El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
El Shaddai is an adaptation of a non-canonical book of the bible called the book of Enoch. The original is about Enoch, grandfather of Moses, ascending through multiple levels of heaven and dealing with nephilim, the offspring of angels breeding with men. The video game is sort of about the same thing! If Enoch were a fancy male model that can wield a neon battleth, the world looked like it was remodeled by Daft Punk, and conflicts with angels were settled with both combat and Michael Jackson style dance offs. If all that sounds too weird to handle, it was for most people, but El Shaddai is a singular game worthy of anyone's time.
Sonic Generations was not the series savior people thought it might be. A game that tapped into Sonic's entire history, mixing his vintage 2D highs with his more controversial 3D lows, could have been the magic elixir to win everyone's approval, whether or not they were among the Hedgehog faithful. The results were imperfect. The 2D sections of Sonic Generations are exactly what classic fans asked for. The 3D sections are, sadly, almost as troubled as they were all the way back in Sonic Adventure on Dreamcast. The good far outweighs the bad in Generations, though, and it deserved a bigger audience than it got.
Retro Game Challenge
Retro Game Challenge could have been a miserable attempt to trade on NES nostalgia. Rather than feel like a limp tie-in to a Japan-only comedy show, this DS collection created brand new games that actually captured the magic of the best games on Nintendo's console in the late '80s and early '90s. All those games are packaged in a loving conceit as well. You're a kid trapped in the '80s and forced to overcome 8-bit challenges divvied out by the tyrannical head of the Retro Game Challenge TV show's host. Brilliant. It apparently sold in such catastrophically low numbers that XSEED couldn't even entertain the idea of localizing its superior sequel.
The World Ends With You
Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy remain the darlings of Square-Enix's Japanese line up, but this bizarre action RPG experiment is worthy of the same reverence. The World Ends with You's story, unique dual-screen combat, and hip J-Pop soundtrack made a huge impact on everyone played it. Taking place in a strange purgatory where the underworld directly resembles the real life town of Shibuya in Japan, you must survive the Reapers Game where players (dead people in purgatory) must try to survive lest they be erased (removed from purgatory into what we assume is Hell). An excellent iOS port gave the game a second shot, but the teased sequel at the end has never materialized. Heartbreaker.
Chromehounds is for serious mech fans. None of that silly Armored Core jump-jet stuff here - this is painstakingly careful, considered strategic combat between obsessively customized robotic war machines. Single matches of Chromehounds could take ages to play, and the drab, spare presentation did nothing to invite in new players let alone hold onto existing ones. For the community that gelled with the game's demands, though, Chromehounds was mana from heaven. Unfortunately its best feature, online matches, are no longer available.
Shadows of the Damned
Suda 51 made a name for himself with his exercises in stylized sex and violence. Lollipop Chainsaw, No More Heroes and Killer 7 all found healthy cult followings. Shadows of the Damned, his collaborations with horror game icon Shinji Mikami of Resident Evil 4 fame and Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka, didn't even form a cult of devoted fans. It tanked back on PS3 and Xbox 360, ending Grasshopper Manufacture's reportedly troubled relationship with EA. Seek out the game now, though, and it stands tall, a funny, strange tour through hell that plays a hell of a lot better than Mikami's own The Evil Within that came out on PS4 just a few years later.
Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure
Henry Hatsworth looked like the sort of kid game schlock that glutted the Nintendo DS. You would never know that one of the most teeth shatteringly difficult platformer action games hid beneath its cartoon facade. The game cleverly combined the best of both action and puzzle games with the top screen devoted to Mario-like action and the bottom screen saved for Tetris-like brain teasers. The interplay between the two made for frenetic activity that was totally unique to the hardware that hosted it. The final boss fight, if you can even reach it, is one of the hardest ever.
Lost Odyssey is the last Final Fantasy game ever made by Hironobu Sakaguchi in everything but name. It's a lush, strange, melancholic turn-based RPG with music by Nobuo Uematsu and flowing art direction. It is, in effect, everything Final Fantasy fans let down by Final Fantasy XIII said they actually wanted, but few people played it. Part of the problem was that despite its modern presentation, Lost Odyssey clung to seriously old-school ideals. Battles were as drawn out and frequent as Final Fantasy 1's were back on the NES. Working through its rough edges let you bask in its strange story of immortals and their weird lives. Lost Odyssey was made backwards compatible on Xbox One, but a remake would be even better.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
Imagine waking up with no idea where you are, only to look over and see your dead corpse lying on the ground. Then you realize you're a disembodied wisp in the sky, no longer living, able to possess objects around you. That's how Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective begins, and what follows is a quest to figure out who killed you through some of the best puzzle gameplay we've ever experienced. Using Sissel (the dead guy), you'll manipulate the environment in each level to manipulate what happens; knock things down, create platforms, and more in a series of video game Rube Goldberg devices. The Nintendo DS was already fading as a platform when Ghost Trick came out, and while it received an okay iOS port, it's still never found the Ace Attorney-sized audience it deserves.
Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
People thought Zack & Wiki was going to be yet another dumbed down game on Wii. They were wrong. Forget the cutesy swashbuckling art style - Zack & Wiki is a hardcore puzzler at the core. More akin to LucasArts' old point-and-click adventure classics, Wiki confronts you with dozens of brain bending riddles complimented by some of the smartest, subtlest motion control implementation in the Wii library.