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The 28 most underrated games of the last console generation

Thursday, 26th June 2014 08:42 GMT By Staff

Summer sales represent an excellent opportunity to explore the last generation of gaming on the cheap, and so we present to you, in no particular order, the most underrated, undersold and under-appreciated games of the PS3 and Xbox 360 generation.

lost_odyssey

Lost Odyssey

One of a couple of new IP JRPGs of the same era that went straight under the radar, Lost Odyssey stands among the best examples of the genre – in any generation. Hailing from Mistwalker, the company founded by “father of Final Fantasy” Hironobu Sakaguchi to do the things Square Enix wouldn’t gamble its top franchise on, it was, perhaps unfortunately, first released on Xbox 360, presumably as part of Microsoft’s many (historically less half-hearted) attempts to bring Japanese and JRPG fans over to its side of the fence.

It’s mysterious that this game wasn’t pushed more as an incredible amount of love (and work) went into it; it spans four discs, plus DLC, and boasts incredible production values. Protagonist Kaim is one of the sulkiest fellows ever to grace a game cover, but his millennia of existence provides some rich lore to explore, and the soundtrack is an absolute stunner. You don’t get much more traditional-JRPG-meets-western-budget than this.

the_saboteur

The Saboteur

“No other game gives you a trophy for diving off the Eiffel Tower.”

One of the many products of the open world fever that gripped us at the end of the PS2 era and into the next, The Saboteur was one of those difficult projects that didn’t quite find its audience, resulting in the closure of Pandemic and the shelving of DLC plans.

The Saboteur, like any game, certainly has its issues, but it’s packed with astonishingly courageous decisions. The conceit of marking resistance-held areas by an ethereal, pastoral aesthetic while the Nazi-controlled regions reman starkly black and white is something you’d never see come out of triple-A today. Pandemic poured a ridiculous amount of money into its facial graphics tech (with mixed results, admittedly). WWII France is huge, gorgeous, and filled with occasionally mental content; you can see the seams where the creative team was split and restitched and hurried to launch date. But no other game gives you a trophy for diving off the Eiffel Tower.

alpha_protocol

Alpha Protocol

It’s hard even to know where to begin talking about where Alpha Protocol went wrong, but in hindsight, the developer-publisher combination of Obsidian and Sega might be a clue. A difficult project, the ups and down of which have been charted in some fascinating retrospectives, Alpha Protocol is an almost unbearably bold mish-mash of gameplay styles, attempting to bring the modern third-person RPG out of the realm of fantasy and into other settings, a thing only Mass Effect had really managed at the time.

A little like Deadly Premonition, (which went from unknown to great cult celebration in a reversal of Alpha Protocol’s fortunes), the espionage thriller was highly divisive. Some players simply could not forgive the many technical issues it launched with, and others just found its core systems too weird or swallow. Nowadays the vision doesn’t seem so kooky, and Obsidian makes a quiet little income off back-catalogue sales.

singularity

Singularity

This is a shooter from one of the teams regularly called in to assist on Call of Duty, with a string of successful first-person games to its name. Rather than the usual “shoot the terrorists” setting it has a time-travelling plot with three possible endings and enough back and forth to make the hokey pokey look relatively static. And instead of adding a new kind of grenade and calling it a day, the gameplay boldly deviates from the generic realms of shooterdom by throwing in a time manipulation power, among other twists, and keeping one foot very firmly in the survival horror camp.

Doesn’t that sound like a game everyone ought to have played, loved, and never shut up about? And yet here we are today, with you sort of staring blankly at us while we slap your face with a copy of Singularity and shout “this is why mainstream shooters have become identical you great pillock!”
enslaved_odyssey_to_the_west

Enslaved: Journey to the West

“A brave attempt by Namco Bandai to fly in the face of flagging sales as other publishers grimly knuckled under to make sequels.”

Remember how for a while there nobody was making any new IP? Enslaved: Odyssey to the West was one of the last precious properties to be born before it became apparent that trough was going to stick around for a while, and was a brave attempt by Namco Bandai to fly in the face of flagging sales as other publishers grimly knuckled under to make sequels. We’ve waxed lyrical and at great length on the boldness of this move, which went sadly unrewarded by sales, despite a belated PC port.

Whether it is the gamer’s general reluctance to enjoy AI companions, a surfeit of third-person action adventure games, a lack of appreciation for the colourful post-apocalyptic setting, or just the ennui of generational fatigue, Enslaved was unfairly overlooked and deserves another chance.

eternal_sonata

Eternal Sonata

A JRPG set within the dreams of the composer Chopin as he lay on his deathbed, and – wait, where are you going?

One of the few modern video games to pay such loving tribute to classical music, Eternal Sonata is beautiful, whimsical, and stuffed to the brim with goodness. With twice the charm of the far better known Dragon Quest, and more genuine exploration of the possibilities of JRPG conventions than Final Fantasy, Eternal Sonata is a delight for all the senses. A few stray criticisms – it’s too short, there’s no open world – fail to appreciate Tri-Crescendo’s admirably complete and discrete work of art, which wraps itself up so neatly and beautifully that to wish for more would be a small sin.

valkyria_chronicles

Valkyria Chronicles

The first tentative steps towards a new approach to SRPG out of Japan in a long, long time, that Valkyria Chronicles sold so poorly is a crime for which you will never be forgiven.

Valkyria Chronicles is more than the sum of its parts – the gorgeous, cel-shaded graphics; vast cast of (almost universally high quality) characters; gripping war story and unusual get-in-the-action tactical gameplay. It is a masterpiece. Fans of XCOM and Fire Emblem should apply, and Nintendo’s upcoming Codename: STEAM owes much to Sega.

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42 Comments

  1. Keiggo

    This is actually a pretty fantastic list! Usually when these sort of features emerge, I find they tend to skew either too popular or too obscure but I think you’ve just about nailed it.

    #1 3 months ago
  2. Marcus Gv

    Good list. Would have liked to see Too Human on the list.

    #2 3 months ago
  3. polygem

    yes, great list…but please let me add – the original LOST PLANET.

    it blew me away when it came out. looked so gorgeous. i really liked the western/japanese artstyle mix a lot.

    sure the story was a pain in the a but the presentation was great and the actual gameplay was fun – not flawless -was a bit clunky – but still a lot of fun. the grappling hook, quickturn with your bumper buttons, rolling and reloading by pressing the anlogue sticks. it all felt great.

    i just love snow (and lave) levels. it had both :D

    the feel of damaging these huge akrids – that yellow juice bursting out of them – it was extremely satisfying. the online was just fantastic back then. i have played the postgrab mode 247 and the lobby music is still in my head today.

    capcom had a true winner there with lots and lots of franchise potential but they completely fucked it up with LP2- shame.

    still, the first one is among my most beloved console memories of the last gen.

    bring back the true glory of this IP capcom, one day, please!

    #3 3 months ago
  4. FlyBoogy

    The picture above Singularity is actualy from Wolfenstein 2009

    #4 3 months ago
  5. ENGCLM

    Enslaved was a true gem, high production values yet so sadly under-rated.

    Good list but I would also add Heavenly Sword to the list, I only recently got my hands on yhe game because I never heard it mentioned earlier.

    #5 3 months ago
  6. Darkfield

    A great list, to my greatest surprise you guys covered almost every cool game that wasn’t well received. Age of Conan in particular.

    #6 3 months ago
  7. Darkfield

    I just leave this in appreciation of Helene Bøksle’s The Dreaming ‘Ere The World Crumbles…’ Official Age of Conan these song.
    http://youtu.be/ex_nVDL5g-k

    #7 3 months ago
  8. Darkfield

    @Darkfield *THEME SONG* FFS

    #8 3 months ago
  9. KAP

    I find it ironic that the gaming media chose to shun most of these titles for the more popular games at the time, going as far as giving them below par review scores only to call them underrated games, now.

    Singularity I remember buying while completely ignoring the review scores and loving that game.
    I remember buying The Saboteur, and thinking it was a piece of buggy shit. lol Then months later the studio shut down.

    Point I’m trying to make is what ever game today that gets a 6 or a 7 will be lorded as a classic underrated game 6 or 7 years from it’s release.

    #9 3 months ago
  10. polygem

    Talking about barbarians…does anyone know the old Raa comics?
    I am really not a comic guy (My father had a small but fun collection though and i was into Donald Duck as a kid – and as a teen, twen into american underground comics. i really really dig robert crumb and daniel clowes too, still, man that guy is fantastic!)
    I just checked google for Raa because i remembered reading some Raa the Barbarian comics as a child but couldn´t really find it on google…Only an appearance in the Avengers…??? Pretty sure that i have some Raa branded comics in the basement.

    #10 3 months ago
  11. CycloneFox

    In my opinion, games like Lost Odyssey or Enslaved don’t belong in this list. Games like this are all great and “might” be considered an insider tip. But both got pretty much attention in the media.

    But games like Nier and Valkyria Chronicles absolutely blong here. Those games are really great (In those two cases even two of the best games, I’ve ever played). But got almost no attention at all. Thus they are really underrated.

    Even though it’s technically no PS3-game, but just an HD port of a PS2 game, but Okami should be here. It may be the game with the worst sells-per-meta-score ratio. I really love that game and think anyone should play it. And I say this as a old-skool zelda fan: If anybody asks me which zelda game, I think is the best, I answer “Okami”.

    #11 3 months ago
  12. Ge0force

    Great list! I’m happy to see that I’ve played most of those games. I finished Singularity last week and it’s indeed a great game. Only game I miss on this list is Valkyria Chronicles, imo one of the best games of last generation.

    #12 3 months ago
  13. Ge0force

    @Ge0force Oops, Valkyria Chronicles IS in the list, my mistake ^^

    #13 3 months ago
  14. psxman

    Great list. Absolutely loved The Saboteur, Enslaved, Binary Domain, Shadows of the Damned, Spec Ops and what I played of Eternal Sonata.
    May invest in some of the others mentioned here.

    My only addition to this would be Asura’s Wrath.

    #14 3 months ago
  15. psxman

    @CycloneFox Agree with you on the Okami mention, but yeah, HD ports probably shouldn’t count since Okami had its time in the sun.

    Get it – it’s a sun goddess joke.

    I’ll get my coat.

    #15 3 months ago
  16. zoopdeloop

    @CycloneFox
    hehe same here
    Okami and Alundra ( my excitement would skyrocket if the latter was remade) :)

    #16 3 months ago
  17. Opalauge

    NIER…nor Neir! ;)

    #17 3 months ago
  18. Rockstar Vienna

    Totally agree when it comes to Saboteur and Yakuza!

    #18 3 months ago
  19. DiodeX

    Lost Odyssey had me playing it non stop, I want to go back to it and finish off some mop up bits but someone has disc 4. Also Vanquish as not may sort of game until I played it, it was tough in places but it was reward enough to know I finished the darn game. Another game I played but may have been missed by the masses was TimeShift, wasn’t the greatest but it was enjoyable and at the time it looked the best game out.

    #19 3 months ago
  20. Gheritt White

    Split/Second is hands-down the best racing game of the gen, IMHO.

    #20 3 months ago
  21. mivanc

    Played at least half of them. The other half don’t interest me.

    #21 3 months ago
  22. tezzer1985

    Half of all your games on the list, are rated, maybe the list should be called games that didn’t sell well

    #22 3 months ago
  23. Revolting

    This is a decent list, although as others have said, certainly some of the games on here were more overlooked than underrated. Enslaved: Journey to the West, for instance; while it may not have dominated the charts, I don’t think I’ve never heard a bad word said about it. Similarly Valkyria Chronicles; very much a niche title, but universally praised by those who were into it. Why the sequels were PSP titles I will never know.

    The game that really shocks me on this list, though, is Dawn of War II; an absolutely brilliant game, and probably the exact opposite of underrated. Everyone who had an interest in either WH40k or RTSs played the hell out of this, didn’t they? And it certainly has it’s fair share of high scores on metacritic. It was both a loved game and a successful game, as far as I’m aware. Not sure what it’s doing here.

    But, yes, many of the titles here were underrated, or perhaps more accurately, simply couldn’t find their audience, obscured and overshadowed by AAA titles and indie gems alike. Brutal Legend was a marmite game; either you loved it or you hated it. I loved it, but unfortunately many people really didn’t. Shame. I regret missing The Saboteur, and I didn’t give Lost Odyssey the time it deserved. I can resolve one of these misses, though; I recently picked up the ill-fated Kingdoms of Alamur in the Steam sale for next to nothing. Looking forward to giving that a fairer shot while I have some downtime.

    Other games that I felt were underrated big time were DoWII’s unfortunate sibling Space Marine, and their THQ cousins the Darksiders brothers. If any of those had received as much love as they deserved, THQ might still be here properly, not just in name.

    Brink is another example; a shooter that was supposed to set the world alight, from what the media had us believe in the lead up to launch; it was the very definition of hype. And then it really, really didn’t live up to expectations at all. Talk about falling flat on your face. The game came and went like a fart in a breeze. Which was a shame, as, while it wasn’t as amazing or revolutionary as it wanted to be, it also wasn’t as terrible and pointless as its reception implied. It had some nice ideas. And then it disappeared into obscurity as if it had never happened. Underrated.

    #23 3 months ago
  24. ManuOtaku

    I have the privilage of owning all this games on the list, playing them, and like/love all of them.

    Great article, but i would had added dark void, dark sector, lost planet and dugeon siege 3.

    #24 3 months ago
  25. Brenna Hillier

    Re: questions of what counts, we weren’t just going for “games that weren’t covered by the press”, which seems to be what many of you have expected, but also “games that didn’t sell as well as they deserved” or “games that were too harshly judged”.

    Too Human is an interesting one; despite it’s flaws, I’m sure at least some of the hate it copped was due to very bad PR. I loved Asura’s Wrath, I think it catches a lot of shit unfairly.

    Lost Planet! Poly, you’re 100% correct, we should have thought of that. Excellent call. Dungeon Siege 3, Dark Sector, and Dark Void, too, Manu.

    I’d totally forgotten TimeShift, somehow.

    Okami I would place in the last generation, or I would agree. Heavenly Sword had a pretty good run, I reckon; it’s just that it was so long ago that it’s sort of been forgotten, I think.

    (@ FlyBoogy aww jeez. Thanks. I’ve fixed that.)

    (@oplauge okay but in our defence we did that ONCE of the half dozen or so times it appears :D Fixed, thanks!)

    #25 3 months ago
  26. DoubleM

    I’m pretty sure no one on the VG247′s staff have played games like Eternal Sonata, Nier or Valkyrie Chronicles (Just read their descriptions). It’s obvious they’ve just read some other lists of underrated games and then made this list.

    Also, Vanquish, Shadows of the Damned or Reckoning are in no way underrated games.

    Here’s some underrated games:

    El Shaddai
    Resonance of Fate
    Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day
    Hotel Dusk
    Brave Story New Traveler

    #26 3 months ago
  27. eTitan

    @Darkfield I hate you…now I wanna go back and cut of Vanir heads in Cimmeria. Man, I loved Age of Conan and would do anything to play a newer MMO like that.

    It was so sad that they had to release it before schedule due to lack of money, they did beat the record for most preorders when it came to MMOs.

    #27 3 months ago
  28. Stephany Nunneley

    @DoubleM Actually, I played both Eternal Sonata and Nier and was the one who added them to list.

    #28 3 months ago
  29. salarta

    Lost Odyssey: Never got to play it. I’d like to, but presently I’d be required to support Microsoft as a console company by buying a 360, and screw that.

    The Saboteur: It was okay, I didn’t get very far before I lost interest. Dialogue felt incredibly shallow and juvenile.

    Alpha Protocol: As suggested in the write-up, I couldn’t get over the core systems coming off too weird and shallow. The concept got me to try it, but the execution made me lose interest pretty fast.

    Valkyria Chronicles: This game was awesome. I’m disappointed the franchise is essentially dead, and that we didn’t get VC3 in the West, but I hold that against Sega for being deluded assholes that have no idea what they’re doing. They essentially held the franchise hostage by forcing incredibly insipid changes and concepts into Valkyria Chronicles 2, then demanding fans of the franchise buy the game for PSP or else “we won’t localize them in the future!” That’s right up there with Squeenix’s “If you want a sequel to Chrono Trigger, buy more copies of the half-assed DS re-release of Chrono Trigger!” attitude in terms of sheer greedy asshole behavior. I’ve found I don’t want to buy Sega games most of the time because of this bullshit; I’ve been avoiding Just Cause 2 specifically because of what they pulled.

    Nier: I played this shortly before I went into “boycott all Squeenix” mode over what they did to Aya and Parasite Eve with 3rd Birthday, among other things. Nier was an amazing and fun game. I really enjoyed digging deeper into its story, and the characters were interesting. Everything about it looked and felt like a game worthy of the Squaresoft of old. It’s just really, really sad that it takes an external developer for Squeenix to be able to publish anything even remotely close to the high quality they once had.

    Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War 2: If this includes Retribution, it was pretty fun and enjoyable. I liked Adrastia the most, to the point where I’d like to see a future game featuring her. I’d likely buy such a game day one if she was prominent.

    Spec Ops: The Line: This was okay. Nothing special in my eyes. I mean, it’s not bad, but it’s also not the astounding breakthrough it’s been made out to be. It’s definitely worth playing, just not holding up as a cornerstone of the generation or anything.

    Shadows of the Damned: Very fun game, I wish it would’ve gotten more promotion than it received. It felt very stunted toward the end, like it wasn’t quite all it needed to be. If you dig into the storyline more (or maybe it’s up front and I just think it’s obscure), Paula is implied to have been a warrior called the “Unbreakable Huntress” that got defeated and enslaved by the villain, Fleming, for an eternity of torment and torture. It bugs me that the narrative follows a pattern that essentially says “female hero gets defeated and put in her place, ends up reduced to a damsel in distress, unable and unwilling to fight anymore and in need of a male hero to rescue her and do what she failed to do,” but the game is otherwise good.

    Brutal Legend: It was a fun and interesting game, and a unique premise within the industry. In retrospect, the game seems like indie material that was lucky enough to get more funding. And by that, I mean it’s an idea that really deserved that funding, but the idea is entirely anathema to how the industry only supports Hollywood style bland imitations of stuff already done before, only this time forced on an existing IP where it really doesn’t fit. So, pretty much what the write-up says.

    Vanquish: I completely agree with the write-up, this one is tough. I don’t recall dying very often, but I DO recall that unlike nearly any other game I’ve ever played, Vanquish was so intense that I could only handle about an hour before I had to stop for the day. I can play just about any other game all day, but Vanquish takes up a lot of concentration and skill. I recall that I honestly expected Elena would show up in battle wearing a skintight combat suit when promotional material was coming out for the game.

    Two more games not on this list that I think really, REALLY should have been: Folklore and Catherine.

    Folklore was an incredibly interesting sort of fairy tale story with its own very unique approach; it doesn’t come across in any way contrived like nearly all the fairy tale stuff out today does, and Folklore came out before the fairy tales craze hit big. The gameplay for Ellen was fun as well, I’ve seen it described as sort of like one-attack Pokemon. Folklore’s company ultimately went out of business. I vaguely recall some legal or corporate issue meant the developer didn’t get some or all of the money they were supposed to get from Folklore.

    Catherine, on the other hand, was deeper about relationships than any other video game has been to date, given the whole story revolves around that. When the game released, there was talk of turning it into a franchise, but sadly that never happened. Because it was underrated enough to not sell enough for Atlus to want to continue supporting it.

    #29 3 months ago
  30. nea

    Really nice collection. Well picked I have to say and I found myself in so many explanations of Lost Odyssey, Binary Domain, Vanquish or Brütal Legend.

    Thx for that.

    #30 3 months ago
  31. salarta

    I realize in retrospect that I should’ve bolded the titles of each game in my huge post. Ah well. I’ll remember that for next time.

    This is why we need a damned Edit button again already. :P

    #31 3 months ago
  32. Stephany Nunneley

    @salarta How’s that look? :D

    #32 3 months ago
  33. salarta

    @Stephany Nunneley You forgot to put a bow on them!

    Thanks Steph. :D

    #33 3 months ago
  34. Gilbert

    Inexcusable!!! I don’t see RESONANCE OF FATE!!

    #34 3 months ago
  35. Darkfield

    @eTitan Do you realize I’m downloading it again in the middle of my WildStar subscription? DO YOU?

    :D

    #35 3 months ago
  36. Obernox

    I personally think Alice: Madness Returns is the most underrated and undrappreciated game of the generation.

    Followed by Lost Planet 2
    Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2
    Gods Eater Burst
    Anarchy Reigns
    Batman: Arkham Origins
    Soul Calibur V
    BioShock 2
    The Darkness 2
    Gravity Rush

    #36 3 months ago
  37. fearmonkey

    Eternal Sonata
    Enslaved: Journey to the West
    Singularity
    I played most of the titles on this list, but the most underrated game on this list , at least to me, was Singularity. That was a great game, I finished it, and really enjoyed it. It deserved far more attention than it got, and had a great ending.

    As far as the others on this list, Some get honorable mentions, but they didn’t live up to their potential.
    Age of Conan – Was awesome from 1 to 20, and then got really boring after level 35. I got in the 40′s and left.

    Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning – A really good game, deserved far better than it got attention wise, but still could have been better. Would have loved a sequel.

    Bulletstorm – I was blown away how beautiful this game is on PC, just gorgeous.

    Brütal Legend – Was amazing right up to the point it became a RTS and then I didnt care for it anymore. If it would have continued with the same gameplay it started with, it would have been a fav,

    Shadows of the Damned – A weird sex laden horror game that was fun, but ultimately didnt keep my interest to finish it. IU want to go back and finish it someday though.

    #37 3 months ago
  38. fearmonkey

    I Meant to note these as well.

    Eternal Sonata – great game, but you dont get achievements till your 2nd playthrough?

    Enslaved: Journey to the West -fun and very underrated.

    #38 3 months ago
  39. Opalauge

    @salarta

    What you write about Nier can be totally relayed to Lost Odyssey. This game represents everything that we once loved about Squaresoft-Games.
    To play this would also grant you the opportunity to play Tales of Vesperia. It’s definetly one of the best games in the series and a lot better than all sequels until today.

    #39 3 months ago
  40. salarta

    @Opalauge Yeah, if it was available on Steam, I’d buy and play it. But it’s on 360, and the original XBox One plans definitively proved everything bad I expected out of Microsoft’s intentions for being involved in consoles. I bought and played The Last Story, and that felt like the first actual Final Fantasy game in a good 10 years, despite not having Final Fantasy trappings like chocobos and summons.

    #40 3 months ago
  41. Clupula

    Couple things about the list…

    1) Enslaved is not underrated. That game was shoved down our throats at launch like all of Ninja Theory’s titles. Not sure why reviewers have such hard-ons for them, but whenever Ninja Theory shits out a new game, we’re all supposed to love it, despite the many, many flaws present. In Enslaved’s case, the most glaring was the lack of any danger to the platforming. Why bother having platforming if you can’t die during it? Anyway, I am actually very glad that the game failed, because the failure of a Western title like Enslaved is what convinced Namco to change tactics and start localizing their Tales of titles again. If Enslaved must be sacrificed to ensure I receive JRPG goodness, then I will pull out its heart without hesitation.

    2) Eternal Sonata is kind of awful

    3) Even as a fan of Brutal Legend, I think your description of it gets exactly why it was unpopular wrong. It wasn’t that people were bored by the third person elements and wanted to get to the RTS parts quicker, it’s that the RTS parts were not what they wanted to play. I know a lot of people who told me they loved the game UNTIL the RTS parts happened. I was someone who actually enjoyed those sections but I am in the vast minority there.

    #41 3 months ago
  42. Clupula

    @salarta There was never any talk of turning Catherine into a franchise. Just using the Golden Theatre theme in several games.

    #42 3 months ago

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