Here’s a staggering statistic: every year, there can be anywhere from seven thousand to ten thousand games released on Steam. With that many games pouring in (although many of them will, of course, be shovelware to a degree), it’s impossible to play everything, and so the huge, high-profile games often push their way to the fore. However, this means that many gamers miss out on a lot of hidden gems that they may end up loving. Nowhere is this more true than in the PC gaming market, so here are 10 underrated PC gaming gems you need to check out.
1. Condemned: Criminal Origins
Some might say that Condemned: Criminal Origins isn’t underrated at all. After all, it received high review scores when it launched, and performed well enough to warrant a sequel (which, unfortunately, isn’t available on PC). The first Condemned boasts the voice talents of Greg Grunberg, but more importantly, it’s an intensely atmospheric horror experience full of iconic moments and excellent level design. Things fall apart a little towards the end, but for the most part, Condemned is a real thrill ride.
2. Ninjin: Clash of Carrots
Ninjin: Clash of Carrots is a wildly enjoyable auto-running rail-shooter hack-and-slash hybrid (yep) that flew under the radar when it launched in 2018. Some of its humour is a touch cringeworthy, but the lightning-quick arcade action at the core of Ninjin is anything but awkward. With a variety of different weapons to try out and a huge amount of levels and enemies to take on, it’s likely going to be a very long time indeed before you start getting tired of Ninjin.
3. BPM: Bullets Per Minute
The title may read like someone overexplaining a joke (“yeah…BULLETS per minute, that is!”), but BPM: Bullets Per Minute deserves more than just your laughter. It’s a maximalist heavy metal-inspired roguelite shooter in which you must do everything in time with the beat. BPM isn’t very musically complex; all of the songs are in common time signatures, and most of the music doesn’t deviate from mid-tempo. Even still, there’s a punchy and cathartic quality to the combat here that elevates it above other roguelites.
4. Sleeping Dogs
This is much, much more than just a Grand Theft Auto clone. Sure, it’s got a large city to explore, plenty of side activities to complete, and a gritty modern-day crime story to unravel, but there’s more to it than that. Protagonist Wei Shen is riding both sides of the crime divide; he’s an undercover cop who increasingly finds that his loyalties are torn between his duty and his friends in the Sun On Yee triad. Sleeping Dogs is also an excellent open-world sandbox game with lots to see and do.
5. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Okay, hear us out on this one. We know Sekiro is a widely loved game with many accolades and dedicated fans to its name, but it doesn’t get spoken about in the same hushed, hallowed terms as the Souls series. There’s no reason it shouldn’t; it combines incredibly satisfying swordplay with a huge, interconnected world and lots of hidden lore to tease out, plus some of the best bosses the series has ever seen. If you love Souls, you should love Sekiro in equal measure.
6. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is probably underrated because many people believe it requires a VR headset to play. This, however, is not the case; it comes with a standard mode, so you don’t need expensive equipment to enjoy it. Keep Talking is a wonderfully zany co-op experience in which one person plays a bomb defusal expert and the others play the voices in their ear, telling them which wires to cut. There are plenty of puzzles to wrap your head around, so if you don’t mind arguing with your friends, check this one out.
7. Human: Fall Flat
We can’t believe more people aren’t talking about Human: Fall Flat. It’s a hilarious physics platformer with co-op functionality, but you can play it solo as well if you like. The expansive, artfully-designed 3D backdrops are lovely to look at, but it’s the minimalist, interactive puzzling that makes Human: Fall Flat such a treat to play. It feels wonderful to operate the devices in this world, and when you’re stuck, it’s equally rewarding simply to throw your little dough person off a cliff.
We will always, always fly the flag for Poi. This unfortunate little platformer launched at around the same time as Super Mario Odyssey, thus ensuring it would be forgotten, but that’s grossly unfair. Poi may be somewhat simplistic visually, but it’s an engrossing 3D platformer in the Super Mario 64 vein. Each level hides a number of collectibles and varied challenges, and Poi never gets to the point where the action becomes tedious or repetitive, which is an achievement in and of itself.
Do you like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night? If you answered “yes”, then you should already have played Timespinner. Booting it up for the first time, you’ll likely remark on how awfully familiar the menu design looks, but it’s not long before this time-twisting Metroidvania adventure differentiates itself. Timespinner is an accomplished exploration platformer, but it’s also hiding a remarkably emotional and affecting narrative, so come for the gameplay, stay for the story.
10. It Takes Two
Once again, we may be overstepping the “underrated” mark here, but It Takes Two deserves more attention than it’s getting, and it’s getting a lot. Coming to us from Hazelight, developer of the somewhat intriguing Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and the far less intriguing A Way Out, It Takes Two is a co-op exclusive 3D platformer. It’s breathlessly, relentlessly inventive, and while its story is hewn from weak cliches, its gameplay is consistently imaginative, funny, and enjoyable.