There are some pretty complex gaming formats within the indie scene. We have been tasked with exploring pocket solar systems in The Outer Wilds. We’ve pushed our little brains to their limits to break down the inception-like puzzles within Coocon, and we’ve had to master various card-based systems to conquer titles like Inscryption and Slay The Spire.
However, every now and again, we get an indie game that scales everything back, points at a mountain in the distance, and says, ‘hey, why don’t you go climb that?’
Of course, depending on the game you’re referring to, they can get a little more nuanced than that as the game progresses, but that end goal remains the same.
All you need to do is reach the top. It seems like a premise so simple that no game like this could possibly hope to hold your attention for hours on end. Yet, we have seen some marquee indie titles that have done just that.
So, we thought it would be cool to highlight some awesome games that simply have the player start from the bottom and clamber to the summit. So without further delay, here is Indie Game Culture’s list of 8 Amazing Indies Where You Climb To The Top.
We won’t be working with super strict selection criteria this time around, but just to make sure that everything on this list is worth your time, and fits the theme, here are the criteria we ran with:
- All games must have climbing or platforming mechanics that are a huge part of the core gameplay
- All games must have you climbing to reach a certain goal
- All games must have a Metacritic aggregate score of 65% or higher
Okay, grab a rope and a harness; we are heading up!
Amazing Indies Where You Climb To The Top
#1 – Jusant
Developer: Dont Nod
Metacritic Score: TBA
We begin with the game that inspired this list, the recent meditative mountaineering epic, Jusant. Jusant is a game that sees you climb through a mountain settlement that time seems to have forgotten.
All the residents are long gone due to a devastating drought that rendered the mountain uninhabitable, and it’s your job to explore, uncover the secrets of the mountain, and maybe even restore things to the way they were.
The highlight of this game is the climbing mechanics on offer, which aim to provide an experience that is as true to mountaineering as possible; having reviewed this one personally, let me tell you, the climbing mechanics are some of the most cathartic and well-implemented I have ever come across.
It’s a beautiful, tranquil, and challenging experience that you’ll want to add to your wishlist right away!
#2 – Celeste
Developer: Matt Makes Games
Metacritic Score: 92%
Celeste is a game that suffers from the same strange phenomenon as the Zelda series, where uneducated gamers will refer to Link as Zelda by mistake. So here’s a PSA for all those out of the loop, Madeline is the main character in Celeste, and Celeste is the mountain you’ll need to climb if you want to beat this game.
Now that we have that all cleared up, Celeste is hands down the finest 2D platformer of the modern era, offering insanely tight platforming, a wonderful soundtrack, retro 8-bit visuals with a modern-day polish, and a touching story that deals with the struggles of depression, and the importance of mental health.
It’s a game that still enjoys a healthy player base thanks to a booming speedrunning community, and has more than cemented its status as a platforming hall of famer. So if you haven’t gotten around to this one yet, now is the time.
#3 – Journey
Developer: That Game Company
Metacritic Score: 92%
We have all heard the phrase that ‘life isn’t about the destination, it’s about the Journey.’ Well, if you have ever wanted to play a game that presents this idea in an artistically mindblowing and beautiful way, then Journey is the game for you.
Journey begins with you, The Traveller staring out a distant mountain, and your goal is immediately clear. You need to climb that sucker. The game tells a silent tale through environmental clues, lush visuals, and an award-winning soundtrack, offering up one big metaphor for life, death, and the afterlife in video game form.
Aside from running and jumping, you won’t really do much else in this game, making it a very accessible puzzle platformer that just about anyone can pick up and play.
Yet despite this simplicity and lack of dialogue throughout, Journey offers a gaming experience that will stay with you forever. It’s timeless, faultless, and well worth your time.
#4 – Bread and Fred
Developer: Sandcastles Studios
Metacritic Score: 78% (based on 3 available reviews)
What you’ll come to notice about most of these climbing adventures on this list, is that most offer a very solitary experience, with plenty of most for introspection, meditation, and reflection.
However, when you add a section party to the mix, as is the case in Bread and Fred, and you soon come to realize that there’s no room for introspection when you are tumbling down a mountain screaming at your partner for messing up a jump.
To give some context, Bread and Fred is a game where you play as two mountaineering Penguins who are strapped together by ropes and harnesses, and your goal is to work together to cross gaps, avoid perilous drops, and ascend the mountain.
It’s a game where mistakes are often severely punished, where individual acts tend to spell trouble for both you and your penguin partner, but the wins taste all the sweeter when you finally become the dynamic duo you need to be.
It’s a challenging one, but if you want to tackle a huge climb with a friend, there is no better game on the market than Bread and Fred.
#5 – Grow Home
Metacritic Score: 75%
You might have been fooled into believing that Jusant was the first game to think of having the player control individual limbs to climb, but this mechanic was around all the way back in 2015 in a little game called Grow Home.
This game sees you take control of Bud as they aim to climb an ever-growing behemoth of a plant in the hope of saving the world.
I will concede that, at times, Grow Home feels like more of a tech demo sandbox than a polished platformer. So I suppose Jusant is definitely the more refined of the procedural animation climbers on this list, but Grow Home still oozes with fun and whimsy at every turn, has no one set path to success, and offers players the freedom to experience this overgrowth climber in their own way.
It’s a little forgotten gem, which, if you haven’t played before, you need to give a try!
#6 – Insurmountable
Metacritic Score: 74%
This one is probably the most unique climbing game on this list, as the rest listed are out-and-out platformers, whereas Insurmountable is a roguelike strategy game akin to the likes of FTL: Faster Than Light where you will need to choose your path up the mountain, and will have to make difficult choices that could prove the difference between reaching the summit and freezing to death.
It’s a game for those who want a more traditional take on mountaineering, and want to really agonize over the trials and tribulations that come with high-altitude climbs.
Not to mention, thanks to the roguelike format, no two climbs ever feel the same, with dynamic weather patterns, random encounters, and unique storylines playing out over the course of each run.
Death, in a lot of cases, is inevitable, but it’s about the thrill of the climb and testing the limits to see just how far you can get. No one ever said it was easy, but the view when you get up there will make it all worthwhile.
#7 – A Short Hike
Metacritic Score: 88%
To cleanse the palette after a grueling roguelike we have A Short Hike, a game where you play as a little bird named Claire who must reach the top of the mountain to get cell phone reception to call her mom. Again, a simple premise that proves to be a little more tricky in practice.
To get up there you will have to help the locals and collect Feathers, which will grant you the ability to jump higher and climb farther. Then when you feel you are up to it, you can hop, glide, and climb your way to the tippy-top.
Unlike most other games on this list, A Short Hike is a very chill and relaxing endeavor with retro Dreamcast-era visuals, that fits neatly into the bracket of ‘cozy gaming.’ There are collectibles; there’s silly irreverent humor throughout, cute animal characters, and even a fishing mini-game; what more could you ask for?
It will be over before you know it, so be sure to savor the climb to the top of Hawk Peak when you play this one!
#8 – Getting Over It With Bennett Foddy
Developer: Bennett Foddy
Metacritic Score: 80% (Based on user reviews)
Then lastly, we have what is easily the most cruel and sadistically difficult game on this list. We have seen some other games of this nature that have tried to recreate the pain and hardship caused by this title, such as Only Up or Pogostuck, but we want to highlight the OG, Getting Over It With Bennett Foddy.
This is a rather surreal climbing experience where you will take control of a man seemingly trapped in a big pot of some sort, and with the use of a large hammer, you will have to latch onto anything you can to hoist yourself up over awkward platforms to the next area.
As you might have guessed, these controls are intentionally awkward and ill-suited for the task at hand, and what makes matters even worse is, that if you make any mistake, you could plummet right to the bottom, undoing hours of hard-earned progress.
It truly is the Dark Souls of climbing games, but if you feel you are up to the challenge, then by all means, take on the demanding platformer that is Getting Over It With Bennett Foddy.
Plant Your Flag
And here we are, at the summit of this list, and what a gorgeous view we have of all these amazing indies that allow us to climb with style.
Sometimes a clear and simple goal to work toward is all you need, and these games prove that. We hope that this list inspires you to take on your next climb, and as always, thank you for reading Indie Game Culture.
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