Top 20 Xbox Live Indie Games of 2010 – Part 1

With twenty-ten firmly in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to perform our requisite best of the year list. With so many great indie games released in 2010, we’ll forgive you if you might have missed a few gems here and there. There were a ton of fantastic games to choose from, so assembling the list was a bit more difficult than initially anticipated.  So, the good news is that everything that made the cut is awesome, but needless to say, there are a lot of great games that were log-jammed for those last few spots. The list is presented by genre, and is not a countdown in any fashion. Each game is accompanied by reflections from the author who originally reviewed the game discussing why it deserves to be on the list.

Check out Part 2 of our Top 20 Xbox Live Indie Games of 2010!

RPGs and Adventure

Breath of Death VII

[singlepic id=46 w=320 h=240 float=left]Breath of Death VII, along with Shoot 1UP, were the first games that convinced me that it was worthwhile writing about those indie games. It managed to tickle my nostalgia receptors for those classic RPGs I grew up playing in a way that no modern RPG really could. Its pixel-perfect 16-bit art style is absolutely gorgeous, and it’s jammed with hilarious nods to classic gaming franchises and self-referential humor. I really find a lot of modern Japanese RPGs to be overly cheesy, long-winded and pretentious, but Breath of Death VII manages to remind me of what used to be so much fun about the genre. It even manages to improve upon the formula by reducing a lot of the maintenance. The combat is snappy, the characters are quirky and it’s just about the best value out there for a buck.
Full Review by Mike Wall

Cthulhu Saves the World

[singlepic id=48 w=320 h=240 float=right]This was easily my most anticipated indie game of 2010, and it thankfully delivered on the promise of building off the retro-RPG foundation laid by Breath of Death VII. The octopus-faced, winged Cthulhu has been stripped of his evil powers, and now he must save the world in order to return to his former glory. The characters are even more ridiculous and the banter between Cthulhu and the narrator are priceless. The references to classic games are toned down, but the story and dialogue are picked up a notch, making the overall story and experience more memorable. It even manages to improve upon Breath of Death’s slick, fast-paced combat.
Full Review by Mike Wall

Epic Dungeon

[singlepic id=49 w=320 h=240 float=left]The name pretty much sums it up in a nutshell. Pick one of four classes and plow your way through 50 floors of 8-bit orc-slaughtering madness. Kill a boatload of spiders, discover hidden rooms and round up as much loot as you can get your grubby little hands on; just try not to die. One death and it’s game over, so the game is always tense and every battle could really be your last. The quirky random interactions are a nice addition, and the strange scenarios add a nice variety to the game. Not many games give you the option of trading away your toe for treasure.
Full Review by Dave Voyles.

Decay

[singlepic id=50 w=320 h=240 float=right]Decay is a strange game in the indie library, which is overrun by fast-paced shooters. Each chapter of this psychological first-person, point-and-click adventure game continues the story of a man who has awakened with amnesia on the bathroom floor of a dilapidated apartment after apparently trying to kill himself. Each game is spent methodically exploring the ominous complex solving puzzles and trying to unravel clues about this bleak world populated by ghosts, a serial killer and that twisted doll. The photo-realistic graphics are some of the best of the Xbox indies, and the lighting and music perfectly set the bleak, oppressive tone for the series.
Full Reviews by Mike Wall

The Platformers

Kaleidoscope

[singlepic id=52 w=320 h=240 float=left]Kaleidoscope as a game isn’t terribly inventive or novel, but Kaleidoscope as an experience is simply wondrous and beautiful. It tells the story of Tint, a mousy charcoal-colored creature whose world has been sucked of its color and his friends have gone missing. Now the adorable creature must journey across the land, lighting up lanterns, riding man-sized tomatoes and bopping every brown, furry enemy he can set his feet on. The combination of the gorgeous, colorful graphics and the excellent soundtrack make Kaleidoscope stand out beyond its peers, as does its twist of slowly restoring color to each level. As Tint collects colored orbs, the world becomes brighter and the soundtrack builds from its simple initial beats into a catchy, bouncy tune.
Full Review by Mike Wall

Platformance: Castle Pain

[singlepic id=53 w=320 h=240 float=right]Rescue the princess. It’s possibly the most rote and regurgitated concept in all videogame-dom, but yet developers keep finding ways to repackage it into something fresh and interesting. Platformance pits you, a tiny helpless knight somehow unable to actually thrust that useless sword, with the daunting task of saving the pixelated princess. This task is made far more difficult by the deadly obstacle course of spikes, killer sea horses, bats, rotating blades, and about a hundred other mechanisms of dismemberment. That persistent little knight is going to die. A lot. But thankfully you’ll instantly respawn a few feet away for a chance to be impaled all over again. The scale of the castle is impressive, and you can zoom out at any time to see how far along the path of death you are.
Full Review by Mike Wall

Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess

[singlepic id=54 w=320 h=240 float=left]All the Duke wants to do is spend a little quality time with his princess, but those blasted monsters just can’t leave their paws, claws and tentacles off her. Never one to wait for adjudication, the Duke runs around accusing the local monsters of the heinous crime, and then chases them up vertical columns until he can beat the truth out of the them. Yes, it’s another rescue-the-princess simulator, but it’s a hell-of-a-good one thanks to its fantastic 2D graphics, humor, and precise platforming. The point is to leap from platform to platform in order to chase the fleeing monsters, while building a combo meter and speed by not falling or jumping on the same platform twice. Full Review by Mike Wall

Apple Jack

[singlepic id=55 w=320 h=240 float=right] Maybe it was a testament of how amateur a game reviewer I was, or perhaps it was because of how difficult the game was, but I was never able to finish Apple Jack for the review. However, it didn’t stop me from loving it. My Owl Software mixed gameplay from Super Mario Bros. 2 and Bubble Bobble and provided a fresh approach to 2D platforming. There was just something insanely gratifying about chucking a panda into a chain reaction of falling washing machines, floating eyeballs and laser-shooting owls–all set across cutesy settings with a fabulously-twee soundtrack.
Full Review by Dylan Martin

The Deep Cave

[singlepic id=56 w=320 h=240 float=left]Sometimes simplicity can be a beautiful thing, and in the case of The Deep Cave, that statement has never held more truth. The simple control scheme combined with unique and novel platforming elements have refreshed this genre in my eyes. These, in addition to the rocking soundtrack and lack of penalty for death, had me replaying this game over and over after more than 200 deaths. I look forward to what Pennybridge Indie Game Studio has to offer in the future, if this was an indication of what’s to come.
Full Review by Dave Voyles

The Tempura of the Dead

[singlepic id=57 w=320 h=240 float=right]How many presidents would leap out of his helicopter with only a Tommy Gun to break his fall in order to help a ninja fight back against the hordes of the undead? The opening cut scene perfectly channels the 80s machismo that accompanies the 80s NES action games that The Tempura of the Dead perfectly mimics. It does for the genre what Breath of Death VII did for RPGs. There’s a ridiculous sense of humor with bonuses being rewarded for juggling decapitated zombie heads, and a store run by a friendly zombie who sells you upgrades. The game’s system of using 1UPs as a currency essentially ensures you won’t be running out of lives, but still keeps the game challenging because you’re always looking to buy new abilities. The two distinct characters each have their appropriate uses and can be swapped on the fly while slaughtering tons of gory zombies and monsters. It’s a long, difficult, satisfying experience made complete with an authentic chiptunes soundtrack and awesome pixelated graphics.
Full Review by Mike Wall

Check out Part 2 of our Top 20 Xbox Live Indie Games of 2010!

Posted on by Mike Wall in News

About Mike Wall

Mike grew up and lives near Philadelphia and has been intrigued with games ever since his parents preached that they rotted his brain. He studied journalism at Penn State and got his master's degree in secondary education before realizing that not even summers off would make that job palatable. He now works in marketing and is trying to find time to continue writing a book about zombies, aliens, vampires, the end of the world, and a talking cat.