The Best of the Underground: Checking out this year’s Indie GOTY candidates

As the year draws to a close the discussion of best games is on the minds of most gamers. One of the most talked about categories is always best indie game. At this year’s Game Awards 2016 five titles were nominated. Each of these titles proved extremely popular and has cultivated large followings of fans. So let’s check out who the best of the best is from the indies in 2016.


First up on the list is Firewatch from Campo Santo. Firewatch is a first person adventure mystery game. The story is centered on a Shoshone National Forest Fire lookout named Henry. The story begins shortly after the Yellowstone fires of 1988, as a month into his new job, Henry and his supervisor Delilah begin to notice a number of strange occurrences. The game is filled with mystery and intrigue, which work hand in hand with the games delightful visuals. The game received overall praise, receiving nominations for best narrative, best art direction, two best performance nominations, and of course best independent game. If great story telling is what you are interested in Firewatch might be exactly what you’re looking for.

Hyper Light Drifter

Next is pixel art action-RPG Hyper Light Drifter from Heart Machine. Originally began as a Kickstarter project, Hyper Light Drifter has found great acclaim since its initial release in March. The game has you taking the role of the drifter, a character that uses long forgotten technology by those who live in the game’s world while suffering from an unknown illness. The gameplay was very much inspired by titles like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Diablo, the action is challenging and thought-provoking making you think out your plan of attack. The game also found inspiration from the SNES, with the lack of spoken dialogue and the emphasis on music and visuals. The game was also very much inspired by its key developer Alex Preston who has suffered most of his life with congenital heart disease, and wanted something that could express the suffering of life altering issues. The game was well received, being nominated for best action adventure game alongside indie game of the year.

Stardew Valley

After that is Stardew Valley from ConcernedApe/Chucklefish Games. A game inspired by Harvest Moon, Stardew Valley is a farming and life simulator that has the player taking on the role of a character who becomes tired of their dreary city life and takes over their grandfather’s dilapidated farm. The game centers around managing time and energy as you build and tend to crops, raise livestock, mine, and even get married all the while working to expand the farm. The game is focused on working through four 28 day months each one representing one of the seasons, each of these forcing you to change how you work. The game has no deadline so you are able to play as long as you want. The game found great success selling over a million copies total and being nominated for independent game of the year. If you happened to be missing Harvest Moon and haven’t picked up this game what are you waiting for?

The Witness

Next on the list is Thelka, Inc.’s The Witness. The game is a 3d first-person puzzle adventure title based on nonverbal communication. The game has you taking on the role of an unnamed character exploring an island filled with natural and man-made structures. There are more than 650 puzzles to complete, though they don’t have to be done to finish the game, across 11 sections arranged around a mountain. All puzzles are based on a mechanic of tracing a path through a maze-like route from a starting point to a goal point. It is not always as simple as finding one way to get to the goal but the best way. These puzzles become more and more complicated as the game moves forward challenging the player continuously across the multi-hour journey. The Witness received critical acclaim for its beauty, power, and intrigue thus earning it a nomination for independent GOTY.


Last but certainly not least is Inside from PlayDead the makers of Limbo. Inside is a 2.5d puzzle-platformer, where the player controls a young boy in a dystopic world. The game itself is mostly silent with only the visuals and a few musical cues to give insight into the world. The game is not only deep and thought-provoking but challenging and engrossing. The game has received great acclaim being nominated for overall game of the year, best narrative, best art direction (which it would win), best sound design, and of course the independent game of the year which it would not only receive a nomination but victory in as well. Inside is a deep and challenging title that earns its spot as Indie game of the year.

By Chris Ruskin

Chris Ruskin
Chris Ruskin
Chris is an aspiring writer looking to make a name for himself with the evenntual goal of writing and directing his own content. He has been playing video games all of his life with his favorite games of all time being Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, The Last of Us, and the Mass Effect Trilogy. Other than video games, Chris is an avid sports fan, his favorite teams being the New Orleans Saints, Detroit Red Wings, Boston Celtics, and Pittsburgh Pirates. He also enjoys anime and spends a good portion of his free time writing, thinking, and reading.