Indie video games have come a long way. The late 2000s saw independent developers really start booming, with many a critical darling being released. That trend continues today, though I personally would argue the difference between then and now is that the indie games of today warrant the praise they receive. Abandoning the forced “arthouse” attempts of the late 2000s, indie games have more readily embraced themselves as video games, and have begun to really flourish because of it.
Though 2017 wasn’t quite the highpoint for indie gaming as some other recent years (not every year can boast a Shovel Knight or Undertale), it still provided some stellar indie experiences.
In all honesty, this award was a toss up between Cuphead and Hollow Knight. But in the case of the latter, I have been unable to finish the game, due to my computer crapping out and slowing down whenever I get to a boss fight, so it looks like I need to wait for a new computer or the Switch version to be released before I can play it to its fullest. So it looks like Cuphead wins by default.
With that said, it doesn’t take anything away from Cuphead’s quality. Sure, Cuphead is far from perfect (some of the bosses feel a little cheap, and the run-n-gun platforming stages are non-entities), but what Cuphead does well, it does very well.
Of course, the hand-drawn, 1930s cartoon visuals are what immediately gets your attention and, my god, are they beautiful. But the gameplay is also fine-tuned and addictive, and as difficult as it can get, Cuphead keeps drawing you back in.
It may not be perfect, but Cuphead is a charmer all its own.
Runner-up: Hollow Knight