For understandable reasons, so many people like to criticize the big budget industry for basically making five different versions of the same game every single year. You’ve got your expansive, empty, repetitive, quest-filled RPGs, your gritty first-person shooters, top-of-the-line racing simulators, and your yearly sequels to games people are really tired of. While these criticisms are understandable, and I do say them myself, gamers need to start pointing the finger at the smaller developers as well. Indie developers, who I respect for doing more adventurous experiences, are guilty of this same criticism. So many genres have now flooded the indie scene, and are starting to result in games becoming stale experiences that are all looking the same. Not to say that these genres still can’t produce good games, but I think everyone would be fine in terms of not having to see another game in these genres for a while. Just to spice things up, I am making a list without a specific order to it. It’s a list of genres, in no real order of how flooded the market is with that type of game. Of course, indie developers can do what they want, but here are the top genres indie developers need to steer clear from for a while!
1. First-Person Narrative Games!
This is one genre that is polarizing among gamers. You either like these types of games or you don’t. What I do know is that these types of games are stagnating in quality. Most of the time is spent walking with the player, maybe being involved with the story, or not. The result really depends on how good the game is. Most of the time, developers think that all you need is a first-person camera, no puzzles, combat, and a focus on a much more interesting story that doesn’t involve you. Let me tell you this, no one likes being a third wheel in the story. You need to make the player the focus of the story, and have it revolve around them. Don’t make the side stories or the main story that has nothing to do with the main character the focus. So many games do this without giving the gamer some kind of interactivity. I have had enough of these types of games.
2. Horror Survival
Even though people love to say that horror has hit a revival, it really hasn’t. It hit a revival with games like Outlast, Aliens: Isolation, and depending on whom you ask, The Evil Within, but the horror scene has also hit a slump with some lackluster experiences. Daylight was hyped, but then came out as a mediocre experience because of a dull story and annoying maze-like level designs. A lot of these types of games just toss you into an open empty world with some monster chasing you, while trying to piece together some story that could have come from any pretentious art house essay that tries to be more than it is. If you are going to try and make one of these, then that’s fine, but do something that we haven’t seen before. Make it more than just you running around and avoiding monsters.
3. Games with No Combat!
Ah yes, another polarizing genre. The big problem with this, besides there being a few too many of them, is the fact that they take out combat, but don’t replace it with something else to make the experience more worthwhile. I get it, we have too many bloody violent action games, but you can’t just take combat out of your game and leave it at that. Look at games like Wander for the PC and PlayStation 4. It’s a game that proudly claims to be an MMO without combat. That’s a cool idea, but there is nothing that changes about the experience. All you do is walk around. That is basically it. So, besides giving us exploration in a world with no life in it, they also don’t give you much of a point to explore. Nor does the tone change. Even though I still enjoyed Submerged, I wished there was more to the story than the same 10 climbing challenges. For this one, just make an engrossing world and a compelling story.
I have played so many of these this year that I’m starting to get burnt out on them, no matter how good the game is. Games like Rogue Legacy, Guild of Dungeoneering, Hand of Fate, Tower of Guns, Ziggurat, and Galak-Z: The Dimensional have done something different, but at the same time, when an indie game pops up with roguelike in the genre or elements of the genre, it seems to be a way to unnecessarily elongate the time it takes to play the game. Not only that, many times, due to how bloody difficult they can be, roguelikes make you feel like you are never making progress. I am fine with a challenge, but when I can’t make progress no matter if it is my fault or not, then I think you need to give the player some wiggle room so they can keep having fun and not have the game be a chore for them. A fine example of a roguelike doing something different is the recent Kickstarter Battle Chasers: Nightwar. It’s not just a challenging roguelike, but it’s also an isometric dungeon-crawler and a 3D JRPG, all mixed into one game.
5. RPGs inspired by the likes of Final Fantasy VI
Listen, I love Final Fantasy VI as much as the next guy. It’s one of the best RPGs around, but let’s take a break from trying to make a game like Final Fantasy VI. You do know there are many more RPGs out there, right? Sure, we are seeing more indie RPGs being inspired by the likes of Earthbound, which is fantastic. An RPG I am looking forward to is Y2K: A Post Modern RPG. It takes inspiration from not only Earthbound, but it also takes inspiration from Persona. Edge of Eternity is an attempt to be what Final Fantasy XII should have been. My point is, take a look at other RPGs that are loved by many, and try out making a game that is in that general vein of RPG.
6. Trial and Error-style Games
This is just personal taste and opinion, since you can never have an unbiased review or anything, but I really don’t care for Trial and Error games. These are the indie games that are made to be nothing more than stress simulators. I like games that have flowing progression. I don’t want to play a rhythm game where I know one mistake will kill me. It’s why I never took interest in games like Battle Kid. They are novelty-style games that have very short lifespans. What will make yours any different from the last one? You can’t really make them unplayable either, or else people are going to call you out for refunds or worse.
7. Wacky Physics/Simulator Games
Probably one of the most flooded indie genres is the wacky physics games. You know what these are. These are games like Surgeon Simulator, Goat Simulator, and such, games that really rely on the 10 minutes or so of charm and then get tiring. Sure, there is an art to making them have lasting appeal, but I see no reason to make games like this. I would rather play a game that has longevity and multiple play-throughs, than one that I will play, forget about, and then regret buying. Sometimes, we need a laugh, and that’s fine, but put more effort into it.
8. Crafting/Survival Games
Boy, if there was one thing that Minecraft did for better or worse, was making the crafting/survival genre of indie games popular. These games are everywhere now, and let’s be honest, none of them do anything different from one another. A lot of the games have the same systems, or try to copy Minecraft to the very last pixel. Some games do it differently, like the upcoming Deadwood: The Forgotten Curse adds in a story, actual characters, and a unique take on the crafting where you use crafting materials to protect you and your giant rock friend. It doesn’t help either that there are tons of really bad survival games that had little, to no effort put into them. I don’t mind them if they are done well, and games with elements of survival in them don’t have to be terrible like Darkest Dungeon, but how about we take a break from them?
9. Metroidvania Games
Due to the recent and massive amount of success Koji Igarashi’s Bloodstained has received, I think indie developers can slow done a bit on the multiple number of Metroidvania-style games. For the one or two people that may not know about this, these are mostly 2D action games that have one gigantic map to explore, find upgrades, take down bosses, and have a feeling of exploration as you traverse wherever the developer takes you. These are your Dust: An Elysian Tale, Xeodrifter, Strider from 2014, Unepic, Teslagrad, Axion Verge, Double Fine’s upcoming Headlander, Chasm, the upcoming Timespinner, Outland, Shadow Complex, Guacamelee, and so on. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it seems like there have been too many of them. Most of the time, they are not subtle in terms of how much they take from games like Super Metroid or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. I also don’t find myself remembering the levels and areas as much as I think the designers were intending. I don’t think I have played a game where they have perfected this kind of game and not stumble on the same common problems like the combat becomes too easy, the feeling of exploration being pointless, the worlds too baron, and you get the idea. They don’t have to stop making them, but I feel like with the first-person narrative game (or walking simulator for the more cynical), we need to start being more critical of them, and not blindly buy them, since they remind us of games from 20 or so years ago. Even the most beloved of genres shouldn’t get a free pass when it comes to criticism of overflooding the market.
10. Zombie Games
Technically, you can say this is more of an element than a genre, but due to how many zombie games there are among the indie scene, it is put into the genre label. Sadly, most games with zombies don’t do much with them! They are usually enemy fodder in your crafting game, and most developers take advantage of the opportunity. Take for example, two indie games that are doing something different with zombies, Trapped Dead and Ray’s the Dead. Ray’s the Dead is a zombie game that has amore Pikmin-style action to it, and Trapped Dead puts you into a real-time-strategy. It’s breathtaking to see something done differently with the genre that it makes you wonder why more developers aren’t doing the same thing and taking the road less traveled.
With all this said, though, if you want to make one of these kinds of games, then that’s perfectly fine. Just think about making something unique out of it, instead of doing a number-by-number cop-out game that no one is going to give a hoot about.