Top 10 Best Indie Games of 2016

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Hey, indie games, right? You know, the ones with the beards who move to Brooklyn and think mandolins are going to be cool again? Wait, no, sorry – that’s indie bands. Indie games have become a huge force in the gaming industry over the last five years thanks entirely to the passion demonstrated on screen by their creators: these are often tiny studios, usually lacking any kind of major financing, composed of people who’ve dedicated years of their lives to one, singular vision: entertaining you and me.

And thanks to the democratization of game-creating tools like Unity and Gamemaker Studio, more creative people are now able to create more games than ever before. Sure, there’s a lot of chaff to sort through to get at the wheat, but the good indies are as good – and arguably more innovative and important – than the majority of what the big studios push out these days.

Here are the Gameranx picks for the best indie games of 2016… that we know of.

OmniBus

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Developer: Buddy Cops LLC
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
MSRP: $9.99
Genre: Bus-based chaos simulator
Released: May 26

In the 1994 film Speed, Sandra Bullock has to drive a bus at a constant 50 mph or Dennis Hopper will make it explode. OmniBus is pretty much that: you’re driving a bus, it doesn’t have brakes, and you need to make this situation work somehow. Naturally, it’s not just about getting from point A to B – you’ll have to demolish buildings, defeat gigantic enemy buses, and avoid flinging yourself into the void as you perambulate through OmniBus’s increasingly weird environments, which include the side of a skyscraper and the surface of the moon.

Grab it here.

Beat Cop

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Developer: Pixel Crow
Publisher: 11 Bit Studios
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
MSRP: TBD
Genre: Dirty cop simulator
Released: 4th Quarter 2016

Beat Cop wears its Magnum, P.I. and Miami Vice influences on its wrinkled blue sleeve. It’s sort of an adventure game that harkens back to the glory days of Sierra Online’s Police Quest series, but it’s also a bit of a sim: while trying to clear your name of a murder you didn’t commit, you’ll have to write tickets for “dirty hippies” who park incorrectly and check in around the block to get the latest gossip from restaurant and bodega owners. The lavish pixel art really sells this game, which should be poking around your neighborhood with a full release this fall.

Planar Conquest

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Developer: Wasteland Interactive
Publisher: Wasteland Interactive
Platforms: PC, iOS, Android
MSRP: $24.99
Genre: Turn-based fantasy 4X
Released: May 30

Don’t let this Master of Magic-inspired 4X title pass you buy without at least a look: Planar Conquest is a remarkably deep strategy game that offers challenges to even veterans of the genre. You can also design nearly everything about each game’s starting conditions – and each game is played out on multiple planes of existence, which are individually customizable, as are your heroes. The fact that this game is also available on mobile? Icing on the mage’s cake.

Grab it here.

Hard Reset: Redux

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Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Publisher: Gambitious Digital Entertainment
Platforms: PC
MSRP: $19.99
Genre: Old-school first-person shooter
Released: June 3

Flying Wild Hog made its big-market splash with their fantastic reboot of Shadow Warrior in late 2013, but the origins of everything that made that game great were already present in their 2011 title Hard Reset. Its cyberpunk story is a bit hard to follow, but who really cares? The focus here is on fast moving, circle-strafing old-school shooter mechanics. This year’s “Redux” edition brings the game into the studio’s latest engine, with better visuals, improved performance, new moves, new enemies, and reworked enemy placement.

Grab it here.

Stories: Path of Destinies

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Developer: Spearhead Games
Publisher: Spearhead Games
Platforms: PC, PS4
MSRP: $14.99
Genre: Sarcastic hack-n-slash dungeon brawler
Released: April 12

Here’s an easy one to recommend: A game with Diablo 3’s isometric perspective and dungeon-crawling mixed with the Arkham-series’ ridiculously-satisfying counter-based combat system. Stories: The Path of Destinies charges you with – surprise! – making your way through a dungeon, killing monsters, and upgrading your skills. What sets this romp apart from the host of other games you’ve already played, though, is the gorgeous art, the sarcastic self-aware sense of humor, and the wonderfully visceral combat system.

Grab it here.

TASTEE: Lethal Tactics

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Developer: SkyBox Labs
Publisher: SkyBox Labs
Platforms: PC
MSRP: $14.99
Genre: Old-school first-person shooter
Released: May 10

Here’s a game that harkens back to the mission-planning aspects of the original Rainbow 6 games, where tactics and timing were determined before the mission actually started. TASTEE: Lethal Tactics lets you plan your anti-terrorist moves, and see their results, before committing to any course of action. The game gives you tons of rope, and plenty to hang yourself with, as you work through each puzzly mission.

Grab it here.

Punch Club

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Developer: Lazy Bear Games
Publisher: tinyBuild
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
MSRP: $9.99
Genre: Life sim/management
Released: January 8

Sure it sounds like a fighting game, but what Punch Club wants you to really do is manage a fighter. You need to closely monitor relationships, training regimens, and fight schedules in order to move your fledgling Rocky to the top – and in the meantime, figure out who killed his dad. This is a disarmingly charming life sim with choose-you-own-adventure elements layered on top of it. It’s Rocky, the video game. Need I say more?

Grab it here.

Ori and the Blind Forest – Definitive Edition

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Developer: Moon Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platforms: PC, Xbox One
MSRP: $19.99
Genre: Gorgeous metroidvania platformer
Released: April 27

Ori and the Blind Forest was just the shot in the arm that the Metroidvania genre needed: brilliantly designed, challenging, and mysterious, the game puts you in the paws of a tiny orphan who wants to protect its home. Last year’s release was already a gorgeous, engrossing game, but this year’s Definitive Edition adds new environments, moves, secrets, and abilities to one of 2015’s best games.

Grab it here.

This War of Mine – The Little Ones

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Developer: 11 bit Studios
Publisher: 11 bit Studios
Platforms: PC. Mac, Linux
MSRP: $9.99
Genre: Wartime misery simulator
Released: June 1

Maybe you’re super hardcore and didn’t shed a tear during your playthrough of the plaintive, poignant 2014 game This War of Mine, which gives you a small group of survivors in a war-besieged city and challenges you with keeping them alive. You’ve fought off starvation, looters, and depression already, how could it get any worse? Here’s your answer: this emotion-drenched DLC, which introduces kids to the mix.

Grab it here.

Enter the Gungeon

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Developer: Dodge Roll
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platforms: PS4, PC. Mac, Linux
MSRP: $14.99
Genre: Bullet-hell rogue-lite
Released: April 5

Comparing games to Dark Souls is such a tired, worn-out trope at this point that pointing out Enter the Gungeon’s central mechanic – the invincibility frame – is almost sure to fall on deaf ears. But the similarity is inescapable: you use your “roll” to flip underneath the myriad enemy projectiles that will be flung your way as you progress through Gungeon’s punishing, procedurally-generated levels. Meanwhile, you’ll pick up (usually) powerful weaponry including, but not limited to, super soakers, Nerf guns, Ghostbuster proton packs, and Dirty Harry magnums.

Grab it here.

Disclosure: GamesRepublic provided us with review codes for the purpose of this article. We receive a small cut from sales made through the links above.