The next awards category for The Gamer Crash Awards is best small game/downloadable/indie. There were an absolutely ton of these this year, many of which came at a great time for gaming considering the global pandemic raging outside. With people trapped in doors, they had more time to discover these smaller independent gems.
Lot of games on this list that I wasn’t able to play this year, so naturally, I left them off. While many sites and people may highlight Among Us (even though it didn’t launch in 2020), Spelunky 2, and Bugsnax to name a few, you won’t find them on my list.
So, let’s see the nominees…
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. While it’s been in Early Access for some time, the full game finally launched this year and quickly went on to be a behemoth. Supergiant Games quickly had another hit on their hands that went on to take on the gaming industry by storm.
You play as Zagreus, son of the Greek God of the Underworld, Hades. Fed up with his tyrannical rule, Zagreus attempts to escape the underworld to not only find his mother but to reach Mount Olympus to live with his extended family in what he thinks is a better life. This rogue-like has a ton of charm thanks to the amazing visual style, crisp melee combat, and the amazing dynamic dialogue system which may change and react to things the player has done or unlocked. What sets this rogue-like apart is that death leads to a progression of the main story, side stories, and plenty of other things. You never feel like you’re starting from scratch as new opportunities, abilities, and options are constantly appearing.
I thought I knew what I was getting into with the visually gorgeous Spiritfarer, but what I discovered was a game with so much more. You play Stella, who has suddenly been tasked with taking over for the Boatman, Charon. Yes, that Charon. Traveling across islands, players will pick up lost souls and help their journey to the afterlife. The game mixes action-platforming with resource gathering to improve the boat as well as make life as comfortable as possible for the souls aboard. It’s a very interesting mix of genres and one that works extremely well.
While players may immediately notice the cute animals and vibrant colors, what’s surprising about Spiritfarer is the emotional journey that it takes the player on. Ultimately, Stella is the person responsible for helping these souls who have passed to reach the other side. The unique characters players will come across are all so endearing and each have their needs and likes that the player will have to uncover to help make their journey more comfortable. Each one also has a unique story that players will unravel as they progress, giving them insight into who they were before death. The game handles topics like loss, death, and moving on extremely well and it may even surprise some people
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
The first Ori was magical in every way and I don’t know how but Moon Studio managed to somehow top even that experience. Again, the visuals are just stunning and as I mentioned in the previous awards, the soundtrack continues to elevate the experience.
At its core, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a Metroidvania style game with a large map to explore, secrets to uncover, powers to acquire, and zones to complete. While the first game had a few notorious difficulty spikes, this one felt much more even across the board. The story is touching and emotional at times but what really pulled me in was the ability to upgrade your home base. I’m a sucker for these types of mechanics and while the one in Ori was simplified, a absolutely appreciated it being in there and changing how I accessed certain areas.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout
Very simple to understand and addictively fun can easily describe this quirky game from Mediatonic. Players will be doing a lot of falling in this new spin on the popular Battle Royale genre that was once exclusively home to shooters. In Fall Guys, 60 players compete in a wacky, over the top game show style experience to see who will be the last bean person standing.
Fans of Takeshi’s Castle or the U.S. version, Most Extreme Elimination Challenge, will feel a bit nostalgic while playing this one. Mini games range from team events, race to the finish line through obstacles, and even survival style games where you hope to not be knocked into a pool of slime. Games are short, which probably is a big reason why it’s so easy to justify ‘1 more game’ before bed.
Streets of Rage 4
Even though I never personally owned a Sega Genesis, Streets of Rage was one of my favorite franchises growing up. Thankfully, I knew people who had the system and game, so I got plenty of time with it before it appeared on Virtual Consoles and other places over the years.
Obviously, one of the standout features was the soundtrack, though the side scrolling beat-em-up gameplay was also rock solid. Thankfully, Streets of Rage 4, appearing 26 years after Streets of Rage 3, continues that legacy while also modernizing it. It’s a massive love letter to fans, bringing back a huge roster of playable characters, references, unlocklable bonuses, and more. However, the game also manages to stand on its own with a new story, slick visuals, and fun beat-em-up gameplay.
I won’t lie, I was not familiar with this series before hoping in. Word of mouth and positive reviews got me onto this one. For those of you who don’t know, this is a real-time tactics game set in the Wild West during the 1870s. It features five playable characters with different weapons and abilities.
The main character, John Cooper, is a bounty hunter hot on the trails of a notorious bandit leader who was involved in his father’s death. Gameplay favors stealth to assassinate enemies, though it can also be played as an action title instead using a menu to coordinate and chain attacks. It may sound complicated but it’s a ton of fun to play and even replay thanks to the freedom and various ways you can approach missions. Mimimi Games certainly proved themselves with this one and it’s totally worth checking out.
For me, this one came out of no where but went on to become an amazing couch co-op experience similar to what Overcooked did a few years ago.
Instead of cooking, players work together to essentially move people’s furniture out of their house and into a truck parked outside. It sounds simple enough but as expected, things quickly go off the rails with not only the house layout and obstacles, but trying to meet various challenges. It’s a literal blast with friends and is a great party game.
and the winner is…