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Holiday Videogame Guide 2010: Indie Games

In the past couple of years indie games have exploded across the videogame scene. Digital distribution channels afford small-scale game makers a reasonable way to get their games out. We play them now on our smartphones, on our consoles through Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, and, as always, on our various personal computers whether laptop or desktop, Apple or Microsoft. Along with our sister site Indie Games Channel we've seen some of the most creative games of 2010 released as indies. While in many cases you'll be buying some form of digital gift certificate to give for these games, we wanted to share some of our favorites: indie games we'd like to get as gifts this holiday.

The Path
For: Self-described "artistic" types
BOOM widget 77764 Alice says: One of the season's joys is discovering whether your gifts are loved or loathed. Tale of Tales' fascinating fairytale re-imagining The Path will really ramp that up, as it seems to inspire only polar reactions. I loved the game but will your recipient? Let's find out!

Available on a fancy USB stick with several postcards, it's also one of the few indie games you can easily give as a physical gift.

Beat Hazard
For: The music fan who always has their iPod handy, filled with tons of great tracks
BOOM widget 96456 Garnett says: I love music games and like Audiosurf before it, Beat Hazard takes your music collection and uses it in a game for something other than a Simon-says play-along. Instead, it takes all the dynamic part of the music--its tempo, range, urgency, etc--and uses that to build a space shoot-em-up on the fly. Simply blasting away to your own music is fun in itself, but as you pick up on how the game is adapting to match the music it becomes an intoxicating blend. You'll want to see what every track in your collection will result in when played in the game.

Super Meat Boy
For: The high score-seeking old-school gamer
BOOM widget 100345 Brian says: Super Meat Boy is a bit of a mean gift to give as it is controller-throwingly difficult, but it's definitely my favorite indie game of the year. It reminds me a lot of N+ and will put your gaming reflexes to the test across over 300 levels. It is currently out for the Xbox 360, but will be released later this month on the PC. A WiiWare version is planned, but currently delayed due to storage space limitations. There are a ton of bonus characters to unlock, bandages to collect, ultra hard Dark World levels to clear, and an amazing soundtrack.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent
For: Those who don't scare easily (this will break their streak)
BOOM widget 139291 Xav says: One of the few games I purchased twice and didn't feel bad about it, Amnesia: The Dark Descent from developer Frictional Games is terrifying. Plain and simple, this game will scare the pants off of you and mysteriously scare them back on. The game puts players in the role of amnesiac Daniel, who must explore a dark castle as a "living nightmare" hunts him down. Fighting is not an option here. Daniel's key to survival is running and hiding. The game is so scary that a slew of YouTube videos are popped up, featuring people traversing the castle and encountering the demons within. If you want to laugh, watch those videos. If you want a fantastic game that will scare you nearly to death and make you reconsider playing games in the dark, buy this game.

Limbo
For: Gamers looking for one of the most moody and atmospheric puzzle-platformers ever made, and gaming elitists for whom "indie" is a four-letter word
BOOM widget 94855 Jeff says: The less the player knows about LIMBO as they begin to play, the better. Even developer Playdead's description of the game--"Unsure of his sister's fate, a boy enters Limbo."--does nothing more than tease the game's premise. LIMBO exhibits exceptional puzzle design, and never make the protagonist's move-suite seem limited, despite the few actions available. The game's black-and-white visual style and ambient soundtrack are incredibly immersive, and though the game is relatively short, it'll likely stick with you as one of the more memorable console-based experiences you'll have this year.