Each year, thousands of games are released across PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, and PC. While bigger franchises like Assassin's Creed, Mass Effect, and Resident Evil always get their fair share of attention, there are always a few games that don't get the recognition they deserve.
Here are ten of the best games you may have missed this console generation, and there's no better time to revisit these overlooked gems.
Salt and Sanctuary
Release Date: March 15, 2016
Platforms: PS4, PC, Mac
Ska Studios has made a name for itself in the independent space with 2D action beat em’ ups such as Charlie Murder and The Dishwasher series. Heavily inspired by From Software's Dark Souls series, Ska Studios’ RPG Salt and Sanctuary took the Souls' dark fantasy aesthetic and unforgiving combat, and married them with the studio's expertise in 2D action games. Just like the Souls series, combat is a meticulous affair relying on well-timed attacks and character builds. Even the lore took some influences from the obtuse storytelling of the Souls series, but managed to tell an original story that was entertaining in its own right.
Release Date: February 11, 2014
Platforms: PS4, Vita, PC
The Danganronpa series has earned plenty of critical acclaim with its bizarre storytelling and sense of humor, but the visual novel series has lived most of its life on the PlayStation Vita, reducing its potential audience. A deceptively bright art style masks some of the darkest storytelling in gaming, as players in the first game are cast in the role of a student who must survive a series of life or death ordeals at the hands of a villainous sentient teddy bear. There are even trials where players must investigate scenes to prove other students innocent or guilty, either absolving them or condemning them to death. The two main entries in the series are hitting PS4 later this year in a bundle.
Skullgirls: 2nd Encore
Release Date: July 7, 2015
Platforms: PS4, Vita
Fighting games can be a daunting genre for newcomers to approach. The best fighters are able strike a fine balance between being accessible to newcomers who just want to have fun, and having enough depth to satisfy veterans. Skullgirls 2nd Encore is the rare kind of fighter that can do both. A colorful 2D brawler with gorgeous hand-drawn animation, Skullgirls channels classic Capcom series like Darkstalkers and the Versus games in its gameplay, but stands apart with its distinct personality and quirky characters. With a plethora of modes, including a fully voiced story mode, Skullgirls 2nd encore has something for all players to enjoy.
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Platforms: PS4, PC
Frictional Games reinvigorated the horror genre with Amnesia: The Dark Descent, relying less on inventory and health management and more on atmosphere and environmental storytelling. With SOMA, they took this expertise a step further, creating one of the best game narratives of 2015. A haunting adventure through an underwater facility run amok with disturbing half-human creatures, it’s an especially appealing trip for fans of sci-fi existentialism.
Release Date: October 28, 2014
Platform: Xbox One
Sunset Overdrive felt like a roaring return to form for Insomniac Games when it came out in 2014. Taking the studio’s trademark humor and crazy weapon designs and setting them loose in a colorful, stylish open world made for one of the Xbox One’s best exclusives to date. More than anything, the game nails a sense of cohesion in its gameplay, offering bonuses to players who can stay on the move while stylishly juggling traversal and combat as they make their way across its colorful playground, similar to Jet Set Radio or Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
Release Date: May 30, 2013
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, Vita, PC
Telling the tale of a lone scavenger searching for a way to escape a dilapidated space station, The Swapper revolves around the main character’s ability to create clones of herself and transfer her consciousness into the new bodies. It’s an interesting premise that makes for innovative 2D puzzle solving, with depth that emerges as the player’s progress. The writing is minimal but effective, and the 2D world is reminiscent of games like Metroid with its pervasive feelings of isolation. The Swapper manages to coalesce all of its various elements into a highly memorable ending that players ponder long after the credits roll.
The Talos Principle
Release Date: December 11, 2014
Platforms: PS4, PC, Android
The Talos Principle is a game that doles out philosophical storytelling alongside stimulating puzzle solving to create an unforgettable experience. Telling the story of an AI that solves puzzles amongst the ruins of humanity’s first civilizations, The Talos Principle is an intellectual game that asks questions about consciousness and the human condition. Played in a first-person perspective, players navigate a mysterious environment, solving puzzles centered on manipulating laser beams and force fields to progress.
Release Date: November 20, 2013
Platforms: PS4, Vita
Media Molecule may be best known for its innovative Little Big Planet series, but that’s not the only creative platformer they’ve made. Originally a Vita exclusive, Tearaway is a delightful 3D platformer with a papercraft aesthetic that was meant to take full advantage of the handheld’s unique features. It received positive reviews upon release, but being isolated on the Vita severely cut its potential audience. Thankfully, a PS4 remaster is available for anybody who wants to play it on the big screen. Although much of the original Vita functionality was removed for the PS4 version, such as the use of the back touchpad or the camera, it remains an engaging and charming adventure that anyone can enjoy.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War
Release Date: June 24, 2014
Plaforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a rich narrative experience that took the UbiArt style of games like Child of Light and Rayman: Origins in a new direction. Inspired by real letters written during World War I, it’s a rare example of a AAA publisher successfully making a smaller, indie-size title. Switching perspectives between multiple characters as the story progresses, players make their way through the 2D adventure game by solving puzzles. It tells a story that manages to be both dark and heartfelt, accompanied by a charming art style that reimagines the Great War in a new light.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
Release Date: September 26, 2014
Platforms: PC, PS4
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a narratively accomplished first-person adventure game. With tones reminiscent of Twin Peaks or The X-Files, players are put in the role of a paranormal investigator searching for a child missing under strange circumstances. A highlight of the game is its investigative sequences, which see players investigating locations for clues as to what happened there, and piecing the evidence together to progress the narrative. It’s one of the better adventure games of the last few years and deserves to be appreciated by more players.