Good things come in small packages
I love indie games. I played from time to time back when Flash game sites were still hip, but two games that really got me into them were Tower of Heaven and Cave Story. Yes, I like platformers, why do you ask?
As game budgets balloon to reach higher graphical fidelity and larger game worlds, and after a year with a lot of big games I loved, my mind keeps going back to indies. Their riskier approach to gameplay and storytelling, their charming rough edges, their quirky soundtracks. I thought it would be interesting to ask the community about its favorite indie games for this special edition of Destructoid Draws.
The concept is the same as always, a month was given to the community to send me drawings related to the prompt alongside with a short explanation of their choice. Without further ado, let’s check out these tributes to smaller games with big hearts.
“VA-11 HALL-A is a game I was interested in as soon as I found out about it. The “comfiness” of the original demo helped me through a very, very rough time in my life. I followed all news about the game for years and pre-ordered it several months early.
What I got, in the end, was exactly what I wanted and more. Part of me wants a sequel, and part of me just wants it to stay its own little slice of Nordic heaven.”
“Ever since I learned some money making exploits in Fable, I’ve always wanted to play a merchant in an open world RPG. It seemed like a fun idea: Go on an adventure to deliver goods, buy stuff for cheap, rip people off, exploit disasters for your own profit, hire those annoying adventurers as cheap labor to explore some dungeons. If they die, great! If they live, they better bring back something valuable. I guess buying that sword in the window is okay too.
Get rich, bankrupt your competition, buy them and own every store in the city! Then you buy and rent out all residential homes, start taking over neighboring cities, build an army. Congrats, you own an empire!
Sounds like a lot of fun, right? Recettear is… Well, half those things, but it’s just as fun!
Fun Fact: This game led me to find VA-11 HALL-A at PAX East 2015! Someone at Ysbryd Games’ booth actually complimented on my Recettear shirt (That I had bought only a day prior) and that kept me at the booth long enough to see the original VA-11 HALL-A demo!”
“Night in the Woods was my personal game of the year in 2017. It’s not for everybody, but I personally connected to it. I’ve never played anything this relatable before. The game aims for a 20-something demographic and hits on coming-of-age themes that I think are often overlooked.
Night in the Woods really affected me, and I can’t wait to play the enhanced edition and see how things play out when I make different choices this time!”
“My love for horror got me into Fatal Frame. A little late, however, as I was used to shooting and bashing enemies in Resident Evil or Silent Hill. The idea of dealing with ghosts with a camera seemed rather silly to me. As my horror backlog started to diminish and I got myself a Wii I decided to try the Fatal Frame 2 remake and was hooked!
DreadOut is a really inspired homage to Fatal Frame, that shines through its simplicity if you horror fans give it a chance. Likable characters, amazingly spooky ambiance and the welcome variation of Indonesian folklore make it a refreshing entry in the survival horror genre. Really wish they can further develop these ideas with a console version someday!”
“Considering how good the game is I’m surprised to see that Castle in the Darkness has very little exposure or online presence. There is no official Wikipedia page and there doesn’t seem to be any other page dedicated to the game beyond the most basic information. I was trying to find the name of the boss I drew and I couldn’t find it, so I’m going to call it Pyramid Gut.
I ended up picking up the game after watching a streamer play it. I’m always looking out for games that are similar to Cave Story and Castle in the Darkness fits that criteria quite nicely. Lots of bosses, multiple weapons, and a decent story presented with a pleasing aesthetic. I couldn’t ask for much more.”
A Hat in Time is obscenely cute. It’s a delightful exploration platformer that feels straight out of the GameCube era. It’s basically what would happen if you mashed Paper Mario and Super Mario Sunshine together and took out the F.L.U.D.D. bits. And the main character, Hat Kid, is the certified most adorable character in video games. It’s no mystery that AHiT became my favorite indie game since Cave Story.
So, why does she have a gun here? Well, Gears of Breakfast made a promise they have to keep.
if we ever make A Hat in Time 2 we’ll give Hat Kid a real gun and there’s nothing you can do to stop us
— A HAT IN TIME | Gears for Breakfast (@HatInTime) January 5, 2018
“Thomas Was Alone is about as mechanically deep as a roadside puddle after a rainstorm, but it’s one of the most beautiful and thought-provoking puddles that I’ve ever seen.
It takes this misfit crew of AIs, each with their own strength and weaknesses both physical and emotional, and from it crafts a beautiful story about the power of friendship, self-identity, and overcoming obstacles in life.
Mike Bithell instantly catapulted himself into my realm of favorite small-scale developers with this short little gem and I continue to love it even years later.”
“Why I like The Ship…
Throwing a wallet bomb at the exit from the prison to catch the target after they’re freed. Shooting the target through the prison’s windows. Goading someone to attack you in sight of a guard or a security camera, which means they go to prison. Trying to act inconspicuously as you sneak closer to your target.
Just beaning them with a rolling pin or a kettle.”
“Darkest Dungeon does a lot for me. Although the difficulty has kept me from really diving into it, I love the occult theme of the game and the art. But by far the most enjoyable part of the game are the characters.
Player characters are creative and just look bad ass overall. Although I’m quite fond of the Plague Doctor, my favorite would have to be the Hellion. I can only assume I have a thing for powerful women.”
“Muscle Princess isn’t a game. It’s an experience. It’s love, loss, anger, violence, lies, and war. It will make you feel. It will turn you into pure feeling. There’s no other game like it.
This is Eva. She’s very strong. I didn’t draw her as strong as she really is because her true strength is too much to bear. I stripped layers of muscle and vengeance from her skeleton until only this remained. I’m a very good artist, so that should tell you something about her fortitude as a woman of mass.
If she had a baby, she would just squat, go “Oof,” and there it would be on the ground doing push-ups.
I kind of wish I drew that, now.”
“Dust wasn’t exactly the first ‘indie’ title I encountered, nor can I guarantee it’s my all-time favorite of the bunch, but it absolutely signifies my gradual transition from casual indie onlooker to an eager indie devotee. Savoring it helped serve to nudge me toward more proactively seeking out sterling indie gemstones to purchase and enjoy.
As for the game itself, I certainly do relish it. Ohh yes. Dust‘s fluid swordplay and wildly fun aerial maneuvers, combined with Fidget’s bombastic magical annihilation, have carried me through playthroughs of this action-platformer darling again and again. Oh, and folks – *don’t* live like Fidget here: Join the Stupid Hat Club. ;]”
“When I played the first Shantae, I wasn’t in love with it, the same way most people skipped its initial release. It was a clunky little platformer that set out to do big things as one of the last GBC games. Years later I rediscovered the franchise through an interview with Matt Bozon which included unique, cuter artwork. A few years later, the first sequel dubbed Risky’s Revenge launched with all sorts of new mechanics and upgrades. It wasn’t perfect, but it was exactly the second wind the series needed, eventually leading to the masterful Pirate’s Curse and the most recent Half-Genie Hero.
With each game the gameplay has been improved upon, breathing more and more life into this wonderful character and her island home. Now four installments strong, this series has a bright future ahead and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy whatever comes next just as much as I’m sure I will!”
“Shovel Knight rocks! He’s probably the silliest idea for a video game character that I can think of, and I love how they play it completely seriously in the game. It’s ridiculous and I love it.
Specter Knight‘s campaign came out most recently, so I wanted to include him as well. He has a scythe. Those are cool.”
“A kid with no skin is off to save his bandage girlfriend from an evil fetus in a robot suit.
What is there not to love about Super Meat Boy?
The game itself is brutally difficult at times but the tight controls never made it feel cheap or janky. So much thought and effort were put into the overall design of the game too. I loved that when you died you instantly popped up at the start of the stage, ready to try again. Once that hell beast of a level was finished you had the joy of watching all of your attempts play out in front of you in one massive suicidal meat massacre.
Each new world greeted you with a Meat Boy rendition of a classic game of yesteryear like Street Fighter 2, Castlevania or Mega Man 2. Everything about the game was orchestrated incredibly well, all the way down to the soundtrack (especially the original release’s). Unlockables, Hell mode, Head crabs and Castle Crashers; Super Meat Boy has everything!”
“This is the bloody girl from Sexy Brutale. The game is absolutely lovely and I figured she’d be fun to draw.
I’m afraid to say anything else because it’s easily spoiled.”
“Here we see poor Wilson, once a brilliant scientist, struggling to survive in the harsh wilderness.
Don’t Starve is the only survival game I like. It streamlines and simplifies every action while maintaining enough depth that every single run leads to different results. It’s the kind of game where you’ll continue to learn neat little tricks even way after you think you’ve mastered it, and it pulls it off in a way that most games wouldn’t be able to without feeling bloated.
Combined with the game’s great style and personality, there isn’t much not to love here.”
“Hollow Knight‘s visual style is immediately eye-catching. Part of it comes from the adorable bug people, part of it from how good the environments/enemies look in general.
It manages to feel like a Dark Souls game in terms of atmosphere and world despite its adorable main character, while still being a great Metroidvania.
Is it perfect? No, it has problems to be sure, and it has frustrated me more than a bit here or there. But ultimately I rather enjoy it and its lovely atmosphere supported by nice sound design. Its main character is memorable while having a simple design — which meant that drawing him was feasible.”
[Editor’s note: The “it’s like Dark Souls” comparison is not my fault!!!]
“I like [Cuphead]’s style.”
Perro is a man of few words.
That’s it for this edition of Destructoid Draws! Any indie game you feel particularly smitten for? Feel free to drop your own creations in the comments down below. I’m always interested in new indie recommendations.