The 2010s were some of gaming’s best. In the span of ten years, we witnessed the end of seventh-generation consoles and the lifespan of the eighth. Whole franchises started and ended within it. Some video games flourished while some disappointed. However, there were games that shined, but not as brightly as others. Many were forgotten with time and some were considered niche. Today, we are looking at some of those underrated and forgotten video games that were testaments of their time.
Spec Ops: The Line (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
Imagine Apocolypse Now meets a third-person shooter with a dash of deception. That’s what 2K and Yager Development’s sought to do in 2012’s Spec Ops: The Line. Seen as a reboot of the Spec Ops franchise, the video game tackles more serious subjects than other shooters.
Spec Ops: The Line follows Captain Walker and crew on a recon in Dubai. Without spoiling it, the lines blur between good and evil, as well as what’s real and what isn’t. You make the big decisions in the game and, in turn, you must face the consequences, no matter how cruel. It’s a thrilling ride from start to finish and stays with people long after the credits roll.
Many critics, upon its launch, had mixed feelings. Some enjoyed the game’s combat while others found it flawed. Graphics were also well-received, despite the seemingly drab setting. Almost all of the reviews, however, praised the story, as it stood out as the strongest asset. While the game had many positives, the title sold poorly when it launched in June.
Any hope for a sequel was silenced when Yager moved on to other ventures, as well as 2K. Spec Ops: The Line has since received a cult following, with many heralding it as a landmark in narrative games. Only time will tell if the series will return.
Sleeping Dogs (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
Developed by United Front Games and published by Square Enix, Sleeping Dogs was an open-world third-person action martial arts game. The game, originally part of Activision’s True Crime series, was canceled before Square Enix bought the rights and made a spiritual successor to it.
Taking place in Hong Kong, you play as Wei Shui, an undercover cop infiltrating the Sun On Yee Triad. Alongside weapons, you can take on enemies with a variety of martial arts, making for fun and unique fights. The game also had an impressive cast, with names like Kill Bill‘s Lucy Lui, Hawaii Five-O‘s Will Yun Lee, Mortal Kombat‘s Robin Shou, veteran actor James Hong, and Academy Award winner Emma Stone.
At launch in August 2012, critics and audiences enjoyed the game’s world. Many adored the depiction of Hong Kong, the combat, gameplay systems, and protagonist Wei Shui. The main issue was the game’s sometimes shaky graphics and side characters. After launch, the game had three story DLC expansions and other additional content like vehicles and moves.
A definitive edition, including all DLC and enhanced graphics, for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 came out in August 2014. Despite this, the original sold 1.5 million copies, which Square Enix called satisfactory, but not up to expectations. A sequel to Sleeping Dogs was being developed in 2013 but subsequently shut down. A spin-off title, Triad Wars, was revealed in 2013 and even had a beta in 2015. Though, by the end of the year, it ceased production. Sleeping Dogs has gotten a cult following, much like some on this list. Still, no further entries have been announced, especially as United Front Games closed their doors in 2016.
This story still might live on, as, in 2017, a live-action film adapting the game was revealed, along with the casting of martial arts superstar Donnie Yen (Ip Man and Star Wars: Rogue One) as Wei Shui. No information about the film has been released since.
Titanfall 2 (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC)
The sequel to Respawn and EA’s multiplayer mecha-shooter, Titanfall 2, from a distance, looked to be your typical robot first-person shooter. However, while it still has the same gunplay as the original, this time around, the game included a single-player campaign. While many FPS games have story modes, Titanfall 2 managed to exceed expectations.
Playing as Frontier Militia rifleman Jack Cooper, you must take over BT-7274, your late mentor’s Titan, and stop a superweapon from destroying the Militia planet Harmony. It takes Titanfall’s excellent gunplay and translates it into a linear story. The bond between Cooper and BT is one of the highlights and goes way beyond typical FPS campaigns.
The game got tons of acclaim upon its release in October 2016. Many highlighted the great gunplay, but the story was its claim to fame. Titanfall 2 even received four nominations, including Game of the Year, at The Game Awards. Unfortunately, the game, while selling fairly well, didn’t meet the expectations of both EA and Respawn.
The series has yet to get another entry, as Respawn has focused on Apex Legends, which takes place within Titanfall’s universe, and the Star Wars Jedi series. However, fans have been clamoring for more Titan action, so it’s up to EA and Respawn to decide if we are worthy of getting in the mech again.
The Evil Within (Xbox 360/Xbox One, PlayStation 3/PlayStation 4, PC)
What if one of the most acclaimed game directors got free rein to make whatever he wanted? Well, Bethesda gave Resident Evil and Dino Crisis creator Shinji Mikami a chance to direct a true horror game, one that would act as his farewell to directing. He and his team at Tango Gameworks came together and The Evil Within was born.
As Detective Sebastian Castellanos, you explore hellish environments sprawling with grotesque monsters in order to escape and return to the real world. Similar to Resident Evil, players use their wits and their weapons to survive, as well as their guts to stomach the atrocities awaiting them.
The game released in October 2014 to favorable praise. The horror aspect was chief among the positives, but a lackluster story put Mikami’s game at a disadvantage. The Evil Within, unlike other entries on the list, sold pretty well and was the third best-selling game that month. It received three story DLCs following different characters in the game.
At Bethesda’s E3 2017 conference, they announced that a sequel to the game, aptly titled The Evil Within 2, would come out that October. Shinji Mikami acted as supervisor this time around, giving John Johanas the director’s chair. The game, surprisingly. outdid the original, with many saying the game improves upon its predecessor and delivers a terrifying experience, albeit in some dull settings.
While a third game is possible, as John Johanas is still at the company (and directed Hi-Fi Rush, one of my favorite video games of 2023 as seen here), Shinji Mikami announced his upcoming departure from Tango Gameworks in February 2023. The best scares are ones we don’t expect, so be wary.
Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U)
Earth is destroyed and you are one of the last survivors, resting inside a hibernation pod on an unknown planet. This is the start of Monolith Soft’s Xenoblade Chronicles X. The team was comprised of alums from Xenoblade Chronicles and Xeno franchise games, alongside famed anime composer Hiroyuki Sawano (Attack on Titan, Kill La Kill).
The game features open-world RPG gameplay with an emphasis on exploration and combat. As your custom character, you travel through Mira under the BLADE banner with your team and mechs to defend New Los Angeles from Ganglion and unravel the world’s secrets.
Published by Nintendo, Xenoblade Chronicles X was a massive hit, review-wise. The immense scale and engaging gameplay received high marks from critics, with some claiming it to be the best of the RPG genre. Some did feel the game was a bit unforgiving, yet, outside of that, it was an essential experience for Wii U owners.
The Xenoblade series would achieve worldwide success with the launch of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 in 2017. The more story-focused entry improved X’s mechanics and ensured Xenoblade’s legacy as an RPG heavy-hitter. Two of the game’s characters, Pyra and Mythra, were chosen as DLC combatants for Nintendo’s legendary fighting game, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. More recently, Xenoblade Chronicles 3, released in 2022, got several nominations for Game of the Year awards and considered a must-play for Switch owners.
In terms of Xenoblade Chronicles X, the team expressed interest in porting the game to Nintendo Switch. However, the budget will play a big part in if we will roam Mira again on modern consoles.
Tales from the Borderlands (Xbox 360/Xbox One, PlayStation 3/PlayStation 4, Windows, iOS, Android)
What if the Gearbox’s Borderlands met Telltale’s interactive storytelling? That product became Tales of the Borderlands. The game was a collaboration between acclaimed The Walking Dead studio Telltale Games and Borderlands developer Gearbox Software. The story spread out across one season with five episodes, starting in November 2014 and ending in October 2015.
The game follows Hyperion employees Rhys and Vaughn and con artists Fiona and Sasha as their paths cross and spiral into an out-of-this-world adventure. Characters from the Borderlands series appear in both supporting and main roles. This, as well as branching narratives, was bolstered by an incredible cast. Voice acting icons Troy Baker (Joel from The Last of Us) and Laura Bailey (Abby from The Last of Us Part 2) assume the roles of Rhys and Fiona, respectively. The ensemble cast features talents such as Patrick Warburton (Kronk from The Emperor’s New Groove), Chris Hardwick (Talking Dead), Erin Yvette (Snow White in The Wolf Among Us), and Ashley Johnson (Ellie from The Last of Us).
The game, as a whole, received positive reviews. Many critics cited the game’s story, humor, and faithfulness as strong points. However, Telltale was unhappy with the sales as it didn’t match up with previous games like The Walking Dead.
Tales of the Borderlands did not get a second season. Still, some characters appear in Borderlands 3 in supporting roles. Telltale, unfortunately, closed in November 2018. They have since been brought back to life and are making games again. Gearbox, without Telltale, launched a spiritual successor, titled New Tales of the Borderlands, in October 2022. The lack of the company’s involvement was noticeable and the game failed to meet player expectations. While it may be too late to salvage Tales from the Borderlands, one may never say never.
D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die (Xbox One, PC)
Leave it to Deadly Premonition creator Hidetaka Suehiro, aka SWERY, to create one of the most bizarre, jazzy, and eccentric games ever seen. D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die was a collab between Xbox and Access Games and lasted one season (two episodes and a prologue).
As private eye David Young, you must travel through time through specific mementos, to find out the reason behind your wife’s murder, as well as the bullet lodged in your head, and to stop it. Utilizing Xbox’s Kinect, players use gestures to look for clues and unravel the secrets left behind. D4’s cel-shaded art style was reminiscent of graphic novels and took many notes from similar sci-fi stories, such as Twin Peaks.
When released in September 2014 to Xbox One and in June 2015 to PC, it met favorable reviews. Many enjoyed the insanity factor and the motion controls, while some thought it was a bit too much.
Sadly, in October 2016, SWERY announced that he would be leaving Access Games to start his own studio. This, as well as publically denying any future seasons of D4, leaves David’s story a cold case.
Nier (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
A spinoff of Square Enix and Cavia’s Drakengard series, Nier (also known as Nier Replicant for PlayStation 3 and Nier Gestalt for Xbox 360 in Japan) was creator Yoko Taro’s answer to the events of the fifth ending of Drakengard 2. The game was meant to appeal to Western audiences, as well as Japanese. As such, Nier came in two versions: Replicant, which featured a young protagonist, and Gestalt, which had an older protagonist. The US got the Gestalt version while Japan had both.
Set on a desolate Earth ravaged by a terminal plague known as the Black Scrawl, the protagonist goes on a journey to find the cure. Along your journey, you befriend a talking book named Grimoire Weiss, an ill-tempered swordswoman named Kaine, and a cursed masked child named Emil. The game, while in third-person, features a mix of 3D, 2D, and shoot ’em-up gameplay segments. Multiple endings and playthroughs were included, encouraging the player to replay the game to reveal new details.
At launch in April 2010, it wasn’t a big success nor did it immediately gel with critics. apart from the incredible soundtrack by Keiichi Okabe. Cavia went defunct the same year and Yoko Taro went independent.
Despite that, Yoko Taro, alongside other key figures in Nier’s development, partnered with Bayonetta studio Platinum Games on a sequel, titled Nier: Automata. The 2016 game was a massive success, being one of the best video games to come out that year. Renewed interest in the series prompted Square Enix to remaster Nier Replicant and release it worldwide in April 2020 to positive reviews. The game even won Best Music at the year’s Game Awards. A mobile game called Nier Reincarnation released in 2021, but no new game has been announced since.
Prey (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC)
Seen as a reboot of the original 2006 game of the same name, 2017’s Prey revamps almost everything the original did. Leading the charge is Arkane Austin Studios, fresh off their two highly-acclaimed Dishonored games. The game mixes a flurry of genres, such as Metroidvania, RPG, FPS, and stealth.
Taking place on the space station Talos 1, Morgan Yu must survive the onslaught of alien lifeforms known as the Typhon, and escape with his life. Alongside typical weapons like shotguns and pistols, you can use Typhon powers that’ll give you an edge in every situation. For example, Mimic Matter can let you take the form of any object you find, like a cup or chair. Meanwhile, Phantom Shift can transport you to any given spot, letting you make quick escapes or find good vantage points.
Prey launched in May 2017 to mild fanfare. The setting of Talos 1 was praised, as it gave players a fun yet challenging playground to explore. The combat was a hot topic amongst critics; some enjoyed it while others didn’t. In sales, the game suffered a bit, as reviewers didn’t get their hands on the game until launch. However, there was a one-hour demo for the game that came out a week prior to the full game. For DLC, An expansion called Prey: Mooncrash, a roguelike mode with everchanging items and enemies, released in June 2018, with a prop hunt mode called Typhon Hunt following suit that December.
Arkane and Bethesda haven’t expanded the Prey series since. Due to Bethesda’s acquisition by Microsoft and Arkane Austin’s next release, Redfall, launching in May 2023 to mixed reviews, the fate of the series is up in space.
Sunset Overdrive (Xbox One, PC)
Insomniac’s first (and only) title for Xbox consoles was also one of their most creative forays. It takes the fun of Ratchet and Clank and puts it in, well, overdrive!
In the bright and chaotic world of Sunset City, the energy drink Overcharge has turned people into zombies (known in-game as ODs). You play as an employee of FizzCo., the company behind the drink, and it’s up to you (and your incredible parkour skills and a crazy arsenal of weapons) to stop it. This humorous and meta third-person shooter lets you grind on powerlines and defeat enemies in style, all with a punk-rock soundtrack in the background.
Published by Xbox, Sunset Overdrive got praise from critics. The game’s art style and customization were highlights for many. The comedy was hit-or-miss for some, as it varied from being genuinely hilarious or too meta. Parkour and weapons stood out, but several reviewers found the gameplay to be monotonous at times.
Insomniac Games did express interest in developing a sequel to the game in 2018. However, when Sony acquired the studio in 2019, fans feared we may never see a new entry. These fears rose when then-chairman Shawn Layden said more Sunset Overdrive wasn’t a priority. Insomniac has since released a few titles, chief among them the Marvel’s Spider-Man series (which I have covered both in my SDCC coverage of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 and in my upcoming 2023 titles article). Hope is not lost, though. In 2021, Sony trademarked Sunset Overdrive and is free to create a new entry if they wanted, so fans may jump back into Sunset City sometime soon.
Yakuza 0 (PlayStation 3/PlayStation 4)
Prequels can be hit or miss. For The Godfather, it was a hit. For Dumb and Dumber, it was a miss. Some feel unnecessary, like Oz The Great and Powerful or Annabelle. Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios and SEGA’s Yakuza 0 is, to put it in film terms, The Godfather Part 2.
Set 17 years prior to the first game, Yakuza 0 take the series to 1988 during Japan’s bubble era, when inflation was at an all-time high. It centers around various Yakuza clans vying for the ‘Empty Lot’, an unclaimed spot of land in Kamurocho. You play as two characters: Kazuma Kiryu, a rookie Tojo Clan member under suspicion for murder, and Goro Majima, cabaret owner and disgraced Tojo Clan exile. Both characters become involved in the struggle in different and interesting ways. Players explore the cities of Kamurocho and Sotenbori and can do many activities like karaoke and cabaret club running. Unlike past titles, Kiryu and Majima have three unique fighting styles to take on enemies with.
Yakuza 0 came out in Japan in March 2015 and then worldwide in January 2017. It got great reviews from major outlets, with some calling it the best of the series. The open-world, music, story, and characters were hits with critics, with the combat being a mixed bag. Sales overseas were great, though no numbers were given for its performance in the US. Despite that, it’s considered to be a catalyst for the series’ popularity in the West. In 2020, Yakuza 0 ported onto Xbox One as part of Xbox Game Pass. Its massive success on the platform prompted the series to lose its PlayStation exclusivity and release all mainline Yakuza titles on Xbox.
Now, the series, known as Like a Dragon, is going stronger than ever. Two video games, including the next numbered installment with RPG combat, are currently in development. The other game, Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, is on my list of games yet to come out in 2023 (available here).
Gravity Rush (PlayStation Vita)
The brainchild of Siren and Silent Hill creator Keiichiro Toyama, Gravity Rush (Gravity Daze in Japan) was a game that (literally) flips your perspective on things. The 3D platformer was created by Team Gravity, a sub-company of Japan Studios, and published by Sony Computer Interactive.
The game follows amnesiac Kat, who, with the power to control gravity, helps defend Hekseville from the Nevi and other threats. Players bend gravity to their will, navigating the world by shifting in certain directions. Combat is also gravity-centered, using your elevation to your advantage against enemies. The art style is reminiscent of comics and graphic novels, complete with an orchestral soundtrack by One Piece composer Kohei Tanaka.
Upon release in June 2012 (and February 2012 in Japan), Gravity Rush got good reviews. Protagonist Kat scored with outlets, with her charm and personality being highlighted. The gravity mechanic was praised, adding complexity and an exhilarating sense of freedom. Combat was a bit of a letdown, as it controlled awkwardly or proved too difficult. A remastered version, done by Bluepoint Games, released for PlayStation 4 in February 2016 (and December 2015 in Japan). Keiichiro Toyama wanted to update it in hopes of reaching a wider crowd and improving on graphics. It, too, was well-received and adored by audiences. Kat, alongside her cat Dusty, was added as a DLC fighter in PlayStation All-Star Battle.
At PlayStation’s Tokyo Game Show showcase in 2015, Gravity Rush 2 was revealed. It expanded on all fronts, giving players a new world to explore and two new gravity styles. Launching in January 2017, it was lauded by critics, with many calling it a major improvement. A free DLC, chronicling fan-favorite Raven, released in May 2017.
Unfortunately, Team Gravity dissolved in 2020. Director Keiichiro Toyama went on to start his own studio, Bokeh Game Studios. He, alongside fellow members of his Siren team, is currently working on Slitterhead, a horror game. Despite all that, a film adaptation was greenlit in 2022, so Gravity Rush still can make a return.
A lot of these titles are still playable on their respective consoles. Some, like Yakuza 0, Gravity Rush, and Prey are included on Xbox Game Pass and/or PlayStation Plus. If any of these games interest you, I encourage you to check them out. Who knows, maybe one will become one of your favorites?
Have you played any of these underrated video games? What did you think of them? Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments! If you enjoyed this, leave a like and share it with your friends. Until next time, treasure hunters!