Each of the following games are sadly under-appreciated in one way or another. They all deserve to be played and unfortunately most will barely see the light of a happy nerd’s eyes ever again. But before we get into the list, here are the honourable mentions that could not quite cut the list.
Honourable Mentions: Resonance of Fate, Dark Cloud 2, Blue Dragon, Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, Summon Night, Grandia 2.
10. Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines
This one is simple and straight to the point. Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines is a brilliant game that takes quite a few liberties where you would like it to and experiments with gameplay even when you did not expect it to. An action RPG you will probably love and that deserves a chance should you find a copy. So how did a game such as this make the list? It was poorly optimised and had a few too many bugs. Thankfully there are quite a few fixes and it has come a long way since then. If only the bad memories of past mistakes did not linger in the mind of gamers for so long.
9. Legend of Dragoon
This is not the first time Legend of Dragoon has made a top ten list here at G3AR and for good reason. Unfortunately, and in order to make this list, in spite of going down as an all time favourite for many, Legend of Dragoon received some rather unfavourable critiques from the odd gamer and critic and so went into the twilight largely unknown. And it’s a sad sight to see because its positives, both in terms of in-game mechanics and player opinion alike, far outweighed its negatives as it did a lot of things right. This is the reason for its placement on this list. That despite being much better than many of its JRPG brethren as well as contemporaries, it still somehow managed to completely drop off the radar of many a gamer.
What does this one have that others don’t? A war orientated narrative good enough to warrant a triple A film based on it. The ability to recruit over one hundred unique characters that live inside and expand your castle as recruits are added. So how does an engrossing plot and that kind of character variety go unnoticed? It’s quite simple actually, Final Fantasy VII‘s huge success, quite unintentionally, though it won’t be the last time on this list, stepped all over Suikoden‘s shadow and everyone forgot about it. Suikoden did manage a few sequels of its own however and while most are wildly popular and have done reasonably well for themselves, everyone seems to have forgotten the original hipster. It’s a shame really.
7. Golden Sun
Golden Sun is arguably one of the best RPG’s for the Gameboy Advance and perhaps, as a 2D RPG, one of the best of its genre period. Its story was great and the psynergy, djinn as well as dungeon orientated puzzle mechanics were quite well refined, added a whole lot to the game and made for an interesting little twist to the usual RPG formula.
So why has its sun set and so qualifying it for this list in the first place? Because in spite of its critical acclaim and apparent widespread appeal, it is rarely made light of and is actually quite an unknown game, even when considering solely the Gameboy Advanced’s library. Granted, the library of games for the Gameboy Advance, while not quite on par with the Nintendo DS, is still staggering. And while, curiously, almost nothing in that library is as good as Golden Sun, it is never brought up in conversation and hardly ever makes a ‘top of’ list. Luckily Golden Sun and its almost as excellent sequel, got a more modern third iteration for the Nintendo DS and so shed some light on the prequels that predated it. That said, and for those capable, you should give the original a try, you will in all likely hood enjoy and hopefully appreciate the gem that is Golden Sun.
6. Valkyria Chronicles
Perhaps it was a bad release period or perchance the marketing was not quite as strong as it should have been because by all rights Valkyria Chronicles should be far more appreciated and well known than it is. As a cel-shaded tactical-RPG with enjoyable gameplay and a decent story to boot, it’s about the only thing that makes sense. Luckily you can still pick this one up if you are extremely lucky as it’s quite rare. And if given the chance, take it, you will not regret it. As long as tactical-RPG’s are your thing of course.
5. Planescape: Torment
Planescape: Torment was far from a significant commercial success but nonetheless sold enough to be considered a cult classic. What’s more is many praised it for its immersive dialogue, engrossing story and prominent narrative-over-combat gameplay that was done so well it’s still considered to be one of the finest RPG’s to date. So how in the world is Planescape: Torment under-appreciated you might ask? Quite simply put, its age. Too many modern gamers are unaware of Planescape: Torment and its upcoming spiritual successor, Torment: Tides of Numenera, means that needs to change.
Sure, many an old classic has been revived and so kept alive in succeeding generations of gamers. Planescape: Torment has not been so lucky and so has slowly slipped out of mass consciousness. Well it’s too good a game to be forgotten and so made this list. That said, Torment: Tides of Numenera may yet revive the memory of its spiritual precursor and so despite it very probably being a better game than the ones higher on this list, Planescape: Torment has a chance and so will sit comfy at number 5. But just in case it does not, Planescape: Torment is available over on GoG. So do yourself a favour and check it out.
4. Jade Empire
Have you heard of Jade Empire? And you call yourself a Bioware fan. Jade Empire is one of Bioware’s best games and yet strangely seems as though it’s an even better kept secret. So what is Jade Empire? Well imagine Knights of the Old Republic (KotoR) set in ancient china. And instead of Jedi or the force, think martial artists and the magical and mythical. And now tell me you don’t want to play Jade Empire.
More than KotoR with a re-skin and lacking a big movie license, Jade Empire is in some ways different from the usual Bioware game and yet very similar at the same time. Jade Empire not only told a fantastic story worthy of its Bioware heritage, but maintained a real time martial arts mechanic that utilised differing weapons, magical and support styles as well as combat stances that made for a unique and thoroughly enjoyable game. Yet despite all of the preaching made for Jade Empire‘s cause, many of you reading this will have only just realised it exists. And whether that has to do with its original Xbox release or a distinct lack of marketing come its alternate platform re-releases, the fact that it remains so unknown to the general gamer is what makes it so under-appreciated.
3. Lost Odyssey
Do you know who developed Lost Odyssey? Mistwalker Studios. And want to take a wild guess as to which studio the lead team of Mistwalker Studios used to work at? Square. That’s right, Lost Odyssey is for all intents and purposes developed by the minds behind Final Fantasy I through IX. Interested now?
Beyond being a JRPG exclusively for the Xbox 360, Lost Odyssey attempts nothing new, nothing controversial and does everything a JRPG should and no more. But what it does do, it does in spades. It’s story is well written riveting, from start to finish. Its characters are both believable and real and all display relatable human traits that the player will undoubtedly connect to, something not many modern JRPG’s have managed by any stretch of the imagination. Its combat, while nothing new, is finely honed and throws in just enough of its own flavour to keep things interesting and fresh throughout its 4 disc epic.
What made Lost Odyssey so special though was its ‘A Thousand Years of Dreams’ mechanic, whereby the main character, an immortal who having lived many lifetimes over is now suffering from amnesia, remembers his past via a written narrative. Some may gripe at how ‘A Thousand Years of Dreams’ is entirely written text, to which there is a lot of, but as you read these truly extraordinary stories, stories penned by Kiyoshi Shigematsu, an award-winning Japanese short story writer, we can guarantee you will shed a tear by the game’s end. It’s sad then that simply by being on Xbox 360, it has not got the service and appreciation it truly deserved. Especially when many of the more popular JRPG’s at the moment are leaps and bounds behind Lost Odyssey. Hence a place on this list, because it may not be perfect but it is certainly under-appreciated.
2. Final Fantasy VIII & IX
Make no mistake, Final Fantasy VIII and IX are fantastic games that sold incredibly well. So how can anyone in their right mind label them under-appreciated? Well, when was the last time you made mention of them within a conversation that did not derive itself from or conclude with talk of Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII and IX‘s shadowing prequel?
Agreed, Final Fantasy VII pretty much rewrote the JRPG book and redefined all the rules. That said, and for all the good it did, it has unintentionally stolen some of the light from two truly amazing games. More than what Final Fantasy VII accomplished, Final Fantasy VIII pushed the envelope for what a romance story within a game could be. It took the initial sci-fi elements contained within Final Fantasy VII and went wild, amalgamating both fantasy and sci-fi, as well as themes of the past, present and future into a story about love.
And Final Fantasy IX was no mere slouch either. It took what Final Fantasy VII and VIII had accomplished within the series and melded it with the nostalgic elements of its past. It was an ode to its sprite based past and like Final Fantasy VIII, was just as good, if not better than Final Fantasy VII. Both of these games deserve as much a chance to get a remake as Final Fantasy VII and need to be part of the conversations of old. They need to be played by those who have not had the chance. The particular placement of these two at the number 2 slot may have been part of a personal love for the series but don’t they nevertheless deserve to be in this list.
1. Titan Quest
This one is quite simple really. It had graphics and an overall aesthetic that not only looks great today, despite being released nearly 7 years ago, but that would give modern competitors like Diablo 3 a run for their money. It told a story that served as more than a mere narrative; it entertained, maintained interest and motivated right until the end. And perhaps more than any other aspect its combat, physics, loot and leveling mechanics were so strong, enjoyable and polished that many are convinced that it’s still the finest game of its genre. That is an out-and-out formula for a fantastic game, and more than that, a sequel. So good in fact that Titan Quest is known to have made more than a few gamers mutter the words “Diablo what”. So if it’s as good as they say, what happened to Titan Quest? Well for one reason or another it sold nowhere near the numbers deserving of it and following that, Iron Lore, the developers behind Titan Quest, had to close their doors for the last time. Now if that’s not an example of an under-appreciated RPG then nothing is.