Top 5 Best Hidden Gaming Gems You May Have Missed in 2021

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2021 was a great year for video gaming. Many of the games delayed from 2020 found new life in 2021. With all the GOTY and game awards talk, it’s nice to look at some games from 2021 that aren’t Resident Evil.

5. Boyfriend Dungeon: You got dating sim in my dungeon crawler!

Released in the middle of a busy summer, Boyfriend Dungeon found a passionate but niche gaming audience. Part dating sim, part Zelda-like, this Kickstarter funded game puts you in the role of a new in town love interest. You’ll meet potential suitors, they’ll turn into weapons, and then you’ll fight monsters with them. It’s all pretty standard dating sim/dungeon crawler stuff. While dungeon crawler fans may be put off by the dating sim mechanics and vice versa, Boyfriend Dungeon stands out as an accessible entry in either genre.

4. Castlevania: Advance Collection: A nostalgic gaming experience

Castlevania Advance Collection

If anyone missed these games the first time around, now is a great time to jump in. Castlevania Advance Collection combines three of the best Castlevania games of all time into one great collection. The Castlevania series has never felt more at home than it did on the Gameboy Advance and the Advance Collection allows players to relive these masterpieces with subtle quality of life improvements.

The Advance Collection adds a ‘save anywhere’ option and a helpful rewind feature that allows you to correct some unfortunate mistakes. The collection also adds artwork for each game, an encyclopedia of every collectible, and multiple PAL regions for each game. The outlier here is Dracula X, a Japanese-only release that reverted back to an old-school Castlevania style. It’s the most difficult of the games, but a fun play for long-time fans. Whether you’re new to the series or a long-time fan, Castlevania Advance Collection has something for you.

3. The Ascent: A better Cyperpunk than Cyberpunk

hidden gaming gems The Ascent

The Ascent is a mash-up of gaming genres. It’s a cover-based twin-stick looter shooter with RPG elements set in a cyberpunk world. Needless to say, there is probably something for you here. The Ascent released on game pass leading to an initial surge in players. That quickly dropped off, though, due to the game’s steep difficulty curve.

A week later Neon Giant, the 12-person team responsible for The Ascent, added an easy mode that vastly improved the game’s playability. It’s unfortunate so many people fell off before the developers eased the difficulty. Those that stuck around found a gorgeous game with a fun engaging combat system that leaves you wanting more after its 14-hour campaign. The game relies on finding cover while utilizing a twin-stick shooter format in an isometric layout. The available guns are varied and the game gives players augmentations that add to the combat.

Reviews were typically mixed for The Ascent, but a lot of that may have been due to the gaming experience at launch. The difficulty spike was a concern, but The Ascent is also a lot more fun to go through with friends. The co-op multiplayer is where The Ascent really shines, and at launch, it was quite buggy. The Ascent is a much better game now than it was at launch. It is well worth the price of admission, especially if you’re a game pass subscriber.

2. The Medium: a spiritual successor about spiritual succession

gaming gems of 2021 The Medium

Releasing as the first true exclusive Xbox series S/X game, two months after the system’s release, The Medium feels like a launch title. It doesn’t break any new ground, but it does scratch a certain gaming itch you may not have known you had. The early Resident Evil and Silent Hill games created terror through pre-rendered backgrounds and creepy ambiance. Following in the same vein, The Medium puts you in the shoes of Marrianne, a medium with the ability to walk through both the physical and spiritual realm.

You’ll switch between worlds against a creepy backdrop of late 90’s Poland, inside hotels and abandoned homes. The mysteries and puzzles that unravel are the main cruces of the game, and the reason you’ll want to continue playing. The cliffhanger ending will leave you hoping the recent PS5 release garners enough sales to justify a sequel.

1. Unsighted: The most stressful gaming experience you’ll have all year


Unsighted is another genre mash-up, but one that keeps you stressed out the entire time. Unsighted is a Zelda-like with Metroidvania elements. The game’s story contains a lot of heart and diverse characters that you’ll instantly connect with. The character connection is where the game’s twist sets it apart from other 2021 releases.

Every character you meet in the game has their own ticking clock. When their timer runs out, the character is left “unsighted” and will be gone for the rest of the game. This timer causes a ton of stress, as everyone from weapons vendors to your fairy-like guide is subject to it. Couple this with excellent combat, fun dungeons, and beautiful artwork. Unsighted is a must-play for 2021.

Joe Moore
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