It happens every generation; despite great reviews and solid word of mouth, there is always a small selection of utterly fantastic games that, for whatever reason, completely fail at retail. Be it a poorly chosen release window, an overtly high price point or a lack of advertising, these brilliant, often hugely innovative games criminally fall by the wayside. This generation has been no different. There are always casualties of the increasingly unforgiving sales wars but the past few years have proven especially harsh with many top quality titles failing to register so much as a blip on the majority of gamers’ radars. Here are some of the games that deserved so much better……
1) El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron (Ignition Entertainment)
While it did nothing particularly new in terms of core mechanics, as an advert for videogames as art, few games have done more for the argument. This is a game of consistently high standards and outrageously unique and beautiful art work. Even the gameplay, which is relatively basic, offers a pleasingly simple flow that seems to work hand in hand with the art design to create an experience quite unlike anything else. Sure, it was based on biblical text and yes, it does get very “Japanese”, but my God, unless you’re the kind of gamer who plays nowt but Call of Duty and FIFA, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is more than worthy of your time and attention.
2) Shadows of the Damned (Grasshopper Manufacture)
Again, not a game that does anything particularly new, but in terms of a unique, utterly bonkers universe, one that provides an antithesis to the ever growing number of po-faced, laugh free videogames currently doing the rounds, Shadows of the Damned provides a fun and highly refreshing shooter experience. If nothing else, it’s worth experiencing for the sheer number of dick jokes thrown into the script. In less skilled hands, the script and art direction may well have come across as crass and childish, but under the tutelage of the highly talented folk at Grasshopper Manufacture, instead comes across as equal parts audacious and hilarious.
3) Crysis 2/3 (Crytek)
Yeah, I know, it’s not like either of these games didn’t sell. In fact, they both did kind of ok at retail. But really….. ok? These games have everything; they look great, have fantastic mechanics and in terms of choice and battle options, leave the unflinchingly linear likes of Call of Duty and Battlefield in the dust. Shit, even the multiplayer is great. Neither Crysis 2 nor its immediate successor wowed in quite the same way as the original (certainly not on consoles anyway), but both still stand as two of the finest first person shooters of the generation
4) Child of Eden (Q Entertainment)
Many “core” gamers are still very suspicious of Kinect, and for good reason – a few years after release and it’s still primarily used to promote party games and shovelware. Dig through the rubble of mediocrity though and there are a few nuggets of gold to be mined – one of which being Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s blindingly beautiful follow up to the unforgettable Rez. While this gorgeous shooter certainly makes brilliant use of the Kinect technology to help immerse you in the experience, it seems many gamers failed to appreciate that Child of Eden is still a fantastic game (and arguably even better) when played with a traditional controller. Sure, it isn’t quite as engaging, but if played as a traditional score chase shooter, an analogue stick and a few triggers is definitely the way to go. Either way, be you a Kinect owner or not, this is gaming as far away from the mundane as is possible and as beautiful a marriage of input and audio as you are likely to find.
5) Punch-Out!! (Nintendo)
Arguably old school to a fault, this is Punch-Out!! just as you remember it. Despite the upgraded visual style, this is as simplistic, compelling, and downright punishing as the original NES release and probably the prime reason why nobody bought the damn thing. It may not represent a realistic representation of the sport, but for those looking for a trip down memory lane, or for those simply looking for a bit of old fashioned challenge, Punch-Out!! for the Wii will deliver in spades. With its commitment to the core sensibilities that made the original so popular, Punch-Out!! stands as one of the finest examples of fan service found this generation and deserves to be played by a much wider audience than it has been afforded thus far.
Of course, there are plenty more games that have come and gone without the critical or commercial success that they deserved this gen…….what would be on your list?