In Banished, you build gentle hamlets of wooden and stone houses. That's a contrast to the bustling urban centers of many city-building sim games, but the pace is no less hectic. ShiningRockSoftware hide caption

toggle caption ShiningRockSoftware

Nidhogg is a fast-paced sword fighting game that pits two players in an intense, steel-on-steel battle of tug-of-war that harkens back to the old days of arcade battles. Messhof hide caption

toggle caption Messhof

Desktop Dungeons is an easy-to-pick-up puzzle, strategy, single-player role-playing game. It can be difficult, but the ease of repeat play and deep strategic elements will keep you coming back. QCF Design hide caption

toggle caption QCF Design

The game Don't Starve casts you in the role of "gentleman scientist" Wilson, with just one goal: Survive. Its unique mix of survival horror and crafting gameplay, paired with a charming Tim Burton-esque art style, made this a standout game of 2013. Klei Entertainment hide caption

toggle caption Klei Entertainment

Billed as a "story exploration game," Gone Home has users exploring an empty house and piecing together why no one is home. The Fullbright Company hide caption

toggle caption The Fullbright Company

The titular brothers of the game encounter a troll, one of the many colorful characters they meet on their grand adventure. Starbreeze Studios hide caption

toggle caption Starbreeze Studios

The Stanley Parable is an exploration game, but it is also a narrative story game, and it is also a game of choice. It is all of these things, yet none of them. Galactic Cafe hide caption

toggle caption Galactic Cafe

In The Swapper, you guide an astronaut through a space station mystery while creating (and disposing of) clones of yourself to solve puzzles. Facepalm Games hide caption

toggle caption Facepalm Games

Papers, Please casts you as an immigration inspector whose goal is to keep those who don't belong out of the fictional nation of Arstotzka. hide caption

toggle caption

Independent developer Jonathan Blow's time-warping, mind-bending puzzler Braid turned a hackneyed plot — little guy rescues a princess — into a melancholy meditation on love and loss. Microsoft/AP hide caption

toggle caption Microsoft/AP

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor