The Top 13 Indie PC Games of 2011

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Presented by our partner site Pixels or Death

The staff at Pixels or Death has been busy plumbing the depths of every Steam sale and arcane message board to bring you the best that the independent games world had to offer in 2011. Here’s what they found:

  1. LimboLimbo by Playdead – $9.99

    What Is It? An atomospheric side-scrolling platformer.

    Why You Should Care: If Super Mario Bros dropped out of college, started listening to goth music and writing angsty poetry, it would turn out a lot like Limbo. It provides a refreshing take on the stale 2-D platforming conventions. Tough (and scary!) bosses, emphasis on exploration, and a somber monochromatic art style drive a melancholy story that’s part Tim Burton and part Goethe. If you’ve had it up to here with happy-go-lucky talking mushrooms and want something with more substance, give Limbo a try – you won’t be disappointed.

  2. TerrariaTerraria by Re-Logic – $9.99

    What Is It? A 2D platformer with lots of player-determined creation and open-world adventuring

    Why You Should Care: A lot of games have sprouted up in the wake of Minecraft’s popularity. One of those games is Terraria, but it has the distinction of being the least Minecraftian (a real word, now) of them all. It includes some simple character customization, but the real stars are the procedurally generated worlds, the huge, ever-updating trove of loot, the hordes of enemies to bash and the 3 huge bosses to beat down. Terraria boasts no “real” story, but with this much content, you’ll find yourself content with making up your own.

  3. The Binding of IsaacThe Binding of Isaac (Edmund McMillen/Florian Himsl) – $4.99 ($5.98 with soundtrack)

    What Is It? A top-down dungeon crawling shooter with heavy roguelike elements.

    What You Should Care: Ashamed of neither its subject matter nor its difficulty, The Binding of Isaac is a throwback to the good ol’ days of classic 8-bit dungeon crawlers. Don’t let the sprite art fool you – this game is hard. Hectic shooter action, rooms full of grotesque monsters and permadeath add up to a game that will test the limits of your resolve as a gamer. On top of its addicting “one more try” gameplay, The Binding of Isaac is one hell of an atmospheric game, dripping with cute-but-disturbing art and darkly underscored by the sinister side of religious fundamentalism. For an extra $.99 you’ll get the soundtrack on Steam, which is worth the cost of admission by itself.

  4. BastionBastion by Supergiant Games – $14.99

    What Is It? An isometric action RPG narrated by someone straight out of Cormac McCarthy.

    Why You Should Care: Bastion is a beautiful game. Not just the graphics (though they are rather nice): the story, and that narrator – combined with a heartwrenching score – will have your emotions stirring more than It’s A Wonderful Life ever will, even if you hadn’t already seen it 45 times.

  5. With Fire and SwordMount and Blade: With Fire and Sword by SiCh Studio/Taleworlds – $14.99

    What Is It? A combat-heavy action RPG in an historical open-world sandbox.

    Why You Should Care: The most recent entry to the popular Mount and Blade series, With Fire and Sword reprises much of the combat and open-world exploration that made the series so popular – and introduces guns. The open-world sandbox rife with political intrigue is proof positive that Taleworlds can still successfully take a game based primarily around politics and make it interesting by letting you kill things while riding a horse.

  6. Dungeons of DredmorDungeons of Dredmor by Gaslamp Games, Inc. – $4.99

    What Is It? A dungeon-crawling roguelike featuring sardonic monsters, a bushy-eyedbrowed protagonist and permadeath.

    Why You Should Care: Dungeon of Dredmor brings the pain, but it has the sense of humor and light-heartedness required to keep you from going total insane. The pitch-perfect comedy, endless loot and insurmountable odds (whoever Dredmor is, he is an asshole) makes Dungeons of Dredmor capable of keeping you enraptured until you’ve seen “Congratulations! You have died.” roughly 6,000 times. Call it sadomasochism, but we can’t get enough of this painfully endearing gem.

  7. Space PiratesSpace Pirates and Zombies by MinMax Games LTD. – $14.99

    What Is It? An infectious 4x-flavored space shooter with RPG elements

    Why You Should Care: Tense combat defines the infectious S.P.A.Z. It plays like a like twin-stick shooter (think Geometry Wars) adapted to PC controls. Take these tightly-wound, veering-on-the-edge-of-chaotic mechanics and plug them into a sprawling sandbox universe filled with quests, mission and mining and you have a game that will keep you spazzing out throughout the holidays. Pun intended.

  8. Monday Night CombatMonday Night Combat by Uber Entertainment – $9.99

    What Is It? A lighthearted multi-moded 3rd person shooter

    Why You Should Care: Sometimes, you want to blow your friends to hell. Other times, you want to hang out with your dudes and defend some stuff. This is the dichotomy of our times – and Monday Night Combat solves it. Giving a fun, vibrant take on the modern third person shooter (it’s set in an imaginary, death-fueled TV game show!), this title gives you a choice between a blistering tower defense mode and the tried-and-true death match. Variety, after all, is the spice of life.

  9. Dungeon DefendersDungeon Defenders by Trendy Entertainment – $14.99

    What Is It? A frenetic, cutesy-fantasy tower-defense game that comes slathered in customization and progression features.

    Why You Should Care: It’s the co-op game of the year – for the blood- and camaraderie-hungry among you, look no further! Dungeon Defenders will have you killing a plethora of fantasy baddies by the boatload, as up to 3 of your friends cackle alongside you, bathed in carnage. Don’t forget the endlessly customizable characters, weapons and defenses!

  10. SpaceChemSpaceChem by Zachtronics Industries – $9.99

    What Is It? A protocol-based puzzle game where you create the protocols.

    Why You Should Care: SpaceChem puts you in control of a submolecular factory tasked with creating specific chemicals for profit. The objective word here is “control”. The constraints vary between levels, but you’re given a wide berth in which to assemble these molecules, and the cleverer you are about it, the more you profit. The most brilliant bit is that you can easily upload your submolecular machinations to the web and show how devilishly clever you are. Sounds nerdy, right? It is, but it’s also life-endingly fun. Trust us.

  11. Inside a Star-Filled SkyInside a Star-Filled Sky by Jason Rohrer – $7.99

    What is it? A 2D space shooter set in recursive open worlds by game auteur Jason Rohrer

    Why You Should Care: According to Jason Rohrer, Inside a Star-Filled Sky’s creator, you’d have to play the game for 2,000 years before you beat it. That’s a long time. You play as a randomly-generated creature in a similarly random environment. From there, you can shoot your way around. When you find an exit portal, you’re transported to a new level – where you’ll find that you’re now playing as a sprite shaped like the last level you were in. There’s no story but that doesn’t mean there’s no point: its turtles all the way down with this one.

  12. SanctumSANCTUM by Coffee Stain Studios – $9.99

    What Is It? A multiplayer first-person shooter tower defense game.

    Why You Should Care: Genre-mixing, while hip, cool, and reason enough to get excited about something, often ends in a spectacular mess of, well, genre-mixing. SANCTUM is one of those games that thankfully doesn’t end as such. While not perfect, SANCTUM is a fast, satisfying shooter woven tightly into a thoughtful (and not to mention difficult) tower defense game. Add to this a smooth multiplayer experience and a substantial serving of maps, guns, and towers and you’ve got a recipe for a manically addicting weekly gaming session with 3 of your best friends at an unbeatable price.

  13. MinecraftMinecraft by Mojang – $26.95

    What Is It? A virtual sandbox, with some more structure being added all the time.

    Why You Should Care: Notch and Mojang’s hulking Minecraft is the king of the indie world. And with it finally seeing an official release, we can add it to our list! The long and short of it is: if you haven’t played Minecraft, you need to. It’s a serene and relaxing experience that will light your brain on fire and burn as long as your imagination allows. For the uninformed, you harvest resources and build things. Anything. There’s weapons and monsters, too. It’s infinitely more than the sum of its parts. And, with more and more features being adding –like dragons and the looming Adventure Update – Minecraft is only getting better.

The fun doesn’t have to stop here! Visit http://pixelsordeath.com to get more insights, news, opinions and reviews on today’s games – alongside liberal servings of whiskey, ranting, Pokémon references and obscure strategy titles.

 

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