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In a world of AAA franchises and smash hit indie titles, a lot of games get lost in the shuffle once released. Some games are small fish in a big pond, using experimental mechanics or art style to get attention. Others are long forgotten franchises that have been swept under the rug over the years. Many of these games have a story attached to their development, and a history waiting to be uncovered.

Gaming Obscura is a regular, unscheduled series that aims to look at a lot of these forgotten, underrated, or otherwise obscure video games that may not have stood the test of time but deserve a moment in the sun. All video games have a story to them, and sometimes it’s the lesser known games that tell the best tales.

The following is in chronological order with the newest article in the series first.

SOS

By Robert Grosso

sos gaming obsucra snes

SOS is an odd duck. A survival-style game based on The Poseidon Adventure, what is unique about SOS, however, is how it stuck out like a sore thumb when released for the Super Nintendo in 1992. A platform game coupled with a long escort mission, SOS was about surviving a sinking ship, rescuing people and making your way to safety. All of this with a strict, one hour time limit to boot, making SOS a fast and challenging experience as well. Read more here…

Warlocked

By Robert Grosso

warlocked test 1

Real-time strategy games are a very niche genre, but an RTS game on a handheld system is an even bigger niche. Warlocked, a game by developers Bits Studios, attempts to fill that niche by providing a pared-down, PC-style RTS on the Game Boy Color. The game plays well, proving that a genre of game can be viable on any system in the hands of a good developer. Read more here…

Binary Domain

By Robert Grosso

binary domain gaming obscura

A game from the mind of the Toshihiro Nagoshi, the creator of the Yakuza series, Binary Domain is a strange cross between Blade Runner and Gears of War; a fast paced, dystopian future sci-fi B-movie romp with a lot of styish gameplay flairs half-baked in an interesting, of somewhat hammy, sci-fi setting. Binary Domain doesn’t offer many surprises, but it does offer a lot of fun instead. Read more here…

Mr. Gimmick

By Reagan Cox

mr gimmick gaming obscura

A technical marvel that never saw the light of day outside of Japan and Scandanavia, Mr. Gimmick is an impressive platformer released in the waning days of the Famicom System (NES). Mr. Gimmick shoots a star around as players travel through levels, and while it may sound rudimentary, shooting the star seemed like a phyiscs-based system. It never went the same way and was quite the skill to master. Read more here…

Siren: Blood Curse

By Connor Foss

siren blood curse gaming obscura

Keiichiro Toyama was the director of the original Silent Hill game but left Konami to found his own company, Project Siren, where he went on to develop the titular series. Siren: Blood Curse is the third in that franchise. The story of a film crew in search of Hanuda Village is told over twelve episodes from many different points of view. Blood Curse plays as what can best be described as a stealth horror game, featuring a unique mechanic in “sightjacking,” which allows players to see through their zombie-like enemies the shibito. Read more here …

The Path

By Robert Grosso

the path gaming obscura

The Path is the quintessential indie horror game, taking a twisted fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood, and combining it with frightening yet surreal imagery. The Path is akin to Eraserhead in some ways, with Lynchian production values providing the disturbing backdrop of what many would argue is a simple “walking simulator” in terms of gameplay by indie developer Tale of Tales. Read more here…

Freedom Fighters

By Robert Grosso

freedom fighters gaming obscura

Freedom Fighters is the ultimate mash-up fantasy, invoking the cold-war sensibilities of Red Dawn in a rather decent third person shooter by IO Interactive. What makes Freedom Fighters stand out in the end is its really good A.I system and gameplay mechanics, providing a very tactical but fun experience against impossible odds in an occupied Soviet New York. Freedom Fighters is an excellent game in this way, despite its liberal use of clichés in the growing alternate history genre. Read more here…

Alien Breed

By Robert Grosso

alien breed gaming obscura

One of the first titles created by independent developer Team17, Alien Breed is a love letter to the Alien Franchise, in both visuals and action. Originally released on the Commodore Amiga in the early 1990s, the top-down run and gun title had many influences, but for the time it was one of the few games to capture the heavy onslaught of a xenomorph menace. What’s more, Alien Breed has continued to have subsequent releases over the past generation, always finding a way to come back in some form as an enduring, if somewhat obscure, franchise. Read more here…

Berserk: Millennium Falcon

By Perry Ruhland

berserk millennium falcon gaming obscura

Berserk: Millennium Falcon is one of the best adaptations of an anime to make its way into gaming, and unfortunately one that never made its way to the West. It roughly follows the arc of the same name of Berserk, covering Griffith’s return and Guts’ acquisition of the iconic Berserker Armor. It includes a whole new story unique only to the game as well. The hack and slash gameplay is comparable to the Dynasty Warriors series and is of standard fare, but the design of boss fights carries the game along. Above all, the dedication to the source material sets Berserk: Millennium Falcon above many of its counterparts. Read more here …

Splatterhouse

By Perry Ruhland

splatterhouse gaming obscura

A beat ’em up born of the hyperviolent and bloody media of the ’90s, Splatterhouse is full of nightmarish creatures and monstrosities to slice, hack, or beat into bloody gibbets. Splatterhouse is set up as your typical horror story, where the hero Rick Taylor and his girlfriend get caught in a storm and take refuge a nearby mansion. Of course, the monsters come out, kidnap his girlfriend, and leave Rick bloodied. A mask that looks all too familiar appears with the promise to give Rick the powers to save her. Its true stand out feature that sets it apart from all other beat ’em ups, aside from its style, is the great design that goes into each boss to offer a unique set of challenges to overcome. Read more here …

Ninja Baseball Bat Man

By Robert Grosso

ninja baseball bat man gaming obscura

Sometimes, arcade games from the 1990s are filled with ideas so outlandish, they can’t help but stick out like sore thumbs. These frantic, colorful fever dreams were designed this way to attract players to feed them their quarters. Perhaps one of the craziest examples of this is the insane arcade game Ninja Baseball Bat Man, a game so insane it needs to be seen to be believed. Read more here…

MorphX

By Robert Grosso

morphx gaming obscura

Sometimes, games are just bad. Bad gameplay, bad controls, bad graphics—these sort of budget titles often struggle to compete with the AAA production values at every turn. Often, some of these games provide a hook to the player, a spark of unique ideas that are often drowned out by its own shortcomings. MorphX, a budget game by two Russian developers, fits that bill; it is not a good game, but it has that hook to help it stand out. Read more here…

MonsterMMORPG

By Robert Grosso

monstermmorpg gaming obscura

Pokemon knockoffs are a dime a dozen, but what happens when one knock off creates a flash-based MMO game? Created by an independent developer in Turkey, Monster MMORPG is exactly what it advertises itself to be, a rather large and simplistic flash game with thousands of monsters to collect and battle with, all based on high-quality art from numerous DeviantArt users. Read more here…

Stranglehold

By Robert Grosso

john woo stranglehold gaming obscura

Being a return to form to Hong Kong gun-ballet action movies, John Woo’s Stranglehold is a slick, interactive action title, which reunites the hero of Woo’s bloody spectacles, Inspector Tequila, to a wider audience. With tons of slipping, sliding, and bullet time to contend with, Stranglehold is a no-holds-barred action game that captures the essence of a gun-ballet, and one of the few licensed titles in recent memory to use its license to good effect. Read more here…

The Punisher

By Perry Ruhland

the punisher 2005 gaming obscura

In 2006, Frank Castle finally got a game of his own that captured the feel of The Punisher better than any other game. The gameplay is admittedly pretty run of the mill for a third person shooter, but it is accentuated by capturing the feel of The Punisher series as a whole and the character of Frank Castle. This is no better experienced than in the interrogation scenes that go above and beyond what players might see in other games, even having specially marked objects to make them even more over the top, like holding a mobster in front of a charging rhino. Read more here …

Omikron: The Nomad Soul

By Robert Grosso

omikron the nomad soul gaming obscura

Omikron: The Nomad Soul is a unique game in its own right, attempting to offer innovation and complexity in both visuals, mechanics, and storytelling. The first game developed by Quanitc Dream, Omikron took many risks in the late 1990s to bring Omikron to life. Combined with a unique style of gameplay, and unlikely starpower with the help of the late David Bowie, Omikron is a curious and off-beat adventure well worth tracking down, if nothing to see where Quantic Dream came from, to where they are now. Read more here…

Motörhead

By Robert Grosso

motorhead amiga gaming obscura

A short beat em up starring Motorhead‘s late frontman Ian “Lemmy” Killmister, Motorhead the game is not really a good title. In fact, it’s a budget bin game released for the Amiga and Atari ST, following the standard beat em up route with no real surprises. What is interesting, however, is how Motorhead, like many bands and musicians, would insert themselves into pop culture by using video games, including Lemmy and his curious history in video game culture. Read more here…

Sweet Home

By Robert Grossosweet home gaming obscura

Based on a Japanese horror movie, Sweet Home is one of the most influential horror titles ever created. Part RPG, part survival horror, Sweet Home dealt with macabre subject matter and has enough horrific images that saw the game never being officially released outside Japan, yet it had great influence in shaping the future of survival horror titles, such as Capcom’s Resident Evil series. Read more here…

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem

By Andrew Stretch

eternal darkness sanitys requieum gaming obscura

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem is a psychological horror game on the GameCube with some truly unique mechanics. The game follows Alexander Roivas who comes to his grandfather’s mansion to investigate after his grandfather death. Players take control of a Roman Centurion, a slave, archaeologist, and many more characters from various points in history to progress through the mansion. The game features a sanity meter, which is not all that unusual, but its effects do more than mess with the character on screen but with the player too. From making the camera skew, to strange noises, to even having fake disc read errors and mute signs appear on screen to mess with the player’s perception as well. Read more here …

Nosferatu

By Robert Grosso

nosferatu gaming obscura

Nosferatu, at first glance, seems a run of the mill platformer for the Super Nintendo. The use of real-time animations in the same vein as Prince of Persia, however, certainly made it stand out in 1994. Developed by a Japanese company SETA, Nosferatu was one of the few horror-themed games not based on a movie property or Castlevania to use cinematic platforming right, with rotoscoped animations and gorgeous presentation during the 16-bit era. Read more here…

Harvester

By Alexander Baldwin

harvester gaming obscura

Self-claimed to be “The most violent adventure game of all time,” Harvester released in the height of point and click popularity. A teenager, Steve, wakes up with amnesia in what is supposedly his parents’ house. He spends the game exploring the town of Harvest as he tries to figure out his life, while uncovering the darker side of the town and its people. The story, world, humor, and self-awareness all come together to create what has now become a bit of a cult classic. Its the perfect example of camp in video game form. Read more here …

The Dark Eye

By Robert Grosso

the dark eye gaming obscura

Based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe, The Dark Eye is an obscure PC game that utilizes puppets, stop motion, and macabre imagery to create an atmospheric mood that befits a master of suspense. Really more of an interactive storybook that goes over several of Poe’s famous works, The Dark Eye is nevertheless an interesting piece of gaming lore, and for those brave enough to find a copy, a unique, suspenseful experience that defines good horror gaming. Read more here…

Call of Cthulu: Dark Corners of the Earth

By Kyle Lawrence

call of cthulu dark corners of the earth gaming obscura

It would be easy to mistake Call of Cthulu: Dark Corners of the Earth for a horror game, but that’s more due to its attempt to make a game as close to H.P. Lovecraft’s vision in his writing as possible. The game follows Jack Walters, a previously institutionalized private investigator, who takes up a missing person case in a town that shuns outsiders. They worship sea gods and are known as the Cult of Dagon and want to sacrifice Jack for some reason. The stealth gameplay takes up the first half as Jack investigates, and it slowly ramps up its FPS gameplay to include moments not unlike a horde mode, while fighting off waves of enemies and then big monsters. Read more here …

Herzog Zwei

By Robert Grosso

herzog zwei gaming obscura

Herzog Zwei is a title with a colorful lineage. The sequel of a popular title from Japanese home computers, Herzog Zwei is a trendsetter by being a game ahead of its time. Part real-time strategy game, with a hint of MOBA-style gameplay, Herzog Zwei was criminally underestimated when it was released in 1990 for the Sega Genesis, but its reputation has only grown in the years since, becoming a classic in the RTS genre in its own right. Read more here…

Space Station Silicon Valley

By Robert Grosso

space station silicon valley

One of strangest games on the Nintendo 64, which is saying something in retrospect, Space Station Silicon Valley is a tongue-in-cheek puzzle platformer where the player takes the role of a microchip that can possess a number of robotic animals on a rogue, dilapidated space station. With over 30 animal types to possess and dozens of levels and games to go through, Space Station Silicon Valley is a true underrated classic. Read more here…

Backbreaker

By Robert Grosso

backbreaker gaming obscura

Combining a unique physics engine with customizable football, Backbreaker is one of the few football games to be released that can compete with the Madden Franchise, despite not having any official NFL license. Everything is fully customizable, from team logos to stats, but the main event is the Euphoria engine, which provided better physics over the standard Madden canned animations. Backbreaker is pretty simple for a sports title, but it is all it needs to be for those looking for a Madden alternative. Read more here…

Teleroboxer

By Robert Grosso

teleroboxer gaming obscura

Teleroboxer is perhaps the best game for the ill-fated Virtual Boy. One of the few games to utilize a good 3D interface by being a first-person boxing game, Teleroboxer combines fast-paced, arcade-style boxing action in the same vein as Punch Out! Being only one of fourteen games on the system, Teleroboxer stands out because of its first person perspective and simple but fun gameplay. Read more here…

Crusader of Centy

By Robert Grosso

crusader of centy

Although it can be seen as a Zelda clone, Crusader of Centy, or Soleli in Europe, is an action RPG with a unique twist. Following the young hero Corona, he embarks on a quest to fulfill has father’s legacy, and in the process finds allies in the hands of numerous animal companions. Crusader of Centy has enough twists and turns to make it interesting, and for the Sega Genesis and Master Drive, it is a deep action-RPG to really sink your teeth into. Read more here…

Stacked with Daniel Negreanu

By Robert Grosso

stacked with daniel negreanu gaming obscura

The pastime of Poker often goes hand in hand with video games, and in the mid-2000s the massive poker boom saw a massive launch of several mid to low budget poker titles to play. Only one game, however, was able to use an AI that offered an adaptive challenge, combined with real-life poker star power with famed player Daniel Negreanu. Stacked: With Daniel Negreanu is not the deepest poker game out there, but it is the only one to provide a challenge with an A.I that adapts to your playstyle over time. Read more here…

Heart of the Alien

By Robert Grosso

heart of the alien gaming obscura

The unwanted sequel to Another World, Heart of the Alien, on its own merits, is a solid title. One of the few games worth playing on the Sega CD, Heart of the Alien continues the story of the cult classic Another World, providing players the perspective of Buddy the alien as he struggles against the growing alien threat. Although the game was disowned as an official sequel by developer Eric Chahi, it holds a place in gaming history as being a curious sequel to a somewhat landmark title. Read more here…

Nightmare Busters

By Robert Grosso

nightmare busters

Nightmare Busters is a game that never saw the light of day in the 1990s. It was an incomplete, cancelled titled for the Super Nintendo, a shoot em’ up title that only exists because of the efforts of Super Fighter Team. As video game restoration becomes a bigger industry in and of itself, titles like Nightmare Busters may become more and more prevalent, and in turn it gives the most forgotten games a chance to shine once more. Read more here…

Legend of Kay

By Robert Grosso

legend of kay gaming obscura

The Legend of Kay is perhaps not the best game in the world, but it is certainly a unique game. Mixing a blend of cartoonish goodness and Asian-fusion sensibilities before Kung Fu Panda was popular, it is an action adventure game developed for the PS2 at a time when such titles were in abundance. The recent re-release for the Wii U and 3DS provided The Legend of Kay a new audience, despite its weaker elements shackling it to its niche. Read more here…

Rogue Galaxy

By Robert Grosso

rogue galaxy gaming obscura

Rogue Galaxy is a forgotten classic in many ways. A well-done RPG by director Akihiro Hino, it blends crisp visuals in a sci-fi aesthetic and is chock full of extra modes and goodies that would satisfy anyone looking to get their fix for a console RPG. A PS2 exclusive, Rogue Galaxy is a great example of an action RPG done right, with a good blend of combat, story, and mechanics to drive the game’s near 60 hour experience through to its conclusion. Read more here…

Exit

By Robert Grosso

exit gaming obscura

The PSP is filled with excellent games. Some are long, hardcore experiences, while others are casual titles designed for pick up and play. Some games straddle that line together, invoking the classic, “Nintendo Hard” difficulty while still being accessible at the same time. One title that can tow this line well is Exit, a puzzle-platformer first released on the PSP and later as a download for the Xbox 360 and 3DS re-release. Exit is stylish, difficult, and has easy pick up and play standards that make it well worth a play. Read more here…

Deadly Creatures

By Robert Grosso

deadly creatures gaming obscura

Innovation is hard to come by in the world of AAA games, but the Nintendo Wii offered a chance for something unique. While a lot of games on the system were regulated to shovelware status, there were several diamonds in the rough on the system that today make the Wii a unique console to collect for. One of the most high-profile titles in that bunch is Deadly Creatures, a game that utilizes the motion controls while the player plays as a spider and a scorpion fighting for survival in a harsh wasteland. It is one of the most unique games ever created, and another game like it may never come around again. Read more here…

The Fool’s Errand

By Robert Grosso

the fools errand gaming obscura

One of the oldest genres in gaming is the puzzle/adventure style-game. In the 1980s a lot of titles were a mix of puzzle and action, but many of these games in turn have aged poorly. One title, however, is timeless, the pure puzzle game The Fool’s Errand, self-developed by one programmer: Cliff Johnson. It is one of the hardest puzzle games in the market today, with Johnson using influence from several puzzle books written in the 1970s to create a “meta-puzzle” narrative for hardcore players to wrap their brains around. Read more here…

Doshin the Giant

By Robert Grosso

doshin the giant gaming obscura

A forgotten Nintendo classic, released originally on the dying Nintendo 64 DD system, Doshin the Giant is a curious title. It is a “god simulator” with a simplistic flair, but its appealing gameplay made it one of the most sought after titles for the Nintendo 64. It is also the only DD game to get a European re-release for the Nintendo GameCube, making the game one of the few titles to transition over from the doomed system. Doshin the Giant is a good, relaxing game, well worth a play for those willing to track it down. Read more here…

Vib-Ribbon

By Robert Grosso

vib ribbon gaming obscura

Vib-Ribbon is the rhythm game of yesteryear, a console exclusive released only in Japan and Europe for the original PlayStation. Its simple design was minimal, but the ability to play a game with any musical track was a technical marvel in its day. Perhaps the biggest influence of Vib-Ribbon on the gaming world rests upon its creator, famed developer and musician Masaya Matsuura. Read more here…

Weaponlord

By Robert Grosso

weaponlord gaming obscura

In the world of fighting games, arcade-style brawlers are the king, but sometimes a plucky upstart makes a dent. Mortal Kombat and Killer Instinct are perhaps the most famous examples, but while Weaponlord is not a household name in the same vein as those titles, it has a unique style all to its own. It was a game ahead of its time, providing a complex fighting game mimicking its arcade counterparts in ways that become staples in the genre today. Read more here…

Grim Fandango

By Robert Grosso

grim fandango gaming obscura

Grim Fandango was, at one time, perhaps the greatest game no one ever played. A classic adventure by LucasArts, developed in a time where adventure games were in massive decline, director Tim Schafer created one of the most luscious worlds imaginable, combining the sensibilities of Film Noir with the eye-catching style of Die De Los Muertos. The story is sharply written, starring a grim reaper/travel agent named Manny Calavera as he uncovers a growing conspiracy against the souls of the dead, leading to a bizarre yet hilarious odyssey around the underworld. Read more here…