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Not many games are critical and commercial successes that also sit well with fans. Many more games fall prey to unfavorable opinions despite their values. Sometimes some poorly executed aspect overshadows actual brilliance, other times the game has bad luck of being released at the same time as some long-awaited mega-production. Sometimes the game is perfectly FINE but becomes more or less obscure instead of becoming a classic for the ages.
Regardless of the reason, the end result is the same: a game is underrated, underappreciated, and, in the end, potentially forgotten.
Below we have prepared a list of fifteen such overlooked games, with a brief explanation of what makes them worth more attention and praise than they have received so far. We’ve also updated the list since its original release, to spotlight a few more of the most underappreciated games of all time.
Alpha Protocol didn’t make a huge splash when it came out, and to this day, over a decade later, is mentioned rarely, but usually in positive tones.
What makes AP special? Aside from being probably the first espionage RPG, it has a great story, well-defined characters, and a conversation system which was simple to navigate and created tense, dynamic dialogues with truly meaningful choices.
You build reputation with every NPC you interact with, and the rep level opens and closes different paths. You also get to develop the main character by investing in skills, which unlock useful abilities, and stealth is as viable as open combat. Unfortunately, Alpha Protocol has some gameplay issues, which can make it harder to focus on the story, but they are well worth powering through.
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Dragon Age 2 had a rough start, but over the years the negativity shifted to a degree of genuine appreciation.
But it could use more, because in a world full of a world-saving, epic RPGs a personal story of the Hawke family and their friends is surprisingly well done, regardless of issues resulting from short development time and a change of aesthetic from the down-to-earth style of DA: Origins.
Really, despite very often recycled locations and a rushed ending… Dragon Age 2 is a really good, engaging game and the protagonist, a warrior, rogue or mage named Hawke (customisable sex and appearance) is very likeable, especially when you go for their Sarcastic lines. It’s also more action-oriented than its immediate predecessor, but it’s not really a flaw, just a different direction. It has flaws, but it’s also one of the most underrated games in the genre.
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Rage 2 came and went, didn’t make much of an impact on anything, because the same year were already got Far Cry: New Dawn and one postapocalyptic mayhem game was probably enough.
Which is just too bad, because Rage 2 is actually pretty fun and shouldn’t be left hanging in oblivion. You’re playing as a ranger named Walker (not that one), who tried to bring some order by killing chaos.
In addition to various more or less postapocalyptic guns you also have some useful powers, such as the Overdrive, which turns Walker into an engine of destruction. There’s even vehicular combat, if you’re into that. While the story might not be your cup of postapocalyp-tea, the gameplay is still solid, exciting, and varied enough to keep being engaging. Rage 2 deserved better
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AC: Syndicate came after six year of annual Assassin’s Creed releases, and at that point there might have been some series fatigue.
No wonder the next entry, Origins, came after a gap year. Either way, AC Syndicate is a really fun story led by two great characters, the Frye siblings. True, Victorian London has been done to bits in media…but how often can you climb Big Ben and help Charles Darwin?
Evie and Jacob Frye are very different from each other, with Jacob being more of a thug than an assassin, the way his sister is. Syndicate is a really good game overall, and you get to rub elbows with many, many historical figures, and even chase Jack the Ripper in an expansion. It’s like a “greatest hits” compilation of Victoria England story tropes…and it’s hard to hold that against it.
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True, The Surge 2 is better, but that doesn’t mean the original The Surge is bad, or that it deserves being forgotten.
In fact, it’s pretty good and has cool ideas. First things first, The Surge is a science fiction-themed Souls-like game. The player character, Warren, has the worst first day at work: just as he arrives he gets an exoskeleton grafted onto him without a sedative, and then things get dark.
Long story short: nanites have the run of the place, AI runs rampant, people are dead, and Warren, now has to forcefully disassemble other exoskeleton users and various drones. The combat is hard-hitting, and you can make Warren target specific parts of the enemies to get some specific piece of gear by slicing that bit clean off your enemy with a finishing blow. It’s quite good, really, a perfect 7/10.
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Why isn’t Brutal Legend a classic that’s always talked about? The cast of Brutal Legend alone should be enough for any fan of heavy music.
After Jack Black signed up for dubbing the main character, Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Halford, and Lemmy Kilmister also joined the cast. The game *almost* had Dio, but in the end he was replaced with Tim Curry, who is too cool for anyone to be angry about the change.
If you like heavy metal do yourself a favour and get this game. It’s weird, but it’s Tim Schafer-weird. It’s an action game with a guitar-axe, but it’s also vehicle racing and RTS elements. It’s a weird, and weirdly compelling mix of genres, and it’s criminal that there’s no sequel yet. Brutal Legend is a ton of fun, the soundtrack is mind-blowingly good, and Jack Black pours a ton of energy into everything.
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It’s like Dungeon Keeper, except instead of being an ancient devil you’re a leader of an evil organisation.
You have goons instead of goblins, and you have to deal with James Bond-alikes instead of dimple-chinned noble knights. You can design your evil lair under a volcano, embody a Bond-villain persona and throw disposable minions at any threat not worth bothering your goons over.
If you want to feel like Dr. Doofenschmirtz who has more money and space to work with, go ahead. Not an all-time classic, but a fun twist on a familiar formula. It’s honestly surprising that it took almost two decades for Evil Genius to get a proper (or even an improper) sequel, but it’s there and if you absolutely can’t deal with 2004 graphics, Evil Genius 2 is a very good substitute.
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Ghost Master is the reverse Ghostbusters in a Sims-like world. You’re in control of a band of bizarre, horror-inducing ghosts with names that are sure to make you smile.
Your job is to scare mortals away from a location, free other ghosts, and do all of it as quickly as possible. Each ghost has a ladder of powers they can use, and they affect the mortal world in many different ways.
There are ghosts controlling the weather, and making the ground tremble. There are ghosts which can possess mortals and exploit their phobias. Maps also have restless spirits, which you can free of you can figure out how, and your HQ allows you to upgrade your frighteners, unlocking new powers. It’s fun, funny, engaging and has a very cool premise. It’s silly that nobody’s remastered or remade it.
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Fury Road made Mad Max cool again, and on the same year launched a game which managed to be a breath of fresh air among the open world games of the time.
Mad Max has the bottom of a dried sea for a map, complete with wrecked ships, ruined lighthouses etc. Not only does it make for interesting locations, but also reinforces the setting’s postapocalyptic nature in an organic way.
The combat system makes the world more grounded. While it is similar (some would say: identical) to Batman Arkham Freeflow, Max isn’t a nimble, acrobatic Batman, indeed, he’s slow, his leg injury is acting up, and much more brutal and eager to kill crazed bandits who attack him. Even the vehicular combat is amazing, with ramming, explosions, and targeting different car parts. It’s a blast.
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Overlord is an unmistakably comedic game.
It mocks familiar fantasy tropes, and your main method of interaction with the world are delightfully dastardly and mischievous goblin-like minions, who eagerly chase innocent sheep and turn pumpkins into helmets. You can also cast spells and make attacks yourself, but where’s the fun in that, that’s why you have these goblins, after all.
The minions have their own abilities, and many maps are designed around you utilising them effectively. Sometimes you need to burn something with a red minion, while blue minions can revive their dead comrades. Between puzzles and bosses, Overlord has quite a few interesting challenges to offer. Check it out if you thought Fable was too serious and not cheerfully villainous enough.
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Despite having received a sequel and all, both Prototypes are kind of forgotten.
Which is sad, because Prototype was the best superhuman simulator until Saints Row IV rolled along. Surprisingly even the plot of Prototype is quite interesting and engaging: uncovering the full picture requires hunting down and absorbing targets to access snippets of their memories. But it’s not the game’s focus.
Being a monster is. The protagonist Alex Mercer can throw tanks, outrun anyone in the world, take rockets to the chest and barely flinch. He can also form claws, blades, impenetrable armour or a swarm of tentacles out of biomass he consumed (read: people), all of which makes him absolutely terrifying. And if you liked the Venom movie, you’re not getting a better symbiote experience anywhere else.
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Could BioWare transplant its storytelling skills onto an MMO framework? The answer is: yes, mostly.
The Old Republic has something that would make it an outstanding single-player game. There are two sides of the conflict (it is a Star Wars game, after all), and each side has four classes, representing roughly the Soldier, Scoundrel, Knight, and Caster types.
The best thing is that each class has its own storyline with unique, dedicated voice acting, and some choices to be made along the way, influencing the personal endings. That’s eight unique plotlines, alongside the overarching war stories of individual planets and factions. SWTOR may well be the most narratively diverse MMO out there and for that alone it really deserves a better rep than it has.
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The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing trilogy wasn’t widely promoted, which is a shame, because they are quite competent and entertaining hack’n’slash/action-RPG games.
The ability trees are robust, with auras, passive and active abilities, and there are loads of loot to collect. The game is also quite eager to poke fun at itself and popculture, lending this steampunk adventure an air of levity.
It also has a decent co-op mode, and somewhat engaging endgame content used to boost the character’s abilities beyond regular skill trees. There are three games in the series, as well as a “Final Cut” version: a collection of all three games in one package. Either way, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is a great hack and slash game that deserves to be saved from oblivion.
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While the Baldur’s Gates, Icewind Dales and Planescape: Torment are still the talk of the genre decades later, Troika Games’ The Temple of Elemental Evil remains oddly forgotten.
ToEE is an adaptation of a classic Dungeons & Dragons adventure converted to the quite complex 3.5 ruleset. The best part is that Troika chose to incorporate a hefty chunk of the D&D mechanics into the game.
There’s the turn-based combat, robust character building, and plenty more. It was great. If you want as authentic a D&D experience as you can get without playing with other people, The Temple of Elemental Evil is a good choice. Until the arrival of Baldur’s Gate 3 and Solasta: Crown of the Magister ToEE was the only game in a long time that truly tried to be a faithful recreation of the D&D rules.
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One of the final games before the original THQ collapsed, and it really should be more popular than it is.
In addition to being a satisfying third-person action game Space Marine also presented a rarely explored perspective of the WH40k setting. Usually, we see it from high above in a strategy game, but here we could see the architecture from down on the ground.
It let us see the iconography up close, and we can go fighting alongside the regular humans of the Imperial Guard, much shorter than our Space Marine in a heavy ceramite armour. Although the game ends on something of cliff-hanger, it remains a stunning adventure in the grim darkness of the far future where there is only war. It’s criminal that there’s no sequel.
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This concludes our top 15 picks from a long list of video games which were underrated and undeservedly unpopular.
Each of these games, in addition to being really quite good, had something making it worthwhile, which held up against the tide of time. Some of them had their initial bugs squashed mercilessly by developers and fans alike. Others still simply need a signal boost to enter people’s awareness again.
Hopefully our list brings to your attention something that sounds like it may be of interest to you despite low profile or mediocre ratings. None of these games deserve to become unknown due to the passage of time.