It seems that every time a new indie-title gets people excited it’s steeped in a ‘retro’ sensibility. Whether it’s recreating the visuals, sounds or gameplay of games we enjoyed before this wave of retro-inspired titles doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon – and why should it? Some of the best games of recent memory have taken inspiration from the past to craft something that is both ‘new’ and ‘old’ at the same time. And so, for today’s top 10 we’ll take a look at the best ‘retro-indie’ games to have come out in recent years.
10 – Cave Story
Let’s kick this list off with one of the most charming and still challenging games on this list – Cave Story. Oh sure, on the surface trying to save a race of bunny people from the evil Doctor might seem like a lighthearted affair but when you factor in the tough as nails gameplay and the game’s novel ‘level down’ system, you’re left with a pretty demanding but rewarding adventure. Cave Story also holds a special place in my heart as it’s the first ‘indie’ game I ever played – so thanks Cave Story for introducing me to the wonders of indie-gaming!
9 – Retro City Rampage
If Grand Theft Auto was an NES game, it would probably be a lot like Retro City Rampage. Featuring loads of weapons to blow stuff up with, cars to steal and mayhem to commit, this is the game to play if you want to rampage through an 8-bit metropolis. Certain versions of the game even feature the option to play in a mode that almost perfectly emulates the NES’ hardware which is a pretty neat feature in it’s own right.
8 – Super Meat Boy
Retro games often have a reputation as being too difficult for modern gaming sensibilities – well they were never this friggin’ hard! Super Meat Boy is a game that demands perfection and will punish you for the slightest mistake but yet, keeps you coming back for more thanks to it’s fast-paced gameplay and the feeling of being ‘almost there’ and wanting to overcome the challenge. Plus, I never thought I would feel a block of ground beef was cute but here we are.
7 – BIT.TRIP: Beat
Honestly I was torn as to which BIT.TRIP game to include on this list but chose Beat for one simple reason – it’s inspiration is the grand-daddy of gaming and it doesn’t get more retro than that. With it’s Atari 2600-esque presentation and trippy (eh? eh!?) visuals this is a game that not only takes it’s inspiration from the past but embraces it. I’ve played through BIT.TRIP: Beat a few times now and with each playthrough I earn a deeper appreciation of one of the game’s elements, whether it be the soundtrack, visuals or the story (that barely makes any sense) and I don’t expect that to stop any time soon.
6 – Freedom Planet
While many indie games take their inspiration from older Nintendo titles, Freedom Planet when to the blue side and chose Sonic the Hedgehog for it’s homage. Featuring all the speed and exploration that Sega’s classics were known for, Freedom Planet also added in a deep narrative that made you actually care about the characters and gameplay that is both tight and controls well but free flowing allowing for a wide range of motion. Not many people checked this game out when it released last year which is a shame as Freedom Planet is in many ways better than the games that inspired it.
5 – Fez
Say what you will about it’s creator but Fez is still a classic game that fans of puzzlers and retro games need to check out. With some of the most devious brain scratchers around Fez is the type of game where ‘one more level’ quickly turns into ‘one more hour’ and then well you’re up all night trying to conquer one of the game’s tricky towers. So maybe we’ll never get to play Fez 2 but at least the original was just so darn good.
4 – Spelunky
Exploring deep, dark caves has never been so fun. Spelunky draws many of it’s inspirations from the aptly named Spelunker but also from modern dungeon crawlers and roguelikes which gives the game a modern feel while retaining it’s retro aesthetic. And while this aesthetic was toned slightly back for the HD upgrade the game is still a blast to play and one that retro-gaming fans need to check out.
3 – Terraria
Once derided as ‘another Minecraft clone’ Terraria is anything but and can easily stand on it’s own in the ‘survival-crafting’ sub-genre. With it’s procedurally generated worlds every adventure into Terraria is a unique quest that you decide the outcome of. To be fair, I never really got into the ‘make your own’ games like Minecraft, but Terraria stuck with me a bit longer than most and just writing this makes me want to go back to my world… be right back.
2 – Shovel Knight
I don’t remember the last time an indie-game generated so much hype. Shovel Knight from Yacht Club Games was seen as the second coming of the 2D action/adventure genre by man who were pining for a new Mega Man or Zelda II style quest and when it released it was definitely worth the wait. Garnering huge amounts of praise and accolades upon it’s release cemented the game as an instant classic and Yacht Club has promised that we haven’t seen the last of Shovel Knight. Here’s hoping we won’t have to wait much longer.
1 – Axiom Verge
If it wasn’t clear from my review from earlier this week – I love this game. Everything from the gameplay, graphics, music and the feel just scream ‘retro’ but with enough modern sensibilities to feel new and fresh. So thank you for reading this top 10, I really appreciate it, but please go play this game right now – you won’t regret it.
What’s your favorite retro-indie game? Let us know in the comments below!