Top 10 Underrated/Overlooked Games
By Daniel Lein
There are a lot of video games out there, millions in fact; many of which do not get the praise they so rightly deserve. They either receive unjust reviews or are almost entirely ignored by the gaming community. Here are some of the best of those poorly treated games.
One of the most important qualities that video games possess is the ability to immerse the player in a believable yet altogether false world. Games like Bioshock and The Last of Us are often heralded as atmospheric experiences that really put you in the world of the game. Another game with similar, if not greater, levels of immersion is Metro 2033. Set in the subway system of post apocalyptic Russia, Metro 2033 focuses on Artyom defending his home from the black ones. The plot, characters, and premise are engaging, however it is the world building that really sets this game apart. Expertly crafted audio design combined with depressing, yet realistic visuals give you a sense of place and helps you really understand the fight for survival that the characters in the game go through. Though the shooting mechanics in this FPS are a little lack luster, the story and world building make Metro 2033 worth playing, even though few people have.
The Hobbit (2003)
Tolkien is the undisputed father of modern fantasy. He brought to us the wonderfully deep and complex world of Middle-Earth, and with it a plethora of engaging stories and events. One such event that exists in that world is The Hobbit, a critically acclaimed novel that has been adapted to over fifty different languages, made into three major motion pictures, (four if you count the animated one) and one underrated video game. The Hobbit video game follows the story of the book beat for beat, taking plenty of quotes straight from the original work, giving it a clear connection to the novel. The game itself is fairly well designed visually with a charming and utterly unique cartoon style. The gameplay is similar to that of Legend of Zelda games as you take control of Bilbo fighting baddies, beating bosses, and solving puzzles. The game may not be world class quality, but its quirky style, fun combat/puzzles, and adherence to the original book make it a game worth playing, especially for Tolkien fans.
Adventure Time: Hey Ice King Why’d You Steal Our Garbage
Ridiculously long title aside, Adventure Time: Hey Ice King Why’d You Steal Our Garbage is a darling little game available on the DS and 3DS. Though this game got some okay reviews on its release it was largely un-noticed by the media and fans alike. Maybe the game’s lack of attention was due to it being a licensed game, or perhaps because the game was only about two hours long. Whatever the case, too many people missed out on this wonderful title. As you might expect, you play as Finn and Jake in an effort defeat the Ice King. The plot isn’t anything special, but the dialogue is fairly funny and enjoyable to read. The art direction is equally impressive as it takes a slight divergence from the art style of the show while maintaining the cartoon’s mood and overall feel. The real allure of the game however is its ability to emulate, and honestly improve upon, the gameplay concepts originally introduced in Zelda II: Adventure of Link. In Zelda II, and in Adventure Time:HIKWYSOG, you engage in side scrolling platforming and sword play, all the while solving puzzles and leveling up your hero. Though this Adventure Time game may not be as difficult as its Zelda counterpart, it is plenty of fun and well worth a playthrough. Did I mention the music? It’s excellent. If for some reason you don’t buy this darling DS game, at least listen to its charming tunes.
Call of Duty: World at War Zombies (mobile)
The Call of Duty games get plenty of praise and fan appreciation, however, the mobile version of their Zombies game mode seem to have flown under the radar.
Available on the iOS app store for a couple of bucks you can play the highly addictive zombie fighter on all four of the World at War maps, no microtransactions. At first glance, this may seem like a greedy cash-in by the big wigs at Activision, but when you look under the hood you find a game that is really worth some praise. The graphics are smooth and atmospheric, especially for an early era iOS game. On top of that the music and sound design are a step above your average mobile venture. The multiplayer is easy to start and extremely fun to play, especially when done locally. The gameplay is also amazing, as the excellent and responsive controls go hand in hand with the graphics and sound to deliver an exciting and visceral experience. There aren’t many quality FPS on the app store, but World at War Zombies’ rock solid execution of the genre makes it one of the best.
Everyone knows FIFA is one of the most successful game franchises in the world as well as one that reviews favorably nearly every time. The reason I bring it up on this list isn’t because it needs the recognition, but rather because most “hardcore” gamers shrug the FIFA games of as just another sports game. If you are willing to dig a little deeper though, you will find an extremely deep strategy RPG, especially if you are willing to play in manager mode. In manager mode you take control of one of 600 teams and navigate that team through the a series of tournaments as you attempt to meet the demands of the club owners. In addition you can sign and sell over 16,000 players including ones the game generates itself. You can communicate with players, accommodating for their needs, as well as rejecting their desires if you want. The strategy element becomes apparent through the types of players you purchase, the formations you put them in, and the way you play the games. And all of this is so much fun without even being a fan of soccer, just imagine if you were.
Strategy RPGs have met a renaissance lately with excellent titles such as Fire Emblem, Banner Saga, and XCOM. Each of these games have gotten significant praise by critics and fans alike. That being said, one creative and engaging SRPG seems to have slipped under the radar. That game is Massive Chalice. Massive Chalice is a Double Fine developed game that takes the classic formula of turn based strategy RPGs and adds the oh-so-interesting element of time. I don’t mean time travel or time manipulation, but rather five hundred years of time. Unlike the previously mentioned games, Massive Chalice forces the player to rule a country and build that country’s faculties and heroes so that they can be more prepared for battle. Once you consider the fact that you will be ruling for five hundred years, you begin to realize that your favorite heroes will die long before the final battle comes. This gives a unique sense of unit management unseen in the modern strategy RPG that has simply been overlooked. With solid strategy gameplay and fun hereditary stats to go along with your generations of heroes, Massive Chalice is a criminally underplayed strategy game.
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles
The Assassin’s Creed Chronicles trilogy is by no means an amazing series of games, but it also doesn’t deserve the hate or disinterest that many big journalism outlets often give it. ACC is a side scrolling collection of Assassin’s Creed games set in China, India, and Russia. Though none of the games present particularly interesting storylines, all of them present really interesting and vibrant art styles, opting for a near cartoony style rather than photo realism. In addition to the beautiful art direction the series also features really fun and faced paced platforming( it’s actually more like climbing but it’s still really fun), and exciting and challenging combat that rewards skill in really cool looking and difficult to describe ways. That’s all without mentioning the stealth, which ends up being a complicated yet enjoyable puzzle to twist and turn until done perfectly. I’m giving these games a lot of praise, but they are by no means perfect, however they are much better than most critics seem to think.
The iOS is a breeding ground for underappreciated gems. With dozens, if not hundreds, of titles released daily it is no surprise that at least some games may fall through the cracks. Oceanhorn is one such game. Oceanhorn is similar to The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker as it takes the player across a vast ocean, solving fun puzzles, beating challenging bosses, acquiring valuable collectibles, and navigating difficult dungeons. The story is only so-so, but the action-adventure gameplay is a welcome addition to the iOS library, especially when the simple controls are put into place. Often times iOS games live and die by their controls, and Oceanhorn is no different. The virtual joystick works dually as the action button with a second button used for whatever extra item you have selected (bow, hammer, lantern ect.). For whatever reason this system works great, and with plenty of extra sidequests and collectibles, you’ll be playing Oceanhorn for a long time.
Spider Man 2
Video games based on movies are very rarely any good. Most of them are tied to the plot of the film, making for silly missions that feel out of place in an interactive gaming experience. This problem however does not affect Spider Man 2, an open world action adventure game based on the web slinger himself. In Spider Man 2, you play as Spider Man and navigate New York as you fight to stop the evil Doctor Octopus. The main story loosely follows the film with plenty of side missions and Marvel cameos sprinkled in. The combat of Spider Man 2 is essentially a 3D beat-em-up full of well animated combos and plenty of web based attacks. As you complete missions and level up you’ll be able to purchase even more combos from the shops strewn across New York. The real draw of the game however is the web slinging. Navigating New York requires a mixture of web swinging and parkour (before it was cool). Moving around as Spider Man feels great, and though there’s no high score attached, the tricks you can pull of as Spidey reach Tony Hawk levels of fun. Despite Spider Man 2 being an amazingly fun super hero adventure, it never seems to be mentioned in the same breath as the Arkham Games.
Spec Ops: The Line
To me, the greatest injustice of the gaming industry or its fan base is to make a masterpiece seem mediocre by the way they review it or simply fail to play it. Spec Ops: The Line is a 3rd person cover based military shooter released in 2012. Set in the sandstorm struck city of Dubai, Spec Ops: The Line gives you control of Walker, a captain of a small Delta force Squadron whose mission is to infiltrate the city and retrieve Colonel Konrad. As Captain Walker, and by extension yourself, travel deeper into the heart of Dubai, the game transforms from a high octane war game into a deep an in depth look at complicated and difficult to take topics such as PTSD, the ethics of war, and what it means to be a hero. One of the fascinating things about Spec Ops is the way that both the gameplay and visual design work together with the narrative. Combat is intense and violent as it glorifies war in an attempt to mock other shooters that do the same. Between the coarse sand and the perspiration on the faces of the characters, the visual design presents a very oppressive world, void of vitality or relief. The greatest draw and storytelling technique that Spec Ops utilizes however is decision making. Often times you will be forced to make hard decisions that will no doubt mean life or death to someone, and as your move forward the consequences become more and more grave. What is perhaps most impressive about these decisions is the fact that you are the one who makes them and that they are acted out rather than said. In games like the Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us the player will make equally life threatening choices, yet in Spec Ops those choices are not determined by the pressing of one button or another, but rather by the player’s actions. This simple method attaches both the weight of the decisions, and the consequences that follow, to the player in an effective and often heartbreaking way. Spec Ops: The Line is a sign of mature storytelling, one that takes full advantage of the medium on which it is presented, and one that shows what game are capable of, and you haven’t even played it.