Bust out your oversized reading glasses and order your favorite flat-white, soy, extra-hot, half-caff, iced pumpkin spice espresso granita-macchiato with a pinch of matcha green tea powder spritzed on top of the low fat dollop of foamed cream, all you video game hipsters out there! You know who you are. Today we’re traveling back in time to unearth some hidden gems. To clarify, a “hidden gem” describes a game that is currently not very popular or widely known, or wasn’t upon its release for some time, but which maybe has a cult following now and represents an incredible gaming experience. The key is you should be able to say the phrase “But you probably haven’t heard of it” after talking about the game. It’s so underground, it’s practically in China.
“What is your Favorite Hidden Gem?“
The Timely Mage
There are quite a few games I would consider hidden gems because hardly anyone I know has played them and I don’t hear them referenced very often despite them having some success. A few examples are: Colony Wars, Galerians, The Legend of Dragoon, Blades of Steel, Costume Quest, and Nuclear Throne. I almost chose Sins of a Solar Empire but since I wouldn’t consider it “hidden” enough to put on this list I’d say my favorite is Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. It embodies so many things I appreciate in a fantasy game from the art style to the writing to the class system. I loved how it really took its characters and setting seriously (despite their 2D sprite representations) and gave the themes of war and humanity a reverence that compels it’s players to treat it in like manner.
The Black Humor Mage
Monster Hunter Tri on the Wii was such a hidden gem. Not many people in the US played it, and I hadn’t even heard of it until our own Well-Red Mage recommended it. I played it so much when I got it. This was one of the few games that made it worth it to own a Wii. Since then I have fallen in love with the Monster Hunter franchise and plan to get Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and Monster Hunter Generations very soon. I’ve been itching to go on a hunt.
The Rage Mage
Hahahaha, Titenic! What? Like a resentful dude called the Rage Mage wouldn’t be okay with playing a side-scrolling beat ’em up based off of one of the worst tragedies in history?
The Green Screen Mage
Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis was a build your own Jurassic Park game for the PS2. I spent hours creating the perfect park. The good balance between herbivores and carnivores and the perfect tourist attractions…. Then destroy the exits and take down all the fences and watch the tourists panic…
The White Out Mage
Anticipation. Here’s a gem if I ever saw one. Enjoy this strange Pictionary-like board game that will have you scratching your head wondering why you’re playing it. It’s a nostalgic game for me so I have sentimental attachments to it, and now I really want to play it again. Maybe not a hidden gem-gem. But it is hidden.
The Well-Red Mage
I’m going to cheat and name two. They’re both my favorite. They’re both Zelda-esque in terms of presentation and gameplay. They’re from the two best systems ever created: the NES and the SNES. They are Crystalis and Soul Blazer, both early Action RPGs. I don’t usually hear anyone talk about either of these games, great as they are.
Crystalis is everything that Zelda II should have been. It builds upon the schema set in place by the first Legend of Zelda and adds many new exciting gameplay quirks, such as multiple elemental swords, the ability to gain experience and level up, the ability to charge up your attack to release a projectile, and several pieces of equipment. Crystalis is the sequel The Legend of Zelda needed and deserved. Plus, its post-apocalyptic narrative and setting are wholly influenced by Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Castle in the Sky, two of the greatest Miyazaki legends.
Soul Blazer for the Super Nintendo also took the Zelda gameplay route and expanded upon it. In Soul Blazer, you play as a divine messenger sent down to free the captured souls in various regions around the world. This is done by fighting monsters in dungeons. Once a soul is liberated, the village they belong to is reconstructed and new amenities open up. It’s a unique way to push players to fight and kill every baddie and interact with the NPCs. And it’s just as solid of an Action RPG as any you could find on the SNES.