Weekend Hot Topic, part 1: Your favourite obscure video games

Readers discuss their favourite games that nobody else has ever heard of, from Soul Bubbles to Shadowrun.

The subject for this week’s Hot Topic was suggested by reader Tolly, who asked how you heard of the game in question and whether you agree with its critical consensus. Was the game unusual in any way or was it simply something you’d never heard of before?

We had all sorts of suggestions, none of which were remotely mainstream, with many saying that discovering a hidden gem made them more interested in trying to discover more.

A name to remember
There’s a lot of obscure games I’ve only ever learnt of from reading GameCentral and I’m always grateful for that. I don’t know why even the biggest sites only seem to review games at random and there’s plenty I would’ve missed out on if not reading here and listening to reader’s comments.

The one that comes to mind most though is El Shaddai: Ascension Of The Metatron, which… yeah shocker it didn’t sell with that name, eh? You’d never guess from it but it’s a sort of more platform oriented take on Devil Ma Cry by a former Capcom/PlatinumGames developers. It’s really good and fascinating because it feels like a game that only in the entire world has ever heard of.

I kind of like that though, it feels like you’ve discovered some secret truth, like finding treasure in an actual video game. To my surprise the game was mentioned recently with talk of a PC version but as far as I can tell it still doesn’t have a date, so I’m not sure it’ll ever stop being super obscure.

Gripping action
I don’t know if it counts but LocoRoco on PSP. I’d never played a game like it, where you can’t move your character but have to control the world with the shoulder buttons. Everything about the game was joyfully cute, from the music to the enemies to the little song the little LocoRocos would sing.

I loved that game, unfortunately my hands would cramp when playing it, so I had to ditch the console altogether. It even made me try Patapon but I literally have zero rhythm. Maybe I should have said Patapon. Nah, I’ve typed this so it’ll do.

TL;DR LocoRoco was great.
PS: The Mortal Kombat film was OK. Fell into old ways for things like this but overall it killed 90 minutes.

Forgotten cyberpunk
I have fond memories of a game called Switchblade on my ZX Spectrum that very few people seem to remember.

It was a side-scrolling platform game set in a subterranean world where you had to make your way through a labyrinth of underground tunnels and caverns fighting bad guys and avoiding traps to find pieces of an ancient weapon (or relic) to defeat some kind of evil force that had been released onto the world. It was made in the late 80s but had all the things that are popular today, such as a post-apocalyptic future with cyberpunk elements.

It had a great sense of exploration too, because the map was hidden from view and would only appear as you moved forward, which meant you never knew what lay ahead and made you want to search out every corner and hidden area.

The game was hard though and like all games back then if you died you had to start all over again, so I never actually managed to complete it. Does anyone out there remember this game and did you manage to finish it?

GC: We remember it on the Amiga. It had a very anime aesthetic for a Western-made game of the time.

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Gone but not forgotten
There are lots of games that I’ve only ever heard of through GameCentral and its readers but the one that I love the most is Soul Bubbles on the DS. It had hilariously ugly box art and sound completely boring when you describe it (guide a bubble around a maze) but it’s totally engrossing and probably my favourite puzzle game ever.

It’s also very much a product of its time as I don’t know how something like this would get released nowadays. Not as a full price game, that’s for sure, and it’s not even really the sort of thing you see as an indie game. Maybe a free phone game or something? But then you’d be paying with microtransactions every time you wanted to touch the screen.

No, Soul Bubbles is a hidden gem that’s only going to get more hidden as time goes by. I just feel grateful I played and enjoyed it a the time, because god knows where my DS is nowadays.

Ahead of its time
The game I’ve chosen is Shadowrun. Whether it is obscure enough would certainly be debatable but every person I’ve ever asked has no idea what game I’m talking about!

Shadowrun for me was a game with perfect balance. An arena style PvP game where two teams of four would fight it out, once dead you would be out until the next round. It had a Counter-Strike style shop each round where you would buy weapons, magic and gadgets with money you’ve accumulated each round through kills. Also, there were four races to choose from each match, each with distinct advantages and disadvantages.

This game has countless memories for me because of the great community it had and the fun mechanics; like the bleed out were if you were slashed in the back by a katana you would slowly lose your health until the inevitable end. But the fun from stabbing your friend/nemesis in the back and running away was priceless (OK, maybe It was more fun because I was teenager at the time!).

What I find odd about the game is that it was massively ahead of its time. Being one of, if not the, first game to include cross-play between Xbox 360 and Windows Vista.

I’d say I heard about the game through an Xbox friend if I remember correctly and I wouldn’t say it encouraged me to buy anything similar, as the closest I’ve found is Counter-Strike but it’s not the same. No argument that Counter-Strike isn’t a great game, just different.

I don’t generally play obscure games for some reason. Being someone that has played video games nearly every day of my 27 years, I do find it frustrating that I don’t try every type of game; whether it be obscure or not. Personally, I struggle to start new games these days, never mind new genres. For some reason I struggle to motivate myself to try something new! I’m more likely to replay an old game and I have no idea why! Hopefully I’m not alone in this and I hope it to change one day.
Liam H

Taking a chance
I’ll admit I don’t play a lot of obscure games but I’ve this year I’ve bought Disjunction. I read about it on the PlayStation Blog first, checked out some footage of it and after GC’s positive review I gave it a go.

It’s a great little game that doesn’t seem to get talked about much. I’m really enjoying the varied options in the gameplay and it’s got a great style to the basic graphics. I’d highly recommend it!

Purposefully obscure
I tend to gravitate towards games that review well but are not in established franchises, or simply have concepts I have not encountered before. This means I am forever playing games that my friends have never heard of. I was, however, pleasantly surprised to find that a few of them had heard about Disco Elysium before I mentioned it to them. And a few others liked the idea of a game starring a detective who got so drunk he gave himself amnesia.

I find that when non-gamers try and engage me on the subject of games it tends to fall apart pretty quickly as I do not play Fortnite, Minecraft, Call Of Duty or FIFA which are the games they have heard of/their children play. For some reason, most people I know are not interested in games which involve various humanoid races essentially living on the corpse of Godzilla after she was killed during an epic fight with Mechagodzilla.

Sometimes games I really enjoy, such as Disgaea and Valkyria Chronicles, do become recognised by other gamers and become established franchises, this is great to see. These are, however, paired against things like Makai Kingdoms or Lost Kingdom that I really enjoyed but quickly died off.

The most obscure game I have ever played would be something on the C64, probably Purple Turtles by Quicksilva. This game was awful and involved using turtles as stepping stones to cross a river.

My choice of game nobody has ever heard of, but I actually really liked would be Hybrid Heaven. This was a role-playing game from Konami on the N64. I think the set-up involved the lead character appearing to die in the opening cut scene due to some Face/Off inspired shenanigans. It also had a precursor to V.A.T.S. where you would target specific body parts to disable them and/or inflict damage.

I think the main reason Hybrid Heaven has stuck with me though is essentially because it was the first Japanese developed role-playing I played that was nothing like the established JRPG genre. All of its theming was very Western but it definately was not a Western RPG either.
PS: And yes, I did spell definitely wrong on purpose.

E-mail your comments to: gamecentral[email protected]

The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length and content.

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