Shacknews Best Indie Game of 2018 - Celeste

A tall, dangerous mountain lies ahead, but for Madeline, the toughest challenge to overcome may be her own self-doubts. This captivating tale stands out as Shacknews' Best Indie Game of 2018.

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Indie gaming developers continue to amaze, as they put together astonishing gaming experiences without the backing of a major publisher. These often come in the form of passion projects, refined iterations of classic concepts, and stories that can only come from personal experience. Celeste proves to contain elements of all of those things and it stands out as the best indie game to release this year.

At its core, Celeste is a tough-as-nails platformer. The narrative has main character Madeline climbing Mount Celeste, with the gradually-escalating difficulty and it's certainly meant to emulate the grueling endeavor of climbing a dangerous mountain. The level design is such that it can crush souls and break spirits, like making a tough hike or completing a tough climb, making it to the end offers a breaktaking sense of satisfaction. But unlike something like the retro Ice Climbers, Celeste is filled with modern platforming mechanics and ideas, ones that are a delight to master.

Beyond that, the arduous mountain climb sets up a greater story of Madeline and her own fears, anxieties, and doubts. Celeste isn't filled with killer enemies, but she does deal with one dangerous foe: herself. "Badeline" represents all the negative aspects of herself and everything she's working to overcome. It's a story of overcoming debelitating anxiety, but it's not a story that overtakes the gameplay element. At its core, Celeste is still about reaching the top of the mountain. But the reason that Madeline sets out to climb Celeste is a reason that most players can personally relate to.

It's heartwarming, but it's also tough as nails. It's creator Matt Thorson and his staff of friends hitting his peak as a game designer, taking the captivating visual style of TowerFall, adding the difficulty of his own custom Super Mario Maker stages, and adding in a universally-engaging story. That makes Celeste Shacknews' Best Indie Game of 2018.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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