Best Games You Haven’t Played: Extended Honorable Mentions

Posted: December 17, 2010 by ryanlecocq in Features

Brice just got a new job so he’s been too busy to write the Shooter segment of this month’s feature.  It’ll be here ‘soon.’  In the meantime here are a bunch more games less dear to me personally than those that made the feature, but still great.

Return to Krondor

The sequel to Betrayal at Krondor ditches the first game’s Might and Magic gameplay style for a top-down Balder’s Gate style RPG.  A better game than the first technically, but based on new material rather than the source novels, so not as much of a fan-service.

Betrayal in Antara

This game is actually a clone of Betrayal at Krondor (the name gives it away right?) released shortly thereafter by the then upstart Sierra interactive.  Featuring almost identical gameplay, but also identical quality, this is a rare rip-off worth playing.

Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter

This game is unknown to many because it mostly alienated it’s only market, the series fanbase, by changing everything about the game.  Dragon Quarter plays like a classic Japanese dungeon crawler, with randomized floors and a reset mechanic that makes you start the game over repeatedly when you fail.  The main BOF series are all traditional RPGs, so this one really pissed off the fans.  If you love J-Roguelikes though, this is a fantastic example.

Evolution 1 & 2

These, like many of my favorites, are on Dreamcast.  Two more great Japanese Dungeon Crawlers.  What makes these two stand out is the great dungeon music and the graphics.  The killer tunes and flashy battles make the repetitive dungeoneering very pleasant.

Grandia 2

Another Dreamcast classic that can also be had on PS2 and PC.  Grandia 2 is another of the last great classic RPGs like Skies of Arcadia.  It was released at about the same time and sold better.  Grandia 2 suffers from a plot that is a little too cliche and some music and voice acting that is downright unbearable.  It also has one of the best battle systems ever and some gorgeous graphics.  Not for everyone and hasn’t aged as well as Skies, but still a classic.

System Shock 1&2, Deus Ex 1&2

I’m lumping these together as they feature many of the same creators and nearly identical gameplay.  These series were both birthed by gaming legend Warren Specter, famous for so many games I can’t even list them.  Also they inspired the current gen Bioshock games which also feature many of the same designers, sans Warren Specter.  All of these games are First-Person-Role-Playing-Shooters that feature a genetic or nanomachine personal upgrade system.  While the Shock games are more scifi-horror, the Deus Ex series focuses on a more Blade Runner-esque future tech conspiracy theme.  What all of these game also share is fantastic writing and dialogue and amazing gameplay.  Somehow none of these games really took off in sales until Bioshock, but I assure you, the old ones are as good or better.

Drakan: Order of the Flame, Drakan: The Ancient’s Gate

These aren’t entirely two different games as The Ancient’s Gate is a pseudo-sequel on the PS2 with all the same gameplay assets, but remade.  This game is like Soul Reaver mixed with Tomb Raider mixed with Drakengard.  You fly on a dragon, explore a wide open gothic fantasy world and you delve through deep caverns and dungeons.  The best part is you do all of them at any time without loading screens (on the PC at least).  That’s right, you can run out of a cave, hop on your dragon and fly anywhere in the world next, anytime.  Also this is one of the first games (after Diablo 2) that represented your equipment visually, so every sword and set of armor made you look different.

Panzer Dragoon Saga

Speaking of awesome dragon games and Skies of Arcadia, here’s a dragon riding RPG from the creators of Skies of Arcadia.  Although few people outside of Japan ever played this game on Sega Saturn, everyone should have.  This game plays like a mix between Skies and the other Panzer Dragoon games and features the best graphics and sound of the 32 bit sysems, period.  I bet you heard that the PSX had the best graphics, especially FF8 and Vagrant Story Right?  No way.  Those games didn’t have realtime lighting, bump mapping or sunflares did they?   I didn’t think so.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent

This game just came out on PC last spring, so you haven’t had much time to miss it, but for $20 on Steam, you should get it now.  This is honestly the only high quality, true horror game I’ve seen this generation.  There is some action, but for the most part this is a straight up horror game like the old Gabriel Knight and H.P. Lovecraft games.  It also has some snazzy modern graphics and physics and some pretty  excellent ambient music.  Follow the purple fluid.

Septerra Core

Another overlooked PC RPG classic, Septerra Core is trying to be a mix of Final Fantasy VII and Xenogears.  Featuring top-down, turn based gameplay in a Sci-fi world, it comes pretty close.  With some great plotting and reasonably good music and graphics, it’s definitely worth a look since it’s practically free on Steam.

Obscure 1 & 2

These games are like the Scary Movie version of Silent Hill.  Featuring stupid High School stereotypes trying to solve occult mysteries.  What makes it worth playing is both of these games are co-op.  Also there is a character in the second one named Sven, who is literally a hockey-viking from Norway.  He kills monsters with his bloody hockey stick, which the game describes him as swinging like a battle axe.

D2

Although D2 is a sequel to the PSX/Saturn/PC game D and features the same protagonist, Laura, it has nothing to do with vampires.  After the first game, the developers must have seen John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” because this game borrows a lot from said movie.  Ditching the haunted castle setting of the first for a wide open snowy expanse (either Alaska or Northern Canada, can’t remember).  The threat is some kind of mutant alien thing with tentacles and little minions (so, just like “The Thing”).  You have to hunt for food and scavenge for clues as you try to survive the frozen terrain after you are stranded by a plane crash.  Until the actual Thing game came out, this was the next best thing.  Since that game is better in every way though, I would only recommend this if you play that and want more.

Haunting Ground

I know a lot of people love this game for some reason, but honestly I think it’s fucking clown shoes (that’s a Kevin Smith-ism, look it up).  Although it features a reasonable sleuthing mechanic, this game tries too hard to please the lowest common denominator.  It’s like they wanted to make a game where you are a vulnerable young girl trying to avoid being raped by monsters, but they chickened out half-way.  The result is a game where a giant retarded person chases you so that he can retardedly bear-hug you to death.  I’m not saying there should be a proper “Rape-Escape” game, but this is ridiculous.

Koudelka

The reason this game looks like the cult classic series Shadow Hearts is because it is.  The prototype for it anyway.  After Resident Evil and Tecmo’s Deception series became hits in Japan, there was a push for similar horror games.  The result was that some of the Deception team ended up working with some RPG producers to make something that was a mix of the two.  It’s a little like Parasite Eve in that it combines Survival-Horror with RPG, but with a much darker atmosphere.

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth

This one runs on a FPS engine and plays about as sluggishly as the first Alone in the Dark.  If you can overcome this less than ideal way of experiencing it though, there’s some great Cthulhu mythology in there.  The story is captivating and the gameplay design is clever for the most part.  The only drawback of this game is that it is obviously just a mod for a shooter turned into it’s own game.  It still feels too much like the original Unreal for the taste of most horror fans.

Parasite Eve

This game is actually the first game directed by Tetsuya Nomura, now world famous for Kingdom Hearts.  Before he could open doors and ladies’ drawers with his name (though I don’t think he’s straight) he was the guy that got tasked with making Squaresoft’s Resident Evil cash-in.  He went and did them one better by adapting the popular Japanese horror novel of the same name into a pseudo-sequel that was just plain awesome.  Aside from the well designed sets and great plotting, there is one part of this game that should suck, but instead carries the whole damn thing.  You have a black, tough-guy partner who is also a single dad.  He is every cop cliche from every movie ever and he rides next to you making buddy-cop banter between each mission.  It somehow makes the whole thing feel like a New York cop drama even though it’s 100% Japanese.  Stay away from the sequel.  It is a straight Resident Evil ripoff with no Nomura and no soul.

Shadow Hearts

The Shadow Hearts series is a mash up of early 20th century history, the late 19th century British occult movement and old-school RPG gameplay.  In one of the weirdest game concepts yet, you are the typical orphan kid with powers, but living in the real world in a very un-magical time.  The turn of the 20th century in Europe was a truly horrific time where magic was dead and countless problems would soon lead to the first World War.  Amidst all of this is a story of the last sons and daughters of a more magical time trying to survive as the old powers seek to use them to stay alive.  It’s deep, dark and completely enchanting.  The sequels are a mixed bag, but the first game is a true classic.


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Comments
  1. lagunawsu2 says:

    Couple of things here fact wise…

    Koudelka is the prequel to Shadow Hearts, actually at one point in the game you save a character’s mother, who is the main character from Koudelka. Pretty awesome.

    The SECOND Shadow Hearts is EXCELLENT. ALMOST as good as the first (albeit longer and with more cool side quests) It falls flat in a couple of places (the tedious combo combat being one of them, boss fights being RIDICOLOUS being the other) but the story has all the depth of the first game with more soul-searching from Yuri (who even develops MORE as a character, believe or not) and it has the BEST PLOT TWIST EVER involving the final bad guy. No joke, great frikkin game.

    The THIRD one was were the trouble began to brew. First they lost their awesome protaganist (his story was pretty finished) Second, they let the writers go ABSOLUTELY NUTS and you get characters that are goth lolita vampire chicks and giant fucking stuffed cats? I don’t even KNOW what that’s about. AND HE’S RUNNING THE MOB! WTF?!

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