Beyond the Mainstream: Niche Gems That Have Stood The Test of Time

The world of video games is a massive, ever-expanding universe. Although the mainstream games dominate the headlines, with big budgets and quality graphics, open worlds and large budgets, fully fleshed out stories and big marketing budgets.

But the real fun can be found in the world of obscure, niche games, titles made for different players and genres. These are the computer, console and mobile games that have not become lost to history and that live on as examples of creative genius, of specificity breaking through and actually doing well. Let’s explore some niche gems in more detail.

Online Games

Although the genre of online casinos may not be considered niche in terms of popularity, the games featured within this category tend to be used by a niche player base. An example of this would be online blackjack, poker and roulette. Customarily, these games tend to require strategy, and have elements of chance and social interaction and, although some forms of online casino games offer you a chance to win real money, the online casino scene has helped to modernise or revitalise these games for those who enjoy them. Blackjack is hundreds of years old, and has been through an evolution from tables in casinos around Europe through to crypto and online blackjack as we see today.

The player can now access these games in the comfort of his or her home, with the added benefit of live dealer games – still offered with other casino games online – letting the players communicate with real dealers at a virtual table. Hence, it gives the player the feeling of being at a regular casino but at home. Moreover, many casino games, both for land-based and online casinos, tend to have unique variants and side bets, which differ from the traditional games of the genre.

The Settlers

Released for PC in 1993, The Settlers established real-time economics for city-building, rather than the more common warlike territorial conquest of other strategy games. In The Settlers, players built and managed an entire functioning economy from the ground up.

They created elaborate production chains, distributed resources, and ensured the populace was happy. This refreshingly non-violent take on strategy soon became a cult hit and has spawned 14 sequels and remakes to date. Its charming visuals, simple but brilliantly realised gameplay, and a penchant for forcing players into ‘just one more game’ addiction have made it a hit.


Few things in the history of video gaming have as broad universal appeal as Tetris. Perhaps the ultimate deceptively simple puzzle game, Tetris has been popular since its public debut way back in 1984, and, three decades later, it still remains hugely popular with new versions of the game like Tetris Effect also gaining a lot of popularity.

The game’s minimalist graphics and its addictive ‘Tetris effect’ have made it a timeless classic. Like an unchanging, beautiful melody, your Tetris experience – or at least the core row-building part of it – transcends language and culture, creating an utterly universal joy.

Kerbal Space Program

Kerbal Space Program (KSP) is not your typical space simulation. You can’t step elegantly into the pit of a beautifully engineered spaceship and smoothly pilot it through artistically rendered alien landscapes. Instead, KSP is full of Laughing Gas, where your Kerbal Space Agency—a team of overweight green aliens—continually bursts little white clouds as they awkwardly fumble around, trying to land on Lake Kerman.

Its physics are complex, making good use of the laws of orbital mechanics as well as the intricate details of spacecraft construction, meaning that it’s easy to fail. But when you succeed, it’s extremely satisfying.

Darkest Dungeon

It’s a turn-based RPG like no other: as your idle hands guide you to the Darkest Dungeon, you inherit an ancestral estate in decline, hire a squad of scoundrels, and venture into the subterranean to challenge crazed creatures.

Darkest Dungeon is brutally difficult, with a slow, corpselike combat system and a crackling class-based overworld. But Darkest Dungeon isn’t really about the monsters – it’s about the stress. As your heroes venture deeper into the abyssal dungeon, they succumb to fear, they lose hope, and they become terrified of their own sanity. The Darkest Dungeon is all about how you deal with stress – it’s the perfect amount of frustration.

Planescape: Torment

Planescape: Torment is the forgotten gem of late ’90s isometric computer role-playing games, released in 1999 during the twilight of the genre’s classic era. Set in Planescape, the game leads you down the tale of the immortal Nameless One, who has lost his memory and lives numerous lives as he works to put it back together.

It’s best known for phenomenal writing, memorable (and endearing) characters, as well as its focus on darkly comedic philosophical themes and ideas. The game had no time at all for just combat; you weren’t there to kill monsters because, if you did, you’d miss all the dialogue. So you explored the setting and its bizarre locales and characters through various converse means. Planescape’s usually fairy-tale setting, its great characters and its enduring love letter to literature can still be felt by RPG fans today.



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