Getting into "Indie"

Getting into "Indie": A Guide to help you get into the World of Indie Gaming


As some of you may well know from the various reviews I’ve been posting on WGG, I have a thing for games of the ‘indie’ variety. Indie games are just games developed and published by people who haven’t received outside funding, but it’s an area that plenty of gamers tend to avoid because they’re not sure of what they’re getting. We’re far more comfortable paying $60 for something that’s almost identical to that last thing we bought rather than $10 for an unknown quantity.

This is a guide to help make choosing the second option easier. Though many of you will know some of this already, I always wished I had something similar to this when I started delving into indie games for the first time.


Read on.


You Will Need:


1) A Personal Computer

All roads lead to the PC in the world of indie gaming. However don’t think this means shelling out extra cash in order to get yourself a decent gaming rig. Most indie games will run on a modern desktop or mid-range laptop and indie developers make the extra effort to include multiple options to help the game run better on everyday machines. Indie gaming saves you money, so it’s best not to waste that advantage by dumping your money into unnecessary hardware.
You can check whether your PC can run a game using SystemRequirementLabs if you’re unsure about your PC’s capabilities.


2) A Gamepad

Some games are best played using a mouse and keyboard, but in my experience the way to make the transition from your 360 to the PC is to be holding the same controller. You can buy a Windows 360 controller or find a wireless 360 adaptor for around $10-15 these days and the majority of games that you think would need gamepad support have it. If you don’t want to shell out the cash or only have a PS3 I can recommend this informative clip on how to get an emulator running on your PC that lets you plug in your PS3 controller (links to relevant files included).


It doesn't really get much more complicated than this.


3) Steam

Steam is awesome. It’s the best piece of consumer software you can own and it will supply all your gaming needs indie or otherwise if you let it. Indie games are dirt cheap on Steam which is why it's the best place to start. Most of you guys will have Steam because Valve gives an obscene amount of stuff away but you should always check out the daily deals and specials as prices can get ridiculous cuts. There’s also a Steam app for iOS available so you can be sure you don’t miss a deal. Sometimes the greatest incentive to try a game you’ve never heard of is a price cut.
If you haven’t got Steam installed: Please please go here now


Steam Sales. You will love them


4) A Gateway Drug

If you’ve played nothing but full-priced games off store shelves for the entirety of your gaming life, or just pick up the Summer of Arcade games then it can be daunting once you realise the sheer volume of available indie games out there.

Below is a list of games that I think are perfect for getting your foot in the doorway of indie games. Some of them are also available on XBL Marketplace but buying them on Steam ensures more of your money goes to the people who actually made the game:


  • Waves
  • Bastion
  • Braid
  • Bit.Trip.Runner
  • Rochard
  • Trine 2 (requires a pretty hefty gaming rig)
  • World of Goo
  • Super Meat Boy
  • Limbo
  • Machinarium


You should probably play Bastion


You can complement your indie gaming with:

• Game Sites – Containing professionals who like indie games

Internet sites, like everything else, are best when they specialize in what they’re good at. Sites like Rock, Paper Shotgun are your friends because they cover the smaller scale games coming out rather than the news and reviews about major releases that every other site does.

I’d also recommend you follow Giant Bomb newsman: Patrick Klepek’s weekly “Worth Reading” articles because he usually recommends something indie that’s worth checking out. Other people you should keep an eye on are the guys at PC Gamer: Chris Antista, Tyler Wilde, Lucas Sullivan and co regularly cover independent stuff, as well as Kevin VanOrd from Gamespot.

The Independent Game Festival Awards are also a great way to find out what is good, as most of the games they nominate are quality titles and reasonably accessible. If you see an IGF nominee/winner logo on a game's store page on Steam then it's a good indicator that it's worth your time.

• An "Open mind"

Yes, twee and cliché, but it’s probably your most useful asset when it comes to trying something new and independent. If you have never played a rhythm game before, or have not come to understand the joys of the platformer then the barrier to entry cost-wise has never been lower than it is with your average indie title.

Try not to think of independent games as lesser or inferior to other more mainstream titles. They’re just games and you’re more likely to be pleasantly surprised while sifting through $10 games on Steam than you are perusing the shelves in Gamestop.


Waves is awesome, which is why it's here. And you may have played Geometry Wars so that makes it relevant.


You should know that:


  •  Indie games are not all shining beacons of creativity and innovation. The reason particularly good indie games get huge critical exposure is partly because they stand out against a graveyard of lesser games. They can certainly be far more creative and experimental than your full-price generic shooter X, but that never guarantees competence. Do your research before committing to your first couple of games in order ensure you have a good time.
  • You need to be prepared for some “jank”. Indie games are made by extremely small teams of people, so expect a few technical issues, especially when the game is just out. Make use of the Steam forums to get support, you’ll probably find a solution to any technical problems there by asking questions.
  • Some indie games do appear on Xbox Live and the Playstation Network in addition to Steam as mentioned before. However both Sony and Microsoft take a cut off from what you pay that should have gone to the people that made the game. Steam does the same thing, but more of the money goes straight to the developers so buy the game on Steam instead of on console whenever possible.
  • Sending indie devs an email saying you enjoyed their game gives them the warm fuzzies. Gamers forget that people make games, not automatons, and it’s much easier to show your appreciation to the person who worked on a little indie title than it is to the people who made Battlefield because his/her email is on the Steam forum. Show a bit of love where it’s due.


Like every other facet of gaming, you won’t find diamonds of independent gaming every day. Indie games may offer ideas born from somebody’s inspiration rather than a focus group, but that’s no guarantee of the “innovation” that you’ll often hear referred to by critics.

However, the indie scene is one where games need to differentiate themselves with neat ideas and new mechanics in order to get attention and that’s more than can be said for your $60 retail games on sale today. With any luck, this “guide” has hopefully been helpful in giving you some inkling as to how you might go about getting into the wonderful world of budget-friendly indie gaming.



If you have any questions, issues, or want some recommendations for the good stuff then send me a message.

Thanks for Reading.

stephenage's picture

I could of sworn the game was called Woves.

Just kidding, good guide Adam, hopefully this is enough to get people more interested in the more interesting side of the industry.

explicit_baron's picture

Steam is great for indie games as well as the Humble Bundle that comes out every so often. I have bit.trip.runner from a previous Humble Bundle and haven't played it, is it good? Is Bastion good? I'm still waiting for a Steam sale to pick that up.

Adam Page's picture


Bastion was my favourite game of 2011. Bit.Trip.Runner isn't the best platformer but it has a great rhythm element. But Bastion should be played, almost immediately in my opinion. It's fantastic

John Tarr's picture

I had no idea you could use a PS3 controller on your PC, good tip. My wired Xbox 360 controller is getting almost too broken in to use.

I would also recommend picking up the Humble Indie Bundles when they come out. It's a great way to get a bunch of indie games for cheap (or free). 

Good article. I think the main problem with indie games is that there simply isn't enough awareness of what is available. Writing reviews like you have been for indie games that have zero marketing budget I believe is the best way to get gamers to try new things.

Dan Broadbent's picture

I think that the iOS platform may also be a good place to start for trying out indie games.  While the controls are only conducive to the more casual of the indie games, you can definitely get a good taste.  From your list of gateway games both World of Goo and Machinarium are available and Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP is supposed to be incredible as well.

Adam Page's picture

@Dan Broadbent

I agree, but the point is pretty much everyone has a PC whereas to experience something like Superbrothers at its best you need to buy yourself an iPad. iOS is where indie games are truly beginning to flourish, but the best stuff hasn't made it to that platform as yet.

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