Five Underrated Video Games
Most Underrated Games
Believe it or not, I haven't played every last video game ever made. I have, however, played a lot of them, and have a lot of fond memories. Some of the most amazing, engrossing gaming experiences I've ever had, however, have been with games that sold poorly, reviewed poorly, or both. So, I've decided to take a moment and list a few games that I sincerely think everyone should have played, but probably didn't.
#1 - Xenogears
I don't know where to begin with this game. The quirky but not childish character sprites set on polygonal backgrounds that were surprisingly enjoyable to look at made for an interesting backdrop to one of the most fantastic plots you could ask for in a game. That being said, the second half of the game is the most widely criticized, but the first disc shines more than enough to still rank this game as one of the greats.
The combat is turn-based, but with a few fun quirks. For starters, special moves come in the form of button-combination attacks that start out as simple punch and kick affairs but gradually advance to over-the-top superpowers. Additionally, there are Gears. Giant, humanoid, bipedal robots that your characters pilot and serve as both a central combat and plot mechanic.
The fact of the matter is, Xenogears is not a video game. It is a novel with 32-bit graphics, delivering a level of plot complexity and depth that I haven't seen since. Every single character leaps off of the screen and grabs you emotionally, sucking you in to a vast web of intrigue, betrayal, shock, and joy that the best films and books strive to produce. That is why I humbly submit that Xenogears is the most underrated game of all time.
#2 - Lost Odessey
Lost Odessey was, in my opinion, the last truly great turn-based RPG. Though it was criticized for it's outdated mechanics by most, those of us who grew up on old-school RPGs derived great pleasure from the combat system.
As for the plot, it was truly massive. One of those few games out there that you could easily devote 60+ hours to and substantially more if you're a completionist. The game featured "dream" sequences, for instance, that allowed the player to learn more of the history and backstory behind the game, which though simple is an oft-overlooked aspect of plot that many games today neglect by dropping us right in with no opportunity to learn the "how" and "why" of the in-game world.
Short version, this was one of the last opportunities that us relics have had to reminisce about our Breath of Fire 2 and early Final Fantasy days.
#3 - Legend of Dragoon
Another old-school RPG, this one from the PSX days. Legend of Dragoon obtained itself a bit of a cult following, but when you ask a gamer to rattle off the top RPGs on their list, this one is woefully forgotten far too often.
With a classic turn-based combat system spiced up by a "ring" system (which allows players to press a button with precise timing to increase damage) and the "dragoon" transformations, the combat rarely felt tedious throughout the 50+ hour experience.
While the settings are what you expect from a fantasy RPG, the characters are a bit more unique in personality while still conforming to the "class" molds we've come to expect from the genre.
All around, Legend of Dragoon was a well-built RPG experience that far too many people missed.
#4 - The Saboteur
Think of Grand Theft Auto. Now replace the setting with Nazi-occupied France and the hero with a hard-drinking Irish mechanic with a penchant for explosives. Sound like a good time?
The Saboteur was criticized as being yet another open-world destruction game at a time when the GTA-clone market was huge. Perhaps there is some validity in that, but the game somehow felt smarter to me (despite the quirky animations) thanks in part to the "colour" mechanic. Basically, areas of the map that are heavily under Nazi control appear in black and white, and as their influence wanes, the world comes into color. This, to me, offered a much more direct, tangible result of my actions and kept me motivated to continue struggling against my oppressors.
Despite the critical reviews claiming The Saboteur to be more of the same, it just plain felt different to me, and in a good way.
#5 - Alan Wake
Okay, so you might be asking "Hey now, sir, why is this game on here? The reviews are amazing!"
Well, dear reader, you are correct. With aggregate scores ranging from 8 to 10 (out of 10) and any number of awards under its belt, Alan Wake was quite a successful game. However, it was very quickly forgotten in the years since it's release.
The mechanics of the game were quite original, and the atmosphere was stellar. Truly, the game manged to make you feel like you were in a hopeless situation in which the very shadows around you were the enemy. The storytelling was excellent and very well-paced, structured uniquely in "episodes" as if from a Twilight Zone-esque T.V. show. The combat kept you on your toes with limited ammunition and a flashlight as your primary defenses. The "Fight with Light" mechanic, requiring you to focus your flashlight beam on the enemy to destroy the shroud of darkness around them before killing them, kept things fresh and exciting.
Frankly, the game was just solid all the way around, and the fact that it slipped so quickly from our collective minds is an unfair way to treat such an excellent experience.
How many of these games have you played?
Most Underrated Games
I wouldn't call this list comprehensive. I'm sure there are plenty of games out there that I haven't had the pleasure of playing that'd make the list if I'd stumbled upon them. Also, there are plenty out there that I'd call underrated for their sheer quality, no matter how well received they were in there day. Games like Shadow of the Colossus, Earthbound, and Breath of Fire III will always be underrated, because in my opinion they are just that good.
Do you agree with my list? Disagree? Feel free to argue with me in the comments, I am prepared to defend myself.