What (relatively) obscure games do you know that are nonetheless great fun, or otherwise really noteworthy in their own right?

E.g. games you’ve never seen come up in a discussion, recommendation thread, or otherwise don’t think others are likely to know about. Many of the things I bring up aren’t really obscure, but then again, I likely know more games than most:

Let me start with some:

  • Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead - Well known in the roguelike community, unknown elsewhere. A free open source zombie survival game with ridiculous amounts of content and depth(>1000 crafting recipes that support alternatives, like 200 mutations, dozens upon dozens of starting scenarios and professions and traits, building, vehicles, farming, gear customization, bionics, dozens of zombie types and other creatures… you can do anything in this game), probably my favorite game ever. If you get it, I recommend the RetroDays tileset, doubling screen size, enabling NPCs, and always starting with 2+ tailoring.
    • And if anyone is curious about getting into roguelikes, two commercial ones, Caves of Qud and COGMIND are both incredibly well-made and unique games. Also Elona+ is certainly a bizarre Japanese one.
  • Knytt Underground - A quirky indie platformer from Nifflas, a guy who made these ambient exploration games for well over a decade. Has an odd artstyle, and first two of three chapters being tutorial, but it’s extremely fun, just challenging enough, and the characters are shockingly endearing, for me this game is up there with Undertale and Hollow Knight. Also, unlike store warnings, it has no violence or sexual contents(possibly someone’s idea of “revenge” for the game having a negative stance on religion and a positive one on LGBT stuff? no idea)
  • Eador: Genesis - a single person’s love child, and a love letter to HoMM3, a turnbased game mixed with both more RPG aspects, and more 4X ones. Very poorly balanced(there’s mods for it, including a very big one that adds and rebalances tons of content), and the games can drag out(play with speedhack only), but it has that “special something” that makes it one of the only turnbased games I’ve ever loved.
  • NetStorm: Islands at War - A truly unique 1997’s RTS game, where all fighting is done by buildings, rather than units, with dated but good audio that ends up creating a “rhythm” of the battlefield, where you can tell how stuff is going off the rhythmic sounds of buildings alone. Until somewhat recently, still had a website, now only a Discord and multiplayer server, as well as a developer who got his hands on the source code, and is still pushing out - quality - updates, including better support for modern systems. It’s incredibly fun, and possibly the most unique RTS out there. Sorry about no links here
  • Transcendence - A free top-down 2D space game, with dogfighting, trading, a lot of asset reuse, but also some good ideas(built-in fast forward button, for one) that is to this date one of the most fun space games I played. Has a paid version on Steam with what was once addons/dlc included.
  • Space Rangers HD - Another space game, this a quirky Russian one that has some really crude balancing(you well might not have fun if you don’t figure out how to game it, and that early on you’re fodder anyway, so just wait for tech levels to go up to gear up), but also a living galaxy, heaps of immersive text-based quests(some of which are entire small games in their own right, others simple adventures), and overall that kind of charm that only rough games ever have. Just, don’t do planetary battles, that’s just really awful RTS junk, and usually brutally hard.
  • CONSORTIUM - a short indie game with simple visuals, but a very branching story, enough so that it actually created some illusion of realness for me. It’s getting a far, far bigger sequel, and I am excited for it.
  • There’s also likely heaps of Flash games that qualify, but one I’d like to bring up is Chess Evolved Online, a chess game where you can reposition your pieces as well as replace them with heaps of new ones. Acquiring them like in a TCG can be very grindy(especially the rarer ones), but the actual pieces are well-balanced. Sadly, not many players, and the AI is awful so usually it simply straight up gets an advantageous start. Has daily challenges that I’m not sure are handmade or procgen.

The slightly less obscure games that I’ve nonetheless never seen come up anywhere:

  • Exanima - An overhead view dungeon-crawler game, where all combat is physics based. You start awkwardly swinging your weapons around, but with time you learn to intuitively adjust the movements of your mouse and footwork to a degree allowing intuitive mastery I’ve never seen in another game. Has even more reviews, but I also don’t ever see it come up anywhere.
  • Brigador - an isometric mecha game, with dozens of different mecha in 3 types(hovering agrav, sturdy tank, bipedal mecha), 50 or so weapons, plenty of both story-based and random scenarios, where everything is destructible, and some of the by far most satisfying audiovisual effects ever - seeing and hearing a shell plough through layers of slums, as your vehicle recoils from the shot, the enemy starts to turn, but is ultimately hit in the flank, is really incredibly satisfying.
  • Duskers - a game where you explore derelict spaceships with drones, in a galaxy where civilization met some unknown to you end. Has great ambiance, and you control drones through a mix of direct control and a simple command line interface. Has plenty of reviews, but I’ve never seen anyone mention it.
  • Skyshine’s Bedlam - an enjoyable turnbased tactics implementation of the FTL-like formula, that recently got a major expansion. Played it too long ago to say much, but I am surprised how unknown it is
  • JYDGE - a slightly bland top-down stage-based shooter, with plenty of upgrades, weapon modules, and abilities to pick from, that I’ve nonetheless enjoyed far more than any other roguelite. Not as many reviews, but wouldn’t call it obscure either.
  • Feist - a short, kinda-limbo-alike, not nearly as spooky, but has fun physics-based gameplay, and I’ve really enjoyed it a ton.
  • Convoy - Faster Than Light’s far less known cousin, not as replayable, but still solid fun.

The “more noteworthy than great” ones:

  • Aurora 4X - possibly the most complex game in the world, far surpassing even Dwarf Fortress(which, to be fair, is mainly just awful UX). On the topic of that video, I truly recommend Mandalore’s entire channel.
  • Evil Islands - a (good bit) older game with systematic crafting, where you could pair a material and a blueprint, and then also slot enchantments into it, which themselves were composed of many runes. Not perfectly balanced, and the actual gameplay was not fun, but to me at least, it has that “something” that makes me want to make a spiritual successor to it. It also had targeting specific bodyparts.
  • E.Y.E Divine Cybermancy - if you told me this game was shipped from a parallel universe… I’d probably believe you. Can be fun in co-op, but mostly, it’s just the incredible lore and theme.
  • Of Mice And Sand - An admittedly grindy, but enjoyable and charming game that’s kind of like Fallout Shelter crossed with your shelter being a moving vehicle. It’s fun if you like that kind of thing, but not “great”.

I’ve probably missed a ton of games(my memory is awful), and you honestly have no idea how long I’ve been waiting for a chance to ask some people who might know some great games I’ve never heard of. I hope to get some replies anyway, though, since I put 2h into this post :C

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Not super obscure, you probably heard about it if you actively played games in the mid-aughts, but I’ve always loved Darkwatch, the Capcom published, High Moon developed fps where you play as a vampire cowboy named Jericho Cross.

2005 was wild, man.

It was originally intended to be High Moon’s golden goose, and it’s got a great, franchise ready premise of “what if MIB, but in pre-modern time periods and you hunt ghosts and shit?” Unfortunately, the sequel got canned in 2007, which I’m sure Capcom has never regretted, ever.

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cracks knuckles

BANZAI PECAN: The Last Hope for the Young Century - Kung-Fu Master style beat-em-up with elements of GOD HAND done entirely in the style and skin of the late 00s western anime fandom culture, complete with references to Gurren Lagann, FLCL, countless SNK arcade games, Sailor Moon, Devilman, Cutie Honey, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Tenchi, and much more, all with tongue firmly in cheek as you make Pecan beat-up bunny girls and succubi to save her boyfriend. I must stress the gameplay is extremely difficult, but you can learn it pretty quick due to how simple it is, and the lightning fast combat quickly becomes addictive.

Cinderella Escape - Big heads up on this one. This is a game made by a Taiwanese developer who’s really into BDSM and puts BDSM elements into all of their games. Everything he has made has almost pornographic elements, but framed in such a strange way that it’s difficulty to pick up on at first glance with some of his stuff. This one is a puzzle game based around moving blocks and escaping floors of a dungeon, and it ended up being surprisingly engrossing. You can also activate the admin console and give yourself free experience or money if you don’t wanna grind. Easily the best thing he’s made. The sequel is a full on musou game with lots of kicking and exploding clothing. If this doesn’t sound like your think, I get it, but if those elements don’t bother you, look into the first Cinderella Escape first, at the very least.

Grand Pigeon’s Duty - A Potty Pigeon take off that adds in checks notes sociopolitical commentary, a branching path that explores philosophies of terrorism, Communism, and Capitalism, the Rat King, bombings, constructive vandalism protests, and a giant pigeon kaiju fight. All the pigeons are also based on movie characters, meaning that yes, there is a Tyler Durden pigeon who wants you to bomb things (and he’s very clearly a villain).

Mitsurugi Kamui Hikae - Doujin character action game about a priestess trying to stop a friend who’s been possessed by an evil sword. Has a surprising amount of polish, all combat but it’s damn fun combat with more depth than you’d expect. A must for DMC fans.

Broken Reality - Vaporwave: The Game. A walkabout with puzzle solving and a ton of wacky characters and dank memes put into one of the most stylish game worlds ever made. Ends up going in an absolutely wild and sobering direction towards the end.

The Count Lucanor/Yuppie Psycho - Survival horror sprite games with extremely anime cutscenes and character portraits. The first is a fantasy themed story about a child exploring the mansion of the titular Count Lucanor, and the latter is a dark office satire that’s equal parts hilarious and terrifying. Amazing color work.

Elegy for a Dead World - A game meant to get you writing. It gives you prompts through its various game worlds and lets you go wild with them. You can also see the works of other players.

The Hex - The follow up from the Pony Island guys, it switches out the meta-joke nature of the previous game for a more serious (but still with humor) existential story about the lives of video game characters. Has multiple genres to play through, all using a unified WASD and mouse control scheme, and the ending has to be seen to be believed.

Kindergarten - Dark comedy adventure game about a kindergarten age kid trying not to die in his incredibly fucked up school as he explores its various mysteries in a time loop. It’s the most Newgrounds-era style dark comedy thing I have ever seen for both good and bad, but damn if it didn’t get laughs out of me once I saw all the endings.

The Last Dogma - A video game made by a Russian electronic musician who was born in a literally radioactive city. It’s an extremely bitter satire of politics and the gaming industry, depending on which of the two branching paths you take, jank out the wazoo but incredibly amusing despite.

Masochisia - Genuinely one of the best horror games I’ve ever played, and it’s difficult to talk about since so much of it relies on its twists. Gotta give a lot of TWs for it (mainly emotional abuse, self-harm, troubling sexual themes, ect), but it’s one I can’t recommend highly enough if the subject matter isn’t a huge issue for you.

A Trip to Yugoslavia - Cheaply made FMV game about a guy who ends up in the middle of a war zone. Very awkward in a lot of spots, since they basically used a lot of footage they shot for a student film project, but there’s a cool VHS style with some digital effects they added and the hud system. Dirt cheap and worth trying once, actually has multiple paths.

Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble - A sort of feminist board game where you roleplay as some high school girls in 1920s America. Pretty humorous and extremely silly early on, ends up going in a thoughtful, meditative direction in the last act. Gotta give a TW for some sexual assault plot elements, where two characters are nearly assaulted, but the horror of the almost act is taken quite seriously and plays further in exploring the game’s themes.

Card City Nights - Battle card game crossover of Ludocity’s various games (you may know them best for Slap City these days, or if you’re more into the indie scene, Iji). Silly nonsense with a hilarious ending and a fun system based around making combos with card placement. Also, the soundtrack is aces across the board (try some). There’s a sequel out too with a space theme.

Hidden Folks - Cute hidden picture game, think Where’s Waldo. Best part is that all sound effects are done via someone making mouth sounds.

Master Spy - Tough as nails puzzle platformer about a spy infiltrating various areas. Includes extremely cool and surprisingly long sprite art cutscenes that echo the style of Kojima’s late 90s work (mainly Snatcher).

Rabi-Ribi - Extremely anime metroidvania mixed with bullet hell about a bunny turned into a girl in a bunny girl outfit and her fairy friend trying to save their island and going on wacky adventures that involve a cast of cooky women and a society of bunny obsessed lesbians. An unexpected amount of content and mechanical depth for something with such a silly premise, even includes an entire level and boss based on a East Asian social media service.

Lamplight City - A detective themes steampunk point and click made by Francisco Gonzales, a regular collaborator with Wadjet Eye. I genuinely think it’s his best work to date, both writing and design wise, and easily stands toe-to-toe with Unavowed (which released just a month or two before it). You may better remember him for his work directing Shardlight with Ben Chandler.

Mage’s Initiation: Reign of the Elements - Spiritual successor to the Quest for Glory series, made by a team who helped remasted the original games and a few other SIerra classics. The battle system is pretty jank, but the branching story paths and wonderful art design make up for it, including puzzles changing based on what type of element your mage specializes in.

LYNE - Simple connect the points with a line game on PC and mobile for about a buck. Ridiculously challenging in the late levels, but something you can really bite into. Also gets daily puzzle updates.

Dex - Cyberpunk RPG/Metroidvania. Has some issues writing wise in the main story and the usual questionable cyberpunk issues (mainly when dealing with sex work), but it’s insanely addictive due to its tight design and numerous side quests. Leveling up has instantly notable benefits, giving you a lot of options for builds. I highly recommend becoming a punching death machine with high defense and guard. Also has a near bullet hell hacking side game you can activate at any time in the world.

Helen’s Mysterious Castle - Short JRPG with a pretty cool battle system, where it’s a mixture of turn based battles with your single character and timed button presses.

Cherry Tree High trilogy - A series of games taking place at a Japanese high school. The odd name was due to a poor early translation that tried to paint all the characters as western, later changed with a proper translation and the option to use the old one. First game is a social sim sort of thing where you gather students to form a comedy club, balancing school work, expanding your interests so you can connect with others better, and socializing. Second is a kinetic novel direct sequel that’s surprisingly thoughtful. Last one is a bizarre card battle spin-off, basically RNG hell, but has a ton of girls to pick from when choosing your team. They’re all really fun characters, something you can play through over and over to unlock endings and see new dialog.

Pizza Express - Sprite based pizza shop management sim where you also have to make said pizzas. Really involved main story campaign that involves some real strategy. Pretty cheap and loaded with hours upon hours of game.

The Westport Independent - based on an abandoned demo from Lucas Pope, this game is about running a paper as editor during the rise of a fascist regime. Dirt simple gameplay, but it’s extremely involving thanks to the narrative around it and how difficult it actually is to spread the truth without getting stomped out before the new censorship law goes in effect.

Bardbarian - Tower defense game where you control a barbarian who’s turned his ax into a non-violent guitar. The gimmick is that you lead troops and grant buffs, not fight yourself.

Chroma Squad - Turn based strategy and TV show management sim about a group of stunt people who form their own tokusatsu show. Has one of the most satisfying endings ever, a ton of love for the genre, and even three branching paths to the ending (I highly recommend the incredible Kamen Rider path).

Level 22 - Difficult stealth and puzzle game about an employee late for work trying to sneak in with help of his slacker friend. Really funny if you’re a fan of office humor.

Loren the Amazon Princess - Turn based RPG visual novel from Winter Wolves, and arguably their best work ever. I adore how the battle system lets you stack status effects, which radically changes the flow of fights due to how many skills require you hitting an enemy with a status effect. Really fun cast of characters and a satisfying story that gets a lot of great expansion in the Castle of N’mar…expansion.

Tokyo Dark - A VN/Point and click hybrid made by western devs living in Japan. It’s a mystery horror story that has some fun anime humor to balance out the EXTREMELY FUCKED main horror story. Has to be played multiple times to really experience everything it has to offer, the true ending is brilliant in my book.

PLUTONIUM - Cheap proof-of-concept by a South Korean media group for a full game their still working on called FLUTONIUM. It’s very difficult to describe because you really should experience it blind. Gets a lot of points for their skill with art design and just all the wild stuff they do with that knowledge.

Art Sqool - Weird little creative game about going to art sqool. Really a tool to get your creative juices flowing through drawing prompts and limited tools.

World of Horror - This technically isn’t out yet, but there should still be an early build in itchio. Horror rogue-like RPG inspired by the art of Junji Ito, complete with multiple characters, a battle system, and detective mechanics. Absolutely gorgeous even in its very early state the last time I played it.

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My thoughts immediately turned to E.Y.E Divine Cybermancy so I was very happy to see you shout that out in the OP. What a weird thing. And newly relevant to 2019, because Time Loops and shit.

But Aarklash Legacy is another one, noteworthy not only because the double A’s make sure it will always remain at the top of my steam library. It’s a party-based RPG where combat is like a real time strategy, only you can pause and give commands at any time. It’s kind of like controlling 4 DotA characters at the same time. There are lots of really cool skills with equally cool synergies and ways of executing them, and every skill can develop into 2 variants that change things up further. It’s a simple one, but my fave is the first healing ability you get access to via the cool dog lady, which is a thrown projectile. Naturally, you gotta use the pausing to make sure you don’t heal enemies by mistake. It felt really cool to land a heal by threading the projectile between enemies, way better than just clicking on a target. Well worth a look on steam.

Also, Strike Suit Zero Directors Cut. Brill space combat game where your ship can transform into a mech and completely lay waste to a fuckload of ships at once. Real arcadey and with a surprisingly engaging story too. Got overlooked because the initial non-directors-cut release had a lot of problems, like bad pacing and lots of missions where you can’t actually use the titular strike suit. But the directors cut is a MASSIVE improvement, really tightens up the story with a completely new script, makes sure you can use the strike suit in every missions but the tutorial, adds a whole bunch of new strike suit variants to play with AND a whole new campaign. It’s on switch now too, well worth a pickup.

Donkey Kong King of Swing for the GBA. What a fun little gem. There’s lots of GBA titles that fit in that category for me, but King of Swing is the first one that came to mind. It’s a platformer where you use the shoulder buttons to change DK’s directions. It got really inventive.
The other GBA one I think of is chain of memories. They remade it for ps2 and every other system KH appears on, but the gba game is just a better experience.

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It’s not like the PSP lacked in great turn-based RPGs already with FFT, Tactics Ogre, Disgaea, etc. but Jeanne d’Arc is a great game I hear nothing about anymore. It was made by Level-5, who would go to make Ni No Kuni and Yo-Kai watch along with DQVIII and IX. Basically the late stage of the Hundred Years’ War but with magical girls, ancient demons working for the English, and racism against animal people. It’s easier than FFT, there’s no permadeath, so I’ve always championed this thing whenever I get a chance to.

Oh and Talbot can go fuck off.

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I LOVED that game. I played it after the PSP was well and truly dead. I wish we could get something like that again. I know Level 5 is currently all Yokai all the time, but I’d love a Jeanne d’Arc sort of spiritual sequel.

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I have a very distinct memory of my cousin playing this game at Thanksgiving and ruing the fact that I owned a GBA and not a PSP.

My own contribution to the thread is Eternal Sonata, a JRPG riffing on the life of Fredric Chopin. I love(d) this game and have never heard anyone ever mention it.

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Sky Rogue - A rogue like, arcade flight sim. Good variety of jets and weapons to customize play style between close range dogfighting, long range missles, and bombers. Also on Switch.

FRACT OSC - Musical exploration puzzle game. Environmental puzzles have you basically assembling giant synthesizers that create the soundtrack. The second video on the Steam page is a good example of how the game works.

Memory of a Broken Dimension - A free prototype of a game that’s been in development for years now. It’s a puzzle game where you need to look at things from certain perspectives, but that description doesn’t really do it justice. One of the most unique styles I’ve ever seen in a game. Highly recommended even if you’re not interested. You need to see it in motion.

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E.Y.E. really needed 10 times the budget, and all of that to be spent on UI and UX, from what I’ve experienced of it (which was admittedly, about half an hour before I got so annoyed with it that I promptly uninstalled it).

Knytt, the original, is definitely something I remember a bunch of people playing. It seemed… sweet, I guess is the best way to describe it… when I played it for a bit, but nothing much seemed to actually happen

Infernium! This is a really cool horror puzzle game that the developer describes as “pac-man in hell” which, is fairly accurate! It also has some influence from Dark Souls and Myst though. This is a first person exploration/puzzle-based horror metroidvania set in a surreal, secular hell dimension. It has a movement mechanic based on teleporting and you gradually gain abilities as you explore. Most of the enemies are unkillable phantoms that pursue you if you get too close to them, and the game uses these in a variety of incredibly tense situations where you have to figure out how to solve a puzzle while navigating a maze AND running away from these phantoms. The levels are beautiful and eerie, with a truly dreamlike feel, and it has a pretty interesting story told in a kind of clumsy way through journal entries you find written on the walls.

It also has some really good accessibility/difficulty options where you can turn off enemies or slow them down if it’s too difficult. It is a pretty challenging game but like Dark Souls, I found it’s more intimidating than challenging and is largely pretty well-tuned so you just barely squeak by every time without too much frustration. I did end up turning off enemies for the final puzzle cause it was a bit much, but otherwise a super well-designed game.

Jeanne D’Arc and Eternal Sonata are amazing jrpgs.

Personally I really like Valdis Story, a metroidvania jrpg from 2013 that no one ever talked about. It has two characters to choose from, each with their own skill trees. Not too deep but the combat is slick and fun.

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Shadow Hearts and its sequel are criminally under discussed PS2 RPG gems. Combat-wise, the Judgment Ring is an interesting variation on the action commands from the Mario RPG/Paper Mario series. Thematically, it’s an alternate history gothic horror story that has just the right amount of levity. In contrast, Covenant, the sequel, is a jolly send-up of JRPG tropes that is equally entertaining to me.

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