12 Xbox Game Pass hidden gems that you should play
It's no secret that Xbox Game Pass is one of the best deals in gaming, and with so many games added every month, there will inevitably be some that fall through the cracks. The sheer amount of choice on offer can be overwhelming, and it's easy to rely on games you're familiar with, resulting in some excellent additions not getting the love they deserve. If you're new to Game Pass or are simply looking for something great to get stuck into, we've rounded up some Xbox Game Pass hidden gems that you may not have played.
Talkin' bout my generation
Inspired by the likes of Stranger Things but set in the increasingly nostalgic decade of the '90s, Echo Generation is a charming turn-based RPG with light horror vibes and tons of references. Progression largely hinges on seeking out items for different NPCs with your team while fighting various bosses and other enemy types, from killer robots to overly aggressive racoons. The gorgeous voxel art style helps hold the attention, while the unique combat links timing-based minigames to attack power, meaning that the player improves alongside the characters. If you want a hit of nostalgia or simply enjoy light-hearted turn based RPGs, this is for you.
My Friend Pedro is a chaotic and engaging shoot 'em up, blending excellent level design with immensely satisfying gun-based combat. Gameplay is frantic and full of ridiculous mechanics, such as the ability to reflect bullets with frying pans, and gracefully spin to avoid fire. The craziness doesn't end there, as your unnamed character is mowing down enemies at the request of Pedro, a sentient banana. The wackiness only adds to the charm though, and the ability to slow time and gain style points for more impressively choreographed kills makes this one of the most addictive games on this list.
Just keep swimming
A short but moving tale published by Annapurna Interactive, A Memoir Blue is a recent addition to Game Pass, but one that certainly leaves an impression. The game describes itself as an interactive poem, and follows a swimming champion reflecting on her life and relationship with her mother. Gameplay involves interacting with various items and parts of scenery as the protagonist ventures through abstract and metaphorical scenarios, piecing together her memories. While gameplay is simple, each item is beautifully animated, and the short runtime of just over an hour means it is easily accessible for any Game Pass user.
Braving the cold
A difficult game but one that is satisfying to overcome, Frostpunk is a city-building management game, set in the midst of a crippling ice age. You serve as the leader of the last remaining civilization, tasked with keeping people alive through resource management and the ability to adapt. Keeping warm is a huge factor to success, a unique aspect of the game that differentiates it from others of its type. The city is built around a great furnace sustained by coal mined from the surrounding area, while different laws can provide thought provoking dilemmas as you decide between productivity and morality. The multiple game modes and scenarios extend the life of the game beyond the story mode, giving you plenty of content.
The Pedestrian is a side scroller with a very creative twist. The game consists of a series of puzzles, with each taking the shape of a road sign or map. Assuming control of a 2D figure usually seen on toilet doors, the player navigates these puzzles, walking between them as if they are one continuous 2D environment. The contrast between the signs and the 3D city around them is brilliantly done, with the world feeling alive around you as you complete each well-crafted puzzle. This is an incredibly unique game that is well worth experiencing.
Dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge
With memorable characters, a robust combat system and a colorful setting, Dodgeball Academia is an RPG bursting with personality. While many games of this genre contain similar fantasy tropes, Dodgeball Academia blends attending classes and navigating the pitfalls of school life with dodgeball combat that is deeper than it first appears. With lots of charming party members and a solid story, Dodgeball Academia is a perfect game to play in between some bigger hitters in your library.
Posting videos isn't rocket science
Part rocket building sim and part influencer sim, Next Space Rebels works surprisingly well despite its strange blend of genres. You play as a rocket enthusiast attempting to emulate their heroes on the game's fictional version of YouTube, StarTube. Working your way up from using basic equipment such as bottles, you upload videos of your rocket launches to StarTube, interact with fans, and gain followers and buzz as you improve. The result of this is a strong sense of progression and achievement, while the rocket building and experimentation is easy to pick up and understand. A true hidden gem.
Fish and flips
Loosely connected to the excellent I Am Bread, I Am Fish is a bizarre but enjoyable game in which the player controls four fish as they attempt to escape human capture and journey to the sea. Attempting to control these fish is very difficult, adding a sense of challenge, while special abilities add variety to the gameplay, from flight to the strong bite of a piranha. A strong sense of humor is also prevalent throughout, while superb level design keeps you invested. I Am Fish is a hilarious and engaging experience, and a solid choice.
A fiery plot
With an intriguing mystery that deepens as you progress through the story, Firewatch follows protagonist Harry, as he starts his new job as a fire lookout. Throughout the game, players explore the forest where Harry is based, finding more clues, and communicating with supervisor Delilah. The strong voice acting complements the well-paced writing, with dialogue choices during these walkie talkie communications giving the player some agency over their relationship with Delilah. With a fantastic art style also adding a huge amount to the experience, Firewatch is a game not to be missed.
Marooned with a harpoon
2D pixelated side-scrollers are everywhere nowadays, but Olija is certainly one of the best. One reason for this is the magical harpoon that protagonist Faraday wields throughout the game, acting as an extremely satisfying traversal tool during platforming sections as well as a weapon. Combat is excellent, with players able to deploy multiple options when facing enemies, as Faraday attempts to find his way home after being stranded following a shipwreck. Olija is an enjoyable experience, and one that any Game Pass member should seek out.
One of the harder games on this list to explain, Genesis Noir is a profound and visually stunning experience with point-and-click elements and a story that spans the universe. The jazz-infused game focuses on time traveler No-Man, as he ventures through space to try to prevent his love Miss Mass from being murdered. The creation of the universe is a key undercurrent throughout the experience, told through a film-noir lens and an appealing black and white visual style. This is one game that any explanation won't do justice however, and one that you must play.
Fishing with style
Set in 1980s Canada, Moonglow Bay is a charming fishing RPG with a ton of well-designed quests and mechanics to keep you invested. Alongside over 100 species of fish to catch and gather information about, players can improve their cooking skills, upgrade their boat and complete side quests for the locals. Rumors of sea monsters give you a worthwhile challenge to work towards, and a colorful art style completes the package. Moonglow Bay is a great option if you're looking for a wholesome, relaxing RPG.
A new discovery
With such a constant flow of top-quality games appearing on Xbox Game Pass, it's easy to miss these hidden gems. Many of them offer excellent experiences that have flown under the radar, and are well worth seeking out. One extremely recommendable game on this list is Echo Generation. Its blend of nostalgia and an engaging twist on turn-based combat results in an enjoyable experience, alongside the varied enemy types and gorgeous art style.
If you're looking for an incredibly smart and unique game, The Pedestrian might be for you. The puzzles and stunning visuals perfectly complement the well-executed concept, and moving your 2D character through each sign presents its own reward, as you never know what type of scenario you'll find yourself in next.
Next Space Rebels is a game that may surprise those unsure of how two very different genres will work together. Experimenting with rockets is a joy, with parts being acquired from various sources, including members of the public, as you increase in fame. Seeing the viewer count rise during a successful launch is addictive, and the ease at which you can get to grips with the game's mechanics means it is a great choice to dip in and out of, alongside other Xbox Game Pass games you might be playing.
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