2010 was a fantastic year for independently developed games, with many of the category's front-runners providing some of year's most memorable experiences. The black and white, melancholic platformer LIMBO has been lazily described as "the Braid of 2010," but beyond the fact that both are puzzle-platformers, they're really different beasts. Whereas Braid engaged players with colorful worlds and an intellectually engaging and text-driven story, LIMBO engages the player on a more visceral level, burying its incredibly subtle (but creepy) meta-story underneath minute-to-minute action that is equal parts foreboding, pulse-pounding, and head-scratching.
LIMBO also greatly impressed us with its ability to engage players immediately with its use of depth, shadow, and soft-focus, and to hold that interest throughout the course of "The Boy's" journey. Never once does the game fall back on traditional expository methods like text or dialogue, but it still manages to tell a complete story. Anyone who possesses some very basic platformer-literacy can immediately dive in and enjoy the action, which succeeds in drawing in both core and casual gamers, alike. Though the game is a fairly short experience and only available through XBLA, LIMBO's wall-to-wall polish, brilliant aesthetics, and clever puzzles earn it our 2010 award for best indie.
Runner-up: Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Lately, most survival-horror games seem content to tread the well-worn path of "guns and monster-closets." Amnesia: The Dark Descent was especially refreshing (and pants-wetting) proof this year that the genre's biggest developers could learn a thing or two about how to properly scare gamers. Guided by notes left by his pre-amnesia self, the player must contend with physics-based puzzles and insanity inducing darkness, while uncovering a diabolical plot. By removing guns from the equation, Amnesia ensures that confrontations with the game's terrifying denizens are tense, "run for your life" encounters. Amnesia: The Dark Descent puts the "scary" back into survival-horror games, which is why it's our 2010 indie GOTY runner-up.