Top Five Xbox One Indie Games of 2016

Every year we all take the time to reflect back on what the past 365 days have brought us, and 2016 was no different. Here at Can’t Pause This, we voiced our collective (and differing) opinions on the years’ best games, TV, movies, and even wrestling. But for all the discussion and fanfare of those triple A titles and blockbusters, some of my most memorable and treasured hours of the last year were spent in the magical worlds and fantastic imagination of Indie Games.

So, without further ado, let us pay homage to some of the best Indie titles to grace our consoles this year – though bear in mind, these are all purely my own opinion and based off of the titles I had the pleasure of playing on Xbox One; so, please, if I missed any here let me know below!

5. Overcooked

Overcooked is a multiplayer game developed by Ghost Town Games (comprised of two guys who want to watch the world burn) in which you have to scream at your friends and ruin your relationships for the sake of feeding a giant meatball monster that is terrorising the city.
Despite the tattered remains of treasured friendships left in its wake, Overcooked manages to be fun, frustrating as heck, and utterly and completely amazing.
A true game of strategy, timing, and teamwork, the main game mechanics here is co-ordination. While it is possible to play the game by yourself, it is clear Overcooked was designed for several players in its kitchens (you can play with up to 4 people). One player can chop ingredients, another can cook, while the third delivers orders and cleans plates, and the final player can keep the orders in check, bringing the neccessary ingredients over to the chopping board.
You must cook orders while traversing a lake of lava, while floating around in space, and while greedy rats steal all your ingredients, all while desperately trying to complete your orders on time.
It is one of those games that is so beautifully simple, it radiates a good time. Me and my friends completed this one over the course of several evenings each encompassing strategy sessions and many “okay guys, let’s cool it down”‘s (mostly aimed at me when I fell into the lava again), and fist pumps. And it’s utterly adorable, to boot. Can’t go wrong, really.
You can check out the games’ trailer here.


4. Unravel

This charming side scrolling platformer has the backing of a major studio – EA – but was developed in its entirety by Coldwood Interactive, an independent studio based in Sweden.
In it, you follow Yarny – a little character made entirely of a single ball of yarn, which slowly unravels as you traverse the games’ landscape.
There is real heart here, it is present in every part of the game – from a touching and very quiet story line, to the care taken in each aspect of Unravels development – and it isn’t hard to see that Coldwood Interactive gave all they had to this project, and it paid off.
The end result is a fun and challenging platformer that is simply a joy to play. The puzzles take time to figure out and will cause you to jump, swing, sail, and explore your way through many different environments that echo the Scandinavian Landscape beautifully.
Well worth a purchase if you want something that doesn’t take a huge amount of time to complete, but definitely tugs at the heartstrings (I seriously teared up at the end there) with a message that resonates with us all: take care of yourself, take care of your family, and don’t let those precious and treasured bonds unravel.
You can check out the games’ trailer here.

3. The Banner Saga

The Banner Saga is one of those rare and precious titles that is so seeped in lore it is defining.
Inspired by Viking Legends of old, The Banner Saga takes you on an interactive adventure in a world engulfed in perpetual twilight since the Sun ceased its movements, leaving monstrous shadows known as the Dredge, which were thought to have died out long ago, begin to crawl from the darkness and infect the landscape.
The plot of the story flows much like a TellTale Series title, with the player deciding which route to take, who lives and who dies, who eats and who starves, which battles to fight and which to talk your way out of.
The play of the game mirrors that of Final Fantasy Tactics mixed with Oregon Trail, with your arsenal of characters opening you up to many options: warriors in the form of giant, bearded vikings, healers and archers in the form of men. There are even characters who ask not to fight, and those who would be better off staying away from it entirely. But tactics is everything and it is down to you to choose your path to victory. Will you surround your enemy and overpower them, or slowly pick away at their health from a distance? Should you kill the little guys first or does the larger enemy prove too much of a threat? The more you use each character, the stronger they become and the larger their pool of abilities becomes – making a solid team choice that much more vital.
Combat is where much of the game play takes place, as outside of this you will be managing your dwindling supplies of food, dealing with bandits, and engaging in conversation with all manner of weird and wonderful characters.
Much of the charm of this game, however, lies in its presentation. Every backdrop and character model is beautifully done. Each piece of the worlds history is fascinating, and explained in such a way that leaves you wanting to open a tome and read for hours. The game, in its entirety, lasts but 10 or so hours and yet they left me breathless.
The Banner Saga 2 was released last year as well, with the games’ developer Stoic (a team made of just three former BioWare employees) reporting that a third title is already in the works.
A sure winner for those who love to sink themselves into a story, especially one with stunning graphics, enchanted writing, and a beautiful score.
You can check out the games’ trailer here.

2. Oxenfree

Oxenfree is the first title to be developed by Night School Studios, and took two years for the two studios’ members to create.
You play Alex, a typically moody teenager who unwillingly brings her new stepbrother to an overnight party on an island just off the coast of your hometown. But the promise of drinks, drugs, and debauchery is soon washed away when you accidentally open a ghostly rift that unearths supernatural forces who have no intention of making friends.
Set up like an 80’s horror movie, Oxenfree is mysterious, scary, and downright brilliant. Several horror tropes are abound – with flashing lights, moving furniture, and husky, eerie shapes appearing in the distance being common occurrences. Along with time hopping, skipping realities, and a true sense of intense urgency, Oxenfree truly shapes itself to be an Indie cult classic.
On top of this, the characters are believable and well rounded, the writing is witty and encapsulating, and the 2.5D backdrops are beautifully crafted.
As with most graphic novel style games, there are several ways in which you can traverse the story and multiple outcomes for the ending.You can be a complete tool and punch your friend in the face, you can befriend everyone, you can side with the unknown, or become a hero. Each option unearths new twists, backstory, and dialogue options. The friendships and hatred are gritty and real, with a true coming-of-age mentality that we can all cringe at and relate to.
Aside from the amazing writing, Oxenfree shines in its sound. The games’ soundtrack is a wonderfully entrancing and creepy score of synth music that fits beautifully with the game itself. Which, when mixed with the incredible voice acting, original script and story, and gripping narrative, make just about the best Indie game I’ve played in a long time.
You can check out the games’ trailer here.

1. Stardew Valley

This adorable homage to Harvest Moon released on consoles in December of last year, but was available on PC back in February.
Entirely produced by one man – Eric Barone, or ConernedApe – over the course of four years, and published by Chucklefish Games, Stardew Valley will provide you with some of the chillest, most pleasant hours you’ll find on console at the moment.
It is, at its core, a farming simulator. Leaving the monotony of an office job, you seek refuge in a farm left to you by your dearly departed Grandfather. Here you tend crops, raise livestock, fish, mine, explore the sewers where a shadow person lives, meet the love of your life – you know, the usual stuff.
The real joy of the game comes from its intense replay-ability. There is never a moment where it feels good to stop. No sense of “well, I’ve done it all!”. Because you never really can. There is always another fish to catch, more chores to do, another festival to attend! Each and every day lends itself to the same things, and yet you do not get bored. You build a life in this little world, and it is insanely satisfying.
The fact that it was all created, developed, and made by just one man is amazing, as well. If you sink yourself into this game you will quickly realise the heart that must have gone into it. Each twinkling melody, every cutesy cut-scene, every strange encounter, and beautifully and painstakingly placed pixel screams a team of people, not just a singular person (a singular person with a boatload of talent, but you get the idea).
It is fun, addictive as heck, and so refreshingly relaxing that I have no doubt I will sink so many days into it I will lie when people ask how long I’ve played for. A definite must for those looking for something that keeps them coming back for more.
You can check out the trailer here.

So there you have it! What did you think of our favourite Indie games of 2016? Were there any that we missed, or any you would recommend? Please, let us know below!

All images and Trailers were sourced from the respective games’ websites and youtube channels, linked below:

The Banner Saga:
Stardew Valley:

Featured Image is from Oxenfree.


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