We all know some underrated games. Games we feel did not get the attention they deserved or a fair shake at the time of their initial release. With that in mind, here are ten games you really owe it to yourself to play if you have not. I guarantee you will not regret it!
Released in 2007, The Darkness was an adaptation of the popular comic series published by Topcow Comics. Developed by the talented team at Starbreeze Studios, The Darkness delivered a slick, dark shooting experience with some satisfying demonic powers to utilize against your enemies in the mob. What really makes the game memorable to me is the character of Jenny.
She is the main character Jackie’s love interest in the game, but is actually more than a cliché female character. The relationship between the two also manages to elicit emotions from the player other game romances cannot. There is a part in the game where you are at her house and have the option leave. If you leave, nothing happens, and the plot and game continues. If you opt to stay however, a special moment occurs. However, rather than anything sexual occurring, Jackie and Jenny cuddle on the couch and make convincing small talk while To Kill a Mockingbird plays on the television. It is something far more intimate than loyalty missions and countless conversations have ever done. The game is also a great shooter too; so it’s a win-win!
Did I mention Mike Patton (of Faith no More, among countless other projects) did the voice of the titular Darkness with no sort of voice software or editing? You know you want to play it now.
Spec Ops: The Line
Spec Ops: The Line has one of the best narratives in gaming. Period. The game was a brilliant subversion of military games and our obsession and voracious appetite for them. The strange thing is critics and people “got” Hotline Miami’s message about violence, yet the underlying meaning in Spec Ops seemed to go largely unnoticed, despite both titles releasing a mere five months apart from one another. In fact, many reviewers focused on the lackluster multiplayer instead of the narrative or mechanics at work.
Spec Ops: The Line is not a game you enjoy. In fact, it is a demanding piece of art to endure, yet it is worth it in the end. There are four endings to the game, but one of the developers was quoted as saying a fifth ending was possible when the player cannot take any more and simply stops playing. Sunshine and lollipops this is not, but rarely do we play games which actually ask us hard questions and force us to examine ourselves.
Condemned: Criminal Origins
Launching for the Xbox 360, Condemned was a unique title for Microsoft’s new console. The game followed FBI agent Ethan Thomas on the trail of a serial killer. What made the game stand out, besides the crime scene investigations, was the combat. First person brawling has been done before, but has rarely been done well or turned out enjoyable. Condemned was one of the few that managed to be well done and enjoyable to play.
By having the combat unfold in first person and in melee range, the fighting felt visceral and intimate. You weren’t detached by using a firearm to snipe hapless enemies from a distance. You were fighting tooth and nail for your life while wielding whatever weapons were found in your environment. You also were usually locked into combat with less than four enemies, further adding to the intimate feel of the brawling. Monolith really delivered something great with this one; just skip the sequel. It jumped the shark three times in a row and then circled back to eat the shark after it had finished its aerial acrobatics.
To the Moon
I recently mentioned how To the Moon was one of only two games to ever make me shed a tear. Boy did it! The tale of two scientists helping a dying man to achieve his dying wish is one of the most touching narratives in gaming and is accompanied by one of the best soundtracks in the business. I really don’t want to talk about the game too much in fear I’ll give something away. Just devote the three to four hours it takes to complete the game and enjoy!
Let’s get this out of the way: this game is doggoned cute! There I said it! Happy now? I never thought a game could be considered “cute”, but here is the perfect example. Your task is to reunite Ilo and Milo, two friends separated by various obstacles and complications. It’s harder than its cute, patchwork visuals let on. With multiple characters to control, crazy physics, and wide playing areas to traverse, the game certainly scratched the cerebral itch. Now give it a shot and get sucked into its adorable world!
Hard Corp: Uprising
Sigh. What the hell Konami? Besides canceling Silent Hills and Kojima leaving after MGS5 is finished, Konami has also allowed Hard Corps: Uprising to be the last entry in the Contra series for four years now with no signs of another entry. Hard Corps delivered what we have come to expect and love from Contra: lots of enemies, gigantic bosses, challenging gameplay, and tight controls. What Hard Corps added was some maneuverability to the player’s repertoire of tricks. With the addition of double jumping, dashing, and projectile deflection, the added mechanics allowed the players to do more than previous entries. The addition of co-op made for double the fun and double the deaths. Any fan of Contra and side-scrolling shooters should give this one a try!
Ah Bulletstorm, the definition of glorious excess and irreverent. This is a game that turned heads for its great, arcade-inspired shooting and kept your attention with one of the most gleefully puerile scripts in all of gaming; it’s terrific stuff. Hell, there’s a female in the game who tells the main character, “I will kill your d***.” Since the developers are based in Poland and English is not their first language, they asserted they did not realize how crude the game was, and they added the gratuitous language because it sounded funny, hearing Steve Blum using language that would make a sailor blush while sliding to get that skill shot makes for a great time.
By using a point-based system to unlock upgrades and weapons, the game encourages experimentation and originality when dispatching foes rather than simply having another boring game of Whack-a-Mole with guns. With tight controls, guns that are fun to use and have a sense of power, the shooting in Bulletstorm never gets old. Did I mention you get to set a giant, mechanized fire-breathing lizard upon your foes? Oh yeah, that happens. And Steve Blum! What else could you possibly want?
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
This game is absolutely stunning. No really. Watch the video above you and see this game in action. Words do not do this work of art justice. With its anime-inspired, watercolor art aesthetic, the game looks like a painting come to life. With a combat system revolved around taking your opponent’s weapons and armor and utilizing it against them, it made for a different tempo from other games.
I do need to include this disclaimer though. The game is inspired by the Book of Enoch. So if you are sensitive to religious content, themes, etc., you might not enjoy this as much as I have. However, if that does not bother you, you are in for one gorgeous treat!
You have to love Grasshopper Manufacture and Atlus. Grasshopper develops some of the most bizarre games and Atlus seems to publish something for everyone. If there is a niche, Atlus has ya covered. With that said, I am not sure which niche the developers had in mind for Contact. The game is an RPG, but it is so different from every other RPG I have ever played.
The game follows Terry, a young boy who is enlisted by a professor to help repair the professor’s spaceship. However, there are two separate plots at work here. The game follows Terry and his adventures, but the game also includes a separate storyline for the player themselves as well. The professor actually directly addresses the player on multiple occasions and aims to keep them a secret from Terry. Needless to say, it is a different tale, and the fourth wall has never been shattered this much sans Deadpool’s presence in a game. Another interesting aspect to the game was how experience was gained instantaneously whenever an action was performed. Took a hit? Your defense increases and so on. It was not uncommon to grow stronger during a battle, gaining an edge on your foe.
The game can be difficult to track down, but if you are interested, it is one of the most unique games you can find to date.
Imagine playing a stealth title where you had the powers of telekinesis, astral projection, and more instead of gadgets and guns. Welcome to Second Sight! While the player does have firearms at their disposal, the game strongly emphasizes stealth and smart, tactical decisions to stay undetected. Ever wanted to pull a guard’s gun from their hand with telekinesis and then use a tranquilizer gun to subdue them? Here you can! Sam Fisher has nothing on John Vattic.
The game follows John Vattic, a skeptic to psychic abilities who awakes without his memories and psionic powers! The player helps guide Vattic on his path to regain his memories, and stop an evil plot which seeks to use human guinea pigs bestowed with psychic powers as military weapons. Developed by the team at Free Radical Design, the game was a welcome departure from their fantastic FPS Timesplitters series.
These ten titles are only a handful of underrated and overlooked games out there.
What are your overlooked favorites? Sound off in the comments below!