Every list of the best video games of 2016 includes heavy-hitters like DOOM and Overwatch—even our own—and many lesser-known titles tend to slip beneath the notice of the press. Given how hundreds, if not thousands of games are released every year, it’s no surprise that a few hidden gems receive relatively little attention. Here are some of the best, most overlooked gems of the year.
The MOBA (“multiplayer online battle arena”) genre is saturated with games, none of which can really contend with the two juggernauts: Dota 2 and League of Legends. It’s no surprise, given how most of the other contenders poorly mimic their gameplay. Battlerite shakes things up by playing like a brawler—it’s a team-oriented fighting game with top-down shooter gameplay. If you hate MOBAs for their lack of direct control, Battlerite’s sure to amend that.
Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun
Does it have Samurais? Check. Ninjas? Check. An authentic feudal Japanese setting, team-based tactical gameplay and a wide-open environment with emergent challenges? Check, check, and double check. Shadow Tactics offers a new spin on the classic World War II-themed tactical Commandos games.
This isometric puzzle game puts you in the role of an ‘80s slasher film killer. From an evil Santa Claus to a Michael Myers-inspired axe murderer, you hunt the denizens of Slayaway Camp in this homage to ‘80s horror. It’s a bit like Sokoban.
Book of Demons
Inspired by the original Diablo, Book of Demons is a hack and slash game made out in cute, paper cut-out graphics without any of the time investments and grinding required in most action RPGs. You walk on a set path and use skills (which you can also upgrade) to the best of your ability to fight the demons beneath the abandoned cathedral. The whole thing looks, feels, and even sounds a lot like the game it pays tribute to—all in good ways.
Death Road to Canada
Death Road to Canada is what would happen if Oregon Trail and zombie hack and slash games had a baby. This fully randomly generated game has you controlling a car-full of travelers making their way to Canada at the onset of the zombie apocalypse. Each playthrough has new characters, stories, and events so no two sessions are the same.
Headlander is a psychedelic sci-fi trip reminiscent of Metroid—if Metroid had space discos and a flying decapitated head that can embed itself in robot bodies. Inspired by ‘70s sci-fi TV, this “Metroidvania”-esque title from Double Fine offers light puzzles mixed with a healthy dose of action.
If you like trading card games but you’re tired of Hearthstone (is this even possible?) because you don’t think it’s complex enough, you should check out Duelyst. This free-to-play game is a combination of TCGs and turn-based strategy battles, as you summon units using the cards at your disposal and duke it out on the battlefield.
Watch Dogs 2
Ubisoft’s latest open-world adventure may be a triple-A title, but it has certainly been overlooked and underrated. It corrects many of the problems present in the previous game, as well as Ubisoft’s other open-world titles, like Assassin’s Creed. Watch Dogs 2 oozes character, and the sidequests don’t feel like a cut-and-paste job intended to pad out the game. We wouldn’t hesitate to call it the best open world game of the year.
Obsidian has always been good at storytelling, and its latest RPG delivers that in spades. Instead of pitting the player against an ancient evil to save the world, Tyranny asks: What would happen if evil already won, and you were a largely responsible for making that happen? For a role-playing game, that’s a pretty damn interesting question to have the player answer.
If you ever played RollerCoaster Tycoon and its sequel and enjoyed them (how could you not?), then you’ll know that every other theme park simulator released since then has been a poor substitute for them. Enter Planet Coaster, a newly released title from the makers of Elite: Dangerous. It’s everything the sequels to RCT should have been and then some.