Vincent Van Gogh, whose work often fetches tens of millions of dollars at auctions today, died penniless, having sold only two pieces of art during his lifetime. The work of Edgar Allen Poe was met with similar indifference, only to be discovered later as the timeless literature it really is. Which goes to show, we don’t always know something’s great right away. Like everything from cars to whiskey, there are plenty of under-appreciated and underrated video games out there.
The games below might not be the “Starry Night” of interactive software, but they certainly deserve a better reputation than what they have. So take a look at these undervalued gems and give them a shot if you haven’t already.
1. Super Mario Sunshine
Often considered the black sheep of the core Mario series, Super Mario Sunshine is much better than its reputation might have you believe. Sure, Mario might be wearing a weird water-shooting backpack, but it provides a whole new set of fun things to do with the mustachioed plumber. The best advice is to accept that this game is different from the rest and to go with it. Trust me, you’ll have fun.
2. South Park: The Stick of Truth
If you enjoy the comedic stylings of the South Park show, you’re all but guaranteed to like South Park: The Stick of Truth, a role-playing game that looks virtually indistinguishable from an episode of the series. It also plays like an episode because the script was written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. As you can probably guess, it’s every bit as raunchy and hilarious as you’d expect. The only difference is that you control the action. Go ahead, give this game a shot.
Is the story thin in this game? Absolutely. But when you start taking over territory and collecting orbs in this futuristic sci-fi city, you won’t care one bit. As you play, you gradually increase your powers to the point where you can run like the Flash and jump like Superman. Leaping up skyscrapers to collect every last orb is such a blast, don’t be surprised if you don’t stop until you’ve checked every last nook and cranny.
4. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
The sad story of developer 38 Studios’ demise drowned out the fanfare earned by this gorgeous action role-playing game. It gives players a great big fantasy world that’s steeped in lore, and lets you run wild in it. It’s too bad the studio burned through its money before the planned MMO could come out. If this game is any indication, it could have been a lot of fun.
5. Dying Light
Released at a time when many players had a bad case of zombie fatigue, Dying Light didn’t get the audience it deserved in 2015. It’s a finely-honed zombie game that lets you parkour your way through its fantastic open world. It’s so fun that it could easily consume a large portion of your gaming hours if you’re not careful.
6. Picross 3D
As is often the case, this Nintendo 3DS puzzle game is way more fun than it looks. You start off with a block of cubes with numbers on them. By using the numbers as hints, you chip away at the cluster to ultimately reveal a three-dimensional image. It’s kind of like a paint-by-numbers version of sculpting, but even that doesn’t do justice to how satisfying the gameplay is. Just give it a shot.
7. Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan
This first-person dungeon crawler for Nintendo 3DS doesn’t have the flashiest presentation, but that doesn’t hurt it one bit. The art is great and the role-playing systems are honed to the point where you’ll quickly become obsessed. All you have to do is create a party and go out in your airship, seeking fortune. Chances are, you’ll find it.
8. Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
Unlike most games, this Old West-set shooter doesn’t tell a single story all the way through. Instead, it’s set up as a series of embellished tales told by an old bounty hunter regaling an audience in a saloon.
You play out the bounty hunter’s stories, often encountering historical personalities like Jesse James and Butch Cassidy. When a saloon-goer calls you out on a lie in a story, the game changes to incorporate what really happened. It’s a clever storytelling device that turns into a clever gameplay mechanic. If you like Americana like Westerns and tall tales, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is definitely worth a look.
9. Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine
These days, most Warhammer games (and there are a lot of them) are tactical strategy games of turn-based war. Space Marine, on the other hand, is all about action. By giving players a wonderfully realized (if bleak) sci-fi world and letting you blast through hordes of enemies, this game might remind you of Gears of War or Halo. So strap into some giant armor and grab a gun. It’s go time.
10. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
With movies like 28 Days Later and Ex Machina under his belt, Alex Garland has proven time and again that he’s one of the most interesting writers around. If you look at his IMDB page, you’ll notice he also has a writing credit on a video game: Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.
It might be the writing that stands out most in this game, but the rest of it isn’t too shabby, either. From its colorful post-apocalyptic setting to its excellent platforming and combat, you’ll be on the edge of your seat until the credits roll. It’s that good.
11. Sonic Generations
It can be fun to bag on Sonic. If we were to put it to vote, he’s definitely a frontrunner for “most famous video game character with the worst track record of games.” But in 2011, the developer Sonic Team got it right. They took the best parts of both the 3D and 2D Sonic games and mashed them together to craft a memorable experience that no fan should miss.
12. Tales of Vesperia
If you follow RPGs, it might seem like a new Tales game comes out every, oh, 40 seconds or so. For many people — even fans of the series — they tend to run together. But even if you’ve never played the series, you should check out Tales of Vesperia, arguably the best one all. It has a fast-moving, engaging story that stars a likable crew of heroes, who can kick butt in an addictive real-time combat system. Try it out if you want to be charmed by a “save the world” story as you perfect your combat “artes.”