10 games that ‘exploded’ out of nowhere: Valheim, Among Us and more.
Image: Iron Gate Studio
The video game industry has gone through constant mutations since its inception, but it is currently experiencing one of its most unpredictable and interesting moments. With the advent of the internet, social networks and digital influencers, many games end up becoming “fever” even without major marketing campaigns or even after weak releases that went unnoticed by the general public.
Today, word of mouth, Twitch streams and even memes can be enough to take a modestly budgeted game and make it a hit that lasts months or years. Check out our list of 10 unlikely highlights below, great games that exploded in popularity almost as if by magic.
1. Among Us
Innersloth’s little game was so successful that the traditional The Game Awards needed to adapt their rules in 2020, allowing the 2018 game to compete even after the deadline for submissions. Its social experience with greatly simplified gameplay was one of the most talked about themes of the past year, and even politicians took advantage of the game’s popularity to participate in live matches and try to reach a new constituency.
2. Fall Guys
Battle royale is one of the most popular genres in recent years, but few imagined that an Olympic-style scavenger hunt would become one of the most talked about and downloaded games of 2020. For months, no multiplayer title so dominated gamer discussion, even causing instability and difficulties in accessing the game’s competitive servers.
In early access since the end of 2013 and released in early 2018, Rust was already drawing some attention for mixing elements of DayZ and Minecraft, being necessary to harvest materials to survive in a multiplayer journey. After many technical improvements — which continue to be applied to the game to this day — the game reached 2021 as one of the most popular and beloved titles on Twitch.
4. Loop Hero
Among all the games we list, this is the most recent and almost a guaranteed bet of ours, after all the producer Devolver Digital specializes in releasing indies that explode in popularity, and Loop Hero is already starting to gain good numbers among streamers. The idea is to build decks in an almost infinite adventure, as no game is the same as the previous one. Combining strategy elements with a high replay factor is often a great combo, and we expect this game to break out even more in the coming weeks.
5. Jump King
FromSoftware’s soulslike games have helped make other high difficulty titles more popular. As a result, from time to time, digital influencers discover little indie gems capable of entertaining their viewers thanks to their trial, error and learning mechanics. Launched in 2019, the Nexile project can be purchased very cheaply on Steam and to this day it conquers thousands of daily viewers willing to see their favorite content creators miss a few jumps live.
6. Escape from Tarkov
Since the first Alpha tests in 2016, Russian studio Battlestate Games’ game already seemed to have plenty of potential thanks to its focus on more realistic combat mechanics, perfect for the hardcore PC gamer. More in line with ARMA-style military simulators, the title always ranks among the most played on Twitch and gains more and more players with each update with new features.
It was no accident that we put Valheim on the cover of this list. Despite having entered early access only in February 2021, it took just under a month for the game to explode in popularity and become a phenomenon. It is currently one of the most downloaded and talked about titles in the world — quite an achievement considering that it was produced by a team of just five people. The secret of success was the addictive mix of sandbox elements with survival, a sure-fire formula that guarantees a lot of fun for both those who play and those who watch the streams.
This is another case of a very old game that ended up getting more popular with each passing year, until it broke completely. In it, you can create your own games and adventures, but interestingly the platform did not attract as much attention when it was launched in 2006. A more loyal base began to emerge only in the beginning of the following decade, with YouTubers discovering that it was a promising niche for produce content, until it surpasses 160 million active players in 2020. It is one of the most popular video games on the internet.
9. Stardew Valley
Farm games have been present on consoles since the days of Super Nintendo, when the first game in the Harvest Moon franchise (now rebranded as Story of Seasons) captured its market share. From then onwards, dozens of sequels were released across all generations, but it was the homage developed by Eric Barone that turned into a fever. Embracing the best traditions of the genre, Stardew Valley has become the ultimate farm game and still dominates the popular imagination.
10. Honorable Mention: Chess Games
Certainly the oldest game among all listed here, as its origins date back to the 15th century, chess has become a big hit among streamers recently thanks to the success of Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit series. By putting competitive chess under the spotlight, various online chess applications and games began to attract thousands of viewers to video games as well.
Did you already know or play all these titles? What is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!