10 Obscure PC Games You Should Pick Up Immediately

The premium quality that smaller studios put into games often surpasses the titans of the video game industry.

Within the delves of online gaming communities, video game developers of scale large and small aspire to stake their claim; some wish to make a killing in sales and ride out the cash flow, while others simply see development as a creative outlet, or else a hobby. 

What's a 'AAA game'?

Any game produced by a company of major-scale renown or capital is considered a 'AAA game'. These are high-budget products, toiled at for years upon average by scores of hired workers; the whims of the few are outweighed by the expectations of the company for these games. Investors' capital is on the line with these projects, and that means higher expectations and lower patience.

Regardless of their motivation, many studios have put out game titles that are often overtaken by AAA games, which are associated with a fair split in opinion among consumers. There are those that will only recognize bigger development teams such as Nintendo, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, or Blizzard, while another segment of people that hold a stigma for such companies, and the half-baked promises they constantly output.

Several examples of games produced by AAA game companies
Collage from Gamestyle

Setting aside the perception you may have of larger-brand titles, the following list is comprised of five lesser-known games that deserve more praise than they've yet to receive. It's of note that all games listed here are available to purchase on the Steam Store.

What makes a video game obscure?

Any game produced by an independent developer or studio, a small-scale project without much initial capital or manpower, is a good qualifier for obscurity.

On top of this, having less than 10,000 reviews from game journalists and players alike is a good indicator that a lot of people may have overlooked the game, regardless of how shining of a review it may have been given.

Finally, having a price range dozens of dollars below that of a AAA title, which typically sells for $30-60, is a strong indicator that either fewer people needed to be paid back for their long hours or else the content of the game could be considered smaller-scale than the overwhelming potential that AAA companies promise in their games.

This humility is appealing, in that you get the chance to enjoy something that was developed on little to no company's time constraint, without the pressure of investors for the product to be released, only intent to release what the studio truly believes is a finished game.

Here are ten marvelously obscure games for PC that deserve more recognition.

1. Human Resource Machine

Studio: Tomorrow Corporation

Price: $14.99

HRM, released in late 2015, is a top-down puzzle game that incrementally teaches players the basics of programmer logic; the player is provided with a series of commands and variables and is left to choose how to arrange them to the side. Made from the creators of 'Little Inferno', this game has a very cute aesthetic and a wry sense of humor as you climb the corporate tower.

Host to a little over 2,000 positive user reviews, HRM is certainly a cult favorite game among folks that may have an interest in programming, or else are simply looking to stimulate their mind.

Gameplay screenshot of HRM
Screenshot from Steam

This is a good game for anybody looking for an entry to logistical puzzles. The objective of "inputs" becoming "outputs" is satisfying to watch unfold, and is a premise explored in other games like 'Spacechem', 'Infinifactory', and 'Big Pharma'.

This game is lesser known due to its developers' aesthetics and game styles fitting a more niche crowd. There's a charm in that niche, with a cute character art style and simple user interfaces that suit me for a game about picking up computer logistics. 

2. Cultist Simulator

Studio: Weather Factory

Price: $19.99

A "cult classic" of sorts, this 2018 game carries an air of mysticism and occult. Faced with a simple tabletop, you arrange combinations of cards and tokens that represent clues, resources, and locations; your end goal is varied, whether you're simply trying to become a rich artisan, seek answers to unholy mysteries, or become a detective and crack cases.

There is a great deal of replayability for Cultist Simulator, as you will become familiar with the result of combining clues with special events, understanding your allies (and enemies), and unlocking secrets that will further your exploits down the line.

Gameplay image of CS
Screenshot from Steam

If you're a big fan of solving cryptic mysteries, organizing a deck and playing field, or simply are fascinated with anything occult, Cultist Simulator is a solid pick.

The game is less known due to their previous games like 'Sunless Sea' tackling a more specific niche. The developer is not known as well, and the premise of the game is beyond unique. As a result, this game ranks high in my favorite indie titles, if only for how confidently it lays out this cryptographic mystery for you to unravel.

3. Duskers

Studio: Misfits Attic

Price: $19.99

This thrilling sci-fi survival game came out in 2016 and has one of the most unique synergies of horror and survival. Not to mention, it has a fascinating aesthetic and control layout that suits the gameplay perfectly. That is, you are a drone operator in space, piloting robots to salvage derelict wrecks of anything of value.

A well-polished system weighs risk versus reward, where being greedy isn't always to your benefit; one wrong move, one faulty piece of equipment, one ship too many, and you could very well lose most of the salvage you've sought so strongly. 

Duskers gameplay image
Screenshot from Wired

The flicker of CRT monitors, command consoles and wireframe layouts of the ships you board give an immersive environment that will provide a terrifying experience. There's a sort of irony in how fear-inducing the derelict hulls can be when you need not set a foot in them yourself.

This style of game will appeal strongly to anybody fascinated with flickering sci-fi screens, and survival-centered progression that can be ripped away on higher difficulties. You can either play with regular controls or entering commands, depending on how immersed in the role of a drone pilot you wish to be.

I have personally always loved the aesthetic of retro-futuristic technology, as it has such a charm and antiquated style that borders on incredulous for space-fairing. This game glided under the radar due to how daunting its user interface and layout seemed, on top of little to no advertising being put forth for the game.

4. BPM: Bullets Per Minute 

Studio: Awe Interactive

Price: $19.99

For those fascinated with rhythm games, shoot 'em ups, or a combination of the two, Bullets Per Minute is a stellar roguelike that rewards players for good reflexes and rhythm.

Roguelikes are defined as any game that adopts any or all elements from the original game titled 'Rogue'; BPM adopts permanent death, procedurally generated levels, and dungeon crawling.

BPM gameplay
Screenshot from PC Invasion

The twist in this Norse-themed fantasy dungeon is combating enemies with lots of different guns, all of which must fire and reload to the beat. Fortunately, enemies are also bound to the rhythm, and as such, their attacks can be anticipated and avoided. The heavy metal soundtrack accompanying you on your quest will constantly evoke a sense of power, especially with your actions are synchronized.

Those familiar with games like Doom will feel right at home with these robust weapons, with a stat leveling system geared towards becoming a demon-killing machine. If any aspect of this game sounds appealing to you, it's definitely worth acting on.

I'm a huge fan of this game due to the replayability of every run, on top of the cool feeling that every move to the beat is done intentionally, like some sort of action hero. Fewer people paid mind to this game as it came out in the midst of COVID-19's spike, and was pushed to the side as simply another FPS, without thought given to how it hybridizes the genre.

5. Deathstate

Studio: Bread Machine Games

Price: $9.99 

The next game in this obscure lineup is by far one of the least known titles but is still a hidden treasure. In Deathstate, your adventure through dimensions and find cosmic horrors to combat, that you may find grander treasures the further in your travel.

This roguelike game is a top-down bullet-hell type—as the name implies, a lot of projectiles are constantly on the screen. Progressing further in this game will unlock additional items, new characters, and synergies that you will quickly familiarize yourself with to dominate the system.

Deathstate gameplay
Screenshot from Deathstategame.com

Despite only having 260 reviews, this game has a niche following, with superb pixel-sprite assets, tight controls, and lots of content to unlock over time. If you enjoy amassing power-ups and treasure and honing your reflexes, Deathstate is an excellent choice for an obscure indie title.

This game resonates with me due to the simple game-loop of moving, shooting, and looting. You're only truly meant to keep your eye on all the projectiles crossing the screen, and the game accounts for this by simplifying your controls and playstyles. Deathstate definitely was overlooked due to a lack of reviews and an oversight of the pixel graphics. Don't miss out on this cult classic!

6. Loop Hero

Studio: Four Quarters

Price: $14.99

Loop Hero was released just months ago, and immediately caught the attention of anybody with an appreciation for art and fantasy elements. This hybrid deckbuilding auto-game will astonish you with the complexity of its outcomes, despite a simple beginning.

The game itself is strategy-based, where you're expected to measure risk against reward with each successful "loop" of the area you're foraging. More enemies will spawn, becoming more difficult with each rotation, and you're expected to adapt accordingly to the cards, enemies, and loot thrown your way.

Screenshot from Steam

Those that can appreciate the effort it takes to make hand-crafted sprites of this depth and complexity will enjoy every minute that they see further progression in this roguelike classic. Replayability is simply part of the "loop" in the game-loop, and such is why I love coming back to this game month after month.

Over time, true mastery of the cards you're dealt, an understanding of how to layout your structures, and priorities for gear will help you feel you've truly mastered the flow of the world you're quickly immersed in. This bit-crunched aesthetic is refreshing in the face of games that come out burdened by expectations of high-resolution graphics. This game is under the radar, but only for so long; the studio has found their knack, and they're sure to follow it down the line.

7. Darkwood

Studio: Acid Wizard Studio

Price: $14.99

Next up is a creepier game in the survival-horror category, designed with the intent to keep you constantly on edge. This timeless piece prays on your fear of the dark, as well as the unknown entities lurking in it.

Each day you spend scavenging and exploring will be timed, as you strive to manage equipment, fortifications, and provisions. Once night rolls around, you're suddenly not as alone in this forest as you might wish: forced to barricade your ramshackle house, fending off the terrors that the dark brings, each night will induce thrill after thrill as you try to make your way out of this forest.

Screenshot from Steam

The appeal in this game lies with the creepy visuals and descriptions, the ever-present threat of the dark forest, and your vain struggle to survive in the midst of such terrors and miseries. Those that enjoy crafting and surviving games with a unique premise and art style will really love this game, as I do. The horror aesthetic, paired with its mild release resulted in Darkwood not being as well-known as it deserves.

8. Return of the Obra Dinn

Studio: Lucas Pope

Price: $19.99

This game boasts one of the strongest crime-solving premises to be seen in a game, with most requiring some linear story of progression in order to inevitably solve a case. However, the merit of this game is in the challenge of solving all of the deaths aboard the Obra Dinn.

With a distinct style of monochromatic, three-dimensional scenes, you'll find yourself delving into the history of everybody aboard the ghost ship, if only to figure out just how things could go so wrong. The gameplay consists of using your own logic, memory, and estimations in order to deduce the name, role, and cause of death for every crew member you encounter aboard the vessel.

Screenshot from Adventure Gamers

My personal record in this thrilling mystery is 15 murders solved of the 60 residents aboard. Only those that deduce the fate of every last crew member get to unravel the truth and find the true ending. Definitely a noteworthy challenge, and likely overlooked for graphics that could be considered outdated, despite how distinct and fitting the style is for such a premise. This game has a great learning curve and definitely deserves to be picked up by many more people.

9. Baba Is You

Studio: Hempuli Oy 

Price: $14.99

An adorably simple game that becomes dauntingly challenging over time, Baba Is You is a stellar puzzle game that has developed a niche community of players that make their own levels, some of which stretch the bounds of this logic-defying game.

The art style is cute as is, almost resembling childrens' doodles. You control a rabbit named 'Baba', and are tasked with reaching a flag to complete the level. Along the way, you'll have to push blocks containing words and conditionals in order to manipulate the physics and nature of objects in the level. 

For instance, pushing together "Rock Is Push" will allow Baba to push boulders around, while "Door is Open" would unlock any doors blocking your way. However, while every puzzle has a logical solution, one may have to think outside the box in order to come to a conclusion of combining these conditionals.

Screenshot by Polygon

The steep learning curve in this game is sure to stimulate your brain. This game will help you begin to think like a programmer, but no programmer should use the syntax logic that this game employs for solving its puzzles. Definitely, lesser known for how bizarre a concept the game is, but very deserving of its asking price, players will find themselves lost for hours in the delves of how strange the levels can get.

I particularly find appeal with the simple controls and art style, always a strong medium for newcomers to games, and can only speculate that the game remains of 'obscure' status due to little advertising budget. The humility of such a simple game premise, paired with such complex puzzles is truly incredible.

10. Death Road to Canada

Studio: Rocketcat

Price: $14.99

The final game in this list of obscure titles will sound a little more familiar in premise; a zombie-survival game where you travel empty roads, scavenge abandoned buildings and fight off the ever-encroaching hoard. However, this title tackles it in as 'arcade' a fashion as possible.

Managing your survivors' moods, appetites, and supplies is a big part of this game, as you attempt to cross the country and reach Canada. Along the way, you may pick up new survivors, strong equipment, and new skills that will make your travels easier.

Screenshot by Steam

The cutesy style of this zombie-arcade game is meant to have a lighter tone, with endless replays for when your survivors get overrun. It includes unlockable characters, talents, and items that may make your time easier and less unpredictable.

Death Road to Canada was definitely overlooked due to its resemblance to a mobile game, which it is very well suited for, paired with being late to the zombie fad that engrossed so many. Regardless, there is a lot of loving detail and care put into this game. I love all the little interactions and events you can come across in different runs, and how you'll come to endear your survivors before they're put through swarms of zombies.

Why Indie Studios' Games Deserve a Chance

These smaller-studio games are typically pushed to the side when a multi-million dollar IP rears its head, but that doesn't justify missing out on some superb games for PC; games that you may not have given a chance, were it not on the front page of Steam's store.

In addition to being hidden treasure-troves, these games save you a pretty penny and support these small-scale developers to continue making hand-crafted works.

Look out for any other independently developed games, as any one of them could be a hidden gem that is just as good, if not better, than the AAA games that take hundreds of workers and millions of dollars to complete.

Aspiring fantasy writer, with a knack for conceptualization and marketing. Always looking for an excuse to write down thoughts.

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