Do indie games absolutely have to be so original and innovative?
I think it is important to establish from the get go that I'm not lodging any kind of complaint. Since the last generation got rolling there has been a steady stream of incredibly innovative budget titles from small independent studios. They are often quite amazing in that they do so much with so little while hitting all the right nostalgic buttons.
When I read about them, play some of them, and see them on the store I notice that so many of them are actually a whole new take on classic gameplay styles. Whether it is the side scroller, the platformer, the shootemup, the 8-bit RPG, or the top-down dungeon crawler, these games tend to have a few things in common. They either A: put a heavy new twist on things that pay homage to the past, or B: heavily parody the genre they borrow from.
They don't feel like honest to God attempts at recreating the greatness of the genres they come from. I'm not advocating the blatant rip off of classic gameplay, characters, or genre standard-bearers. I'm not saying I want to see "Super Marzio Bros " on the store or anything. To a certain degree I'm just surprised at the lack of, for lack of a better word, clones. Frankly I'd like to see some; I know I'd buy them.
The quality of the games of yesteryear are now something that small studios and Kickstarter funded programmers can accomplish. Maybe developers feel they have to bring some kind of new twist to the old genres in order to sell copies. Perhaps that's true but I'm not so sure it has to be the case every time. Perhaps I'm in a minority but I feel like if I started seeing games from independent studios that took serious swipes at being the next classic Final Fantasy, Crash Bandicoot, Resident Evil , old school Tomb Raider , 2D Castlevania, Virtua Fighter , or Metal Gear Solid I would give them more than the passing glance I typically do.
With breakthroughs like the Unity engine and very indie-friendly publishing opportunities one would think that a few programmers out there would want to faithfully recreate past glory, but with their own plots, memorable characters, and gameplay touches of course. I know I'd be more interested in a seriously plotted original RPG that looks and plays similar to Final Fantasy VI than I would whatever kind of monstrosity is cooking in the head of Square Enix's latest company director turned president.
So long as there is a base of gamers over 30 who appreciate the old days there will be a built-in audience for games that remind us of past greatness. I just don't think they always have to be parodies and wild new twists. If the success of indie games has taught us anything it is that graphics and gameplay modernization don't matter nearly as much as people like to think they do.