Share via Email Oni: This cyberpunk brawler features one of the great female video game protagonists. Bungie History is not always kind to great games. Titles once heralded as masterworks are often lost as console cycles turn. Alternatively, there are the offbeat outliers completely shunned during their own lifetimes, only to be quietly ransacked by later generations of designers. Here, we be remember 30 brilliant, idiosyncratic, challenging or just plain weird titles that have been erased from the gaming annals, or at least criminally overlooked.
Each one of these did something interesting with gaming, just not interesting enough to be endlessly recalled in misty-eyed retro articles or on otherwise pretty good Charlie Brooker documentaries.
What have I forgotten? What crimes against video game nostalgia have I committed? Add your own favourites in the comments section. The first-person view and smooth sensation of movement were astonishing at the time especially considering it ran on the older 16k Spectrum , and it no doubt prepared the way for future variations on the free-roaming driving game.
It's essentially a prototype first-person shooter, complete with moveable targeting reticule. Players have to guide six of the film's characters through the colony base, toward the queen's lair. Although movement is essentially limited to left and right firing at doors lets you pass through them , the action is tense, and the importance of quick accurate aiming hints at the FPS genre to come. There's also a brilliantly unsettling take on the movie's motion tracker sound effect that ramps up the scare factor considerably.
And when the face huggers leap at you it is terrifying. Designed around a series of key decision points, the mostly text-led experience was based on hundreds of interviews conducted by Favaro, and was hugely critically acclaimed at the time.
Alas, the sparse presentation and offbeat concept meant that the sim sold poorly and a proposed sequel, based around rearing a child, was scrapped. You can play the original game online.
Plenty of Sega's classic side-scrolling beat-'em-ups have gone on to become legends of the genre. But somehow this beautiful early Saturn release has been over-looked, perhaps thanks to the console's untimely demise. Banished from Earth by an angry goddess, the eponymous hero must return to rescue the girl he loves. Okay, forget the horribly trite story and revel in the gorgeous hand-drawn artwork and interesting attacks, which allow Astal to blow his enemies over or wrench trees out of the ground to chuck at them.
There's also an innovative but tricky co-op mode which puts player two into the role of Astal's bird sidekick. Watch this playthrough for a taste of the wonderful character and landscape designs.
But there were some fascinating examples, too, like this cyberpunk adventure, set on a moon base governed by religious maniacs who believe man must evolve toward a machine-hybrid state.
The player awakens as a cyborg and must escape the lab, piecing together the plot from PDA diary entries and using security and computer equipment to hack defenses.
Elements of Deus Ex, Bioshock and Dead Space all combined to create a tense and interesting adventure. It was so expensive to produce, however, that low sales ensured a planned sequel never arrived. Edge later published an excellent 'Making of' feature. The difference here is the head-to-head competitive dance fighting element, allowing dancers to knock each other off the beat with special disco fight moves.
Featuring an excellent electronica soundtrack, bizarre characters and super-smooth animation, the title helped build the "post-pub gaming" credentials of the PlayStation, and spawned a sequel. But then Konami's all-conquering Dance Dance Revolution strutted in and kicked it from the dance floor.
Designed by Sonic co-creator Yuji Naka it's a fast-paced maze puzzler in which players have to place arrows on the floor to direct a line of mice into rockets so they can escape the giant cats. In the four-player mode, participants can also use arrows to direct the feline enemies toward competitors, making for fraught, hugely tense encounters. Given away free to European Dreamcast owners, the game would later surface on GameBoy Advance and iPhone but should — if there were a whiff of justice in the universe — be on every single console released from to the end of time.
Players must navigate a grid by stepping on and turning dice cubes — when the numbers match between two adjacent cubes, they disappear. Originally created using Sony's home programmable console, the Net Yaroze, it was one of the few 'homebrew' titles to see release on the PlayStation.
Developed by Canadian studio Silicon Knights and originally meant for the N64, Eternal Darkness is a fascinating Lovecraftian romp following student Alexandria Roivas as she investigates a book known as the Tome of Eternal Darkness.
The powerful artifact provides a portal to a selection of previous lives, all of which must be experienced by the player in order to prevent an ancient evil from re-surfacing. The narrative and locations are creepy and unsettling, but the best part is the sanity meter which drops when you encounter enemies, causing visual disturbances and even tricking you into believing your TV has broken. Critically acclaimed, but with its mature rating, Nintendo fans weren't quite sure what to make of it. A proposed sequel never materialised, despite Nintendo renewing the trademark as recently as Meanwhile, many of the original development team went on to form Precursor Games and planned a spiritual successor named Shadow of the Eternals which sadly failed to hit its crowdfunding target last year.
You play as a regular Joe running round New York taking on Russian troops — and the more you kill, the more your "Charisma rating" goes up allowing you to recruit followers. That's right, it's Homefront meets Twitter. Great controls and smooth squad commands ensured a thrilling yet surprisingly tactical experience. Maddeningly, it seems a proposed sequel was put on indefinite hold so that the studio could work on Anyway, Eurogamer has a nice retrospective on the game right here.
Your avatar, FreQ, zooms down an octagonal tunnel, swapping walls to hit the correct musical chunks and keep the soundtrack pumping. Fans of the musical game genre recall this trailblazer fondly, but it doesn't get enough credit for its crucial interface innovations. Famously, then VP of Xbox, Ed Fries, turned the game down , but suggested the team work on a similar idea with a dedicated controller.
They went away and made Guitar hero. Developed by music game specialist Inis which would go on to create the Xbox karaoke title, Lips it's a deranged mash up of teen manga, weird future rock and beat-'em-up complexity.
PaRappa got there first and is the more approachable of the two, but Gitaroo Man is a joyous celebration of music, fashion and surreality. A later PSP version added new modes and was well-received, but the title has never escaped its 'cult' label.
The now sadly defunct developer Toaplan was a master of the genre though, and Hellfire is a scorching space blaster with a wonderfully balanced and satisfying weapon system that lets you quickly swap between four different laser types to take on the various attack waves. The Mega Drive conversion is arguably better than the arcade original, adding a super cannon and new difficulty levels, and it remains one of the console's finest moments.
Incidentally, Toaplan followed Hellfire with another side-scroller, Zero Wing, which, in its European Mega Drive conversion, contains the immortal line, "All your base are belong to us". One of them was Herzog Zwei, an early Mega Drive title in which the player pilots a transforming mech over a series of eight warzones, dropping units off to engage enemy craft, then issuing an array of orders.
Although the AI isn't amazing, the array of available vehicles, including both air and ground options, made this a surprisingly sophisticated tactical challenge on a machine better known at the time for brawlers and shooters.
The head-to-head mode was a fantastic inclusion, too — but even this wasn't enough to impress contemporary critics, many of whom were bemused by the comparatively glacial pace of battle.
Interstate 76 Activision, PC,