We use the term ‘indie’ pretty lightly these days, but I think the term fits these three development teams. In my book, unless you’re owned by a huge corporation, you’re probably indie.

Independent games have really restored my faith in video games this year, and I’m thankful that a large number of iPhone development teams have been able to create some beautiful applications and games. Here’s my three favourite iPhone development firms this year, and a couple of reasons why they’ve made the list.

The Kieffer Bros.

I love everything these guys do. It’s a rarity, but simply put, I can’t get enough of their games. They’re beautifully designed, both graphics and game play are a treat to revel in. Lexic, as previously covered here, got me through an insanely long road trip into the heart of the US this summer. Since then I’ve been keeping a close eye on the games that the Kieffer Bros. have been producing. Boy was I surprised to find out that Orba was also being released this year. That game is beautifully simple, and even more elegantly designed.

It seems like the Kieffer Bros. have figured out what buttons to push to make me love their games. It’s simple really; all I need is something beautiful to look at. In my opinion, if I’m going to be spending time looking at your game for a couple hours it better not be super ugly and all pixellated. I won’t last long in that environment. What can I say, shiny lights distract me, so if your games full of them, I’m all in.

Just so you know, the Kieffer Bros have dropped their prices until the new year. You can get Lexic at $0.99, and Orba, Hyper Puck, and Enso•Dot Book One are absolutely free. So instead of taking my word for just how great these guys are, you can now download some of their games for free and let me know what you think of them.

Craneballs Studio

Another development team that comes in on this list is Craneballs Studio. No, it’s not because their name is Craneballs, and yes it has everything to do with 33rd Division and Blimp. Again, these guys share something with the Kieffer Bros., and it’s something that seems to run constant in my selection, they have we’ll designed games. 33rd Division spent some time at the top of the charts, and Blimp has taken me back to my childhood by recreating Solar Jet Man. It’s not completely the same, but the premise is right on par with the NES game of yesteryear.

Both of these games have sucked me in for more than a couple of hours this year.  The really cool thing about Craneballs Studio is that their games are completely different.  They clearly have the skill set to create new games instead of sticking within a genre that they’ve been successful in.  That’s something that I have to highly commend them for, as a lot of independent firms these days seem to stick themselves in a genre and refuse to leave it.  It clearly speaks to their abilities and their utility as game developers.  It really makes me anxious to see where they take their future games and applications.

Critical Thought Games

Geo this, and Geo that. It’s all about the “Geo” games for me this year. In case you’re not up on your math lingo, Geo stands for Geometry, and the games are all throw backs to the original Atari games. Again, they’re beautiful to look at despite being throw backs, and they’ve modernized them to include stunning colors and even better game play. If you love tower defense based games, and old school video games there’s no better place to start than the Critical Thought Games catalog. Geo-Defense, geoSpark. and Geo-Defense: Swarm pretty much rounded out my year of video games on the iPhone. If there was ever a series of games that had the potential to keep me up will into the morning, these are them. They’re painfully simple to play, but the complexity ramps up quick enough to help establish replay value a lot faster than some of the other games in the genre.

If I had to recommend one of the apps over the others I’d suggest starting with Geo-Defense: Swarm. That game was the first I played from the Critical Thought Games team and frankly, I think it’s the best one they’ve done to date. The others are good, but Geo-Defense:Swarm is great. It’s worth the price tag.

Final Thoughts

I’m sure there’s a ton of other development teams that deserve to be up here, and I can already rhythm off several in my head right now, but in fear of this post turning into an epic novel I thought I’d keep it at 3, and then let you guys debate the finer points in the comments. Who do you think deserves to be at the top of the list this year? Recommend some people in the comments.