Underappreciated games you already missed in 2018

The number of games that release every year just keeps going up. Particularly if you look towards indie titles and Steam, the raw volume of content is just colossal, and it's only getting bigger, faster. In other words, for an indie developer, there's no good time to release a game anymore. Every single day brings dozens of shovelware titles vying for the same attention as the good stuff. That makes it harder to connect potential players with a great game, and easier for great titles to slip through the cracks and into obscurity.

As such, we've gathered a list of fantastic games that you might have missed this year. From 8-bit retro to full 3D VR, these titles run the gamut of what the medium can accomplish right now. They are innovative, fresh, and often unorthodox; you won't find any Call of Duty clones here. Maybe you're in the mood for something a little different, or you want to be part of an elite core of gamers who have played these hidden greats. Either way, here's a list of the very best that 2018 has to offer that most people never knew about in the first place.

Into the Breach brings strategic depth to ground-level

Subset Games' FTL: Faster Than Light is one of the true indie darlings of the last decade, a combination of spaceship-sim and rogue-like that challenged players to make a variety of tactical decisions under stressful conditions. For their follow-up, Into the Breach, Subset took the same tone and feel but placed it on the ground. The result is a grid-based mech tactics game in which civilian locations must be defended from attacking monsters by your own giant robots. Fortunately, it's turned out to be every bit as deep, fast-paced, and fun as its predecessor.

There are multiple islands that your heroes must defend, each one representing a different type of terrain, and with them, different gameplay twists. Ice might break on the frozen island, but the industrial island suffers from acid rain. It's up to you to figure out how to navigate these challenges, partly by pairing the correct mech and pilot. And all that's done before the combat even starts! Once the monsters arrive, you have to take the hand that you've dealt yourself and try to keep your civilians safe.

Into the Breach may look nothing like FTL, yet in its overall strategic focus, it is a very similar experience. If you loved the latter, you should check out the former. And if you missed FTL, then you still have time to hop on the new game's bandwagon.

Iconoclasts is a Metroidvania with heart, brains, and story

The two games that lent their names to the Metroidvania genre – Metroid and Castlevania – weren't exactly heavy on story. Later additions in the series would characterize the heroes and introduce plot and drama, but in the beginning, it was all about running, exploring, and gaining gear that let you run and explore more.

On its surface, Iconoclasts is a loving throwback to those early games, in both its retro art-style and non-linear layout. Yet Iconoclasts sets itself apart not merely for its excellent mechanics, but also for its emotional and uplifting story. It's a game that brought heart as well as twitchy fingers. For that matter, it brought a brain, too, since the game is filled with excellent puzzles and difficult boss encounters.

In other words, Iconoclasts had ambitions that far exceeded ripping off its source material. This is a loving update to what those earlier games might have become if they'd adhered to the original art styles. For those who hold those old games close to their hearts, Iconoclasts is a must. And for those who missed those classics, why not check out the new kid on the block? As Gamespot says, "Iconoclasts may be a callback to the style and mechanics of old-school games, but it's also a sincere and compelling adventure that anyone with respect for fantastic storytelling and 2D-action can enjoy."

Full Metal Furies brings side-scrolling brawlers into the modern era

Full Metal Furies is a deliberate throwback to the arcade-style co-op brawlers of yesteryear, in which multiple heroes smash their way through dense thickets of enemies on a side-scrolling journey. This modernized update brings not only distinct classes (in the form of the four playable characters), but also upgrade and customization options that allow for a huge variety of playstyles. And that's just within one character: synergizing the upgrades of one class with those of another can lead to whole new options to try out. Of course, not everybody has the option of playing co-op. For the gaming introverts out there, a solo mode is included, which allows a single player to swap between two heroes.

Combat is rapid-fire and relentless, mixing together both melee and ranged encounters. Taking cues from the action-RPG genre, these enemies will drop gold, which can then be spent on the aforementioned upgrades. As with Diablo and other similar series, your small heroes are vastly more powerful than any one enemy character; it's just that you'll never encounter one enemy character (save for the bosses). You're going to have to push your twitch reactions to the limit to deal with the hordes of enemies flung at you at once. But if you can, you're going to feel like an unstoppable juggernaut. Or a full metal fury, as it were.

Moss is an old-time story in a modern format

Moss from developer Polyarc presents a fairy-tale brought to life, right down to the fact that you, the player, are actually The Reader, operating inside the text of a book that you find at the game's beginning. As such, you do not merely control Quill, the mouse protagonist of the book: you also manipulate the world around Quill, using your amazing powers as a Reader. That makes Moss not only a gorgeous journey through a wonderful landscape, but also an innovative twist on the puzzle game genre.

We haven't even mentioned that it's virtual reality yet. As a PlayStation VR exclusive, Moss is somewhat limited in its reach, since only those with that specific peripheral can ever play it. But for those who have one, this is one of the standout titles available. As Polygon put it, "Polyarc sets an immensely high bar for storytelling in VR, exuding careful and deliberate artistry in every aspect — sound design, lighting, camera, visuals — to create a world worthy of straining your back to see the area in 360 degrees. In every sense, I felt like I was inside one of those beautiful, gilded storybooks."

Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology brought a game from another time into our time (appropriately enough)

Originally released for the Nintendo DS back in 2010, Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology is a remastered and updated take on the classic handheld for the still-going-strong 3DS. Radiant Historia itself is a Japanese RPG about time travel in a fantasy realm. As the game clearly explains, your time traveling destinations aren't completely open: you're really just bouncing back and forth between two time periods. But your actions in one timeline affect the other, and only by mastering the subtleties of time can you advance the story and save the kingdom.

While this is technically the same game as the old Radiant Historia, you'd be forgiven for not realizing it at first glance. The art has been given a complete overhaul; oh, and the voice actors are different; and the music is new, too. So, you know, literally everything that you see and hear is totally different — that's all. That said, the story and underlying mechanics are all intact, preserving what made the first game a classic in the first place.

Sprint Vector is a psychedelic speed boost

One of the defining features of VR, as opposed to traditional gaming experiences, is that it allows the player to physically interact with the game. Not just push sticks and buttons: actually reach out, manipulate, and traverse a digital environment. As the modern VR cycle has settled into place, some of these experiences have succeeded more than others. But few VR games have ever brought the raw physicality of a game like Survios' Sprint Vector. Hint: the fact that 'sprint' is in the title isn't a coincidence.

As a kind of first-person take on Mario Kart with Tron's aesthetics, Sprint Vector is all about speeding through a vibrant and bewildering racetrack. But to move in the game, you have to physically move! Imagine that! The system involves building speed by 'running' with your hands, almost like pulling yourself along ropes. In-game, you're trying to find the most efficient route towards the destination, all the while preserving your virtual momentum.

It's fast, it's fun, and it's a kinetic experience unlike anything else you'll find in gaming. Just don't expect to unwind with this game after a tough day at school or work.

Super One More Jump is all about the jumping

If this very list hasn't made it obvious, retro-style 2D platformers have been making a strong comeback lately. Fueled in part by the prevalence of platforms like Steam, iOS, and Google Play, there is more opportunity than ever for a small team to get a labor of love out to the masses. The issue, of course, is that a lot of these games start to blend together, and it's difficult for any one of them to stand out.

Super One More Jump deals with this issue not by going bigger than its competitors, but by going smaller. Which is to say, it scoped down its entire mechanical interaction to a single button. That's right: in Super One More Jump, you, as the player … jump. That's it. There are no attacks, no special abilities, no items: just jumping. Can you even move? No! Movement is handled automatically. All you have to do is jump.

How can that possibly be interesting? Because the levels are designed with precision detail, filled not only with standard platforming elements like gaps, but various terrain features that will get in your way. As with other platformers, Super One More Jump is intended to be hard, and it will take technical mastery of the game's mechanics — which is to say, jumping — to proceed. If you fail, well, you can always try again. Just one more jump. Super.

CHUCHEL is pure joy in video game form

Many, many video games attempt to be serious. They deal with increasingly serious subject matter, and even retro-style 2D games — like a lot of those on this list — try (and sometimes succeed!) to fit in serious storylines amidst all the friendly pixels. Video games are, after all, a serious art like literature or cinema.

And then there's CHUCHEL, which doesn't care about any of that.

Bursting with pure fun from top to bottom, CHUCHEL is a very quick (around two hours) burst of laughs and energy. Minimalist in the extreme, every stage of the game is a single screen, often without much more than the main character and a couple of objects. Technically, this is a puzzle game, but let's be real: this isn't the kind of game that's going to challenge your mind. Rather, it's all about the zany things that happen once you interact with said puzzle.

Plot, you ask? Of course there's a plot! You play Chuchel, who is a … thing, of some sort … on an epic quest to find his … cherry. Yes. Why? Well, why would you even ask why? Just enjoy this wonderful romp for the wonderful romp that it is. Seriously.

Minit is very limited, in the best way possible

Sometimes, a developer cooks up a simple yet brilliant idea, and builds an entire game around it. And sometimes, that idea is actually a limitation. In the case of Minit, your character lives for — wait for it — a minute. Sixty seconds, full stop. After your minute is up, you die. The end.

Except, it isn't the end, because your pixelated hero then wakes back up again in bed to live for yet another minute. And so on, and so on. The trick is that your actions from the previous life are preserved, so every minute, you're pushing the world-state, and the story, a little further forward. And every time you find a new bed, you start respawning from that new location.

So, yes, Minit is a full-fledged RPG, with exploration, puzzle-solving, and combat. You will have a grand adventure and change the world. One minute at a time. Minit never deviates from its central gimmick and never cheats the timer. A simple idea, polished to brilliance. That's indie gaming at its finest.

Moonlighter is the RPG shopkeeping sim that'll keep you up all night

In most role-playing games, you and your crew roll into town, stock up on goods at the local store, pick up a quest or two, and then head on your way with nary a thought for the villagers you just left behind. Not in Moonlighter. Instead of a world-travelling adventurer, Moonlighter casts you as Will, an RPG merchant who dreams of being something much, much more.

In Will's case, that means splitting his time between two jobs. By day, he runs the local item shop. By night, he delves into the local dungeon, collecting the goods that he puts on sale the next morning. As such, you'll need to make sure you're prepared for combat, but you'll also have to deal with more mundane concerns. While playing Moonlighter, you'll worry about pricing items correctly, making sure that your shop is friendly, inviting, and shoplifter-free, investing in the surrounding community, and much, much more. By contrast, all that questing feels downright easy.

Moonlight is a little bit Stardew Valley and a little bit The Binding of Isaac, with some dashes of Spelunky thrown in for good measure. It's not an epic fantasy story, but it's not supposed to be. Moonlighter turns a well-worn RPG trope into its own unique adventure. After Moonlighter, you'll never treat an RPG shopkeeper the same way ever again.

Unravel Two is best when you play it together

Sometimes, it feels like the big video game publishers rely a little too much on their big annual franchises — we get a new Madden, a new FIFA, and a new Battlefield almost every year — so it's always nice when they take a chance on a new property. It's even better when they do so twice. In 2016, Electronic Arts and Unravel introduced players to Yarny, an itty-bitty creature who used his yarn-based physiology to circumnavigate puzzles and dodge enemies. Just over two years later, Yarny made a surprise return at E3 2018 when EA announced Unravel Two — which happened to come out that very same day.

At first, people seemed excited. As the days went on, however, and the deluge of E3 press announcements hit, Unravel Two seemed to disappear. It doesn't deserve to. Unravel Two isn't the same game that you played and fell in love with a couple of years ago. This time around, the game's theme is "youth," not family, and Yarny moves quicker and has more moves as a result. Even more importantly, Unravel Two isn't a solo adventure. This game has two Yarnys who are connected with a thread, and who must work together, either with one player controlling both or via multiplayer co-op. The latter option is the way to go. By design, Unravel Two is simply better with a friend.