Interesting / Indie Games, And a PC on Which To Play Them
July 4, 2015 10:09 AM   Subscribe

Inspired by this post, I'd like to dip back into gaming. Please recommend me some recent games outside the AAA mold, and advise what hardware I need to play them.

My current, 5-year-old laptop seems on the verge of death, so it's time to grit my teeth and pony up for a new one. I've been out of the loop on video games - especially pc games - for a good few years now, but there seems too be a lot of interesting stuff going on. Ideally I'd be able to buy a laptop that's reasonably inexpensive, but capable of running less resource-intensive games.

I think I'm at the point of repeating myself now, so in sum - please point me at some interesting games and talk me through what I'll need to buy to play them!
posted by ominous_paws to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Some of my favorite indies available on PC (Steam) in the last few years are:
Fez - puzzle platformer with an insane new game+
Gone Home - Great exploration game with amazing writing and atmosphere
Portal 1&2 - Hilarious and clever puzzler. Awesome puzzle mechanic
Spelunky HD - 2D platformer with procedurally generated levels. The daily challenge is addicting
Machinarium - Really smart adventure game with great art & soundtrack
Samurai Gunn - The best local multiplayer game. Get 4 friends, 4 controllers and a couch
The Swapper - Scifi puzzler with brilliant mechanic and tricky puzzles

Weird/indescribably games worth playing:
Starseed Pilgrim
The Stanley Parable

All of these should play well on older hardware, with the exception of Portal 2 and possibly Gone Home. Others can speak to hardware better than me.

Enjoy... It's a good time for games!
posted by pilibeen at 10:28 AM on July 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

How weird do you want?

"This War of Mine", three friends try to survive when the military wrecked their town. Salvage at night, hide during the day, make improvements to your hideout, but watch your food and water, and fuel (for cooking and other uses). Grow your own tobacco and herbs for cigarettes? Distill your own alcohol? Get weapons and rob other survivors? It is entirely up to you.

"TIS-100", ever program in assembly? Maybe you should start on this "programming puzzle game".

"Qvadriga", ever thought about racing Roman chariots? decide when to accelerate, decelerate, change lanes (and crash the other chariots), and so on.

"CONSORTIUM" -- you are taking over the life of "Bishop Six", a global peacekeeper in the year 2042 onboard the flying fortress Zenlil. And things are about to go from bad to worse. A fellow peacekeeper died and it can only be murder. Who is the traitor onboard? Why are mercenaries attacking the Zenlil and what do they want? Who is the seeker? You have unprecedented control of your actions: peace, or war? shoot or talk? walk around the ship and talk to whoever you want, but keep in mind that things will happen around you, even if you didn't see it...

"Besiege" -- ever wanted to build your own siege engine, medieval style? But maybe with a bit more Steampunk? Now is your chance. Build whatever you want, as long as you accomplish the destruction required, or kill the troops attacking. People have built transformers, moving dragons, spinning tops of death, and much more.

"Ironcast" -- steampunk walking tanks in an RPG where France invades Great Britain. Every game will be different as your salvage will be different, as will be your mission choices.

"FTL" -- you are a single scout trying to run ahead of the enemy armada, through unfamiliar and often, hostile territory. Your job is to reach friendly lines to pass the word of the arriving enemy armada, and maybe, join the battle against the enemies. Control your crew in combat against enemy ships, including boarding actions, as well as perform damage control. As you fly from system to system, you will expend fuel, weapons, and random encounters in every system. Will you make it home?
posted by kschang at 10:37 AM on July 4, 2015

I haven't played it yet, but I've heard rave reviews for Her Story.
posted by O9scar at 10:44 AM on July 4, 2015

No question at all - on the Steam platform and now available for Windows, Mac, Linux, PlayStation and even Android and iOS you can, at long last, play a lovingly refurbished version of GRIM FANDANGO - LucasArts' masterpiece of 1998. It charts the voyage of Manny Calavera, a low-ranking employee of the Department of Death, and his odd sidekick Glottis, through the 4 years of the Mexican afterlife, trying to rescue the fair Meche from the clutches of the evil mastermind Don Copal. It's basically a fiendishly tricky adventure-play with lots of lateral thinking required (most people, myself included, have to use a guidebook or cheats to avoid going mad). The visuals were award-winning in its day and look even better following the extensive remastering. The background music is brilliant. And both plot lines and writing are exquisite!

Being heavily imbued by Aztec motifs and the Mexican afterlife mythology - while at the same time making a cheeky reference to West Coast Art Deco noir - it is so radically different and stand-alone (with the arguable exception of Monkey Island and Full Throttle, also produced by Tim Shafer) that it even usefully complements other adventure games.

I would challenge anyone who loves the Indie spirit and isn't sold on shooter games to defy the charm of this gem. I loved it on PC in 1998 but never got beyond Year 1 as I was in medical school at the time, and had a young family. Soon after my PC crashed, I switched to Mac and there was no version for the Apple OS (and the PC version was never upgraded to recent Windows versions). I spent a decade and a half bemoaning my loss before discovering the 2015 relaunch which I bought instantly. Oh joy!
posted by kairab at 11:42 AM on July 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

It might actually be a little easier to figure out how much laptop you need once you have a list of some of the games you'd like to play, since games still have a list of minimum and recommended specifications for the hardware they'll run on.

You just missed Steam's big summer sale, but there are a bazillion indie bundles available these days where you can get a set of games for around $5. Indie Kings tracks current game bundles. And Steam will have another big sale in the winter if you want to check that out when it rolls around. Amazon does have some game sales, but since their previous sales rep moved to a different team it's nothing like it used to be.

Steam recently instituted a refund policy for games if you've played them less than 2 hours and it's within a 14 day period, in case something isn't to your liking or won't run on your computer. Re: buying games, check out Is There Any Deal? or Steam Sales Tracker to make sure you're getting a decent price.

YouTube is my favorite go-to for preview and playthrough videos to determine if I'd be interested in a game. Look for the title of the game and use "no commentary" in the search box (that way you won't have randos blabbering over the game). Steam does still have some demos, as well.

Here's a small list of indie games I've played that I really liked:

Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death - a fun b-movie inspired game, I really enjoyed the banter between the characters. I finished it on keyboard and mouse, but it's really a controller game at heart.

Organ Trail: Director's Cut - retro fun with zombies. Based on Oregon Trail, naturally.

Outlast - scary, depends on your tolerance for horror and some gore. (Referred to as "nope simulator" on Reddit.)

Lili: Child of Geos - Zelda lite, innocent and enjoyable.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light - fun puzzle platformer and can be played co-op on the same computer. (demo available)

Fly'n - adorable bird things fighting a hair dryer to save their world. (demo available)

Legend of Grimrock 1 & 2 - modern dungeon crawlers, lots of fun (but wait for a sale!)

Steamworld Dig - fun platformer where you're a steampunk robot who inherits a mine.

Oh, and I definitely agree with the suggestion for Grim Fandango Remastered. I played it years ago and it's really delightful.

(Note: I linked to the Steam store pages for continuity and ease of use since there's a nice tagging system, reviews and complete info for the games. But Steam doesn't always have the best prices, so don't feel you have to buy from them if you find something you like. Many merchants actually sell keys meant to be activated on Steam. There's also a grey market for cheap keys, but watch out for that until you have a good grasp of which sites are won't scam you.)
posted by i feel possessed at 11:56 AM on July 4, 2015

Rogue Legacy is quite good: Not a real roguelike, but a platformer with algorithmically generated levels and some continuity between lives.

Transistor is quite good; isometric real time with pause RPG with stunning art and music. I can't really describe the mechanics, you'll have to check youtube.
posted by Canageek at 1:37 PM on July 4, 2015

You definitely want to be on Steam. A newish feature of Steam that will be useful to you are Curator selections. For example, Anita Sarkeesian's list.

Anandtech is a trustworthy site that reviews laptops.
posted by conrad53 at 2:58 PM on July 4, 2015

In no particular order...

The Swapper
The Long Dark
Mark of the Ninja
Crayon Physics Deluxe
Don't Starve
Papers, Please
Stanley Parable
The Wolf Among Us
Thomas was Alone

(Is Minecraft indie enough??)

Protip: Humble Bundle has good deals on indie games. Rock Paper Shotgun (gaming blog) covers indie games fairly well. And, Steam is your friend.
posted by ellerhodes at 5:32 PM on July 4, 2015

Bastion and Transistor, made by the same studio, have amazing amazing AMAZING music. Buy these for the soundtrack alone (though it does help that the gameplay is great fun).

I'm also a huge fan of Banished, a city-building resource-gathering strategy type game made by a single developer (and it has a robust modding community). Cities: Skylines is another recommended time-to-unwind simulation game.

All of these are on Steam and go through sale periods. The other titles mentioned in this thread get a hearty thumbs up from me as well.
posted by erratic meatsack at 11:30 AM on July 7, 2015

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