13 Coolest Games You’ve Never Heard Of
By Kallie Plagge on
Sometimes smaller games can get buried in bigger announcements or AAA hype. But after playing a ton of indie games at GDC this year, we have a lot to be excited for. Make sure to keep these 13 games on your radar.
Blaster Master Zero
Most kids who grew up in the 80s had that one game they rented over and over again to the point that they were better off buying the game outright. For me, that was Blaster Master. The Nintendo Switch launch line-up has been graced with a pseudo-sequel that looks and feels like it could potentially capture the exploratory appeal of the original game, much thanks to the talents of Inti Creates, whose respect for retro-styled games include Mega Man 9 and 10. It also helps immensely that it looks like what a Blaster Master sequel should be, right down to the chibi-styled hero. Lastly, a bonus feature that I'm looking forward to playing more is its co-op, which is new to the series. -- Miguel Concepcion
The Church in the Darkness
If your nephew became involved with a cult before suddenly leaving the country to follow the cult's leaders to a remote compound, what would you do? Would you track him down and try to rescue him? Would you use deadly force to get him out? Would you trust him to make his own decisions and leave him with his new family? These are the questions posed by The Church in the Darkness, a top-down, rogue-lite, stealth-action game set somewhere in rural South America.
Though the layout of the cult's compound never changes, the tone and conduct of the cult itself differs from playthrough to playthrough. You might see a man being whipped on a cross in one session, yet simply find people praying beneath that cross when you play through again. That means your job is to find clues, work with a rotating cast of characters, and locate your nephew while avoiding detection whenever possible. You can use disguises, dart guns, or even lethal force to uncover the truth. And based on your choices, you'll see one of a wide variety of endings. -- Scott Butterworth
Full Metal Furies
If you have an opportunity to get hands-on with a new game by the folks behind Rogue Legacy, you jump on it. CellarDoorGames' latest, Full Metal Furies is a stylish and colorful action-RPG that, at initial glance, echoes the cartoony and action-packed aesthetics of the Sega Saturn classic, Guardian Heroes. This promises to be a hectic action-RPG where you're expected to mix ranged combat with swordplay. The ideal setup would be to form a foursome, though you can also play solo. One benefit of solo play is the ability to jump back and forth between two characters. This can be beneficial if you pick, say, a brawler and a sniper, which can make you very well-rounded. And despite its arcade style gameplay, Full Metal Furies also features a skill tree, so expect some degree of combat depth and character customization. -- Miguel Concepcion
Full Metal Furies is slated to come out on PC and Xbox One in 2017.
Knights and Bikes
Knights and Bikes is a game about friends, adventures, riding around on your bicycle, and fighting enemies in dark dungeons. Developed by Rex Crowle (creative lead on Tearaway) and Moo Yu (lead gameplay programmer on Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction and gameplay programmer on LittleBigPlanet), the immediate standout for the game is the fanciful, papercraft art style. But more than those details that make it look and sound like a fun game, what stood out from my experience with a demo was how human the characters seem.
The main characters use asthma inhalers to get a little extra boost when riding their bikes. Their weapons for taking down the baddies in this seemingly imaginary world are frisbees and rain boots. But most human of all, Knights and Bikes slows down to let its characters reflect on their own situation. The two friends live in a grim world where their escapist adventure seems to be what helps them cope with the real world, and I look forward to seeing more of what this world has in store. -- Justin Haywald
Knights and Bikes has no release window but is set to come out on PS4 and PC.
Mineko's Night Market
Nintendo's Animal Crossing series is, in a lot of ways, a blank slate kind of game. It's about exploring and relaxing, but the games take place without a sense of real location or a specific time period. Mineko's Night Market, on the other hand, is Animal Crossing filtered through an modern-day anime-style sieve and then sprinkled liberally with cats. Lots of fluffy, adorable cats.
While artistically distinct, the underlying Animal Crossing-ness of Mineko's is apparent from its focus on quirky villagers, simple collecting and fishing, and lots of daily tasks. But Mineko adds its own gameplay twists through activities like competitive races and the titular night market--a cornucopia of eating experiences and your chance to run your own food-selling stall.
In the genre of "games I play to relax and not stress too much about" Animal Crossing is a hard game to compete with, but I look forward to seeing more from Mineko's Night Market. -- Justin Haywald
Mineko’s Night Market is coming to PC and currently has no release window.
There’s a cafe in Melbourne where the dead can come back for just one night--but while you’re there, you don’t know who’s alive or dead. Necrobarista is an anime-style visual novel with a bit of a morbid twist, taking inspiration from series like Death Parade and Time of Eve. It’s full of dramatic pauses, sassy dialogue, and a lot of mystery, plus a charming cel-shaded art style.
Like many visual novels, Necrobarista has a touch of romance, but its main focus is on its characters and the kinds of interactions they would have in an environment with so much ambiguity. How do you talk to someone when you don’t know if they’re really dead? Necrobarista aims to tell those branching stories in replayable, anime episode-length scenes. -- Kallie Plagge
Necrobarista is slated for release in early 2018.
Though Resident Evil 7 may ultimately drag survival-horror back into the mainstream, the genre has been absolutely thriving in the indie space for the past few years. Games like Outlast and Amnesia: The Dark Descent have not only carried the torch but actually pushed the genre forward while Silent Hill faded into obscurity and Resident Evil devolved into blockbuster action.
Observer looks to keep this trend going by taking a novel cyberpunk approach to horror. You control a futuristic detective who hacks into his clients' minds and, essentially, lives out their deepest terrors. What's especially interesting about Observer is that it seems to mess with players' heads in ways only a game could: objects flicker in and out of existence, the screen warps and distorts as if it’s glitching, your surroundings change abruptly and uncomfortably--nothing behaves the way you think it should. It's disorienting, but it also feels totally new. That freshness, coupled with the sci-fi dystopian premise, makes Observer a game worth watching. -- Scott Butterworth
Observer is set to come to PC later in 2017.
Ooblets is adorable. The relaxing, subdued hues of its world are home to pudgy, rolly, quirky creatures called Ooblets that you can collect and fight--they're a little like Pokemon, but the emphasis of the game Ooblets isn't traveling the world and being the very best. Instead, raising your creatures is just one part of a game that's also about running a farm and managing friendships in your town. You're still free to try and be the very best Ooblets trainer, but the game seems like it won't judge you if you want to relax and focus on your running your shop and exploring the nearby town.
And did I mention the game has dancing? When you win a battle, your character does a fun little dance. The game isn't ready for release, and the developers don't have any announcements for when that's going to happen, but the dancing animations are already an A+. -- Justin Haywald
Ooblets is set to arrive on PC and Xbox One in mid-2018.
Osiris: New Dawn
Steam is densely populated with survival games, but Osiris: New Dawn puts a grounded sci-fi spin on the formula popularized by games like Rust and DayZ. Rather than fighting zombies, Osiris sees you battling alien creatures as a near-future space explorer who's crash landed on a colorful but inhospitable planet. You must build a base, craft items, construct vehicles, weather storms, and yes, blast aliens if you hope to survive. You can go it alone or choose to partner with friends online to brave your new world together.
Osiris has actually been available through Steam Early Access since last September, but thanks to a steady stream of updates, Osiris may be worth your time now more than ever. And according to the devs, there's plenty more to come: the team plans on adding new visual effects, deeper narrative elements (including real-time cinematics), raid-like dungeons, craftable space stations, and even an entirely new planet, all within the next year. Perhaps it's time you made space for Osiris. -- Scott Butterworth
Osiris: New Dawn is currently available on Steam.
It doesn't take much for a game with a cyberpunk art style to pique my interest, especially if that aesthetic has an anime influence. Ruiner is one such game, conceived by the folks at Reikon, a Polish studio made up of developers whose credits include The Witcher 3 and Dying Light. The fact that my demo didn't include controller support yet showed just how eager Reikon was to show off this action shooter at the GDC 2017 ID@Xbox Showcase. Attacking by pointing and clicking was easy enough; I was well armed with melee and ranged weapons which was more than enough to take down every opponent in this brief demo.
Beyond the intense combat, I was enamoured with Reikon's dedication to their futurist urban look, from the Blade Runner-inspired use of neon colors and Kanji typeface to the metal surroundings of the stronghold I was escaping (or infiltrating?). And I was pleasantly surprised to learn that one of the contributors to Ruiner's soundtrack is Susumu Hirasawa, who composed the music in some of the works of the late animation legend, Satoshi Kon. -- Miguel Concepcion
Ruiner is coming to PC, Mac, and Linux.
Snake Pass sports a vibrant art style reminiscent of classic Rare platformers like Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64. However, its mechanics differ wildly from those games.
In Snake Pass, you control a snake named Noodle, slithering and curling around objects while navigating intricate obstacles and solving a multitude of physics-based puzzles. The challenges you encounter are each meticulously crafted around Noodle’s unconventional physicality, demanding you to know the ins and outs of its physics and maneuvers to fully master. For instance, successfully wrapping yourself around a lone pole over a bottomless pit requires you to take advantage of Noodle's center of gravity; otherwise, you'll fall to your death. Snake Pass is grounded in the reality of its premise, displaying a strong attention to detail in its rules and mechanics. The strength of its formula and style make it well worth looking out for.
It's interesting to note that the game's designer, Seb Liese, initially conceived the idea at a game jam but eventually pushed it into full development with the help of Sumo Digital, the studio behind Little Big Planet 3, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. -- Matt Espineli
Tokyo 42 is an isometric action game that comes from SMAC Games, whose developers were heavily influenced by their trips to Japan when coming up with the game's aesthetic. SMAC's urban interpretation in Tokyo 42 pops with vibrancy with cute bear sculptures and modern architecture.
Since you play a stealthy assassin, being able to rotate the camera helps a great deal in getting good vantages points for long range kills, not to mention the lay of the land. If there's one main takeaway from playing Tokyo 42 for 15 minutes, it is its high but not off-putting difficulty. It's very easy to get detected, so expect to switch gears from offense to defense often. Aside from your trusty sniper rifle, you'll have other gear like grenades to ensure you can make a proper retreat. -- Miguel Concepcion
The deceptively adorable Tumbleseed tasks you, a small seed, with scaling a fearsome mountain. You have to carefully roll from side to side on a branch to ascend, avoiding monsters and holes that will send you falling down to your last checkpoint. You also have access to over 30 seed powers, like defensive thorns and health regeneration, that you can obtain from stopping at patches of soil.
Tumbleseed is all about balancing, often times literally--but you also have to manage your health, decide when to use powers, and manually plant checkpoint flags, all while not dying or falling. This unique take on a roguelike is aesthetically sweet but punishingly difficult, and its procedurally generated mountains mean it’s not about mastering a level--it’s about perfecting your skills. -- Kallie Plagge