10 Most Underrated Video Games Of All Time!
10. Binary Domain
Sega were fighting an uphill battle with this one from the moment it showed up on store shelves, plastered in what must rank highly on the “Most Generic Action-Game Box Art” charts, and with a name which just screams mediocrity. Also, a shooter that wasn’t set in the Middle East or dodgy bits of Eastern Europe was always going to be a hard sell back in 2012, even if it was built on a foundation of inspired game design.
Which is unfortunate, because hidden under a thick layer of near-future shooter cliches and “robots gone wild” schlock was an especially charming diamond. We’ll overlook the shoddy voice control aspects, and rather fondly think back to the clever squad reputation system, the shamelessly thrilling gunplay which allowed us to blast specific bits and pieces off of our robot foes and watch them pull themselves along the ground with their remaining limbs, and the inventive art style that reminded us that we weren’t playing yet another modern warfare rip off.
9. Secret Of Evermore
Square Enix’s stable of role-playing games is beyond compare, but it’s mostly packed to the rafters with Final Fantasy games which take themselves very seriously. But back in 1995, a division of Square based in North America put their own Western spin on the genre, and with stunning results. Secret Of Evermore radiated a totally different atmosphere compared to the overbearing tone of the high-profile Square titles, a stunning once-off from a fledgeling development team which injected some real American flavor into the genre.
Western RPGs were hardly a new concept, but Secret Of Evermore was unique in that its underlying structure was pure JRPG. It was a hybrid concept which could have paid of massively and cracked the colossal US market wide open, but instead it was picked up by the few who were already into JRPGs and pretty much overlooked by everyone else. A lovingly created game with a light-hearted approach to an often overly melodramatic sub-genre. It should have gone on to be the beginning of another huge RPG dynasty, but instead wilted away into obscurity.
8. Alice: Madness Returns
Spicy Horse made a bold move with Alice: Madness Returns, developing a wildly imaginative and trippy platform adventure at a time when the big money was being made by games which played it safe. Sadly it was a risk which didn’t pay off the way American McGee would have hoped – the majority of industry critics couldn’t look past an apparent lack of gameplay innovation.
And, as we are often prone to blindly following the opinions of others, we gave Alice: Madness Returns a miss. Which is a travesty, because even though Alice didn’t break any real 3D platform conventions, it was one of the most artistically creative with a captivating atmosphere. Twisted, sometimes genuinely unsettling, and worthy of far more attention than it got
7. The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Critics swooned around The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker like love-struck teenagers, feeding it grapes, fanning it with palm fronds and giving it passionate foot massages. “OMG!”, they exclaimed, gushing happy expletives with reckless abandon. But the fans weren’t quite as generous – Nintendo took The Wind Waker in a bold new visual direction and the fans went ballistic, spitting vitriol about the childish cartoon-like graphics like it was the end of the world.
This fan outrage actually ended up affecting the future direction of the series. “I personally didn’t feel that the changes we had made were especially dramatic, but the reaction from the fans at the time was like, ‘This is not a Zelda game’”, said franchise director Eiji Aonuma. “I really felt that gap between how the fans saw the game and how I saw it. So because the fans seemed to consider the changes to be so dramatic at that time, nowadays I am careful not to make such big changes.”
6. Lost Odyssey
Gamers who fell in love with Mistwalker’s gargantuan RPG would say it should have been the biggest role-player of its generation. But it will go down in history as the best Final Fantasy game that wasn’t a Final Fantasy game. Heavily accused of being derivative and struggling under the weight of a thousand genre cliches, Lost Odyssey was soon consigned to budget bins across the world.
Had this epic story been told on multiple consoles we have to imagine that it would have been a massive sales success. Instead it played the part of a desperate ploy by Microsoft to get the Japanese market interested in the Xbox 360, and suffered badly because of it. Lost Odyssey faded into the background, overshadowed by inferior high-profile franchises with big names and bigger marketing budgets.
5. Mirror’s Edge
it’s become trendy to be into Mirror’s Edge retroactively these days, but this army of bandwagon jumpers were nowhere to be seen back in 2008. Instead we had a core fan base which spent a lot of time arguing with detractors who chastised the combat, whined about the weak attempt at storytelling and moaned that it was all over too quickly.
As a piece of perfectly paced interactive art, though, Mirror’s Edge broke new ground. Visually arresting and silky smooth, EA DICE made us change our thought patters about how we traverse a game environment. Obviously Mirror’s Edge wasn’t perfect, but this riveting parkour-flavored first-person adventure was so unique, so exhilarating, that we need to look past its flaws and appreciate it as a modern classic.
4. Luigi’s Mansion
Life can’t be easy for Luigi, sulking around in big brother Mario’s shadow. He’s like Beyonce’s unfortunate sister Solange Knowles, but with a moustache. Launching the Nintendo GameCube without Mario was considered hardware suicide by many, and Luigi’s Ghostbusters-esque adventure was thought of as a meagre substitute, but Luigi’s Mansion definitely deserved far more credit than it got at the time.
Critics called it formulaic and uninspired. A lot of them suggested that you give it a miss and wait for a “proper” Mario game instead. But Luigi held his own – the beautifully structured ghost-hunting and exploration was bathed in cute yet creepy atmosphere. The result? Miyamato’s supporters bought it in droves, despite review scores below what we expect from a Mario-related launch title. Industry voices may have underrated the charm of this subdued classic, but it earned its respect by giving us a distilled action-adventure which captivated gamers from start to finish.
Here we’re stepping into some ambiguity regarding what it means to be underrated. Tim Shafer’s unhinged, surreal platformer was actually very highly rated if we’re talking about critical opinion, lauded for its exceptional design, innovative storytelling and undeniable charm. Not everyone grasped it fully, though – it was a particularly odd game, but intentionally so. Psychonauts was meant to be a mind-bending adventure which left you bewildered but thoroughly entertained.
The critics got it, for the most part. Customers with a penchant for quirky left-field games got it too – there just weren’t very many of them. Psychonauts crumbled in dramatic fashion upon release, and by the end of the 2005 launch year this superbly innovative title hadn’t even managed to sell 100 000 copies. Mr. Shafer, we’re sorry, we let you down… please whip up a sequel and give us another chance?
As with Psychonauts, Team Ico’s breathtaking PS2 puzzle-platformer was loved by everyone except the people who matter to a game publisher: the man on the street with money in his pocket. Severely overlooked by the mainstream, Ico slumped at retail. It must have been heartbreaking for the creative minds at Team Ico who had poured their souls into this most delicate and exquisite game.
These days gamers are far more welcoming and understanding when it comes to artsy titles like this. We’ve learned to accept games like Flower and its newer sibling Journey, and we’ve been blown away by the emotions that such games can conjure. But back in 2002 we wanted to KILL STUFF. All the time. And so, like the neanderthals we are, we let a masterpiece of gaming go by relatively unnoticed.
1. Beyond Good & Evil
Admit it, you knew this one would be at the top of this list, and rightly so. The 2003 holiday season was a crowded time to release a new IP out into the wild – audiences were hungry for blockbusters and tired but familiar sequels, and publishers obliged. In that climate, a complex, multifaceted game like Ubisoft’s Beyond Good & Evil was always going to be a tough proposition. These days we like to sound off with intellectual arguments for why this genre-defying adventure is one of the greatest achievements in gaming history, but when it was originally launched it was met with a cavernous division of critical opinion.
The people who are paid to tell us whether a game is good or bad just couldn’t seem to decide on this one – it was lauded for its intriguing characters and spellbinding narrative on one side, and then derided for hackneyed, misdirected storytelling by others. The gameplay and combat mechanics were equally praised and denounced. Conversely, gamers who picked this one up from the throng of big name titles released at the same time were utterly bewitched.
Finely tuned stealth, spliced with compelling exploration and a spirited female protagonist who stood out in an industry filled with burly, bearded macho stereotypes, Beyond Good & Evil proved a delightful and endearing adventure. Even though very few people actually bothered to buy it back then, it has gone on to become one of the most loved cult classics of all time, despite commercial failure. Now, Ubisoft, if we can just see some proof of solid progress on that sequel, that would be great, thanks.
#10 Most Underrated Video Games Of All Time!