Editor's note: Mike's favorite underrated games certainly deserve the title — I haven't heard of half of his choices, let alone played them. What would you add to his list? -Brett
Usually, I reserve my blog posts to discuss how gaming can interact with life and effect people's belief structures. I try to elicit a strong response from gamers and dive deeper into the hobby.
This is not that type of blog post.
With the recent re-release of Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber – one of my personal favorites — on the Wii's Virtual Console, I got to thinking about good games that aren't well represented in mainstream gaming. The "hidden gems," if you will.
So I decided to draw up a list of my favorite underrated games. I'm going to try to keep it relatively recent, as the more retro we get, the more likely the availability of the games is limited and you won't be able to play them!
What games are on your personal list of hidden gems?
Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber (N64/Wii)
Ogre Battle 64 is a classic strategy RPG that allows gamers to develop an army based on their own personal tastes. It's incredibly deep and often devious — you can actually play through and finish the entire game the "wrong" way. Tons of secret characters, side quests, and a story that makes you question the validity of your own goals make Ogre Battle 64 a game to keep.
Who says hardcore gamers can't find a game on the Wii? Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn can and will make you scream in frustration as it unleashes new and infuriating ways to kill you. A relatively simple premise gives way to deep strategic elements; beating levels in a way that keeps all your characters alive requires a lot of planning. Mediocre graphics and the casual consumer base of the Wii kept this title from really cracking into the mainstream audience, despite good publicity from the press. If you get a chance, pick up Fire Emblem: Radiant Emblem!
Blazblue: Calamity Trigger (PS3/Xbox 360)
Blazblue is a gorgeous 2D fighter for both Xbox 360 and PS3, Blazblue offers a complex combo system, fast gameplay, and decent online matchmaking. Lack of marketing and the fact that fighting games are becoming more niche every year kept Blazblue from really making an impact, but hopefully the upcoming sequel, Blazblue: Continuum Shift will show some staying power.
Growlanser is a strategy RPG (I know, you're sick of me listing those, right?) with an interesting story that asks whether peace is reasonable when the threat of violence is the only thing stopping countries from fighting. A relationship game-within-a-game, along with mini-games and a development system that I still don't completely understand, make Growlanser a fulfilling addition to anyone's PS2 library.
The first offering from Ignition Entertainment with former EGM editor Shane Bettenhausen as head of business development was a gorgeous adventure set in a feudal Japan. Muramasa offers exactly what I want in my games: phenomenal boss fights and interesting game mechanics — in this case, a mechanic based on soul possession. Since small publishers usually many copies of their games, you should buy Muramasa now — before it's too late.
Blast Corps (N64)
Blast Corps is a fun little game where you destroy buildings to avoid a nuclear explosion. It showed that the N64 could render a pretty game (for its time) with exploratory elements and lots of blowing stuff. Note to Nintendo: Re-release this, okay?
I purchased Aedis Eclipse for $20 during one of my "I just need something to kill time with" phases. Annoying voice acting aside, I ended up loving the game's tight combat system, interesting spin on the grid-based tactics, and multiple scenarios to play through. This is dirt cheap now, so buy it and enjoy!
Tetris Attack (SNES)
Many of you will say Tetris Attack isn't underrated, but I'm including it here anyway. I truly believe that the simple addictive action that this game provides puts it up against any puzzler, including Tetris itself. If I go to Hell, this will be the game I'll be playing for eternity. My mom will be playing against me, and she'll always lose and force me into one more game.
How did you like me list? Do you have others I left out? Let's trade hidden gems and expand our gaming credentials!