- VALHEIM -

Like pretty much everyone else right now, I've been sucked into this.

I've always leaned towards the exploration side in Minecraft and Valheim fills that same niche pretty much perfectly.

Yes, you can build huge structures in this game and people are certainly doing that. But you can also just run around, exploring the wilderness, fighting bigger monsters, gathering better loot, upgrade your gear and repeat :).

Oh and you can build boats and sail the sea!

store.steampowered.com/app/892

- A SHORT HIKE -

Picked this up randomly because the title sounded interesting and I wasn't disappointed at all :).

It's a short game as the title hints, but for it's size there's a surprising amount of fun mechanics packed into the game. The core climb/fly/glide mechanic is pretty good and you go fishing, motorboating or search for a lot of secrets inside the park.

store.steampowered.com/app/105

(You can set the graphics to be non-pixely, which I very much preferred)

- ORI AND THE WILL OF THE WISPS -

I never made it beyond the tutorial in the first game (Ori and the Blind Forest) but the second one worked really well for me. The game is stunningly beautiful, relaxing but very captive platformer.

store.steampowered.com/app/105

- MACHINARIUM -

An adventure game around helping a cute robot accomplish it's goals. It's been a long time since I played this game but someone reminded me of it today :-). And it's definitely still a great game to play.

gog.com/game/machinarium_colle

- THRONEBREAKER -

This is a single player RPG-campaign spinoff of Gwent, the collectible card game spinoff from The Witcher 3.

It's surprisingly good. Like, *really* good. There's an almost insane amount of polish that went into the game.

I think the story here can even stand on it's own, though it probably helps to be somewhat familiar with the Witcher stories.

The actual card game deck-building single-player experience is one of the best I've seen so far.

gog.com/game/thronebreaker_the

- A NORMAL LOST PHONE -

You find a phone and explore the story of the original owner of that phone. I didn't know anything abut this game before starting to play it and was very positively surprised by the story. :)

I actually played this on Android (which makes a lot of sense) as I got this from a Humble Bundle a while back. Unfortunately you can't actually buy the Android version outside of google play normally :(.

store.steampowered.com/app/523

- THE JOURNEY DOWN -

I think this was my favourite adventure game of the last few years.

The very first interaction between the main characters is already brilliant:

"You sure this is a good idea?" - "Nope!" - "Me neither..." - "Let's do it!"

I also very much recommend just listening to the soundtrack: souzamusic.bandcamp.com/album/

gog.com/game/the_journey_down_

- THEA: THE AWAKENING -

Thea is hard to describe. It somewhat captures the gameplay of the very early rounds Civ. You have one village the whole game and can send people to explore the map. There's also a card-based combat (and other challenge) system as well as an overarching storyline.

Additionally it has some rouge-like elements, you unlock stuff after completing each game. The individual rounds are very long for that though. They can very well take 10+ hours.

gog.com/game/thea_the_awakenin

- HAND OF FATE -

The core of this game is a card game you play against the mysterious Dealer character, who will comment your every action (or inaction) and is brilliantly played and voice-acted.

You'll construct the deck of cards (making it more or less risky and rewarding) and the dealer will add their traps and challenges to it.

Most cards have a condition which will unlock more cards for the following games, which is how storylines and quests work in this game.

gog.com/game/hand_of_fate

- CALL OF CTHULHU (2018)-

For once not an indie game, but it *is* a bit of a budget title. I mostly enjoyed this because I think it captures the essence of Lovecraft's stories pretty well. It's mostly an exploration/detective game which is does quite well. There is one sequence where you shoot zombies(?!) and some other weird (game-play wise) things in there but overall we had a great time with this.

And we saw Cthulhu in the end, so all was well... πŸ˜€.

store.steampowered.com/app/399

- VVVVVV -

I normally don't like hard platformers but this worked for some reason. The instant retry loop definitely helps. As probably does the soundtrack :).

There's an infamous section called Veni, Vedi, Vici which felt really great when finally getting right: youtube.com/watch?v=4CtiY5D6HC

thelettervsixtim.es/

- DEAR ESTHER -

This was a strange game. I'm not actually sure I enjoyed playing it (I did finish it though, it only take 2 hours or so).

There's nothing to do but walking along the one path forward and listening to the story.

The story itself wasn't all that great but I did miss one key thing before starting this game: The story is (semi-)randomly generated each playthrough. Which was a fun and surprising discovery when starting again to try something. πŸ˜ƒ

gog.com/game/dear_esther_landm

- THE TALOS PRINCIPLE -

You play a robot solving puzzles in futuristic versions of ancient roman, egytian, etc. ruins. You can also discover a hidden backstory by finding story fragments scattered around the world. The puzzles are great but I was sometimes frustrated that I need to solve them because I wanted to know how the story progresses πŸ˜…. The story is quite unusual, it goes really deep into philosophy/religious topics :).

Oh and the soundtrack is *really* good!

store.steampowered.com/app/257

- DEFENDER'S QUEST -

This is IMO one of the best tower defence games I've ever played. The original version is from 2012 but it got remastered in 2016.

Apart from really decent TD mechanics, Defender's Quest actually features a great story. All of your different "towers" are character from your party who all have quirky and lovable personalities. Your characters also level up and you can buy equipment for them etc.

gog.com/game/defenders_quest

- ANALOGUE: A HATE STORY -

I played this quite a few years ago but just realized that it has a similar idea to Obra Dinn. You are investigating the mysterious disappearance of a space ship after it has been found years later.

I don't actually remember much of the story now, which means I should probably replay it. I do remember enjoying it a lot.

The game comes with a bibliography for further reading, can we have more of these? 😍

store.steampowered.com/app/209

- FEZ -

This was released 2013 but I only played it last year. It is still well worth playing now if you haven't done so already.

On one hand it's a clever platform game where you rotate the world to progress on the 2D projection of it.

On the other hand it's a really brilliant puzzle game. With a ton of hidden things to discover.

It contains three(!) different writing systems you can learn to decipher to solve more of the hidden puzzles in the game.

store.steampowered.com/app/224

- LOST EMBER -

This is mostly walking around the world, discovering the story of a lost civilization. The catch here is that you will play as many different animals along the way. Your main character is a wolf, but you'll be a mole, a duck, a fish and many others.

Discovering every new animal was super fun. And discovering some tunnel system as a mole or a huge lake as a fish is definitely something unique.

I think it took me around 8 hours to complete the story once.

gog.com/game/lost_ember

Something different for a change:

Democracy 3 - It's not really a politics simulator but a country simulator. Which means you can (mostly) do all the things that are good (or bad) for the country and it'll slowly react to the policies you put into place.

It's quite an intricate simulation and I spent more than a few nights on this and the predecessor.

gog.com/game/democracy_3

Waking Mars - Where you plant *things* on Mars to restart a dormant ecosystem.

This game looks a bit shit and sounds a weird as well... But I was very pleasantly surprised by it though. (I had this in my library for a long time but just recently felt like starting it.)

It starts of very tame having you plant a thing or two to advance to the next room but before you know it you'll be struggling to manage some rather huge ecosystems.

gog.com/game/waking_mars

Firewatch - You play
someone spending their summer in the Wyoming wilderness watching for wildfires. It's beautiful and has a very interesting story which is told in an unusual way (environmental storytelling and something else I don't want to spoil here).

Have I mentioned it looks stunning? :)

Played for about 11 hours for a full playthrough.

gog.com/game/firewatch

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