One of the best resources for good, free games is definitely Itch.io, the Steam for indies. Today I’m introducing my Avant-Garden collectionon Itch.io, a collection of surreal, engrossing, and sometimes just lovably weird games that I love. And most of them are point-blank free!
Free Points is a series of weekly(ish) free game recommendations. The games may range from the most surreal of Alt Games to the most traditional of platformers; the only requirements for a Free Points game is that they’re free (real free, not free to play!) and very much worth your time.
What Is Avant-Garden?
Avant-Garden started out as “Cool Weird Games”, a collection I’d add every…cool, weird game I found into! I frequently use Itch.io to find interesting experiences for my YouTube, and after removing games from my “to review” queue, I liked to add them to another “worth playing” collection for others to see.
After a while I grew a bit tired of the old name, and I’ve noticed some of my favorite game developers don’t appreciate the simplicity of calling their games “weird” in general discourse—though I certainly don’t mean it as a negative myself! It is a bit frustrating to see fantastic, unique games reduced to “look at this weird crap I found!” on various big YouTubers’ channels, after all.
Looking for a better word, I came upon a fun pun and Avant-Garden was born. I find it encapsulates the feeling of a quick, meditative romp that many of these games offer, and matches the experience I have of cultivating and adding to the collection. I adore finding new games to add to my garden.
Not absolutely everything in Avant-Garden is free; many are Pay What You Want, some are premium, but most can be played free of charge. Itch.io collections helpfully list the price if any.
Yume Nikki is a game you’ve probably at least heard of, and quite possibly even played a game at least in part inspired by it. In fact I debated on whether this was “too mainstream” to kick off my series of free game recommendations, but it’s hard to talk free games without acknowledging Yume Nikki, so let’s start with one of the best.
Free Points is a series of weekly free game recommendations. The games may range from the most surreal of Alt Games to the most traditional of platformers; the only requirements for a Free Points game is that they’re free (real free, not free to play!) and very much worth your time.
What Is Yume Nikki?
Release Date: June 26, 2004 Price: Free! Developer: Kikiyama Languages: Japanese, English Length: ~6 Hours Platform: PC (Steam, DRM free via Uboachan (sorry, it’s a .RAR)) Genre: Exploration Themes: Horror, Pixel Art, Walking Sim, RPG Maker, Surreal Content Warnings: Horror, pixel depictions of death & suicide Supplemental: A YouTube Playlist of my explorations in Yume Nikki
Yume Nikki is an RPG Maker game, but it’s certainly not an RPG. Rather, the engine was used (quite effectively) to make a series of dream worlds that the protagonist, Madotsuki (窓付き), will explore. Worlds vary from the macabre to the beautiful, from the dingy to the stunningly surreal.
While playing TIMEframe I found myself thinking–isn’t this a bit slow? As a “walking simulator” (forgive my use of the term, I don’t mean it derogatorily), TIMEframe’s primary input is, yes, walking. And I began to notice something about the genre: they really all are quite slow–very much walking sims and not running sims.