The 20 cult video games you need to play before you die

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Hello gamers. If you have ever wondered what cult games should be on your must-play list, GameSkinny has got you covered. We have selected some of the best games to play before you die from PC to console.

Cult games are games that were not widely successful, but maintained a strong and dedicated fan following. Some of the games on this list weren't always hits at launch and some gained 'AAA' status afterwards. Others can be successful, critically acclaimed, but overshadowed by others in the same series or released around the same time. Unconventional elements are a common appeal that will also categorize a game as "cult."

It just goes to show you how much of an impact we as gamers make in this industry. Here's our Top 20!

Castle Crashers

Castle Crashers is a side-scrolling 2D beat 'em up game from The Behemoth available on Xbox 360, PS3, PC, and a remastered for Xbox One.

Castle Crashers offers a single-player and up to a 4-player cooperative gameplay either locally or online. Gain experience points, unlock weapons, animal orbs, earn coins, and unlock characters. The melee and weapon combinations are so much fun to use, especially when fighting the giant cat fish (literally... it's a cat) while in battle on the raging river.

Why you should play

There are giant cats, corn, knights, sandwiches, lollipop swords, and... sketches of unicorns.

The art style of Castle Crashers is by no means any indication that it is a G-rated "baby" game. It's Diablo meets princesses that crashed into the World of Dr. Seuss. It is hysterical, fun, and will make you feel like a crazy button-smashing kid again.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent

Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a first person survival horror available on PC, Mac, and Linux. It is a game about immersion, discovery, and living through a nightmare made by Frictional Games.

If you are in the darkness too long, witness unsettling events, or stare at monsters, this will reduce Daniel's sanity (which needs to be maintained). If not kept in check, you are in for hallucinations that draw the attention of the monsters. Not fun at all!

Why you should play

Amnesia: The Dark Descent is one of the scariest survival horror games I have played on PC. Its thick atmosphere is terrifying. I love how well the gameplay is crafted. The scares are horrific and memorable. The story unfolds slowly to its unsettling climax. In my opinion it is a must-play, you do not know what you're missing.

Limbo

Limbo is a puzzle-platformer from Playdead for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, and PC. Its black-and-white theme and lack of dialogue resonate similar to rich film noir. Its artwork speaks of German Expressionism and it is gorgeous.

The darkness hides loads of hazards such as:

  • lethal bear traps on the forest floor
  • deadly monsters hiding in the shadows... giant spiders!!
  • glow worms: they attach themselves to the boy's head forcing him to travel in only one direction (I'll let you solve this on your own)

The second half features mechanical puzzles and traps that use machinery, electromagnets, and gravity. There is no dialogue or instruction, just the ambient eerie setting in which you must explore while using critical thinking in order to advance. Love it!

Why you should play this

Limbo is intuitive and creative; cold, lonely, and stark. The nameless boy's journey provide a breathtaking experience. The stunning artwork and physics system lend itself to its maze of masterfully crafted puzzles that make every mistake a brutal consequence.

Simply put... it is a perfect and emotionally moving game.

Psychonauts

Psychonauts is a fun platformer by Double Fine Productions for PC, Xbox, Xbox 360, PS2, and PS3.

Psychonauts follows Razputin (Raz), a boy with psychic abilities, who runs away from the circus to sneak into a summer camp for those with similar powers to become a "Psychonaut" (spy with psychic abilities).

Why you should play

Psychonauts is a creative game that features fun gameplay, wonderful voice acting, beautiful environment, strange humor, and a great soundtrack. Each character's brain is  a world for Raz to explore. The puzzles are challenging without being too difficult. I love its bizarre cast of characters. They are hilarious and well constructed.

Tim Schafer delivers a fantastic story with the comedic style he's known for. If you love his games, you need to play this one.

American McGee's Alice

American McGee's Alice is a third-person horror action by Rogue Entertainment and EA for PC.

The game is an unofficial sequel to Lewis Carroll's Alice novels. Set years after Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, it is dark and Alice is maniacal. After witnessing the death of her family in a blaze, Alice suffers from survivor's guilt and is sent to the Rutledge Asylum when she begins losing her grasp on reality. Her only possession... her stuffed rabbit.

Why you must play

It's a steampunk, Gothic horror with no signs of Disney. A dark, deliciously morbid storyline with an amazing soundtrack. The level design and artwork are so elaborate, you will find yourself mesmerized. I cannot tell you how gorgeous it is. The characters are twisted and The Cheshire Cat delivers some of the most memorable lines to date.

"We're all mad here." - The Cheshire Cat

There is currently a petition on Change.org requesting that EA make another Alice game.

Grim Fandango Remastered

Grim Fandango Remastered is an adventure game by LucasArts and Tim Schafer for PC, Mac, PS4, PS Vita, Android, and iOS.

The game combines elements of the Aztec belief of the afterlife with film noir style to create the Land of the Dead. Departed souls, represented as skeleton-like (calaca) figures, must travel to reach their final destination, the Ninth Underworld. The story follows travel agent Manuel "Manny" Calavera as he attempts to save Mercedes "Meche" Colomar.

Why you must play

Grim Fandango Remastered's story, its characters, and humor make it a classic unlike anything else. It truly is one-of-a-kind. You need to pay close attention to things people say, and everything you read and see in order to complete the puzzles. Its stylistic choice to mimic the Mexican paper dolls for the Day of the Dead is wonderful. Even after 17 years from its original launch, this game is still a must-play.

Mirror's Edge

Mirror's Edge is an action-adventure by DICE and EA for PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.

Join the free-runner Faith as she works to uncover corporate conspiracies by moving across rooftops, walls, through ventilation shafts, and navigating the environment using parkour.

Why you should play

Mirror's Edge graphics are breathtaking. Once its parkour elements are mastered, Faith's movements are traversed seamlessly. This is a game that words cannot describe, you simply must see to believe. Its expansive environment provides a dynamic setting for the fluid parkour.

Alan Wake

Alan Wake is an episodic psychological survival horror by Remedy Entertainment for Xbox 360 and PC similar to a television series. 

Alan Wake is novelist suffering from a bout of writer's block who must uncover the mystery behind his the disappearance of his wife. However, his best clues come from torn pages of a book that he hasn't written yet.

Why you should play

Alan Wake is a fantastic combination of elements of storyline, television, and game creating an experience loaded with thrills, humor, and scares that is just as fun to play as it is to watch.

Deus Ex: GOTY Edition

Deus Ex: GOTY Edition is cyber-punk theme action RPG by Edios Interactive for PC.

Set in the year 2052, Deus Ex follows JC Denton, an nano-technologically-augmented (UNATCO) agent, as he combats terrorist forces in a world slowly slipping chaos. He then becomes involved in an ancient conspiracy where he encounters groups similar to the Illuminati and the Hong Kong Triads.

Why you should play

Deus Ex: GOTY is an upgraded edition of the original that started a revolution as far as I am concerned. It brought an all-new gameplay to FPS with a real  immersive 3D, first-person perspective. Despite the original launching over 15 years ago, this is still a favorite among gamers.

Valkyria Chronicles

Valkyria Chronicles is a tactical RPG by Sega for PS3 and PC.

Set in Europa, similarly to Europe during World War II & the 1930's. The abundance of Ragnite ore has caused the neutral nation of Gallia to come under attack from the Empire; who is currently at war with the Federation. Soldiers of the Federation's 7th Platoon are fighting back to unify the continent under its power.

Why you should play

Valkyria Chronicles has an epic storyline, beautiful graphics engine, a great gameplay system, and loaded with tons of customization. The immersible environments are stunning to boot.

Catherine

Catherine is an adult adventure puzzle-platformer and dating sim by Atlus for Xbox 360 and PS3.

Catherine weaves a tale of a young man named Vincent as he attempts to come to grips with settling down with his girlfriend Katherine. However, when Vincent gets involved with another young woman named Catherine... all hell breaks loose. This is a game that makes you think twice about being unfaithful.

Why you should play

Catherine is a unique game unlike any other that I have played before. The use of puzzles as nightmares due to Vincent's moral dilemma is the game's core. The anime style is a fantastic and will certainly appeal to fans of the genre.

Conker's Bad Fur Day

Conker's Bad Fur Day is a crude adult-oriented, action platformer by Rare for the Nintendo 64.

Take the foul-mouthed squirrel Conker, who has one hell of a bad fur day, through levels based on popular movies, even one made of poo. Yes... poo. Conker goes through all of this just so he can sleep off his hangover.

Why you should play

Conker's Bad Fur Day is a classic full of dark, vulgar humor, puzzles, cigars, booze, and fighting loads of enemies. Do you really need any more reasons?

Xenoblade Chronicles

Xenoblade Chronicles is a sci-fi RPG by Monolith Soft for the Nintendo Wii.

Follow Shulk and his friends as they search for answers regarding the mysterious "Monado" sword to defend their land from robotic creatures called the Mechon.

Why you should play

Xenoblade is loaded with quests with an MMO similar combat system. The world is grand and gorgeous. Oceans, caves, and swamps can be found scattered throughout. The soundtrack is equally dynamic. It is a game that you'll either love or hate.

Demon's Souls

Demon's Souls is the action RPG by From Software for the PS3 that accumulated more deaths than YouTube has epic fail videos. This is the game that started the Souls series.

The kingdom of Boletaria is being ravaged by a curse. The "Deep Fog" brings forth demons to feast on mortal souls in this dark, fantasy. Brave warriors set out to save the kingdom against this threat.

Why you should play

If you are like me when it comes to playing any series, you have to go to the beginning. Demon's Souls is a testament to decision making all thanks to the auto-save system. Weapon mapping is critical when in combat. Death is cruel... but delicious.

Earthbound

Earthbound aka Mother 2 is an RPG by Ape and HAL Laboratory for the Wii U (originally NES).

Follow Ness and his friends as they travel the world to collect melodies while defeating the evil alien Giygas.

Why you should play

Earthbound has a Lovecraftian theme that is both dark and fun. There are unique elements to this classic game that I found delightful such as the the numbered health wheel and never combating an enemy beyond your limit. It doesn't punish you but still allows you to gain the XP. Give it try.

'Splosion Man

'Splosion Man is 2.5D action platformer by Twisted Pixel Games for the Xbox 360.

'​Splosion Man is created by the laboratory Big Science. He is completely made of explosive material. The purpose is to "splode" through the levels of puzzles, traps, and enemies to escape. A splode is a jump which is used to kill enemies, demolish walls, detonate explosive barrels or even trigger other surrounding effects.

Why you should play

'Splosion Man offers a hefty amount of single-player and 4-player cooperative levels (local or online). Its humor, originality, and simplicity is what makes this classic great. The controls are easy as pie I might add, so there's no difficult combinations to remember. The puzzles are cleverly designed to constantly add new mechanics to the players. It can be challenging but never to the point of frustration or boredom; it's fun. There are so many references to the 1980's that you are sure to be engaged in nostalgic fun.

Portal

Portal is a first-person puzzle-platformer by Valve for PC, Xbox 360, and PS3. It was originally bundled with The Orange Box upon release.

Chell is challenged by GLaDOS, an artificial intelligence (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System), to complete puzzles in the Aperture Science Enrichment Center using a portal gun with the promise of cake upon completion.

Why you should play

Portal offers unique gameplay and GLaDOS' dark, dry humor is brilliant. The portal gun is used by creating inter-spatial portals (orange & blue) between two flat planes in order to solve the puzzles. It is amazing, fun, and quite challenging. The test chambers vary in terms of hazards, so be prepared to die--a lot. There are challenge maps and two additional modes are unlocked once the game is completed.

Valve never anticipated Portal would be such a hit with players and was originally a mod for Half Life 2.

Steel Battalion

Steel Battalion is a Mech-simulator by Capcom for the original Xbox. The game bundles with the controller included. The controller has two control sticks, approximately 40 buttons, and a separate foot pedal.

The controller lights up at key times, especially when taking damage. The unison lighting effect is to make the player "feel" like they are really taking damage.

Why you should play

Steel Battalion is a true sim to first exist on the console. The Mechs acted like real machine and the gameplay feels as close to the real thing as you can get. The controller set up makes you feel like you are in control of the Mech. If you run out of money and don't eject in time--game over! There is no pause button folks... just like real battle.

Truly immersive game, a must-play.

Killing Floor

Killing Floor is a cooperative zombie, horror, survival FPS by Tripwire Interactive for PC.

Set in London, England, the Horzine Biotech, a biotechnology company, conducts military experiments involving mass cloning and genetic manipulation. During the process things go very badly and the human subjects begin to exhibit horrific mutations, disfigurement, becoming hostile, and eventually overrun the internal security forces. They escape and begin overrunning the city of London.

Why you should play

Where do I begin? Killing Floor has the most realistic weapons of any game I have ever played and I am a gun owner. The gameplay never gets boring no matter how much you play. This isn't a simple zombie survival by any means, oh no.

"So how did Killing Floor become so successful you ask? It's a really good question but simple to answer, this game is possibly one of the most clever games ever created due to the fact it's not one of the games where you try to get the other side of the level and re-stock on supplies then trying to get to the other side of that level or trying to gather supplies and making gangs and being a total ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ ruining other people's experience with that game." - scud[i]Ö!

The zombie hordes will ensure death and believe me--they will. Each wave becomes harder than before until meeting the final boss, the Patriarch. In between each wave you can visit the Trader's location which changes with every wave. Players earn money for every kill and for surviving the wave. Use the money to buy: katanas, shotguns, flamethrowers, and more. Select perks at the start of each match for bonuses.

Killing Floor is deliciously fun and shouldn't be missed.

Ikaruga

Ikaruga is shoot 'em by Treasure for the PC, Dreamcast (Japan), Nintendo GameCube, and Xbox 360.

In the nation of Horai, their leader discovered the Ubusunagami Okinokai (Power of the Gods) gaining great power. Calling themselves "The Divine Ones," begins conquering nations until they are challenged by those longing for peace.

Why you should play

Ikaruga's combat system is just mind-blowing. It's a polarity mechanic where only the opposite polarity can destroy the enemy. This constant "flipping" while maneuvering your ship, the "Ikaruga," had me on my toes.  It is one of the best shooters I have ever played.

Verdict

As previously stated, cult games are games that were not widely successful, but maintained a strong fan following. Some of the games here weren't always hits at launch and some even gained their 'AAA' status afterwards. Others can be successful, critically acclaimed, but overshadowed by others. What deems a game as "cult" varies from gamer to gamer and that's okay. It is great to see how gamers impact this industry.

What did you think of our list? What games would you add? List in the comments. 

Published Aug. 16th 2015

Featured Columnist

Venisia is really just a kid in adult form. She is a published author, photographer, artist, executive assistant, public relations coordinator, game writer, gamer of 35+ years, geek, nerd, singer, dancer, senior editor, freelance journalist, comic & film aficionado, podcaster, activist, and volunteer. Venisia is a huge fan of comics, anime, EVERY genre of gaming, dance, horror/martial arts films, Doctor Who, Daleks, Star Wars, Monty Python, Flash Gordon, Black Dynamite, and anything by Mel Brooks (who doesn't appreciate Spaceballs?).

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