The Ascent and Returnal, considering the most underrated games of 2021

While these games won't necessarily win any awards, these underrated titles deserved far more attention than they got this year.


If we decided which games to buy based on sales, advertisement, and/or critical score, we would be doing the video game industry a disservice. Just because a game didn't get much recognition or was critically panned, this doesn't mean that it doesn't deserve our time and money. Sometimes, games slip under most people's radars for no reason other than critics not knowing how to appreciate the game or that the developers or publishers just didn't have the money to advertise it to a wider audience.

You have to give Housemarque credit - they didn't lower Returnal's difficulty despite constant pressure from players.

Regardless of why most of us might not have heard of a particular game, these games deserved so much more than they got when it was launched in 2021.

The Ascent

You could argue that most gamers missed on The Ascent because it wasn't available on the PS4 and the PS5.

Dungeon crawlers aren't a new genre, but what happens if you switch the setting and give it a cyberpunk look? Well, you get The Ascent. This top-down cyberpunk sci-fi shooter combines a solid soundtrack with experimental gameplay features topped off by some excellent voice acting. Although The Ascent was among those that Microsoft announced at E3 2021 that would launch on the Xbox Game Pass, it still didn't get much exposure.

Now that The Ascent is reportedly coming to the PS4 and PS5, there's no reason not to give this indie shooter a try.

Farming Simulator 22

If you've always wanted to know what it's like to be a farmer, playing Farming Simulator 22 is the next best thing.

After skipping 2020, Giants Software came back big in 2021 with Farming Simulator 22. The latest in the studio's long time of farming simulation games brought with it a slew of improvements. Everything from the physics to the vehicle sounds to what your surrounding sounds like, the manual gearbox, changing seasons, and the more detailed environment, all help combine to make this the best Farming Simulator game yet.

As a bonus, Giants Software added crossplay and voice chat to the multiplayer aspect of the game - not that you'd want someone else talking to you as you relax your days away by building your farm from the ground up.

Unpacking

Unpacking is a great way to unwind after a long day.

At first glance, Witch Beam's Unpacking feels like your regular puzzle game that would eventually feel repetitive and monotonous. You'll probably spend your first few minutes waiting for the game to bore you like a chore, but this will never happen. Instead, you'll end up finishing the game, finding out more about a game that tells a story by moving and unpacking, about the things that we take with us as we go on with our lives, and the things that we choose to leave behind.

If you're looking to relax after a hard day at work, Unpacking is a great way to declutter your mind.

Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection

Because of the changes included in the remake, players don't have to be a glutton for punishment to enjoy Ghosts' n Goblins Resurrection.

The original Ghosts N' Goblins and Ghouls N' Ghosts predates most gamers by at least a decade. Even older Millenials won't remember these brutal titles. But, those that do likely don't have good memories of the game, which might explain why the remaster, Ghosts 'N Goblins Resurrection didn't get much attention when it was released.

If you're unfortunate enough to remember the original titles, the good news is that the remake makes several changes to make the game less difficult. Mind you, it's still as challenging as ever, but you can change difficulty levels now. This way, if you're just curious to find out exactly how the game ends, you won't have to go back to the very start every time you get hit and die. Not to mention, the remake adds the "Magic" skill three that helps you clear through the hordes of the undead.

TLDR; Ghosts 'N Goblins Resurrection makes the original games more palatable and enjoyable for everybody.

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Curse of the Dead Gods

If you enjoyed games like Hades, you'll love Curse of the Dead Gods.

Curse of the Dead Gods isn't the most unique game. It takes a lot of inspiration from the likes of Hades and Dark Souls, drawing you in with its gorgeous and immersive dark atmosphere before slapping you with the harsh reality of how bad you are at video games with the combat system. The isometric action roguelite dungeon crawler is an amalgamation of some of the best games in its genre. Unfortunately, it lacks the replayability that makes you want to play the game over and over again even if you've already finished it.

Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth

You might not even bother remembering the name of this game, but we guarantee that you'll love it if you're a fan of Metroidvania titles.

Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth is a mouthful for a name. Luckily, the game itself is quite easy to digest. The Metroidvania title is one of the few modern titles that use classic pixel art and pulls it off quite well. If you're a fan of the anime adaptations and the manga, you'll appreciate what the developers did. Meanwhile, if this is your entry to the series, we wouldn't blame you if this pixelvania title made you watch the anime and read the manga.

Rain on Your Parade

Rain on Your Parade is proof that even adults can have tons of fun playing a children's game.

Rain on Your Parade is a short and fun game where you play a cloud and you ruin lives by raining on them. It might sound like a simple premise, and it is, but each new level adds a new mechanic while the entire game is a walking easter egg full of references to popular media like video games and movies, among others.

Rain on your Parade might feel like a children's game at times, but it's enjoyable enough for all ages.

Returnal

Returnal's "true" ending will have you up for days thinking about what it truly meant.

Returnal is one of the few PS5 exclusives on the market. Thus, PS5 owners might feel compelled to get it. But, because of its nightmarish difficulty, we understand why some didn't take the plunge when it was first released. However, if you're looking for a challenge, we definitely recommend checking out Returnal. Once you get used to the Returnal's frenetic pace, you can start digging deep into the cerebral campaign that has an ending that will make you question everything that you just went through throughout the game.

Wildermyth

Wildermyth isn't for everybody, but it's hard not to recommend it to those who love a good RPG.

What do you get when you take the epicness of a well-organized Dungeons and Dragons campaign but without all the organization then pair it with tactical, turn-based gameplay that reminds you of a more accessible version of Firaxis' X-COM titles?

Wildermyth lets you play various characters through connecting adventures that can span several centuries. The hero that you are playing right now will eventually retire, have kids and a family, and become legends. This creates branching narrative stories that combine with the game's numerous procedurally generated encounters. But, like every campaign, there are unsavory moments where you have to say goodbye to a beloved character or where the most minuscule deed could end up having drastic consequences.

If the COVID-19 pandemic has you missing all of those epic DnD campaigns that you used to have with your friends, give Wildermyth a try - you definitely won't regret it.

Ruined King: A League of Legends Story

Ruined King probably would have done a lot better if it weren't so buggy on several platforms at launch.

What exactly is a Riot Games title doing in a list of underrated games? Well, for starters, you probably never heard of it. For some reason, Riot Games didn't give it the same marketing push that it did its other titles, resulting in Ruined King: A League of Legends Story getting little love. It also probably didn't help the game's case that Ruined King suffered from several bugs at launch.

But, if your first exposure to League of Legends is Netflix's Arcane, Ruined King is a decent enough RPG that helps you learn more about League of Legends' expansive lore.

Ray Ampoloquio
Ray is a lifelong gamer with a nose for keeping up with the latest news in and out of the gaming industry. When he's not reading, writing, editing, and playing video games, he builds and repairs computers in his spare time. You can find Ray on Twitter.