Although video games are still in their infancy compared to every other medium, there’s still hundreds of titles that have slipped through the cracks over the years. Whether due to mediocre reviews, poor marketing and/or bad timing, some gems undeservedly get buried. The goal of this list is to unearth the treasures of the past and to shine a light on the underrated and overlooked games of today.
Grab your controllers. This is the 100 Greatest Obscure Games.
100. Ghoul Patrol (1994) | Super Nintendo
Originally conceived as an unrelated title, Ghoul Patrol would eventually evolve into a sequel to the beloved cult classic Zombies Ate My Neighbors. Although the game utilizes the same engine and has near identical gameplay as ZAMN, they’re completely different in almost every other way. The fun cartoony graphics have been replaced with a darker, more grounded tone, there’s less levels but more mini bosses, and the difficulty has been drastically reduced. While it may not be as good as the game it copied, it’s still one of the better co-op experiences on the SNES.
99. Downhill Domination (2003) | PS2
While Downhill Domination might seem like a step backwards considering the developers’ previous games Twisted Metal: Black and War of the Monsters are super violent and/or action packed, what Downhill Domination lacks in explosive set pieces and destructible environments it makes up for in balls to the wall speed. Combining the high altitude thrills the SSX series is known for with the bone crunching action of Road Rash – Downhill Domination is the perfect amalgamation of breakneck speed, pulse pounding adrenaline, and extreme sports combat.
98. Saturn Bomberman (1996) | Sega Saturn
For a certain generation, Bomberman was the party game. Before Goldeneye, Smash Bros, and Halo, there was Bomberman. Since everyone (disregard if you’re a millennial) on planet Earth had a SNES growing up, Super Bomberman was the version most kids played, but while that was the more popular one, it could only accommodate 4 players. And that’s with a multitap. Saturn Bomberman, on the hand, worked with up to 10 players. Its selling point is also the reason no one played it – you had to have a friend who owned the Sega Saturn, and you had to have 8 other friends. Which, as we all know, is impossible. Nobody on earth has more than 2 friends.
97. Heart of Darkness (1998) | PS1
Five years in the making, Heart of Darkness is a platform/puzzle game from the creators of Out of this World and Flashback. Two games that play similar to Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee but with harder puzzles and more ways to die. While the previous two games are sci-fi themed, Heart of Darkness is kind of like if Steven Spielberg and Jim Henson teamed up to write a Choose Your Own Adventure book where every decision ends with your death. It’s a game of trial and error and while it’s challenging, it’s never frustrating.
96. El Viento (1991) | Sega Genesis
El Viento (or “the wind” for those of you like me that took Latin in high school instead of Spanish) is the second game in the Earnest Evans series, a mediocre trilogy that makes as much sense as learning Latin over Spanish. The first red flag is the fact that Earnest Evans is only the protagonist of the first game, which should be a problem considering the series is named after him, but admittedly Earnest Evans rolls off the tongue easier than “the Green Haired Ninja Chick’s Crazy Adventure Trilogy.” And crazy they are because, while none of the games have memorable levels or music or level design, El Viento at least makes up for it where it counts: story. Set in New York in the 1920’s, your mission is to stop Al Capone from unleashing Cthulu in order to take over the world, which is the greatest video game premise of all time.
95. Knights in the Nightmare (2008) | PSP/Nintendo DS
Since the release of Final Fantasy Tactics in 1997, there have been numerous attempts to copy its success and each and every one of them have failed because Yasumi Matsuno, in many fans’ opinions, designed the perfect tactical RPG. The games that have come the closest to recapturing its magic are the ones that tweak the formula just slightly. If Kirby’s Avalanche and Dr. Mario separated themselves from the innumerable Tetris clones by adding minimal variations to the formula, KITN succeeds by using FFT as a framework and then breaking that framework in half. Impossible to describe without a lengthy video going over its many intricacies, KITN is arguably the most complex strategy game ever made. If you have the patience and the skill, KITN has literally hundreds of hours of content to unlock. It’s the perfect desert island game.
94. Bad Omen (1991) | Sega Genesis
Outside of Tetris and everything with Miyamoto‘s name on it, there may not be a game with more copycats than Breakout. Arkanoid is the most famous example but where that game merely added power ups, different types of bricks, a variety of level layouts, and more sculpted, layered visuals, Bad Omen (also known as Devilish) had skeletons and thinly veiled Satanism. Arkanoid might be the better and more important game, but it doesn’t have the Devil. Which makes it automatically inferior.
93. Yoyo’s Puzzle Park (1999) | PS1
If Japan was a drug, Yoyo’s Puzzle Park is what would happen if Bubble Bobble became a junkie. The gameplay between the two is nearly identical, as is the goal. They’re both puzzle platform games in which you have to defeat a certain number of enemies within the time limit. Rod Land and Snow Brothers are also similar, but where YPP differentiates itself is in its crazy ass visuals. The character designs are trippy, the levels all look LSD-inspired and the music and sound effects are both annoyingly catchy. The game isn’t trippy enough to make you feel like you’re on drugs, but it is good enough to get you addicted.
92. Gynoug (1991) | Sega Genesis
Everything about Gynoug (alternatively Wings of Wor) feels like it was designed by a cocaine addicted twelve year old. The protagonist looks like a winged Conan the Barbarian, the design of the monsters is very similar to the work of H.R Giger, and the cover was even done by legendary fantasy artist Boris Vallejo. While not radically different from any other shmup (shoot ’em up), it is unique enough to stand out from the crowd.
91. Okage Shadow King (2001) | PS2
The problem with RPGs is that they all pull directly from Dungeons & Dragons or they’re set in a post apocalyptic future. Fantasy shit with wizards and orcs or a more functional Mad Max. That’s about it. Ok yes, that’s a bit of an exaggeration seeing as there’s thousands of RPGs in the world but the point is, there’s not much variation in settings. And that’s where Okage: Shadow King (alternatively titled Me and the Devil King in Japan, proving, yet again, that America always goes with the lamest titles) excels. With character and level designs that look like they came straight out of the mind of Tim Burton, this game is the only thing that appeals to the Hot Topic crowd that doesn’t suck.
What do you think of the selection so far? What are some of your favorite obscure games? Maybe they will show up in further in the list!