Remember like a decade ago, when it seemed like indie games weren’t indie games unless they were
self-indulgent tripe “unique experiences” that employed shallow “minimalistic” gameplay and shoehorned pretentious cliches into their freshmen-level storylines “expressed the artistic visions of their auteur creators in their groundbreaking narratives?”
Thank merciful heavens those days are (mostly) behind us. It seems as of the last couple of years, indie games have realized the novel concept that video games should have some sense of fun about them. Lo and behold, indie games have been all the better for it. Shocker, I know.
Yes, it seems like once indie games removed that giant stick out of their collective ass and stopped looking down their nose at other games, they actually started to deserve the praise that was thrown their way. The pompous self-insistence of the likes of Jonathan Blow and Phil Fish are now but a bad memory. Long live the Shovel Knights of the world.
In short, indie games are pretty great these days. 2018 was no exception, and saw some excellent indie titles. Which one was best?
I struggled between choosing Celeste or Deltarune: Chapter 1 as my best indie game of 2018. Deltarune is certainly shaping up to be a great follow-up to Undertale, but seeing as what we have of the game so far is just the first part of a game that may or may not be finished in the next few years, I decided to go with Celeste.
Celeste is a truly clever puzzle-platoformer that makes use of a few simple key mechanics: jump, dash, wall jump. It sounds simple, but like the best platformers, Celeste has so many creative ideas up its sleeve that these simplistic elements end up being the only tools it needs to build a great game.
Much like a certain plumber’s classic adventures, Celeste features some remarkably clever level design, with new ideas, twists and gimmicks added into the mix at every turn, which showcases the true depth of its seemingly simple design.
True, the storyline – though emotional – does feel a little disconnected from the game itself, both Celeste’s gameplay and narrative halves prove memorable. And the things this game has to say (mainly focused on anxiety disorders) are certainly more meaningful than the forced commentaries of the indie scene of yesteryear.
In a time when indie gaming has produced some all-time greats, Celeste proves to be one of the best of the lot.
Runner-up: Deltarune: Chapter 1
2014: Shovel Knight
2016: Stardew Valley