3000

hey, can I ask you something? is there any way how to view where your party is, like a compass or if they travel to a different area to see which area they are? I got totally pissed off at the game as I could not find such a thing...and playing with a friend without skype was a burden searching for him...heck even old Titan Quest had a nice compass and a map saying which location each player is in...

Slagar
Slagar

It really delivers a firm kick in the jewels to Blizzard for taking a leak on their fans with the RMA etc.

... PoE is pretty much gamer heaven: such a great game. And yet so free o_o

thorn3000
thorn3000

yeah, but the choice had no impact in a sense no further developments were present in the game after the choice...if gameplay and story continued for another 15-30 minutes based on your choice it would be different...other than that, if you play a few dozen such 2d indies a year like I do, swapper was nothing special and nothing you would remember precisely...Guacamelee has my vote

nate1222
nate1222

@naserc I've got Outlast wishlisted on GOG (DRM-free rocks). I need to quit bsing around and install POE off my Steam account.

Jacanuk
Jacanuk

@lloydbergenson Well i guess its a matter of interpretation but no matter, its a bad choice and considering what games used to be this is certainly not a "game"


eBentl
eBentl

@shreddyz

Eh, I've gotten $20 credit for the game and spent $10.50 of that on a tab for my guild stash and a blue prince frog to follow me around. Personally I don't really feel as though I have been ripped off, and I will probably give them more money. I see it as being more about supporting, and thanking, the developers for the amazing product that they have delivered completely free of charge, rather than about getting cool items.

shreddyz
shreddyz

@MattyTheButcher @shreddyz Ah yes, another one pointing out the obvious. My beef isn't with p2w, it's the sheer over the top prices of all cosmetic items! A weapon adornment with cost $25, no shit. I'm sure lots of people care.