2013 is nearly a wrap, but our community of Windows Phone indie game developers has obviously been working overtime for the holidays.
As I do every month, I’ve asked our in-house reviewers to sift through the latest arrivals and single out their favorites, the games most worth your time. Here are seven highlights from that list. You’ll find all 30 of their handpicked titles in the Store’s newly-updated Next Big Thing collection.
Now it’s your turn: What’s your nominee for best indie game of 2013?
Is it an infinity running game? A fantasy horror game? Who cares. When you put it all together, Dark Lands is ultimately an addictive genre-bender that pits you, the hero, against a slew of evil forces that come in the form of goblins, orcs, skeletons, trolls and ogres. Climb the leaderboard as you fight these hordes in epic battles, learn to set traps (and avoid them), and develop your hero, all enhanced by gorgeous atmospheric visuals, music, and sound effects (WP7.5/8; $0.99). Buy it
Matching cups as they stack up under a hippo sounds like a fun, funny, relaxing game—which is probably why this one was voted Best Casual Mobile Game of 2013. There are bomb cups, ice cups, pure jewels, twins magnets, and more to keep things lively, And the vertical-row gameplay is an innovative twist you’ll enjoy through 90 all levels (WP8; free). Download it
Jack may be a gifted young scientist, but he sure has made a doozy of a mistake: his latest experiment has released a dangerous virus into the world. This game takes a fun approach to what he’s unleashed, and you’ll enjoy colorful graphics, incredible effects, humorous characters, and challenging puzzles as you work to drag and destroy the virus through more than 5 locations and 40 levels (WP 7.5/8; $0.99). Buy it
There’s something mysterious going on in town of Serpent Creek, and you’re here to solve it. This hidden-object puzzle adventure merges the intrigue of a great mystery with the thrilling elements of classic horror and gritty, ‘40s-style noir. If you’re paying close attention—through 40 locations, 13 puzzles, 9 hidden object scenes, and 4 hours of gameplay—you just might be able to stop an evil plot to bring the Snake God back to this world (WP8; free). Download it
This little arcade game has an action-packed punch. Your goal? Help a little green alien fight for his planet by shooting down asteroids while orbiting back and forth—a 360 degree twist on Space Invaders. In the process, you’ll crash comets, blow up meteoroids, and smash menacing asteroids with high-powered weapons—all while trying to rack up maximum points. (WP8; $1.99). Buy it
This just might be the most beautiful battle card game around. With more than 100 exquisitely drawn characters, dazzling battle effects, and stunning graphics, it’s a sight to behold. But it’s more than that. Its richly developed, engrossing storyline has you meeting the God of Prophesy, then traveling through a world of spies and thieves, thieves and assassins, dragons and more, through forests and underground cities, battling whatever creatures get in your way. Through the game’s online community, you can see how your card deck stacks up against other players around the globe (WP8; free). Download it
In this epic game with a silly name, you enter a medieval fantasy world of castles and dragons, then decide what you’d like to make of it. Breed and raise four types of dragons, work to return the family castle to prosperity, or rule with scorched-earth power as a Necromancer. There are multiple quests you can engage in as a Knight, Warlock or Dragon, and all-new “Battle Mode,” which unlocks items for your Knight and sends him to fight nine different monsters. (WP8/$0.99). Buy it