Top 20 Games That Nobody Played – But You Should

There are hundreds of excellent games that have been released over the last two decades that never quite got the attention and sales they deserved. Many times it is because of lousy marketing, but at least some of these games find an afterlife as a cult classic. While not all of these titles are “retro”, I hope that you consider taking a look at all of these games.

Update: If you want to read a more in-depth look at under-appreciated games, check out our Hidden Gems series

Jet Grind Radio/Jet Set Radio – Dreamcast
The combination of slick cell-shading graphics, energetic music, adrenaline-pumping action, and a very unique premise made Jet Grind Radio a title that no serious gamer should go without.

Unfortunately, JGR was left on a lot of store shelves as it suffered from very little marketing, a confusing title, and lousy cover art. Game shoppers just didn’t have any motivation to give it a chance. Many gamers that did give the game a try were quickly discouraged by the initially-tricky controls. But I can assure you that once you put a bit of time into the game, it will become second nature and you will be having a blast.

The game saw a sequel on the XBox in Jet Set Radio Future, but that game seemed to be watered down a bit in gameplay and didn’t bring anything new and exciting in return.

Full Review of Jet Grind Radio

Panzer Dragoon Saga – Saturn
Touted by many Saturn fans as the greatest RPG ever, PD Saga is still a hot commodity on eBay. The graphics were great for it’s time, the gameplay was deep, and the total of 4-discs brought you to a new world that few games have rivaled.

Saga came out near the end of the Saturn’s short life and combined with a relatively short print run, not very many gamers got their hands on the game initially. It wasn’t until the Playstation, N64, and the Dreamcast made it onto the scene that the Saturn and its crown RPG got the recognition it deserved from hardcore, classic gamers.

Why Saga was never ported to another system, I will never know.

Full Review of Panzer Dragoon Saga

Pac-Man Vs. – Gamecube
Pac-Man vs. is possibly one of the best party games ever to grace a console. It doesn’t matter if your friends are gamers or not. If you have 3 controllers and a GBA w/ Link cable, you will have fun with this game. In Vs., up to three people control the ghosts on the screen. When a ghost eats Pacman, the two players switch roles. The beauty of it all is that the player controlling Pacman uses a GBA to see the entire map and the ghosts are limited to viewing a small area around themselves. So even though the rules of the game haven’t really changed, the experience is profoundly different than the original.

Shigeru Miyamoto, father of Mario and the brain behind Vs., originally planned on having this game as a release on its own, but instead came bundled with a couple of other existing Namco GameCube titles. Because of this, it was never really marketed and given much attention.

Full Review of Pac-Man Vs.

Guardian Heroes – Saturn
Developed by fan-favorite, Treasure, Guardian Heroes is another late-blooming Saturn title that many people still haven’t discovered. Guardian Heroes is a beatemup with strong RPG elements. Treasure combined great 2D animation, a unique control scheme, and killer gameplay with the ability to level up and focus the skills that you choose. If the game caught on as much as it should have, it could have brought new life to the beatemup genre.

A psedo-port/sequel showed up on the Gameboy Advance, but it lacking much of the excitement of the original. Also worth mentioning is Panzer Bandit , a Playstation game that is basically a Guardian Heroes-copycat that was enjoyable, but lacked much of the Treasure Charm and RPG elements.

Full Review of Guardian Heroes

Beyond Good And Evil – PS2, Gamecube, XBox
Possibly one the best games of 2004, Beyond Good and Evil featured a magical combination of action, animation, and storytelling that won it many high ratings. The game represented high quality and production values when most other games on the market were either re-hashes of other successful games or just plain awful.

Even though it did receive a decent amount of advertising from UbiSoft, shoppers just didn’t respond to this new title among a sea of big-name sequels that were released at the same time. While it receive many critical acclaims from both the press and the gamers that tried it, many BG&E cases were still sitting on stores’ clearance shelves.

Full Review of Beyond Good and Evil

Samba De Amigo – Dreamcast
If you enjoy rhythm games, monkeys, and need something different from Dance Dance Revolution, you really need to take a look at Samba De Amigo. Samba is another one of the ultimate party games and deserves another chance. It involves waving/shaking maracas in certain directions to match the upbeat music. Many people find it much easier for beginners to play as opposed to DDR, but it still is a challenge in higher levels and it can be a riot to watch your friends shake their maracas like there’s no tomorrow.

Hampered by the high price of Sega’s first party maracas, Samba didn’t sell very well. Now, cheaper third-party maraccas can be found online, but I find the game to be highly enjoyable even with traditional controllers.

Full Review of Samba De Amigo

Snatcher – Sega CD (plus a few others if you read Japanese)
Heavily inspired by Blade Runner, Snatcher is an RPG-like adventure game that is developed by Konami and the people behind the Metal Gear Solid series.

Originally made for the MSX and some other older platforms in Japan, Snatcher finally had an English port on the Sega CD. Unfortunately like many other terrific games on Sega’s platforms it came out on the tail end of a dying system. To this day it is still claiming a premium on eBay.

Snatcher was also released on the Saturn in Japan along with it’s 3-disc sequel Policenauts. Policenauts wasn’t quite as fortunate as Snatcher, as it never saw an English release (petition anyone?) Update: Could a DS Port Be On Its Way?

Full Review of Snatcher

River City Ransom – NES, GBA
You could say that River City Ransom was a precusor to Guardian Heroes. It was the original beatemup on the NES that had entertaining RPG elements. The game has a unique style that is fun and still looks cool today in a cartoony sort of way. It’s personality is one that still is rarely matched today.

It’s simple controls and deep gameplay have taken it from it’s originally obscure status to a bit of a cult favorite. It also made its way to the Gameboy Advance, but yet again, it didn’t seem to sell well.

Full Review of River City Ransom

Phantasy Star 2 – Genesis
One of the greatest RPGs of of the 16-bit era, Phantasy Star 2 had rich storyline in a futuristic setting, several worlds to explore, and a cataclysmic epic with a truly satisfying conclusion.

While the the Final Fantasy installments and other Square RPGs may have gotten all the attention on the SNES, Phantasy Star 2 showed that RPG fans could have fun on the Genesis.

Full Review of Phantasy Star 2

Rocket Knight Adventures – Genesis
In the avalanche of 2D platformers during the 16-bit era, it was easy for a game like Konami’s Rocket Night Adventures to get lost in the shuffle. Rocket Knight Adventures has more technique and plot than any other platform of the era. The slick effects and big bosses alone can carry the game. It may have its flaws — mainly with the replay value, but overall, this is one of the best bets for the Genesis, period.

Full Review of Rocket Knight Adventures

Silhouette Mirage – Playstation, Saturn
Treasure once again, beautifully pushes the 2D envelope to the max on both the Saturn and PSX in addition to having a wonderful soundtrack and great sound effects.

Treasure is generally regarded among industry veterans to be one of the best developers of original 2D action games. Thanks to Treasure’s creativity, Silhouette Mirage has revolutionary play mechanics and an insane amount of depth. It features gameplay elements depending on changing colors — much like Treasure’s later shmup masterpiece, Ikaruga.

While Treasure has a great deal of quality titles, they are rarely promoted much and often have obscure names. Silhouette Mirage ended up in bargain bins and can still be found for a reasonable price on the Playstation.

Full Review of Silhouette Mirage

Virtua Tennis – Dreamcast, Arcade
Having the essential quality of being easy to play and difficulty to master, Virtua Tennis was one of the sleeper hit of short-lived Sega Dreamcast. It is often overlooked as a killer party game — I have had many parties with both guys and girls of all gaming levels having a blast on a 4-player doubles tournament.

While other enjoyable tennis titles have come long since (Top Spin and Mario Power Tennis), Virtua Tennis still holds up as being possibly the best tennis game ever. Also worth mentioning is the sequel, Tennis 2K2 is also on the Dreamcast.

Full Review of Virtua Tennis

X-COM: UFO Defense – Playstation, PC
In this cult-favorite, players battle an alien invasion by building bases and handling inventory, attacking UFOs, managing a staff of researchers and engineers, and sending your squads of soldiers off to engage in one of the most intense, enjoyable turn-based tactical games ever.

Over the decade, X-COM has still not been topped in terms of strategy. Although it may be lacking eye-candy, the depth of gameplay, open-endedness and amazing atmosphere created by the audio simply makes this game amazing.

Full Review of X-COM: UFO Defense

Chu Chu Rocket – Dreamcast, GBA
Chu Chu Rocket was extremely popular and recognized by most gamers who had actually played it and virtually unknown otherwise. The concept is simple: point mice into your rocket, keep cats away from your rocket. Put four players on the same board and the trash-talking quickly escalates. Reversals of fortune, spontaneous alliances and blistering speed and deep strategy easily make up for its rudimentary graphics.

I have to admit, this game would be hard to sell. If you picked this game off the shelf and took a look at the screenshots, it seems very confusing. But I can attest to the fact that if you give this game a chance, you’ll adore it.

Full Review of Chu Chu Rocket

The Adventures of Cookie & Cream – PS2
C&C is one of the most underrated co-op experiences. This game is about true cooperative game mechanics. Forget about other co-op games that allow the leading player to drag the other player along through checkpoints – this game requires both players to complete puzzles and challenges together, otherwise neither player can progress. It is presented in a clear and intuitive fashion so that I can play it with casual gamer friends.

It is also challenging enough that my hardcore gamer friends enjoy it as well. I’m sure it is often overlooked since it’s too cute for its own good. The main characters are two bunnies in a cartoon world, and the graphics are only average, but they blend well with the artistic direction of the game.

Full Review of The Adventures of Cookies and Cream

Puyo Pop Fever – Dreamcast, Gamecube, DS, PS2, PSP
Puzzle games are easily overlooked by game shoppers as they are usually not that flashy and don’t receive much promotion. In addition, most puzzle game sequels don’t bring much to the table other than unsuccessfully messing with a formula that is already working.

The Puyo Puyo franchise (some sequels went by other names in the US) has been around since the NES days and not much happened in the innovation department until the late Japanese release of Puyo Puyo Fever on the Dreamcast. While Fever offered the orignal gameplay that puzzle fans came to love, it also brought a Fever Mode that brought more strategy and combo-blitzing without adding too much chaos. Puzzle sequels like Bust-A-Move 4 promoted heavy combos, but in doing so, it made them a little too easy and made the game crazy and unpredictable. Puyo Pop Fever has the perfect balance of strategy and simplicity which makes it a title that both hardcore and casual gamers can enjoy.

Full Review of Puyo Pop Fever

Ogre Battle – SNES, Playstation, GBA
This game has received its fair share of blank stares when mentioned in conversations with fellow gamers. The game was a hybrid real time strategy/turn-based RPG that let you build up an army of up to 100 characters.

I think the game fell short in popularity partly because of the length of levels (some battles could last an hour easily), and partly because of its small original retail release. The game comes highly recommended because of the near flawless game balancing and design.

Full Review of Ogre Battle

Herzog Zwei – Genesis
Combining elements of real-time strategy and resource management into a shmup, Herzog Zwei is possibly one of the best games on Sega’s 16-bit powerhouse.

Game developers these days tend to stick to a single genre, rather than combining elements from several. It’s a shame because hybrid games like this always get me excited.

Full Review of Herzog Zwei

Shadowrun – Super Nintendo, Genesis, Sega CD
Based on a pen and paper RPG, the console versions of Shadowrun are an RPG that is set in a dark future. The gameplay is more similar to Western PC RPGs as opposed to traditional Japanese console RPGs. Because of this, it seemed to stay under the radar of mainstream console gamers.

Instead of using experience points that you find in most RPGs, which allow you to move up levels, Shadowrun uses karma points, which you earn one at a time. These Karma points are used to make your character more powerful. And like Guardian Heroes, the game allows you to choose what aspects of your character you wish to improve.

Full Review of Shadowrun

Propeller Arena – Dreamcast
I am sure that nobody bought this game in stores — basically because it was never sold. Propeller Arena was slated to be a big release with great online capabilities. It’s solid arcade-style dogfighting action would have been great in an online community (much like Crimson Skies eventually was on XBox Live). However, the game kept getting delayed until it was getting close to the point where Sega ceased Dreamcast production. It used 9/11 as an excuse for canceling the game since one stage in the game allows you to fly your planes into sky-scrapers.

The game was finished by Sega and a limited number of final test copies were floating around. Finally, a couple years ago, one of those test copies was sold for a great deal of cash, ripped, and released on the Net. Now, all the members of the Dreamcast “scene” have a copy of the game. Yes, I have a copy myself, and the game is incredible. Sure, Crimson Skies can rival it, but if you are a Dreamcast owner, it’s definitely a thrill.
Full Review of Propeller Arena

Related Links:

Games That Actually NEED a Sequel
Games That Pushed The Limits – Part 1
The Best Sega Genesis Games For Nintendo Revolution


132 Comments

Anonymous says:

“Little big adventure” aka Twinsun’s Adventure. The true precursor to BG&E.
And…Jumping Flash for the PlayStation 1, a truely great 3d platformer, that was burried by the N64 Mario.

Anonymous says:

No one said Fallout 1/2? That game is amazing. Especially if you like Shadowrun for the Genesis.

Michael says:

I couldn’t agree more with the Jet Grind Radio feature. I loved that game for Dreamcast – it was fantastic. I eagerly anticipated the Jet Set Radio Future release but I didn’t even end up finishing the game. It definitely doesn’t carry the uniquness and fun that Jet Grind Radio has.

Anonymous says:

Anonymous said…

Street Fighter 2010

even the person that put this list together probably never felt the wrath of this obscure amazing NES game.

… also this game has nothing to do with the actual street fighter series. this game was a completley different game that took on the street fighter name and name of ken as the main character only in order to capatalize on sales in america

HAHAHA Yes! No one knew about this one and it was GREAT! Clearing the stages, the super future graphics, all the action. I wonder if it as good as I remember it…

Anonymous says:

Some GREAT titles on this list that are way overrated and even more underplayed whether it be from the lack of advertising, stores just not having the games anymore, or people not wanting to buy them because the systems they were released on are out of production. Great list.
http://www.FiveZeroFive.com

Anonymous says:

Great article!
I’ll second Little Big Adventure 2/Relentless 2, I’ve replayed that more times than I care to say. Sin & Punishment for N64 is another Treasure game that is quite amazing.

Anonymous says:

How about

Master of Magic – PC
Record of the Lodoss War – DC
Wolfenstien: enemy Territory – PC

On another note, some poeple list things like Shining Force and Grim Fandango which everyone played when they came out. I think grim fandango won the most Game of the Year awards the year it came out. This isn’t an article about old awsome games that everyone played and loved…

Anonymous says:

A lot of the games people are posting about really were played by a lot of people. The fact that some of the same games get mentioned over and over pretty much proves it.

A game that nobody has mentioned so far, which is my favorite “nobody played it” game, is Eternal Darkness for the GameCube. No single game, movie, or book has been more “Cthulhu-ian” than HP Lovecraft’s original writings. It was the ultimate homage to his work. Not only that, it was an excellent game. It was overshadowed by the Resident Evil 1 remake unfortunately. Most people assumed it was a less pretty zombie-fest styled after RE. Nothing could be further from the truth. One of my all-time favorite games.

w0rf says:

I don’t see Rocket: Robot on Wheels here. Great N64 game which was Suckerpunch’s precursor to the Sly Cooper games they did on Playstation 2.

w0rf says:

oh, and also, Eternal Darkness. Props to “anonymous” for mentioning that one too.

Anonymous says:

Shadowrun ! Heck yeah, I remember playing that one…ah, the memories (both the electronic and pen n’ paper versions!)

😉

Anonymous says:

I could have worded that a bit better. I didn’t mean to say it was more Cthulhu-ian than Lovecraft’s writings, but rather nothing else IMHO has ever come so close to imitating his work than this game. Silicon Knights said in an interview that the Eternal Darkness universe was open to an unlimited number of sequels. Given the dismal sales of the game, that probably won’t ever happen.

Anonymous says:

i didnt realize that ogre battle wasnt very popular, it was big amoung my circle of friends (i played the fireseal battle for fun a few nights ago), the n64 sequel was also top notch

Anonymous says:

ARC – Attack Retrieve Capture is a fun competitive and addictive 2-D game, download it at arc-hq.net for free!!!

Carmine says:

I have to mention Space Channel 5 Part 2 (DC, PS2). In terms of obscurity, it had a barely noticable US release. As far as greatness, it took everything about the first game, improved it, and added all new elements. It is what all sequels should be!

Frankie23 says:

It shouldn’t say Ogre Battle there, but Tactics Ogre. While the two series follow the same storyline, the gameplay is different. The one mentioned there is clearly of the Tactics bloodline.

Anonymous says:

They forgot Ikaruga. 😉 Dreamcast and Gamecube owners ought to pick this one up ASAP.

Anonymous says:

Hogs of War as one posted stated earlier .. great game. Alot of what Worms 3d is I feel came from Hogs of War. Also Puyo Pop Fever is available for the xbox.

Anonymous says:

Hey Racketboy, I think the best party game by far was

POY POY – for the PS

it was up to 4 player, in a square arena, and you had to pick objects up (or other characters) and throw them at every one else!

and by purchasing upgraded gloves, you could use special powered throws (exploding, bouncing, etc.)
even in single player, it did not get boring.

also, an honourable mention,

RETURN FIRE also for PS

awesome game.

David says:

Nice list. There’s two games that I tirelessly champion every time the subject of underrated and overlooked games comes up. Tobal No. 1, the first Squaresoft title to appear on the Playstation was an amazing change to the world of fighting games and it still stands among the best in the genre. The sad part is, more people probably played the companion disc that housed the first FFVII demo than the game itself. Its sequel, Tobal 2, is undoubtedly the best videogame to never hit U.S. shores.

The other game, Tecmo Cup Soccer, is a soccer RPG. You heard me. That alone is reason enough to put it on the list.

Anonymous says:

OMFG rocket knight adventures rocked my socks. the mixed in flying levels kicked ass, the story was awsome, and characters cool. fuck me i gave that game to a charity shop. 🙁 and now i REALY miss it.

I find it amusing that people continue to say that specific games need to be on the list. Some of them are not games that died in obscurity such as Katamari Damacy which I keep seeing everywhere. System Shock 2, is my favorite game of all time however it was and is pretty popular. As any gamer about it and they will know of which you speak unless they happen to be twelve.

On ShadowRun, Nintendo and Sega made two completely different games by two completely different developers. AND the sega version was much better and more like the Pen and Paper version than the Nintendo and much better in my oppinion.

Scottacus says:

My favorite obscure game is Military Madness for the Turbo Grafx-16 (later remade as Nactaris for the PSOne, but not as good).

Belgand says:

X-COM was definitely a major game that many people played and many know.

Personally I never thought that River City Ransom was unpopular. It received a fair bit of coverage in Nintendo Power at the time and I know I played and loved it.

Shadowrun (SNES) though… yeah. I liked it and had heard of it through Nintendo Power, but it was never really all that big. Then again, the game also happened to come out just about the same time I got into the Shadowrun RPG.

Kieron says:

X-COM sold over a million – ON THE PC – I believe. It is in no way a minor game.

KG

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get a nice roundup of new retro gaming content once or twice a month.