Uncharted 4, Dark Souls 3, Overwatch, Hitman, Doom, Ratchet & Clank… it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of must-play titles that have been released this year. With so many blockbuster games chomping hungrily at your free time, it’s only natural that some lower profile gems might have passed you by in the first half of 2016.
Thankfully, the summer sun brings with it a slight reprieve, with the launch calendar traditionally quietening down before the big pre-Christmas rush. So, what better time to catch up on some of those titles that you might have missed?
If you’ve been struggling to keep up then don’t fret – check out our run down of some of 2016’s best ‘hidden gems’ so far and see if there’s any you’ve yet to pick up.
In-game story-telling rarely gets more deep or involving than Firewatch. The sumptuous design and carefully woven web of intrigue made it a sleeper hit at the outset of 2016 and truly bowled over its small development team.
What you’re missing: A worthy demonstration of just how varied and interesting gaming experiences can be.
Standout titles like Super Stardust, Dead Nation> and Resogun have secured Finnish developers Housemarque a reputation for peerless arcade shooting. Its latest release, Alienation, adds loot and progression systems to the winning formula to deliver an experience just as rewarding as it is thoroughly enjoyable.
What you’re missing: Some of the most seamless and satisfying twin-stick gunplay you’re ever likely to encounter.
Little Yarny came out of nowhere this year and stole our hearts. With stunning art direction, ingenuous puzzles and deceptively deep themes, Unravel truly bridges that gap between games and art.
What you’re missing: Sweden’s stunning east coast – it provided much of the inspiration for Unravel’s beautiful environments.
4. Dirt Rally
In a generation that has seen very little of the once-loved rally genre, DiRT Rally was a welcome breath of fresh air this spring. A true simulator in every sense, it pushes driving skill far beyond casual weekend racing.
What you’re missing: One of PS4’s most perilous, punishing and hard core driving experiences.
5. Gravity Rush Remastered
A combination of Japanese animation and French bandes dessinées comics, Gravity Rush delivered a truly unique send-up of the classic superhero story. Its enduring popularity saw it remastered for PS4 this year and it’s never looked or played better.
What you’re missing: One-of-a-kind gameplay mechanics that let you turn the world – quite literally – upside down.
6. Salt and Sanctuary
The legendary Dark Souls series is perhaps one of the most widely imitated in recent years. Few though pass muster with their progenitors quite as well as Salt and Sanctuary. A 2D take on Hidetaki Miyazaki’s much-loved formula, it maintains that magical cocktail of brutal combat, brooding atmosphere and endless exploration.
What you’re missing: The kind of sprawling level design we’ve not seen in a 2D side-scroller since the halcyon days of Metroid and Castlevania.
7. Trackmania Turbo
Over-the-top arcade racers seem to be enjoying something of a revival this year and Trackmania Turbo is leading the charge. A cult hit on PC, it vaulted the ramp across to PS4 earlier this year and garnered heaps of critical praise in the process.
What you’re missing: A dedicated online community ready to rip you a new one in their rocket-powered buggies.
8. Enter the Gungeon
It doesn’t get more edge-of-the-seat in gaming terms than trying to stay alive in the ‘Gungeon’. Like all rogue-likes, when you’re dead, you’re dead, but never will death feel closer than in the unremitting bullet-hell of Enter the Gungeon.
What you’re missing: Some of the most interesting and bizarre ‘guns’ you’ve ever come across in a game – ‘junk mail’ gun, anybody?
9. Invisible Inc.
While most rogue-likes stand or fall on raw action, developers Klei Entertainment shook the genre up last year with Invisible Inc. Plumbing for turn-based stealth gameplay and sleek, moody presentation, they sired themselves a critical hit that snuck its way on PS4 this April.
What you’re missing: Deep tactical mechanics and procedural generation offer Invisible Inc. almost limitless replayability.
10. The Escapists: The Walking Dead
Earlier this year, developers Team 17 cunningly combined their pixel-art escape-’em-up The Escapists with TV horror phenomenon The Walking Dead. The result? An ingeniously strategic and yet entirely faithful re-treading of the original comic book timeline, all brought to life with charming 8-bit panache.
What you’re missing: Perpetual tough guy Officer Rick Grimes is a pixelized munchkin – who doesn’t want to see that?
- The Escapists: The Walking Dead is available at a special discount on PlayStation Store until 03/08/2016
11. This War of Mine: The Little Ones
Developers 11 Bit Studios set a sombre tone back in January with the addition of youngsters to its arresting and quietly political strategy game This War of Mine. Pressing home the everyday horror and desperation of human conflict, This War of Mine – The Little Ones traverses the murky intersection between video games and philosophy with remarkable candour.
What you’re missing: A game that challenges not just your skill as a gamer, but also the way you think.
12. Shadow of the Beast
Cult Amiga hit Shadow of the Beast got a timely update earlier this year, exclusively for PS4. Rammed with Easter eggs and call-backs, the remake is not just a great action-platformer in its own right, but a humbling celebration of the modern industry’s colourful heritage.
Crazy amounts of unlockables, including original artwork, soundtracks and even a PS4 emulation of the original Amiga game.
13. The Banner Saga 1 & 2
January saw the long-awaited PS4 release of Kickstarter sensation The Banner Saga and just this month the release of its sequel, The Banner Saga 2. Boasting beautiful hand-drawn artwork, a cavalcade of memorable characters and complex branching narratives, both games have been met with praise from both fans and critics alike.
What you’re missing: The pure passion of three developers who quit their jobs in the mainstream to make games they really loved.
14. I Am Setsuna
Evoking the classic design and story-telling philosophy of yesteryear’s most beloved RPGs, I am Setsuna finally hits European shores next week. Granted, you’ve not yet had a chance to miss it, but with the stunning soundtrack and nostalgia-tingling top-down exploration, you really won’t want to.
What you’re missing: The kind of party combat and storytelling that kindles fond memories of Chrono Trigger and classic Final Fantasy titles.
15. The Witness
This long-awaited puzzler from Braid developer Jonathan Blow wore its singleness of vision with pride, bucking modern gaming trends with a simplicity that was mind-bogglingly deceptive. Constantly reinventing their own simple rule-set, the geometric puzzles slowly unearth a far deeper and more meditative side the game.
What you’re missing: A cerebral challenge that will make you feel dim-witted in one moment and like an absolute genius in the next.
16. Assassin’s Creed Chronicles Trilogy
Transferring the open-world exploration and combat of the Assassin’s Creed series into a more linear side-scrolling experience was a risky, but ultimately rewarding challenge. Comprising three unique adventures against historic backdrops in China, Russia and India, the trilogy puts a fresh twist on the Assassin’s Creed experience.
What you’re missing: Sleek, stylistic design work that evokes the colour and character of each historic location, not just in the world design but in the gameplay too.
- Assassin’s Creed Chronicles – Trilogy is available at a special discount on PlayStation Store until 03/08/2016
17. Valkyria Chronicles
Releasing in 2009, Valkyria Chronicles is by no means a ‘new game’, but with buffed HD, visuals, near-flawless performance and all the original add-ons thrown into boot, this cult classic has never been available in such a complete or compelling package.
What you’re missing: A true gem of the last generation – its stylistic presentation remains as impressive today as at release.
Intense, deep and challenging, Sheltered demands players be both ruthless and indiscriminate in a way few other games dare. Simple but skin-crawlingly atmospheric, its desperate highs are matched only by its crushing lows.
What you’re missing: A rare intensity that will bring out a sense of grim determination in even the most casual players.
19. Prison Architect Console Edition
Acting as architect and chief administrator of a penal facility might not seem like the most obvious premise for an addictive gameplay loop, but Prison Architect is only too happy to take those assumptions to task. Devilishly difficult to put down, the Console Edition retains all the depth and freedom of its PC counterpart.
What you’re missing: A game where, refreshingly, the main objective is actually to keep the bad guys happy.
20. Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir
Developer Vanillaware has breathed new life into this PS2 classic. With a full HD rebuff and a range of tweaks to the original gameplay, Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir offers the chance to experience much-loved but overlooked title on new, more powerful hardware.
What you’re missing: The second outing of an over-looked gem that arrived late in the PlayStation 2 life cycle and missed out on the attention it deserved.
21. Guity Gear Xrd – Revelator
Quietly tossing its hat into the fighting-game ring just last month, the newest edition in the long-running Guilty Gear franchise brings its trademark characters, modes and best-in-class 2D animation to PlayStation 4.
What you’re missing: One of the most critically lauded fighting games of the generation.
Eschewing pretty pixels in favour of tight, responsive controls, Downwell exemplifies the modern revival in ‘gameplay is king’ design philosophy. Fast-paced, challenging and ultimately addictive it harkens back to a bygone gaming age.
What you’re missing: Some of the rawest, rapid-fire rogue-like action to be encountered on any system.
Brought to you by Drinkbox Studios- the quirky team behind tongue-in-cheek platformer Guacamelee – Severed combines their colourful signature style with sweet touchscreen combat elements to deliver a very one of a kind platform adventure.
What you’re missing: Some of the best touch screen gameplay to ever grace the PS Vita.