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Hidden Gems on the Xbox Game Pass for PC

Xbox Game Pass for PC, which I shall refer to as “PC Game Pass” for the remainder of this article, is a sweet deal – the sweetness of which is explained in finer detail over here.  Great games of pretty much every genre are available on PC Game Pass, and while there is quite a bit of filler in there, hidden gems also lie in wait for you to stumble upon them.

Today, I’m going to shine a light on a few of the under-played and under-praised titles available on PC Game Pass that I (and many others) have fallen in love with over the years.  My hope is that this leads to more demand for these sort of games on PC Game Pass, and that more gamers have an opportunity to appreciate some of the more obscure titles out there just itching to be played. 

Bear in mind that games are occasionally removed from PC Game Pass as contracts expire, and may no longer be available at the time you’re reading this – but they will surely be available for purchase elsewhere if you’re interested.

 

Downwell

 

It’s a tale as old as time itself:  Boy meets well.  Boy falls down well.  Well turns out to be a nigh-bottomless descent full of assorted creatures, obstacles and shopkeepers.

This seemingly-simple little platformer is absurdly addictive, and a handful of meaningful loadout options are easily unlocked as you experiment – giving it a classic “one more run” dynamic that is hard to deny.  So don’t.  It’s like, the size of a few JPEGS.  Download it.

 

Neon Abyss

 

This is another game that has a rather simple (yet eponymously colorful) appearance and easy-to-grasp mechanics.  How much you appreciate Neon Abyss will likely hinge on your appreciation of roguish (that’s what I call ‘em, fite me) titles such as Binding of Isaac or Enter the Gungeon.

Like the aforementioned roguesques (come at me), Neon Abyss has a wall of unlockable weapons and power-ups as well as unique mechanics such as egg familiars that, if protected long enough, hatch into pets that are always adorable and usually frustrating.  Actually, maybe avoid picking up the eggs.

 

Slay the Spire

 

Although this is one of my personal all-time favorite games, I remember being massively turned-off by the aesthetics at first glance.  Now that I think about it, the mechanics and features didn’t seem especially interesting either.

I vividly remember buying this game on the insistence of a friend that if I didn’t like it, he’d pay for it.  6 hours later, I apologized for ever doubting him.  800 hours later, I still boot it up for a few runs while I’m listening to podcasts.

 

Thumper

 

If you’re anything like me, there’s a gaping hole in your heart where Rock Band used to live.  Thumper briefly filled that hole by reminding me that there are good people in the world doing good things every day.  Some of those good people are making games that star a metallic beetle (that I’m pretty sure they stole from a Journey album cover) sliding down a winding track that requires players to hop, flitter and of course thump to the beat in order to kill a fever-dream murder machine made of Pickle Rick and Pinhead and…

I’m overselling it.  It’s cool though.  Try it.  BTW I don’t know for sure that this game was made by good people.  They could be awful, for all I know.

 

Undermine

 

Much like Neon Abyss, Undermine has a thick vein of Binding of Isaac running through it’s shafts.  Unlike Neon Abyss, the pets in this game are unlockables that contribute massively to your character’s loadout.  As do many of the unlockables and permanent upgrades; it’s fair to say that Undermine actually manages to do something other rogueys (😏) aspire but usually fail to do – encourage experimentation.

I spent so much time playing Undermine during Covid-related downtime that I’m considering sending the dev team Christmas cards.  You might not dig it as hard as I did, but you’ll definitely dig it.

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