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Indie Selects for March 2024: The ID@Xbox Team Serves Up Another Batch of Outstanding Indies

It’s been a month since our first round of Indie Selects were announced, and we’re back again with another great batch of games that we think you’ll love. As a reminder (or introduction if you’re new to this program), Indie Selects are chosen from recently launched Xbox games that the ID@Xbox team considers to be indie and that aren’t available with Game Pass. The whole team votes and the top six vote winners are our Indie Selects for the month.

The selects for March 2024 run the gamut from the return of an old favorite, a brilliant new take on a very old card game, and an intense horror experience. Here’s the list (in no particular order):

Balatro

Balatro Image Asset

It’s just video poker, right? You’d be forgiven for thinking that by just glancing at it, but you’d be very wrong. It takes the rather simplistic poker framework and reinvents it as a deep, engaging and utterly addictive roguelike. You start with a basic deck and play hands to beat a target number of chips for each round. But where it gets fun is unlocking bonus and special cards that make your choices much more complex and interesting. Leveling up “three of a kind” and playing it with a Spade bonus can make it more valuable than even a Royal Flush. And you can unlock new Jokers and other cards after each run to create new options for the next run. And…suddenly it’s 3:00 AM and you’re still playing.

Tomb Raider I – III Remastered Starring Lara Croft

Tomb Raider Remastered Image Asset

The first Tomb Raider came out in 1996 and took the gaming world by storm. It’s an absolute classic from start to finish. This remaster of the first three games is a love letter to the origins of the series, featuring all three original adventures, including the expansions and secret levels, improved graphics, and the choice to play with classic or modern controls. The classic “tank” controls might seem a bit alarming and strange to anybody under 35, but playing that way certainly took us back to our youth and thrill of tomb raiding with Lara.

As with many games from the ‘90s, they’re not considered particularly easy by modern standards, but finding your way through platforming-based puzzles and figuring out the best solutions is incredibly rewarding. Does a remaster compilation of games that were undeniably “triple A” back in their day count as “indie”? Great question. Who knows for sure. We decided that it counts since the developer behind the remaster, Aspyr, generally fits the bill. But instead of getting bogged down in that thought experiment, go play the games. You can thank me later.

The Outlast Trials

Outlast Trials Image Asset

The original Outlast and its sequel, Outlast 2, were terrifying first-person adventure survival games, where, with no way to defend yourself, you survived by hiding, sliding, creeping, crouching, and running through the levels, staying one step ahead of whoever was trying to kill you at that particular moment.

The Outlast Trials takes that formula and adds four player co-op, and radically over-the-top villains, who hunt you and buddies down in a series of outrageous death games. After each run you can upgrade your character through various class-based skill trees, before you and your friends jump back into the next terrifying experience. It can be as hysterically funny as it is terrifying, while the gameplay loop of surviving, solving puzzles, and finding an escape is incredibly compelling. The game can be played solo, but it’s much more fun if you can find some friends to brave the experience with you.

Rounds

Rounders Image Asset

Landfall created the delightfully wacky Totally Accurate Battle Simulator, and Stickfight, The Game. With Rounds, they’ve created probably the world’s first 1v1 roguelike combat game. At the start of the game, each player uses their noodle arms to select a card containing a power-up. You’re given a half dozen to choose from out of 65 or so overall. Powerups can let you shoot straighter, make bullets explode on impact, let your bullets push enemies back, or give you all kinds of other slight advantages.

Where it gets interesting is at the end of each, uh, round the loser gets to pick a new card with a new ability. And since abilities stack, by the end of each five-round game, you can create an overwhelmingly powerful custom build (assuming, of course, that you lose a lot). This mechanic turns an otherwise simple, level-based combat game into a sophisticated roguelike where each player can build their strengths against the other player’s weaknesses. The game is never the same from one round to the next.

Slave Zero X

Slave Zero X Image Asset

Slave Zero, a cult favorite 1999 Windows and Dreamcast game, cast the player as a giant, rampaging robot in a third person shooter. A quarter century later, Ziggurat brings us a prequel to that game, in a stylish 2.5D world. But unlike the original, Slave Zero X plays out as a brawler blended with the precise gameplay mechanics of a fighting game.

It’s the kind of game that can drive you to toss your controller through a window, but in the next breadth has you climbing through the window to retrieve it because you just can’t stop playing. The art and music are both fantastic and do a lot to help serve up the rich cyberpunk world. Hard? Yes. A bit unfair at times? Maybe. Rewarding, addictive and compelling? Absolutely.

Choice of Life: Middle Ages 2

Choice of Life: Middle Ages 2 Image Asset

Finally, this month we have something completely different. Choice of Life: Middle Ages 2 is a medieval choose-your-own-adventure experience, where you play your cards to direct your choices. Each decision you make leads to seemingly endless twists and turns. There are apparently over a thousand different events that you can encounter in the game, along with over 99 ways to do, but you’d have to go through many different playthroughs to find them all.

It’s a relaxing, casual experience that encourages you to play around with your choices to see where your kingdom will end up. At the end of the first playthrough (which might be very short, since death is constantly right around the corner) you’ll almost certainly find yourself wanting to jump in and see where else fate, and your decisions, will take you.

[This article originally appeared on Xbox Wire]

Xbox Wire

Posts by this account are syndicated from Xbox Wire.

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