The 10 Best Games of 2016 You Haven’t Heard Of

It’s that time of year when we take stock of the year’s video game releases to see which ones are the winners and which are the losers. One of the great things about the “best of” lists is that they can help surface excellent games you might have missed throughout the year. And with the fall’s steady stream of major game releases finally over, you might actually have time to give some of these lesser-known games their due.

What games are we talking about? Read on for a ranking of the best games of 2016 you might not have heard about.

10. Steins;Gate

Metacritic score: 87
Platforms: PC, iOS, PS Vita, and PlayStation 3

What would you do if you discovered a machine that could send emails to the past? That’s exactly what happens in this “visual novel” game that first launched last year on PS3 and PS Vita and has now made its way to PC and iOS in 2016. There’s not much gameplay to be found here, but the story is compelling enough to compensate.

9. Orwell

Metacritic score: 88
Platform: PC

In Orwell, you take the role of an investigator in a fictional country known as The Nation. Your job is to root through the communications, documents, and social media postings of suspected terrorists to try to figure out if they’re up to no good. When you find things that may be of consequence, you upload them to the Orwell database. But as you soon find out, the things you choose to upload could have deadly consequences for the people you’re investigating. Orwell is a thoughtful, politically-minded game that probes some very real ideas about the limits of freedom and safety.

8. Stardew Valley

Metacritic score: 88
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC

Stardew Valley is an indie farming game that outdoes every other farming game out there. In it, you inherit your grandfather’s farm, so it’s your job to plant seeds, harvest crops, and make a home for yourself in a new town. You can build relationships with your neighbors and even get married if you manage to woo a lucky resident, which isn’t always easy. If you’re looking for a laid-back game that won’t stress you out, give it a try.

7. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

Metacritic score: 89
Platforms: PC and PlayStation VR

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a virtual reality party game that has you and your guests work together to defuse bombs. The idea is that the person in the VR headset is trapped in a room with a complicated suitcase bomb. You’ll need the rest of the people to read the bomb’s instructions and explain what you need to do to defuse it. The trick is that no one outside of the headset can see the bomb, so you have to describe what you’re seeing while they try to explain what you need to do.

6. Picross 3D: Round 2

Metacritic score: 89
Platform: Nintendo 3DS

As is often the case with puzzle games, this eShop download is way more fun than it looks. You start off each puzzle with a block of cubes with blue and orange numbers on them. By using the numbers as hints, you chip away at the cluster to ultimately reveal a three-dimensional image. It’s kind of like a paint-by-numbers version of sculpting, but even that doesn’t do justice to how satisfying the gameplay is. If you have a 3DS, give this one a shot.

5. Owlboy

Metacritic score: 89
Platform: PC

Another fantastic Metroid-inspired action game from 2016 is Owlboy, a game that’s been in the works for almost 10 years. You play as the eponymous hero, an anthropomorphic owl who flies around to explore expansive, pixelated levels. The game offers a wide range of environments, retro-style platforming sections, and enormous bosses you’ll have to defeat to proceed. If you’ve had your fill of big blockbuster games lately, Owlboy could be a breath of fresh air.

4. Axiom Verge

Metacritic score: 89
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Wii U, and PS Vita

This game originally launched in 2015, but it’s been spreading to new systems ever since, landing most recently on Xbox One, PS Vita, and Wii U in 2016.

Basically, because Nintendo has been ignoring the Metroid series for years, Tom Happ stepped up to deliver the kind of game Metroid fans have been waiting for. You play as a scientist who wakes up in a strange world full of sprawling environments, dangerous enemies, and useful items. Just like in Metroid games, each new item you find unlocks more of the game world.

3. Kentucky Route Zero: Act IV

Metacritic score: 90
Platform: PC

There’s nothing quite like Kentucky Route Zero, an adventure game that’s been coming out in installments since 2013. It’s a magical realism game about traveling on a mysterious highway underneath the caves of Kentucky. Along the way, you’ll meet plenty of strange people, each with his or her own story. If you’re going to give this one a shot, though, start with Act I.

2. Stephen’s Sausage Roll

Metacritic score: 90
Platform: PC

This puzzler may not look like much, but it’s sure to give your brain a workout. The goal of each level is to move sausages onto burners in a way that cooks all of their sides without burning them. While that may sound simple, the game keeps introducing new concepts that offer increasing levels of challenge. And I do mean challenge — this game will stress even Ivy League brains. Thankfully, it never feels unfair, and you can undo any step you’ve taken at any time. If you like puzzle games, be sure to check this one out.

1. Out of the Park Baseball 17

Metacritic score: 92
Platform: PC

If managing a baseball team sounds like your kind of fun, Out of the Park Baseball 17 will keep you occupied for a long time to come. It’s an annualized game that’s been widely considered the best in the genre for years, and the latest installment continues its pristine legacy.

You can have as much say over your team’s games as you want, getting into nitty-gritty decisions like player substitutions or setting those things to automatically play out on their own. The game even allows you to replay any World Series going all the way back to 1903. The only real strike against it is that it’s not so different from last year’s installment.