Ever heard of Hollow Knight? Stardew Valley? TABS? No? I didn’t think so. Not very many people have (at least at Sequoyah), which is a shame. These games are amazing! I’ll go so far as to call Hollow Knight a masterpiece. As a member of Sequoyah’s Gaming Club, I’ve mentioned some of these games multiple times, and no one knows what I’m talking about. To rectify that, I wanted to showcase some amazing games that get almost no attention. Now, you of course don’t have to play all of these games. Maybe you enjoy the mayhem and goofiness of Totally Accurate Battle Simulator, or the rigorous challenge and deep lore of Hollow Knight–or maybe you just want to relax and harvest parsnips and pumpkins in Stardew Valley. You play what you want to play how you want to play.
While Hollow Knight is probably the best out of all of these, they are all great games. I have logged well over a hundred hours on the ones that are currently out.
A “Brief” Overview (Story)
I won’t spoil anything major, since that would pretty much defeat the purpose of this article — that being introducing you to smaller and less mainstream games so you can experience them for yourself.
**Seriously, don’t ask
***I really hope you don’t
As you might imagine, Totally Accurate Battle Simulator doesn’t have a story. Not yet at least. Maybe the developers (Landfall) have something planned, though more than likely not, since it’s just a goofy game about googly-eyed people battling it to the death for your entertainment.
Stardew Valley’s story is determined by your actions. There are two paths you can take. (I should mention I’ve only gone the Community Center Route, and not the Joja Warehouse Route.) The Community Center Route is where you repair a building in Pelican Town (the main town in the game) called the Community Center. At the beginning of the game, there is a cutscene with Mayor Lewis in which he tells you that a corporation, Joja Mart, has been asking him to sell the property. He says that if anyone else buys a “Joja Membership,” he’ll sell the building. You can buy one of these memberships, and if you do, Lewis will sell the building and it will become the “Joja Warehouse.” Instead of delivering items to the Community Center to repair it, you just straight up pay Joja Co. to fix things around town, such as the bus stop or Quarry Bridge. There are other elements to the game (lots of magic, as well as a monster to kill, and an island with parrots that like to eat walnuts*), and there is a wizard that you go talk to in order to donate items you will obtain throughout the game. You can talk to the villagers in Pelican Town, and there is a group of them you can “romance,” which can become its own separate part of the story. There are a lot of things in Stardew to do, and I couldn’t possibly go over all of them in one article, so if you want to spoil the game for yourself***, go look at the Stardew Valley Wiki. But if you thought Stardew Valley’s story was confusing, well, go grab a cup of coffee and take a seat, because Hollow Knight’s story is really intricate and confusing.
I won’t pretend to know everything about Hollow Knight’s/Silksong’s lore, because I don’t. No one does, possibly not even Team Cherry (the game developers), who might just be making things up as they go along. The premise of the game is that you are a bug/knight guy* and you have no idea where you are or what you’re doing, except that the palace you’re in is called Hallownest. As you go through the game, though, you discover little shards of lore through “Lore Tablets” or through dialogue with other characters. There are also multiple endings (5), each more confusing than the last. I’m not going to say too much, since the story is great and I would be a jerk to spoil it for you, like I spoiled it for myself by watching lore videos. Long story short, most of the bugs in the kingdom are infected with some mind controlling disease, because the king/god pissed off another moth/light god** who ruled the place before that, and you have to stop the infection and save the kingdom. Somehow. There is endless speculation, since everything is pretty weird. We also know that there are other kingdoms (even though some lore tablets claim otherwise), since the sequel game, Hollow Knight: Silksong, is based on another kingdom, Pharloom, and the Grimm Troupe has hidden dialogue about other kingdoms.
We know even less about Silksong, since the game isn’t playable yet. All we know is that we’re in a different kingdom, with a different character, a different objective, a different curse, etc. You play as a character from the previous game, Hornet (who isn’t a hornet, but is actually half-spider half-god, the king/god I mentioned earlier**). Other than that, we know next to nothing.
A Brief Overview (Gameplay)
TABS, a simulator game, isn’t notorious for amazing gameplay, though you can take control of the googly-eyed people and participate in the battle. That’s all there is to it.
Stardew Valley is a pretty slow paced game by nature, though not to the point where it’s boring. You’re encouraged through character dialogue to slow down and look around for things to dig up or shake out of bushes. There’s no sprinting feature, (shift actually makes you go slower) and while later in the game there are things that help you get where you’re going faster, like the minecart or warp totems, early in the game you’re pretty much stuck with your own two feet.
Hollow Knight is the most challenging game I have ever played, though it’s not impossible. There’s also no difficulty setting beyond Steel Soul, which you unlock after completing the game normally, in which you aren’t allowed to die, (GAME OVER if you do) or “Bindings” in the pantheons, an extra challenge leading to two different endings.* You can apply your own challenge, such as not using charms, restarting a boss or certain section if you take damage, or doing a “floor is lava” challenge in challenging parkour areas. Oh, did I mention parkour? This game has some of the best and most challenging parkour, though the meat of it is concentrated in one area, the White Palace, which has an even more challenging area within it, the Path of Pain, which is exactly what it sounds like. I haven’t even attempted it because it terrifies me, but I will have to do it at some point. In combination with all of the well designed and equally challenging bosses, along with the great controls, the overarching gameplay aspect of Hollow Knight is one of the most praised aspects of the game; it’s clear that Team Cherry didn’t put all their effort into the lore and making the game look good (it’s a beautiful game with an amazing soundtrack!).
Silksong is predicted to be even more challenging than Hollow Knight, with faster paced gameplay to match Hornet’s speed and agility. Honestly though, other than that, we know little about what Silksong’s gameplay will be like, since TC has been so secretive about it.
I did learn during the writing of this article that more people knew about Stardew Valley than I thought, but even then, how many of you knew about HK and HKS before reading this? No one? Oh ok, I see your hand there in the back, thank you. So just one person. Yeah. Thought as much. I’m not going to make you play any of these games, but I highly recommend all of them, so play the ones that appeal to you most. I hope playing one or a few of these games makes quarantine a little less boring.
Stardew Valley Platforms: PC (Steam, Humble Store, gog.com), Mobile (IOS & Android), Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4.
TABS Platforms: PC & Mac (Steam), Xbox, Nintendo Switch coming maybe
Hollow Knight/Silksong Platforms: PC & Mac (Steam), Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox.