January 30, 2013 9:45 PM | John Polson
[IndieGames is wrapping up its year in review, with lists including the Top 10 (Free) Platformer Games, Top 10 (Free) Puzzle Games of 2012, Top 10 (Free) Experimental Games of 2012, Top 10 Indie Adventure Games of 2012, Top 10 Indie Strategy Games of 2012, Top 10 Indie Horror Games of 2012, Top 10 Indie Shoot-'Em-Ups of 2012 and our Top 10 Indie Games of 2012 (+2!).]
Upon reviewing the top 10 platformers of 2012 that ask for your money, almost half of them actually started out wanting nothing more than your time. Whether they were on gaming portals or simply freeware experiments, they were there for us in the past to enjoy. Now, they've come back even fiercer and ready to take the money we've supposedly been throwing at their screens for years!
All that is to say free games aren't going anywhere, and we'll probably continue seeing more matured versions of free games in the future. We'll probably continue to see an equal amount of amazing commercial games based on new IP, too.
What will the next-gen gadgets offer us, and what will inevitably higher-powered PCs offer us months later? I can't wait to find out! But until then, let's celebrate the games that made us jump around in the funnest of situations. These are the best of 2012's indie platformers for pay.
10. Closure (Eyebrow Interactive) [PS3, Windows, Mac]
Closure is frightening. Even if there's a platform in the darkness, you can't rely on it, not unless a beam of light acknowledges it. Players have to use the light, dark, and some physics to complete 100 levels and find hidden objects. This isn't for the twitch fan, though. You gotta use your brain! For a sample of Closure, you can check out the 2009 browser version. However, Tyler Glaiel, Jon Schubbe and Chris Rhyne all did a fantastic job on expanding this into a huge game well worth the money.
9. Sound Shapes (Queasy Games) [PS3, PS Vita]
Sound Shapes earns a spot for the Beck levels alone. I can't recall another platforming experience that used the lyrics of a song as well as this. And that's just one "album" on the game. After beating all the albums, you also have a sea of user-made levels to download, thanks to simple level sharing and thorough editor tutorial. That video should seal the deal, provided you have a Sony machine.
8. Thomas Was Alone (Mike Bithell) [Windows, Mac]
I haven't felt this emotionally attached to faceless geometric shapes since I played the Atari 2600. Sure, we have more horsepower to do the imagining for us nowadays, but Bithell's Thomas Was Alone takes the road much less traveled to bring us an amazing story with top-notch voice acting that seems just as important to experience as the challenging platforming. Grab the demo, grab a blanket and get cozy. Then go buy the complete game!
7. Stealth Bastard Deluxe (Curve Studios) [Windows]
Stealth Bastard Deluxe places on the list over the honorably mentioned Mark of the Ninja because it provides much less breathing room for its stealth platforming. It doesn't redefine stealth or attempt to create a cinematic 2D experience, it just dishes out bastard-ly hard platforming. While waiting for your allowance or paycheck to clear, check out the amazing 2011 freeware version, which should be all the convincing you need to support this developer.
6. Gateways (Smudged Cat Games) [Xbox 360, Windows]
Smudged Cat Games knows platformers, and Gateways is the developer's best one yet, especially if you like a dose of metroidvania with mind-bending puzzles. Calling it the 2D version of portal is almost a disservice, because while it's worth everyone playing and it does have portals, the variety of its portal puzzles is arguably greater. Grab the demo first if you must, but this is an essential puzzle/exploration platforming game.
5. FEZ (Polytron) [Xbox 360]
The world of FEZ always feels like you can't explore it fast enough. That's a good thing, as every colorful pixel and twist of its huge 3D world begs you to explore more. Death seems an overplayed obstacle to FEZ, so it kindly doesn't kill your character. Instead of punishing with death and over twitchy play, FEZ chooses to break you down with its puzzles.
4. La-Mulana (Nigoro) [Windows, WiiWare]
La-Mulana inches out over FEZ because it offers a whole slew of sadistic mechanics. Not only does La-Mulana wear you down with tricky puzzles, there's a healthy amount of twitchy platforming and deadly enemies and bosses. You could enjoy the freeware, but why not indulge in the gorgeous expanded version, and support the developers while you are at it?
3. Dustforce (Hitbox Team) [Windows, Mac, Linux]
Hitbox Team's platforming is crack... er, dust. Whatever you want to call it, Dustforce offers more than a bagful of high-speed platforming. Even the "enemies" and dusting adds to the dance that the developers demand of you. The art and music is sublime, too: a true experience for the senses... as long as you aren't allergic to dust!
2. Knytt Underground (Nifflas) [PlayStation, Windows, Linux, Mac]
The first two chapters of Nifflas' Knytt Underground expose you to the mechanics you'll manipulate, but it is not until you enter the humongous chapter 3 that you start to release how well you have to master those skills to explore. Along with colorful bursts that provide dashes, high jumps, and free floating, players can change from human to ball at will, creating with the latter a more physics-based system. Be ready to invest days in exploring the underground and the challenges that are under the underground. Play the demo, but remember the full game is at least 10 times larger.
1. Spelunky (Mossmouth) [XBox 360]
Spelunky is Indiana Jones' worst nightmare. Whereas other platformers offer extended life through creating and sharing player-created levels, Spelunky magically (procedurally) generates unlimited, cavernous stages without having to connect to any online shops or servers. It is one of very few games in my lifetime where I questioned my ability to play platformers in the first set of levels. Tread carefully when playing Spelunky, but purchase it hastily, or at least play the freeware version until it releases outside of XBLA.