Don’t Starve (PC, Mac, PS4)
As the name suggests, Don’t Starve is a game concerned with survival: the aim is simply to stay alive in a dangerous wilderness for as long as possible by gathering useful items, camping by fires, finding food and avoiding both dangerous enemies and encroaching madness. Each day lasts around ten minutes of real-time, and surviving the pitch-black nights will be your biggest challenge.
Difficult and unforgiving it may be (it features “permadeath”, so you’ll have to start a new game every time you perish), but the game’s charming graphical style, music and presentation keep things from being overbearingly grim – and the challenge holds plenty of thrills.
Minecraft (PC, Mac, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Wii U, iOS, Android)
Probably the most successful indie game of all time, Minecraft is barely a game at all. Sure, it has its roots in a challenging survival mode in which you build defences by day to ward off nocturnal attackers, but many players disregard this in order to indulge their creative urges by building huge, complex structures from blocks. From scale models of real life buildings like Notre Dame to imaginary cities like Game of Thrones’ King’s Landing and even entire planets, Minecraft players have been responsible for some truly jaw-dropping creations.
Despite bagging several Game of the Year awards, it’s debatable whether Journey is a game in the traditional sense or more closely a piece of interactive storytelling. Whatever the answer, it’s a beautifully made and presented adventure which everyone who owns a PlayStation 3 should play through at least once. And given that an entire playthrough takes a mere two to three hours, there’s really not much excuse.
One of Journey’s most endearing features is that your travels aren’t undertaken alone. During each stage of the game you may find yourself accompanied and aided by another human player, with whom you won’t be able to communicate beyond patterns of singing. You won’t know their identity, but you’ll be able to cooperate – how heart-warming is that?
The Stanley Parable (PC, Mac)
A pioneering interactive story which we’re reluctant to discuss in anything but broad stroke for fear of spoiling it for you, The Stanley Parable plays with the conventions of narrative and choice in a succession of clever ways. Originally produced as a mod for Valve’s Source engine, it has now been rereleased as a standalone high-definition remake.
Starbound (PC, Mac, PS3, PS4, PS Vita)
If you’ve played Terraria, imagine that with a galaxy-spanning sci-fi scope and you’ve got Starbound. If you’ve not played Terraria, imagine a side-scrolling version of Minecraft. You mine, you build, and you survive, but here you also build tech to take you to distant planets and fight flying saucer-piloting penguins. Yes, really.
At the time of writing, Starbound is still in beta and available only as pre-release version.