There can only be one winner of the Independent Games Festival’s Seumas McNally Grand Prize, and none of this year’s nominees are going down without a fight.

From smash hit adventure games to imaginative RPG experiences, 2017 was a year chalk-full of phenomenal indie titles, many even standing toe to toe with titles from the AAA market. It’s no surprise then that the IGF 2018 Seumas McNally Grand Prize, reserved for the year’s title which does the most in terms of innovation and entertainment, has so many strong contenders, each more than worthy of claiming the prize.

Getting Over It With Bennet Foddy

Equal parts trying and cathartic, this title has been the bane of many a player’s gaming experience. Tasked with climbing a seemingly endless tower of rubble and garbage as the game’s creator narrates the game’s creation, players can lose hours of progress in an instant, slipping through a crack near the top of the heap which leaves them exactly where they started at its base.

And yet, there is a Sisyphus-like zen to the process. Each new attempt, even if it ends back at the beginning, feels hard earned and rewarding, and helps Foddy’s narrative on the struggles of game development resonate so much more clearly as a result. It’s a one of a kind experience, and one that won’t soon be forgotten.

Night In The Woods

If you haven’t heard about the game yet, then here’s the short and sweet version: Night in the Woods is a one of a kind experience. Following the misadventures of college dropout Mae Borrowski and her friends, the game bleeds with originality in almost every aspect. Rich with visual flair and style, its sleepy small town setting bleeds with the colors of autumn and the beauties of everyday life. It overflows with enrapturing music and captivates the player in the heartfelt originality of its narrative, lingering with you far longer than just about anything else around. It’s a once in a lifetime title, worthy of all the praise its already received and so much more.

West of Loathing

If there ever was a surprise hit of 2017, the stick figure RPG West of Loathing is most certainly at the top. Featuring a mashup of a wild west and fantasy backdrop with a stable of entertaining stick figure characters, the game tasks players with breaking and rebuilding every convention of the western genre into something almost unrecognizable, and yet infinitely more entertaining. One moment, you could stumble into a saloon and be asked to slay a goblin in the basement; the next, you could be taking on a band of roving necromancers to assist in the completion of the transcontinental railroad. Thanks to an irreverent and hilarious script, it all comes off as one of the most refreshing takes on a western RPG (pun intended) in years.

Into The Breach

A love letter to turn-based strategy games and mech-based science fiction, Into the Breach has a way of hooking players and never letting go. Tasked with defending humanity from an unknown alien force, players must navigate their way to victory across a number of randomly generated maps. Each area boasts their own quirks and challenges, from mountain ranges separating combatants to enemy forces with devastating long range attacks. Whether you’re a fan of old classics like Advance Wars or Starcraft, or someone completely new to the genre, there’s no end of enjoyment to be had with this stellar title.

Heat Signature

Made by mixing the gameplay of Super Hot and Hotline Miami together, and then throwing the combination into space, Heat Signature is one of the craziest experiences of last year. Tasked with breaking into a number of space ships, players take on cosmic crews at a breakneck pace, hurling wrenches and firing weapons stolen from deceased targets to keep the action flowing. That said, a key aspect of the game is the ability to pause the game at any time, allowing for the assessment and reassessment of situations to determine how best to avoid being torn apart by a wave of irate crewman. It’s a wild time, and one that shouldn’t be missed by fans of the games which inspired it.

Baba Is You

From the first time the game allows you to alter its rules to solve a puzzle, Baba Is You takes hold of your imagination and never lets go. Turning the puzzle genre on its head, the game allows players to alter and manipulate its rules to find new solutions. This could change everything from which object represents the player all the way up to changing what victory would mean, all influenced by the players themselves. It’s a great new take on the genre, and it opens up players’ imaginations in a way few titles could ever hope to.

Be sure to tune in and find out who takes home the gold when the IGF 2018 award winners are announced March 21, 2018. In the meantime, check out some of the contenders for IGF’s other categories n our previous coverage.

About the Author

Keenan McCall

Keenan McCall is a freelance journalist with experience in a variety of areas, but for whatever reason, he decided to cover everything related to nerd culture. From games to comics, anime to figures, TV to books and music, he’s always looking for what’s new from the world of entertainment and what it means for the people who consume it. It should also be noted that his Twitter feed is less a series of insightful thoughts and opinions so much as it’s a steady stream of memes, references and cute animal videos.

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