games / Columns

The 8 Ball: Top 8 Hidden Gems of 2016

December 20, 2016 | Posted by Marc Morrison

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! With the end of the year slowly upon us, I wanted to come up with a list of games that likely won’t be on a ton of people’s GOTY but should, at least some of them. I haven’t played every game on this list, but the general critical support has been good, even if sales have not been. Let’s begin:

#8: Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel

When Street Fighter 5 won the Game Award for best fighting game, I was dumbfounded. How did a game that was fundamentally broken for months win that thing? More importantly, how was Nitroplus not even nominated in the category? Regardless, it’s a fine enough 2D fighting game full of anime women beating each other up. The systems aren’t overly complex in it and if you know how to throw a fireball, you’ll be fine. I should warn that the PC version (of which I’m supposed to review) is a tad on the “iffy” side, at least from a technical perspective (like random crashing), but nowhere near the monstrosity of Street Fighter 5.

#7: Odin Sphere Leifthrasir

Odin Sphere was a remake of a PS2 game sure, but it really fixed a lot of that game’s technical issues and added a whole new coat of paint to the affair. Also, that PS2 version was a fairly late game for that generation cycle so not many people played it. Leifthrasir added some very nice gameplay improvements, like actually making combat enjoyable, skill trees, and better alchemy but still retains the quirky nature of the game, overall. It was an interesting game originally in 2007 but became a really great game in 2016.

#6: Hitman

Over the past months as more and more missions and targets get harder to assassinate in Hitman. This has led the game to grow organically into a superb stealth/action game where the game rewards you by being creative with your kills. At least that’s how it seems to most people. While I have the game on PC, it can barely run, which saddens me because I really would like to play it. The ironic thing about Hitman is the litany of people who were scared/outraged when they announced it was going to be an episodic game and how that decision ultimately has made it seem like the best Hitman game in the franchise.

#5: Far Cry Primal

Far Cry Primal actually came out this year. I know, right? No one talks about this game now, and barely anyone talked about it when it was released. The game took some liberties with cave man stuff, apparently your guy invents the grappling hook, but the animals make it fun and it is a pretty unique setting for a game. Plus, I really liked the guy who was clearly a parody of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, which alone might make this game worth buying. It’s not the deepest game, but I did enjoy my time with it.

#4: God Eater 2: Rage Burst

It’s a Monster Hunter game just on PS4 and PC and that is fine for the non-Nintendo owning folks in the crowd. To be honest, God Eater 2 was never going to be a smashing success like the MH franchise, but it is a very well done game and is far easier (initially) to get into than a traditional Monster Hunter game. It’s when you look at the glossary of terms and how there is 30 pages of nonsense that your eyes roll in the back of your head, but if you want a game where you just kill big monsters, it’s not a bad game at all.

#3: Punch Club

Punch Club is what you get when you mix Rocky, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Fight Club, and a whole host of other 80’s/90’s movie, along with a slightly esoteric RPG/life management simulator. Arguably the strangest part of the game is the fighting system, which is turn based and kind of wonky. However, the writing is great and managing your life, either by working, or training, or going grocery shopping, etc., is a fun thing to do. I wouldn’t mind a sequel of this game if they made the fighting system more real time, and had even more films or TV shows to dive into.

#2: Ratchet & Clank

Ratchet & Clank had the unfortunate luck to be saddled with a mediocre movie that was being released around the same time, though those plans fell through. As such, the game never quite got the traction it deserved, which is a real shame. This game is a return to form for the Ratchet & Clank series which had been languishing for years, due to weird spin-offs and bad gameplay mechanics. Anyone remember Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One? It’s one of the worst R&C games made, and the fact Sega used the framework for a Sonic game is astounding. Ratchet & Clank in 2016 sheds most of the bloat the series had been collecting, instead just focusing on good platforming, upgrading your weapons, and killing loads of enemies. That’s all you need in a Ratchet & Clank game and I’m happy they returned the series to its roots.

#1: King’s Quest

Now, I haven’t played the King’s Quest game, but unlike with Hitman, I don’t think anyone else has either. While the first two episodes of King’s Quest dropped in 2015, three more dropped in 2016 and nary a word has been said about any of it. When new episodes of Life is Strange or (generally) any Telltale game have dropped, there has been a buzz about it that gets people talking. No one talks about King’s Quest, aside from the occasional positive review, and I don’t really know why. Like I said, most of the reviews for the game paint it in a good light but it seems to be the most under-the-radar game I’ve seen in quite a while. The long release schedule doesn’t help, usually about 4 months in between releases, but that’s the only thing I’ve seen to make people not seem to care about this game.

For comments, list which games were hidden in 2016 that you enjoyed.

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The 8 Ball (Games), Marc Morrison