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Published on February 18th, 2021 | by minshewnetworks

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5 Indie Games that Defied Expectations

Indie Games are a strange breed. Although we are all sure to have a handful of indie favourites, it’s clear that the vast majority of indie games fail to garner an audience or recoup their costs—getting added to the graveyard of games in the process.

But that’s not to say there aren’t wonderful success stories, where indies defy all expectations and blast into the mainstream. Let’s dive into 5 such games.

Minecraft

Let’s get this out the way early… It goes without saying that Minecraft is the most successful indie game ever made selling well over 200 million copies.

When Minecraft released into public alpha in 2009 no one could have predicted the impact it was going to have. We must remember, it released into a market that wasn’t known for open-ended survival sandbox games, arguably spurring on the explosion of the genre throughout the 2010s with prices of Minecraft keys falling steadily and the game becoming more accessible to a wider audience.

Now, let’s be honest, none of us need to know any more about Minecraft… It is totally ubiquitous at this point.

Shovel Knight

Most studios struggle up the ladder by producing game upon game until striking gold, but Yacht Club Games came to the table with a clear, unique vision. A shovel-wielding knight, navigating an NES style world reminiscent of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Super Mario Bros. 3, Mega Man, DuckTales and Castlevania with a notable hint of Dark Souls.

Digging out a path for themselves, the team went to Kickstarter where they managed to succeed their funding goal of $75,000, collecting a whopping £311,502. If anything, this was the moment which defied all expectation—and formed the basis of the team being able to shovel all their efforts into the game.

As the game released, it quickly gained universal acclaim. And, what’s more, the company’s reputation only grew as they decided to release three entirely new campaigns, all without any DLC payments. But, if anything, this ideology could be seen as giving back to all those who believed in them at the very beginning.

Undertale

Pulling together eclectic influences to form a concept which would never be passed in any developer board meeting, Undertale exploded onto the gaming scene in 2015 and has left a lasting impression, eventually being ported to most major platforms.

The game defies expectations in a bunch of ways: from its retro aesthetic to its intentional subversion and misdirection throughout the game’s narrative. But the huge cult of fandom that has built up around its iconic characters, design and universal acclaim is testament to its success.

Rocket League

Back in 2008, Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars released to the PS3 and received a reception as memorable as its name. But 7 years on, developed Psyonix gave the idea another shot and struck gold.

Repackaging the idea under the far better title Rocket League, players quickly took wind of the complete joy that was playing an over-sized version of soccer with rocket-powered cars. This quickly thrust the game into the limelight, netting the company over US$70 million within its first year.

This completely shifted the company’s focus, culminating in them being purchased by Epic Games in 2019. And, judging by the rife e-sports scene, Rocket League is not going anywhere.

Papers, Please

It’s fair to say that a game about being a border-control guard, created by a former GUI tools designer who crafted menus, save systems and organisational tools, doesn’t sound like it would be particularly captivating… But then Papers, Please showed up, completely shattering our preconceptions.

Developed solo by Lucas Pope, the game places players in the shoes of an immigration officer in the fictional dystopian Eastern-Bloc-style Arstotzka. From checking documents to making moral decisions, the game plays a psychological game—with the most interesting part of the game happening in the player’s head.

The countless awards and near-universal acclaim lorded onto the game upon release mark it as one of the most surprising indie games of the past decade.

 

Indie games are known for shattering expectations, whether that be of traditional gameplay, art style, subject matter, or anything else. But these five examples stand out as some of the most fascinating career-defining success stories which came completely out of the blue.

If you are looking to defy expectations within your favourite games, check out Eldorado. Here you can get ahead from being Boosted in Rainbow Six Siege to purchasing that all important ISK currency in EVE Online.


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