Video games are bigger than ever. This year alone saw games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, Elden Ring, and Pokemon Scarlet/Violet sell over 10 million copies within a few days of launch. Chances are good even your elderly relatives know what Minecraft, Super Mario, and World of Warcraft are. (Maybe they even play them, too.)
But beyond these mainstream headliners is a vast world of smaller, niche, and underrated games — many of which are even overlooked by hardcore players. So, we put together this list of 15 titles we feel deserve more attention. Some are recent, some are older, but all are available on modern concoles or PCs in one form or another.
These are not the only overlooked games out there, of course, so be sure to drop your own recommendations for unknown or underrated games in the comments below to help these underdogs find more players.
Before Arkane Studio’s breakout hits like Dishonored, Prey, and Death Loop, the team made Arx Fatalis: an open-ended, first-person action RPG released in 2002 that served as a spiritual Successor to the Ultima Underworld franchise (yet another often-overlooked series). Like Ultima Underworld, Arx Fatalis combines traditional roleplaying systems, sandbox level design, and immersive sim gameplay — meaning players could affect the world and even complete quests in more meaningful (and believable) ways than just stat checks and dialog options.
Despite its innovative gameplay, Arx Fatalis was overshadowed by The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, yet another large-scale first-person RPG released in 2002 that was also heavily inspired by Ultima Underworld. Ironically, both games and their respective studio are now owned by Microsoft. You can pick up Arx Fatalis on Steam.
Available on: Steam
Brutal Legend is an open-world action game starring Jack Black as Eddie, a professional roadie sucked into an alternate dimension where heavy metal meets epic fantasy.
The game starts out as a fairly standard open-world game where players complete side quests and explore sweeping landscapes inspired by metal album covers. But after a few hours, it makes a sudden pivot to real-time strategy, replacing the hack-and-slash missions with base building and squad micromanagement. It’s an odd inclusion, and though it’s not necessarily bad, it certainly fragments the experience.
That said, the world of Brutal Legend is still a joy to explore, and any die-hard metalhead will revel in the many references, inside jokes, and cameos from heavy metal legends like Rob Halford, Ozzy Osborne, and the late Lemmy Kilmister — not to mention the absolutely inspired soundtrack featuring tracks from 75 of the best metal bands ever.
Available on: Steam, Xbox, and Xbox Game Pass
The Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen
This top-down action-adventure RPG plays like a classic Zelda clone, but instead of a fairytale adventure, Blood Omen is a dark fantasy epic defined by its gothic story. You play as Kain, a nobleman slain in the prime of his life and later resurrected as a vampire through dark magic to exact revenge on his killers and the powerful forces conspiring against him. Players explore the realm of Nosgoth, scouring dungeons and tombs for powerful items that enhance Kain’s abilities in his quest for vengeance.
Blood Omen received critical praise for its well-written dialog and expert voice acting, as well as its proto-open world gameplay. Kain’s story continued over four more games — including a direct sequel with Blood Omen 2 — but the series strayed drastically from the original Blood Omen’s gameplay, shifting instead to 3D graphics and more linear level design with each entry. Kain was even repositioned as the villain while his rival — the wraith Raziel — became the main protagonist in Soul Reaver and Soul Reaver 2, both of which eclipsed Blood Omen in popularity and sales.
Kain and Raziel eventually shared the anti-hero spotlight in 2003’s Legacy of Kain: Defiance, but its planned sequel was cancelled due to poor sales, further cementing Blood Omen’s fate as a forgotten gem — though recent headlines indicate there’s still hope for a future revival. You can pick up Blood Omen for PC via GOG.com.
Available on: PC
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West adapts the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West into a far-future action-adventure game on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.
The game was developed by Ninja Theory, the studio behind Heavenly Blade and Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice, and starred Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings, Andor) as the main playable character Monkey, and Linsey Shaw (Reboot Camp) as his companion Trip. The game received positive reviews from critics thanks to its gorgeous environments and well-designed gameplay, but sold poorly even with the star-studded cast. Thankfully, the PC version is easily available via Steam.
Available on: Steam
Development studio Platinum Games is known for creating beloved action titles like Bayonetta and NieR: Automata, and the 2010 release Vanquish is easily among the best — and most underrated — in the studio’s catalogue.
Vanquish cherry-picks the best parts of arcade shoot ‘em ups and 3D character action games and mixes them into a stylish high-speed third-person shooter. The high-speed gameplay was unlike anything else released at the time, and much of its design remains unique even 12 years later.
Despite Platinum Games’ pedigree, Vanquish sold poorly when it originally dropped on PS3 and Xbox 360. It was later ported to PC in 2017 and PS4 and Xbox One in 2020 — which means you probably have a system that can play this game, and you owe it to yourself to give it a try.
Available on: PS4, Xbox One
Daemon X Machina
Daemon X Machina was an attempt to revitalize the mech sim genre on home consoles. The genre was a console gaming staple in the 2000s thanks to FromSoftware’s Armoured Core series, but its popularity dwindled after the studio doubled down on its dark fantasy action RPGs over the next decade.
To fill the giant robot-shaped void, many Armoured Core veterans teamed up to start their own studio and create Daemon X Machina, enlisting the help of manga artist Yusuke Kozaki for the character designs.
Unfortunately, the game’s initial launch on Nintendo Switch in 2019 was rocky and lead to average reviews. However, Marvellous First Studios ported the games to Windows a year later, and it continues to support both versions with routine patches and even free content updates, making Daemon X Machina the most easily-accessible game for anyone in need of a mecha action game while waiting for the recently-announced Armoured Core VI.
Available on: PC
Tunic is an atmospheric action-adventure game all about exploring a mysterious island as a cute little fox adventurer. It’s very clearly inspired by The Legend of Zelda series’ gameplay and aesthetics — even down to the fox’s green garb and trust sword and shield — but with novel mechanics that make Tunic a standout title any adventure fan should play.
Tunic reviewed well and was even nominated for Best Debut Indie Game at The Game Awards, yet it remains one of 2022’s most-overlooked adventures. Some of that may be due to Tunic’s perceived combat difficulty, which draws heavy inspiration from Dark Souls: Enemies hit hard and you drop a chunk of your gold whenever you die. However, there’s a bevy of difficulty options and accessibility settings so you can tune the gameplay to your skill level. There’s even a “no fail mode” that makes you invulnerable to damage so you can simply explore the island and solve its many mysteries without the fear of death.
Available on: PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS5, and PS4.
XIII was a bright and vibrant first-person shooter made by Ubisoft that originally dropped for GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox in 2003. It’s one of the few FPS aside from Halo: Combat Evolved many players still fondly remember from that console generation.
Much of XIII’s appeal is its graphic novel-like visuals, utilising cel-shaded graphics so the world and characters look hand-drawn, and displaying comic panel cut-ins for action close-up, speech bubbles for dialog, and even onomatopoeic splashes on-screen like “bam!” and “pow!” to punctuate sound effects.
Ubisoft remade XIII in 2020, but it was poorly received by fans and critics alike, and further limited the original XIII’s appeal. Thankfully, an enhanced version of the original XIII is still playable via Steam, and is often on sale for just a few bucks, so you can easily experience the better version.
Available on: Steam
Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon might hog up the nostalgic spotlight for PlayStation 1’s best 3D platformers, but the Ape Escape series is an often-overlooked gem that deserves just as much recognition.
In this quirky 3D platformer by Sony’s Japan Studios, players chase down mischievous apes across numerous colourful levels, utilising various tools and traps along the way. The first Ape Escape is notable as the first game with mandatory analogue controls thanks to its dual-stick setup with character movement on the right stick, and camera control on the left — a control scheme we now take for granted. But critics praised Ape Escape’s innovative controls, which many other studios subsequently adopted. The dual analogue requirement also limited its audience since not every PlayStation owner had the necessary controller.
Ape Escape went on to have four mainline games in the series, plus numerous spinoffs and even crossovers with other popular games like Monster Hunter and Metal Gear Solid. Many of those games never left Japan, however, and those that did see global release failed to gain widespread interest with international audiences.
You can pick up Ape Escape on PS4 or PS5 as a purchase or as part of a PS Plus Premium subscription.
Available on: PS4 or PS5, via purchase or a PS Plus Premium subscription
Gravity Rush (Series)
The Gravity Rush series comprises two mind-bending action platformers directed by Keiichiro Toyama — the famed game designer best known for creating Silent Hill and Siren. But unlike the dark survival horror of his past works, Gravity Rush is set in a whimsical and colourful world inspired by French architecture and the work of French comic book artist, Jean “Moebius” Giraud.
Both Gravity Rush games follow Kat, a young woman with the power to control gravity. Players use Kat’s abilities to navigate the world’s warped architecture — you’ll walk on walls and even “fall” into the sky to reach new locations. You also fight monsters, solve puzzles, and complete side quests for NPCs.
Both games were developed by Sony’s first-party studio, Japan Studios. The first game was initially released in 2012 as a PlayStation Vita exclusive, but it made its way to PlayStation 4 in 2016. The sequel, Gravity Rush 2, launched for PlayStation 4 in 2017. While both games have a passionate fanbase, neither sold particularly well. Sadly, Sony closed Japan Studios in 2021, so chances are slim we’ll ever see this series continue.
Available on: PS4 or PS5, via purchase or a PS Plus Premium subscription
Jet Set Radio
Jet Set Radio is the perfect encapsulation of Sega’s vibe in 2000: It’s fast, loud, and dripping with punk rock attitude, and it nails that iconic balance between arcadey action and top-shelf presentation that many Dreamcast games strike.
Players control various members of a rollerblading street gang, nailing tricks and covering the near-future city of Tokyo-To in colourful graffiti while bopping along to an eclectic soundtrack of hip-hop, rock, and electronic music. Unfortunately, the Dreamcast’s poor sales and subsequent discontinuation in 2001 hampered Jet Set Radio’s commercial success until it was eventually ported to PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, and Xbox 360 in 2012 as Jet Set Radio HD.
The second game in the series, Jet Set Radio: Future, launched on Xbox in 2002 just one year after the Dreamcast’s untimely demise. Future is equally a sequel and remake, iterating on the original’s gameplay, graphics, and art direction to stand out as one of the best Xbox exclusives. Unlike Jet Set Radio, Jet Set Radio: Future was never ported to other platforms. However, the team behind both games are working on a spiritual successor, Bombrush Cyber Funk, which is planned to drop in 2023.
Available on: Xbox Series S/X, PlayStation 5
Phantasy Star’s gameplay was considered revolutionary when it released for the Sega Master System in 1987, especially compared to other 8-bit RPGs like Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior. The animated monsters and pseudo-3D dungeons players explored in first-person were especially impressive.
The game’s story and unique sci-fi setting were also innovative. Instead of a cast of nameless characters the player customised themselves (as was standard at the time), Phantasy Star featured a party of bespoke characters, each with their own personality and traits. The main character, Alis, is also notable as one of the first female protagonists in a console RPG — an element that the game’s lead artist, the late Reiko Kodama, advocated for early in development
The Phantasy Star story continued for three more games on the Sega Genesis, concluding with one of the best RPGs of all time, Phantasy Star IV: End of the Millenium. The series later pivoted from single-player RPG to online multiplayer with the wildly popular Phantasy Star Online for the Sega Dreamcast, which has seen numerous spin-offs and sequels even to this day.
Despite the series’ success, the original Phantasy Star’s impact isn’t well known, even by console RPG fans. Luckily, the game is easily playable today thanks to the Sega Ages: Phantasy Star release on the Nintendo Switch eShop, which rebalances the gameplay and adds new features like in-game dungeon maps and a digital manual, making it by far the best way to play this influential — and often overlooked — classic.
Available on: Nintendo Switch