With big-name titles joining Xbox Game Pass pretty much every single month, it’s all too easy for some of the smaller games to slip through the cracks. Here, we’ll shine a light on some low-key greats you should check out.
Most Xbox Game Pass members won’t realistically have time to try out every new game that joins the service, and the less time you have, the more likely you are to simply gravitate towards the bigger games and the known quantities. Tucked away between all the big names of the best games on Game Pass, though, are some genuinely fantastic little surprises, and we’ve got a few such treats to share with you today.
If you’re in the mood for something chill, look no further than Moonglow Bay. Only a few thousand players here on TA have started this fishing adventure, in which you return to your hometown to pick up the family business only to find the quaint little town in a bit of a state. By working the sea and cooking up some delightful dishes from the treasures you haul in, it’s up to you to breathe some life back into the place and get folks to remember how good life really can be in a beautiful place such as this. The cute and colourful blocky art style is neat, and Moonglow Bay is just a really nice change of pace — something you can dip into between other, more involved games to help take the edge off.
Play as a rookie angler, working together with friends, family, and neighbours to hone your fishing skills, nourish relationships, and restore a remote town’s fractured community.
‘Charm’ is the word of the day here — Beacon Pines has it in spades, and Charms are also the core mechanic that helps drive the story forward, altering events based on which you choose to use. This takes the form of filling in a blank space in a key sentence with one of your Charm words, each of which will branch the narrative in a different way. Since each path will hide even more Charms, you’re encouraged to try out different options then rewind the tale to use new Charms in previous gaps to open up even more possible routes. There’s not a lot more to the gameplay than that, in truth, but the great cast and intriguing narrative web carries it just just fine for its short run time. It’s a quick completion too, which just sweetens the deal and gives even more reason to try out this wonderful little game.
Beacon Pines is a cute and creepy adventure game. Sneak out late, make new friends, uncover hidden truths, and collect words that will change the course of fate!
Fuga: Melodies of Steel
As a prequel to PS1 hidden gem Tail Concerto and DS hidden gem Solatorobo: Red the Hunter, Fuga: Melodies of Steel kinda had to make it onto a Game Pass hidden gems list, right? Like CyberConnect2’s other Little Tail Bronx games, it stars a bunch of cute anthropomorphic creatures doing the unexpected, in this case a group of children riding their gigantic tank across a war-torn wasteland on a mission to rescue their families. Some of them might not make it, though, since the tank’s ultimate weapon — the ominiously named Soul Cannon — offers immense destructive power, but at a steep cost of one of the crew. It plays out as a tactics RPG primarily, but there’s all sorts of other stuff like working on team bonds and going out on dungeoneering adventures to keep you busy when you’re not in battle, too. As announced at the 2022 Tokyo Games Show, there’s a sequel on the way next year, though we’ll have to wait and see whether than might end up coming to Game Pass as well…
Fuga: Melodies of Steel
“We have to fight! If we don’t, everyone we love will be taken away!”
One fateful night, a peaceful village is thrown into the flames of war. Determined to save their families, a group of children boards a giant tank and begins an offensive charge!
Fuga: Melodies of Steel is an RPG where you place children, each with their own unique characteristics and skills, at different gun turrets in a tank to fight against the enemy.
Living inside the tank, the children show emotion and gain affinity amongst each other. Manage these both to change the outcome of their journey!
Zero Escape: The Nonary Games
The Danganronpa games have been doing pretty well for themselves on Game Pass, and if you enjoy the madness of class trials and murder mysteries, the Zero Escape series shares some visual novel-style narrative elements, while trading courtroom crime-solving for life-or-death escape rooms. Zero Escape: The Nonary Games is a remastered double-pack of the first two games in the series — Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward — which makes it a great starting point for newcomers, especially since like Danganronpa, there’s some continuity to the story between games that makes playing them all in order the ideal way to enjoy the franchise. It’s not quite as over-the-top as Danganronpa but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Zero Escape: The Nonary Games only has just over 3,000 players on TA but that 4.17/5 user score shows that those who have been playing have liked it quite a lot, and maybe you could be next to join them.
Zero Escape: The Nonary Games
Kidnapped and taken to an unfamiliar location, nine people find themselves forced to participate in a diabolical Nonary Game by an enigmatic mastermind called Zero. Why were they there? Why were they chosen to put their lives on the line? And more importantly, who can be trusted?
Tactical strategy games can often be quite overwhelming, but Floppy Knights is anything but. A deck-building backbone lets you deploy new units and power up or heal existing ones each turn based on the cards you draw, which removes a lot of the pressure of keeping key units alive you see in similar strategy games like Wargroove or the classic Famicom/Advance Wars series. It keeps things pretty simple for the most part, though you’ll still want to put a little time into fleshing out your deck to be able to deal with all manner of threats. Colourful, cheery, and thoroughly entertaining, Floppy Knights is a delight of a game, and mixes deck-building and tactics really well without baffling newcomers with the common complexities of either, though that does mean that veterans of either genre (or indeed both) may find it a little on the basic side.
Meet the Floppy Knights: tangible projections summoned from floppy disks! Tactics fuse with card game mechanics as Phoebe and Carlton, a brilliant young inventor & her robot-arm bestie, square off in turn-based battles. Select your Knights, hone your deck, and execute your strategy for victory!
The bizarre and beautiful Paradise Killer only joined Xbox Game Pass back in March, but it’s still quite unusual to see the TA player base barely scrape past the 2,000 mark — almost unheard of for a Game Pass inclusion, even one this odd. Paradise Killer is a stylish detective game that goes above and beyond what this kind of murder-mystery gameplay often entails to actually feel like you’re solving a case, not just putting video game puzzle pieces together. With a killer art style and sublime soundtrack backing it up, it’s the complete package and absolutely deserves to be played and enjoyed by more people, especially around these parts as those Paradise Killer achievements shouldn’t prove too taxing, with an estimate of 12-15 hours for the full completion. There’s nothing else quite like in on Game Pass — or perhaps even on Xbox — so check it out if it looks like your kind of crazy.
Paradise Island, a world outside reality. There’s been a murder that only “investigation freak” Lady Love Dies can solve. You can accuse anyone, but you’ll have to prove your case in trial to convict. It’s up to you to decide who’s guilty.
I’m a sucker for a good time loop, so Kraken Academy hooked me from the moment it revealed its core mechanic — a three-day time limit before your new school succumbs to a great calamity, but with a magical relic that lets you relive those 72 hours over and over until you can find a way to put things right. Majora’s Mask fans will likely find that setup to be rather familiar, and just like the N64 classic (and more recently, the shorter loop of Twelve Minutes), Kraken Academy is all about gaining knowledge and experience on each loop that will help you glean more from the next. With a weird and wonderful cast, some fantastic dialogue, and a crazy plot that only gets weirder the closer you get to breaking the loop, this is a crazy little game that you really shouldn’t sleep on — the Kraken Academy achievements are pretty simple too, especially if you fall back on a guide to help you.
Make friends, free spirits and make sure that the world doesn’t end! Welcome to Kraken Academy, a technicolor fever dream that for legal reasons can only be described as “technically a school.” Join forces with a magical kraken to save the world!
What, you didn’t think we’d make it through the entire list without a Metroidvania-style game, did you? No chance. Infernax is a fantastic homage to the 8-bit classics in terms of gameplay and presentation, with all that retro love crammed into a familiar, more modern-feeling structure as seen in so many other great indie games. It channels the early Castlevania games brilliantly while also celebrating the vintage era itself with things like an in-game cheat code device called the Game Wizard to make yourself stupidly overpowered, secrets unlocked through certain character names, and it even uses the Konami code. Infernax can certainly put up a fight, too, but in a good way — not like some of the brutally unfair games to which it is a beautifully-penned love letter, let’s put it that way.
Infernax is the adventures of a great knight who returns to his homeland only to find it plagued with unholy magic. Uncover the mysteries of the curse and face the consequences of your actions.
Planning on giving any of these a try? Got any Xbox Game Pass hidden gems of your own to suggest? Let us know!