Often when people talk about favourite games or games they played a lot, the usual suspects tend to crop up. Sonic the Hedgehog in the Mega Drive days, moving through to Crash Bandicoot (PlayStation) or Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64) and so on and so forth. Be it early FIFA, Metal Gear Solid, Tekken, Resident Evil or something like Timesplitters 2, it really depends on your age, as to what your “back in the day” classic was. However, we can all talk for days about how The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy or Bioshock rocked but what about the ‘unusual suspects’ of the gaming world? What about games that were phenomenal but have seemingly faded from the public memory?
So here are 7 games that are oft forgotten gems, games that will undoubtedly hold a space in many hearts out there and yet have been unfairly overlooked for their fun, their ideas and their cracking successes. In fact, where’s that controller? Time for a revisit we reckon!
Aliens: The Computer Game (1987)
Video games based on the Alien franchise are quite common nowadays, and over the years there have been many of varying quality. Some have been more painful than a chestburster, while others have been as welcome a sight as Bishop hovering in to the rescue. Back in the early days though, Software Studios’ Aliens: The Computer Game for the Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum was quite ahead of its days. Activision developed their own tie-in (with the same name) a year earlier but Software Studios’ was the better release. Played in first-person (hinting at the FPS genre’s bright future) this game was absolutely atmospheric. As it had its own echoing spin on the movie’s ominous motion tracker sound you frantically tried to blast the xenomorphs before they got you, as you were placed in the midst of the alien stronghold, as you guided a team of six characters from the film to the Alien colony’s Queen. From leaping face huggers to targeting reticule gunfire gameplay, this one was jumpy and action-packed and nailed the approach for the movie it was adapted from far better than any release before (and for that matter better than many since).
Earthworm Jim (1994)
Shiny Entertainment’s critically acclaimed Earthworm Jim is such a joyous game. Douglas TenNapel’s wacky title hero is memorably mad, and this extremely enjoyable run and gun platform video game for the Sega Genesis (or Mega Drive) boasted innovative gameplay and visuals. The 2D graphics brimmed with imagination, as Jim faced down a number of enemies with terrific backdrops and fun boss battles. The witty and savage pastiche humour added even further edges to an already cool concept that lampooned other genres excitedly. The game was re-released on numerous platforms over the years and in 1995 received an equally excellent (and in some ways even improved) sequel. Both these games stand as examples of visionary excellence and yet have been constantly ignored on many retrospective look backs at gaming glory years. The following games in the franchise (Earthworm Jim 3D and Earthworm Jim: Menace 2 the Galaxy) may have been disappointing but Jim has endured, spawning comics, figures and even an animated 1995-96 TV Series that is likewise an under-appreciated gem. Earthworm Jim is still a cult creation that should be far more acknowledged than it is.
Dead Head Fred (2007)
How does a game that wins the Writer’s Guild of America’s first ever award for video game writing get so ignored? Yet that is precisely what happened to Dead Head Fred on the PSP. The catchily titled horror comedy puzzle platform from Vicious Cycle Software is vintage noirish horror that is impeccably stylish and highly entertaining. You play head hunting (literally) Fred Neuman, a private investigator who was murdered and decapitated and now is hunting down the man responsible. Along the way, you acquire different abilities from your enemies severed heads and gain powers from their respective craniums. The combat is a bit repetitive but the idea, implementation, score and writing are top notch and Dead Head Fred is a really good time! Wonder if Tim Burton will ever adapt it to the big screen?
Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath (2005)
You could place many of the breathtakingly inventive and hilarious Oddworld games on lists like this, as they are often under-appreciated but none more than Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath. A commercial disappointment back on its Xbox release, Strangers Wrath is another wickedly unhinged creation from Oddworld Inhabitants. You play Stranger, a bounty hunter striving to make enough moolah for an operation and in this first/third person shooter adventure you see unbridled creativity fill the screen. The high point of which is a live ammunition system, with different living ammo for taking out different enemies. It’s fun, funny and subversive and despite some re-releases over the years, Stranger’s Wrath has never got celebrated as much as it deserves.
Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue! (1999)
There is a very mixed history of video games that tie-in to movies, with many being forgettable cash-ins or bland time-wasters but Traveller’s Tales’ Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue! was a puzzle platforming powerhouse. Challenging as heck, filled with energetic levels and side-tasks, and with some incredibly memorable end level bosses, not to mention some barmy ones (a killer kite for instance?!). This expanded upon Pixar’s amazing sequel and its story for a game filled with difficult puzzles and visually inventive levels that made use of some of the franchise’s beloved and new (at that point) characters, while giving Buzz the kind of grand video game outing he received in the opening of Toy Story 2 itself. It was actually re-released in 2011 through download for PSP and PS3 but still remains unforgivably overlooked.
Southend Interactive’s futuristic violent hybrid of Hockey and Basketball, by way of Death Race 2000, was under-appreciated Xbox gold. It saw you compete in a disc-lobbing combat sport called ‘Blitz’ in the 23rd Century, as your team rose the ranks to win the championship. You won by throwing the disc through the opposing team’s goal the most times or by knocking them all out in the allotted time limit! Credits earned bought upgrades or new team members and such, while the themed playable teams were Running Man-esque. This is one game that deserves a re-introduction, as it’s a fantastic concept very well executed, akin to Tron Legacy’s disc battle years later. It even won IGN’s 2002 Best Game Nobody Played award.
Star Wars: Republic Commando (2005)
LucasArts’ foray into the First-Person Shooters (FPS) has yielded some interesting results in the past but their kick-ass 2005 Xbox exclusive Star Wars: Republic Commando was absolutely outstanding. Putting you behind the visor of a clone commando team, this one worked equally as well in single player (as you tactically placed your team in battle) or multiplayer, which is a player tight-rope not many achieve now. The main campaign was admittedly short but endlessly repayable, as you were pitted against monstrous battle droids (who were arguably more fearsome here than in the films) in overwhelming numbers, and continuously fighting the odds! The game even had some plot details interesting to both Attack of the Clones and (the at that point upcoming) Revenge of the Sith, as it gave players a sneak peek at Separatist baddie General Grievous and got them up close to his MagnaGuards. This one is a Star Wars classic!
That’s it for this list but are there any forgotten classics you’d like to shed light on? Let us know in the comments section below...
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