This deserves a bit of explanation. Throughout the internet you can see top 10 lists of anything, and–a particularly popular subject–lists of video games. A common theme is lists of underrated games: those that are undeservedly overlooked or looked down upon. Yet, after perusing many these lists, I see a lot of the same titles come up. They are full of safe, easy, obvious choices. I would argue that that means they are no longer quite as underrated as their fans believe. I present 10 video games that are often called underrated but are–viewed more objectively–deservedly snubbed.
Beyond Good and Evil (Playstation 2, Gamecube, Xbox, Windows, 2003)
Dry, uninteresting Zelda clone by Ubisoft. Generic combat ripped from Ocarina of Time, fetch quests, lots of forced item hunting. The only interesting part is that you can take photographs of the various alien species, including intelligent ones. People on the internet like to pretend that the protagonist is a strong female character for some unknown reason. Bonus points for a pretentious title that has nothing to do with the game itself, which pretty clearly divides good from evil. Internet whining has gained the game a sequel, and I’m happy for its fans, but I wish a better game could have been chosen.
Ehrgeiz (Arcade, Playstation, 1998)
Awful Tekken/Dead or Alive ripoff by Squaresoft that only sold any copies because it featured a few characters from the ubiquitous Final Fantasy VII. The new characters are uniformly terrible, controls are horribly unresponsive, and the “quest” mode is inferior to even Tekken 3‘s primitive attempt. Ehrgeiz (German for “latrine”) came out in 1998, right in the middle of Squaresoft’s experimental period, but not everything they made at that time was as good as Parasite Eve or Xenogears.
Super Paper Mario (Wii, 2007)
One of the levels in this game involves running in a giant hamster wheel for like ten minutes straight. You, the player, are simply holding one direction on the controller while literally nothing else happens. This is what Mario has been reduced to: A collection of frustrating exercises that would put Mario Party to shame. It commits the sin of being neither a true Mario game, nor a game with only superfluous association with Mario (Dr. Mario, Mario Tennis, etc.) It’s a Mario game apparently made by people who don’t care about Mario mechanics and should be left to writing terrible fan fiction. I seem to recall spending upwards of 20 minutes pressing the A button to run through dialogue in the intro that I could not skip. Why would anyone put this rotten game on their “underrated games” list?
ToeJam & Earl (Mega Drive/Genesis, 1991)
Nostalgia has lied to you. This game is atrocious and this fact should be immediately apparent upon play. ToeJam & Earl is a horrid Roguelike that allegedly has a funky rhythm or some such nonsense, but the controls are awful, the levels are confusing and frustrating, graphics are indecipherable mud piles. The decently jazzy soundtrack is the game’s one and only saving grace. There was a sequel that turned it into a mediocre platformer and a failed 2002 revival with the worst cover this side of American Ico.
Killer 7 (Playstation 2, Gamecube, 2005)
Deliberately confusing artsy-fartsy game by famous game-making troll Suda51. The claustrophobic environments are a nice touch, but the combat is sub-awful, finding enemies is impossible, aiming at enemies is impossible, and finding the right character to use for each situation is an impossible headache. Watch a Let’s Play of this game or skip it entirely. Don’t let anyone convince you that it’s a post-post-modernist masterpiece.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (Nintendo 64, 2000)
After writing my previous article, I had several friends mention that they liked Majora’s Mask. I did not. This is not casting aspersion on their taste in games, but merely my honest assessment of the game’s faults. While Majora’s Mask had a pleasingly foreboding atmosphere that you rarely see in a Zelda game, it was still plagued with irritating fetch quests like all 3D Zelda games are. Talking to the same villagers and running the same dungeons because time ran out and you had to go back is not fun. I strongly dislike the addition of timers in video games.
The Legend of Dragoon (Playstation, 2000)
Pitiful Final Fantasy VII clone that strangely has a cult following. A plot riddled with RPG and anime cliches combined with supremely generic combat makes for an underwhelming experience unless you played it when you were 10 and you still can’t cast out your unwarranted nostalgia for trash. Not worth your time in the slightest.
Planescape: Torment (Windows, 1999)
It pains me to include this game, as I enjoy the Planescape setting and open-ended RPGs so very much, but the truth cannot be denied. Though Planescape: Torment is filled with fantastic ideas, a fascinating cosmology, a three-dimensional alignment/dialogue system, and a rad cast of characters (The protagonist is an ancient cadaver that dies and comes back repeatedly in his quest to remember his past lives and ultimately earn his final rest), the implementation is poor. It uses the same crappy engine as Baldur’s Gate (Complete with nearly-absolute adherence to clunky 2nd Edition AD&D rules) which makes combat unfun and the miles of text tiresome to scroll through. If Torment was as good as it tried to be, it would be the greatest game in history. Alas, it is not so.
StarTropics (NES, 1990)
Nintendo decided to make The Goonies: The Game. Except that Konami already beat them to it. Awkward jumping, stale environments, uninteresting enemies, (Slugs and ghosts? Shocking!) weak weapons, and confusing objectives do not make for a fun experience. Some will incorrectly claim that this game is the logical conclusion of the first Legend of Zelda, but then in the same breath will probably praise the 3D Zeldas that are nothing like this. Crystalis for the NES is a far better choice.
Psychonauts (Playstation 2, Gamecube, Xbox, Windows, 2005)
I swear, this one appears on nearly every list of underrated games. Even Ben “I Hate Everything” Croshaw loved it. The premise (You play a kid who travels into people’s minds) is a decent one, but the gameplay is generic sixth-generation platformer with no interesting moments whatsoever. Not a bad game, just a mediocre one that does not deserve the acclaim it gets on the internet. This game sold under par for a reason.