The indie game's indie game is free on Epic

Free Epic games — In Cave Story+, protagonist boy robot Quest fires large handgun projectiles at a rabbit-like boss creature
(Image credit: Nicalis, Inc./Studio Pixel)

This week's free Epic Game Store giveaway is a small slice of gaming history: Cave Story+, an enhanced version of what the publisher calls "arguably the most well-known indie game of all time." Cave Story comes from solo developer Daisuke Amaya, and the original game was released for free in 2004 after five years of work (and is still available). A Metroidvania about a robot trying to save a bunch of oppressed rabbits, it's an unforgettable ride, brutally tough, and can ultimately be a pretty heart-rending journey.

Cave Story slowly gained traction through word-of-mouth, which eventually led developer Nicalis to work with its creator on Cave Story+, a spruced-up version of the original game that first hit PC in 2011 with visual upgrades, a remastered soundtrack, various game additions, and some bonus modes.

The game feels beautiful in the hands and its take on how to structure a Metroidvania-style platformer is one of its great strengths: the game features five aesthetically and mechanically distinct environments, plus various hubs and mini-zones, and runs you back-and-forth across them with notable changes and new equipment. No wonder modders eventually made it into a roguelike.

Anyway: if you know, you know, and if you don't then Cave Story+ for free is one hell of a way to spend an evening. It's one of those games where Amaya's minimalist style has helped it age like a fine wine: this could release today and nobody would bat an eyelid. Play it today, however, and you'll see just how much some of the biggest platformers around owe to Cave Story. There's a reason this thing has the reputation it does.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."