There are a great many games coming out in 2014 that are making my happy bits tingle with anticipation. Which happy bits, you ask? No, don’t. Don’t ask.
From piloting giant robots in Titanfall to hacking power stations in Watch Dogs to visiting strange new worlds in Destiny, this is going to be a year of very big games made by very large studios. And that’s not a bad thing.
A bad thing would be overlooking the little guys. Some of my favourite games of last year – including Papers, Please and Gone Home – were titles made by innovative independent studios on small budgets. And thanks to the proliferation of indie-friendly game-making tools, as well as better support from publishers and console-makers for these titles, this year is going to be awash in smaller, more creative games. I. Cannot. Wait.
Picking just a handful of indie games to watch for in 2014 is difficult as hell – if you really want to get an idea of the scope of the independent game scene, check out Indie Statik’s top 100 (!) most anticipated indies of this year. And even that’s not a complete list.
But to at least prime the pump, here are a half-dozen upcoming indie games that deserve your attention just as much as the next blockbuster franchise. When the time comes, take a chance. You might be rewarded with tingly bits of your own.
Below (Capybara Games)
Talk about faith: I know very little about Below – the gang at Toronto-based Capybara Games, makes of Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP, are keeping specifics under wraps – other than it involves exploration and survival. But the beautiful art style and musician Jim Guthrie’s score are all I need to be fully on board. (TBA 2014, for Xbox One)
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (The Chinese Room)
The developers of the terrifying Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs and the polarizing Dear Esther are behind this story-driven adventure, a spiritual successor to Dear Esther that will feature much more interaction with its visually stunning game world. (TBA 2014, for PS4)
Octodad: Dadliest Catch (Young Horses)
Not being able to properly control a character in a video game is usually a cause for controller-hurling frustration. But the titular star of Octodad is all about awkwardness – the challenge comes from trying to master his flailing tentacles to accomplish simple tasks, like opening a door or putting on a bow tie. Charming and hilarious. (Spring 2014, for PS4)
I’m a sucker for anything with a straight-faced cyberpunk vibe, and the way the folks behind this Kickstarter success are fusing a fully fleshed-out Neuromancer-style world with side-scrolling stealth and combat is as intriguing as heck. (June 2014, for PC, Mac, Linux)
Always Sometimes Monsters (Vagabond Dog)
Full disclosure: I know the dudes behind this made-in-Toronto game, built with off-the-shelf RPG-creation software supplemented with tons of original content. But having played a chunk of it and seen how it messes with our ideas of decision-making in video games, I’m keen – maybe a little apprehensive – to behold the final product. (Spring 2014, for PC)
Routine (Lunar Software)
No extra lives, no game saves, no heads-up display. Just a creepy abandoned moon base (situated in an odd alternate 1980s) that must be explored. I love the idea of stripping away the elements that remind us we’re playing a game, while upping the risk of irreversible death. And it’ll support the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. Oh yes. (TBA 2014, for PC)