16 Years of “Braid”

Braid was an unassuming independent video game released in 2008 that made a bigger impact than the video game industry could have anticipated. In honor of the remastered Anniversary Edition coming out in April, we're diving into what made this game so special and why its legacy is important.

In the time leading up to Braid’s release, indie games were not viable money-makers in the way that major titles like Halo or Call of Duty were. Those types of "AAA" titles had big publishers behind them and could easily be found everywhere, from GameStop to Walmart. Indie games were out there, too, but not nearly on the same scale.

Braid could have wound up living in relative anonymity like most indie games at the time—maybe appreciated by passionate gamers but unknown to the video game world at large—if it weren't for its creative, artistic approach and accessible distribution.

Creator Jonathan Blow began developing Braid in 2004 while doing contract work for other developers. He wanted to deconstruct the modern video game by creating something original and subversive. An early version of Braid, funded mostly by Blow himself, won an Innovation Award at the 2006 Independent Games Festival.

Once the game reached its final stages of development, Blow signed a deal with Microsoft to have the game distributed on the Xbox Live Arcade digital store. This is important because Xbox was the only console at the time to offer wireless internet connectivity out of the box, which meant digital game purchases on the console were far more accessible than on PlayStation or Nintendo consoles. Braid could be purchased in the store, alongside titles backed by other major publishers, and was offered at a lower price than its competitors due to its indie status.

Within six years of its release, Braid had made more than $4 million in revenue. It became the subject of Indie Game: The Movie (2012) alongside indie contemporaries Super Meat Boy and Fez. Once Braid broke through, distributors were more willing to take risks that would allow indie games to thrive. The greater world of indie game development had a new proven path to success and viability in a market saturated by major titles.

As for the content of the game itself, Braid is a thoughtfully crafted puzzle platformer that allows the player to reverse time throughout six increasingly complex levels. The game follows protagonist Tim as he searches for a princess. Pieces of the story are revealed by beating levels and solving puzzles, and the player learns more about the depth of the relationship between these two characters.

Blow took a “video games as art” approach to making Braid, which encouraged many interpretations of the themes and ideas at play. Despite this, Blow has expressed dissatisfaction that his game was misunderstood.

Many current indie titles can trace their approach and style back to Braid’s blend of puzzle-solving and 2D platforming. Here are a few such games in our collection:

Dead Cells

Inside + Limbo

Little Nightmares II

Braid, Anniversary Edition will be released on April 30, 2024 for Windows, PlayStation, Xbox, iOS and Android for Netflix subscribers.