Dust: An Elysian Tail Xbox 360

Dust: An Elysian TailXbox 360
Self-taught indie game maker (and illustrator/animator) Dean Dodrill spent the past three-and-a-half years creating, coding, drawing and designing Dust all by himself. Though his original plan was to make an old-school 8-bit platformer, his demo won an Xbox contest making him progressively more ambitious as he went along.

Eventually Dodrill got a writing assist and 40 voice actors, but this "tail" (a titular hat tip to Don Bluth's An American Tail) of an amnesiac adventurer with a talking sword remains an intensely individualistic achievement.

Though it remains structured in the exploratory side-scrolling retro-genre known as Metroidvania, he amped it up into a side-scrolling action-RPG, complete with side quests, skill points and weapon crafting. But what truly sets it apart is the rewarding narrative, combo-crazed combat and those stunning, hand-drawn graphics reminiscent of 2D cult-classic Odin Sphere, not to mention its unique charm and personality.

This may be the first Dodrill game you play, but it surely won't be the last. (Humble Hearts/Microsoft)