For movies, the summer months mark the biggest season of the year. Ticket sales from May through August typically account for roughly 50 percent of the annual box office, and the vast majority of the releases carry a rating of PG-13 or below and are aimed at broad audiences as studios try to cash in on summer break.
The same, however, isn’t true of video games. Last month’s release of "Splatoon" for the Wii U made it one of only a handful of titles aimed at all age groups that are getting a major console release this summer.
Earlier this month, families also received “LEGO Jurassic World,” and slightly older gamers got the first expansion for “Final Fantasy XIV,” titled “Heavensward,” earlier this week.
Beyond those games, though, options are pretty sparse when it comes to family oriented releases from the major developers.
But that might actually be OK because some of the best games being made now aren’t the triple-A titles published by companies such as Sony or Microsoft or Nintendo, but those by their smaller, humbler cousins — sometimes by as few as two or three people with a passion for innovative design and smart gaming. A lot of those titles, while not made for kids per se, also happen to be family friendly.
There are also other reasons to watch for indie games these days.
For one thing, they tend to offer a lot of bang for your buck. Unlike triple-A titles, which generally run at around $60 at release, indie games — even ones that look comparable to triple-A titles — usually cost only a fraction of that, sometimes $15 or less.
On top of that, with mainstream video games following the same trajectory as Hollywood in terms of leaning on franchises and sequels in order to minimize risk, indie games are becoming more and more a final bastion of unrestricted creativity. Games such as “The Unfinished Swan” or “Proteus,” for example, challenge the basic ideas of what a game is.
Because of this, indie games offer more varied gameplay experiences. From retro 8-bit platformers to RPGs to games that can hardly even be classified, they do it all.
With that in mind, here’s a sampling of some of the recent or soon-to-be-released indie titles that gamers, especially ones looking for more family friendly content, might want to keep an eye on:
“Nom Nom Galaxy” (PS4) — Blending elements from multiple genres, including platformers, tower defense and resource management games, “Nom Nom Galaxy” is a co-op game about building interstellar soup factories. Release date: May 12.
“Don’t Starve: The Giant Edition” (Wii U, PS4) — This wilderness survival game sees a gentleman scientist named Wilson trying to find his way back home through an Edward Gorey-esque world of hostile creatures. Release date: May 28. (The PS4 version of this game lacks some of the bonus content.)
“The Escapists” (PS4, Xbox One) — This top-down, puzzle RPG challenges players to escape from increasingly difficult prisons. Release date: June 2.
“To Leave” (PS4) — In this quirky 2-D platformer from Ecuador’s Freaky Creations, players control a boy who must navigate a strange dreamland while holding on to a flying door. If he touches anything, he’s thrown back into the real world. Release date: June 30.
“Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture” (PS4) — Set in Shropshire, England, “Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture” is a first-person adventure game where the player is a scientist trapped in the very moment of the apocalypse. Release date: Aug. 11.
“Mighty No. 9” (All platforms) — Produced by Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune, “Mighty No. 9” is an action-platformer starring a very Mega Man-esque android named Beck. “Mighty No. 9” was originally funded through Kickstarter. Release date: Sep. 15.
“Inside” (Xbox One, PS4) — The next game from the developers behind the award-winning platformer “Limbo” looks just as moody and atmospheric as its predecessor. Release date: Summer 2015.
Jeff Peterson is a native of Utah Valley and studied humanities and history at Brigham Young University.