While it’s important to be fit and have a healthy body, neglecting your brain’s need for stimulation just makes you a pure muscle-head at the end of the day. While there are plenty of non-digital means to stretch your mind, there are a number of great indie games that get you to think about them long after you’ve put down that device or controller. Here are five titles to try out that should get you thinking about things other than a high score or how many kills you’ve racked up:
Glitchhikers (PC/Mac): While it’s short (playtime is about fifteen minutes each drive), Silverstring Media’s absolutely free download will get your brain ruminating about plenty of things as you take a night drive on its retro road. As you drive down a lonely highway with the radio on, a DJ plays music and ruminates on topics while you do some thinking of your own. At a few points, strange-looking hitchhikers appear in your car, and you have conversations with them on the meaning of life and other topics. The actual “gameplay” is light, but some of the questions and answers are deep, as are the responses you can give to them. After three riders appear and disappear, you take an exit, the credits roll with a nice song playing, and the game ends, shutting itself down and leaving you with your thoughts. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself hitting the road again right afterwards.
The Entire Screen of One Game: All you need to know about this free to play browser game is what it says on the game page: “You can’t win the game. It only exists to destroy your mind.” If you’re someone who plays to WIN, this simple looking indie will make your brain make this sound within five seconds… and for good reason. All I’ll say is your sense of perception and perspective will go for a little voyage of their own as the game reveals it’s quite unbeatable. As long as you know going in that you’re not going to see anything resembling an ending screen or even a “Game Over” for having yout mind destroyed, you’ll be fine. Well, except for hearing that sound in your head the rest of the day. Creator Tom7 made this game for Ludum Dare 31 where you can find a few thousand other indie games made in 72 hours or less for this ongoing indie developer competition.
The Matter of the Great Red Dragon (PC): Another free browser game, this one’s a “choose your own fantasy adventure” reader that offers players a choice of how their story plays out. The story uses a few fantasy/RPG tropes to lure you into accepting the challenge of taking on the titular beast, but let’s just say that your trip will be interrupted. Some of the choices lead on the same paths no matter which roads you choose, but there’s enough wit in the writing and a few different endings to make this one worth a few replays. It should take no more than five to ten minutes for each story to unfold, so this one’s perfect for a bedtime story for the wise crowd.
ROM CHECK FAIL (PC/Linux): Whether you play this in your browser or download it for later consumption, Farbs‘ amazing retro mash-up is one of those absolute genius indie games that will get retro fans busting some moves or busting a keyboard. Imagine playing about a dozen classic arcade and console games all at once as they each drop in bits and pieces of themselves on the play field, and that’s not even half of what’s happening. It’s an intentional mess of images and a total rush once you realize that it can be beaten with plenty of patience and plenty of trial and error. You’ll laugh a lot as you try to grasp things, and yes, the game can be unfair when your character changes into something useless for the brief map it appears on. But you have to give credit to Farbs for making nostalgia mean something different and that FUN can come from the same old games you grew up playing and thought you knew so well.
Walk (PC). This free Desura first-person exploration game can be played one of two ways. You can try to find the sphere randomly placed on the map, or you can just wander around on your own listening to relaxing tunes and thinking your own real-life thoughts. Walk is one of those indie games that has some very light similarities to Journey, but isn’t any sort of clone at all. It’s also definitely not for those who crave action, but more for gamers who like to stop and smell the roses once in a while. The caveats are that the visuals are a bit too blown out color-wise, and the depth of field effect can be jarring for those used to sharper looking games.
Elegy for a Dead World (PC/Mac/Linux): One of the best indie games of 2014, Dejobaan Games‘ instant classic is a game about writing that has you creating stories on the three planets your character visits. From freeform verse to assorted writing prompts that range from humorous to serious, this game will get just about anyone interested in their own creative spark. There’s no story other than your traveler being the sole survivor of an expedition sent out to survey three planets. Everything else is up to your imagination and what it makes of the strange and beautiful worlds you’ll see. After each area, you’re prompted to save and share your stories with the game’s growing community, and you can read and rate others’ works as well. This one’s not free, but at $14.99, it’s a steal if you’re even remotely interested in any type of writing. That and reading what other players have written is going to probably help expand your mind even more than you think.
There are plenty of other indie games out there worth a try, most of them free to download and play. If you’re new to the scene, take this article as your stepping-off point, and go try out other indie games you’ll trip over as you travel around the Internet.
Edited by: Avery Osborn
Don’t Just Be Fit. Be Gamer Fit.