Far too often, people jump on the bandwagon of bashing a game when other people are doing so. I wonder how many people in the chorus of haters for games like Bubsy 3D, Superman 64, or BMX XXX actually bothered playing those games before they decided unequivocally that they were awful. It’s pretty easy to join the backlash against a game without trying it and forming your own opinion–and actually, all three of those games have plenty of redeeming qualities. Busby 3D takes place in a very imaginative art-deco world, Superman 64 does a good job of capturing Superman’s reluctance at committing violence, and BMX XXX is just the video game equivalent of a fun sex comedy like American Pie (which people seem to be fine with in movie form but God forbid a game try that).
That is why I decided to do a list of some of the most unfairly maligned games of all time. All five of these games are legitimately good titles, and I am confident that a lot of people would feel that way if they actually tried these games and didn’t just take the opinions of cynical bloggers and YouTubers at face value.
#5 – Bomberman: Act Zero (2006, Xbox 360)
Gamerankings score: 34%
What it deserves: 72%
Oh no, Bomberman actually grew up! It’s funny to me how a game that is all about a character with an unlimited supply of explosives which he uses to constantly blow things up was taken to task for not looking like a Saturday morning cartoon character anymore. The Bomberman series went largely unchanged visually for two decades, so I don’t think it was the worst thing to give the series a modern graphical face lift. Gamers are never happy: they want games to grow with them, but complain when they do. Even the inclusion of female robots with curvy bodies for no apparent reason didn’t strike a chord with today’s “Games should have a right to be sexy!” gaming crowd. Well, metallic boobs and butts don’t jiggle and bounce, so I guess that was the problem. Act Zero was the perfect marriage of classic Bomberman action and modern aesthetics, but nobody bothered to find that out because they were too busy whining that the character didn’t still look the way he looked in 1985.
#4 – Daikatana (2000, PC / Nintendo 64)
Gamerankings score: 54% (PC version)
What it deserves: 78%
Sure, John Romero’s aggressive advertising campaign–where he told players to “suck it down” after promising to make them his bitch–didn’t get Daikatana off on the best foot. Nor did the endless delays and broken promises of release dates. But as we learned with Duke Nukem Forever, Too Human, and Tabula Rasa, sometimes long-delayed games are well worth the wait. Taking the basic look and feel of Quake and transporting it to a world that’s a blend of martial arts mysticism and sci-fi time-hopping is every bit as cool as it sounds, and Skyrim owes much of its fast-paced first-person swordplay to the solid foundation laid by Daikatana. This game’s only major crime was being ahead of its time. The gamers of 2000 just didn’t know how to appreciate the many forward-thinking design elements of Daikatana.
#3 – The Fifth Element (1998, PlayStation / PC)
Gamerankings score: 32% (PS1)
What it deserves: 75%
Of course a game based on an under-appreciated movie would also be under-appreciated. Anyone who is a fan of this film will no doubt love playing a game based in its unique universe. The gameplay could’ve been a bit more polished, but when you have a game that is half about shooting and half about fisticuffs, you’re bound to not quite nail either one. But they are both still plenty functional and enjoyable, and whether you’re in exciting shootouts as Korben or kicking ass as Leeloo (spending some of the game only wearing bandages, by the way), The Fifth Element never fails to capture the satisfying action of the film. This is one PS1 game that just begs for an HD remake so that people can look past the now-dated visuals and see the game for the solid third-person action game that it truly is.
#2 – Ride to Hell: Retribution (2013, PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 / PC)
Gamerankings score: 15% (Xbox 360)
What it deserves: 70%
Most people dismiss this as “that game with the awkward sex scenes.” But to reduce it to just one element–and miss the point of said element–is doing this deceptively deep game a disservice. This isn’t just another story of biker gangs being biker gangs, like GTAIV‘s The Lost and the Damned. It’s the tale of a man who returns from Vietnam justifiably disillusioned, and tries to find solace in his biker gang “family” when his real one no longer understands him. The aforementioned sex scenes are intended to be awkward and aren’t about presenting hot, naughty scenes to titillate gamers; they are designed to demonstrate the hero’s cold, distant nature and how he’s trying to fill his emptiness with sex (and having that sex with damaged women who are doing the same). The actual gameplay isn’t remarkable but it still serviceable, and does a fine job of moving the complex plot forward. Had this been a Francis Ford Coppolla movie and not a game, it would’ve been lauded. But the game industry just isn’t as open-minded.
#1 – The Zelda CD-i games (1993-94, CD-i)
Gamerankings scores: N/A
What they deserve: 75%-80%
Nobody had any intention of giving these games a fair shake. One look at the badly-drawn cutscenes, and the Zelda CD-i games were written off immediately. Never mind that most “animation” in games at the time wasn’t great; that was just an inconvenient little truth. Looking past the games’ expected lack of Nintendo’s impeccable visual polish, all three of these games present a fresh, interesting take on the Zelda mythos. Link is actually given a personality rather than being a cold avatar, we got more interesting villains than just some new variant of Ganon, and one of the games actually starred Princess Zelda as the main, playable character! A Nintendo-made Zelda game still hasn’t managed that–and the closest we’ve gotten was having Zelda as a spirit helper. How very progressive, Nintendo. Best of all, they put Link and co. in genres other than just light action/RPGs, and it was great to be able to explore Hyrule in other visually interesting ways (long before Wind Waker was “groundbreaking” for doing so.). Few people actually owned a CD-i so there is no way that even a fraction of the people who tout these games’ supposed lack of quality ever even played them. But for those of us that did, we know that the hate for them is largely a bandwagon issue, and that we got to experience some of the most unique, original adventures that Link ever took us on.
And as a final word: if you took this list or anything I said in it seriously, you obviously didn’t notice the day this was posted…