5 of the best indie games

What they lack in gloss they make up for in brilliant game design

Mainstream games have cinematic budgets – but like blockbuster films, they can tend to reach for the lowest common denominator.

After slogging through endless FPS slaughterfests in which you play a musclebound space marine, sometimes you want something a bit more challenging – both to your gaming skills, and to your intellect. That's when you need to pop Call of Warfare 6: Modern Combat out of the disc drive and fire up an indie title. We've rounded up five of the most creative of recent years.

Fez (2012, Xbox 360)

A clever take on the pixel art 2D platformer, where you run and jump as ever – but can rotate the game world about its axis, as if you're climbing around the outside of a cardboard box. Black holes, great ambient music and silly dialogue make it a perfect package. 

Journey (2012, PS3)

A calming, mysterious and abstract experience, Journey has players wandering through a desert world toward a mountain, in a game that's half magic carpet ride and half platformer. It's short and simple, but so captivating you'll go back to it. Often. It’s like a happy holiday. 

Braid (2008, Xbox 360)

A seemingly simplistic platform game, in which you play an ordinary little man called Tim. Braid adds layers of complexity to its Mario-style play thanks to its protagonist's ability to manipulate time. Its plot – backed by a haunting soundtrack – likewise expands from standard princess-rescuing to a meditation on life and… feelings.

Minecraft (2009, PC)

It's Lego for your computer, networked Lego, Lego that exists in its own always-on universe. You build worlds, put things in worlds, visit other peoples' creations and generally enjoy creating things for once instead of shooting them all to pieces. 

The Stanley Parable (2013, PC)

Ever tried to break a game by testing the its limits? The Stanley Parable is for you. It's all about choice and consequence, and the limits of control in games. And it's simultaneously hilarious and thought-provoking, with its plummy-voiced narrator walking you through the game, whether you want him to or not.