10 Underrated / Undersold Titles in the History of Video Games
Underrated games and undersold titles. These are the games which were absolute gems and apexes of great gameplay, yet they yielded low sales and sometimes heartbreak for their developers and publishers at their original release. For those who played these games when they first came out, a certain bond of unwavering love has grown for them. For those who hear about games like these years later, a new appreciation for the past begins to take root. We all know a few games that had a hard time making big cash for their developers no matter how brilliant they were, but here are our top 10 picks.
10. Crash Team Racing
Okay, Crash Team Racing actually sold well enough to be a Greatest Hits title, but I thought it needed a place on this list regardless, as it was underrated. During the time of CTR's release, it seemed like every company wanted to hop on the bandwagon and create a kart racer to compete with the ever dominating Mario Kart (Chocobo Racing anyone?), and Naughty Dog wanted to hop onto the bandwagon too. For most people, CTR would be written off as just another kart racer cash-in. Oh, faithful gamers, if you only knew how awesome CTR was… and still is. Sure, you had the same sort of elements found in every kart racing title of the time, but the added maneuvers of the slide and speed boost, as well as developing the skills to hit these combos off right, made Crash Team Racing a game that was actually worth practicing. Getting different levels of speed boosts and combing those with the jump and slide maneuvers was what made CTR unique and actually less brainless than other kart racers. A slew of modes, characters, and some killer graphics at the time made this kart racer worthy of the best kart racers. To this day, I have tons of great memories of playing this with my friends, and even today the controls are amazing and tight. Even with its decent sales, Crash Team Racing is not well remembered and talked about within the gaming community, and so it lands at the beginning spot of our list.
Einhander was a Square-developed "bullet curtain" style shoot 'em up. Essentially a 2D game with a mix of 3D for aesthetics, Einhander was released in a time when anything 2D wasn't very popular. This was a time when 3D polygons were taking root, and 2D stuff was hardly even niche. However, Einhander fought to bring 2D and 3D together. It also brought amazingly fast-paced graphics and design, great big bosses, and great music to a genre that was sorely lacking during this era. Each Einhander ship was able to fit an assortment of awesome weapons. The experience was neither too frustrating nor too easy. It was a greatly balanced game.
8. Grim Fandango
Once upon a time, Tim Schafer wrote adventure games, and many would say Grim Fandango was the peak of his work. A deeply creative and humorous game, Grim Fandango spins the tale of Manny Calavera in a world that takes inspiration from Aztecan belief systems about the afterlife (Day of the Dead stuff mostly), mixing it with a film noir style and story. It was the first adventure game rendered into 3D by LucasArts, and for those who played it, they realized that it probably was one of the best, most clever, and best conceived adventure games to date. Unfortunately, Grim Fandango's sales were, well... grim. In fact, sales were so disappointing, that LucasArts cancelled plans to do develop more adventure game titles (this was a big deal, as it had been a genre they were very strong at developing and had been doing so for years). Rival company Sierra, at the time known for producing years and years of solid adventure titles, also took note of Grim Fandango's poor sales and with adventure gaming sharply declining already, Grim Fandango seemed to put the nail in the coffin for the dying genre (later, many gamers would attribute the death of adventure gaming to Gabriel Knight 3, however).
ICO has a ton of artistic merit. It's stimulating, engaging, artistic, and brilliant. However, ICO had trouble getting its feet off the ground to the general western audience. Sure, we have our ICO and Shadow of the Colossus collection now, and gamers have realized the beauty of simplicity that is ICO, but ICO may have simply been a bit ahead of time. It came out before the huge indie game / art debates, where games like Flower, Journey, or Limbo have made their ways into gamers hands. Others argue that the western box art was so craptastic, it could have been another reason ICO just didn't sell (and well, if you compare the original Japanese box art to the US box art, you might agree). It's good to know, however, that ICO remains on the throne of its own kingdom, and it continues to stay relevant and strong to this day.
6. Brave Fencer Musashi
This little action role-playing game came out in a time when JRPGs seemed to coming off the conveyor belt left and right in the western world. Between the hype of Final Fantasy and all the other stuff being shoveled around, good or bad, Brave Fencer Musashi found a small audience of gamers who absolutely adored it. With its anime-ish look, its quick, fun gameplay, and slightly annoying but charming voicework at the time, those who got into it enjoyed it and love it to this day.
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Three things describe Rando: Good beer, good food, and video games. On occasion, Rando flies a zeppelin through time seeking power crystals.
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