"Tomb Raider" and "Grand Theft Auto" are bestsellers in the gaming industry. But it's not just huge gaming companies that prevail. As the hotly anticipated "No Man's Sky" is released, here are some other top indie games.
Since the 1980s, video games have become a huge moneymaker. In recent years, the games have become increasingly realistic and elaborate.
You'd think those kinds of developments would only be possible with the help of big-time investors - but that's not entirely the case. While large manufacturers score with elaborate effects, independent developers tend to impress with unusual stories and smart ideas.
Of course, money still plays a role for indie developers as well, and crowdfunding has become a reasonable and effective alternative to extortionate loans. In return for a small donation, crowdfunders receive a digital copy of the final game in advance. When enough money has been collected, the indie game is developed.
Another reason indie games have taken off is that app stores and platforms like Steam can be used to distribute the games without much effort or overhead cost.
Here are seven of our favorite indie games:
1. 'No Man's Sky'
Gamers around the world have eagerly been awaiting the release of "No Man's Sky" (pictured above) on August 10. In this space game, the player takes the role of an adventurer that explores the entire universe with his spaceship. There are billions of planets to explore. The game is made up of discovery, action, fighting and survival, and it's bound to be one of the most exciting indie games of the year. Some insiders have even predicted it could become more successful than "Minecraft."
Speaking of "Minecraft," the popular indie game has become a role model for many indie producers. It was developed by the free programmer Markus Persson. More than 100,000 players have shared it on YouTube, and millions have bought it. In mid-2015, Microsoft bought the rights for around 2 billion euros (about $2.2 billion).
In "Minecraft," the player does not pursue a given goal: In a 3-D world you explore and discover caves and labyrinthine passages, build your own landscapes and buildings, collect resources and fight against monsters.
3. 'World of Goo'
When "World of Goo" hit the market in 2008, the indie gaming scene was still in its infancy. The puzzle game was developed by former employees of the games giant Electronic Arts. The aim of the game is to build a pipe to bring you to the end of the level. You do so with the help of small balls called goos.
The game is about stability and gravity, and keeping the building process balanced can be a tricky business. "World of Goo" was the winner in the categories "technical perfection" and "innovative game design" at the 2008 Independent Games Festival.
This 2-D computer game was launched in 2010 by the Danish company PlayDead Studios. A creepy atmosphere is created by the dark, black-and-white surroundings and the background music. Even the setting of the game is reminiscent of a horror movie: Without a real plot or story, the player wakes up in a forest as a nameless boy and sets out in search of his sister. In order to move forward, he needs to dodge well hidden traps. When he fails, his cruel death is shown through an animation. "Limbo" is still selling well and has won several awards.
5. 'Papers, Please'
The theme of the game "Papers, Please," which appeared in 2013, could hardly be more topical. In it, developer Lucas Pope processes his own experiences as an immigrant to Japan.
The player takes on the role of a border inspector in the fictional, totalitarian state of Arstotzka. He has to check the papers of immigrants and turn them away according to the entry requirements or let them into the country. Entry conditions change almost daily, and the mysterious Ezic Society and the Secret Service try to influence the players and manipulate them for their own purposes.
The game has been sold around 1.5 million times and was also awarded as the bestselling game in 2014 at the BAFTA Gaming Awards.
6. 'Super Meat Boy'
"Super Meat Boy" is a classic freerunner computer game. The hero, Meat Boy, is in love with Bandage Girl. She is kidnapped by Meat Boy's opponent, Dr. Fetus. The aim is to rescue Bandage Girl. The game, which launched in 2010, has received very positive reviews. The "Super Meat Boy" makers were able to score with fans and critics particularly due to the precise handling and retro atmosphere .
"Braid" was developed by the independent game developer Jonathan Blow in collaboration with web comic illustrator David Hellman. It is laid out like a classic, two-dimensional freerunner game, but scores with some special features. Through the character Tim, a man with red hair, a suit and a red tie, the gamer can slow down time, turn back, and disconnect from his shadow. Time must be manipulated on five levels in order to collect 12 puzzle pieces.