Cave Story

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What indie game list would be complete without Cave Story? For those who are unfamiliar with it, Cave Story is one of the most well-known indie games available online, and for very good reason.
Screenshot 1

Shooting the Polar Star

Cave Story is a Castlevania/Metroid style platformer. The game focuses on exploration and platformer combat, and though it isn't as open-ended as a game like Metroid, it has a lot more focus on story and environment. The player starts out the game with just a simple laser gun, but as they proceed through the game, they find various other weapons to aid them in their quest. Each weapon can be leveled up by collecting powerups dropped by defeated enemies, which helps immensely as the enemies get tougher. However, taking damage will reduce weapon levels, providing an additional challenge to the game. The player can also collect various other powerups and items, such as bonus health, keys, maps, etc, adding an RPG element to the game.

All those items and weapons will definitely be needed, as the game can be quite challenging, especially with some of the bosses. There are also many secret routes and items that can be found, and often it will take a couple of runs through the game to find them all, adding a lot of replayability. And for the best players, there are several secret levels that are insanely difficult. Good luck beating those!

Graphically, Cave Story opts for the retro look, with pixilated graphics and a limited color set that makes it look a lot like the old NES games from the old days. But there are several little touches and effects that show a lot of sophistication. The overall effect is very pleasing, while maintaining a very nostalgic atmosphere.

And helping maintain the atmosphere is the music, which also follows a retro path, sounding like the FM synthesis of old games. However, the music is very nicely composed and there are a lot of songs that are quite memorable.

Screenshot 2

Starting town, and a character named King

But the best part of the game is probably the storyline, which is well-written and can be quite emotional at times. It's starts out simple: you play an amnesiac boy who wakes up in the depths of a cave and tries to find his way out. From there it involves into a great fantasy, but whereas the plots of many games get overly complex, Cave Story maintains its simplicity, and is all the better for it.

Overall, Cave Story feels very professionally made, lacking a lot of the bugs and control issues that plague most indie games. (Probably because the guy who wrote it took a good 5 years to finish the game.)

In any case, I highly recommend Cave Story for EVERYONE. If you haven't already played it by now, download it asap. The game is completely free and link is right below.
A Cave Story tribute page. (All materials can be found here.)
Game Download
Translation Patch on the Aeon Genesis website. (For those who don't speak Japanese.)

Rating:
Highly Recommended.