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 it’s 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.
90. Oxenfree (2016) | PlayStation 4/Xbox One/Nintendo Switch
When it comes to survival horror, the conversation begins and ends with AAA titles such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill, with Indies getting left by the wayside. One of those that got ignored due to its smaller budget and cartoony graphics, was Oxenfree. Although it’s aimed at a younger audience, Oxenfree has one of the best supernatural tales in all of gaming. With fleshed out characters that feel three dimensional, a coming-of-age story that’s emotionally deep and branching dialogue trees that lead to multiple endings, this is the game Telltale tried and failed to make since The Walking Dead.
89. Jumping Flash! (1995) | PS1
Predating Super Mario 64 by a whole year, Jumping Flash! is the undeniable precursor of 3D gaming. Presented in a first-person perspective, the game follows a robotic rabbit named Robbit as he bounds from floating platforms in search of missing jet pod parts. Bounding is underselling it, as Robbit can jump high. Really high. The graphics might not stand the test of time and it might’ve been overshadowed by every other 3D platformer released afterwards, but its jumping mechanic is still as fun today as it was then.
88. Chase HQ (1988) | Arcade
A spiritual successor to Taito’s earlier racing game Full Throttle, Chase HQ is a bit of a mixture of Out Run, Spy Hunter, and the buddy cop film Lethal Weapon. Unlike other racing games where all you do is drive around a track to beat the course time, Chase HQ has you hunting down criminals within a time limit. Crash too many times, slow down, or take the wrong path and the bad guy will get away. It’s the definitive arcade version of cops-and-robbers movies.
87. Elemental Gearbolt (1997) | PS1
Once consoles made the jump from 32 bit to 64 bit, the death of the arcade was inevitable. Outside of nostalgia, gamers had no real reason to leave their houses once arcade perfect ports became readily available. Fighting and racing games were as good and sometimes better than what was being offered at arcades, but one genre developers could never figure out how to market to the home market was the light gun game. Silent Scope, Area 51, Time Crisis, and Virtua Cop were arcade staples back in the day, but not a single one of them successfully made the jump to consoles, which meant that games like Elemental Gearbolt got unjustly ignored by gamers who just didn’t care about shooting things with a plastic gun. Combining the story and leveling up system of a typical RPG with the trigger happy action of an arcade shoot em up, Elemental Gearbolt is among the most unique hybrids in gaming.
86. Wild 9 (1998) | PS1
For those of you too young to remember, there was a time when Shiny, the studio behind Earthworm Jim and MDK were the hottest gaming company in town. Everyone thought they were going to be the next big thing, but, much like the Arctic Monkeys and screenwriter Zach Helm, it was nothing but a storm in a teacup. But before the dream died, they managed to produce one of the most entertaining games on the PS1. Take the fun of torturing your enemies from the equally under played Bulletstorm, add in the setting and characters of a Guardians and the Galaxy, and the best-worst one liners the 90’s could offer, and you got yourself Wild 9. A game that’s far more fun to play than to look at.
85. Singularity (2010) | PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Dismissed by critics at the time as a “poor imitation Bioshock clone”, Singularity eventually became a cult hit amongst gamers, with many claiming it out Bioshock-ed Bioshock 2. Taking place at an uninhabited island that’s stuck in a time warp that alternates between the present day and 1955, the game has one of the most tightly written time travel stories in any medium. While the game may suffer from feeling a bit by-the-numbers, its unique time manipulation mechanic and an unconventional setting more than make up for any of its shortcomings.
84. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (2010) | Nintendo DS
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is an adventure game in which players control a ghost that must use his powers to not only save others but solve the mystery of his own death. In addition to possessing objects in order to solve puzzles and the bodies of the recently deceased to gain information about your murder, you also have the chance to bring the dead back to life. The puzzles may not be on the level of the director’s previous games (the Ace Attorney franchise), they, as well as the story and characters, are fun enough to keep you engaged for hours.
83. Bonanza Bros. (1990) | Sega Genesis, Arcade
Hideo Kojima might’ve created the stealth game with his Metal Gear series, and although he, as well as the series, have won numerous awards and accolades and even though it changed video games forever, it’s sorely lacking two important things – multiplayer and cute, adorable graphics. Bonanza Bros may not be the first stealth game, nor is it in anyway as good or as important as MGS, it should still get credit for offering up an alternative to action packed games way before every game was required by law to have a stealth mission under penalty of death.
82. Resistance 3 (2011) | PS3
Whenever a FPS was released, it was immediately referred to as a “Doom Clone”; a term that wouldn’t die until the release of Halo and Half-Life 2 almost a decade later. Those two not only ended the reign of one of the most popular video games in history, they were so successful, they became console sellers. Gamers bought Xboxes and PCs just to play those games, and, while the PlayStation has proven the victor in the console wars, it has yet to produce a shooter that can match Halo in popularity. The closest they came was with the underrated Resistance trilogy. Developed by Insomniac Games (Ratchet and Clank), Resistance had a deep story filled with twists and turns, unique weapons and enemies, and an interesting premise that separated it from every other shooter. The series may not be Sony’s “Halo Killer”, but it’s far too good to be forgotten.
81. Condemned: Criminal Origins (2005) | Xbox 360
Where most games focus on what they think is scary (e.g. ghosts, werewolves and Draculas), Condemned: Criminal Origins is the first game to portray real terror, coming face to face with a New York City crust bum. And there’s not just one in the game either. Everyone you encounter is either a creepy mannequin or a piss covered, murder crazed hobo. Which taken together create some of the scariest set pieces in all of gaming. I dare you to play the abandoned mall level at night with the lights off. It’s spine-chilling.
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!