In-Depth: 10 Indie Games To Watch Out For In 2011

In this New Year countdown,'s editor Mike Rose looks at some of the top independent games to debut in 2011, from the classic-inspired throwback Retro City Rampage to the enigmatic The Witness.
[In this New Year countdown,'s editor Mike Rose looks at some of the top independent games to debut in 2011, from the classic-inspired throwback Retro City Rampage to the enigmatic The Witness.] Have you heard the news? Apparently there's a new year that's just started, and it's going to look a bit like the one we have now, except slightly upgraded by one measure. These indie game developers, eh? Releasing things that aren't fully complete, and then expecting us to pay for the latest version even though it's barely different to the one we already have! Anyway, there are quite a few independent games coming out for this new update, so I've had a crack at choosing just ten of them. These are the indie games that we're the most excited about, and you should be too. Note that if any of the games on my 'Coming in 2010' list were pushed back to 2011, I've not featured them again here - that includes Fez, Vessel, Gemini Rue, Tuning and Saturated Dreamers. Which is kinda embarrassing, when you consider that was half of my list. Note that while I've chosen just ten, I'm also very much aware that there are plenty of other great indie games launching in 2011. Anyhow, here's the list: Retro City Rampage (Vblank Entertainment)


VIDEO So excited for this - Retro City Rampage is a parody open-world Grand Theft Auto style drive and shoot 'em up. You take control of The Player, causing havoc around town by running over as many people as you can and starting huge shootouts with the police. This is very much a gamer's game, with so many harks back to games of old. The game throws you all over the place, and never stays in a single gaming genre for too long - one minute you'll be stealthy dodging through mazes of cops, then next you'll be in a side-scrolling perspective. The whole time, there are score chains racking up as the most wonderful tunes play. Retro City Rampage is coming to Xbox Live Arcade and WiiWare in 2011. Monaco (Pocketwatch Games)


VIDEO When a game manages to win the Independent Games Festival Grand Prize after around one month of development, you know it must be something special. Monaco puts you and up to three friends in the boots of master thieves, as you attempt to pull off the greatest heists around the city of Monaco. Each character class has different skills, from unlocking doors quickly to messing around with security systems, hence you and your friends will need to work as a team to infiltrate various banks, mansions and even a yacht, and successfully take home the most expensive prizes. We talked to developer Andy Schatz on the IndieGames podcast recently, so if you want all the best details about the game, make sure you give that a listen. Spy Party (Chris Hecker)


VIDEO Spy Party, or 'try your best to act like an AI character', is a 2-player espionage experience that will mess with your mind. One player takes the role of the spy, while the other is a sniper. The spy must complete some tasks around a bustling crowd, while the sniper must work out who the player is and shoot them before they manage to fulfil these tasks. Might sound like the sniper has an easy job, but honestly it's far from it. There are so many characters walking around that it can be incredibly difficult to work out where your target is. The idea is to watch for any 'tells' - e.g. a character moving strangely, or interacting with scenery in a way which they shouldn't. The spy, on the other hand, must plan their route effectively so that they don't look out of place. Very clever, and bound to cause many late night spy sessions. The graphics are currently place-holder, for those wondering. The Witness (Jonathan Blow)


VIDEO So, what do we know about The Witness? We know it is an exploration-puzzle set on a mysterious island, and that it looks rather like it takes inspiration from the Myst series, but perhaps not too much. We know that some people have already given it a play, although it may not have been that obvious as to what they were playing. Jon Blow has began to open up a little on his development blog about the game, but it's still very much shrouded in mystery. As the next game after Braid, it's quite the 'difficult second album' scenario, and hopefully The Witness will deliver. You can follow the game's progress over on the blog. Dust: An Elysian Tail (Humble Hearts)


VIDEO Winner of the Dream.Build.Play competition back in 2009, Dust: An Elysian Tail is headed to Xbox Live Arcade in 2011. Watch the above teaser, and tell me you're not excited. Go on, I dare you. It looks utterly stunning, and is bound to be one of the big XBLA hitters next year. It's a side-scrolling battler/RPG, following the protagonist Dust who will looking to rediscover his past. Everything you see is hand-animated and painted - in fact, there is also a feature film in production called Elysian Tail that will follow the same style. There's been no news on the official site since July, but a release date of 'late 2011' is still on the cards, so let's just hope it isn't delayed. Dustforce (Hitbox)


VIDEO A second dust-down for 2011, Dustforce is a platformer with a unique twist - armed with a broom, your character can stick to walls and ceilings by cleaning up dust, like some kind of sanitary Super Meat Boy. It looks stupidly slick in action too, with gorgeous visuals and the kind of soundtrack I can really get into. The feel of the controls is going to be what makes or breaks this game, with tight jumps to make and plenty of spikes to leap over. The final product will also come with a full level editor for designing your own dirty runs. The official site for the game still shows absolutely nothing at all, which is just not acceptable - I want information now, dammit! Capsized (Alientrap Software)


VIDEO Coming next year for Xbox 360 and PC, Capsized has been in development for many a moon. It's a 2D platformer set on a strange planet, with plenty of aliens and a very cool jetpack. You've crash-landed in this very green world, and must find all your fellow landees and bring them to safety. A grappling mechanic is what makes this game really interesting. It can be used to swing across pits and baddies, but also attached to rocks and obstacles, allowing you to drag them out of the way. Online multiplayer is also planned, with up to four players battling is out against each other in what will hopefully be a grand scale Liero-style shooter. Frozen Synapse (Mode 7 Games)


VIDEO You may well have played a fair bit of the Frozen Synapse beta already, available for those who pre-order the game. Two players take control of a squad of soldiers in turn-based action that can be played in 10 minutes, or over the course of 10 months if you choose, thanks to a clever saving system. In addition to the current multiplayer set-up, there is also a single player campaign in the works for brushing up on your strategic skills so that your friends will never stand a chance. Check out our preview from early in the year for all the info that you need. Skulls of the Shogun (Haunted Temple Studios)


VIDEO Imagine Advance Wars with free movement rather than a grid, and crazy undead demons instead of tanks, and you've got a simple idea of how Skulls of the Shogun plays and looks. Two teams attempt to overthrow each other by cleverly taking up positions, laying into each other's skeleton armies, and then picking up the leftover skulls. Skulls are what make this game so interesting - allow one of your party to eat three skulls, and they'll burst into black flames and become so much more powerful. The art style is particularly lovely, and gives the action so much personality. The game is aimed for a 2011 release on both PC and Xbox 360. Check out the preview for a more in-depth look. Subversion (Introversion Software)


VIDEO Started back in 2006 by the British guys behind Darwinia, DEFCON and Uplink, Subversion is heavy on the procedurally generated content, and puts you in the shoes of a master criminal as you attempt to break into banks, vaults and other such high security areas. You have a team of operatives who can sabotage security systems, hack terminals, trick employees and blow stuff up. The idea is to get in and get out without the victims knowing you were even there, but a Plan B is always a good idea too. Make sure you watch the above demonstration video for more details.

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