I’m a huge fan and player of video games as some of you know, I have been since I was a kid, and I don’t see it changing anytime soon. While my ultimate favorites are epic RPG’s such as The Elder Scrolls and Diablo, strategies like Civilization and Anno, and even simulations like The Sims, I fell in love with point and click adventures and quirky indie games, and I collect them like stamps. I’ve played a lot of good ones over the years, but some are so good you can’t get over them for a long time, and you just keep getting back for more. This is a selection of some of the quirkiest, most beautiful, most addicting and most haunting games I’ve ever played.
*All prices are valid at the time of writing this article – April 25th
1. Hamlet (Denis Galanin and Big Fish Games), 2010, Android, iOS, Windows
3,99€ on Steam
Have you ever felt the need for a hilarious Shakespearean adventure game? Well here you go. Hamlet, or the Last Game without MMORPG Features, Shaders and Product Placement, is just that. Time-travel, sea monsters, guitar solos, mad scientists, and more, this short but quirky and funny game has just the right amount of silliness and Shakespeare. The same developer has also made a Franz Kafka game recently, which I bought and I’m eager to try out.
2. The room 1+2 (Fireproof Games), 2014 + 2016, Android, iOS, Windows
THIS game(s) you guys. THIS. If you like puzzles and mysteries and deeply unsettling atmosphere then this is the one for you. I am a huge puzzle aficionado, and this is the best puzzle game I’ve ever played, but at the same time it’s so much more than a puzzle. It’s a mystery, and a tough one to crack. I can’t find the right words to laud the originality, beauty and the disturbing charm of these games. There are four parts in fact, but so far only the first two are available for PC (the third and fourth ones are available for Android and iOS only). I hope the we’ll get the other games on PC too, because I need them in my life ASAP!
3. Machinarium (Amanita Design), 2009, Windows, Android, OS X, Playstation, etc.
Amanita is seriously one of the best indie game studios out there, and I’ve enjoyed every game they made, but this one is the best, or I just feel that way because it’s the first one of theirs I’ve played. A totally quirky point and click adventure where you follow an adorable robot Josef, on his way to rescue his sweetheart Berta, who has been captured by a band of evil robots called ‘Black Cap Brotherhood’. This sounds like a trivial plot, but trivial is exactly what this game is not. It’s funny, adorable, a bit gloomy and ingenious. Puzzles are quite original, inventive and enjoyable, and the hint and inventory systems are too cute to behold. I can’t say enough except – try it out, you won’t be disappointed.
4. Drawn 1-3 (Big Fish Games), 2009, 2010, 2011, Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, Android
*I recommend the Collector’s Editions with more game content
Do you like Hidden Object games? The ones where you search for certain objects in a scene and solve puzzles? Well, these aren’t your ordinary HOPA games. First of all – they’re gorgeous. The drawing style is unbelievably beautiful. Second, these games tell a haunting and magical story, and feature some of the most clever and gorgeous puzzles I’ve ever encountered. As you might have guessed – you will paint a bit in these games, but you will also enter paintings and their utterly magical worlds. And the music in these games is out of this world.
5. Limbo (Playdead, Microsoft Game Studios), 2010, Windows, iOS, Android, etc.
Do you like dark games? Like super dark, atmospheric, brilliant games? Limbo is a puzzle platformer (when you constantly go from the left to the right of your screen while avoiding obstacles, battling enemies, solving puzzles, etc.), in which you are an unnamed boy in search of his sister. It has a ‘trial and death’ basis, where you will most certainly die multiple times trying to do something, and you’ll witness an array of most devious deaths of your character (and get achievements) for it. There are no dialogues, no music, the world is black and white, and the atmosphere is eerie with minimal ambient sounds that will raise the hair on your neck. This is not a horror game, but you will get scared, I promise. It is pure art.
6. Botanicula (Amanita Design), 2012, Windows, iOS, Android, etc.
Another game from Amanita Design studios, but this one is way quirkier, if you’re up for that kind of thing. Throughout this gorgeous romp of a game, you will play as a set of five characters – Mr. Lantern, Mr. Twig, Mr. Poppy Head, Mr. Feather and Mrs. Mushroom, which are exactly what their names suggest, but all have different abilities, and you’ll hop up and about all over a magical tree, with numerous quirky creatures, trying to rid the tree of a soul sucking parasitic creature. To describe this game is beyond my words, with ‘quirky’ popping up quite a bit. The music is brilliant, the puzzles are totally absurd and amazing, the abundance of creatures is cute and funny, and the ending is something completely different and special.
7. Year Walk (Simogo, JP: Nintendo), 2013, Windows, iOS, OS X, Wii U
This game is hard to explain, in part because of its quirkiness (here we go again), and in part because at some moments it doesn’t feel like a game. You will learn about Swedish folklore while playing, and the game is named and inspired by an ancient Swedish tradition called Årsgång. The puzzles are weird, sometimes hard to get through, and through the course of the game you’ll discover bits and pieces of a journal made by a present-day man, Theodore, who is obsessively investigating the ‘year walk’ custom and Swedish folklore, and is going to attempt to do a year walk himself. You play as a man called Daniel, in ye olde times, going on a year walk of his own, which is in fact the story Theodore is researching and obsessing about. Through the journal pages you will ultimately find out the faiths of both men.
8. Ori and the Blind Forest (Moon Studios, Microsoft Studios), 2015, Windows, Xbox One
9,99€ on Steam (50% discount, offer ends in a couple of hours!)
Oriiiii. Ori is my favorite game ever, hands down. It cannot be described in petty human language, perhaps poetic Elvish would do it justice, but since I’m not versed I’ll try in human. This is the most beautiful game that ever was. The music is emotional and haunting and superb. The story is sad, very sad, but also magical and beautiful. The characters are Ghibli-esque creatures, so gentle and yet so fierce. This game is challenging at times, but so wonderful and adventurous. I am not an emotional person in general, and I very rarely cry, and there are only a couple of things in this world that can hit that chord in me, but Ori… When I watch the trailer (even though I’ve played it several times now), I cry; when I watch the intro scene, I cry; sometimes I just think of it and wistfully cry into the night ‘Oriiiii‘, and then I cry some more. Because it’s that gorgeous. Okay enough wimping. This game has some faults, like any other really, but even the fact it features one of the hardest sequences I’ve ever played, it is damn worth it. Ori is an adventure platformer, the rest you can read for yourselves as I’ve babbled enough here. There is also a sequel coming out one day, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, which I’ll die waiting for.
9. Firewatch (Campo Santo, Panic), 2016, Windows, OS X, PlayStation 4, etc.
19,99€ on Steam
Firewatch is a first-person mystery adventure, where you play as Henry, a Shoshone National Forest fire lookout who is new at his post, when strange things start happening in the forest. His only connection to the outside world is his supervisor Delilah, whom he talks to on a walkie-talkie. This is a beautiful exploration game, with often use of dialogues as plot definers. The narrative starts as relaxing, where you stroll through the forest solving minor issues, but turns darker and tense towards the end. The atmosphere is simply amazing, and it offers a faithful account of a man stuck in isolation, and what it can do to him, and to you. A movie based on it is currently in development.
10. Little Nightmares (Tarsier Studios, Bandai Namco Entertainment), 2017, Windows, PlayStation 4, etc.
19,99€ on Steam
This is my favorite game of 2017 and one of my favorite horror games ever. In Little Nightmares you play as Six, a tiny girl in a yellow raincoat armed only with a lighter. You wake up trapped in the Maw, a huge ship of sorts where various enemies lurk around the corner, and you’ll be basically playing hide-and-seek with them while trying to escape the ominous vessel. As you advance through the Maw’s hold and chambers, you will progress through five chapters, each one featuring a more gruesome and sinister enemy, and the true, horrible story of this game will slowly unravel. You will use your skills, stealth and precisely timed moments to escape the clutches of evil and run, run, run. Underneath all this horror there’s some tenderness too, as you will run into tiny gnomes every now and then, and hugging them will provide you with enough comfort and sanity to move on. Until you get hungry that is, as that is your main weakness which will slow you down at most awkward moments.
The game is eerie and atmospheric, without dialogues, and beautifully designed with the most gorgeous backgrounds and most gruesome monsters, but playing it can be challenging sometimes because of the random checkpoints and its 2.5D setup, which allows good angles to better explore the background and hide in it, but it can severely mess with the precision when you’re jumping or quickly running through a smaller space. It’s another trial-and-error case, but regardless of the flaws it is worth it. There are several DLC chapters available to buy, promising more content, I haven’t tried those out yet but I certainly will. There is also a TV adaptation in the works, directed by Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline).
Some notes: First of all these games are all quite short, hence the casual in the title. Most of these games are relaxing, but will also provide moments of utter perplexity with some puzzles and an urge to smash your keyboard/mouse. Some of these games will pull a new level of tension and fear on you. But what all of these games have in common is that they are original. Not mass-generic-product games which you can find on every corner. These are unique and will affect you and pull out emotions you never knew existed inside of you.
All of these are indie games, worked on for years and years and years by small groups of like-minded people who wanted to make something extraordinary, something that changed the way we perceive games today. And they’ve done it. They’ve done a terrific job, and if you want them to make more of these wonders, they need money. All of these are quite cheap. If you register on Steam and put these games into your wishlist, you’ll get regular emails on amazing deals like: daily deals, holiday deals like Black Friday, Chinese New Year, Halloween, etc. You can even get them at a 50-80% discount. If you do pirate and try out these games, and love them, then please go ahead and buy them too, because we need more of these games, which we’ll never get unless the developers have means and the incentive to make them.