Feature

10 Overlooked Gems From 2016

by Kimberley Wallace on Dec 27, 2016 at 05:31 AM

Every year, a slew of games fall off people's radars and don't get their due, whether it's for lack of marketing or bad release timing. Therefore, as we close out the year, we thought it'd be a great time to make a list of overlooked games to remind people of releases they might have missed. There's no denying 2016 was a great year for games; so many solid titles released that it was easy for some great experiences to get lost in shuffle. The following 10 titles are solid additions to anyone's gaming library.

Dead By Daylight (PC)
Asymmetrical multiplayer games have seen mixed results, but Dead By Daylight is one of the more exciting and successful ones. The game has already become a popular streaming choice, making audiences tune in again and again to see if people can survive a murderer. Dead By Daylight is structured like a playabe horror movie, having one person play a killer trying to stop a group of four survivors from powering generators and finding a way out. The tense gameplay and thrill of surviving or sneaking up on unsuspecting victims (depending on the role you play) have provided memorable gaming moments. To learn more, read our review.

The Turing Test (Xbox One, PC)
Inspired by the 1950s experiment by Alan Turing used to determine if a machine could exhibit lifelike behavior, this puzzle game makes you think about those potential ramifications at every turn. In the Turing Test, your main character, Ava, awakens on a research station, greeted by an A.I. named T.O.M. To discover what happened here, you must solve puzzles throughout the station that should differentiate man from machine. Most of the 70-plus puzzles require lateral thinking, forcing you to think outside the box. In addition, T.O.M. and Ava have an interesting dynamic, and the story goes to unexpected places, with a hell of a finale that will make you ponder about existence. If this sounds up your alley, you can read our review for more information. 

Oxenfree (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)
This charming adventure game hit early in the year, so it was easy to miss if you were still finishing up games from 2015. Oxenfree is basically the closest thing we have to a game like the popular Netflix series Stranger Things. The game takes plenty of cues from scary moves from the '80s, adding in coming-of-age elements that will pull at your heart strings like a John Hughes film. When classmates party at an island, they find more than they bargained for when they accidentally open a rift, leading spirits to infringe on their weekend of fun. You decide who to befriend via dialogue options and select which paths to pursue along the way. Oxenfree has some flaws, especially when it comes to how some of your decisions play out, but it's worth playing for its charming characters and intriguing supernatural mystery. For more, you can read our review.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II (PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita)
The Trails of Cold Steel series captures the heart and soul of the JRPG so well, and the time and care Falcom put into its characters and world shows The first game in this trilogy was already impressive for how it combined a school simulation with an interesting political storyline, but Trails of Cold Steel II takes it to even more interesting places. This second entry focuses on how Class VII has changed since we last saw them, as they're forced to come to terms with the war and their place in it. Trails of Cold Steel II adds mech battles, a new overdrive system, and gives you your own airship to recruit former classmates to your cause. It's one of the more interesting JRPGs I've played in recent years. For more, you can read our review.    

Severed (Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita, iOS)
DrinkBox Studios' latest game proves the developer still has plenty of tricks up its sleeves after Guacamelee! Severed originally launched on Vita (with other platforms to follow), but this caused it to not as make as big of a splash at its initial launch. That's unfortunate, because Severed has rewarding touchscreen combat, fun exploration, and a fulfilling and unique upgrade system. In it, you play as Sasha, a girl on a mission to save her family from deadly creatures. The game utilizes its touchscreen mechanics, allowing you to swipe away at enemies to damage them. Every enemy has weak points, so it never just becomes mindless swiping, especially when you face off against multiple foes at once, forcing you to keep track of all of them while taking advantage of the best windows of opportunity to counterattack. For more on Severed, check out our review.

[Click to the next page for more interesting games, featuring puzzles, platforming, hacking, and bartending...] 

Quadrilateral Cowboy (PC)
Blendo Games made a name for itself with Thirty Flights of Loving; Quadrilateral Cowboy is just more proof this is a developer you should be paying attention to. This unique puzzle game has you playing as a hacker in the 1980s; you must disable security systems, hack open doors, and more to complete heists. Your main weapon is your deck (computer), where you input various commands and run programs to get the job done. As the game goes on, you get more gadgets, such as mobile camera robots and turret guns concealed in suitcases, making the puzzle-solving even more complex and fun. As our own Javy Gwaltney writes in his review, "Like most good puzzlers, Quadrilateral Cowboy is about the agony of grasping at epiphany as well as the deep sense of satisfaction you earn when finally overcoming whatever conundrum is blocking your path." You can read the full review here.  

Klaus (PlayStation 4, PC)
This witty platformer combines a cool narrative into its mechanics to make it stand out from the standard Marios and Raymans. In Klaus, you awaken with no recollection of anything. Your character communicates his feelings with internal monologues that appear in the background, sharing his thoughts about the levels and characters. The fourth-wall breaking chatter is a highlight in itself, but it also shows up in the gameplay. At one point, Klaus realizes he's tired of being controlled by you, rebelling by doing the opposite of your inputs. This is just one example of how the clever gameplay and narrative intersect. Later, Klaus even hacks a level to glitch it out, creating one of the cooler moments in the game. In addition to interesting mechanics, Klaus provides challenging platforming thanks to a variety of deathtraps, such as lasers, saws, and killer robots. You can learn more by reading our review

VA-11 HALL-A (PC)
Plenty of games have tapped into cyberpunk worlds, but how many have let you be in a bartender? VA-11 HALL-A lets you mix drinks and hear the problems of people's everyday dystopian lives. Throughout the game, you learn more about your unique regulars who all have stories to tell, from an android sex worker who has crazy escapades to a medic who's dealt with terrorist attacks. While you mix drinks and figure out the perfect recipes for your customers, you also must manage your money along the way. As Joe Juba writes in our review, "On top of the clever premise and unique delivery, the whole experience is a fascinating experiment in interactive storytelling." You can read his full review here

Grand Kingdom (PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita)
We had some great strategy/RPGs come out this year, such as Fire Emblem Fates and The Banner Saga 2, but Grand Kingdom was a nice surprise. In it, you create a team of four from a variety of classes to use in the single-player story mode or take online to complete against others. Once you engage in a battle, you manage three different lanes for character placement. The gameplay is a mix of action and turn-based elements. With melee characters, for instance, you want to repeatedly press the corresponding button to combo up attacks when near enemies. For ranged characters, it's all about timing and hitting the attack button as a meter displays on the enemy. In both cases, your fighters can knock opponents in the air or hit them into objects (or even each other) for more damage. Figuring out the best way to take advantage of your party's skills and the environment to create deadly combos is highlight. For those who enjoy tense strategy, customizing their characters, and tinkering with a variety of fun systems, Grand Kingdom is for you. You can find out more in our review

Pony Island (PC)
This is another example of a game that released early in the year and was easy to miss. Pony Island is a quirky, metafictional point-and-click adventure game. You actually boot up an Atari-era game in it called Pony Island, which operates as an endless runner. Doing things like altering the settings changes things around in surprising ways, and you even enter the game's programming at certain points.The developer leaves breadcrumbs to follow, helping you uncover who you are and why you're playing this game. As Jeff Marchiafava puts it in our review, "An entertaining Da Vinci Code-style mystery lies beneath Pony Island's idyllic and carefree veneer." You can read the full review here.  

What are some of your overlooked gems from 2016? Let us know in the comments below!