With the likes of Call of Duty and Battlefield forever locked in a game of tug-of-war over who gets the bigger spotlight, it sort of goes without saying that the lesser-known players have become completely overshadowed, and are in fact not even considered to be pawns in the game these days. And that’s sad, because honestly — there are tonnes of fantastic war games out there, with some even rivalling the two giants via their compelling gameplay and cutting-edge narratives, though a lot of that does unfortunately get overlooked.
Truth be told, there are quite a few hidden gems that are worth dumping a few spare hours into. And with some of them being on Game Pass and PlayStation Now, it sort of feels like a calling card that’s too damn appealing to shrug off. So, if you’re looking to part ways with the Call of Duty multiplayer platform and secure ground on another form of frontline, then allow these to be your next port of call.
5. Sniper Elite 4
We’ll put it right out there and say — hey, if you liked Metal Gear Solid V — then you will absolutely adore Sniper Elite 4. There’s no doubt about it. In fact, it takes quite a lot of its influences from the Konami icon, especially in the stealth department, as well as how you can approach missions etcetera etcetera. It’s almost like the younger sibling title that never quite gained its stripes, and instead had to live in the shadows of its elder brother. But boy, talk about a powerful underdog.
In case you missed it, Sniper Elite 4 basically has you travelling all over Italy as the (you guessed it) elite sniper, controlled by the British Intelligence during the second World War. Across a series of missions, you’re able to traverse the map and complete a selection of objectives in any way you see fit, whether it be through stealth or mindless warfare. But of course, being a game that idolises a Springfield rifle in favour of a well-travelled side arm — it’s definitely worth playing the part and at least trying to pull off a few skilled headshots. Also, the slow-motion bullet cam is what you’ll be gawping over the majority of the time anyway.
4. 11:11: Memories Retold
If violence and mindless bullet storms aren’t for you, and you’re looking for something a little more story-driven that also encapsulates the horrors of war like an abstract painting, then perhaps it’s time to invest some time into 11:11: Memories Retold. Although having war as the focal point for its narrative, its gameplay, on the other hand, tends to drift more towards the cosmetics of war, with puzzle solving being one of its main counterparts.
Having two playable characters, one being a Canadian war photographer on the frontline and the other being a German engineer out on a hunt for his long-lost brother Max, 11:11: Memories Retold interlocks two story arcs and builds on them beautifully. Without a weapon to wield (or even much of a map to rely on for your next objective), your only goal is to follow the the desperate stories of two opposing factions, both bound for a conclusion with no happy ending.
3. Valiant Hearts: The Great War
As the years have gone by, many players have forgotten about the 2D masterpiece that was Valiant Hearts: The Great War. Some sadly never had the opportunity to watch it sneak into their hindsight at all. And that’s a crying shame, truly — to see such an emotionally riveting tale fly under the radar when it should’ve been pinned to its centre.
Like 11:11: Memories Retold, Valiant Hearts: The Great War sheds light on World War I and the trials and tribulations that engulfed both sides of the spectrum. With four playable characters and a series of interlocking tales that span several years, players are able to plunge into some of the darkest moments in our troubled history. It’s emotional, it’s fascinating — and it is most definitely worthy of keeping ahold of the countless awards that have flocked to its side these past seven years.
2. This War of Mine
This War of Mine just goes to show that not every war-based game needs to be centred around the frontline in order to conjure a powerful story. In fact, it can be drawn up in a faraway plain or in the very outskirts of a war-torn metropolis and still manage to brew an invigorating tale. And that’s exactly what This War of Mine bases its structure on: survival during the darkest phases of war. Only, you don’t play as a soldier, or any sort of armed forces — but a series of civilians.
The idea is relatively simple: survive, no matter the cost. To do so, however, you’ll have to manage your community, sneak into dangerous territories in order to scavenge resources, and even make a thread of heartbreaking decisions along the way. Do that for a serious length of time, and you may just see the sun burst over the shadowed world and kiss it good morning. That is if you’re able to hold out ’til the horizon with war and poverty keeping you captive, of course.
1. Hearts of Iron IV
While we’re not exactly short on strategy games out in the gaming marketplace, we are somewhat lacking in genuinely decent war-based ones — like Hearts of Iron, for example. Now there’s a franchise worth taking note of. Although, to be fair, unless you’re running a kitted out PC with all the bells and whistles to boot, then chances are, you probably wouldn’t have heard of Hearts of Iron before now.
Of course, the concept with the fourth instalment to the strategy series isn’t any different from the previous entries. Take control of a nation on the map, plan your course of action and end goal — and essentially wage war with the rest of the world. Sure, it’s definitely something we’ve clocked a few times before over the years — but, to be honest, Hearts of Iron IV still manages to hold its own and maintain its originality through its in-depth progression and advanced palette of tools. Basically, it’s worth shelling out a few dollars for.
So, what did we miss? What would you put on this list? Let us know over on our socials here.