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Maybe not quite hidden gems? What's some of your favorite lesser known games?

Red Silvers

Pokemon Red w/ 1 Nidoran
I've been slowly introducing my nephew to more and more retro games. The NES and SNES/Genesis era in particular seem to have so many games that you'd never hear about on a Top 10 list or best sellers list, maybe not even in the pages of something like Nintendo Power. Heck, sometimes a game I played a ton seems like a really obscure title!

I have to take the obvious route and mention The Guardian Legend here, it's a great game my grandma bought, and I loved it, but it was also a game no one I went to school with seemed to hear about. But let's get a little more obscure.

Road Runner was one of the other NES games my grandma owned, and this was an oddity. You played as the Road Runner running from the Coyote, sometimes even navigating mazes, while public domain music like the William Tell Overture played. There were obstacles and such to avoid, and yet if you got too far ahead of the curve, then the Coyote would pull out his Acme Rocket Skates and speed up and become harder to avoid, so getting too far ahead had its issues.

Dynowarz: Destruction of Spondylus was a game my cousins owned; half the game was future space man fighting brains in computers, and the other half was space man piloting a giant robot dinosaur and slugging it out with other dinosaurs. The dinosaur mode used a weapon system that reminded me of Castlevania's subweapons, though this was your main attack and you could power it up by collecting the same powerup!

Of course there are a bunch more of these I could discuss, but let's hear some of yours!
 

Aleryn

Gravity is overrated.
Star Traders: Frontiers is a modern niche game for PC and mobile. Essentially, you're a mercenary starship captain that must manage both your ship and crew. Said crew is in the dozens and consists of both officers and enlisted personnel. Its kind of a mix of the Elite series, Final Fantasy Tactics, FTL, and probably one other thing that I can't quite think of. Its just... really, really good if this type of strategy game appeals.
 

Beowulf

Son of The Answer Man
(He/Him)
I feel like this is a really broad category! Like, does Terranigma count? It was part of Quintet/Enix's Heaven and Earth series, but it was never released in the states and is generally obscure to those of us who grew up with the SNES. Or Rolan's Curse 2 (which I did an LP of), which was a Game Boy Zelda-like with a bunch of neat quirks. Or a modern game like The Amber Throne, which I thought was a really well-done RPGMaker indie game?
 

jpfriction

A most radical pontiff
There is something unique about Legacy of the Wizard. Wouldn't call it a great game but nothing else really does exactly what it do.
 

Droewyn

Smol Monster
(She/her, they/them)
Does Rimworld count? Because I've been lowkey obsessed with it for the last few years. It's like The Sims with cannibalism.
 

Red Silvers

Pokemon Red w/ 1 Nidoran
Another one to toss out there is Caveman Games. I think Dadaph once told me in his neck of the woods it was called Caveman Olympics, which is maybe a more fitting title featuring a group of various cavemen and women competing in events like "Bludgeoning each other with clubs" or "Outrun a hungry tiger, but go ahead and push player 2 back into them for a head start" and "Let's do a high jump over an angry T Rex."

I'm not saying this is the best game ever, none of the ones I'm mentioning are, but it is a game I played a lot as a kid and so in that way it's got history with me.
 

4-So

Spicy
Kickle Cubicle is a game I loved as a kid, and I was delighted to find a few years ago that it stood the test of time, but I don't hear too much about it from other folks. My understanding it was originally an arcade game but I never saw it in arcades. I first played it on the NES. Anyway, it's a puzzle game where you breathe frost in order to manipulate the environment and enemies to reach the next stage of whatever world you're on. It reminds me a bit of The Adventures of Lolo.



Also, I don't know about 'lesser known' around these parts but Tombs and Treasure is one of the my favorite NES titles that no one seems to have played. It's a Shadowgate-ish point-and-click game - I played the NES version - in a Mayan setting that's very light on combat but high on "okay, now what the hell do I do?" I can see where that would be annoying but it was engaging as a kid in a way that was missing from a lot of games. It just resonated, like some games are prone to do. Cool soundtrack, too.

 

Seven

Enters, pursued by a bear
(he/him)
This is a great topic to kickstart the new forums. One game that comes to my mind is Warlocked, a simplified RTS for the GBC. It's pretty much off-brand Warcraft with two different factions you can play as, the Humans and the Beasts. An interesting aspect of this game were the Wizards, special units that can cast spells like buffing your units to transforming your enemies into pigs and bombs. My personal favorite was Pox Wiz who was able to cast pox on a unit which would cause them to explode and spread it to nearby units. I remember spending a summer playing this alongside a cousin and trading the Wizards we collected as we went through the game.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
I feel like JBear knows so much more about old school gaming than me but he was completely unaware of one of my favourites, Trog. You play as a dinosaur whos got to collect all the eggs on the screen and beat up all the cyclopian cavemen you can doing so. I remember liking it at the arcade, where it had a stop motion look.


And my parents picked up the NES version of the game for me on a trip to the US.


I played the game a LOT and my sister, who didn't play that many video games, played quite a bit of this game. I have no idea how well it holds up but I found the cathartic feeling of KOing a caveman or chomping down on them aces.
 
Sim Tower. I want more games like Sim Tower. But like, not in the monkey's paw way that all those shitty knockoff mobile games like Fallout Shelter designed to stretch gameplay out to untenable lengths just to milk more money via microtransactions.

I wish more game companies made simulations games. The kind that I used to get with Sim Ant, Sim Farm, Sim Tower, etc. Every time I play a game like Assassins Creed, and building a village is kind of a bare bones mini game with little to no depth, I think about how I'd rather get into the weeds of ironing out supply contracts and opening shops and selecting the inventory they carry, instead of mindlessly killing thousands of guards ad nauseum. Even when people do make games like that, they don't really *try* to blaze new trails the way Sim Earth or whatever used to do. It's just minor permutations on existing models instead of blazing trails or better exploring your setting.

What I wouldn't give for a game as expansive as Skyrim, but what you're actually doing is a scenario like Oregon Trail where you're trying to get to a destination and survive in between, with little to no combat outside of like, hunting for game.
 

Red Silvers

Pokemon Red w/ 1 Nidoran
Today I'm going to talk about one of my mother's favorite games on the PlayStation 2... Heroes of Might and Magic: Quest for the Dragon Bone Staff. I'll add in that while I know there is a bigger Heroes of Might and Magic series, we've never played any of them and it seems connected to that series by name only.

This is a game where you manage an army and attack other armies while building up your forces to attack various castles. Each castle has a map piece that helps you track down the titular Dragon Bone Staff that will make your Dragons super powerful. There is a lot of variety in the type of units you can have, your starting Castle has typical soldiers like Knights and Pikemen you can hire, but out on the world map you might find dens for Elves, Orcs, Sprites, Dragons, and so on. Sometimes wandering encounters will join you instead of fighting you. The variety of unit types come with various advantages and disadvantages, like Peasants are cheap so you can get a big mass of them, but that also means when they take damage you take a lot of losses, while Ghosts have this really neat ability where units they kill become Ghosts as well... but that can mean that you end up with more Ghosts than your Leadership skill would allow, making said Ghosts betray you anyway! (Never, never have your Ghosts attack Peasants!)

A large chunk of the game seems randomly generated, including the armies out in the wild and the locations of the castles you must attack. Every week in the game one monster type will be featured, and all monster dens with that monster type will be renewed so you can hire more of them, but it seems random as well. Big luck at the end of the game if you can snatch up every Dragon possible and then have Week of the Dragon hit!

There's a handful of classes you can play as, and both my mother and I only ever succeeded a run as a Barbarian because of their high Leadership stat.
 

JBear

Internet's foremost Bertolli cosplayer
(He/Him)
Contradiction: Spot the Liar is one of my favourite games on Steam, and I have played quite a lot of games on Steam. It's a fun FMV murder mystery game. Think Phoenix Wright, but all of the characters have been replaced with British community theatre performers. It's just the right amount of ham.

Dream Quest is the best game that birthed an entire genre that nobody played. Liked Slay the Spire? Here's it's sinfully ugly granddaddy. Like, we're talking literal MS Paint line-art ugly. But if you can look past that, the design is tight; there's lots of meat on those ugly, ugly bones.

Kona is a uniquely Quebecois first-person adventure game with an amazing sense of time and place, as you play a detective that gets stranded in a blizzard in a remote northern Quebec town in the 1970s.

Verde Station is a short, clever, fun, and unique walking sim that takes place on a space station. To say any more would be a spoiler, but you can finish it an hour and it costs like a dollar on Steam. It's aces and TT should do a Fun Club on it.

We Were Here (and its sequels) is an asymmetrical co-op puzzle game where you and a friend play a pair of people trying to escape a remote castle while imprisoned in different parts of it and communicating via walkie-talkie to help each other collaboratively solve puzzles.
 

Isrieri

My father told me this would happen
Age of Mythology was a game I had tons of fun with because of all the unit variety, mixing and matching the mythological factions, and setting up your own pseudo-scenarios with the map editor. Just a huge toybox with which to be imaginative and creative. Think regular Age of Empires except you can create earthquakes and call down meteors to send all those catapults and battering rams into the stratosphere.
 

Droewyn

Smol Monster
(She/her, they/them)
Haunting Ground for the PS2. While it had its flaws (did they have to put Fiona in danger of being raped as well as murdered?) the hide-and-seek mechanic coupled with Fiona's utter physical defenselessness made for a fantastically tense experience. It's definitely one of the horror games I was most affected by (other mindfucking faves include Eternal Darkness and -- of course -- the Fatal Frame series).

And it has Goodest Boy Huey! A big, fluffy white dog who will either protect you with his precious, precious life or leave you to die horribly, depending on how well you treat him over the course of the game. WHO'S A GOOD GAMEPLAY MECHANIC? IS IT YOU? IS IT? OH MY GOSH, IT'S YOU!
 

MetManMas

Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
Haunting Ground for the PS2. While it had its flaws (did they have to put Fiona in danger of being raped as well as murdered?) the hide-and-seek mechanic coupled with Fiona's utter physical defenselessness made for a fantastically tense experience. It's definitely one of the horror games I was most affected by (other mindfucking faves include Eternal Darkness and -- of course -- the Fatal Frame series).

And it has Goodest Boy Huey! A big, fluffy white dog who will either protect you with his precious, precious life or leave you to die horribly, depending on how well you treat him over the course of the game. WHO'S A GOOD GAMEPLAY MECHANIC? IS IT YOU? IS IT? OH MY GOSH, IT'S YOU!
Oh yes, thank you so much for letting me borrow that one years ago. There's definitely some problematic content* in the game but in a lot of ways it's a spiritual successor** to Clock Tower (The First Fear) and I enjoyed my time with it.

* Speaking of, I felt extremely uncomfortable that this game has unlockable cowgirl and dominatrix outfits, especially considering what the rest of the humanoid cast wants to do to Fiona.

** One thing that comes to mind is how some of the more graphic demises are implied rather than shown directly. Clock Tower did stuff like this too, fading to black when Scissorman would attack Jennifer.
 

Exposition Owl

could use a space fortress
(he/him/his)
Torment: Tides of Numenera isn't quite as good as Planescape: Torment, but then, few games are. It does a lot of the same things, though: they're both RPGs with distinctive visuals, a strong emphasis on good writing and philosophically compelling ideas, and a fantasy setting that goes out of its way to avoid repeating hoary old tropes. In fact, Tides of Numenera does an even better job than Planescape at making sure that you can talk your way through sticky situations rather than having to resort to violence. Finally, as the cherry on top, it avoids the eye-rollingly oversexualized female character models that were Planescape's biggest flaw.

Arcanum should really have gotten a sequel. It's a CRPG from a lot of the people behind the original Fallout, set in a D&D-style stereotypical fantasy world that's undergoing an industrial revolution. So, the magical feudal order is getting shaken up, but the people threatening to replace the old kings are corporate robber barons. The elves' magical forests are at risk of being cut down to fuel the new steam engines, which is only intensifying the mutual suspicion between the elves and the technologically-advanced dwarves. Like Fallout, it's an RPG without an explicit class system, in which you define your character by the skills you invest in, and those skills include a vast array of different schools of magic and technological disciplines. In the game world, the use of advanced technologies locally strengthens physical laws, and the use of powerful magic weakens those laws, so there's sort of an interesting philosophical opposition that arises naturally from the game's rules. It's not an especially balanced game, and it's taken a lot of fan patches to keep the bugs down to a dull roar, but I really like it.
 

That Old Chestnut

A E S T H E T I C
(he/him)
Been on a pretty heavy TRPG kick the past couple months.

First with Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark which has done a pretty decent job of filling that FFT-shaped hole in the Switch's library. I won't pretend the story is on the same level as FFT, but I like the characters and their fantasy world well enough to stick with them for about a good 40 hours so far. It helps that certain important parts of the gameplay (them J.O.B.s) are every bit as fun to play around with as they are in their spiritual granddaddy. There are a huge variety of job classes, with 20 base jobs (including some fun ones like the Peddler, which lets you set traps on the field), 5 special item-activated jobs for non-story characters (one item is a Phylactery, and yes it lets you become a Lich), a special class for each of the 6 major story characters, and a sort-of-hidden character from the game's insectoid race that can learn all the abilities from 20 or so of the game's monsters. It gets full-blown crazy if you get the DLC, which lets you recruit those monsters, and then they can unlock 25 job classes of their own (called Variants, and they're sort of treated like mutations). I just love that I can make my monster units as versatile and powerful as their human counterparts.

Then there's Fae Tactics: The Girl That Destroyed the World, which sells itself pretty heavily on its streamlined approach, doing its best to avoid shuffling through menus, and instead preferring to use context-based input to perform an action. Pretty much, whenever it's a unit's turn, their action depends on what you select in the field. Pick an enemy unit, you perform an attack. Pick an ally, you perform a supportive action. Pick a spot in the field and wait, you usually perform some kind of self-buffing action. Also, whenever you attack an enemy unit and you have a melee-based ally or two standing next to it, they'll throw a good lick or two in as well, which makes for some damn satisfying combos when you pull them off. All that aside, I love the characters and setting in this game. Basically the world pulls an Adventure Time, and undergoes a sort of magical apocalypse, with the human world and its parallel world of magic getting smashed together, bringing all kinds of fun and dangerous critters with it. Their designs and lore are charming, and it's fun exploring their world. The challenge is definitely there, too, and there are times when this game is goddamn motherfuckingly scream-at-your-monitor hard until you get the right assortment of units to handle what it's throwing at you.

So yeah, monsters and grids!
 

Cyrael

...we're shy.
(he/him)
Sim Tower. I want more games like Sim Tower.
Project Highrise is a pretty good option. I've got it on Steam and I am pretty sure a console release is coming. It's relaxing and fun in the same way Sim Tower was for me back in the day. Less elevator management and more control over tenants. Could be one to try?
 
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