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What games would you consider "hidden gems"?

A "hidden gem" is a game that is considered to be great but not well-known at all. It's something you believe deserves far more recognition and reach than it currently has. A diamond in the rough.

Though a hidden gem certainly can be a highly polished experience, the term also allows a bit of roughness, leaving room for clunkiness or flaws on account of the game's scope and production values (hidden gems are rarely, if ever, big-budget). It also seems to place a slight premium on novelty and innovation, favoring but not requiring games to be fresh or experimental for their time.

With this in mind, I'm curious to hear people's opinions and hopefully get some new stuff to check out for when I find myself needing to take a break from Crash and Spyro.

  • What games would you consider "hidden gems"?
  • Why do you feel they fit the criteria?
  • Why do you think they aren't more widely known?

34 comments

  1. [10]
    cfabbro
    (edited )
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    I own and play an absurd amount of video games, a large portion of them Indie ones that probably meet your particular criteria for what makes something a "hidden gem", so this is another topic...

    I own and play an absurd amount of video games, a large portion of them Indie ones that probably meet your particular criteria for what makes something a "hidden gem", so this is another topic that is right up my alley, @kfwyre! And given that, this list of mine could probably be insanely large, so to keep it somewhat manageable I will try to at least restrict my answers to games with under 3k reviews on Steam.

    Also worth noting is that the list will be in alphabetical order since I am just going to quickly run through my complete games list and pick out the ones I think apply in order create this... which BTW is even easier to do now with all my game libraries being in one place thanks to my recent GOG Galaxy 2.0 closed beta invite, which I also intend to do a review/write-up on at some point.

    p.s. I will also keep it all as spoiler free as possible, and am only using <details> so this doesn't take up too much vertical space, so fear not being spoiled by expanding them. Anyways, here goes:

    80 Days

    A charming and fun, story heavy, strategic travel game, loosely based on the Jules Verne novel but that takes place in an alternate steampunk-ish Earth timeline. It has been nominated and even won a whole bunch of awards, but despite that still has surprisingly few reviews and barely anyone I know (other than a few other hardcore Indie game fans) owns or has even heard of it.

    GOG link - Steam link

    Action Henk

    I actually saw Deimos playing this one on my Steam friends list and the dumb name caught my attention ("WTF is Action Henk?") so wound up requesting to watch him play it, and afterwards bought it for myself. It's rather bizarre and kinda ugly, but despite that is an incredibly solid rhythm/momentum building, time-trial, platformer. Highly recommended if you like those sorts of games.

    Steam link

    Aquaria

    This is one of the rare games I have actually written a review for on Steam so I will just copy that here: "Underwater Castlevania, with comparable graphics to Braid... excellent story, music and voice-work to boot."

    GOG link - Steam link

    Atom Zombie Smasher This is a bit of a weird one with not much replayability IMO, but it was still thoroughly enjoyable for the time I spent playing it. It's a top-down, casual (but still frenetic/fast paced) tactical/strategy game where you try to save cities from a zombie invasion.

    Steam link

    BELOW

    This is a top down action RPG, rogue-like, cave-diving/dungeon-crawling game. I actually didn't really enjoy this one, simply because of how punishing it is and how opaque the game systems are (no hand-holding in this whatsoever!) which unfortunately led me to kinda screw myself by losing an invaluable item deep into the dungeons on my first run which took me forever to get back to and pick up again... but even so, it was a beautiful and incredibly atmospheric game with solid controls, and I will likely revisit it again at some point.

    Steam link

    Ben There, Dan That! & Time Gentlemen, Please!

    These two are absolutely amazing point & click adventure games, which is easily my favorite genre of game BTW. The art is juvenile but charming, the writing is immature but hilarious, and I thoroughly recommend them if you also enjoy P&C Adventure games. Supremely underappreciated, IMO!

    GOG link - Steam link

    BIT.TRIP RUNNER

    A rock solid rhythm game with a charming aesthetic and an absolutely killer chiptunes soundtrack. If you like rhythm games then I highly recommend it. I have also heard good things about most of the other BIT.TRIP games but haven't personally played them yet, myself.

    GOG link - Steam link

    Caveblazers

    Another really solid rogue-like, action adventure, cave-diving/dungeon-crawling game but this time a side-view platformer. It has bunch of cool classes, plenty of interesting items to find/pick-up/use that changes the feel of those characters... what's not to love? Oh, BTW, despite it being listed as single-player and local co-op only, you can actually play it online with friend using the free Caveblazers Together add-on on Steam, so if you pick the game up, be sure to grab that as well. I have played a decent amount of the game with some friends, and it was a blast!

    GOG link - Steam link - Caveblazers Together link (only on Steam AFAIK)

    Dicey Dungeons

    This one is kinda cheating a bit because the game is so new and will likely have over 3k reviews soon enough, but I couldn't help myself. ;) This is Terry Cavanagh's (of VVVVVV fame) new game and it's great. Solid rogue-like, strategy, collectable-card-game-ish game, with another great chiptunes soundtrack too. I have been enjoying it a lot, and it has decent replayability so I can definitely see myself going back to this one a lot over the years.

    Steam link

    Divinity: Dragon Commander

    I was honestly surprised to see this one had less than 3k reviews, because it's an absolutely amazing story heavy, political and tactical strategy game made by Larian Studios (who makes all the Divinity games and is also the new developer behind the upcoming Baldur's Gate 3). I really really enjoyed this game, and while it doesn't have a tremendous amount of replayability because of the story focus (i.e. interacting with all your tenuous allies is a major part of it), it still has some, since the whole point of the game is that you can't make everyone happy and some allies will inevitably turn on you as a result of your choices, meaning if you want to see all the possible character interactions you will have to play it through at least 2-3 times.

    GOG link - Steam link

    Dustforce

    A really solid rhythm/momentum building platforming game with a great aesthetic, solid level design and controls, and a great soundtrack too. I am also surprised this game has less than 3k reviews considering I remember a decent amount of hype surrounding it at the time of its release (by indie platformer standards, anyways).

    GOG link - Steam link

    From Dust

    So this is another game that kinda surprises me a bit by having <3k reviews since it's an Ubisoft game and had a decent amount of hype surrounding it at release. What's less surprising is that those 2k-ish reviews are mixed, since even though I personally really enjoyed it since it reminded me of the old God games like Black&White and Populous, it was more like a tech demo than it was a fully featured game... and of course despite that Ubisoft charged full price for it at release, which never sits well with people. Regardless, now that it's only $15, I would definitely recommend checking it out if you like God games and being wowed by tech-demos (but can also tolerate being disappointed that a really cool system featured in it was never used in a more fleshed out game like it afterwards). ;)

    Steam link - Ubi Store link

    Frozen Synapse

    This is one of my all-time favorite isometric, "turn"-based (air quotes explained later), tactical strategy game ever. Think 1990s Syndicate/Syndicate Wars style gameplay, and similarly set in a dystopian cyberpunk future with a really great single player campaign... however, what truly sets this game apart from all the other similar ones is the awesome turn-simulation and time-shifting mechanics. The multiplayer was also awesome (and sadly while it's not totally dead, is still pretty barren these days), since you can have multiple games going at once due to it having a "play by email" sort of system, where you don't need to be online at the same time as your opponents; You can just make your moves then end your turns, and await them coming online to make theirs.

    Frozen Synapse 2 is kinda crazily priced, and IMO they over-complicated the game way too much, but it's still a decent enough followup game as well. Do not, under any circumstances get Frozen Synapse Prime though... it was a horribly reskinned mobile port of the first game made by a completely different developer that then got ported back to PC.

    GOG link - Steam link - FS2 GOG link - FS2 Steam link

    Gish

    From what I remember this is a very odd and often incredibly frustrating physics based platformer game... but the fact that I remember it at all after 15 years says something, I think. What exactly that says, I don't really know... but it is well reviewed by the few hundred people that have taken the time to do so... so take all that for what you will. :P

    Steam link

    GRIS

    I am breaking my own rule with this one, because it has 8k reviews on Steam... But this game genuinely moved me in such a profound way that I feel compelled to include it. Here's an old comment of mine I wrote on Tildes shortly after playing the game:

    Well, I just finished GRIS and it was truly... magical, unique, special? I can see why so many reviewers are left somewhat perplexed in how to convey what they feel about it and how to describe it to others without spoiling the game for them. To be honest, even calling it a game feels a bit wrong. There are some puzzle elements but none of them are difficult, nor are they really meant to be. There are some platforming elements but they too aren't difficult, nor are they meant to be. On paper all of that sounds horrible, but even without any real challenge to them they do serve to intimately connect you to the main character while you/she journeys from one wonderful chapter to the next, the pacing of which is perfect. None of the chapters outstays their welcome and neither does the game. It ends just when it needs to at around the 3.5hr mark... and what a remarkable ending it was. It's incredibly rare for a game to make me cry, but GRIS managed to do that without even a single word of dialogue having been spoken the entire time. The only other game I can remember having accomplished that was Ori and the Blind Forest, so that puts GRIS in pretty rare company.

    GOG link - Steam link

    Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander

    Do you like Star Trek and strategy games with management elements? Then this might be the game for you. It's a bit shallow mechanically and can be really grindy feeling, but it was still pretty charming and I really enjoyed my time playing it.

    GOG link - Steam link

    Hector: Badge of Carnage (Ep. 1-3)

    Another incredibly overlooked point & click adventure game that I really enjoyed and have played through multiple times. Similar to Ben There Dan That it's very funny, although it should be noted that the voice acting is pretty mediocre, so IIRC the last time I played through it I wound up turning it off and just reading the subtitles.

    Steam link

    Inside

    Another game where I am breaking the 3k review rule simply because of how awesome it was. I really, really don't want to spoil this game in any way for anyone, so all I will say is that it's a really atmospheric, dystopian themed platformer with some problem solving/puzzle elements, and if you haven't played it, you really should consider picking it up and doing so.

    GOG link - Steam link

    Invisible Inc.

    This game has 3.5k steam reviews but I still think it's incredibly underappreciated so am including it. It's a cyberpunk themed, isometric, turn-based, roguelike, stealth + strategy game by Klei Entertainment (makers of Don't Starve, Oxygen Not Inlcuded, etc) and it is incredibly difficult and also incredibly solid mechanically. Highly recommended... especially since Klei is an absolutely awesome publisher/developer IMO.

    GOG link - Steam link

    King of Dragon Pass

    This is an oldie but a goodie. It's a fantasy kingdom managment/strategy game combined with interactive fiction, which just ticks all the right boxes for me and so is one of my absolute favorites.

    GOG link Steam link

    Lead & Gold: Gangs of the Wild West

    You probably shouldn't buy this game since it's a competitive multiplayer-only game that is pretty much dead at this point... but I just wanted to give it a shout-out since when it was released and still had an active player-base it was really good, a ton of fun and supremely underrated. C'est la vie... So it goes... Such is the way with Indie multiplayer only games. :(

    p.s. I am curious if anyone else here played it?

    Steam link

    Legend of Grimrock

    This is another really fantastic game that is very underrated IMO. If you enjoy very very oldschool, first-person, party-based, dungeon-crawler RPGs like Wizardry (i.e. the type of RPG where you can only move in the cardinal directions and had to hand draw a map on grid paper while playing so you didn't get lost and die), then you will absolutely adore this game... and its sequel. They are both incredibly solid and have some incredibly difficult puzzles in them as well.

    GOG link - Steam link - LoG2 GOG link - LoG2 Steam link

    Lethal League

    2.7k "overwhelmingly positive" reviews and well deserved. This is an absolutely fantastic multiplayer vs. your friends party game that is kinda hard to describe and do it justice. The premise is simple, you just hit a ball back and forth, bouncing it off the walls, ceiling and floor in an attempt to hit the other player and knock them out... but the longer the game goes on the faster the ball goes and more ridiculous the power-up hits get, so it's all about timing and angling your hits just right. Despite its simplicity the game has a pretty high skill requirement, especially the longer the games go on, and it also requires a ton of concentration. If you have a group of friend that hang out and play videogames together, this should definitely be on your wishlist IMO. It's a blast (literally).

    Steam link

    Little Nightmares

    Another game with more than 3k reviews but that I feel really deserves to be on this list. From my steam review:

    It's like Studio Ghibli's Spiritied Away if it were made into a game but also stripped of all the heartwarming/uplifting/magical moments and instead had all the nightmarish elements amped up to maximum. It was quite short (only 4± hours) but excellent nonetheless, especially the ending.

    GOG link - Steam link

    Machinarium

    Slightly more than 3k reviews, also worth including. This is a really wonderfully imaginative and incredibly beautiful point & click adventure game. It's a bit simple mechanically and pretty short (4 hours or so) but given how detailed every single frame of the game is, that can be overlooked and is understandable. Even if you're not into p&c adventure games I think you still might enjoy this one just because of how unique, well crafted and lovely it is.

    GOG link - Steam link

    Mark of the Ninja

    Okay, so this one may be pushing it a bit with its 17k reviews. But just like Invisible Inc. (both Klei games) I think it really is underappreciated. It is an incredibly solid side-scrolling, action/stealth, platformer game with tons of verticality, great scenery and animation, and super-tight controls. There isn't a whole lot of replayability, but there is definitely some if you're a completionist like myself and want to try both stealth and combat runs. Regardless, it's still a super good game so I highly recommend it.

    GOG link - Steam link (BTW, only Steam has the remastered version, AFAIK)

    Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes

    A turn-based strategy / match-3 style puzzle game set in the M&M universe. I have purchased and played it on multiple platforms (including iOS), which is actually somewhat rare for me... so I think that says a lot. However, apparently the PC version is a bit buggy these days and may have some compatibility issues... so even though I thoroughly enjoyed it, my recommendation is conditional, since I would suggest do your homework first before buying it to try and determine if it will work for you, and prepare to try it quickly to check if it doesn't so you can refund it if you can't get it working.

    Steam link

    Mount & Blade

    This game is old, ugly, clunky as hell, and the strategic layer is a confusing mess (until you get the hang of it)... but my God is it glorious if you can manage to get into it. The combat is remarkably engaging and thoroughly engrossing, especially once you start participating in huge battles and sieges. Mount & Blade: Warband is slightly better looking and a much more refined updated game, but there is just something magical about the original that I will never forget.

    p.s. Anyone else eagerly anticipating M&B II: Bannerlord?

    GOG link - Steam link (only $3 on right now)

    NEO Scavenger

    Rogue-like, post-apocalyptic, survival/exploration/crafting RPG game. It looks like crap and is pretty clunky, but is really quite solid, fun and the story is great. If you're into these sorts of games and can look past the graphics then I would definitely recommend you check this one out. Just prepare to die a lot, because it's pretty hard and can be pretty random.

    GOG link - Steam link

    Nidhogg

    Slightly more than 3k reviews but, again IMO, still worth mentioning here. Similar to Lethal League this is an absolutely amazing multiplayer vs. your friends party game, but this time involving super fast paced sword dueling... and weirdness. ;)

    p.s. It's really shame the devs decided to completely change the art style for Nidhogg 2. It looks like absolute dogshit compared to the super clean aesthetic of the first game.

    Steam link

    Nine Parchments

    Fast paced, hectic, co-op action RPG, similar to Magicka (and released by Paradox, the same publisher) in that you will likely wind up killing your friends a lot, both accidentally and sometimes intentionally (for lulz). So if you have played Magicka to death like I have, but are still wanting more of the same style of game, this is the one for you.

    GOG link - Steam link

    No Time To Explain

    I Wanna Be The Guy/Kaizo Mario-esque, super difficult platformer with a clever time-travel twist and streamlined restart mechanic so you don't get too frustrated dying over and over again (which you absolutely will). ;) If you like incredibly difficult platformers and chiptunes, this is an excellent game to get. The local multiplayer is also hilarious and a ton of fun too.

    Steam link

    Opus Magnum & SpaceChem

    Both incredibly well-polished and difficult Zachtronics puzzle games in a very similar vein, where you're basically tasked with solving increasingly complex automation/assembly puzzles requiring spacial reasoning. However one thing to note is that unlike most puzzle games there is a ton of replayability in these ones because while the solutions may only be somewhat difficult, optimization them is even moreso and a huge part of the process. Zachtronics has also done a really good job of constantly releasing more puzzles for both games so there is a boatload of content to keep you busy in each.

    p.s. I love both these games but honestly can't play them for any extended length of time or they invade my dreams in a most unpleasant way. It's the Tetris effect x100 for me. :(

    Opus Magnum GOG link - Opus Magnum Steam link - SpaceChem GOG link - SpaceChem Steam link

    Orcs Must Die!

    Slightly more than 3k reviews but a really unique (groundbreaking at the time), and all-around fantastic 3rd person shooter + tower-defense game. It's fast paced, stressful, and really enjoyable even as a single-player experience... but definitely worth mentioning is that Orcs Must Die! 2 actually has online co-op and is far superior because of that. The DLC for it is a bit of a ripoff though, IMO.

    Steam link - OMD!2 Steam link

    Out There: Ω Edition

    Another game I have on iOS and play pretty frequently on my tablet; Out There is a pretty hardcore, space exploration \ inventory management, rogue-like... and by hardcore I am of course referring to insane levels of RNG involved, which can be pretty frustrating at times, but still incredibly enjoyable... if you're a rogue-like fanatic + masochist like myself anyways. ;) Which is to say that it's definitely not for everyone, but I love it. :P

    Steam link

    Please, Don't Touch Anything

    A really neat "find all the endings" style puzzle game. Despite being incredibly short (4ish hours to find everything) I thought it was quite enjoyable and worth the money.

    p.s. If you happen to have an HTC Vive, there is also a 3D VR version as well. I really wish I hadn't played the original so I could experience the VR version without knowing all the endings though. :(

    Steam link - 3D Version Steam link

    Quantum Conundrum

    A first person puzzle game in a similar vein to Portal. I think this game rather unfairly slipped under the radar of most people, and if you liked the Portal games you will likely enjoy this one as well. It's not quite as polished or as charming as Portal but is still quite good. The mechanics, while clearly Portal inspired (minus the portals) are solid, and the puzzles are well designed.

    Steam link

    Rampage Knights

    Pretty decent rogue-like, action beat 'em up with online co-op. My friend and I played this game for about 10 hours before finally moving on to other games, and in this day and age where there are so many other games vying for our attention, that is still pretty good and we definitely enjoyed our time playing it.

    Steam link

    Renowned Explorers: International Society

    Story heavy exploration adventure and turn-based tactical strategy game, with high replayability and lots of things to find/unlock. It was quite unique, charming and can get pretty difficult. I thoroughly enjoyed it and definitely recommend it.

    GOG link - Steam link

    Rock of Ages

    An incredibly artfully done marble madness-esque game, with an art style that reminds me greatly of the Monty Python's Flying Circus animations. It's really hard to describe this one, but it was pretty fun... and this reminds me that I really should pick up the 2nd game at some point (which I have now added to my ever expanding wishlist).

    Steam link

    Sanctum & Sanctum 2

    1st person shooter + tower defense game with online co-op, similar to Orcs Must Die! 2 but with a heavier emphasis and reliance on the shooter elements. The fact that the first game doesn't even have 2k reviews is kind of a travesty... but at least the second game has 6k. Both are "very positive" and well deserved at that, IMO. I had a ton of fun playing both of these games with a bunch of friends.

    Steam link - Sanctum 2 Steam link

    Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun

    Another game with quite a bit more than 3k reviews, but this is one of my absolute favorite games and still isn't as well known as it should be, IMO. Here is my Steam review of it:

    Shadow Tactics is the modern day spiritual successor to the 1990s isometric, stealth-oriented, squad based, real-time, tactical strategy game series 'Commandos', although it takes place in Japan during the Edo period with ninjas and samurai rather than soldiers in WW2.

    The story is cliche/predictable and the voice acting is decent but the game shines in every other respect.

    The stealth mechanics are nothing new and will be intimately familiar to those that have played Commandos but they are slightly more refined and with much better AI behavior.

    The squad mechanics are solid with all five of the player controlled characters possessing distinct special abilities suited to their particular roles (assassin, thief, warrior, spy & sharpshooter) and they complement each other well. No one character can cruise through a level on their own so you will be forced to use each character to their best advantage, position them appropriately and have them work together to accomplish the objectives.

    The levels are large and exceptionally well crafted with a significant amount of NPCs roaming around, making each incredibly difficult (in a good way). Each level also has multiple paths you can take to the objective and most objectives have multiple solutions.

    The only complaints I have with the game are with the camera and action queue system.

    The camera can only rotate in 45° increments rather than freely (despite this being a fully 3D game), so you often have to flip it back and forth multiple times in streets and courtyards to get the right angle to see and do what you need to.

    The action queue system doesn't pause the game so you often have to queue one character's action as a patrol passes and then wait for it to come around again before doing a second character's and again for a third which wastes a ton of time. It can also only queue one action per character at a time which often forces you to set the queued action as basic attack and then having to do several actions manually in quick succession (e.g. climbing ladders, distracting guards, etc) before finally triggering the queued actions... and if you get the timing wrong, even by a fraction of a second, you often die and have to reload and try again... over and over.

    However, despite those issues, it's still a remarkably fun game and if you like tactical stealth games like Commandos then you will love this game as well. I highly recommend it.

    p.s. It's only $18 on GOG and $15 on Steam right now, so I would highly, highly recommend picking it up right now!

    GOG link - Steam link

    Space Pirates and Zombies

    Top-down space combat, but with strategy elements and procedural generated exploration. The premise is similar to FTL (although predates it by a year), in that you're fleeing from system to system while being pursued by an overwhelming force (in this case space Zombies). As a huge fan of the old Star Control games, especially the combat in them, this game really hit all the right buttons for me.

    p.s. I have not played SPAZ2, since I was incredibly disappointed they did away with the top-down combat in it. :(

    GOG link - Steam link

    Stacking

    A third person exploration and puzzle game with wonderful art style and aesthetic. It's remarkably unique, charming and lovely. It's a bit short at only around 8 hours, but for around $10 it's still well worth it, and is one of the most underrated Double Fine games, IMO.

    GOG link - Steam link

    Sunless Sea & Sunless Skies

    While the first game has a bit more than 3k reviews, the second does not, and I felt them both worth mentioning. These are rogue-like, heavily story driven, top-down exploration and combat games set in a bizarre Lovecraftian steampunk environment. I adore them, but will admit that I used Cheat Engine's speed hack while playing them because I absolutely can't stand how slow travel time is in them. If you were to try and discover everything in these games while playing them at the intended pace they would easily take 100 hours or more, and even going at 2x travel speed it still took me over 40 hours to "complete" Sunless Sea and I am already 21 hours into Sunless Skies and feel like I have barely scratched the surface of it yet.

    p.s. Fair warning, you will likely die A LOT in these games and that is intended. However each time you die, the next captain in your line of heirs can likely progress a little bit further as you get better at the mechanics and gather more inheritance to pass on.

    GOG link - Steam link - Sunless Skies GOG link - Sunless Skies Steam link

    Tales of Maj'Eyal

    A very classic Rogue style game but much more expansive... And notice I didn't say "rogue-like" or "rogue-lite", which is because this game is very reminiscent of the real deal, but just taken to the next level; Instead of only being able to dungeon-crawl, you can explore a vast world full of different environments and dungeons, complete with NPCs and quests.

    GOG link - Steam link

    The Curious Expedition

    Another heavily story driven adventure/exploration game, very similar to Renowned Explorers but without the turn based strategy elements, and with some additional inventory management and risk/reward judgement involved. Also highly enjoyable, and I just now realized there is an upcoming sequel which makes me super happy! :)

    GOG link - Steam link

    The Last Federation

    Scifi 4X/Grand Strategy game with turn based strategy elements and top-down combat similar to SPAZ/Star Control. I don't much time in this game, but I do remember enjoying it and will likely go back to play it again at some point since I love 4X and Grand Strategy games.

    GOG link - Steam link

    The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

    6k reviews but that's not nearly enough, IMO. It's a somewhat short (4 hours or so), story heavy exploration game with some puzzle elements, an incredibly mysterious atmosphere/story, and great voice acting. It seems to be a bit polarizing game though, as many "narrative games" aka "walking simulators" often are; People seem to either love them or hate them, but I personally love them and really enjoyed this particular one.

    p.s. It's only $4 on GOG right now so I would highly recommend getting it and giving it a try even if walking simulators are not typically your thing.

    GOG link - Steam link

    Valiant Hearts: The Great War

    A beatifully drawn and animated, story heavy adventure game with some platforming and puzzle elements, but much like Ethan Carter I would describe it as more of a "narrative game" than traditional one since it's not particularly challenging. It's a really amazing and touching game though... so once again, even if "walking simulators" aren't really your thing, you may still enjoy this one and I would recommend giving it a try. Worth noting is also that it is incredibly short though, clocking in at only around 2 hours... so I would probably recommend waiting until a sale to get it.

    Steam link - Ubi Store link

    Wizorb

    It's a 2D Breakout style game but in a lovely pixel-art fantasy setting with a few twists, e.g. there is an item shop for buying powerups, and boss battles. Very solid little game and definitely worth the $3 if you like breakout style games IMO.

    Steam link

    World of Goo

    Physics based tower/bridge builder puzzle game with a really bizarre Tim Burton-esque aesthetic. I'm actually quite surprised to see it has so few reviews considering at the time of its release it was a bit of an Indie darling. I am equally surprised to see it's $18, since I don't think I even paid that much for it 11 years ago when it first came out. :/ I don't remember it being particularly long of a game either, so even though I think it's definitely "hidden gem" worthy, if I'm being honest here, I really don't think it's worth that much money. So perhaps just wishlist it and pick it up on a sale?

    GOG link - Steam link


    EDIT: I finally integrated my Humble Bundle and Twitch game libraries to Galaxy 2.0, so figured I would quickly go through those as well, and found a few more games I would consider hidden gems:

    Antihero

    This is a remarkably good turn-based strategy, digital boardgame. It has a pretty good single-player campaign, and also has multiplayer. I regularly play it on my iPad, didn't even realize it was on PC and that I was given it for free on Twitch. :P

    Humble link - GOG link - Steam link

    Avadon: The Black Fortress

    This is an incredibly sprawling oldschool, classic, turn-based combat cRPG. The graphics are retro-ish and sorta leave something to be desired, but everything else about this game was solid. If you played and enjoyed old cRPGs like Realms of Arkania, then you will probably really enjoy this one too.

    p.s. I also bought Avadon 2 & 3 as well, but they are all games that require a pretty significant time investment, so I haven't had time to play them yet... But I do intend to, at some point.

    GOG link - Steam link

    Deponia

    Another solid P&C adventure game that is pretty funny and charming. The voice acting was actually pretty good too, much better than most. I really should get the sequels at some point, since there are a few of them now.

    Humble link - GOG link - Steam link

    Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy

    This game actually has quite a few steam reviews but I still think more people should know about it. It's such a silly game with simple mechanics, you are a man trapped in a pot holding a hammer that you can rotate around you, and you must navigate around by latching that onto objects and launching yourself over them. This may sound easy... but I assure you it is not, especially thanks to the level design that will punish you immensely for making a mistake... often sending you right back to the very beginning of the game again. And as you do all this, the narrator waxes philosophical about the value of not giving up, and other life lessons.

    This game was insanely frustrating, but also really good. :)

    Humble link - Steam link

    The Whispered World

    Another great P&C adventure game from the same developer as Deponia. The artwork and animation in this is absolutely amazing and the world it takes place in is really interesting. The only subpar thing about it is the voice-acting, IMO.

    Humble link - GOG link - Steam link

    22 votes
    1. the_walrus
      Link Parent
      Thanks for taking the time to write this up. Especially with your master formatting!

      Thanks for taking the time to write this up. Especially with your master formatting!

      5 votes
    2. [2]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      This is an incredible post! I can give +1s to many of the entries on this list. Thanks for your thorough rundowns and immaculate formatting. I'd also love to hear about GOG Galaxy 2.0 in a...

      And what happened then? Well, in Tildes they say
      That kfwyre's Steam wishlist grew three sizes that day!

      This is an incredible post! I can give +1s to many of the entries on this list. Thanks for your thorough rundowns and immaculate formatting.

      I'd also love to hear about GOG Galaxy 2.0 in a different post. I'm on Linux so I can't use it, but I used GOG as my main gaming platform for years and was a huge fan of the unified Playnite launcher when I was on Windows. The new Galaxy looks like a bigger and better version of that, and I hope it grows into something amazing -- even if I can't use it myself :(.

      3 votes
      1. cfabbro
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        LOL and NP! Also, neat, I never knew about Playnite. GOG Galaxy 2.0 looks remarkably similar. But yeah, it's really a shame GOG doesn't have much Linux support in general. :( p.s. Added Humble &...

        LOL and NP! Also, neat, I never knew about Playnite. GOG Galaxy 2.0 looks remarkably similar. But yeah, it's really a shame GOG doesn't have much Linux support in general. :(

        p.s. Added Humble & Twitch to my 2.0 library, so went through those and added a few more games to my list. ;)

        1 vote
    3. [2]
      frickindeal
      Link Parent
      Little Nightmares was incredible. I have played it more times than I'd like to admit. I think it's the animations; the characters are just so damn well done, I can't take my eyes off of it. I've...

      Little Nightmares was incredible. I have played it more times than I'd like to admit. I think it's the animations; the characters are just so damn well done, I can't take my eyes off of it. I've recently forayed into VR, and I'd absolutely love a game that well-done, with animations that gorgeous in VR to make it that much more immersive. It's a game I can recommend to just about anyone, because it takes quite a while to reach "oh wow, I see the 'nightmare' part now" level.

      2 votes
      1. cfabbro
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Yeah, it really is a fantastic game and honestly does feel like something Studio Ghibli would create if they made games. That's why I included it in my list even though it has more than 3k...

        Yeah, it really is a fantastic game and honestly does feel like something Studio Ghibli would create if they made games. That's why I included it in my list even though it has more than 3k reviews... because IMO it should have way more! :P

        p.s. If you like Little Nightmares, you should consider checking out Inside. It's another platformer with similar mechanics, and has a similar nightmarish feel to it as well, so I suspect you will enjoy it too. :)

        1 vote
    4. [4]
      rmgr
      Link Parent
      Honestly I was SO hyped for From Dust when it launched but like you said, it felt like a tech demo. I feel like they had something really cool and kind of wasted it :(

      Honestly I was SO hyped for From Dust when it launched but like you said, it felt like a tech demo. I feel like they had something really cool and kind of wasted it :(

      1 vote
      1. [3]
        cfabbro
        Link Parent
        Yeah, I enjoyed it but totally understand where all the negative reviewers are coming from. And the way they marketed the game was kind of deceptive as well IIRC, which likely made it worse. Spore...

        Yeah, I enjoyed it but totally understand where all the negative reviewers are coming from. And the way they marketed the game was kind of deceptive as well IIRC, which likely made it worse.

        Spore is another similar game that comes to mind in that regard. All the pre-release footage and marketing made it look absolutely amazing, and I was super hyped about it, but on release it turned out to have been scaled back and dumbed down so much that it felt like a kids game tech demo. :(

        1 vote
        1. [2]
          rmgr
          Link Parent
          Yeah I was pretty young when Spore first came out and I have really good memories of it. I picked it up on a Steam sale last year and I mainly enjoyed the microbe stage as a sort of turn your...

          Yeah I was pretty young when Spore first came out and I have really good memories of it. I picked it up on a Steam sale last year and I mainly enjoyed the microbe stage as a sort of turn your brain off type activity. You'd get a similar experience from something like Agar.io nowadays though.

          1 vote
          1. cfabbro
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            Oh, don't get me wrong, I still have fond memories of playing Spore too, and spent a ridiculous amount of time just having fun designing creatures in it. I even used Cheat Engine to give me...

            Oh, don't get me wrong, I still have fond memories of playing Spore too, and spent a ridiculous amount of time just having fun designing creatures in it. I even used Cheat Engine to give me unlimited cash to spend on creature parts so my creativity wasn't hampered by that game limitation, and still have some pics of a few of my favorite creations:
            https://i.imgur.com/8gZHv.png
            https://i.imgur.com/MMceJ.png

            Which I then used as references for some vector art / Flash animation:
            https://i.imgur.com/h9YqU.png

            But it was just super disappointing because of what Will Wright demoed at GDCe a few years prior to release, most of which wound up not being in the final product... and IMO it could have been so much better than it turned out to be if they had left all that in and just continued expanding on what they already had. :(

  2. [2]
    PetitPrince
    (edited )
    Link
    Let me bite, even if make me fall deep into a rabbit hole: The whole Tetris the Grand Master series. It's a concise, beautifully designed, deeply challenging Tetris. It is an evolved form of the...

    Let me bite, even if make me fall deep into a rabbit hole:

    What games would you consider "hidden gems"?

    The whole Tetris the Grand Master series.

    Why do you feel they fit the criteria?

    It's a concise, beautifully designed, deeply challenging Tetris. It is an evolved form of the game made for speedrunners, with a sprinkle of arcade philosophy / Japanese masochism (you died because you suck; we gave you all the tools you needed) . All of the gameplay elements are focused to let the player gradually reach higher and higher speed. For instance, in no particular order of importance :

    • You can pre-rotate a piece before it spawns. Minor detail at first, but the cumulative effect can shave off a lot of time. At later levels, it can even save the game.
    • There's lock delay, i.e. you can move the pieces after they have landed. Now you can increase the gravity to maximum. That augment the problem space from "where do I land the piece?" to "where do I land the piece and keep a good mobility for subsequent pieces?". On later installment of the game the amount of free time decreases as will, which force you to think faster and further restrict you movement.
    • There's a white border around the stack. Reading the piece individually is counterproductive anyway, it's better to focus on the stack as a whole.
    • The grade system, like the grade at the end of level of some Japanese game (hi Devil May Cry, Ace Combat, <Insert a Platinium game here>!) gives you a discrete goal to reach and a good assertion of a player level. A player with grade below S1 is a beginner, a S5 is a seasonned player, S9 is good, Gm is black belt equivalent (real black belt : you're competent but there's still so much to do and practice )

    All the gimmick for which you may have heard of TGM (the instant gravity, the invisible game, the weird sound design) is tied one way or another ties to the idea of speed, either as a logical consequence or as an ultimate challenge of a high speed game.

    Why do you think they aren't more widely known?

    It is niche within a niche series of games with no official support, no way to play ("official" , "legal", "easy" : choose two) , and whose main showcases send a misguided message.

    Niche: It's an arcade game, so it implies two things that goes against wide recognition :

    • the game demands dedication. It's not a easy game and people can be frustrated with it. Not everyone like Dark Souls. And at least with the Souls game you can grind and/or enjoy the (sometime cryptic) lore. TGM is a "pure" game, abstract like a SHMUP yet less inclined to eye candy or some sort of narrative.
    • In the age of personal gaming system, who's going to the arcade? Yes, there's emulation and clone, but you cannot release that in Steam or any shop. Why? Because of...

    No way to play : ... the Tetris Company.

    This company holds the rights to Tetris, meaning that if you want to sell a game bearing the name 'Tetris' you have to go through. They will also probably sue you if you non licensed game gets too popular, saying that tetramino are trade dress.
    Now, the Tetris Company require each and every new game to follow the same core gameplay. This gameplay is not TGM. It is ill-fitted to the style of speed and challenge I (and most TGM players) like. They are some exception (for instance TGM3 had dual gameplay), but TTC will always favor their own ruleset. The only console release of TGM bombed in part because it had no classic TGM rulset*.

    *but more probably because it was a Japan only Xbox 360 release, and no one plays the Xbox in Japan

    Combined with the fact that the only regular and official Tetris tournament in on NES Tetris (have they no faith on their own game?), that this forced ruleset policy has been standing for about 20 years, and that no significant and lasting gameplay change has been made since, this doesn't bode well for TGM.
    Oh and of the original devs are not angels either. I only read Japanese via Google translate and obviously don't live in Japan, but they are many rumors that Arika's CEO has a borderline xenophobic attitude towards Western players and consider clones a spawn of the demon. For some reason every video of TGM must be tagged with a #tgm_series watermark or face takedown.

    Misguided message: I discovered TGM with one of the early viral video ("Tetris Japan Finals").
    Even though I discovered TGM with this viral video, I really began to play after having discovered the Tetris competitive scene while looking for tips about Tetris DS.
    Most people nowadays are discovered TGM with my friends performance at AGDQ. This event was really cool and brought us some players, but I have the feeling that the message perceived (as with the Tetris Japan Finals video) was more "there's this super difficult game and crazy elite people are playing it" than "there's a deep game with a nice challenge". This very message From Software eventually had when Dark Souls had its success. Even I am guilty of this: I shouldn't have called TGM a "game sprinkled with Japanese masochism" earlier on.

    For all these reasons I don't think TGM will get proheminence sometime soon, if ever. We will still play on our emulated or quite-good-but-not-newbie-friendly version, or eventually buy the original arcade boards.

    6 votes
    1. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      This was fascinating to read. Like you said, I'm familiar with TGM from its GDQ events (my husband and I always make sure we catch any Tetris game if it's in the schedule -- it's one of our...

      This was fascinating to read. Like you said, I'm familiar with TGM from its GDQ events (my husband and I always make sure we catch any Tetris game if it's in the schedule -- it's one of our favorites to watch!), and I had some spotty and cursory understanding of it from the commentary given in those, but your rundown is the most illuminating view of the series I've read. Thank you for taking the time to share this with us!

      2 votes
  3. [2]
    Akir
    (edited )
    Link
    I've been wanting to post something here for quite a while now. Here's my list of retro classics nobody has played Shoot Range for X68000: It's a strategy RPG minus the RPG. There's not even a...

    I've been wanting to post something here for quite a while now. Here's my list of retro classics nobody has played

    • Shoot Range for X68000: It's a strategy RPG minus the RPG. There's not even a story as far as I can tell. Instead you have robot units playing on a hex grid with a line-of-sight based fog of war. Instead of having HP, units all have grids with hidden engines inside of them; break all the engines to destroy the unit. This is made slightly more complicated because each weapon works slightly differently; while some let you select where to shoot, others may choose random spots.

    • Lord Monarch for practically everything: I talked about this game recently elsewhere, but for those who missed it, it's one of the earliest real time strategy games where all units are AI-controlled. The thing I like about it is that it pauses when you are trying to make your move; it's a small change but it really makes it feel like the AI is actually on your side in spite of how dramatically simple it actually is. Amusingly enough, it's actually part of Falcom's Dragon Slayer series. Plus you can download it and play it for free.

    • Battle Mania Daiginjou for Megadrive/Genesis: While you don't need the translation patch to play this game, you will be missing out on a lot of the humor if you don't use it. It's a sequel to Battle Mania, which you may know better as Trouble Shooter. Basically, it's a scrolling shooter where you can choose to shoot either left or right, but the background scrolls in various directions. This one is on the list because it's just oozing with quality and care in every aspect, which is especially surprising because it came from Vic Tokai (who's other games tended to be somewhere between middling and terrible).

    • Akumajou Dracula for X68000: This one is cheating a bit; you may have actually played it as Castlevania Chronicles for the Playstation. While I haven't really bothered to rank them overall, this is one of my favorite Castlevania titles. The reason why it's on this list is that it has a much better soundtrack - particularly if you have a good General Midi module. I honestly think it's got the best soundtrack in the series by far.

    • Shining Force III for Sega Saturn: While this isn't exactly an unknown title, it's one that most people haven't been able to play because of it's rarity outside of Japan. The full game is actually split across three episodes, but only the first episode was released outside of Japan, and it had a very limited run - IIRC only 5000 copies in the US. As the final Shining title Camelot worked on (and the last Strategy title in the meta-series not counting Shining Feather), it is by far the most enjoyable strategy RPG on the planet. And unlike most other games in the genre, it actually feels like a real RPG - you can explore towns, loot chests, and manage equipment and funds. The game spends time to make sure that each unit gets a unique personality, so when they get beat up, you care. And at the same time, it's not so unforgiving to make you suffer from permadeath.

    • Ranger X for Genesis/Megadrive: Although I would argue the term doesn't really describe it well, you can call it a run-and-gun. As a game where you are piloting a giant humanoid mech, it's surprising to say that this is much more satisfying to play than many of the 3D titles that have come since then. As far as gameplay goes, it's got quite a few things going for it; you play each mission with a support mech of some kind, either a giant airship that automatically shoots lasers down at enemies or a user-controlllable remote bike that you can merge with, which grants you an auto-aim ability. You've got a jetpack that will give you limited flight capability, and you are solar-powered, which will require you to consider your strategy in later stages as the only way to repair your mech is by converting your energy to health. While the gameplay is excellent, the visuals are so good that even modern 2D games rarely look as impressive as this game does. With an excellent soundtrack to boot, this is one of the best games of all time.

    • Yu-No for PC-98/Windows/Saturn: This visual novel is an absolute must play - especially if you enjoyed Steins;Gate or the Zero Escape series. I could say that it's a story about time travel, but that really doesn't do it any justice. It's got an original model of time travel based on events and the many-worlds theory, and it actually effects the gameplay. And beyond that, it's got a soundtrack from the legendary Ryu Umemoto - and it's a fan favorite no less. It was recently remade by 5pb and an official English release is expected to come out soon. But unless it has the original Umemoto soundtrack, I'd still prefer the earlier fan-translated version.

    There are many more that I could put here, but I still don't have time to write them down. Instead I'll leave an honerable mention to Wadjet Eye Games. Every single one of the games they have published are worth playing, especially if you have any interest in classic adventure games.

    Edit: Aww, heck, one more for the road.

    • Xanadu Next for Windows. To be completely honest, this game isn't that special; the only thing that really stands out about it is the excellent visuals. The polygon models may not look that great on closer inspection, but the aesthetic is rock solid. It's an action adventure game, and to be honest it's a little bit stiff. The thing that makes this game stand out is that it has the single best progression curve I have ever seen in a game. Do you know that pleasure you get when you go back to an earlier point in a game to enemies you used to have to take pot shots and run in order to survive the encounter, and this time around they die in one hit? This game has that happening constantly. This game proves that even simple designs can have great gameplay when they are well implemented. Just be warned; this game does not work at all with proton.
    5 votes
  4. [5]
    Diff
    Link
    Hand of Fate. It's up on Steam and it perfectly blends a lot of different genres. Dungeon crawling, roguelike, card collecting, action RPG, and deck building, and the Dealer you play against all...

    Hand of Fate. It's up on Steam and it perfectly blends a lot of different genres. Dungeon crawling, roguelike, card collecting, action RPG, and deck building, and the Dealer you play against all just make for a great experience.

    You start out down to play the Game of Life and Death with the Dealer. Before the game starts you can stack your decks with different types of cards, some event cards, item cards, that kinda deal. The dealer waves is hands and the cards fly out of the event deck to form the dungeon. Each turn you choose a direction to move and that event card is revealed and put into play. Sometimes it's just a conversation, you have choices, and sometimes there are RNG success/fail options. Even the RNG doesn't feel completely unfair because it's also card based. Kind of a shell game love of thing where the cards are shown, then shuffled. If you watch closely enough you can see where they go but it's just tricky enough.

    And sometimes either through choices, luck, or the Dealer you end up in super fluid combat. The screen fades out and then back in on the scene of the battle, with your character transformed from a little game piece to a person. The weapons, armor, and artifacts you've collected layer over your character and become the items they represent. And the combat itself is very satisfying. Even when you're vastly outnumbered it still feels possible. Really very few of the deaths feel like the game just left you with no choice but to fail.

    All in all it's just a very solid game and the level of polish took me completely by surprise. And even after you beat the Dealer, there's still a huge amount of content left to explore in the cards, and I'm still revealing more new cards fairly often. One of my favorites for sure.

    5 votes
    1. rkcr
      Link Parent
      I was almost going to post this one, too! It's such an odd, unique game but I've sunk hundreds of hours into the original and the sequel. If anyone reading here gets into it, I highly recommend...

      I was almost going to post this one, too! It's such an odd, unique game but I've sunk hundreds of hours into the original and the sequel.

      If anyone reading here gets into it, I highly recommend starting at Hand of Fate 2. It's basically just HoF1 with every aspect of it improved.

      5 votes
    2. [3]
      cfabbro
      Link Parent
      <3 Hand of Fate. It's such a shame that Defiant went out of business. I really hope someone eventually creates a spiritual successor to the HoF games. :(

      <3 Hand of Fate. It's such a shame that Defiant went out of business. I really hope someone eventually creates a spiritual successor to the HoF games. :(

      2 votes
      1. [2]
        Diff
        Link Parent
        Haha they did what now But then who released Hand of Fate 2?

        Haha they did what now

        But then who released Hand of Fate 2?

        1 vote
        1. cfabbro
          Link Parent
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defiant_Development

          The studio became well-known with the crowdfunded game Hand of Fate (2015) and its sequel, Hand of Fate 2 (2017). In July 2019, the studio announced that it was winding down and ceasing game development, while continuing to support its existing games. The World In My Attic, a game the studio had intended to release in 2021, was cancelled.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defiant_Development

          4 votes
  5. [2]
    rogue_cricket
    (edited )
    Link
    Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean (yes, that's the whole title) for the Nintendo Gamecube. Some might consider this kind of a cult hit, and it did get a sequel, so it might be...

    Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean (yes, that's the whole title) for the Nintendo Gamecube.

    Some might consider this kind of a cult hit, and it did get a sequel, so it might be cheating, but it honestly one of the most interesting and unique games I have ever played. It definitely has flaws... but it also has TONS of unique and interesting things.

    The Battle System
    In short, it is a fast-paced deck-building RPG where you use cards to battle monsters and bosses - but that explanation does not really do it justice. It's a VERY engaging battle system that balances risk-reward really well and ramps up pleasantly in difficulty and complexity as the game goes onward.

    This got too long so expand to learn more!

    Each character has a deck of cards that you build between battles. Cards generally fall into attack, heal, or defense categories. On your characters' turn you are presented with a hand of cards pulled randomly from their deck. You select a target (an enemy or ally) and select the cards you want to use one at a time. Every time you select a card, a new one is immediately pulled from your deck and into your hand. Depending on your progress in the game, you can select more cards per turn and you get a bigger hand to pick from.

    I'll explain an attack scenario because it's the simplest. Most attack cards will do some amount of neutral damage in addition to some amount of elemental damage. The elemental damage is critical to pay attention to for a couple reasons - firstly, many enemies have significant resistances or weaknesses to certain element. Secondly, selecting opposing elements will cancel damage! For example, if you pick a fire sword (20 fire, 10 neutral) then an ice sword (20 water, 10 neutral) you will only do a total of 20 damage because the fire and water damage cancel. So you're USUALLY better off not picking opposing elements at all... with occasional exceptions for the bonus system.

    The bonus system is based on an additional quality each card has, which are its bonus numbers. Each individual card can have up to 4 numbers on it, from 0-9. When you select a card, you flick the thumbstick in the direction of the number you want to activate on it. If you select a series of numbers such that a combo is formed (e.g., a "full house" of 2-2-2-1-1, or a "run" of 1-2-3-4-5), you get a % bonus to the cards' effects after all the elemental damage is calculated. These can get pretty significant, to the point that it might even be worth using a healing card on an enemy, cancelling elemental damage, wasting a defense card during an attack phase, or even not using your full allotment of attacks in order to keep a good combo.

    As you progress in the game, a time limit is introduced and progressively restricted as the amount of cards you are able to chain together increases. The time limit is front-loaded, so as an example let's say you have 20 seconds to select your first card and then 5 seconds between each subsequent card. So you use the first time limit to plan out your potential combos, weigh the risks that you'll get a bonus number you need on a drawn card during your attack, and execute your plan or change it accordingly.

    You also have to consider how many cards are left in your deck, because "re-shuffling" eats your turn. You might strategically waste your turn to force this so you have a fresh hand at a more opportune time.

    It is one of the most well-designed difficulty curves I have ever experienced in any RPG. It's not just about grinding - you actually have to act faster and make more snap risk/reward choices in battle as the game moves on.

    Deck Building
    So obviously if you're using cards, you have to build out a deck. Cards can be bought, found from enemies, discovered on the overworld, evolved over time, or combo'd into new cards.

    Card evolution is interesting - cards progress with game time. Grapes become wine, wine becomes vinegar. Some cards grow more powerful with time, and some grow weaker, and some change categories completely. (Interestingly, one card is exclusively available by waiting around for a really long time for its predecessor to evolve, meaning that the Baten Katos 100% speedrun clocks in at over 300 hours.)

    There's also comboing cards! If, during your attack or defense phase, you use specific combinations of cards, you can produce a new card. For example, Wheat + Water + Fire becaomes Bread. There are over 100 of these combos.

    Also, some cards are exclusive to some characters - so each character feels different and does well with different elements.

    Story and Worldbuilding
    The world is split into very distinctive zones and the design in some of them is really cool. There's a couple typical fantasy forested areas and sewers, sure, but also there's a cloud kingdom, a steampunk kingdom and a dimension-shifting magic area. You travel through abandoned libraries and candy villages and magic mazes as you sail through the skies from floating island to floating island.

    The story is also pretty cool in some ways, despite some occasional weaknesses. The player is a character - you are a spirit from the spirit realm who is bound to the main character, Kalas, and only he can see you. He speaks to you directly along the way for advice and input.

    Some parts are a bit weak, and the voice work is bad enough that it doesn't really help (in the community it's considered kind of a charming quirk at this point - the characters sound like they're talking through cardboard tubes and they're not always great actors). But I'll just say that while some of the story beats are really predictable, it does have its share of cool surprises.

    Music
    Motoi Sakuraba. A lot of orchestral, prog rock. The music is phenomenal. That's it. It's basically all great.

    Overall
    I've beaten it a few times and this writeup really makes me want to play through it again. I legit love this game. It didn't get a ton of advertising and it does have its frustrating weaknesses, but it's charming and fun and it has a special place in my heart.

    5 votes
    1. Akir
      Link Parent
      This game is great. I own it too. Frankly, the only real problem I have with the game is the absolutely terrible English voice acting and the terrible mastering quality of said work.

      This game is great. I own it too. Frankly, the only real problem I have with the game is the absolutely terrible English voice acting and the terrible mastering quality of said work.

      2 votes
  6. spctrvl
    Link
    While it's not exactly hidden, since it spawned a franchise and was widely played in its time, I think Master of Orion 1 qualifies, as it's long since been overshadowed by Master of Orion 2 and...

    While it's not exactly hidden, since it spawned a franchise and was widely played in its time, I think Master of Orion 1 qualifies, as it's long since been overshadowed by Master of Orion 2 and mostly forgotten. As to why, I think it's because 2 had multiplayer and 1 didn't, and 2 had more stuff to do, even if most of that stuff wasn't fun. In terms of core gameplay, 1 was much better IMO, and if 2 holds up so well today, it's because 4X games are still making the same mistakes as in 1996, so you'll be right at home.

    If you haven't played them, 2 is a lot like Civ, with each planet being a city where you need to micromanage everything, building and unit construction, morale, troop quartering, food shipments, worker placement, and terraforming (which is pretty involved). With up to 5 planets per system, potentially dozens of systems per empire, and new buildings being discovered all the damn time, this really bogs you down and eats in to the strategy portion of the game. There is an autobuilder, but it's too terrible to use without doing manual development first, and only manages building construction anyway.

    In 1, the extent of planet management is five production sliders accessible from the galaxy overview screen, industry, defense, environment, ships, research, and the ability to invest money for a flat, across the board production bonus on a planet. That's it, anything you want to do to or with a planet, you do by manipulating those sliders. And it works so much better. You could invest effort into developing a planet efficiently if you want to speed things along, but it's not much effort, and you can be confident a new colony will develop properly even if left completely alone. And the simplicity of the system means that the AI can actually play the game and manage its planets more or less competently, something still lacking in modern 4X games that make up for deficient AIs with absurd bonuses.

    If I ever write a game, it'll be an updated MOO1.

    5 votes
  7. Wulfsta
    Link
    Not a video game, but Dragoon is one of my favorite games. It's very easy to get into, but not easy to be consistently good at. I'm usually not a fan of lots of randomness since it tends to be...

    Not a video game, but Dragoon is one of my favorite games. It's very easy to get into, but not easy to be consistently good at. I'm usually not a fan of lots of randomness since it tends to be unbalanced, but Dragoon never seems to suffer from this problem except in it's worst cases. There's almost always some strategy to make up for being unlucky in a game, and it's fun and tense to play because of that. It's a pretty niche game and is only sold though the creator's store, so that's probably why it's unknown.

    4 votes
  8. [3]
    balooga
    Link
    The first games that spring to mind are Skies of Arcadia, and Fur Fighters. Both for the Sega Dreamcast and later ported to other systems (Gamecube and PS2, respectively). In my experience most...

    The first games that spring to mind are Skies of Arcadia, and Fur Fighters. Both for the Sega Dreamcast and later ported to other systems (Gamecube and PS2, respectively). In my experience most people have never heard of either. Both are surprisingly long, engaging games.

    Skies of Arcadia is a JRPG about a fantasy world of floating islands and the airships that sail between them. It's set in an age of discovery where explorers are finding new continents, and also the old wooden sailing ships are being replaced by steel warships. There are pirate battles, monsters, and an evil empire harnessing giant robot superweapons powered by moon magic. It's a linear story with great characters and tons of exciting plot twists. Plenty of combat, both of the melee and ship-to-ship varieties, and surprises to discover. It has a great soundtrack too. This is one I've hoped for years would get a proper modern remake or sequel, but it's mostly forgotten.

    Fur Fighters is a third-person shooter featuring a cast of heavily armed stuffed animals. Each character has a different ability: The kangaroo can jump high, the red panda can fit in small spaces, the cat can climb certain surfaces, the penguin can dive underwater, the dog can tunnel underground to other locations, and the baby dragon can glide over long distances. The story is pretty basic, a bad guy has kidnapped family members of the aforementioned heroes, and you control all of them to save your loved ones. The locations are the real star of the show, huge sprawling complexes full of puzzles to solve and babies to rescue. The game has a ridiculous and absurd sense of humor. One thing I especially like is that the soundtrack subtly changes to reflect whatever character you're playing as at the moment (the dog's music features bagpipes, the cat's has an accordion, etc). Fur Fighters' single-player campaign is wonderful but I should also mention its genuinely fun 4-player local deathmatches.

    4 votes
    1. [2]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      I loved Fur Fighters! I was lucky enough to pick up a used copy of the game on the cheap from a Blockbuster that closed near me (IIRC at the time copies of the game were very hard to come by and...

      I loved Fur Fighters!

      I was lucky enough to pick up a used copy of the game on the cheap from a Blockbuster that closed near me (IIRC at the time copies of the game were very hard to come by and would go for big money on eBay, so this was a great find). I honestly don't remember much about the game given that I haven't played it in nearly 20 years, but I do remember thoroughly enjoying it. I also seem to recall that it was surprisingly challenging for a cartoony animal game. I don't know if I ever actually beat it or if I just hit a difficulty wall and stopped.

      Also, Skies of Arcadia has been on my to-play list for decades now and I've never actually sat down to give it its due. As a Dreamcast devotee for life, I feel like not having played it is a dark mark on my own credibility.

      Also, I didn't think about this until your post, but the Dreamcast is sort of a hidden gem of a system itself.

      3 votes
      1. balooga
        Link Parent
        Definitely. Fur Fighters is not a kid's game, it's more in the vein of Conker's Bad Fur Day. There's no gore (just flying fluff) but it's still a violent shooter, and a hard one. I hit a...

        I also seem to recall that it was surprisingly challenging for a cartoony animal game. I don't know if I ever actually beat it or if I just hit a difficulty wall and stopped.

        Definitely. Fur Fighters is not a kid's game, it's more in the vein of Conker's Bad Fur Day. There's no gore (just flying fluff) but it's still a violent shooter, and a hard one. I hit a difficulty wall when I was younger also, and never completed it until many years later when I picked it up again as an adult. I still have my Dreamcast and play it from time to time today.

        I don't think I realized it as it was happening, but the Dreamcast was a truly unique moment in gaming. Titles like Seaman, Floigan Bros, Super Magnetic Neo, Chu Chu Rocket, Crazy Taxi, Space Channel 5, Jet Set Radio, 18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker... I could go on and on just listing the wonderful weirdness that was born on Dreamcast during its incredibly short lifetime. Games like the 2K series had a huge lasting impact on sports gaming, we still see lots of games like Borderlands influenced by Jet Set Radio's cel shaded artwork, and Shenmue laid the foundation for immersive open worlds (and for better or worse it invented QTEs too). It's also worth mentioning that a number of cross-platform releases like Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 and 2, and Star Wars Episode I Racer found their definitive versions on the Dreamcast.

        All that said, if you have the means to play the Gamecube version of Skies of Arcadia, that's the better one. Unfortunately its audio quality is significantly worse than on the Dreamcast. But it's been improved in a number of ways. Random battle frequency is decreased, making that part of the game less grindy and annoying. There's additional side content, and the game only needs a single disc instead of two. If it helps, you can play it on a Wii, though you will still need an actual Gamecube controller.

        3 votes
  9. rkcr
    Link
    There's one game that springs to mind, primarily because I loved it as a child but have never met a single other person who has played it... God of Thunder. I really dug it as a kid, it's got some...

    There's one game that springs to mind, primarily because I loved it as a child but have never met a single other person who has played it... God of Thunder. I really dug it as a kid, it's got some amusing jokes and decent puzzles. It wasn't more widely known because it wasn't anything too special by early 90s standards. Still holds a special place in my heart, though.

    It's freeware now, so maybe I'll go replay it and see if it's as good as I remember it being.

    3 votes
  10. mrbig
    (edited )
    Link
    Lethal League is one of my favorite fighting games of all time. So simple. So complex. So nerve wracking. I also like Divekick. OlliOlli nailed skateboarding in 2D. It was a perfect fit for the...

    Lethal League is one of my favorite fighting games of all time. So simple. So complex. So nerve wracking. I also like Divekick.

    OlliOlli nailed skateboarding in 2D. It was a perfect fit for the Vita and now is on the PS4 (and possibly other places).

    2 votes
  11. [4]
    ThatFanficGuy
    Link
    Bastion. Isometric RPG-lite, with few characters, an interesting gameplay, and amazing soundtrack. I gush over it everywhere I can. Loved it to bits. Supergiant Games has style to their creations.

    Bastion. Isometric RPG-lite, with few characters, an interesting gameplay, and amazing soundtrack.

    I gush over it everywhere I can. Loved it to bits. Supergiant Games has style to their creations.

    2 votes
    1. [3]
      Chobbes
      Link Parent
      Bastion is amazing, but I think it was really well appreciated, no?

      Bastion is amazing, but I think it was really well appreciated, no?

      6 votes
      1. Akir
        Link Parent
        I know for sure that it was big on reddit for a long time.

        I know for sure that it was big on reddit for a long time.

        1 vote
      2. ThatFanficGuy
        Link Parent
        As far as I'm aware, it's a narrow circle of people who like it very much.

        As far as I'm aware, it's a narrow circle of people who like it very much.

        1 vote
  12. markh
    Link
    Would The Long Dark be considered a hidden gem? What an amazing, wonderful game.

    Would The Long Dark be considered a hidden gem? What an amazing, wonderful game.

    2 votes
  13. xster
    Link
    Nexus: The Jupiter Incident Excellent story telling with just the right amount of crest and climax. Very Seveneves-esque if you're into that kind of plot. Great mechanics and a lot more relatable...

    Nexus: The Jupiter Incident

    Excellent story telling with just the right amount of crest and climax. Very Seveneves-esque if you're into that kind of plot. Great mechanics and a lot more relatable than Homeworld. And such a great theme that's so un-explored by mainstream games.

    2 votes