Later this year the gaming community will line up around the world to be the first to get their hands on a shiny, new Xbox and/or PlayStation 5. As this console generation begins to wind down however, we not only have some incredible titles that are yet to arrive, but we also have a wealth of quality titles that you have may have missed over the past several years.
Below we take a look at mainstream games that released during the current generation that we consider underappreciated. To be clear, these games are not necessarily underrated, but rather games that were overlooked for one reason or another. Here are our favorites.
Developed by Insomniac Games prior to their venture with Spider-Man, Sunset Overdrive was a pure passion project for the company and it showed. Nearly every aspect of the title, from its ridiculous story, to the weapons and the gameplay itself, was purposely over the top and absurd. And the end result was brilliant.
Sunset Overdrive featured an amazing arsenal of comical weaponry combined with a traversal system that enabled players to string together chains of chaos across a beautiful open city. In fact, it’s quite clear that some of the aspects of Sunset Overdrive contributed to Insomniac Games nailing the feel of Spider-Man. When those aspects were merged with an amusing sense of humor and outrageous boss battles, the result was a title with more personality than nearly any other on the market.
With the success of Spider-Man, it’s unlikely we’ll see a follow up to Sunset Overdrive any time soon which is a sad fact of the industry. Regardless, I continue to hope that we have to battle a city filled with monsters drunk on poisonous energy drinks again in the future.
The Order 1886
Developed by Ready at Dawn, The Order 1886 was set to be a premier title for the PS4 partially due to the incredible graphics that were put on display at its initial reveal. Set in late 19th Century London, you played the role of a Knight of the Round Table tasked with battling rebels and supernatural creatures.
Sadly, while the graphics were highlighted by outlets worldwide, the shortcomings in other areas were quickly exposed. And they weren’t wrong. The title is short, linear, and shallow. But it also introduced a fascinating setting, a storyline you wanted to follow deeper, and characters you wanted to learn more about.
A sequel to The Order 1886 is regularly discussed as one many gamers want and for good reason. It has a massive amount of potential and we are certainly in the camp of hoping the IP returns.
Developed by Arkane Studios, Prey was a unique and haunting title that took the player on a surprisingly deep journey aboard the space station Talos 1. After the discovery of an alien life form, scientists from the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union (Prey takes place in an alternate timeline of reality) battle and attempt to study the organisms. It goes about as well as you would expect.
What made Prey special was a combination of mechanics, weaponry, and the eventual story arc. Arkane has a knack (no that didn’t make this list) for creative exploration and that was on display in full with the capability for the player to unlock the same abilities as some of the Typhon you would encounter. Using those capabilities to explore the now derelict space station resulted in a harrowing experience that was most reminiscent of a modern Bioshock. Prey rewarded the player for exploration and revealed the stories of the past inhabitants of Talos in a truly engrossing way thus allowing the player to uncover truths at their own pace.
Sadly, Prey launched with a few technical issues and though they were resolved quickly, the damage had been done as reviewers called out them out and players quickly moved on from the title. If you enjoyed the original Bioshock (or System Shock) and taking your time to uncover a deep story, revisit Prey. You won’t regret it.
Back in 2016, Remedy Entertainment, a studio known well for narrative single player experiences, attempted to deliver a new experience to gamers. By combining a series of live-action episodes that used the same actors and actresses as the game, they would merge two of our favorite forms of entertainment into one.
On the whole, it worked and Quantum Break was reviewed generally well with many appreciating the new experience. Sadly, while Remedy games frequently try to push forward with unique ideas and new IPs, they don’t always sell extremely well. Due to several factors including releasing early in the generation, being an Xbox One exclusive at the height of its struggles, and being a new IP that tried something new, Quantum Break didn’t sell well and was quickly forgotten.
While some of the facets of the title were built upon resulting in the excellent Control, it’s a shame that Quantum Break was disregarded so quickly. If you enjoyed Control, we recommend giving it a play.
Dishonored was a surprise hit when it released at the tail-end of last generation. Another title by Arkane Studios, they had constructed a fascinating new setting where the player was encouraged to utilize distinctive mechanics to explore ingeniously designed levels.
Bethesda and Arkane quickly began working on Dishonored 2 which released in 2016 to very high critical acclaim. In fact, it was regarded by some as 2016’s game of the year. Sadly however, due to a terrible release date that had it releasing alongside fall’s major blockbusters like Battlefield 1, the Assassin’s Creed Ezio Collection, and of course Call of Duty, it was either put on the wait list or disregarded entirely for many.
Dishonored 2 was then quickly followed by Dishonored : Death of the Outsider the following year but even at a budget price, it reportedly sold extremely poorly as well. Given the retail performance of the two titles, we’re unsure when we’ll see another entry in the series which is disappointing.
The Evil Within 2
Released in October of 2017, The Evil Within 2 was horror legend Shinji Mikami’s (Resident Evil, Dino Crisis) follow up to the hit Evil Within. However, due to releasing at a tough time of year and with very limited marketing, its sales figures were but a fraction of the original and thus didn’t perform well for Tango Gameworks.
Sadly, the title was fantastic and one of the best triple-A horror games of the generation.With quality, big-budget horror titles being so few and far between in the gaming industry (especially ones from a developer as recognized as Mikami), it’s incredibly disheartening that Evil Within 2 was overlooked so greatly.
With sales being so low, it’s unlikely we’ll see another in the series any time soon. Tango’s next game is another new IP, Ghostwire Tokyo, that was previewed at E3 2019.
Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare
On the surface, Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare was some sort of weird experiment. By taking the beloved Plants vs. Zombies characters, and essentially mixing it with some Battlefield flavor, Garden Warfare was created. Shockingly, the results were far better than anyone expected and resulted in a title that was hugely unique, loaded with character, and downright fun.
While the title eventually gained an audience thanks to the promotion of EA Access and being cross-generational, the focus shifted to the sequel quickly which felt bloated and unbalanced compared to the original. Even with the recent release of Battle for Neighborville, the series simply feels unable to re-capture the magic of the original.
Another cross-generational title, Alien Isolation is often reminisced about fondly nowadays, but the reception of the title wasn’t nearly what Sega had hoped for. Despite generally favorable reviews, the title didn’t reach a mainstream audience and thus sales were well below forecast. And even despite being cross-generational and having the Alien IP attached to it, it took years for the title to reach even two million copies sold.
Sadly, Isolation is one of the best video game experiences ever created in the Alien universe and an excellent survival horror title in its own right. The “Nostromo edition” even included specific sequences and characters from the movie. There hasn’t been another title that so accurately captured the feel of the original Alien movie and the tension that comes with trying to survive a near invincible xenomorph threat.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
An Assassin’s Creed title in an underappreciated list? While it may seem odd, it’s sadly true. After the disastrous launch of Assassin’s Creed Unity in 2014, fans were much more hesitant to immediately jump into a new AC title when Syndicate released less than a year later in October of 2015. Because of this, sales of Syndicate were far lower than expected for the triple-A franchise and many players skipped the entry altogether.
Unfortunately, Syndicate was one of the best Assassin’s Creed experiences that had been developed to date. It’s take on 19th Century London was admirable, the characters were interesting and likeable, and it even included a story-line on Jack the Ripper.
After Syndicate under-performed for Ubisoft, they made the decision to take a year off which led to the excellent Origins being released in 2017. It was the right move as it sold more than twice the amount of copies as Syndicate at launch.
Hellblade, a new IP from Ninja Theory, released for the PS4 and PC in 2017 and later for the Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. The title was critically praised and due to being developed by a small team and released only in digital form, it was also considered a commercial success for Ninja Theory. However, even a year after release and being cross-platform, the title had only sold-through slightly more than one million units.
For a game as brilliant as Hellblade, that feels like a crime. It has a meaningful story, beautiful cinematography, incredible acting, and some of the best sound design ever implemented into a video game. While Hellblade seems to have garnered a broader audience slowly over time, which it rightly deserves, we hope more people experience the IP eventually. Thankfully with the recent debut of Hellblade 2 at The Video Game Awards, it seems to have garnered more attention.
Developed by the Just Cause team at Avalanche Studios, Mad Max released in 2015 with a vast open world, fluid combat system, capable vehicle mechanics, and interesting customization. It also happened to release a short while after the critically acclaimed Mad Max Fury Road which logically would have led to it being a hit.
But while the game received average to good reviews and many reflect on it fondly today, it never met sales expectations. This was of course due to one of the classic blunders being made by publisher Warner Brothers; it released on the same day as Metal Gear Solid 5. Attempting to combat another large, open-world title, particularly one as highly anticipated as MGS5, was a major mistake and Mad Max paid the price.
Speaking of launch window blunders…likely the most well known of the generation is Titanfall 2. A brilliant title from top to bottom, Titanfall 2 was Respawn flexing their development muscles the way they do best. It has one of the best FPS campaigns in recent years along with an over-the-top, pulse pounding, and high skill-gap multiplayer suite (though we still contend the map design was a step backwards from the original).
Unfortunately for Respawn, and what was seemingly a disagreement with Electronic Arts, Titanfall 2 released one week prior to Battlefield 1 and two weeks prior to Call of Duty Infinite Warfare (and Modern Warfare Remastered) which were both much bigger juggernauts during the retail holiday season. Despite being critically acclaimed, shortly after release it was announced that Titanfall 2 under-performed against expectations and the fallout then began.
Thankfully the game has continued to be pumped up by fan support and thus has had a longer tail on it than expected. But it’s still a shame to think what could have been if it had released during a window where it could have reached a broader audience.