As December unfolds, it’s easy to get drawn into the “game of the year” celebrations and pick out the games that you feel had the most obvious impact on you. But after you’ve picked out those “obvious” choices, it’s well worth going back and having another thing: were there any other titles that, at the time you played them, really stood out to you.
These are the hidden gems of the world — the games that don’t get talked about enough (including by us!) and which are well worth showing a bit more love before the year is out. So with that in mind, here are five of these hidden gems that were released in 2021 — games that, while they might not have seemed like “big” releases or set the sales charts on fire, are nonetheless very much worth your time and attention.
Let’s get into it!
The most obvious choice for a 2021 hidden gem that came to me almost immediately after I started thinking about it was GameTomo’s beautiful narrative adventure Sumire. We absolutely adored this game when it came out, but it seemingly passed by a lot of other outlets mostly unnoticed.
Which is a terrible shame, because Sumire is an absolutely magnificent piece of interactive storytelling, featuring beautiful art, lovely animation, excellent music, fantastic writing and a main character that it was easy to empathise with.
Sumire’s tale of being sad but not completely understanding why is one that will likely resonate deeply with many of you reading this — and ultimately, while it has its tearjerking moments, it’s a tale of hope. There’s light within the darkness, and it is possible to reach that light even when you’re at the deepest point of the abyss.
This fantastic action-roguelike from the creator of Smashing the Battle is one of those games where you can feel its creator’s passion in every element of it. It looks great, sounds great, has wonderful characters and, most importantly for a game of this type, plays brilliantly. We were super-impressed back when it first came out earlier this year, and it’s continued to receive support since then — there were even some Christmas costumes added for the festive season!
Metallic Child is noteworthy among games of this type for placing a strong emphasis on narrative. Indeed, if you find the “roguelike” side of things a little too hardcore, there’s a story-centric mode you can play instead, so you can enjoy the game however you see fit.
However you choose to play Metallic Child, it’s hard to deny that this is a real hidden gem of 2021 — and eminently worth adding to your collection, particularly if you appreciate cute robot girls.
This one attracted some attention when it first came out, then promptly fell into almost complete obscurity — which is a terrible shame, because it’s an excellent adaptation of a classic Super NES game, and certainly qualifies as a hidden gem of 2021. We certainly loved it!
The original Actraiser for Super NES combined lightweight strategic management action with side-scrolling platformer sequences. Actraiser Renaissance expands on the former aspect considerably by adding some tower-defence elements, and wraps the whole thing in an attractive Sega Saturn-style presentation accompanied by some fabulous new versions of legendary composer Yuzo Koshiro’s classic tunes, arranged by the man himself.
It really is an excellent game with plenty of substance — and who knows, if it does well, maybe we’ll see rereleases or remakes of Quintet’s other amazing action RPGs? Those would most certainly be a very welcome sight.
This rambunctious arcade racer for Nintendo Switch is one of the best examples of its kind for many years — though with how niche-interest the arcade racer genre seems to be these days, that places it firmly in hidden gem territory. No matter, we thought it was great.
In Cruis’n Blast, you take control of a variety of vehicles — some realistic, some completely fantastical — and enjoy some ridiculous, stunt-filled races through a variety of different locales loosely based on real-world places. Real-world places if they were on fire, being attacked by dinosaurs and/or suffering a variety of natural disasters, that is.
Super-slick racing, simple controls and plenty of things to do means that this is a game you’ll keep coming back to time and time again — and with an excellent multiplayer mode, too, it’s one worth putting in your party game rotation.
7 Years From Now
Probably the most hidden of all the hidden gems on this list, 7 Years From Now is an absolutely wonderful, emotional narrative-centric adventure game that features an unusual art style, a complex and rewarding story and some truly memorable characters. We adored it — though you’d be lucky to see it even mentioned on many other sites.
In 7 Years From Now, you take on the role of Haruto, who is returning to his hometown in the hopes of keeping a promise with a girl he met during his childhood. Naturally, things are not at all that simple, and Haruto finds himself attempting to uncover a complicated mystery surrounding the local hospital — and what exactly happened to the girl he remembers from seven years ago.
The game’s blocky voxel-style aesthetic may initially seem at odds with the emotional, sometimes dark subject matter that the game deals with — but after a while it starts to feel as if the game is making a point through its aesthetic. Because before long, you’ll find yourself getting immensely attached to these characters and thoroughly invested in their struggles to discover the truth — and if you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to put this one down until you’ve blasted through the whole thing in a single sitting.
So there’s five picks for the underappreciated and overlooked games of 2021 — got any more to share with us? Let us know down in the comments, or via the usual social channels!
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