Top 10 Most Underratted/Overlooked Games

Written by screwattack

I’m Bart N. Lucas from Team Discovery Channel and I hate stupid blogs taking up valuable blog space. Here’s the thing: I’ve been seeing a lot of Top [Insert Number Here] lists lately and I wanted in on the action. Not just to be one with the crowd, but to set a standard. I know that sounds pretty arrogant, but some of the lists that I’ve been seeing here are just terrible. I’m not saying that the lists themselves are bad; that would be extremely arrogant. Lists are very subjective and a good list should differ from anyone else’s. What I am saying is that these terrible lists are usually riddled with awful grammar, abstractions (Whoa! This game is so awesome! Play it!), and they tend to have very little description. I know that this isn’t school, but some of these are just too damn hard to read. I’m just asking for a little effort is all. Obviously, I’m speaking to the native English speakers here. I don’t want to discourage anyone trying to type English as their second language. I find it impressive that you’re even trying.
Anyways, to get back on subject and wrap up this unnecessarily long introduction, if I could leave you with just one characteristic that could turn a Good list into a Great list, it would be this: I believe that in order to have a Great list, the list should provoke a little thought and/or controversy. So, without further adieu, here’s my first attempt at a Top Ten list.

Top Ten Most Underrated/Overlooked Games:

Most of the games on this list aren’t going to be obscure. I mostly choose the following games because they don’t get the attention that they deserve. Most of the following tend to NOT be on Top Ten Lists, despite the fact that, in the case of sequels, I find them to be better than their predecessors. The only rule I have is there can be only one game per franchise. Standard stuff, I know, but I thought I should get that out there.


10.) Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS)

This is a fairly new game that I think hasn’t got the attention that it deserves. Professor Layton and the Curious Village is a must-have for any DS owner, especially if you’re tired of all those brain-training games that seem to be popping up every month. This production of this game was done very well. The music in good and accentuates the game’s tone and setting, the animation is surprisingly great for a DS game, the dialogue is well-written and the characters are nicely developed (by video game standards), and the plot is interesting. The game is supposed to be a mystery/puzzler, and I think it does that well. The puzzles within the game are brain-teasers made by Prof. Akira Tago, so they’re not just tedious spurts of numbers and letters. Some of the puzzles at the end of the game can be very challenging. One could easily look up the answers online, but that would make the game kind of pointless. Nothing beats the feeling of satisfaction that comes with discovering the answers yourself. This is just one of those games where the experience is so fresh that you ignore the stupid little things. Like, “Why is everyone asking me to solve these little puzzles?” (though, that’s explained in the end) and “Why does Layton even have an apprentice?” Despite these little foibles, the gaming experience you get from Professor Layton will have a lasting impression on you. Let’s hope that the sequels make it over here soon.


9.) Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest (SNES)

This is one of my all-time favorite games. But the main reason I put it on the list is because most people usually put the first DKC on their Top Tens. This always bothered me. Whenever I see the first one on a list instead of the second, I get suspicious because I think the lister is a poser. He or she is probably like, “Nothing’s better than the original,” and this kind of mentality gets passed on to their readers and compounds as more and more lists are created. Well, STOP IT! There is nothing DKC has that it’s sequel doesn’t make better! The gameplay is more refined, the secrets are more abundant, lucrative, and meaningful, and Dixie Kong is actually better than Donkey Kong. Her helicopter move is way more useful than Donkey Kong’s ground pound thing. But, no matter which of the two you liked better, Diddy was the best.
Character disputes aside, it’s DKC2’s music that makes this game a one-of-a-kind and gives it one up on its predecessor. I actually still find its soundtrack to be one of the best in the BGM Industry. Case and point: the music on the Bramble Scramble level. Some call the track Sticker-Brush Symphony, some call it Bramble Blast, the game itself just calls it Brambles, but I call it pure deliciousness. This should have easily made Screwattack’s Top Ten Themes, but a list is a list. However, Gang Plank Galleon made it on there, and DKC2 has that as well on the “Rattle Battle” stage, but with a different arrangement, which I prefer to the original.
I can understand how people could say that DKC gets extra points for having that initial “WOW!” factor, but that’s not timeless. DKC2 to this day is an amazingly fun and addicting game. DKC is too, but DKC2 has the edge with all the aforementioned aspects, plus the difficulty was heightened due to Miyamoto himself criticizing the first game’s emphasis on art over substance. It seems to me that DKC2 has found a nice balance of the two.


8.) Super Punch-Out!! (SNES)

I actually prefer this to its NES predecessor. It looked better (even though I believe in gameplay over graphics), it was faster, and it was just more fun. Don’t get me wrong. I probably like the original Punch-Out!! more than you. It’s just SPO had so much more. Mainly, it had time trials. I remember back in the day when my friend would bring the cartridge to school so that I could take it home and try to beat his best times. Then, the next day, I’d give it back for him to reclaim his top spots. This went on for awhile. Also, I liked the characters in SPO better than the ones on PO. I know, PO had King Hippo, Great Tiger, and Soda Popinski, but SPO’s character’s were just as memorable as they were racist. Plus, the majority of them were bastards! It seemed like everyone of them cheated in that game! Dragon Chan kicked you, Masked Muscle spit shit in your eyes and head butted you, Aran Ryan grabbed you, Heike Kagero hit you with his hair, Mad Clown threw balls (hee hee), and Hoy Quarlow… well, there’s just nothing legit about that old shit! I also liked the special meter at the bottom. I found it more helpful and useful than the star system from the first.
Admittedly, the music was better in the first PO. There’s no arguing that. PO was also harder than its sequel. But what I think really gave SPO the edge was how all the boxer’s had attack patterns that, when properly exploited, could be countered, resulting in stupidly fast TKOs. Piston Hurricane sucks so bad that he can actually be taken down in less than 6 seconds. Now that’s playing with power!


7.) Chew Man Fu (Turbo Grafx-16)

This may be the only obscure game on my list. I don’t really think that it’s one of the best games in the world, or even near such a list, but it’s just really fun. Basically, you’re a girl monk who has to reclaim 5 sacred towers that have been captured by the evil wizard, Chew Man Fu. I’m not going to lie to you, this game is ridiculous. The localization is hideous (but in a good way) and the characters are stereotypical and, at times, just down-right racist. But, all is forgiven when you actually play the game. It’s a unique puzzler involving balls (hee hee). The goal of the game is to roll and kick the different colored balls and place them on their squares of the same color. Of course, there are enemies to kill you and get in your way, along with walls to block you. To add a little strategy to the game, the balls have different abilities that can help you in certain situations: Red kills things in one hit, Black destroys walls in two hits, Blue bounces around longer than the other colors, and Green is just average. These attributes coupled with how the enemies can mess with your balls (hee hee) can lead to some very challenging levels.
All in all, I think the game’s originality and unique gameplay elements really make this a title that shines. It’s also very long. There’s like 50 levels in the game, and when you beat it, they give you 50 more. I made it to my third set of 50. I have no idea how long this game actually is. There’s also a two-player mode where you play soccer or something with a friend, but it sucks. Despite the co-op sucking balls (hee hee), the single player mode is enough to get you some bang for your buck.


6.) Lords of Thunder (TurboGrafx Duo/Sega CD)

This is one helluva shmup! It’s fast-paced, the visuals are great, and it can be hard as shit. One thing I think that gets this game overlooked is its difficulty. While average shmup players find it to be pretty hard, more experienced shmup veterans find it to be too easy, at least on its default difficulty. That’s why these shmup connoisseurs prefer this game’s spiritual predecessor, Gates of Thunder. Lords is considered to be too easy by vets for various reasons: you can get hit several times before you die, you can grab health during the levels, and there’s an item shop where you can pump yourself up before levels. However, it’s this shop system that makes me like Lords more than Gates. It adds a little more depth to the game. Plus, I just really like to kill things and collect the gems they drop. For some reason, this just adds to the fun of the game.
I also like the Fantasy setting of the game as well. Basically, instead of flying around in a ship, you’re a God-Knight that flies around shooting shit and slicing shit with your sword. What a badass! With the over-saturation of Sci-fi shmups in the market at the time, this was refreshing. Not to say that this hadn’t been done before. Legendary Wings did it years earlier. There’s also a game on the Genesis, but I can’t remember what it’s called.
Let’s talk about one of the greatest things this game has to offer, shall we? It has an amazing soundtrack! All the tracks are Heavy Metal influenced. The guitars sound sweet, the drums sound great, and the riffs are meaty as hell! It helps that this was a CD game because the sound quality is just superb, especially for the time. It may not be the best Metal that you’ve ever heard, but it’s still very good and compliments the games ludicrous speed! (That’s a Spaceballs reference.)


5.) Secret of Evermore (SNES)

This game got a bad rep when it was first released because people thought Squaresoft made this game instead of localizing Secret of Mana 2 (or Seiken Densetsu 3 for you Japanophiles). I don’t really know the full story, but I’ve heard this wasn’t the case. Secret of Evermore was created just for the Western market as a spiritual successor to Secret of Mana. It had a lot of the same things that Mana had. The ring system was there, the combat system was there (real-time with the stamina bar and charging your weapon), and the variety of weapons were there for you to level up, too. What the game didn’t have was three player co-op. Hell, it didn’t even have two-player co-op, even though the opportunity was there. It would have been sweet if a friend could have controlled the dog. Despite this lapse of judgment, the game was still great because it was different, yet familiar. I actually like Evermore better than Mana. I know that a lot of people would disagree, but Evermore just had, pardon the pun, more. At least, it had more when it came to plot, dialogue, and character development.
The plot wasn’t particularly anything new, but it was fresh and interesting when you consider who made it. As opposed to the obligatory fantasy setting that most Squaresoft games had at the time, Evermore took place in modern times. However, the bulk of the game takes place in a computer-generated fantasy world. But the word “fantasy” in this sense represents more around the lines of “wish-fulfillment,” rather than elves and dragons and such. The worlds created in the computer are reflections of the people to whom the computer has trapped within its program. And this game was made four years before the Matrix! Another thing that really sets this game apart from Mana is the humor. Mana had its moments, like the whole wild-goose chase for Joch, but Evermore was teeming with hilarity. From Fire Eyes making fun of your dog’s name to the main character’s constant fictitious B-movie references, this game could really make you smile. I find this to be ironic because the game takes on a darker tone than Mana in atmosphere, both environmentally and musically, and in story. All in all, this game comes across as being a bit more mature than Mana. That’s not to say that Evermore is better than Mana because of this fact. It’s just food for thought.


4.) Gain Ground (Sega Genesis)

This game might be obscure to most gamers, but this one is actually considered a cult classic. I really don’t know what qualities a game should have in order to be called a cult classic, but that’s just what I’ve heard. I’d assume the game should have at least one of the following factors: 1.) a campy and/or nostalgic feeling to it, or 2.) be really good but misunderstood due to avant-garde gameplay that couldn’t be accepted by the mainstream. I believe Gain Ground suffers from the latter. However, the game’s plot involves a utopian world that has long forgotten how to fight due to the long years of peace. So, in order to train in the art of war on the off chance that aliens were to invade, the peoples of Earth created a large computer that used virtual reality to train warriors. But alas, the computer malfunctions and traps everyone within (sound like a game I just mentioned?), and it’s the 3 heroes’ job to rescue their kidnapped brethren and destroy the evil computer. The plot is derivative and the McGuffin is pretty lame, so I guess that could give it that campy feeling. Everyone knows that no matter how stupid something is, as long as it has some redeeming quality, it can be overlooked, just like I did for Professor Layton. But what’s this game’s redeeming quality? The graphics were just barely on par and the sound was bad, even for Genesis standards. Gain Ground’s saving grace lied in its strategy and wide array of characters.
There were a total of twenty playable characters, each with their own unique abilities (although some were copies of other characters) and collecting them was part of the fun. The best characters where the archers and the missile guy that shot across the screen. The only problem I had with the game was that it was definitely a Trial and Error game. You have no idea what each character does until you play as them. This wouldn’t be so bad if the game didn’t revolve around having the right character at the right time. If each character is utilized properly, you can fly through this game easily. If not, you’re screwed, mainly because of the boss of the game. He’s a particular bastard because there’s absolutely no way of killing him without losing at least 4-5 characters. I suggest you get a friend that doesn’t suck to help you with this guy. That’s right, folks! The game’s also co-op. Twenty characters + 50 levels + strategy with a friend = BAD ASS. This game is a definite play for anyone with eclectic or strategic tastes. Personally, I think that Gain Ground was one of the best offerings on the Genesis.


3.) WCW/nWo: Revenge (N64)

The engine that THQ used wrestling in this game was excellent. It made for some good wrasslin’! Unfortunately, it ultimately went the way of Def Jam: Fight for New York. How unfortunate, indeed. Anyways, back to Revenge, this has seriously got to be one of my favorite wrestling games of all time, and it’s one of my favorite N64 games, too. Aside from the excellent weak/strong strike and grapple system, this game really had a lot of the things that other wrestling games had, but Revenge had the testicular fortitude to make them better: more weapons, more moves, a kick ass intro involving a semi-truck, run-ins during a match, low blows that “dinged,” and all kinds of finishers. You could use your Special to their face, their back, on the ground, on the turnbuckle, or you could take your opponent’s move and own them with a slice of humiliation. The chose was yours! But even with all that awesomeness, it was the characters that made this game great.
The game’s roster is the reason I regard it better than its WWE, then WWF, sequels, Wrestlemania 2000 and No Mercy. Now, I’ve always been a bigger WWF fan. I used to watch an hour of Nitro before RAW came on. But you couldn’t deny the greatness that was Hollywood Hogan, Goldberg, Lodi, Jim Norton, Ric Flair and his sweet Special, Eddie Guerrero’s amazing “Cheat To Win T-shirts,” and Meng’s dumb-looking pose after he did the Tonga Death Grip . Plus, the game had a bunch of made-up characters in made-up factions. Seriously, if you’ve ever played this game, you know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about Dake Ken with his sledgehammer, Dr. Frank, Hawk Hanna, Brickowski, Maya Inca Boy (or M.I.B. to his friends), and so much more. However, none of what I’ve said so far even compares to what really made this game stick in the minds of gamers so many years later. You know that I’m talking about the taunts. Every single taunt in this game, whether real or fictitious, was pure gold. From AKI/THQ Man’s cheerleader inspired body-letter taunts to La Parka’s sweet dance with the chair, everything that the wrestlers did in this game oozed substance and amusement.


2.) Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (Playstation)

Ridiculously stupid name. Amazingly awesome game. Tactics Ogre was overlooked for one reason: Final Fantasy Tactics. I don’t remember exactly when each game came out, but I know that they both came out at around the same time, which was late ’97 or early ’98. FFT’s convoluted plot, superior graphics, and “Final Fantasy” name helped it in overshadowing the epic Tactics Ogre. But just because FFT had all that going for it doesn’t mean that it was the superior game. On the contrary, I find TO to be way better. I was fortunate enough as a kid to have both games, but it was TO that I played the hell out of, even though I played the crap out of both games. FFT was great, but it was way too easy when compared to TO, mainly because of that cheap bastard Orlandu. After beating the game for the 50th time, I would remove the Excalibur and kick him off the team just to make things even.
To me, one of the things that made TO better than FFT was the battle party capacity. TO let you have 10 characters to fight in battle with while FFT only let you have half that amount. This led to more interesting, longer, and more challenging fights in TO. Also, and this kind of sucked, there was no reviving in TO (although later on you could make a priest character that could cast a spell to bring back fallen allies, but that was in the later half of the game). This was good if you wanted a challenge, but it could be controller-throwingly frustrating. TO also had different paths that you could take throughout the game. This made its already high replay value shoot through the roof. If I had to suggest one of the two to someone, I’d suggest OT if you were a hardcore strategy gamer. FFT is amazing, but TO is more than twice the fun.


1.) Zombies Ate My Neighbors (SNES/Sega Genesis)

This one’s not too obscure because, like Gain Ground, it too is considered to be a cult classic, but I know a lot of people who haven’t even heard of it. Regardless, this made the list because it doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Seriously, I think this game is the total package. It’s difficult, it’s co-op, it’s got like 50 levels, there’s a bunch of secrets, the soundtrack is quirky and, at times, foreboding, there’s a lot of weapons and power-ups, there’s a wide assortment of enemies, and the overall tone and theme of the game is interesting, fun, and funny. I really don’t know many games that are tongue-in-cheek, at least not to the degree that ZAMN is. Perhaps that’s why the game’s antagonist’s name is Dr. Tongue. Maybe, but the reigning theory states that the name comes from the nickname given to the first zombie you see in the movie, “Day of the Dead.”
When I say tone and theme, I’m mostly talking about how the game is presented. The humor in this game is just rampant. One of my favorite things has to be the titles of the levels. They sound like names of B-movies you might have watched with Elvira late at night when you were a kid and not too busy looking at her big, voluptuous, round, sculpted, perky, heaving… Where was I? Oh, level names. For example, there are greats like “Mars Needs Cheerleaders!” and “More Terrifying Than Level 5… Level 6: Pyramid of Fear!” The seemingly endless horror movie references really make this game great as well. They’re all there: zombies, ants, evil dolls, werewolves, Martians, vampires, Frankenstein’s monster, blobs, weeds, body snatchers, Giant Babies, etc.
The random bonuses were always cool, too. You could get the “Fish Fry” bonus if you killed a bunch of Creatures from the Black Lagoon or a “No Bazooka” bonus in the hedge maze levels with the Leatherface/Jason guys. There was also a “Saved More Victims” bonus just so the game could turn you against your best friend. What devious bastards!
Honestly, if you haven’t played this game, you don’t know what you’re missing. I think the game has aged well, though I found it much more fun when I was a kid. But, in all fairness, I had friends that played video games with me as a kid, so I’m sure that helped. That’s not to say that a single player experience isn’t fun. I could only beat the game by myself. You pretty much need all the items you find throughout the levels in order to beat the game, which totally renders the password system useless. If you use a password to get you to level 40 you’ll only have what you’d have started with if you had started from Level 1. I’ll tell you, there are only a few things in this life that I’ve done that have given me a sense of fulfillment. Beating Zombie Ate My Neighbors was one of those things. Everyone should experience this greatness.

There you have it. I really hope you enjoyed my list. I plan on doing some more with Team Discovery Channel soon. If you liked it, please comment. Even if you hated it, you should comment. Especially if you think that my arrogance has over-inflated and ultimately collapsed upon itself, please, let me know.

– Bart N. Lucas

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