15 Hidden & Forgotten Gems of 2016
2016 has been quite a year as pretty much anyone would tell you, and that has been true in the world of gaming as well. Over 4000 new titles were released on Steam this year alone - that is over 40% of all titles on Steam available to-date. That is an incredible amount of games just on Steam alone, and when we consider the games that have not been released on Steam as well as brand new console exclusives, that adds up to an unprecedented number of new titles.
Of course, quantity doesn't necessarily mean quality. And with so many new games out, it's easy for many to get lost in the shuffle. Certainly, bigger titles benefit from equally large marketing campaigns behind them, and these generally tend to be the games we talk about the most. However, even this doesn't guarantee a good game.
So that being said, we've compiled a list of 15 hidden gems that you might have missed this year. And with Christmas sales coming up, it might be a great time to pick some of these up and see what you just might have missed!
The Banner Saga 2
The Banner Saga 2 is the sequel to 2014's Viking-inspired RPG The Banner Saga. Considering just how much high praise the first game got, it's a little surprising that the sequel released with little fan-fare attached. The sequel doesn't change much of the formula from the first game, but it doesn't need to, and players will be treated to a fantastic strategy RPG with gorgeous hand-drawn art and a classical music score worthy of repeat listening.
Available on PC, Mac, iOS, Google Play, Xbox One, and PS4.
Don't let the Metacritic score fool you - Bombshell is a fast paced twin stick shooter that gets enough right that what it gets wrong can easily be forgiven. What started off as a Duke Nukem sequel, the game retains the cocky dialog and violence and wraps it all up in an 80's sci-fi action movie vibe with a roaring heavy metal soundtrack that when combined equal to a lot of great, mindless fun.
3D Realms is also actively working on a Bombshell prequel, using the legendary Duke Nukem 3D Build engine! Talk about retro!
Available on PC, Xbox One, and PS4.
Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky
From the legendary Japanese RPG developers Tri-Ace, Exist Archive was released into the wild with very marketing attached to it. It's a shame too, because this is the spiritual successor to Valkyrie Profile, and it manages to scratch that itch particularly well. Despite some UI issues, it does hit all the right notes for a JRPG - a compelling storyline, colorful visuals, a great soundtrack and a deep combat system. Fans of JRPG's shouldn't pass on this one.
Available on PS4 and PSVita.
Furi is an absolutely punishing game, but it makes up for it with extreme style and tight gameplay. You take control of an unnamed warrior and battle your way through several extremely challenging boss fights in SHMUP style arenas, learning their individual mechanics as well as trying to master your own abilities. The simple to learn but difficult to master nature of the game is evident in every fight, and overcoming each boss gives a sense of satisfaction that most other games just can't match. The story is equally compelling, and it's presented with such style that you WANT to keep going despite the difficulty. Overall Furi is unforgiving, fast paced, and completely bad-ass.
Available on PC, Xbox One, and PS4.
For those looking for a good SRPG fix, look no further then Grand Kingdom. This Sony exclusive manages to combine excellent tactic structure, traditional JRPG tropes, board game elements, and frantic action to create a completely brand new RPG experience. While it might take some time to get used to the systems in place, they are deep enough that players will find plenty to tinker and experiment with for weeks. Couple this with excellent visuals and a decent storyline and soundtrack, and I can't help but recommend Grand Kingdom for gamers looking for a little more strategy in their JRPG.
Available on PS4 and PSVita.
Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak
Older RTS fans might remember the Homeworld series of PC titles from the 90's, where players were tasked with commanding a large colony ship to it's final destination. After being dormant for over a decade, the series was finally reborn with an HD remake and a brand new prequel. Deserts of Kharak provides a fresh take on the original formula, but still remains familiar enough that series veterans will have no trouble jumping right in. For those who never experienced the Homeworld series, Deserts of Kharak is an excellent RTS that shouldn't be passed up.
Available on PC.
Hyper Light Drifter
Hyper Light Drifter seemed poised to be the indie darling of 2016, but it hasn't seemed to be able to quite get there. This is a shame, since Hyper Light Drifter is a fantastic game that deserves more attention. The game is extremely open, with no tutorial whatsoever, so players may feel lost at first. Stick with it though, and slowly the game comes into it's own. The joy of playing comes from exploring the open world and discovering what it has to offer, and the game is rich with set pieces and epic combat to discover and conquer. It's never the same experience for everyone, and every player will take something different from the game.
Available on PC, Mac, Xbox One, PS4, Linux, and Ouya.
I Am Setsuna
I Am Setsuna is a love letter to the JRPGs of yesteryear, and those who grew up with classics such as Secret of Mana and Chrono Trigger will be able to jump right in and feel right at home. Mechanically, the game plays just like the classics of the 16-bit era, yet despite this it doesn't feel old and tired. The game released earlier this year at a $40 price point, which might have been a little too much for a budget RPG title, but now at $20, I Am Setsuna is a great buy.
Available on PC and PS4.
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir
A forgotten gem of the PS2 era, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is an HD update of Odin Sphere that was unfortunately released to little fanfare. The game carries the signature Vanillaware 2D style, and it has aged very well. Vanillaware not only took the time to update everything to HD, but also took the time to iron out the issues the PS2 original had. They didn't stop there, and went on to also add several new elements to the game, including enhanced AI, new levels, and expanding the story of the game even more. The result is a beautiful game that even those who played the PS2 original ought to revisit. Leifthrasir oozes quality and polish, and is truly a perfect example of how an HD remake should be done.
Available on PS3, PS4 and PSVita.
While a little on the short side, Oxenfree is a sublime graphical adventure which is able to deal with some very heavy topics over it's six to seven hour playtime. Good pacing, well written characters and dialog, a fabulous soundtrack and subtle horror elements all come together seamlessly to create an overall fantastic gaming experience. Fans of Telltale adventure games shouldn't pass on this one.
Avaiable on PC, Mac, Xbox One, PS4, and Linux
A quirky management game where you rule a kingdom through the use of a Tinder-like interface, Reigns gives you hours upon hours of hilarious entertainment for a very cheap price. Easy to pick up and learn, there's plenty of amusing situations to discover, and you'll need several playthroughs to uncover it all. Great for short bursts of gameplay, this game is clearly designed for a touchscreen, but plays just fine on your home PC as well.
Available on iOS, Android, PC, and Mac.
Salt & Sanctuary
Salt & Sanctuary has been described by some as a mash-up of Castlevania and Dark Souls, and that isn't too far off the mark. The art style is reminisce of horror graphic novels, while the maze of dungeons and castles to explore provide players plenty of things to do. The game might feel a little TOO inspired at times, but From Software would be hard pressed to do better than this if they were to ever delve into the 2D realm. Overall, Salt & Sanctuary is a solid, punishing yet beautiful action adventure game that deserves more attention.
Available on PC, PS4, and PSVita.
Shadow Tactics - Blade of the Shogun
If discussion about the classic game series Commandos gives you happy nostalgic feelings, Shadow Tactics is a game not to miss. Taking the Commandos tactical base, improving upon the stealth element, and updating the game to take advantage of 2016's technology, what we get is a game that proves that gameplay once considered obsolete can still feel amazingly fresh. The blend of RTS style controls with stealth oriented gameplay and amazing level design make for an incredibly deep and satisfying experience. Did we mention this game takes place in medieval Japan and that it has ninjas? NINJAS guys. Ninjas are just f!#king sweet.
Available on PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox One, and PS4.
Unravel got a big push from its publisher EA last year, but released to very little fanfare. It's a shame really, since Unravel is a charming, heartfelt platformer with some interesting mechanics. Players take control of Yarny, a living ball of yarn, and the game involves exploring memories and scenes over the life of his creator. Unravel knows how to tug at the heartstrings in all the right ways, and you'll soon discover there's more meaning to it's name than just the fact that yarn happens to be an important element of the gameplay. If you can pick this up, do so. It's a great little game, and it's not everyday EA releases something so new and unique and different from it's normal porfolio, making this one definitely worth supporting.
Available on PC, Xbox One, and PS4.
Va-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action
Thought provoking, funny, tragic. All these elements come together in Va-11 Hall-A, a cyberpunk visual novel where you take control of a bartender in a dystopian future. The game isn't for everyone, but for the player who doesn't mind taking a backseat, you'll find a game that, much like a good book, Draws you in through skillful writing and characterization. This is a rare cyberpunk story with real human heart, and I never found myself wanting more than just to see the next piece of dialog, to learn more about my clientele and the characters around me. A great soundtrack and excellent pixel-style art rounds off the package.
Available on PC, Mac, iOS, Linux, and PSVita.