McGinnis: King of the Littles: Great small video games you may have missedWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | email@example.com
In a world full of entertainment options clawing for your attention, it can be easy to overlook some great experiences just because they don’t have the marketing budget of the higher-profile offerings. This is especially true in the world of video games, where major franchises like “Call of Duty” get multimillion dollar promotions and media hype, while dozens of smaller titles — typically available digitally — get swept under the rug. In an effort to reverse the trend a bit, here are a few great, small games you may not have heard of, but are well worth your time and dollars.
“Don’t Starve”: This odd little survival title from Klei Entertainment has a winningly macabre art style and a deceptively simple concept: Stay alive as long as possible in a fairly barren landscape by scavenging for food, weapons and shelter. It seems much easier than it is, and players get a genuine sense of accomplishment the longer their character lasts in a world where resources are scarce. Available on PC, PlayStation consoles and Wii U.
“Five Nights at Freddy’s”: A cult horror phenomenon by independent developer Scott Cawthon, this surprisingly terrifying game casts players in the role of a night watchman at a Chuck E. Cheese-esque kids’ pizzeria. The goal: Don’t get murdered by the malfunctioning mechanical mascots wandering the restaurant’s dark corridors. Simple but creepy, with plenty of gratuitous jump scares to startle even the most hardened of players. Available for PC and mobile platforms.
“Nidhogg”: This 2D sword-fighting game by Mark Esson is another title that seems almost too easy to grasp at first glance: Two combatants thrust and parry in an effort to kill their opponent and advance to the end of a level. But in practice the game is a fast-paced and exciting contest with surprisingly deep strategy, and the old-school graphics give it a charm a more sophisticated look may have lacked. Available for PC and PlayStation platforms.
“Resogun”: Developer Housemarque has been one of Sony’s greatest secret weapons for several years, developing numerous twin-stick shooters that have the feel of classic arcade games with a modern aesthetic and controls. “Resogun” is one of the best, a side-scrolling space shooter with addictive gameplay and gorgeous visuals. For months, this relatively small game was the best reason to own a PS4. Now available for all PlayStation systems.
“Shatter“: Probably the best PS3 game you’ve never heard of. Starting with a classic genre from the days of the arcade — brick breaking, as seen in titles like “Breakout” and “Alleyway” — developer Sidhe adds in new ideas and variables like differently shaped levels, the ability to manipulate gravity and boss battles to create something wholly unique and amazingly fun. If you have even the slightest fondness for this style of game, take the chance and plunk down some dollars on this underrated gem. Available on PC and PS3.
“Slender: The Arrival“: One of the scariest titles I’ve played, bar none, this first-person horror masterpiece by Blue Isle Studios is a prequel and expansion of the classic independent game by Parsec Productions. Wandering the woods (and other locations) while pursued by the meme-inspired monster the Slender Man, few games inspire more genuine fear and atmosphere than this one. If you don’t want to be terrified, don’t play “Slender.” Available on PC and consoles.
“Valiant Hearts: The Great War“: Ubisoft Montpellier’s puzzle-platformer is a genuinely odd game, with a bunch of disparate elements you wouldn’t think could possibly work together — but they do. Set in the trenches of World War I with a cartoonish art style, the game is fun to play on a surface level but its surprisingly emotional narrative somehow manages to capture a human element as well. Don’t be surprised if you tear up a bit when you’ve finished this one. Available on PC and consoles.
“Velocity 2x“: If you feel the need for some serious speed, FuturLab’s 2D shooter/sidescroller is the game for you. Combine the vertical space shooting of classic games like “Galaga” with side-scrolling sections reminiscent of “Metroid,” now give it the relentless pace of a title like “Sonic the Hedgehog,” and you have a rough idea of the awesomeness on display here. Genuinely one of the best games of 2014. Available on PC and PlayStation systems.
Jeff McGinnis is Pop Culture Editor at Toledo Free Press. He can be reached at PopGoesJeff@gmail.com.