These days, the video game industry is fairly narrow. A few big companies dominate the scene, if only because they can pump millions of dollars into the development of what have become professional-level games. The visual design budget alone of any one of these games surpasses the money available for everything in a small studio, so it's practically impossible to compete. It's gotten to the point that ambitious startups are almost automatically dubbed "alternative" or "independent", labels previously applied to film and music that had too small an audience to be considered commercial.
It's always nice to see a strong, ambitious game series develop to its full potential. Sequels are always tricky business, so when each successive game in a franchise improves upon the last while adding new content it's encouraging. Few series have evolved so interesting or so well as the Jedi Knight games.
Produced by Lucasarts and Activision, Jedi Academy is the most recent game in the series, coming out in 2003. On its own, JA is a fun, engrossing action game that does a good job of mixing up missions and level designs so it's not just one long slog of hack-and-slash. But in the context of where it came from, the game is even more satisfying.
I come from the generation that was awe-inspired by the stunning eight bits of the Nintendo Entertainment System, so I get no small amount of satisfaction from seeing games that far surpass that top toy of 1985 being produced for play on any common web browser. Add to that the fact that many of these excellent games are programmed by fewer than three people and it becomes apparent how far the art of game design has come. The following are three excellent browser games that debuted in April 2009.