Elemental Challenge Day Twenty-Seven: Indie



Five days to go, NPCs, till the end of the Elemental Challenge!

Next, tie up your man-buns, bust out the Beatles on vinyl, fasten the brass fittings on your leatherbound book-bag, order your favorite mocha-nilla-turtle-deep-fried-non-fat-soy-almond americano, and crochet up your hemp-sewn smocks because it’s time to take on the hipster scene of video gaming: Indie games! Indies (short for “independent”) aren’t defined as a genre but they’re categorized and classified by the characteristics of being developed by small studios running on lower budgets. Typically, they have greater focus on single features because of this and they don’t usually tend to be these huge, sprawling open-world adventures. Another trend in indie games, which I love, is their fondness for pixel art. Indies are what games would be like if they still developed them for the Super Nintendo, and the like.

There are some really great diamonds in the rough, and these are some of our favorites. I’m sure you’ve heard of them.




FF3-NES-Summoner2.png  The Green Screen Mage

Undertale isn’t just my favorite Indie game, but it’s my all time favorite game! It is coming to the PS4 soon and I can’t wait! It’s the friendly RPG were nobody has to die! You make monster friends/or enemies, pet doggos/or kill them, make bone puns/or not, and dance with a crazy robot/or duel. It’s such a fun interactive game.



blackmage  The Black Humor Mage

Even though Phil Fish is kind of a weird guy, I love FEZ anyway. It was one of the first indie games I’ve played, and it is still one of the most innovative and fun indie games I’ve played. It got me into more indie type games too.



mystic_knight1 The Midnight Mystic Mage (Sublime Reviews)

Stardew Valley. This has become one of my favorite games of all time in the past year. There is so much to do and it really takes the Harvest Moon type of games and expands on them in an amazing way. A one man development team of Eric Barone / Concerned Ape, makes this an obvious choice for my pick for top Indie game, it really is quite the accomplishment and such an addicting game. (Honorable Mentions – Freedom Planet, Fez, Minecraft)



spoonybardmageright.jpg  The Spoony Bard Mage (Nerd Speaker)

Shovel Knight. Dun dun duuuuun. Da dun dun duuuuun. Da da dun dun dun dun, dun dun dun… da da duuuun dun dun. Daaaa dun dun!



finalfourteenthmage  The Final Fourteenth Mage (Cilla vs. Games)

VVVVVV is one of the first indie games I bought and played on Steam. It was recommended to me by a friend and I bought it on a whim as it was cheap. It was so much fun. The game itself is charming as you set out to rescue all of your crew members. I really like to support games where they are created by one person or a small group of people. Designing a game is no easy feat and they deserve the recognition.



HandheldMage1  The Hopeful Handheld Mage (Retro Redress)

Hotline Miami (Steam). I’m not 100% sure if Hotline Miami is an indie game. I’m frankly not sure what Hotline Miami is. It’s like the child of Gauntlet and Smash TV, if it was raised on video nasties. The atmosphere is disturbing (the music in particular is awesome) yet you can play it for hours on end. Part of that is due to the excellent action, both violent yet well thought out. The other part is Hotline Miami’s greatest trick – you respawn instantly after death. That’s right, there is no chance to stop and consider if you want to keep playing. You just keep playing…

Hotline Miami PC.jpg


EKkbAqWy  The Brave Blue Mage (924COLLECTIVE)

Card Hunter by Blue Manchu combines table top gaming, tactics, & collectible cards to create a fantastic browser game. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, with a casual episode based quests, with additional content regularly added. Playing as Gary a fledgling gamemaster with older brother Melvin’s supervision. Creating characters, & equipping armor & weapons to make powerful decks in this turn based hybrid game. Props to Chey for creating this memorable indie.

header (1).jpg


Kx18GL1dNEW  The Dapper Zaffre Mage (Save File 02)

Oh man, did I spend a lot of time on Liero– any computer I had access to that was capable of running it had a copy of Liero. Even computers that couldn’t run it had a copy of it, just in case they ever changed their mind. And then I found LieroX a year later, which was basically Liero but now with custom weapon packs, maps, skins, and online play. Ir is pretty much Real-Time Worms, and just as much fun, too. The user-made content was plentiful and great, and I can still remember my favorite weapon mod, the ‘8-Bit’ pack, which incorporated about 30 different NES-era sprites into usable weapons. I’m not sure if the online scene is really around anymore, or if the project is even still in progress.



nostalgiamage  The Over-Caffeinated Nostalgia Mage (Nostalgia Trigger)

Indie games managed to evade me for some time, the primary reason behind this being that I generally avoid buying digital games, which is the typical method of distribution for indie games. That all changed when Shovel Knight busted on the scene! I love the 8-bit aesthetic that has become commonplace in indie games, and I like to credit Shovel Knight with a lot of that inspiration. This game showed that a simple 2D platformer could be dialed up in terms of difficulty to appeal to an older crowd who grew up playing very difficult platformers, whereas modern games tend to be easy to appease a younger, less patient crowd.

Yacht Club Games has also done the fans a great service by releasing to them all of the DLC packs completely free for anyone who bought the game before the final expansion was released. They’re the good guys in an industry that tends to be a little checkered!



  The Rage Mage

What do you do when the insulin runs out, also known as A Boy and His Blob. This NES farce was created by a single male whose diet consisted entirely of cheese. It’s the worst of what indie games can be: torturous trial and error, unfair difficulty, stupid puzzle solutions, demanding that players step into the sadistic mind of its creator.



rmage2.jpg  The Well-Red Mage

There are so many incredible indie games out there, and I’ve begun to become convinced that indie games are saving the gaming industry. Because they come from smaller studios and developers, and there’s less cash involved, there’s much more room for creativity compared to the cut-and-paste AAA category. That’s not to say there aren’t indie clones, because there are, but the indie market is large enough to produce vast swaths of games that are quality and other games which aren’t, rather than rely on a few huge releases each year. Indie games are much kinder on my wallet and if I end up hating one, I don’t feel too bad about losing out on $5 to $25, compared to dropping $60 on a traitorous piece of crap like Final Fantasy XV.

With all that said, indie games are still largely new to me. They represent some of my earliest steps out of retro gaming into modern gaming. They’re one of the big reasons why I bought a Switch day one. Nindies! I’m more than happy to see an eShop full of so many indie titles! But how to choose between them. I’ve loved BoundShovel KnightTerrariaStardew ValleyAbzû, the thatgamecompany trilogy: flOwFlowerJourney, and then DownwellGrow Home, and the influential, cinematic sci-fi masterpiece Another World, but ultimately I’m going to name Hyper Light Drifter as my favorite indie game.

Sure it bridges into hipster territory, but beyond the aesthetics, the addicting, fast-paced gameplay, the mysterious, dialogue-less world, the unforgettable, acid-tone visuals charred into my memory, there’s the fact that HLD’s creator made this game as a kind of allegory/metaphor for his personal health issues. As someone who’s struggled with health issues for most of my life (I have only one kidney), this resonated with me and the vision of the ailing Drifter is one I doubt will fade from me too easily. If you haven’t played Hyper Light Drifter, you should. It’s truly unique.

WELL JUST KIDDING! I actually named Hyper Light Drifter as my favorite Hack n’ Slash game! So given the rules of this Challenge of not naming the same game twice as a favorite, I’m going to go with Another World/Out of this World, the game that influenced creators for years to come. It plays out remarkably well and it feels so cinematic for its age!

Another World



What are some of your favorite indie games? This is a category I’m really passionate about! Share, share, share below! Thanks for reading! We’ve only got four days left in this Challenge. Will you finish strong?

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22 replies »

  1. Obvs I’ve (no commentary) watched a lot of em: Flower, Journey, Abzu, Unraveled, Black: The Fall, Homecoming, The Unfinished Swan, Statik, Jazzpunk, Etc, Etc….
    But Lord C’ll say: A Deeper Shade Of Red, for android. It’s woefully short, but it’s a lovely little point n click &, with a cliffhanger endin, begs for a sequel dammit!!! (I need it!!!)
    I’ll post a link to the theme here, if poss!?Hauntingly Beautiful!) >>>https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=efuJOmg1zPI <<< (jus listen till 48 secs, sorry, couldn't find a shorter or better vid!)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I nominate Tomb Raider on the Sega Saturn. I first played Tomb Raider after spending years mostly playing simple 2D games and it was interesting how this game showed how games can be more complex. The game took place in a 3D world, which allowed the player to explore locations and perform acrobatic actions. The story was also more developed, with voice acting and animated sequences to show the story. The graphics (although low quality by modern standards) seemed really good, with some details in the designs and the use of smooth 3D graphics. So I was really surprised when the game ends and it is announced that it was created by 6 people. I don’t know if it counts as an indie game.
    How are indie games sold? Why are they saving the games industry? How did they introduce you to modern games? Are they really enjoyed by hipsters?

    Liked by 1 person

    • The hipster thing was just a joke, considering their similarities to underground music. Indies are generally digitally distributed. I think they’re saving the industry by taking risks and focusing on small ideas, rather than broad, broadly-appealing ones.


  3. Indie is such a large qualifier and unfortunately I’ve already named some of my favorite independently developed titles in other categories. I suppose I’ll name Braid, which was my first memorable indie experience on a console.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This was a tough one! I’m really looking forward to playing Undertale when the physical release comes out on the Vita. Hotline Miami was another great choice – game blew me away.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams. The third game in a series that started on the Commodore 64. I reviewed it when it came out, and its hard to believe it’s almost five years old already. Nevertheless, this is one of my favorite games. Not in just the realm of small business games. But in all of gaming.

    Everything about this game is wonderful. The stages. The puzzles. The characters, and worlds. The soundtrack is one of the best of any game. All of it is built around a wonderful morphing mechanic that changes between a dream world, and a nightmare world on the fly.

    The goal of the game is to save your sister Maria, who has been captured by the evil Gurglewocky, a dragon from the first two games. To do this you have to go through 26 stages across three worlds. You can attempt any stage as many times as you want, but you have to get a star ranking between 3, and 5 to get to the next given level, and need at least 3 on every level to get to the bosses. You get stars on your ranking for finding a percentage of gems (Finding them all is a big deal) some of these are in super secret areas, so exploring the levels is key. Some gems can only be grabbed in the dream world, others only in the nightmare world. So again, you’ll be shifting worlds a lot.

    In the nightmare world Giana is in her standard form, and can do float jumps, and hover by twirling. In the dream world she becomes a Punk rocker, who can do dash attacks. Not only do you need to master when to use each form, but sometimes you’ll have to change mid-ability usage! Many of the game’s puzzles, again, are centered around the mechanic. Even the soundtrack makes use of it. Black Forest Games enlisted Chris Huelsbeck who made the original game’s soundtrack, as well as Machinae Supremacy, a symphonic Heavy Metal band from Sweden known for using an actual SID chip to replicate C64 sound effects. When in the dream world you’ll hear the Metal tunes, in the nightmare world you’ll hear the New Wave synth tunes. And the songs run in unison so as you shift worlds you’ll be at the exact same point in the song as you hear the styles change.

    It also controls very well, and is a true challenge. Usually deaths feel like your own fault because they almost always are. Beating the game on Easy is a feat. Beating the game on Normal/Hard (Depending on the version the difficulty names can vary.) feels like a rite of passage. Playing through on Hardcore removes all of the checkpoints in stages. So if you die, you do the entire level over again. Beating this (Which I finally did recently, WOOOO!) unlocks UBER Hardcore mode, which makes you play the entire game on one life. If you die, it’s a game over. There’s also a speed run mode there as well.

    There was also an expansion pack called Rise Of The Owlverlord, which added seven even harder stages, and the final boss, the Owlverlord. A mastermind behind the armies of owls you encounter in the dream world.

    The game was initially released on Steam, and GoG for PC, as well as a physical release for PC. The latter only released in Europe. It was later ported to the Nintendo eshop for Wii U, then XBL for the 360, and PSN for the PS3. But the releases don’t end there. After the expansion pack, and free bonus content hit the PC version, Black Forest Games bundled them in a Twisted Bundle. The Twisted Bundle was released as Giana Sisters Twisted Dreams Director’s Cut. for Physical PC (Again Europe) Xbox One (Digital Only) PlayStation 4 (Digital, and Physical), and Wii U (Physical Disc Only). So there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy this amazing game.

    If that wasn’t enough you can also get the soundtrack through Steam, Amazon, and Chris Huelsbeck’s own Bandcamp. digitally. There was a physical CD release for Kickstarter backers I believe.

    But if you haven’t played this game you need to. It is one of the best platformers ever made. Few of them not starring Mario can really make that claim.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on Sublime Reviews and commented:

    Day 27 of the Elemental Challenge at The Well-Red Mage is another personal favorite of mine, the Indie Game. I had to go with Stardew Valley for my pick but I had a great time reading through everyone else’s which is basically like a list of my games to play. Stop by and let us know your favorites in this genre today!


  7. There are many on this list that I definitely intend to play but have not had the time to yet but I wanted to shout out to Card Hunter! I freakin love that game XD

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Have you all heard of this little company called Squeenix? They’re so small they can’t even afford a real word for their name! Yup…and I can’t keep up that façade anymore.

    Even thought I didn’t finish it, I loved Limbo and would like to play or watch Inside.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I was stuck for a little while trying to figure out what my favorite indie game is. There are so many amazing ones to choose from! Finally, I’ve decided to go with my absolute favorite phone game: Badland (no, not Badlands). This one wins because of the feels it gives, its beautiful graphics, simple game play, wordless narrative, and the convenience of playing it wherever and whenever I want. Who doesn’t want to play as a little black ball of fur or feathers flying through a dying forest overrun with dangerous mechanisms brought in by some sort of industrialized world? The game is beautiful and subtly terrifying all at once.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Badland was fantastic! I loved moving around that floating squishy fellow. Such a fun time. I remember one level in particular to 100% the game, you needed to race around a roller coaster or a carnival or something like. I had a blast with that one! Another game from the bygone era when mobile games weren’t mostly crap.

      Liked by 2 people

    • This is one of the broadest categories we’ve had to endure during this Elemental Challenge, next to arcade games. Picking a favorite can hard, especially too since I think a lot of the games we love we might be surprised are actually indies (or AA’s or some such).

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Some great choices here. I’d add in Ori and the Blind Forest (of course), Owlboy, Axiom Verge, Teslagrad, Runner2, INSIDE, SteamWorld Dig, Hollow Knight, Alto’s Adventure, World of Goo, Cave Story, RiME, Thomas Was Alone, Dead Cells…

    I’m a bit of an indie game fanatic. Absolutely love them – extremely creative and risk taking games that, usually, deliver the goods.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’ve played about 50% of the games on your list and have heard nothing but great things about the other 40%. I’ve always enjoyed indie titles – picking Shovel Knight was easy though as I’ve replayed it several times for no other purpose but to enjoy it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Lots of those games are ones I’d love to try out, a couple are ones I’m waiting for on the Switch. One of the reasons why I bought it is because it started marketing on the basis of indies and I’ve fallen in love with those modern-retro-style games. High five, indie bro!


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