Most of the time, the games that deserve it receive critical and commercial success and all is well with the world. Hey, sometimes games that aren’t particularly good sell spectacularly well! There are times, though, where truly excellent games are praised to high-heaven… and no bugger buys them. Here are 5…
1) BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
A sci-fi adventure that borrowed the best from Zelda and Splinter Cell, Beyond Good and Evil put you in the shoes of photo-journalist that happens to have an anthropomorphic pig as an uncle. Jade is a great character; fully-formed, intelligent, strong and likeable – and BG&E was just as good in the gameplay department. Released as a PS2 timed-exclusive in Xmas 2003 against Ubisoft’s other big Xmas title, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, BG&E flopped hard. A digital re-release followed on Xbox 360 and PS3 a few years back and Ubisoft still claim that the original team are beavering away on a sequel. Hopefully we’ll see it one day.
2) SHENMUE 2
Part 2 of an epic trilogy, Shenmue 2 instead killed the series dead in its tracks. It’s such a shame, as this and its predecessor were stuffed to the gills with charm, creativity and activity but they just didn’t sell enough. Notoriously expensive to make, a lot of SEGA’s fortunes were resting on Shenmue II (and the original) to make it big. It didn’t. After its Dreamcast ordeal, Shenmue II was given a re-release on the original Xbox in an effort to save the series. Which didn’t work. Shenmue has a huge cult following and there’s always a massive clamour on the internet for a third installment. Sadly, it looks like SEGA won’t (or can’t) provide it.
Let’s face it, everyone wanted a Zelda-like action adventure game about a sun-goddess/wolf out to rescue Japan from an oppressive gray curse with the power of art. SO WHY DID NO-ONE BUY IT!? Ok, I get that on paper it’s a hard-sell, but gamers were really missing out by not playing Okami. Like a few games on this list, Okami was given a re-release in an attempt to boost sales and awareness after its initial failure on PS2. Capcom, in all their wisdom, decided that the Wii was Okami’s best chance at a new home (instead of PC, PS3 and/or 360) and you can guess how that turned out.
4) ALAN WAKE
A strange one this. Other games on this list saw you playing as a wolf and a dead mexican skeleton (see below) amongst other things, which can be hard to market at the best of times. Alan Wake, though, saw you take control of the games industry favourite sell – a white male in the prime of his life. There were other things in Wake’s favour – a well-liked developer, an exclusive for the market leading Xbox 360 console, an intriguing premise, staggering world-building and an excellent, unique game. Maybe it’s extremely lengthy development process worked against it, or maybe its (for the time) novel episodic approach put gamers off, but Wake just didn’t take off as well as people expected. Microsoft and Remedy both claim the game performed to expectations (and was reportedly illegally downloaded around 1.1m times!) but, with the game ending on a cliffhanger and only a digital spin-off released since, the writing is clearly on the wall. Rumours of a sequel won’t go away though, as well as recent whispers of a HD remake of Alan Wake being given to gamers as an incentive to pre-order Remedy’s next Microsoft exclusive, Quantum Break.
5) GRIM FANDANGO
Brought to us by the creative geniuses that bestowed point-and-click greats Monkey Island, Full Throttle and Day Of The Tentacle upon us, Grim Fandango was LucasArts magnum opus. It was everything they had learned from years of pointing, clicking and adventuring, and the experience we wanted. Its failure was the death-knell of many-a-gamers favourite genre, one that has only made a comeback in recent years thanks to Telltale’s success (a studio born from, you guessed it, Monkey Island and Grim Fandango veterans and fans). Maybe it was the switch to 3D from the beautiful 2D backdrops of old, or maybe it was down to the rise of the mighty FPS genre. Whatever the reason, Grim Fandango was the bittersweet end of an era. This story ends on a happier note though, a remastered version has just been released on PC, PS4 and Vita – buy it this time, yeah?
– Dave Green @davidpgreen83