Hidden Gems of Game Design Volume 23

Unearthing the good stuff

Hidden Gems of Game Design Volume 23

There are plenty of amazing games that go unnoticed and are not played widely, for one reason or another. Maybe it's a diamond in the rough, or the marketing wasn't there, or it could be a game ahead of its time. For this monthly series, I've asked my fellow writers on SUPERJUMP to pick a game they think is deserving of a chance in the spotlight. Let us know your favorite hidden gems in the comments.

Josh Bycer

Warriors of the Nile 2 (2022)

Source: Steam.

It’s no surprise at this point that I like roguelike design, and in my book, one of the most underappreciated takes on it is the strategy RPG Warriors of the Nile, with the series' second entry being released in 2023.

Warriors of the Nile mixes tactical strategy with a dose of deckbuilding to produce a challenging take on rogue-lite design. You’ll build a team of three from different characters who each have several variants that change how they play. You are required to pick a full party of a warrior, range, and spellcaster type, but the differences are huge between each version. One warrior is your berserker who gains damage as he takes damage and wants to get hit, while another gains and uses armor in various ways to punish anything that hits him or his teammates.

Each fight requires you to clear the field of a group of enemies whose tactics and numbers change as you go through the biomes. While it seems easy at the start, you will eventually be outnumbered 12 to 3 and will have to play smart to succeed. Playing smart will require you to build up each character to their most game-breaking forms using a mix of gear and cards you earn after each fight. The cards vary in terms of rarity and utility and the right one can completely change how a character behaves. For the shielded warrior, it can give them the ability to reflect damage, gain automatic armor, and they will eventually become too tanky to die.

Source: Steam.

While many people love Balatro for how crazy runs can get, Warriors of the Nile 2 gets that way but is not as easily understood. Those massive battles I mentioned? With the right cards and gear, one party member can easily fight the entire enemy army by themselves with the other two providing backup. 

The game features a lot of replayability in the form of upgrading your city which is the meta progression – unlocking new characters and shops, and raising base attributes. Each class and variant has its own passive tree, and there are rewards for playing the game at higher difficulty levels as well.

Personally, I think the game suffers from not having any kind of IP awareness around it, as it features some of the best rogue-lite gameplay in recent years. If you have any interest in SRPG or rogue-lite design, then definitely check this one out. With the series, the sequel is head over heels better than the first and is the iterative form of the concept.

Antony Terence

Speedrunners (2013)

Source: Steam.

Over a decade ago, developer DoubleDutch Games delivered its take on competitive multiplayer in a platformer, complete with powerups and environments tailored for last-minute upsets and comebacks. The result was Speedrunners, a delightful co-op platformer royale that took over a good part of my college days. With support for four controllers, testing my friendships was now a few button presses away. 

Speedrunners is built around a camera that follows the fastest player across a level, eliminating those who fall offscreen. Once a player is out, the screen starts shrinking with a countdown, making it even more challenging. With various environmental hazards and props to contend with, maintaining a lead isn't easy. Hitting your max speed leaves boost trails behind you but they'll fade if you aren't careful. With gizmos like grappling hooks, missiles, and mines scattered about, your rivals can toss you into oblivion at any moment if the map doesn't get you first. 

Speed is the goal here and every aspect of the game is designed to either push you forward or send you home. Customizable boost trails, props that can end your run, and the lobbing of powerups contribute to one hell of a chase. This makes every run a tense affair, culminating in satisfaction or disappointment depending on who wins. While most runs don’t last very long across cyclic levels, one elimination is all it takes for the screen to start shrinking.

Latching to the lead player with a grappling hook to toss them behind you is a spectacle best enjoyed with cheering onlookers at a busy cafe. Watching a player make a silly mistake for you to pull ahead is just as thrilling. It's a great party game whose ‘rise to the top’ competitive design is simple enough for casual play. 

Source: Steam.

Pair its solidly unique powerups with a level editor and you've got a battle royale-like platformer with near-endless replayability. There's a story mode too but multiplayer is where Speedrunners’ heart and upbeat music really shine. It's definitely worth trying with friends on a Friday night.

Thanks for reading, come back next month for another entry and more great hidden gems to check out! You'll find all previous Hidden Gems stories here.


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