Xbox often rightfully takes the spotlight when it comes to Windows Phone games, but there are tons of fun and deserving indie titles in the Store, too. So this list is for the little guys. If you’re looking for a respite from the holiday madness, these five games will definitely do the trick. You’ll find more winning indie options in the The Next Big Thing Collection (which also includes award-winners like Taptitude that are arguably already big things.)
What indie games were on your must-download list in 2012?
This turn-based multiplayer strategy game puts you in charge of a futuristic armada with one mission: destroy enemy headquarters. Simple enough, no? Well, it’s not. The sound and graphics effects are stellar, and there are enough maps and machinery to keep you immersed for hours. Bonus: Armed! has options for solo or head-to-head online play. ($2.99; Windows Phone 7 and higher). Download it
This casual puzzler is a favorite in my hallway here at Windows Phone HQ. You’re trying to zap the escaping Koo monsters before they escape, which you accomplish by connecting the different colored wires. The monsters get tougher over time—but so does your offensive arsenal of lightning and bombs. The polish on this indie effort is truly impressive. (Free; Windows Phone 7.5 and higher.) Download it
For storybook graphics and whimsical fun, Starcrossed is a great bet. An astronaut has crash landed, and your job is to zip him back to his home planet via rocket. But it’s not as easy as it sounds, with gravity pulling him off-course and scorching stars always a threat. This 2-D platformer features more than 30 levels of game play. ($0.99; Windows 7.5 and higher). Download it
Here’s another title with novel visuals that lives up to its Store billing: Easy to pick up, hard to put down. Race your ragdoll through a charming 3-D world. High-res graphics and intuitive controls (simply swipe up to jump) makes for endless, easy fun. Ragdolls have different abilities and quirks, which helps keep things interesting. Ditto the online leader board. (Free; Windows Phone 7.5 or higher). Download it
Looking for more Kid’s Corner stuffers? This title comes highly recommended by both my 6- and 8-year-olds—who have long grown weary of Fruit Ninja but missed its squishy charms. (I’ve spent an embarrassingly-long time mindlessly poking at these ants, too.) The goal here is simple: Crush the bugs, avoid the bees. Ant Smasher does for entomology what Fruit Ninja did for, well, fruit. And its realistically gross sound effects are honey to a child’s ear. (Free; Windows Phone 7.5 or higher.) Download it