I’ve been doing every manner of lists and news pieces over the last few months, but sometimes it’s best just to try and spread the word about great games that one holds close to their heart. So I’m going to take a brief break from trying to list the ‘Best Butts in Gaming’ or writing about the latest Sonic The Hedgehog game and focus on a few games that deserve some serious attention.
Games that I’ve discovered in my lifetime and still tend to play to this very day. So it’s very much a personal piece, but I do hope that you can find some enjoyment from my list and let me know your personal favourites that may not get the spotlight you think they’ve rightly earned. (I mean, Superman 64 was an underrated masterpiece right?)
This list is not going to be ranked in a particular order. Just a general overview of some gems that you should look into if you haven’t already. Perhaps serve as an inspiration to look into them again if you’ve passed on them in the past. I’ll be covering some games that are Retro, and some that are somewhat recent. But they will be underrated all the same.
Enough padding, let’s jump right into my picks!
Treasure is a company that I love to bits. It stands atop the same pedestal as companies like Quintet and Rare. Treasure has a knack for creating off the walls action platformers with an abundance of energy and personality, chalk full of crazy action set pieces that make you just sit back and go “Whoa.” They are known to many people as the creators of the Mega Drive classic, Gunstar Heroes. One of the most highly praised Mega Drive games of all time, thanks to it being full of all of the trademark Treasure quirks that just mentioned earlier.
But one game that Treasure has made always seems to be overlooked by people who love the Nintendo 64. Which is a little title called Mischief Makers. It’s got one of the most Japanese plots ever. It’s not Goemon levels, but it’s ‘Japanese’ in tone. You play a robotic maid named Marina who has to save their creator from doom, and how does the gameplay work? You grab, shake, and throw your enemies around while utilising air dashes and navigating chaotic levels with some of the strangest and oddly satisfying level design I’ve ever experienced.
Also – The boss battles. God the boss fights. They are large in scope and follow the usual Treasure moniker of outdoing the last. Thanks to big grab based gameplay the game uses as well, you feel like you are wrestling with a boss far out of your class. I liken the experience to a 2D Platinum Games battle system. Much like Bayonetta or Metal Gear Rising, when you land hits and dodge in air to dodge attacks, you feel like some giant handed superhero fused with a pro wrestler. To this day, I’ve not met a game that has gameplay quite like Mischief Makers.
If you want a great action platformer, make sure to pick up Mischief Makers sometime soon.
Chroma Squad has that high level of personality and heart that’s hard to find games as of late. A lot of Indie Studios will set out to make a game based on a theme and make a game that is ‘tongue and cheek’ to the reference material but ends up falling short. Games that have you doing the most mundane activity in the world like driving a bus or being a YouTuber, and then claiming it’s a ‘simulator’ often try this.
But they tend to lose the message somewhere down the line and towards the middle or end, the games tend to repeat themselves and stop being fun. You can only take so many jokes about bus driving before things start to get old. But Chroma Squad never falls into this layout of losing steam. It delivers on everything it sets out to do.
Chroma Squad is tactical RPG that sees you and some friends set out to create a Superhero TV show. It is chalk full of references to things like Super Sentai, Kamen Rider, and Power Rangers. But the creators understand what they were filling the game with when it came to references and nods to other genres and shows. I’m a die hard fan of Kamen Rider and never felt like the game was patronising me, instead it was a joke being shared with a fellow fan. A good joke as well.
That’s one of the core strengths of Chroma Squad. It’s core writing and style is not over the top and clearly, comes from a place of love for the source material. Gameplay wise it’s a hit too. With fantastic growth elements where you build your show into one of the most favourite TV shows by upgrading your set, getting better costumes and effects, and much more. With perfectly time XCOM style gameplay that leaves you wanting to continue growing your skills and base of operations. Heck, that’s the best way to sum the game up, it’s a passionate XCOM with Power Rangers that uses sprite work for it’s graphics.
Why wouldn’t you play that? Give Chroma Squad a play right away!
Dragon Ball: Advanced Adventure
Dragon Ball is one of my all time favourite shows of all time. Not just favourite anime, but show. It is right next to the likes of Lie to Me or Spartacus. Simply because of how fun and easy it is to enjoy. Journey to the West has been made so many times in so many different forms, but nothing has ever come close to the success and charm of Dragon Ball.
Let me also be clear that I’m speaking about Dragon Ball. Not Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT, or anything like that. I’m referring to the start of Goku and his adventures. Dragon Ball featured a time when Yamcha wasn’t a joke, and his moves like the Wolf Fang Fist actually could fell an enemy. Even the more over the top elements felt grounded, and not overpowered only attacks that could crack a planet in two. You had supernatural elements, sure. Like an immortal pervert and his talking Turtle, but it wasn’t like “Okay, so now the Turtle is going to shout at the top of his lungs and destroy an entire city.” It was very much an adventure of growth, meeting friends along the way, and an overall feel good show.
So when I learned of the existence of a side-scroller based on Dragon Ball. I was floored. Kid Goku wasn’t just going to be featured as a playable character in a fighting game. No, it’s a full adventure based on his start! What a game as well! It is FLUID. Like, playing as Son Goku feels like a dream, using his power pole to beat down various enemies, and exploring favourite locations from the show. But my overal favourite aspect was unlocking new characters; you could play as any of the characters you fought in the game. Either in the platforming sections or in an impeccable VS mode that works better than you might think.
Fans of good platforming should give Dragon Ball: Advanced Adventure a shot. You won’t be disappointed.
Spec Ops: The Line
Reboots are a tough thing to manage correctly. You often find that studios will often lose the vision from the previous games by trying to reinvent the wheel too much or just flat out come up with a game that bears no resemblance to the source material. We’ve seen it happen countless times, but once and a while. A reboot will come along that sets a new bar for games to come after it. Spec Ops: The Line is exactly that game.
A reboot based the moderate Spec Ops series that attempted to shine a light on the more serious tones of Military Conflict during its heyday back in the early 2000s. 2K games and Yager Development set out to reset the clock on Spec Ops the line and deliver an impactful experience with the military shooter genre that would shock and make an impact with gamers. Boy did it ever.
This is in NO way a Call of Duty experience. You are not playing the Die Hard of video games. You’re going to be put through the ringer with some of the most difficult choices you might ever face in a game. You’ll question everything nearly every hour as you continue through the game. You think you are getting the hang of the narrative, and then things just turn on their head again.
I don’t want to give everything away all at once since even the slightest spoiler could give away too much. But let me assure you, while the game isn’t the most mechanically sound with some gameplay issues and poor multiplayer. The story NEEDS to be experienced. Video games don’t often keep hold of my attention or rock me to my core in the way Spec Ops: The Line has. It’s not a happy go lucky experience; it’s a visceral and gritty trudge through the mud. But the payoff is worth it in the end.
If you want to take up the role of a soldier and not feel like an idiot or gung-ho action hero – Play Spec Ops: The Line right away.
For those hardcore Retro gamers out there, you may have noticed me mention another little studio during my break-down of why Mischief Makers is so darn good. Quintet. They made some of the best underrated SNES games of all time. They specialised in creating great RPGs that unofficially shared the same universe. This fantastic little company made the likes of Terranigma and Illusion of Gaia. It’s a shame they never seemed to reach the heights they deserved, having gone all but silent as of the early 2000s.
Regardless of how the company is doing right now, their works from yesteryear are some need to played if you consider yourself a Retro Gamer. One of their best works has to be their first game, Act Raiser. A true classic and genre mixer. You see, Act Raiser manages to blend two genres of games that shouldn’t work on paper. This game manages it in spades. Act Raiser mixes Platforming and Sim City style gameplay all in one game.
It’s pretty much got everything. Amazing graphics with mind blowing Mode 7 effects, killer music that sounds like it’s come straight from Castlevania, and a pretty good story that never loses focus or becomes too much to take in all at once. I could write an entire piece on how amazing ActRaiser is. Wait a second… I did! If you want my full thoughts on the subject, you can check out my Retro Spotlight on ActRaiser by clicking here!
So don’t wait, just play ActRaiser right away! You won’t regret it.
That’s my list! Just to confirm, this list was just a breakdown of some of the games that I’ve played myself and just thought “Gosh, more people should know about this game.”
No particular theme, just a few great gems with varying charms that deserve some attention. Since sometimes there just needs to be a break from talking about the best backsides in gaming, or what villain reigns supreme and just go “This game was SO good.”
What are your favourite unknown games? Let me know!