games / Columns

411 Games Top 5: Top 5 Indie Games of 2016

December 19, 2016 | Posted by Sean Garmer
No Man's Sky

Hello everyone, I hope it has been a good week for all the readers out there. This is the 411 Games Zone Top 5, where 411 writers get to make lists on a different topic each week. This week, we begin looking back at 2016 in gaming. We start with the Top 5 Indie Games of 2016.

John Cash (Regular Contributor to Games Top 5)

5. The Flame in the Flood: I seem to remember this get a pretty decent hype wave before release, so considering how good it is, it’s kind of a shame that nobody is talking about this game anymore. Like any rogue-like, there were frustrating moments, but I feel like there was a enough variety to the events that you can run into to keep this game fresh for at least this long into it’s first year. Those dang wolves though!

4. Firewatch: While I think it deserves a large portion of the crap it was given, I still think this was an important game (yes, game.) It built off of the foundation set by Gone Home and Dear Esther by inserting some EXTREMELY LIGHT searching elements, but elements that worked with the plot all the same. I think the big spark that set off the flame war (both puns judiciously intended) was the fact that you never meet Delilah face to face. If that had been in there, if there were actual different endings, I think it would be a little more well loved.

3. The Witness: AKA Grid Puzzles With Fancy Setting. If I wasn’t a puzzle freak, I would probably really dislike this game for it’s pretentiousness, but some of the puzzles were just incredible to figure out on your own. The infamous one in the theater room that takes around 40 minutes to complete was both bizarre and intense in a way. While I don’t really like the ending or the “secret route”, some of the most satisfying time I spent playing games this year was with The Witness.

2. VA-11 HALL-A: I am really bummed, because I accidentally left this gem out of my top 10 list for the big GOTY article. While it can be described as a dating simulator, it’s really more of just a chill-out kind of game. You don’t really have to seduce anyone if you don’t want to, and the visuals and music are pretty great. If you’re into text based games, visual novels, and cyber-punk, this will be right up your alley.

Editors Note: John could still redo his Top 10 list if he so desires to include this game

1. Stardew Valley: Still absolutely boggles my mind that this was a one man project. The amount of content in this game is staggering to say the least. The characters, the customization, the gameplay-HM-abandoned, everything about this game is worth celebrating. A self-released, author driven farm-life sim is one of the best games of 2016, making 2016 just that much crazier of a year.

Marc Morrison (Games Zone Reviewer, Co-Host of Video Games 2 the MAX Podcast, Writer of Games Zone 8-Ball)

5. Firewatch: I don’t hate Firewatch and I don’t love it either. It looked fairly nice, and had some interesting Metroidvania-esque ideas with platforming that were pretty cool. Also, the interaction with Henry (your character) and Delilah was generally alright. However, the manipulative way the story pans out is really off putting near the end of it. It makes you realize that you have no real agency in the game, and that is kind of a bummer.

4. Headlander: Headlander would probably be tied for “grooviest game of the year” with Thumper, from what I’ve seen of that game. Headlander is your basic Metroidvania game, you unlock new skills to open new paths, but it’s all done in a 70’s scifi aesthetic full of some trippy colors. Also, you’re a disembodied head with a jetpack that can take control of robots. The last boss is very frustrating, but it’s still a funky time to be had.

3. American Truck Simulator: We can all agree that trucks are superb. That really goes without saying. American Truck Simulator is slightly better than earlier ETS games, because everything is standardized, in terms of road laws, and it’s a hair easier to get into. Plus, talking about any truck simulator gives me reason to bring up this brilliant Charlie Brooker quote talking about the first Euro Truck Simulator game, “You don’t get to do any of the other things truck drivers are famous for, like wanking over porn in lay-bys or knifing 19 year-old hitchhikers, so the tedium quotient remains fairly constant.” I disagree with his tedium sentiment, but wholly agree with his first two points.

2. No Man’s Sky: It can be argued whether or not No Man’s Sky is “indie” or not, but whatever, it is. The game still has some content problems, but I enjoy the languid pace of it all, and how exploring just a single planet can take hours, if you really want to hunt everything down on it. If you approach the game as just an exploration game, then you will have a much better time with it. The problem is they billed it as having much more, they didn’t really deliver, and then the toxic internet communities added their own garbage to the argument. Still, I pop No Man’s Sky in from time to time, discover a new planet or two, and feel like I accomplished something.

1. Stardew Valley: No indie game made a bigger impact than Stardew Valley this year. When it came out, it grew by word of mouth to be one of the biggest Steam games of the year. At the time I’m writing this, around 7,300 people are playing it on Steam. Meanwhile, about 2,700 people are playing Infinite Warfare. That’s…quite a drop. Still, the farming/relationship/mining/dungeon crawling genre appeals to a lot of people and since Nintendo have largely abandoned the Harvest Moon franchise, why not let some dude (Eric Barone) take the reins and run with it? Stardew Valley has something for almost every type of player, if they really dig into it.


List your Top Five for this week’s topic in the comment section using the following format:

5. CHOICE: Explanation
4. CHOICE: Explanation
3. CHOICE: Explanation
2. CHOICE: Explanation
1. CHOICE: Explanation