Over the last few years, Sony’s Instant Game Collection has been a veritable treasure trove of freebies for any gamer who’s gone all-in on team PlayStation, with the PlayStation Plus subscription offering six games a month anyone who owns the PS4, PS3 and PS Vita. Combine this with the slew of fantastic new releases flooding shelves and the most difficult thing about being a gamer has been finding time to play them all!
However, with the monthly offerings for PS3 and Vita being removed in March 2019, leaving only two PS4 games a month, we thought it would be a great time to list some of the amazing, but easily overlooked games that may be sitting in your download library just begging to be enjoyed.
Please note: This list focuses on hidden gems and will therefore ignore offerings from most popular AAA franchises such as Metal Gear Solid, Bioshock and Call of Duty.
11. RiME (2017)
A short but beautiful, sombre offering from Sony’s Instant Games Collection, RiME follows the story of a young boy who washed up on a mysterious island, who then needs to explore his surroundings and solve puzzles to learn more about his situation.
This dialogue-free game can easily be completed inside eight hours, but the visually jarring, contrasting settings and memorable moments lead to this brief experience being one that will remain in your mind for long after.
10. Hue (2016)
It’s easy to get fatigued by the number of massive open-world 100+ hour epics that take up so much of our gaming time, but if you’re looking for something unique and different to break things up a little, then Hue is the perfect palette cleanser.
The game focuses on a young boy in a grey world who has to solve a series of increasingly difficult puzzles by changing the game’s background to various new colours he discovers by progressing through the game.
The relaxed 2D puzzle side-scrolling can be a welcome relief for anyone suffering from AAA overload and perfect for anyone looking for something a little different.
9. Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition (2014)
In the last decade, fans of old school Metroidvania games have found themselves spoiled for choice due to a number of independent developers who have breathed new life into the genre. Among the options available, Guacamelee stands among the best.
The story of a luchador seeking to save his kidnapped paramour from an evil skeleton is a reflection of the off-the-wall, manic nature of this game.
This definitive souped-up version of the action platformer includes the main game and its follow up DLC along with additional levels and bosses rolled into one hard-hitting package on PS4.
8. Furi (2016)
An entry for the masochists among you, Furi is a game that takes the popular trend of making games especially difficult and places it a vibrant, dynamic setting.
The gameplay contains no levels in the traditional sense, but consists instead of ten grueling boss fights which combine rapid swordplay and bullet hell segments. Unlike some other games renowned for their difficulty, the combat is crisp and fluid, so any deaths are down to the player’s need to learn their enemy’s attack patterns and improve rather than due the game being ‘cheap’.
Furi offers a challenging and satisfying experience for those looking to test themselves, and for those who are able to make it through to this game’s finale – you have our respect.
7. Puppeteer (2013)
Unfortunately, Puppeteer is the only game on this list that is available only on PS3 and therefore isn’t as widely available as the other entries, however any list of ‘hidden gems in gaming’ would not be complete without mentioning one of the finest platformers to ever grace a Sony console.
Puppeteer is a game like no other. Presented as a puppet show performance, this game follows a young boy named Kutaro who has been captured and turned into a puppet by the villanous Moon Bear King and his quest to defeat his captor and return to normal life.
The platforming is a joy to play through and small touches like the audiences’ reactions to dialogue and the ham actor desperate for more stage time are indicators of just how much care and detail went into making this not just a platform game with a gimmick, but a carefully crafted, fleshed out passion project for its developers.
6. Velocity 2X (2014)
Available for both PS4 and PS Vita, this game lends itself especially well to players on the go. A mix of space shooting and 2D platforming against the clock, Velocity 2X offers rapid action in small bursts that makes it right at home on the Vita.
Futurlab‘s critical darling is reminiscent of the original Sonic the Hedgehog games, with an emphasis on speed and lightning quick reactions to reach the highest scores and get the most out of the game. Small, simple, dynamic and above all else, fun – we highly recommend picking this one out of your library and diving in head first.
5. Mafia III (2016)
You may be wondering ‘How is a critically panned AAA title like Mafia III possibly considered a hidden gem?’.
The answer is that by the time this game was made available to Playstation Plus subscribers in August 2018, it had received numerous patches correcting many of the technical issues that plagued this game at release and added additional content to Mafia III’s solid foundation, leaving a content-packed open-world mammoth that most gamers passed over due to its initial critical mauling.
Set in the city of New Bordeaux in 1968, Mafia III is an excellently presented story in a unique setting with a stellar soundtrack of 1960s hits that will make you want to spend hours cruising around the vibrant locale, exploring all this game now has to offer.
Although it still has flaws that keep it from standing on the same level as the titans of the genre, this game still offers a rich, one-of-a-kind world that is well worth your time.
4. Dust: An Elysian Tail (2014)
If there’s a game that’s worth playing for its art style alone, then this is it.
Dust: An Elysian Tail is an exciting 2D side-scrolling action RPG created by Humble Hearts with a gorgeous animated design that looks like a cross between anime and a classic Disney movie. This style works together with the game’s unique fantasy setting and fast-paced combat to create a game that exudes magic from start to finish.
3. Yakuza Kiwami (2017)
Although SEGA‘s Yakuza series is a cult juggernaut with an army of devoted fans who will gladly sing its praises from the rooftops, a look at Yakuza Kiwami’s trophy list shows that only a mere 42.7% of players who have tried this game have even made it past Chapter 1, which tells us that this game does not get the attention it deserves.
In fairness, it’s easy to understand why so many players would be put off this game so early. The game’s opening chapter does little to showcase the game’s frenetic fighting system, but instead greets players with lengthy Japanese language cutscenes and gameplay that largely surrounds protagonist Kazuma Kiryu visiting local shops to buy a birthday present for his love interest.
Those who give the game a chance past the opening hour or so are treated with a plethora of delights including Chapter 3: Funeral of Fists – a bonkers brawlathon that sees Kiryu fight his way out of a yakuza funeral and Chapter 4 in which the game’s city opens up and many of the mini-games and side-quests that make this game so beloved become available…
…And therein lies the beauty of Yakuza Kiwami – the game can be as serious or as silly as you want it to be; whether you want to focus on the story of violence, greed and betrayal at its centre, or you want to be the toy car racing, drunkard punching, karaoke king of Tokyo (or any combination of the two), it’s all up to you.
2. inFAMOUS: First Light (2014)
Whereas inFAMOUS: Second Son was one of the cornerstones of PS4’s early lineup, this standalone expansion is, by its own merits, a frantic and fun sandbox that is undoubtedly worthy of your attention.
Set as a prequel to Second Son, this game covers the backstory of Abigail ‘Fetch’ Walker and allows players to tear through the streets of Seattle using Fetch’s breath-taking neon powers. Despite being a fairly short story, this game boasts a simple but satisfying combat system, dazzling visuals, collectibles and challenge levels that provide hours of enjoyment.
1. Life is Strange (2015)
Life is Strange is a somewhat divisive game, with some people put off by its quirky nature and comic art style, but if you ask anyone who embraced the game and saw it through to its end, they’ll likely tell you that this is one of the most compelling and emotionally engrossing stories in gaming.
Dontnod Entertainment‘s hybrid time-bending sci-fi/teen drama is a game that hits the mark in every aspect and sets the bar sky-high for every other episodic, story-driven adventure. The dialogue and characterisation is so well executed that you’ll soon find yourself empathising with Max Caulfield to the point where every slight against Max feels like a personal insult and dwelling on the decisions you’ve made on her behalf long after putting the controller down.
In addition, the artistically crafted soundtrack of indie music compliments the setting and the characters perfectly, with each song masterfully placed to add an additional layer of depth to its scene.
Once you experience how these elements combine to form an experience greater than the sum of its parts, you’ll understand why this multi award-winning game is held so dear by its fans and is an absolute must-play in the Instant Game Collection’s expansive back catalogue.
Friendly note: If you do enjoy Life is Strange, you should definitely pick up its prequel Life is Strange: Before The Storm (2017) if you see it on sale: You won’t be disappointed.
Do you agree with our picks? Did we overlook any personal favourites? Share your thoughts in the comments section and let us know some of your favourite hidden gems that deserve more attention.