Hidden Gems: Unveiling the Unfairly Overlooked Games of 2023
2022 was an unbelievable year for video games. Masterpieces like Baldur’s Gate 3, Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, and Alan Wake 2 cemented it as one of the greatest ever. But all the hype around these blockbusters caused some real gems to slip under the radar. As we recap the year’s very best, let’s spotlight hidden indies you need to play.
OTXO – Become the wolf of the cyberpunk ball
If the frantic top-down action of Hotline Miami left you hungry for more, OTXO needs to be on your radar. With its stark black and white graphics, this indie passion project lets you unleash your inner predator across vividly bizarre levels.
Inspired by the Basque word for wolf, OTXO casts you as a hunter battling waves of oddly-masked enemies. The gameplay feels like John Wick meets Eastern Promises, with fluid, adrenaline-pumping gunplay and melee combat.
One moment you’ll be blasting a foe with a shotgun, the next you’ll be booting his friend in the face so hard he splatters against the wall. Throughout the relentless violence, you’ll build up combos to unlock power-ups for the next level. These range from a recharging shield to reality-bending effects when you obliterate corpses. Trippy!
With its brooding vibe, phenomenal synth soundtrack, and slick parkour-like mobility, OTXO stands out as a moody take on the Hotline Miami formula. If you dig ultra-stylish hyperviolence, it absolutely deserves a spot in your gaming lineup.
STONKS-9800 – Ride the highs and lows of 1980s stockbroking
Ready to get rich in 1980s Japan? STONKS-9800 throws you headfirst into the rollercoaster lifestyle of a stockbroker hungry for wealth and glory.
This wacky simulator perfectly captures the excesses of the bubble economy era. You’ll be hanging out in Japanese bars swapping hot stock tips, partnering with the Yakuza on risky ventures, and hopefully raking in massive profits.
But the road to riches has its share of bumps. A bad PR story about one of your holdings can tank your net worth instantly. STONKS-9800 excels at showing both sides of speculative trading – the euphoric highs and crushing lows.
With its absurd all-caps title and over-the-top personality, STONKS-9800 draws you into the risky, ruthless and occasionally ridiculous world of high finance. If you dig economy simulators or have fond memories of the go-go 1980s, you’ll love this rollercoaster ride through stock brokerage. Just be ready for a few mafia-related crashes along the way!
Cassette Beasts – Pokémon meets mixtapes in a nostalgic retro adventure
Speaking of the 80s, Cassette Beasts brilliantly remixes analog nostalgia into a fresh monster battler à la Pokémon. This indie passion project oozes charm and creativity.
You play as a kid flung into the parallel dimension “New Wirral.” To get home, you’ve got to capture quirky “beasts” by recording them onto cassettes. You can then fuse your creatures with other cassettes to create fierce hybrid monsters.
The gameplay revolves around turn-based battles as you traverse this twist on North West England. With inventive monsters and a stellar chiptune soundtrack, it recaptures the magic of old-school RPGs through a novel lens.
Cassette Beasts shows how nostalgia, when done right, can inspire wholly new gaming formulas. If you have fond memories of Pokémon or mixtapes, or just love crafting bizarre Frankenstein creatures, this imaginative indie gem belongs in your collection.
Chants of Sennaar – Crack the code of fictional languages
Ever try learning a new language? It’s equal parts daunting and rewarding. Chants of Sennaar distills those feelings into a beautifully crafted puzzle game about deciphering fictional tongues.
Loosely based on the Biblical Tower of Babel, the game tasks you with translating the made-up languages of its fantasy world. You’ll gradually decode vocabulary and grammar to help warring factions communicate and find common ground.
With its emphasis on understanding different perspectives, Chants of Sennaar delivers a thoughtful experience that celebrates diversity. It’s a real treat for language geeks, with clever writing and linguistic charm.
If you love codes, puzzles, or exploring foreign grammars, Chants of Sennaar provides a fulfilling mental adventure. This uplifting indie reminds us how overcoming language barriers can unite people – a lesson we sorely need these days.
Venba – An emotional journey through family and food
Food is deeply tied to memory. Venba, a moving indie narrative game, explores how meals become moments that lock in the flavors of life – good and bad.
You play as an Indian woman who has moved with her husband to 1980s Toronto. As you cook traditional recipes, following a damaged cookbook, the game reveals the couple’s experiences raising a child, facing racism, and dealing with grief.
The thoughtful writing and minigame cooking provide quiet moments to reflect on immigrant challenges and savor memories. With beautiful pixel art and music, Venba thoughtfully depicts an underrepresented perspective.
In just a few hours, this “cooking sim” delivers a fulfilling story about how meals bring a family together through life’s ups and downs. It’s an essential human narrative that shouldn’t be missed.
Mr. Sun’s Hatbox – Metal Gear meets XCOM in delightfully absurd roguelite
Looking for pure gaming randomness? Check out Mr. Sun’s Hatbox, a silly roguelite mashup stuffed with gleeful absurdity.
When Mr. Moon swipes a box of hats meant for Mr. Sun, you play as the outraged delivery person, pursuing the thief through wacky platforming levels. To kidnap baddies, you’ll use a Metal Gear-style skyhook system to yoink them into the sky.
Between missions, you’ll manage a base and recruit minions like an XCOM commander – if XCOM recruited by abducting people against their will. With multiple classes and absurd weapons, no two playthroughs are alike in this strategy-stuffed sidescroller.
Mr. Sun’s Hatbox mashes up so many genres it shouldn’t work – yet its sheer ridiculousness and lively personality make it an essential roguelite joyride. If you need more silliness and snatch-happy skyhooks in your gaming diet, don’t sleep on this gem!
Shadows of Doubt – Become the hard-boiled PI of your dreams
In a cyberpunk alternate 1980s, Shadows of Doubt lets you step into the wingtips of a private investigator solving crimes and chasing leads. With its immersive sim design, you have impressive freedom to sleuth however you want.
Each case requires establishing facts, gathering evidence like CCTV footage and V-mails (this world’s email), and ultimately identifying the perp. You can play it cool like Sherlock Holmes, crawling through vents and hacking passwords. Or go in guns blazing – though that may botch your case.
With robust character creation and a fully explorable procedurally-generated city, Shadows of Doubt is a dream for roleplayers. Lean into the hard-boiled detective fantasy you’ve always wanted to live out. Just try not to bungle too many cases, gumshoe!
Though still in early access, this indie passion project already shines as a standout in the immersive sim genre. If you dig mystery, exploration, and deciding your own detective style, Shadows of Doubt deserves a spot on your virtual bookshelf.