23 incredible games you might have missed in the first half of 2016

What a year for gaming - have any of these killer gems sneaked past you?

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.

1. Firewatch

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.

2. Alienation

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.

3. Unravel

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?

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.

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.

18. Sheltered

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.

22. Downwell

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.

23. Severed

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.

19 Comments
0 Author replies
1

Both Firewatch and Severed were excellent. I’ve still got Odin Sphere Leifthrasir waiting to be played and am holding out for the Vita releases of Salt & Sanctuary and The Banner Saga.

reggyx3clover 18 July, 2016 @ 14:13
1.1

I agree, oh and they missed Zero Time Dilemma, looks like even the SIEE also missed this incredible gem. Hopefully they don’t miss it because its a “Vita” game

Steve_Of_The_O 18 July, 2016 @ 14:54
2

I didn’t miss the majority of these they just aren’t available in the format I’d buy them in since everyone has abandoned the Vita.

I knew Sony had stopped supporting it in house but indie devs are leaving it behind now. I get that they’ll be thinking from a money making perspective. But this is also Sony’s fault.
They could’ve re launched the Vita as something entirely digital, an indie game handheld. Stopped with the proprietary memory cards so sandisk and others could manufacture cards and the cost would come down making it a more viable system for a wider audience. Have to admit when I first got mine all those years ago I was a little put off by the price of the memory cards but the system and games I could play on over shadowed that for me. But seriously didn’t anyone at Sony think a 32GB card for £69.99 on release was insane?!?! When you could get a 128GB sd around the same time for about £15 -£20.

Sony should feel ashamed of the way they handled the support for what is probab...

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I didn’t miss the majority of these they just aren’t available in the format I’d buy them in since everyone has abandoned the Vita.

I knew Sony had stopped supporting it in house but indie devs are leaving it behind now. I get that they’ll be thinking from a money making perspective. But this is also Sony’s fault.
They could’ve re launched the Vita as something entirely digital, an indie game handheld. Stopped with the proprietary memory cards so sandisk and others could manufacture cards and the cost would come down making it a more viable system for a wider audience. Have to admit when I first got mine all those years ago I was a little put off by the price of the memory cards but the system and games I could play on over shadowed that for me. But seriously didn’t anyone at Sony think a 32GB card for £69.99 on release was insane?!?! When you could get a 128GB sd around the same time for about £15 -£20.

Sony should feel ashamed of the way they handled the support for what is probably the most superior handheld of any generation.

Devolver aren’t releasing half of their games for it anymore. Eitr, Mother Russia Bleeds, Not a Hero, many others promised at E3 have not and are not being released.

The majority of games on this list, Salt and Sanctuary, Enter the Gungeon, Invisible Inc. The Escapists, This Was of Mine, Sheltered and Prison Architect are all games I would’ve bought and enjoyed if they were available on the Vita.

I must be in a smaller minority than I realised.

Bit of a salty post but…. Just such a shame.

2.1

As a fellow hardcore Vita stalwart, I wholeheartedly agree with the entirety of your comment, good sir.

I find it absolutely heartbreaking that even previously staunch supporters of the system, from within the indie scene, are now loosening their once vice-like grip of support and, as such, reducing their once steady stream of new content.

And yet despite Sony’s abhorrent management of their dedicated handheld, it remains to this day, my favourite console of all time!

..
[NOTE]: Salt and Sanctuary is still headed to Vita!
..

Steve_Of_The_O 18 July, 2016 @ 16:11
2.2

I didn’t know Salt and Sanctuary was on the way. Feel a little less salty for knowing that, thanks! :)
I’m really praying for Eitr though!

2.3

I logged in after a long time just to say I feel the same.

Vita was promised as a portable powerhouse. Then converted into indie machine. And now it is being abandoned even as that.

There are some indie games that truly shine on this machine: Risk of Rain, Bastion, Downwell are all the definitive versions for me. I am eagerly awaiting Hype Light Drifter and hoping devs don’t give up. Still sad about Broforce and a number of others not coming to Vita.

Overall, I am sad to see such a nice console be abandoned.

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1
ollie_uk_2008 18 July, 2016 @ 15:04
3

I enjoyed Firewatch !

supersmith2500 18 July, 2016 @ 15:42
4

I played on Firewatch I really loved the story in this game. I know the had minor framerate dips but still. it’s a great game.

I wont touch Guilty Gear. I bought Xrd -sign- not to long ago, only to find that every other region had a update, that EU never got, and the sequel to it is now out, and we still dont have the update for the last game. (And the update fixes known bugs, and adds DLC characters.)
Awesome game, just poor support (Whether its Sony or Devs, doesnt matter, one should sort out the other!)

I still want to get Fire Watch & Alienation soon.
Bought Enter the Gungeon recently……. best game ive played in a while :)

Stonesthrow 18 July, 2016 @ 17:24
6

Lousy year imo, if it wasn’t for the grindfest of the Division that kept me busy atleast, I would have been bored all year. Even Uncharted 4 couldn’t save this year (generation) for AAA gaming because it simply isn’t enough.
Worst Playstation generation for AAA gaming BY FAR. I fear for the future of gaming when a free to play cellphone thing like Pokemon GO goes off the bat and AAA games have been reduced to a dime a dozen..

6.1

ehh Dark souls 3 saved year for me. Such a replay value.

See now….. that’s the thing… I would play Division if someone paid me $15.
That’s just the wayyyyy it iiiis.
(things will never be ..~~~)

That’s a great list. I can fully recommend Shadow of the Beast, Severed, This War of Mine, Gravity Rush Remastered, Valkyria Chronicles Remastered and Odin Sphere Leifthrasir.

madmanwithabox12 19 July, 2016 @ 08:38
8

How about an actual gem that people might have missed? The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel on PS3 & Vita is one of the best RPGs of the past decade.

Who cares about Trails of Cold Steel when Trails of The Sky (all chapters) has been robbed throughout its entire life, and actually is one of the best RPGs of any decade.

Prank. They’re all great.

infernalmonkey1 19 July, 2016 @ 13:08
10

I Am Setsuna literally just launched today. Come on now.

But good job picking 23 games mostly from big name publishers which have been overhyped to hell on this blog as it is. Wouldn’t want to list any actual hidden gems now!

10.1

To be fair he does actually mention that in his write-up. And although these games have had a fair amount of coverage on this blog (although some of them have only had a single article) I’d say a lot of these *are* games the majority of players might have missed. But, go on, I’ll bite: what would your hidden gems be?

pretty much echo what others have said, most of these titles are a perfect fit for the now abandoned Vita I wouldnt say they fall into the next gen experience hence why I personally wouldnt buy any of them and Im not saying these shouldn’t be released but should be released on the appropriate platform …………..
on the plus side though I have learned a valuable lesson and think ill pass on the sony VR.

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