No huge widget with hundreds of options. This plugin is based on the well-known WordPress default widget ‘Recent Posts’ and extended to display more informations about the posts like e.g. thumbnails, excerpts and assigned categories. And it provides more options to build custom-taylored posts lists.
Tutorial How to Display your Featured Posts in WordPress
These days, almost every mainstream site uses some kind of a featured posts/content section. Why? Well, there are probably many reasons, but I can only guess that the main one is to make their popular content even more popular, or to point out a piece of content that is likely to be important to the average visitor.