2019 TechRaptor Awards - Indie Game of the Year

Gaming article by Andrew Otton on Friday, January 10, 2020 - 11:00
Feature

For outstanding creative and technical design from outside a large studio

This is our favorite award every year as it highlights some of the most creative games of the last year. Small teams, and sometimes just one person, with a singular vision carried out to awesome results. While there are definitely many games on our nominees list that you have no doubt heard of, we hope there's something here for you to discover.

Here's the list of nominees (and here's the list of nominees for all award categories):

Readers' Choice - Disco Elysium

Developer: ZA/UM | Release Date: October 15th, 2019 | Game Page

Sometimes, the old way of doing things works out. Very much in the vein of something like Planescape: Torment, Disco Elysium sees you take on the role of an amnesiac cop who must solve a murder. There's also a bunch of other societal and culture stuff going on. And then there's the whole personified emotions and abilities thing. With its unique writing and setup, there's no wonder Disco Elysium resonated with our readers.

Fifth Place - Outer Wilds

Developer: Mobius Digital | Release Date: May 29th, 2019 

outer wilds

By Andrew Stretch

Live, Learn, Die, Repeat. Outer Wilds puts players in the boots of an astronaut with only 22 minutes until the sun goes supernova. After the time has expired, the world will reset and you'll be given a fresh 22 minutes. Outer Wilds is a game that pushes the player to explore and learn more in each cycle. With information carrying over, players can get further and further without needing to backtrack continuously. This interesting "groundhog day'" mechanic pushes the player to explore with new knowledge, while always being brought back to the very beginning.

Fourth Place - Baba Is You

Developer: Hempuli | Release Date: March 13th, 2019 | Game Page

baba is you

By Andrew Stretch

Developed by Finnish indie developer Arvi Teikari, aka Hempuli, Baba Is You is a great indie puzzle game that forces you to break and create rules. By combining a Noun, operator, and verb, players can change the rules of the world. Seeing "Grass is Stop" will mean the player can't move through any of the grass on the screen—simply disconnecting the rule means that it's no longer in effect. These puzzles don't just make the game interesting and refreshing to play, but also gives players a great sense of satisfaction when they're figured out. Beginning its inception in a 2017 gamejam, this indie title rose in popularity and has now seen successful releases on PC and Nintendo Switch.

Third Place - Slay the Spire

Developer:  Mega Crit Games | Release Date: January 23rd, 2019 | Game Page

slay the spire

By Alex Santa Maria

It’s likely that most players slew the spire in a year other than 2019, but most would still argue that it deserves top honors. As the progenitor of a new type of roguelike, players will feel Slay the Spire’s inspiration for years to come. The decision to take new cards or keep your deck small, the requirement of playing three moves ahead, these are the types of maneuvers you’d expect from a mature card game like Magic: The Gathering. The fact that it managed to nail its highly addictive core gameplay while in Early Access is all the more reason why it’s a must-play title from 2019.

Second Place - Sayonara Wild Hearts

Developer: Simogo | Release Date: September 19th, 2019 | Game Page

sayonara wild hearts

By Nick Maillet

Sayonara Wild Hearts is by far one of the most interesting games I've played in quite some time. From its captivating visual design, ever evolving gameplay, and the top notch song writing by composers Daniel Olsen and Jonathan Eng, Sayonara Wild Hearts is the perfect blend of visual storytelling with addictive gameplay to bring a mobile experience very few games have managed to deliver.

The game's run time is short but it offers a ton of replayability in its challenges and ranking system, and the soundtrack alone keeps me going back to the game time and time again. If you're a fan of bands like Pvris and CHVRCHES, an apple Arcade Subscriber, or just want to try something new, then Sayonara Wild Hearts is totally worth checking out and absolutely deserves its spot on our top indie games of 2019 list.

Winner - Disco Elysium

Developer: ZA/UM | Release Date: October 15th, 2019 | Game Page

disco elysium

By Andrew Otton

Disco Elysium was one of the most enjoyable reading and gaming experiences I have had in a long time. The writing style is engrossing, the characters believable, and the mystery full of threads worth pulling on. The prose continued to amaze, being descriptive, funny, and succinct all in one—an extremely difficult feat. As a novel, I would have come away liking Disco Elysium a lot. However, the gameplay elements are what elevate it to another level.

We're used to putting points into various attributed or skills in RPGs, but Disco Elysium takes it a step further. Take any roster of playable characters in an RPG and imagine they are all in the main character's head—a piece of their psyche. That's what Disco Elysium is like.

There are skill checks all over the place, but they don't serve to simply roll the dice and move on. No, you get the chance to talk to that skill first. Maybe they're prompting or goading you into a decision or trying to talk you out of it. Most of the time, they just have their perspective to add. Remembering that all of these are just pieces of the main character's mind—that he is just talking to himself, a lot—elevates the awesome experiences even more.

It's easy to see why Disco Elysium was our Indie Game of the Year, featuring an awesome idea that married mechanics and narrative together perfectly.

What did we get right? Wrong? Miss anything? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author

Andrew Otton

Andrew Otton

Editor in Chief

Editor in Chief at TechRaptor. Lover of some things, a not so much lover of other things.