Big video games command the market share of the $21 billion video game industry, but independently produced games are getting noticed. USA TODAY introduces some notable and upcoming ones.
Microsoft Xbox 360
The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai
Ska Studios, skasoftware.com; out later this year, no price set
Former dishwasher James Silva created this violent take on the Donkey Kong genre when he learned that Bruce Lee was once a dishwasher who got no respect. "I thought, 'Hey, I could turn that into a video game.' " It hits Xbox Live later this year as part of Microsoft's community games project. (Typically $8-$10)
Number None Games, braid-game.com; out later this year, no price set
A two-dimensional side-scrolling game in a colorful, ornate world from acclaimed developer Jonathan Blow. He has described it as "in the mold of Super Mario Bros., but that is more about problem-solving and less about making tricky jumps. You do strange things to control the flow of time, and that helps you solve the puzzles."
The Behemoth, thebehemoth.com; out later this year, no price set
A wacky hand-drawn skirmisher from the San Diego-based makers of Alien Hominid (already on Xbox Live). A quartet of knights tries to defeat a common enemy. Your job, says project manager Emil Ayoubkhan: "Save your princess, defend your kingdom, and crash some castles."
Nnooo Games, nnooo.com; out now, $7
One of the first six downloadable entries on the WiiWare service started in May, this simple, psychedelic game uses the Wii's motion-sensitive remote to pop bubbles for points. Says Nic Watt, of the Australia-based developer: "The great thing about online distribution is that a small company like us can make a game and potentially reach all of the Wii's audience."
Frontier Developments, frontier.co.uk/games/lostwinds; out now, $10
You wield the power of the wind with the Wii remote in this tale of good and evil magic. The small U.K. developer also has created games such as Thrillville for publisher LucasArts. "Download channels like WiiWare, PlayStation Network or Xbox Live Arcade are an interesting opportunity to try out new ideas," says Frontier's David Braben.
World of Goo
2D Boy Games, 2dboy.com; due in September, no price set
A physics-based puzzler in which you manipulate talking, oozing Goo balls to build things and contraptions while fending off the World of Goo Corporation — a metaphor for the two-man San Francisco development firm's "experiences working in and with large companies," says co-founder Kyle Gabler.
Sony PlayStation 3
WILL, us.playstation.com/PS3/Games/echochrome; out now, $10
A perspective-shifting interactive riff on M.C. Escher developed by a small Japanese development team for Sony. "It plays on all the visual tricks your eyes can play on you," says Sony's Scott Rohde. "We're out there looking to find unique content you can only play on our system. That is how we found echochrome."
ThatGameCompany, thatgamecompany.com; out later this year, no price set
The follow-up to last year's award-winning downloadable PS3 game Flow, this simple-to-play pursuit makes the bucolic landscape the main character. "If Flow was a haiku, Flower is a poem," says ThatGameCompany's Kellee Santiago. "Our mission is to create games that explore emotions that haven't been explored yet in video games."
Q Games, q-games.com; out later this month, no price set
As a "grimp" creature, you swing through a psychedelic garden, pollinating plants. "Five years ago, we couldn't have found anywhere to sell games like" Eden or its predecessors PixelJunk Racers and Monsters, says Q Games founder Dylan Cuthbert. "But now, we have an avenue for the games we have always wanted to make."