This is it, the final award for the 2016 IO Indies. Not only is this the final award, but it's also one of the most important. This year has been a phenomenal, groundbreaking year for the indie game community. Countless indie titles were released throughout 2016, several of which garnered unparalleled waves of attention and support from gamers all across the globe.
To celebrate this year's crowning indie game achievements, we've narrowed our list down to six games. Before we announce the winner of "indie game of the year," we'd like to first recognize each of our six nominees.
Indie Game of the Year - Nominees
Shadow Warrior 2 by developer Flying Wild Hog demonstrates how a sequel can be just as good as the original. Following protagonist Lo Wang for another demon-slaying romp, the game is full of satisfying weapon mechanics, and some seriously funny dialogue. Additionally, it's littered with Easter Eggs and callbacks to the original game, as well as a fun, action-packed story.
Journey deep under the sea in Giant Squid Studios' exploration game, Abzu. In the game, you can definitely feel Matt Nava's influence, as Abzu can sometimes feel like a spiritual successor to Journey. However, it differs in that you're definitively alone in Abzu. It's up to you and you alone to restore sea life and uncover the mystery surrounding you. Though it's short, Abzu is a game capable of leaving a long-lasting impact.
Firewatch by developer Campo Santo showcases how an indie game can be a well-rounded masterpiece. With a well-written story, gorgeous visuals, and a cast of memorable characters, Firewatch goes above and beyond the call of duty. Firewatch is startling in its maturity, and refreshing in its depth. It's a game that goes beyond mere walking simulator and transcends into a genre all its own.
Developed by the family of a young boy stricken with cancer, this game was one of the most heart-wrenching experiences of 2016.That Dragon, Cancer showcases firsthand what it's like to have a loved one go through an incomprehensible illness. With so much work, time, and effort put into the game, That Dragon, Cancer serves as an everlasting memory of Joel, and an example of a true story coming together to make one of the best games of 2016.
Owlboy by D-Pad Studios is a delightful romp that brings back childhood memories. Lighthearted and fun, Owlboy quickly soared to success following its release in November of 2016. With incredible visuals, enjoyable gameplay mechanics, and a fulfilling story, Owlboy showcases how ten years of development can come together and produce one of the most incredible indie games around.
This year, Stardew Valley by Eric Barone rocketed up to unreachable heights. While the game may appear simple on the surface, the complex mechanics of maintaining your farm and interacting with the town's NPCs will effectively keep you hooked for hundreds of hours. The demand for Stardew Valley has been high, and after playing the game, it's not difficult to understand why.