Most Excellent Free Indie Games: A Short List

Early days, yet. What do people want to read here? How about we try a list of some of my favorite free indie games from the last few years? Go try them! Go play! For Free!

Games With Thoughtful Musing

Every Day the Same Dream is a simple, lovely, Flash-based “art game” about the search for meaning in a monotone world. Mechanically, it functions as a simple adventure game in which player and character goals and methods are neatly matched. It’s a short game, likely no more than fifteen minutes of play time, and well worth it.

I don’t play as much Interactive Fiction (you know–text adventures) as I like, but I was delighted by Aisle–a text adventure that only allows a single command before the game ends, but manages to create an impressive spiderweb of stories and possibilities.

Games With Shooting Aliens

Spanish indie developer Locomalito’s Hydorah is likely the best side-scrolling space shooter I’ve ever played. It’s maddeningly difficult with a perfectly designed learning curve; definitely not for everyone, but it’s beautifully composed with a consistent weird space opera vision that comes through exceptionally well in the design, imagery, and music.

In Genetos, the player plays through different stages of top-down space shooter development in a surprisingly delightful and coherent package. To say more would spoil it.

Heriet’s Pararalyzer gets an honorable mention in this category–another excellent top-down space shooter.

Games I Couldn’t Quite Categorize

The Cat That Got The Milk is an arcade game with only two controls–Up and Down–and a 1970s-era Soviet cartoon aesthetic. Every few months I’ll load it up, play just a few minutes, and soak it all in.

The Flash platformer Time Fcuk is a well-executed puzzle game raised a few notches for its strange and disturbing atmospherics. One of the developers, Edmund McMillen, is better known for his work on Super Meat Boy and the Binding of Isaac.

Games Magazine-Type Games

This one’s a cheat, as it’s not exactly “from the last few years.” And yet…

Cliff Johnson created The Fool’s Errand, At The Carnival, and 3 In Three during the 1980s. These games deployed traditional puzzles (crosswords, puzzles, anagrams) in innovative ways impossible without a computer, and did it better than any games before or since. (Mostly–see below.) All three of these classics are available for free on Johnson’s website, though they may take a bit of work to run–instructions are at the site. 3 In Three is probably the best to start with, but The Fool’s Errand is just as excellent.

After ten years of development, Johnson recently released the sequel to The Fool’s Errand, The Fool and His Money. It was worth the wait, but it’s not free and thus not appropriate for this post. (Still, if you like the others, give him the money and give it a try!)