Top 10 Most Wanted Indie Games of 2011

Indie Games have been really coming through in recent years, here’s our list of the 10 Best Indie Games Coming in 2011.

Pffft. Who needs a big fancy publisher? Actually, it's really very helpful, otherwise sometimes your game might go completely unnoticed, even if it's the most innovative, amazing piece of work ever to grace a monitor. In any case, we've poked and prodded many dark corners of the internet in order to round up this list of upcoming releases. Here are ten of the most anticipated indie games of 2011! 

Magicka 

magicka

This action RPG, developed by Sweden's Arrowhead Game Studios, appears to hold a lot of promise for fans of the likes of "Diablo" and "Torchlight", and is set in a world based on Norse mythology, but with an added element of self-referential humor. This is evidenced not just in the tagline, "Get your robes ready", but in the names of characters and levels (take, for example, "The Fancy Menace"), and also in some of the more ridiculous spells made available within the game's elemental combat system, in which various elements can be combined for new types of magic. However, this is not simply for laughs, but also a mechanism of gameplay. For instance, it appears that there are portions of each map blocked by water. To access them, players must be able to form (temporary) ice to walk across. Additionally, these elements must be used cleverly in combat, as some enemies may be too strong to simply best in a beat-down.  

      There is single/multiplayer adventure mode for up to 4 players, as well as Challenge mode, which subjects a team of players to waves upon waves of enemies, and Versus mode, which is akin to the storyline of "Battle Royale" in that the last player standing is the winner. "Magicka" will be out on PC, and we've been assured that it will soon be available for consoles, as well. Put on your robe and wizard hat. 

Bastion 

bastion

Slated for release in the summer of 2011, "Bastion" looks to be as exciting to play as its environment is colorful. Artist Jen Zee has done a phenomenal job of creating a world that is both beautiful and broken at the same time. The world has suffered a disaster, referred to in-game as the Calamity, and it is up to the player to try to rebuild it, as the story and backstory unfolds via an unspecified narrator. "Bastion" is described as an action RPG, but also appears to feature elements of platformers, which seems to be in keeping with recent cross-genre trends. Additionally, "Bastion" has been nominated as a finalist in the categories of Visual Art and Audio for the 2011 Independent Games Festival, the winners of which will be announced at this year's Game Developers Conference. 

Fez 

fez indie game

Speaking of IGF winners, "Fez", an upcoming platformer from Polytron, was actually the recipient of the Visual Art award in 2008. The game was actually due out on Xbox Live Arcade last year, but was pushed back to 2011. Clearly the guys at Polytron want to give "Duke Nukem Forever" a run for its money, since "Fez" has actually been in development since 1996. 

      In addition to featuring some very unique settings, "Fez" is rumored to be heavy on perspective shifts and optical illusions. Join 2D man, Gomez, as he explores a strange new dimension: the 3rd. 


Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet 

insanely twisted shadow planet

This eye-catching indie from Fuel Cell Games will be available via Xbox Live Arcade, and already looks to have some of the most stunning artwork this side of "Limbo". This 2D shooter features an atomic age-esque flying saucer attempting to evade all manner of alien dangers, including sentient, oversized drills, giant eyeballs, and the obligatory tentacle monster. On top of all that, the game's music is being handled by none other than Norway's Dimmu Borgir, whose symphonic take on black metal is sure to bring a demented allure to a most intriguing project. 

Monaco 

monaco

"Monaco", a top-down stealth title from Pocketwatch Games, has already received numerous awards and words of praise. "Monaco" is a 4-player co-op game, either local or online, in which players are on a team of specialized thieves who are attempting a heist. Character classes include a Hacker, who can shut down computer systems with electro magnetic pulses (screw earning a CISSP, just build an EMP device!), The Muscle (brute force and explosives!), and a Locksmith (self-explanatory!). "Monaco" will be available for PC and and Xbox 360. No official release date yet, but hopefully it will be sooner rather than later! 

Retro City Rampage 

Love open-world action, but find that the genre often takes itself too seriously? Or perhaps you're just a smart-ass? Then "Retro City Rampage" could be the game for you on both counts. 

      Play as The Player, and make your way through the world stealing cars and finding weapons as you mow down pedestrians where they stand! Defeat your enemies, The Good Guys, and enjoy pints of sour milk to make you sick and provide an alibi against any crimes you may have committed.  

      This game is sure to incur the wrath of disapproving Palinites everywhere, though frankly this only makes me want to play it even more. Slated for release on WiiWare and Xbox Live Arcade, it will also be playable at this year's GDC from March 2nd through the 4th. 

Battleblock Theater

battleblock

From the fine folks who brought us "Castle Crashers" comes a new platformer that features both single player and co-op levels. Surviving physics traps can be an engaging mechanic in and of itself, as we've seen with games such as "Limbo" already, but "Battleblock Theater" appears to employ various other goal-oriented modes in addition to this, such as capturing souls, collecting coins from things flying overhead, and a unique take on "capture the flag"-style play that involves painting blocks.   

      The Behemoth has certainly proven that they know how to make intensely challenging games in the form of "Alien Hominid", but "Battleblock Theater" looks as though it will be enjoyable for a broader group of gamers, without necessarily alienating (ha ha!) those on opposite ends of the gaming spectrum. 


Journey

journey psn games

Thatgamecompany must put something in their water cooler. And I mean that in the best possible way. Having played through "Flower" in one sitting and then conducted fiendish experiments in my own living room, forcing gamers and non-gamers alike to do the same (well, I wanted to see the whole "dynamic game balancing" idea in action) for a pittance of chips and salsa, I came to appreciate the magnitude of brain that must have come up with the idea in the first place, and the subtle manipulation of emotions that tended to occur with most of the subjects over the course of the game. Same with "Flower"'s "spiritual predecessor", "Fl0w". So when I found out Jenova Chen and his crew were working on a new game, one that incorporated multiplayer in a much more involved way, I was psyched beyond words. TGC has, thus far, managed to implement ideas that seem completely absurd on paper in such a way that is compelling for a variety of gamers, in addition to being aesthetically pleasing. Personally, I can't wait to see what they've done with "Journey". 

Tales from Space: About a Blob 

tales of space about a blob

This PS3-exclusive two-player game from Drinkbox Studios features two blob creatures competing to become larger by eating objects, which can also be spit back out for use as projectiles. Competitive eating and spitting… classy!  

      Set for early release on PSN for Plus subscribers February 1, and for the rest of us on February 8, "Tales From Space: About a Blob" is already looking as though it could be a strong contender in the oft-neglected area of local co-op. Comparisons have already been made to "LocoRoco", and I'm also detecting a note of "Katamari Damacy", but so far "About a Blob" also looks to be its own man. Er, blob.  

The Witness 

the witness indie game

Following the success of "Braid", developer Jonathan Blow deviated from his normal routine of what he calls "serious development" to think about alternative concepts for games. He apparently came up with quite a few prototypes, spending a few months on each one, but the one that he found most intriguing at the time ended up becoming the basis for "The Witness". 

      Seen from the first person perspective, "The Witness" has players exploring an uninhabited island and solving maze-like puzzles in order to unlock additional locations on the island. Initially, it sounds a bit like "Myst", but according to Blow, "…the mazes aren't just puzzles, they are lines of communication that aggregate, become more complex, and eventually say surprising things". This is certainly an alluring statement, though one must be wary of putting a twist in every game, and running the risk of becoming the M. Night Shyamalan of videogames. Still, from what little I've seen at PAX 2010, and the statements Blow's made so far, "The Witness" has every indication of having awesome, thought-provoking potential, and I will definitely be giving it a shot.