Thanks to the Xbox One being almost fully backward compatible with the Xbox 360, and even a large amount of original Xbox titles, it has hundreds of games competing for your attention. There are plenty of huge franchises and series that everyone is aware of, like Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, and Madden, plus the big Microsoft exclusives like Halo, Gears of War, and Forza. But these massive games are only a small percentage of the amazing games you can play on the Xbox One. The majority of games often never manage to get the recognition they deserve and end up as fan favorites among the people who discover them.
Whether you’re tired of the same old franchises and want to experience something fresh, or are looking for a more unique and experimental game, these are the best hidden gem games you can find on the Xbox One.
The Last Campfire
While you may only know them for No Man’s Sky, Hello Games’ follow-up title was given almost no promotion or hype, perhaps due to how poorly that played out for them last time. The Last Campfire is not nearly as ambitious as NMS, but that isn’t what it is trying to be. In fact, it is almost the polar opposite. Rather than an essentially endless experience focused on exploration and creating your own stories, The Last Campfire is a story- and character-driven puzzle game that has a specific theme it wants to convey to the player. You will take control of a lost ember traveling through a mysterious world full of other lost souls while on your way to light the last campfire. Getting into the details of what makes this game so impactful would only spoil it, but if you want a personal and uplifting game, don’t let this one slip by.
Welcome to Elk
If you played Night in the Woods and want more of that type of game, Welcome to Elk will scratch that itch perfectly. This is another story-driven adventure game about a small town in Greenland almost entirely separated from the outside world. Just like NitW, Welcome to Elk hints at greater plots, but at its core remains about the people and the town. What makes this little title even more intriguing is the fact that it takes real testimonials from people who live in real villages in remote regions of the world and uses them within the game. Because the game relies so heavily on characters, there’s little else in the way of gameplay. Your enjoyment will depend on how willing you are to invest yourself in getting to know all these people and sympathize with them.
For a long time, the one genre the Xbox systems were lacking in were good, old-school JRPGs. Now you can find just about all the major Square Enix titles on the Xbox One, but if you want something with a little more retro art style, but with a modern soundtrack and not at all typical cast of characters, Orangeblood is one you should look into. Your party will be equipped with guns rather than swords, and battling mobsters rather than monsters. Your main character, Vanilla, is a former gunslinger who just wants to leave her life of crime behind but ends up getting entangled in a plot with Russians, Yakuza, and more in the city of New Koza. Some of the dialogue rubs people the wrong way, but if you can look past that, there’s a very solid turn-based combat system, cool aesthetic, and bumping soundtrack to carry you through.
Even though it is most associated with PlayStation, Silent Hill still has many fans on other consoles. While it is a shame that P.T. never made it to the Xbox, the game it was intended to be never fully developed, the silver lining can be seen in Visage. Inspired by what could have been, this is one of the most horrifying games to take that teaser’s concept and fully expand on it into a complete experience. Rather than just a single looping hallway, Visage has an entire house to fill with spooks and tricks you won’t see coming. This is not a game for the faint of heart, but if you still feel the pain of the canceled Silent Hills, or just want an unpredictable and high-quality horror game to scare the pants off you, Visage is the best you can find.
Sometimes you just need a game that is nothing but good vibes. Animal Crossing: New Horizons was that for the mainstream in 2020, but a smaller audience discovered a not so little indie game called Ooblets that takes the best elements from a life simulator like AC and combines it with some light Pokémon design to create a game that’s almost too sweet. Just one look at the art style will show you how whimsical this game is. The game is centered around farming, collecting, and completing objectives to … well, farm more, collect more, and complete more objectives. There’s nothing to pressure you besides yourself. Even when you take your Ooblets into battle, they are just dance battles that use a simple card system. Despite only having two developers, Ooblets is more than a second-rate life simulator, but one that rivals even Nintendo’s latest offering.
Unlike most other games that can be called hidden gems, Sunset Overdrive actually got showcased during Microsoft’s E3 presentation before it launched. It was a surprising and intriguing game for a few reasons, most notably the developer. Insomniac, at the time, was a third-party studio but had almost exclusively worked with Sony on series like Spyro the Dragon, Ratchet and Clank, and Resistance, so seeing Microsoft purchase the exclusive rights to this new third-person shooter was fairly shocking. Unfortunately, that intrigue didn’t translate to sales. Sunset Overdrive was marketed as being anything but a traditional shooter and succeeded in that promise. The game is set in the post-sodapocalypse that caused the population to turn into mutants after drinking a new energy drink and only gets more insane from there. The freedom in traversal you have across the map via grinding and parkour, plus all the creative weapons Insomniac is known for, make this one of the most unique third-person shooters on the console.
Read our full Sunset Overdrive review
If you miss the days of super-punishing old-school side-scrolling shooters that pushed your reaction speeds to the limit, it might seem like there’s not much out there for you these days. Enter Super Hydorah, a space shooter that looks like someone found an old SNES cart and threw it on your Xbox One, scanlines and all. You’ll shoot your way through beautifully crafted levels that each have their own unique challenges and enemy patterns to learn. Be warned, though, this game doesn’t pull its punches. It is just as difficult as the era it was inspired by. That isn’t to say the game isn’t fair — it absolutely is, but Super Hydorah demands your attention like few modern games do. In the end, that just makes it all the more satisfying of a challenge to overcome.
Dungeon of the Endless
For the obligatory roguelike entry, we have Dungeon of the Endless. The twist this game puts on the formula is integrating gameplay from tower defense-style games where you set up defenses while exploring randomly generated levels trying to move an energy crystal to the next floor. The pixelated art style is well crafted and animated with a ton of personality, although the field of view is a little limited. It isn’t the type of roguelike that asks you to keep playing forever, but that ends up working in Dungeon of the Endless’s favor. Every run, you learn something new you can immediately use on your next one to get further.
D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die
Right off the bat, know that this game isn’t technically finished yet. It was an episodic story that only got through its first season, but the story remains incomplete. If a cliffhanger ending to a mystery game will just drive you nuts, maybe pass on this one. If, on the other hand, you enjoy the absolute madness that is a Swery65 game like Deadly Premonition, then D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die is a wild ride from start to sudden finish. You play as David Young, a private investigator who has the ability to go back in time to using objects to solve crimes. His personal quest is to solve the murder of his wife with the only clue at his disposal being her last words, “Look for D.” The main reason most people overlooked this quirky gem was that it was initially marketed as a Kinect exclusive, but no longer requires that mostly abandoned peripheral.
Ruiner is what you would get if you mixed Hotline Miami and Cyberpunk 2077. It is a fast, brutal, and relentless top-down shooter absolutely drenched in the neon glow of its sci-fi setting. Unlike Hotline Miami, the story of Ruiner is much more straightforward and stronger for it. On the combat side, you are given plenty of tools to work with. Guns, swords, abilities — they all have uses and feel amazing when you use them in conjunction to clear a room of enemies without getting touched. This is another title that will ask you to really put some time into getting good at it, but man does it feel great once you do.
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