Independent game development has allowed for some fantastic projects that just wouldn’t be green-lit under a major studio. Creative control allows developers to indulge their weirdest pursuits, and sometimes, the results are strange, creative one-offs based around a gimmick or joke. Just because a video game relies on a single conceit, doesn’t necessarily make the word “gimmick” a bad thing, though.
Some of the best works of art rely on central gimmicks to reach their audience. Steam especially is littered with wonderfully zany creations that you can play right now.
Who’s Your Daddy
Who’s Your Daddy is a 1 vs. 1 game in which one player controls the baby, and the other controls the parent. The baby’s mission is to use whatever is at its disposal to destroy itself — while the father must do everything he can to prevent the attempted suicides. So basically, it’s parenting in a nutshell.
Goat Simulator may not have invented the wave of _ Simulators, but it certainly popularized it. Originally made as a joke, the idea of playing as a goat as it goes around and gets into all sorts of trouble spawned legions of crazy animal sims. Goat Simulator itself grew into a surprisingly expansive open world experience, allowing goat and other animal DLCs to just go at it.
Five Nights at Freddy’s
Five Nights at Freddy’s is more popular with kids than Jesus. That’s just a fact. The indie game that had players control a security post in a haunted Chuck E. Cheese type entertainment hall quickly spawned a franchise made up of toys, clothing and other creepy looking swag. While newer entries to the Five Nights series dabble with RPG mechanics, the original was limited to a few buttons and the ability to look left or right. Spartan design for a game as intense (to anyone under 15) as this one.
Viscera Cleanup Detail
Viscera Cleanup Detail takes a meta approach to videogame’s love affair with violence and guns. As a janitor, it’s your job to clean up the gore that’s left behind anytime there’s a massive shootout with explosive weapons, or a monster invasion that requires unlimited amounts of ammo. Armed with the tools of the trade, it’s your job to cleanup after the hero saves the day from an alien invasion.
My Name is Mayo
While there’s a whole lot behind the scenes narrative-wise, My Name is Mayo is essentially one thing: tapping a jar of mayonnaise until it opens. That’s it.
Catlateral Damage lets you wield all the awesome and terrible powers of a cat. You can jump on high shelves and knock over whatever is in your path (as a cat). Owner’s prized trophy? Knock it down. The new flatscreen TV? Knock it down. That glass of water? You bet your ass you can knock it down. You play the world’s most powerful cat, which is to say, any cat.
I Am Bread
I Am Bread allows the player to control a single slice of bread as it climbs its way out of a toaster and towards freedom. Nobody ever expects that being a piece of bread could be as exciting as The Great Escape, but I Am Bread proudly begs to differ. Note: this game contains gluten.
David O’Reilly was responsible for designing the fictional videogame seen in Spike Jonze’s Her. Then he went off to make a real game, and he came out with Mountain, a literal mountain simulator. Not mountain climbing, but the actual being a mountain. There are no controls for this mountain, only witnessing the passage of time as nature lives and dies atop the mountain. O’Reilly describes the game as both a “relax ‘em up” and an “art horror” game, and there is something existential about being a lifeless biome.