The feeling of having played a surprisingly good game is priceless. But, in a time where most games are designed to make the most money and sequels make the most sense for companies, such surprises are few and far between. However, there have been quite a few surprises in the recent past that we will remember fondly for years to come. From games that delivered something fresh by shifting genres to games that were assumed to be passable that turned out to be amazing, the five games featured in this list have surprised us in one way or another. Let’s take a look.
Dropping out of nowhere, Apex legends invaded the Battle Royale scene early this year and have been on quite a roll since. Serving as one of the better BR games out there, rivalling the likes of full-priced games like Call of Duty and Battlefield in quality, this free to play game blends hero-based tactical shooting with squad-based gameplay, encouraging strong co-op strategy. The myriad of ‘quality of life’ features, like the ping system, that Apex had on day one also meant that this game was less about resource management and more about core survival within the length of the match.
With far superior gunplay and mobility than the likes of PUBG and Fortnite, Apex Legends carries the DNA of Titanfall, the universe in which the game takes place. The game has also kept things fresh for the most part by adding new heroes and a complete revamp of the map with its ongoing third season. As expressed by its developers, this game has a long roadmap. So, here’s hoping that Apex will stay just as awesome in the years to come.
Resident Evil VII
Sony’s 2016 E3 press conference will be remembered for a lot of things. And perhaps one of the reveals that made the show so good was that of Resident Evil VII. After the disappointment that was RE6, Capcom had to shake things up with the franchise. And shake things up it did. Gone was the action-centric third-person shooter with huge corporate propaganda for its story. RE VII was a new and important step for the series as it ventured into first-person horror territory. Secluding the events to a creepy mansion and a family of hostiles to defend yourself from, the game delivered the chills in spades.
The near photo-realistic visuals only elevated the cringe factor, and in the best way possible. Like God of War 2018 for its franchise, RE VII turned the tide of a dying series and breathed new life to it. A special mention also goes to the Resident Evil 2 remake, which was a bold and fresh take on a beloved classic, one that also turned out to be one of the best games in the series. However, the spot on this list goes RE VII solely for its role in revitalising the Resident Evil Brand.
Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey released to a relatively indifferent fanbase during a crowded holiday season. The game’s E3 showing earlier that year was not all that impressive and the whole demo felt like something out of a run of the mill, yearly iteration, albeit sticking to its rebooted structure. But things changed just a couple of hours into the game. By the time you are done with your missions is Kefalonia and head into the open seas with the title of the game appearing on the screen, you know that this is one very special game.
Following siblings Alexios and Kassandra, the story ranges from real-world issues like plagues and famine to the mythical to the downright hilarious. And it is this playful approach that acts as one of the strengths of the game. Throw in some RPG elements for good measure and a rather interesting skill tree full of abilities and perks to unlock and revamped combat, and you have a game that offers dozens of hours of gameplay while hardly ever feeling stale.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Developer Ninja Theory has always intrigued me, mostly because of how good they are at making amazing story-driven action games, but also partly due to the fact that they haven’t been able to succeed in a big way despite all that talent showcased in their games. Heavenly Sword, which was an early title for a struggling PS3, failed to find a large audience due to the PS3’s install base at the time. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West was overlooked at a time when multiplayer games were booming and were all the rage. So much so that every game had to have some sort of MP option added to it. DMC, despite being a stellar game, was not received well by the Devil May Cry fan base. All amazing games in their own right, but not very successful.
All of that changed with Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. Going independent, Ninja Theory made the best of what was available in terms of resources and focused all of their efforts on creating a solid and memorable experience within a shorter runtime. The amount of research done by the team on psychosis, which is a key theme in the game, shows their dedication towards authenticity in their creation. The end product looked nothing short of a big-budget AAA title, and the game as a whole was fantastic. All the accolades and awards the game has since won are all well deserved.
Platinum games are no stranger to making ridiculously awesome action games. But they truly outdid themselves with Nier: Automata. A brainchild of director Yoko Taro, the game bends the rules of game design in every way possible. From its unique approach to storytelling to its tendency to turn genre conventions on its head, Nier: Automata kept throwing surprises at every opportunity. An open-world RPG at heart, the game featured combat that is reminiscent of any Platinum Games title, only somehow better.
The thought-provoking story is just one of its many strengths, along with a fantastic score and a beautiful yet unsettling world. Considering Platinum’s track record, this game did garner some hype prior to release. But all expectations were blown away by the sheer weirdness and absurdity at play and I mean that in the best way possible. Nier: Automata was one hell of a thrill ride through and through. One that will still have you hooked right from the get-go. No wonder this game is considered a masterpiece by many.