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Darkside Detective,gaming

The best indie games of 2017

This is always a hard list to write. With the sheer amount of indie games released on a daily basis, it’s humanly impossible to get your hands on all of them, let alone play them! Fortunately, fuelled by my borderline-ludicrous obsession with indie games, I’ve managed to cross a good few from my backlog.

As this year draws closer to its end, bidding its final farewell, it is time to look back and celebrate our beloved industry and the breathtaking and captivating titles it has birthed.

Each game on this list deserves it place and I’ll do my best to present my case so that you can see the reasoning behind my decision. But as usual, this is not a final say on the matter and we would to hear your thoughts.

What do you think are the best indie games of 2017?

The below titles are listed in no particular order.

Observer

observer

What’s it about?

In Observer (review) we are transported far into a neon-drenched future, to a dark and dystopian cyberpunk Poland that is recovering from war and the ‘Nanophage’, a ‘digital plague’ that killed thousands of people with implanted technological devices.

You take on the role of Daniel Lazarski (voiced by Rutger Hauer), an ‘Observer’ unit of the corporate-funded police force who is permitted and capable of interacting with the memories of other individuals via their neural implants.

The catalyst for the story is a distressing phone call from your estranged son, which leads you to the scene of a gruesome murder in one of the dodgiest apartment blocks in the city. While investigating the crime scene, the building goes full lock-down, trapping you inside and forcing you to uncover a dark and unsettling mystery.

Why is it on this list?

Observer is one of the most unique and breathtaking narrative-driven video games you can experience. Hidden beneath its layers of gloom and grime, we find a profound philosophical exploration of what it means to be human. It pushes the boundaries of what a video game can be, providing us with one of the most pleasingly bizarre and thought-provoking digital adventures out there.

Night in the Woods

night in the woods

What’s it about?

In Night in the Woods (review) you take on the role of recent-college dropout, Mae Borowski. She has just returned home to the small mining town of Possum Springs, the kind of place where everybody knows everybody and every deed, be it good or bad, is never forgotten.

But Possum Springs has changed. All your friends have gone on to get jobs and are dealing with real-life struggles, while you are right back where you started: depressed, unemployed, and living with your parents.

Through the duration of the game, you will rekindle old friendships, alienate old flames, get the band back together, and shoplift everything from pastries to fashion accessories. But as you struggle to get your shit together, you’ll find yourself gradually uncovering one of Possum Springs’ oldest and darkest secrets.

Why is it on this list?

Where most games focus on empowerment and escapism from reality, Night in the Woods pits you against all the hopelessness and insecurities of real life. For a game that doesn’t boast a single
human character, Night in the Woods has one of the most human and relatable stories I’ve experienced.

Beyond the narrative, the game also has a captivating atmosphere. From the mesmerising scores to the gorgeous minimalistic art, Night in the Woods has more personality and charm than the last few years of AAA-titles combined.

Darkside Detective

thedarksidedetective 2017-08-03 14-45-15-95

What’s it about?

In Darkside Detective (review) we follow the adventures of the sharp-witted Detective McQueen and the utterly clueless Officer Dooley. They are the only two members of the severely under-funded and under-appreciated ‘Darkside Division’, the official Twin Falls paranormal investigation department.

We experience this misfit duo’s adventures through a series of six episodes, each presented as a different case file (more to come soon according to their lively Twitter page). From the inexplicable disappearance of a young girl to the fusion of the material and spirit realms, Darkside Detective provides you with a string of mysterious and fascinating cases to solve.

Why is it on this list?

Darkside Detective sports all the off-beat qualities that the old adventure games are so well-known known for: witty dialogue, entertaining puzzles, atmospheric scores, and charming artwork.

The episodic format sets it apart though, allowing you to experience it in small satisfying portions compared to usual five-course saga of your standard point and click adventure.

But Darkside Detective‘s winning ingredient, to me at least, was the dim-witted Officer Dooley and his hilarious back-and-forths with Detective McQueen. It’s been a while since I’ve encountered such a well-written character and was one of the main reasons that made be come back for more.

Tacoma

tacoma

What’s it about?

Brought to us by the creators of Gone Home, Tacoma (review) doesn’t only take us far into the future, the year 2088, but far into the distant reaches of space on-board the Tacoma Lunar Station. The game tells the story of the lunar station’s crew in the face of an unknown calamity.

We experience these series of events as Amitjyoti Ferrier a.k.a. Amy, but only a few days after they transpired. See, Amy has been contracted by the Venturis Corporation, the owners of Tacoma, to retrieve AR (augmented reality) recordings from the ship’s AI with the aim of learning what events led to the story’s surprising conclusion.

Although the disaster plays a big role in the unfolding of events, it is the crew and their intertwining relationships that take the spotlight in this narrative. The disaster is merely a window that allows us to see a deeper and more ingenuous side of the various crew-members.

Why is it on this list?

Tacoma takes a novel approach to the walking simulator, a genre popularised by the dev’s previous title, Gone Home. While it still banks on our almost insatiable fascination with rifling through other people’s personal spaces, it further enhances that curiosity by granting us, via the AR recording, a candid look into the personal dialogues and monologues of the various crew members.

Once we look beyond these surface elements though, Tacoma truly becomes alive. For most of the game, you will explore stimulating concept such as the benefits and dangers of AI, and how humans come together in times of adversity.

Bucket Detective

bucket detective

What’s it about?

In the Bucket Detective (review), we step into the shoes of the 41-year-old David Davids, an absolute scumbag of a man. David is trying to write a blockbuster novel “because famous book make it impossible for girls to resist sex” but unfortunately, as you can tell by that sentence, David is basically illiterate.

David ends up striking a deal with a rather sinister cult, who promises him eternal glory if can help them finish their ritual. To do so, David will have to complete a series of incredibly bizarre puzzles, which, in certain cases, might require him to sacrifice a limb or four.

Why is it on this list?

Unconventionality, pure unfiltered unconventionality. Bucket Detective provides us with the most unusual video game protagonists in one of the most absurd narratives conceivable, an experience that’s distinctiveness would be hard to match.

It challenges our established notions of gameplay and often uses it against us. Following the “go here, do this” objectives rarely ends up as you would expect, and I’m sure poor David feels the same way. But it’s okay, you don’t have to care. David is an asshole, remember.

There are also multiple endings to discover, each one providing you with a hilariously dark cut scene where we can see what David’s immoral shenanigans have caused him. If you’re looking for something different, I can’t think it anything better than Bucket Detective.

Honourable Mentions

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Thimbleweed Park

Cuphead

Rain World

Frostrune

Author Bio

Wiehahn Diederichs: Columnist
Capetonian freelance writer and photographer. Wiehahn is a lover of stories in all their forms, and has been an avid gamer since he took his first breath. If he is not working or gaming, he either pours his creative energy into his passion for music or plays foosball in some... More