We’ve all encountered “underrated”, “must-play” games before. Some games like ICO, Earthbound, and The World Ends with You are so famous for not being famous, and so beloved despite being supposedly neglected, that it’s a wonder why they’re recommended at all. Everyone already knows about them, and those who haven’t played them yet need to give League of Legends a rest.
So how about some real hidden gems? How about some games you’ve actually never heard of that are going to knock your socks off and make you remember why you play video games?
In today’s article, I will be introducing three games to you. I won’t be reviewing them. I’ll be shoving them down your throat. If you don’t go to eBay after you’re done reading this article, I have failed.
Kinetica is a racing game that takes place in a futuristic world where racers fuse themselves with machine parts. They don’t drive vehicles—they are the vehicles. With tires on their hands and feet, and thin strips of chrome preventing the (often female, hint hint) racers from being considered nude, Kinetica’s characters speed through imaginative courses at an average of 400 miles per hour.
By this point, you probably think you understand what Kinetica is about. Think again, motherfucker. What game lets you race up the side of buildings? What game makes you race upside-down with a freeway of speeding cars directly above you? At one point the racetrack will quite simply end, leaving you to fall thousands of feet into the city streets below—but you don’t give a damn, do you? Your freefall gives you the opportunity to perform an incredible array of character-unique stunts, and the more you manage to do before orbit sends you crashing back down to Earth, the faster you’ll go.
Careful: At this speed, if you land on that pane of glass it will shatter around you, dropping you into the labyrinthine depths of this multi-tiered metropolis. Oh, by the way? Everything I just described is just the first level.
You’ll race through the convoluted innards of sprawling cityscapes, ancient ruins, dark forests, up the bones of a dragon a thousand miles into the sky, through New Vegas (trust me, it’s better than Old Vegas), in space stations where there really is no up or down, on massive electric grids on the edges of atmospheres not even belonging to Earth—did I mention the glass tunnel you get to race through, buckling under the weight of the ocean?
Kinetica has it all: power-ups that let you electrocute and drain the speed of opponents, shortcuts, secret unlockable characters, a multiplayer mode, agonizingly long load screens. So why, then, did it go unnoticed?
Well, there is a small chance that Kinetica might have possibly caused a tiny majority of its players to all die from grand mal seizures. You see, when you’re racing at impossible speeds, narrowly avoiding fan blades only to get electrocuted by a monster truck that happens to be wearing biker shorts, and then you fall up into the sky—well, there’s a point where the brain just says, “Fuck it.”
Kinetica’s theme song is “If I Survive”, by Hybrid, and uh. You probably won’t. You should probably play this one last.
A man tosses aside the corpse of a little girl as if it is nothing more than a rag doll. He approaches you. He’s smiling. As if you are in a dream, you’re so shocked that you can’t take more than a single step backward.
The man takes a knife out of his pocket. He grabs you by the hair and tugs you in close, and he caresses your face with the cold steel of the knife. He’s babbling about the Bible. Staring at the knife, you hope its glint is not the last thing you will ever see.
He suddenly releases you, but your relief is interrupted by his maniacal cackle. That’s when he begins to saw his own arm off with the knife. You can’t believe what you’re seeing. Blood splatters everywhere and his arm hits the ground with an anticlimactic thud. Though the man has severed one of his own limbs, he is still smiling—and he’s not done.
He jams the blade into his throat. Blood blurs your vision. His laughing only stops when his head hits the floor and rolls into your foot.
That’s a scene in Xenosaga, a PS2 trilogy, which features—in my opinion—one of the greatest stories ever told. Go play it.
Gradius, though not quite obscure, has been forgotten not only in name but in genre. Do you know what a side-scrolling shooter is? Most people don’t. Once upon a time, a long time ago, back in the Dark Ages when we were not gifted with DLC and Vevo, there existed a type of video game where you’d shoot enemies as everything panned to the side. Remember that level in Mario that slowly pushes you forward the whole time without letting you go backwards? You don’t? Then maybe you should leave.
Gradius V is a space-themed side-scrolling shooter, and it’s the only game in this genre that has ever shocked me with a genuinely interesting plot twist. But Gradius V isn’t about story—it’s about unrelenting action and brutal bosses that constantly make you believe that the scenarios can’t possibly get any crazier or more exciting, but they do, every time.
You’re flying through a ship filled with a toxic substance that will eat away at your ship and kill you. You think you’re doing a good job avoiding the substance—but then the entire ship begins to tilt out of control. You must take cover and fly out of the way as the physics-based toxic substance rains down upon you and up at you, as the ceiling becomes the floor.
You’re playing cat and mouse with an enemy in an asteroid field when suddenly, the enemy stops and spreads its wings. When thousands of bullets spray out of its wings, any one of them able to kill you instantly, you realize that you’re facing a boss. The only way you’ll survive is if you hide behind and between the incoming asteroids for cover, but you know that the asteroids are just as capable of killing you as the bullets are. The wall of asteroids pushes you closer to the boss, who has reacted to your clever strategy, and is now pummeling the field with lasers that are shattering the asteroids all around you. Good luck.
Check out Gradius III, too.