Top 10 Tuesdays: Underrated and Underappreciated Games
January 30, 2007 - Top 10 Tuesdays: Underrated or Underappreciated GamesThey might be gone. They might be forgotten. But they shouldn't be.Welcome to IGN's weekly countdown of the exceptional, fascinating, and absurd: something we like to call Top 10 Tuesday. Every week we'll feature the top ten games, characters, fashion statements or whatever else we can think of that in some way relates to gaming and its history. And just because it's called Top 10 Tuesday doesn't mean it's always going to be a list of the best -- we like to razz on stuff as much as we like to praise it. From counting down the best consoles ever to revealing the worst use of fish heads in a videogame, this is where it's at.
This week's topic: underrated or underappreciated games. Think back. What are some of the best games that you feel never really got a fair shake? A solid project that, for whatever reason, was swept under the rug by the time it finally hit retailers. Or maybe a game that did receive critical high marks and yet bombed on a consumer level, anyway. Over the years, there have been more of these sleepers-in-the-making than any of us would probably care to admit. They've gone uncelebrated if not downright ignored for long enough. So join us as we raise a glass and give thanks to the games that should very likely be in your library, but aren't - maybe because you thought they sucked.
You probably never played Psychonauts - the game didn't exactly fly off store shelves upon its release for Xbox two years ago - but there's a good chance you've played something from its creator, Tim Schafer. The videogame veteran is responsible for some of the fantastic adventure games of old, from Grim Fandango to The Secret of Monkey Island. Psychonauts has all the Schafer trademarks: namely, an original and wholly surreal game universe and inspired play mechanics. You control Raz, who possesses the unique ability to enter people's minds. The title spans more than 10 completely off-the-wall worlds filled with a variety of platforming and action challenges, most of them fun. And if the project's varied stages and play styles don't hook you, its funny dialogue and unconventional storyline will.
9) Body Harvest
Without Body Harvest, Grand Theft Auto III may never have been created. Or, at least that's what we say over and over again when we argue with friends that the game is a must own. Created for N64 by DMA Design, the same studio that went on to make GTA III, Body Harvest was one of the first sandbox-style efforts to hit a home console. The game successfully mixed quasi-open-world on-foot gunplay with vehicular based combat. It featured a moody presentation complete with alien attackers and music that - despite being on cartridge - actually didn't suck. In fact, it was downright spooky at times. When this game inevitably comes to the Virtual Console, click that download now button immediately.
Rez for Dreamcast and PlayStation 2 was one part rhythm game and another part shooter, but unfortunately nobody told SEGA that Americans hate techno. The game flopped, but that hasn't stopped it from gaining a dedicated audience of hardcore supporters. Rez really should be celebrated for its mixture of psychedelic visuals and thumping music, all of which was intuitively cued to the on-screen action and even to the rumblings of the controller. Incidentally, the project even featured a storyline about a female artificial intelligence who comes to question her very existence… in the manual, anyway. We're quite sure most players wouldn't have cared if Rez featured Shakespeare within its trippy, bizarre universe so long as the beats kept coming.
7) Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
We readily admit that Donkey Kong Jungle Beat was an odd idea - even for Nintendo. A pair of bongos utilized by players to control an otherwise traditional quasi-2D platformer game? Er, right. The concept sounded ludicrous, but the end product was both extremely fun to play and gorgeous. Nintendo's new Tokyo studio, the same house responsible for the upcoming Super Mario Galaxy, created the project. DK Jungle Beat was easily accessible and served up a refreshing variety of different challenges, from traditional run-and-jump stages to bongo-driven boss fights. We can only hope Galaxy will prove as inventive and fresh. Galaxy does have at least one advantage, though: it's destined to sell very well. Jungle Beat was by just about any measure a total flop.
6) Sky Odyssey
Sky Odyssey was unfairly shrugged off as a throwaway effort when it debuted for PlayStation 2 so many years ago. However, those who took a chance on the game discovered that it yielded a surprisingly addictive flying experience. Not only did development studio Cross deliver a commendable number of planes to fly, but each had a realistic sense of weight and physics, and weather played an integral role in each challenge. Flying through waterfalls or against heavy winds was so well realized that either could jumpstart anybody's heart. Unfortunately, Sky Odyssey's graphics were not quite on par with the rest of the package, and thus the project was largely ignored.
5) Space Station: Silicon Valley
Well, look who's back on our list? Yep, it's DMA Design, the same guys who made not only Body Harvest, but Grand Theft Auto, too. Space Station: Silicon Valley features no guns and no hookers, but it does have floating sheep and an electrified fox. You control Evo, a walking microchip who can and must possess the bodies of various cybernetic animals and use their abilities to solve environmental puzzles. The game is a bit buggy, but its play mechanics are nevertheless quite a lot of fun and you will indeed find yourself laughing at some of the stupid, crazy scenarios on more than one occasion. This project is another must-buy for Wii's Virtual Console.
4) Killer 7
The director of this game, Suda 51, was at one time only photographed in Mexican wrestling masks. Don't ask because, frankly, we don't know. What we do know, though, is that Killer 7 deserves better than it got. The title may not have conjured up free-roaming play mechanics - the adventure took place by and large on-rails, enabling players to choose the direction they wanted to walk to - but its storyline, character dialogue, mood, and over-the-top violence were all unique and bold. If you thought of this title as a point-and-click adventure of old, you were bound to love it. On the other hand, gamers expecting traditional action game controls were usually disappointed. If you want something truly different, Killer 7 is for you. And Suda 51's next game, No More Heroes, is on its way to a Wii near you soon.
3) Jumping Flash!
The year was 1995 and PlayStation had just hit the market. There were traditional 2D platformers and there were emerging 3D action titles, but Jumping Flash! was the first to marry the platformer genre with the third dimension. The result was an unexpectedly original and enjoyable 3D platform game in which the primary object was simply to jump from spot to spot. Although Jumping Flash! was brought to life with relatively primitive 3D polygonal graphics, especially by today's standards, the unique gameplay style remains intact even now. Go back and play it sometime - your PS3 is backward compatible.
A boy with horns guides a mysterious princess through a desolate land, all the while fighting off shadow creatures with a stick. When you put it that way, Ico may not sound like the most compelling videogame undertaking in history, but the game's execution is so great that we're surprised it wasn't ultimately a million-plus-seller in each territory. It is PlayStation's Zelda without the sales. Unlike many of the games on our list, Ico has massive hardcore fan support, but even so we wanted to include it in the lineup so that the millions of mainstream players who ignored it might finally take notice. People, if you haven't played this game, you're missing a true classic. Buy it, finish it, and then go play Shadow of the Colossus.
1) Beyond Good & Evil
Like Ico, Beyond Good & Evil is one of those games that got its due critical praise, but somehow failed to transform all the praise into retail dollars. Ubisoft may be partly to blame here. After all, it did release BG&E against the more hyped Prince of Persia, one of its own games. Still, we simply cannot fathom why more players have not stumbled onto BG&E. The game, from Rayman creator Michel Ancel, delivers one of the richest storylines and most beautiful worlds we've seen for an adventure effort in years, and the overall play mechanics are just shy of the Zelda franchise. If you can find it, nab the Xbox version - it's the only one that runs in progressive-scan. We're hoping the Rayman team will include BG&E as a bonus in its next release so that the world can finally enjoy one of last generation's truly great projects.