There are a lot of great games out there. But sometimes, a game comes along that people just don’t like very much for one reason or another. Despite games with genuine flaws making waves all the time (many rightfully so), sometimes games that are just as good fall by the wayside for one reason or another. In this list, I’d like to give some attention to games that I personally feel are under appreciated. Games that despite their flaws, did some great things as well.
These picks are in no particular order, but they’re all worth checking out. So if something sounds interesting, give it a look. Also, I won’t be covering titles I’ve put on other lists, just to keep things fresh.
Tenchu Z is (to this date) is the most recent mainline multiplatform title in the “Tenchu” series. The game’s story is relatively simple. You’re a ninja, and a surprisingly historically accurate one at that. The only thing that could’ve made it more accurate would’ve been a number of more “social” missions, but that may have confused the gameplay direction of what was clearly a lower budget title. The most inaccurate thing is your superhuman movement capabilities, but at least that’s fun. While there is a plot happening, you’ll mostly be doing a variety of espionage and assassination missions.
It’s a stealth game, and a pretty good one at that. It’s based off of common sense rules: Line of sight, sound, light and shadow. There are UI elements to help you along, but this is honestly one of those games that’s well produced enough to play with the HUD off (unfortunately I don’t recall if that’s actually an option). How many games have you played that have such a dedication to authenticity, that throwing weapons aren’t a one shot kill? Instead, they’re useful in a similar regard to their real life counterparts. Wounding, distraction, maybe finishing someone off if you know what you’re doing. Combat while not recommended, is flushed out and skill based. You actually get a customizable character in this one, with gear and upgrades to acquire.
An unfortunate flaw with the game is that some levels get repeated more than they really should. But it hardly detracts from the experience, and they’re often used in a different way. This is a solid game all around, it deserves your attention.
Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst
I know, I know. This game came out recently enough that you’ve probably heard your fair share of terrible things about it. Honestly, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. I was a fan of the original, and I could’ve talked about that. But for some reason, this one seems to get the short end of the stick even more. I thought this was actually a really good, only lacking in the story department. To me, this was everything I wanted from a Mirror’s Edge followup. One of the main complaints I keep hearing is that they made it open world. Am I the only one that actually wanted a free roam parkour playground? Isn’t that kinda the point of parkour?
I honestly don’t even feel the need to say anything about the parkour gameplay. They didn’t add much to it, and they really didn’t have to. It was already so good, other games like Dying Light copy and pasted the controls and mechanics to a degree that would be infringement if you could copyright such a thing. The biggest change was to combat. No more guns. I appreciate that they were trying to make one thing that was good rather than two things that were mediocre. But I can’t help but feel like an idiot running up to an armed police officer, even if they do seem to be stun rounds. The hand to hand combat is good… but there’s a fair bit of room for improvement. I do like that they were playing with a unique set of mechanics, I just think it could’ve turned out a little better. Combat, while serviceable, is the weakest aspect here. What isn’t weak, is the incredible amount of fun to be had in the open environment. Find your own paths, make your own challenges to share, and just generally be an annoyance to the police leading them on a chase across multiple districts.
I still play this game. It’s really easy to get back into, and a fun way to spend your time. Challenge yourself a little, or just explore the beautiful cyberpunk world. It’s basically the only mainstream cyberpunk game we have until 2077 comes out. If you’re a fan of the original who was turned away by negative reviews, or just generally interested in the gameplay, you should pick this one up.
The Darkness, a first person shooter with minimal hud and innovative mechanics. I don’t know a thing about the comics, but this game got me interested. You play as Jackie, a young mafia hitman who’s been afflicted by a family curse on his eighteenth birthday. The plot revolves around your internal struggle with the entity, and your external problem of a mafia boss that betrayed you. In this story, Jackie needs the Darkness just about as much as he hates it. As the most innovative things about this game, are the various powers provided by the Darkness. It’s honestly a genuinely good story, one of the best things about the game.
As mentioned, this is a first person shooter. Mostly standard fare with some things thrown in. The really interesting stuff comes in when we start talking about the Darkness. Throughout the game, you gain various abilities (which admittedly vary in usefulness). I once found myself complaining that there wasn’t enough cover in an area… until I realized I could just pick up a nearby car and walk around with it. That’s the kind of creativity the gameplay allows for, and it’s pretty satisfying when you think of tricks like that. This almost feels like it was a PC game developed for consoles. It’s actually open world, the interconnected level sort. You can talk to people, find hints and directions, and you legitimately have to figure things out for yourself. Imagine my shock when I booted up an FPS on the Xbox 360 that didn’t have a waypoint telling me where to go.
The Darkness is a very underappreciated title, grab it if you’re looking for something different to play.
Shadow Warrior (2013)
So we’ve got another first person shooter here, a reboot of the classic Shadow Warrior from 3D Realms. And somehow the story is an actual selling point? Yeah it’s actually good. Nothing overly spectacular, but way more than I was expecting from a game like this. You’re Lo Wang (obviously), a hitman (again). You have to collect the parts of a mystical sword to help a demon known as Hoji take revenge on his peers for betraying him, and stop them from destroying the world as you know it.
Gameplay is… Fantastic. My biggest complaint is the upgrade system, it’s more like you’re upgrading into general usefulness than actually improving. To their credit, they ditched this feature in the sequel. Guns feel great, there’s variety. Not to mention actual working melee combat in the first person. Though I do find it a bit weird your enemies can block but you can’t. There’s actually a lot of powers, some of the few legitimate upgrades you can acquire.
This is one of the few games I’ve gone back through numerous times and cranked up the difficulty, it’s loads of fun. I recommend its sequel too, it just felt like cheating to add them both to the list. Pick it up if you get the chance.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengence
This one’s considered one of the worst of the best, somehow. Doesn’t that equation still leave it in the “pretty good” department? I really enjoy the hell out of this, and this too is one I turned up the difficulty for many repeat playthroughs. As a long time Metal Gear fan, I actually always wanted to play as the cyborg ninja Grey Fox. When Raiden was turned into a cyborg in later games, I wanted to play as him too. Not that I didn’t like Snake or the stealth gameplay, of course I did. But jumping around wrecking shit as a cyborg with a sword looked really fun. So this game was actually kind of a dream come true for me. The story is… kinda dumb. But in a fun way. It’s not even bad, just a little silly in its portrayal. Raiden has a legitimate cause you’re rooting for.
Gameplay is endlessly fun for me. The procedural dismemberment never gets old, and can even be used for legitimate strategy. Sever an enemies legs and they’re practically harmless. There are a fair bit of combos, and even alternate weapons of varying types to choose from. The bosses are challenging, and memorable. And the soundtrack… Good God the soundtrack. I know a lot of people make fun of this game’s soundtrack, but I just love it. It’s so perfect, and honestly kinda catchy. It’s one of those soundtracks I unironically listen to while I’m doing my thing outside the game. I’m listening to it as I write this. I can’t adequately describe just how much fun this game is in this short blurb.
I’d say “buy it used and don’t give Konami money”, but unfortunately that might be the only way we can get the sequel this game frankly deserves. So, I’ll leave that one up to you. This game proved that Metal Gear spinoff games could work really well. It’s endlessly fun to me, and I love going back to it. If you can buy it, do it. This game is well worth your time and money.