Monday, July 18, 2011

The Top 10 Great Games You Might Not Have Heard About (But I'm Sure You've Heard About Them A LOT)

This is the nature of arts: some great works don't sell well, or go unnoticed at their own time. They are underrated. However, later, they are discovered by the critics and art-lovers and they reach the status they deserve. They are no more underrated.

The same can be said about video games. Surely there are underrated video games. Surely there are great games few people have played. It's really fun to be a fan of these games. They seem like your personal treasure. While few people appreciate them, you're so wise that you are a fan and this makes you a better gamer than them.

Sometimes this pleasure is so strong that you fail to notice these games are no more underrated. You insists on listing them in "great games you haven't heard about" while everybody has heard about them. These ten games were once obscure/underrated, now they're not. Try to live with that.

10: Maniac Mansion (PC)

A Ron Gilbert game, this game is a 1987 point-and-click adventure game and a comic parody on horror films. Your goal is to save your girlfriend from the mansion of a mad scientist. It was the first game which used SCUMM as its engine and it was also was the first game published by Lucasfilms (later knows as LucasArts).

I've seen this game on at least three times on an "underrated games you haven't heard about" list. And this is a really amazing stunt: this game was NEVER underrated. At its own time. The critics loved it when it came out. 93%, 83%, 8/10, 73%, and 76% are some examples of rating this game got. It later had its own sequel (Day of the Tentacle) and TV series but it left a great legacy. Notice that we mentioned how it was the first game to use SCUMM engine? Some of the greatest adventure masterpieces of all times (Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, etc) became possible because of the success of this game. This game is a turning point in the history of video games.
One of the few games developed by Clover studio, Okami is a 2006 video game. A fascinating graphics, innovative gameplay, beautiful story, all make this game a pure masterpiece.

To those that claim the game is underrepresented, one can give only one thing: the game didn't sell well. At the time of its release it sold approximately 266000 copies in America and Japan which is not much, and since none of the Clover Studio games sold that much, the studio was unfortunately closed after a short creative period with great games. But then again, from the very start the critics fell in love with it. GameRankings ranks the game 93% based on 77 reviews. And it won tons of awards: IGN, Electronic Gaming Monthly, Game Informer, Edge Magazine, Game Revolution, Game Trailers, Official PlayStation Magazine, GameSpot, Game Developers Choice Awards, Japan Media Arts Festival, National Academy of Video Game Testers and Reviewers, Japanese Computer Entertainment Supplier’s Association, CESA Developers Conference, and even f***ing BAFTA have awarded that game.

Sorry, Okami fans. Your favorite games was never underrated. It bombed the scene.
Now this is another game which didn't sell well, and that's only natural: the story, the gameplay, and the graphics of the game are radically revolutionary and avant-garde. The game might be considered underrated if you consider the mainstream gamers; those who only play Call of Duty or other games which are made solely to sell. But you shouldn't: the game is a very intellectual piece of art and you can't expect it to appeal to the average gamer. Such games, if successful, become cult classics, and Killer7 did.

Goichi Suda is the David Lynch of video gaming: he creates deep art which is violent, disturbing, and plays with forms and styles of gaming. He has two masterpieces, none released in America which are truly underrated: Flower, Sun, and Rain, and Michigan: Report from Hell. These games are so great that no one thought they might appeal to the Western audience. But the release of Killer7 showed they're wrong. Although the game (naturally) received mixed reviews, you have to keep in mind that all the gaming magazines and sites are reviewers and not real critics, so it's natural that this game was above most of them. Again, you have to determine this game by its cult status. It has a great following, and garnered a high amount of respect for Goichi, and it made No More Heroes possible. No More Heroes was released to complete commercial and critical success, and if it wasn't for Killer7, this wouldn't be possible.
Psychonauts is very similar to Killer7: a masterpiece, an avant-garde work of art; and a commercial failure. The sales was so bad that the CEO of Majesco, the publisher of the game, had to resign. Then again, you can't expect a game like this to sell well. Do you think Pulp Fiction or the movies of Luis Bunuel sold a lot? No, they didn't. Psychonauts is a truly complex game and the average gamer can't understand it. That's the nature of such games. Such games have something better; a great legacy: they will be played while the comercial games will be forgotten soon.

Psychonauts garnered a lot of awards, though not as much as it deserved. But it's still remembered and revered since 2005: it's the most frequent on such lists which try to prove video games are art. It's praised universally. It's a classic. You can't call it underrated because its status is unique and shared by only a handful of games.
Alright, this is the last game which has a story similar to the above entries, I promise. Like Killer7, Okami, and Psychonauts, Beyond Good and Evil is another great game which was not a commercial success. However, AGAIN, this doesn't mean the game is underrated.

From two perspectives this game has been called an underrated game. First one is its commercial failure and its lack of popularity among average gamers. I have to admit, this one is strange. Unlike our other entries, this game has the potential of being completely popular as well: it has an exciting gameplay, a suspenseful story, it can be played and enjoyed without paying attention to its deeper messages. It can be loved by both shallow and deep gamers. So, what's wrong? I think the developers themselves could be blamed for this one. Their marketing was focused on Prince of Persia at that time. The marketing was bad, and the game flopped.

The second view is that although the game received positivism reviews at its time, it wasn't fully understood: the commercial face of the game deceived many and no one tried to interpret and praise the game in its own right. That has changed since that time. You can find many in-depth analysis of the game, and the game has had a dominant presence on more serious lists and sites. And that's completely natural: it takes time to discover the more hidden aspects of a great work of art. No art was fully analyzed and interpreted right after its release.

So, although the commercial failure of this great game is regrettable, the critical success and its legacy show that it wasn't underrated.
OK, I lied. THIS is the last game in the "didn't sell well, but that doesn't matter" trend. Go ahead, write your angry comments in the Top 10 boards. "This list fails because of too much the same thing, duh!" I'll wait here.

Back? Good. The game wasn't a flop. It made a small profit. Yet, it was no hit. Again, that's not a surprise. You hear people say about Planescape "What an underrated game! I wish people knew of it more!" They're wrong. The ideal audience of the game know about it enough. The game scores 90.63% on GameRankings. (That's exceptionally high, as you know). 91/100 in Metacritic. The game does very well. But the game has reached even a higher status after years of it being released. It has the strongest cult following among the games on this list. More importantly, you can trace its influence in many games which followed it. Baldur's Gate came out before this game, but what made D&D games so relevant and great was this game. This game not only defined its own genre, but he whole Western RPG. Among video games, this game is one of the few true classics.

To say Planescape: Torment is underrated is like saying Citizen Kayne is underrated.
Now Chrono Trigger was successful both critically and successfully when it came out. However, there are a surprisingly large number of people who think this game is underrated, as in, it's overshadowed by other great games made by Square- later Square Enix- and it needs to be praised more. They were right at the beginning: Few people appreciated this game when it first came out. Yes, it WAS successful but it wasn't Final Fantasy successful, though it completely deserved to be that successful. However, the times have changed, and now this game has the status it deserves.

The game is now considered one of the best games ever made. It was remade for Playstation with a lot of cool animations and it received its due praise. It was followed by many Add-ons and later a sequel: Chrono Cross, which sat right there on the highest throne possible to games. The game deserved it, and now it has it.
This game was the transition of the famous and popular Mega Man series into 3D. At that time, many disliked it. The main group of people who disliked it where the fans of the original series, who thought this game pays doesn't do justice to the great games which preceded it. The game also didn't feature the familiar characters of the series, so the gamers were somehow pissed. So, it has appeared in many lists which claim it's underrated. Again, that's a mistake. The core fans of a series, although important, do not ultimately decide the success or a failure of a game. Even at its own time, the game received positive reviews and praise from the mainstream audience, but it didn't sell well (another factor contributing to the false underrated status). However, Keiji Inafune himself has said this game is his favorite game of the series.

But over the years even this has changed: Mega Man fans have discovered the appeal of the game and it's now popular for everyone. The strongest point of the game- its deep story- has come to attention. The game has reached the status it deserves.
Again, minimal gameplay; minimal story: the game is nothing close to mainstream games. Highly innovative, very sad and tragic, it's not the stuff of normal gaming. But I'm truly at a loss to think why this game is considered underrated by so many lists and gamers. The game sold very well. 140,000 copies in its first week of release only in Japan. 80% of the copies initially shipped were sold within two days. It was finally one of the highest grossing games of the year. In addition to that, the critics loved it: the game is ranked 91.58% by GameRankings and 91% by Metacritic. It has also received multiple awards. It has left a great legacy also; and it's appeared in many lists of best games of all times. There's even going to be movie adaptation.

Can someone tell me why some people consider this game underrated?
This game was once underrated by the fans. The so-called "dark sheep" pf the series, the game proved a little too sad and too dark for the fans. It didn't receive the attention and sales which Zelda games usually get (although it wasn't bad in any sense of the word). It just didn't receive the unconditional, romantic, hectic love which other games in the series could swim in. It took some years before it reached its today status among gamers.

It was re-released many times. Ultimately it sold 3 million copies. It began to garner award after award: 45th in Official Nintendo Magazine's 100 greatest Nintendo games of all time, 68th on Game Informer's "Top 100 Games of All Time", seventh-greatest game by Electronic Gaming Monthly, and finally, the 1st in the Game of the Decade (2000–2009) by our own GameFaqs. One wonders what's exactly underrated about this: being number one in a popularity contest.

The point is, the fans of this game were so excited in their discovery of the "dark" Zelda that they had forgotten the numerous flaws of the game: the plot suffers from many mistakes, including pathos and plot holes, the gameplay is episodic, full of tedious and unnecessary mini-games. The game wasn't the most popular Zelda game, and it never deserved to be. Don't get me wrong, the game IS great. However, it's deeply flawed. And it's way worse than Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess (to me, the greatest in the series).

So this game is our number one because it's the only game in the list which has made the strange transition from being underrated to being overrated and it's STILL CALLED UNDERRATED BY SOME.
One unlucky day I might too make a list of underrated games. It would be a really hard list to make. Because, mostly, our industry is too young to decide which games are underrated and which are not. Mostly, the games we consider underrated are quite successful when you look at them in the large perspective.

100 years from now, many of our greatest games of all times are forgotten, and some really obscure games of our times will find dominance. However, I hope these 10 not-underrated games would be played then as well as now.

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