Selecting the best indie game of 2012 is no easy task, and not just because there are so many fantastic titles to choose from. As independent and boutique gaming continues its meteoric rise, it's getting harder and harder to define what the word 'indie' really means. Is it one man in his bedroom or garage? A relatively large team with a multi-game deal from a major publisher? What was once an ostracised segment of games development has become a massive part of the mainstream market, and a force to be reckoned with over the coming years.
We've taken the decision to include Fez and Journey in 'Best Download/Marketplace Game', which went live earlier today, simply because the competition is more relevant in that category.
So, down to business... and Merry Christmas!
NB. Click on the thumbnails for price comparisons and the game's title for the relevant review where available.
Best Indie Game Of 2012 | Defender's Quest
Every game in our shortlist makes a convincing argument for the top spot, as do plenty more fantastic indie titles that failed to make the cut due to space constraints. Ultimately, however, one humble hybrid from a tiny independent team has remained on our start menus since it released in January.
As a sublime blend of classic tower defence mechanics and persistent RPG elements, Defender's Quest succeeds because each individual facet is absolutely spot-on. The core tower defence gameplay is arguably the most balanced, intuitive, deep and polished we've ever experienced from the genre - packed with subtle intricacies and convenient features - while the roleplaying side of things presents a strong storyline with memorable characters and unbelievably compelling progression. Combined with eyecatching art direction and a massive amount of replayable content, Defender's Quest became a ruthlessly addictive and thoroughly enjoyable part of our gaming lives.
Its few flaws were all but ironed out by the recently-released Gold Edition, which also added new art assets, tweaks, extra maps and more New Game Plus content besides. Brilliantly, existing fans could update for free, while Steam users could finally get involved as of last month.
In a year of truly exquisite indie titles, this little hidden gem shone very brightly indeed. Be sure to support this surprisingly magnificent and oft-overlooked masterpiece.