Indie games innovate and cross boundaries, defying categorisation or genre-ification. These 6 games (mostly) straddle the boundaries between shootemups, beatemups and hack n slashes, presenting combinations of intense melee and fast pace ranged combat in a variety of perspectives from iso to top down to side scrolling that could be referred to as 'hack n shoots'. The two things they all have in common are being quick to pick up and providing that adrenaline rush we all crave. Inset: wallpaper from Hotline Miami
Castle Crashers (The Behemoth)
A light and entertaining story that plays with various medieval fantasy tropes, Castle Crashers integrates RPG mechanics with classic side scrolling shooter/beater elements in an innovatively feudal setting. If its cartoon 2D artstyle seems reminiscent of Newgrounds then you've got a good eye because a lot of the art and music being sourced from the users. Expect barbarian sieges, princess rescues, trolls under bridges and duels with overpowered bosses. It offers fairly seamless 1 to 4 player coop so it's great for friends as well. Castle Crashers is a miniscule 170.5mb and $15 on Steam, or $44 for a 4-pack.
Bastion (Supergiant Games)
One of my all time favourite games due to its engaging characters, whimsical art style 2D isometric, heartfelt story, beautiful soundtrack and innovative setting, Bastion still manages to combine this with addictive and variable combat in a post-apocalyptic world. Players can equip two weapons and one of several dozen special abilities with a mix of melee and ranged weapons to choose from. Combat is customisable still further with a variety of powerups for both the player, their weapons and the enemies (for bonus loot). Bastion is 863mb and $15 on Steam.
Transistor (Supergiant Games)
A ~not~ sequel to Bastion, Transistor tries hard to follow up on the things which made it popular (art style, themes, voice acting, music, mechanics). Although the story and characters can be pretentious the 2D artstyle and soundtrack are as good as ever while the combat is as pleasantly variable as Bastion but set in a cleverly imagined futuristic utopia amidst the throes of a coup-cross-invasion-cum-natural disaster. Individuals are categorised, activities are logged, malfeasants are surveilled and when NPCs die they become programs to either add unique effects to existing player abilities, or used as powerful new abilities. Transistor is 3192mb and $20 on Steam.
Halo: Spartan Assault (Vanguard Games with 343 Industries)
Although designed as a mobile shooter, this game holds up surprisingly strongly on PC with (almost) all the classic Halo weapons and enemies returning - players can equip iconic weapons from the Halo universe and go up against all the old enemies again as Spartan IVs joining an all-out offensive against a loyalist Covenant faction. Combat is slick with ammo being a limiting factor against constantly using the same weapons, and a number of ground vehicle segments offer extremely enjoyable variety with players driving ghosts, grizzlies (super scorpions) and wraiths. The art style is a realistic 3D isometric, the story is typically gritty Halo and although TB felt the music was out of place, this old Halo fan felt it's got that perfect melancholic feel which accompanies every Halo game. Halo: Spartan Assault is 2406mb and an incredibly good price of $3 on Steam.
Hotline Miami 1 & 2 (Denaton Games with Devolver Digital)
The best for last - Hotline Miami's topdown 2D artstyle leaves a little to be desired, but the outrun soundtrack and incredibly well designed gameplay more than makes up for it. Some players start out by analysing patrol routes and LOS while meticulously planning out their routes, weapon usage and combos. A few even struggle through the first levels like this but the game doesn't really start until you throw out all the planning and just rush through the level improvising wildly which, when, how you kill every single thing that breathes and moves. Combat is incredibly gory, melee weapons (including an impressive mix of improvised ones) shine brilliantly but guns are a more than enjoyable option (nearly a necessity for some levels). Levels are scored based on speed, combos, weapon variety and finishing moves (sometimes an "enemy" will fall to the ground injured and start blindly crawling for safety). Mechanics and aesthetics are near identical between the first and second game, but the sequel adds new characters, a new story and various new weapons.
The mindless violence, adrenaline rush and immersion of HM is simply unmatched putting these game(s) into my all time favourites. Hotline Miami 1 is 887mb and $10 on Steam while Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is 685 mb and $15USD but Australians take note... the sequel has been effectively banned (left unrated) by our medieval media classifications board. It's alright though as the developers have specifically said they're more than happy for us to pirate it, and of course there's various tricks to getting around Steam's region locking anyway (the classic method is being gifted it by an overseas friend).
Edited by Miskaton