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Bonanzathon: my Indie recommendations

Malcolm Streitfeld

Anchor Staff Writer

As an avid, yet casual gamer, very difficult games with a unique core concept, or even just a unique “something” about them, are what I live for. Here are my nine favorite indie games so far.

  1. “Where the Water Tastes Like Wine”

“Where the Water Tastes Like Wine” begins when the player loses a card game against a wolfman. Now in his debt, you must travel across the Depression-era United States, collecting stories by meeting the people who are struggling to make a living and through chance encounters with others, like the Jersey Devil. You’ll spend many nights around a fire listening to a fellow traveler. The traveler will tell you what kind of story they’re in the mood for and you’ll have to guess which story best fits that criteria. Guess right to improve your bond with that person. A folksy soundtrack brings song and strife together in a heart wrenching experience.

2. “Chants of Senaar”

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“Chants of Senaar” puts the player in the shoes of a stranger visiting a Tower of Babel-like structure. All of the inhabitants speak in a language that you are unable to understand. As you journey through an Escher-esque city, you’ll have to gather the glyphs that make up this language from carvings and conversation and try to decipher their meanings. With luck, eventually you’ll solve the mystery of this civilization’s internal affairs.

3. “Genesis Noir”

What happens when you combine a noir mystery with the search for the meaning of life? You get “Genesis Noir.” An Art Deco style point and click adventure with a bopping jazz soundtrack, the game weaves together quantum physics, existential philosophy and a detective thriller into a narrative that keeps on singing until the show’s finally over. In the end, it teaches that anyone who wanders needs a tune to follow.

4. “Year Walk”

“Over the Garden Wall” crossed with “Silent Hill” is the best way of describing this haunting masterpiece. “Year Walk” takes the player on a walk through the forest on a winter night. Countless supernatural creatures are afoot, including the siren-like Huldra and the ever observant Brook Horse. Armed with nothing but your wits, you’ll have to think out of the box and make use of the objects scattered around the forest to discover these creatures one by one and survive.

5. “Bastion”

“Bastion” introduced me to my favorite game developer, Supergiant, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. In this game, a boy wakes up as the sole survivor of a calamity and embarks on an incredible quest to find sanctuary. Guided by a wonderful narrator, The Kid will have to come to terms with what he’s lost and accept that some things can’t be fully recovered or repaired if he wishes to truly move forwards. Bastion is a digital gem and its pantheon inspired me to create my own fictional gods.

6. “Hades”

“Hades” was the game that piqued my interest in Greek mythology. Supergiant’s depictions of the Olympians feel comfortably familiar yet original. Hades is a brutally difficult game, but one that rewards you for your struggles every time. The ability to mix and match the abilities of each god that's been called to assist you on your quest keeps each playthrough different from the last, so you never get bored.

7. “Hollow Knight”

This deep dive into a ruined empire is not for the faint-hearted. In the kingdom of Hallownest, the last remnants of insect-kind scrape together whatever they can, desperately trying to survive. Entering this wild den of troubles is a lone Knight. Armed with a nail, it sets out to uncover what really happened. An extremely tense and difficult game that will test your reflexes and reaction time every minute. Every area is filled with new lore about Hallownest and its inhabitants.

8. “Transistor”

A silent singer. A sword with a mind of its own. A city left empty aside from the robots still patrolling its streets. The only traces of humanity left are video recordings. Here, Supergiant pulled me in with a mechanic where the player has to pause the game, plan out their moves and unpause to execute said moves. That coupled with a tragic cyberpunk story, makes “Transistor” more than worth your while. “Transistor” will require great patience and persistence to truly master, but doing so is worth it in the long run.

9. “Pyre”

I never thought something that can be summed up as a “high fantasy basketball simulator” could make for an emotional and gripping experience. A team of wanderers sets out on a caravan ride through the land, competing in tournament matches. Throughout the game, interactions with your team members are encouraged, of which the player can switch out between matches and strategize. “Pyre” is easy to get into but tricky to master. Everyone you meet on your journey to become a champion will form a bond with you.

These games positively influenced me and served as inspirations for my own creative projects, but my words can only go so far in describing what makes each one utterly fantastic. To truly find out what I’m getting at, go experience all nine for yourselves. They’ll definitely be worth your while.


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