Jul 12, 2012

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The Best 20 Underrated Games Of The Decade

The Best 20 Underrated Games Of The Decade

 

Anyone played games like GTA, Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed or any other big games from big companies like Rockstar, Activision or Ubisoft.

But there are a few that you don’t know about or you don’t accord them enough attention at the right time.

1. THE CLUB

FORMAT: PC, PS3, 360

RELEASE: 8 February 2008

WHY YOU DIDN’T PLAY IT: Bizarre‘s logo might have had significance on the box of a racing game but it proved meaningless on that of a shooter. The box also did a terrible job of explaining what the game was, hardly what you want for a new IP launching alongside the likes of DMC4 and Turok.

WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY IT: Though it has arguably since been usurped by, of all things, a 50 Cent game, Bizarre Creations’ rare divergence from the driving genre still managed to boldly combine tight shooter mechanics, an old-school score attack vibe and even racing sensibilities to create something truly original. Compelling in the same way that Bulletstorm’s Echoes and the iOS version of Rage are, there’s a degree of joy in pipping a friend’s high score that echoes that of shaving a couple of splits from the best time on a leaderboard. Which, of course, was one of the things Bizarre did best.

2. DARK SECTOR

FORMAT: PC, PS3, 360

RELEASE: 4 April 2008

WHY YOU DIDN’T PLAY IT: Okay, so it launched on the same day as the anticipated Condemned 2. But even if it hadn’t, D3 Publisher had done little to promote the game, which garnered middling reviews from many outlets.

WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY IT: On the surface a shonky, Gears-inspired cover shooter, Dark Sector didn’t wait long to reveal the ace up-or rather on – its sleeve. In the glaive, Digital Extremes had a catch-all instrument of awesomeness, a toy that could be used for complex puzzle-solving one minute then guided through the air to lop off several heads in quick succession the next. This satisfying element is worth the wildly reduced price of admission alone, though many reviewers seemed to take the whole thing too seriously to give it a fair crack.

3. ZACK & WIKI: THE QUEST FOR BARBAROS’ TREASURE

FORMAT: Wii

RELEASE: 18 January 2008

WHY YOU DIDN’T PLAY IT: Aside from nonexistent marketing for the game, the cutesy cover made it look like a licensed kids’ game rather than the hardcore puzzler it actually was.

WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY IT: The game itself is an incredibly devious point-and-click-style puzzle adventure that only the patient will ever see through to the end. It’s actually one of the better and more inventive Wii games available despite this dichotomy, even if the trial-and-error nature of the latter challenges does get insanely frustrating. It’s also one of the few Wii games to really make good on the promise of the Wii Remote, translating real movements directly into contextual in-game actions.

4. THE WORLD ENDS WITH YOU

FORMAT: DS

RELEASE: 18 April 2008

WHY YOU DIDN’T PLAY IT: A confusing title and confusing cover art accurately reflect what is a pretty confusing and Japan-centric game, plus launching the week after Mario Kart Wii won’t have helped its cause.

WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY IT: While releasing a game on the most popular platform is a great way to sell to the biggest audience possible, it’s also going to be the market with the most competition. The World Ends With You fell into just that trap, lost among thousands of DS games despite being one of the most creative RPGs in years. Over time, however, its reputation has seen TWEWYs fanbase grow to the point where its protagonists will cameo in Kingdom Hearts 3D, teasing a well-deserved sequel to come.

5. X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE

FORMAT: DS, PC, PS2, PS3, PSP, Wii, 360

RELEASE: 1 May 2009

WHY YOU DIDN’T PLAY IT: Though it entered the charts well on release, X-Men Origins: Wolverine bombed in subsequent weeks as the film proved to be awful and surely killed all enthusiasm for any related products, including the game.

WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY IT: Wolverine had no right to be a good game. It just didn’t, and that’s why so many gamers will have ignored it along with all the other cash-in tat on the market. The film might have been utter dross but the playable version fared far better, an immensely playable take on the character that avoided many of the pitfalls of its big-screen brother and had some great set-pieces. The exception that proves the ‘licensed games are all awful’ rule, and one to check out if you just want to switch your brain off and hurt people.

6. PUNCH-OUT!!

FORMAT: Wii

RELEASE: 22 May 2009

WHY YOU DIDN’T PLAY IT: The simple truth is that Punch-Out!! is a dead brand in the 21st Century – most Wii players probably weren’t even born when the last game came out in 1995.

WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY IT: To call this Nintendo’s most underperforming title in years certainly wouldn’t be unfair, though the situation itself certainly is – Next Level Games did a fine job of following up Super Punch-Out!!, and while the template hadn’t changed in almost 20 years, it also proved that it didn’t need to. The punishing difficulty curve and reliance on old-school pattern learning may not have sat well with the majority of the Wii install base but older players will love everything about this overlooked contender.

7. LOST IN BLUE 3

FORMAT: DS

RELEASE: 6 February 2009

WHY YOU DIDN’T PLAY IT: Released amid the DS puzzle craze when the handheld market was going nuts for Layton and Brain Training, this inventive sequel found itself lost at sea. It probably didn’t help that it was the third near-identical game in two years, mind…

WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY IT: The Survival Kids formula has changed little since the 1999 Game Boy Color title, though Konami would do well to listen to player feedback – since the original DS title, Lost In Blue has come under fire for being far too difficult for many of the players that enjoy the unique premise, though the games only ever seem to get trickier with each iteration. It’s engrossing once you get over that initial hump, mind, and this probably represents the series’ pinnacle so far.

8. NINJA BLADE

FORMAT: PC, 360

RELEASE: 3 April 2009

WHY YOU DIDN’T PLAY IT: With Resident Evil 5 riding high in the charts and From Software’s game coming across as a cheap knock-off of Ninja Caiden, Ninja Blade was doomed from day one.

WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY IT: Ninja Caiden’s ‘special’ second cousin apparently once had a temp job as a cleaner at Team Ninja, pocketing the scraps from the cutting room floor and binding them together with impossibly stupid cut-scenes masquerading as interactive elements to create one of the dumbest games in recent memory. It’s not often you get to play an all-in-pink ninja that throws wrecking balls at giant spiders though, so it’s certainly not all bad… especially when the rare privilege to do so will set you back less than a pint.

9. NIER

FORMAT: PS3, 360

RELEASE: 23 April 2010

WHY YOU DIDN’T PLAY IT: One-word titles like Gun and Bulletstorm tell you what you’re getting. Nonsensical one-word titles like Nier do not. Hell, most people didn’t even know it existed, let alone what it was. We finished it several times over and we’re still not sure…

WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY IT: It’s almost Impossible to explain Nier, such is the bizarre game’s skill in leaping between genres and gameplay styles with gay abandon. But for that very reason -the same reason for which it sold about 16 copies – it’s also emphatically recommendable. You’ll never play another game like it because there won’t ever be another game like it. Few developers have the balls to leap from action-RPG elements into a text adventure, so such tomfoolery deserves to be celebrated.

10. WET

FORMAT: PS3, 360

RELEASE: 18 September 2009

WHY YOU DIDN’T PLAY IT: Launching at the start of 2009’s silly season was a clear error – released just a month or so earlier (and perhaps with a bit more of a push), Rubi‘s daft grindhouse adventure might have done alright.

WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY IT: Bethesda picking up this oddity came as something of a surprise, as too did the revelation that it wasn’t nearly as terrible as it looked like it might be. Technically just shy of solid but immensely playable, the action-packed shooter was a playful and stylish adventure in the Tarantino mould, and is more than deserving of your time and loose change.

11. ALPHA PROTOCOL

FORMAT: PC, PS3, 360

RELEASE: 28 May 2010

WHY YOU DIDN’T PLAY IT: The usually quiet period was dominated by Red Dead Redemption‘ which clung to the top spot for an impressive five weeks. Mixed reviews of the unpolished RPG can’t have helped, either.

WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY IT: Despite the game’s flaws, Obsidian’s vision and commitment were enough to spin what could have been a disaster into a game that begs to be played. With real consequences where most games offer binary choices, Alpha Protocol is a game well worth going through a few times, if only to see how the narrative changes on each playthrough.

12. SINGULARITY

FORMAT: PC, PS3, 360

RELEASE: 25 June 2010

WHY YOU DIDN’T PLAY IT: When we see little to nothing of a game before boxed copies arrive, alarm bells ring. Activision’s seeming decision to bury Singularity flew in the face of that standard, though – it turned out to be a really solid and creative FPS.

WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY IT: Quality shooters are no rarity, though they’re often easy to see coming. That Singularity never really appeared on our radar is a great shame, if only because it was much better than its low profile would suggest. Raven’s FPS took many of the concepts of the disappointing Timeshift and made them its own, creating a genuine ray of light in a genre swamped with Call Of Duty copycats.

13. ENSLAVED: ODYSSEY TO THE WEST

FORMAT: PS3, 360

RELEASE: 8 October 2010

WHY YOU DIDN’T PLAY IT: New IPs are notoriously tough to take to market successfully, and launching at the busiest time of the year only makes the process harder still.

WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY IT: Even with a quality dev team, Hollywood acting and writing talent and a professional soundtrack, success was not to be for this reimagining of the Journey To The West fable. It’s one of the most prominent examples of how new IPs are risky, and a dangerous glimpse into gaming’s future – if you’re going to show your support for new original games, there are few stronger horses to back than Enslaved.

14. PREMONITION

FORMAT: 360

RELEASE: 29 October 2010

WHY YOU DIDN’T PLAY IT: No game has seen so broad a spread of review scores, with a limited release amid the busiest season also helping keep the quirky delight in the shadows.

WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY IT: Divisive to the extreme and extremely niche, nobody expected Deadly Premonition to get a PAL release, let alone sell any copies when it unexpectedly did. Still, those that do take the plunge might just find themselves surprised to find that a game so technically shabby can be so damn entertaining. Don’t let the short run deny you of a copy, either – it’s available on Games On Demand as well, if you’d like to support the quirky cult classic.

15. MAJIN AND THE FORSAKEN KINGDOM

FORMAT: PS3, 360

RELEASE: 26 November 2010

WHY YOU DIDN’T PLAY IT: Contrary to what those late night teleshopping channels might be so eager to yell, it’s hard for something to sell well if it’s not available in shops. Majin’s lack of retail presence was a saddening turn of events. Like Muramasa the previous year, many retailers chose not to stock the new property, leading to minimal visibility and exposure.

WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY IT: While no classic, Majin And The Forsaken Kingdom is a charming and enchanting adventure, and the titular Majin himself is one of the most likeable gaming characters in years. If you’re still waiting for The Last Guardian to materialise, orfor The Legend Of Zelda try some fresh ideas, then this is your game.

16. WWE ALL STARS

FORMAT: 3DS, PS2, PS3, PSP, Wii, 360

RELEASE: 1 April 2011

WHY YOU DIDN’T PLAY ITAll Stars sat in a curious limbo between official tie-in and arcade game, arriving months after the annual WWE title and failing to capitalise on its ability to appeal beyond wrestling fans.

WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY IT: It’s rare that games™ covers wrestling games at all, though that’s only because it’s rarer still for THQ to deviate from the same template it has been using since the PSone SmackDown! games. Here, though, highly stylised Superstars take to the ring in what is effectively an arcade fighter, and it overcomes regular classification to offer an entertaining fighting experience for even those that don’t follow the weekly antics of the Sweaty Spandex Brigade.

17. SHADOWS OF THE DAMNED

FORMAT: PS3, 360

RELEASE: 24 June 2011

WHY YOU DIDN’T PLAY IT: Amid a decent summer for games, Grasshopper‘s celebration of immaturity didn’t have nearly the push it would have needed to be successful.

WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY IT: It’s Resident Evil 4, as seen through the eyes of a grubby-minded teenager. But that’s fine with us. Those crazy Grasshopper chaps sure know how to piece together a great game, and while it might have catered more to gutter-dwelling senses of humour than most gamers, it still ranks among our favourite dark horses of last year. Don’t hold your breath for a sequel though, since none of you horrible lot bothered buying it. Shame on you all.

18. MALICIOUS

FORMAT: PS3, PS VITA

RELEASE: 8 February 2012

WHY YOU DIDN’T PLAY IT: Those that really wanted to play it had already cheated the system to grab it from the Japanese PSN store years ago. This particular entry isn’t about a game that underperformed; it’s about one that snuck onto the PlayStation Store a year and a half after its Japanese launch to little fanfare, one that now lies buried in the archives only to be found by those that seek it out.

WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY ITMalicious is a clever fusion of boss battles and shooter elements, making it an easy recommendation if you have the patience to wade through the menu mire required to find the damn thing. Its short length makes it feel like a demo for a bigger DMC-style adventure. This could and should have been a Bayonetta contender.

19. EL SHADDAI: ASCENSION OF THE METATRON

FORMAT: PS3, 360

RELEASE: 9 September 2011

WHY YOU DIDN’T PLAY IT: With a title that most people couldn’t even pronounce and launching on the same week as Dead Island, Space Marine and Resistance 3, Ignition’s stylish action game didn’t stand a prayer.

WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY IT: ElShaddai had a lot going for it in terms of style, though it was equally cursed with elements that would see it ignored. One-button combat scared off a lot of the hardcore DMCcrew, for instance, while the religious themes managed to offend as they so often do and even that lush visual style didn’t sit well with everyone. Still, it’s a beautiful game whether you enjoy the rhythmic combat or not, and sometimes that’s all it takes to send the hand walletwards. This is a course of action we heartily recommend.

20. SYNDICATE

FORMAT: PC, PS3, 360

RELEASE: 24 February 2012

WHY YOU DIDN’T PLAY IT: Some took umbrage with the usage of the classic franchise’s name, others with the me-too trailer… Syndicate ended up appealing to neither retro gamers nor modern FPS fans.

WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY IT: Okay, so it’s not Syndicate as you know it. And sure, it’s just another shooter. But it’s a pretty damn good one, elements of Crysis fusing with ideas pinched from the classic RTS from which the game takes its name make for a stunning and satisfying slice of cyberpunk silliness. The price will drop further, were sure, but that’ll only make it even more appealing a prospect for those that haven’t seen the future yet.

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