The video games industry is a cruel one. It isn’t enough to create art. To push the industry in a direction nobody thought possible with your singular vision. Because if that vision doesn’t sell, there’s little chance you’ll ever get to make another game again. If your dearly beloved game doesn’t sell, you’ll be left waiting for the sequel that never arrives. However, instead of getting up in arms about the game that will never come, I find it much more valuable to look back on the experience that was. So, here’s a list of my favourite games that unfortunately, nobody bought upon release! This is a bit of a cult classics or hidden gem list. So, there’s a good chance you’ll find something here that you either haven’t heard of – or just heard murmurs about from weird parts of the internet.
Vampire – The Masquerade: Bloodlines
Ah vampires, my favourite of all the ghouls! They’re sultry, sleazy, melodramatic. And when they get all mixed up in a story of betrayal, power and privilege, it’s a recipe that makes one of my favourite games of all time! Based on the tabletop RPG of the same name, Bloodlines is a fantastic story about rival clans battling for political supremacy. It’s one of the only games that comes to mind where you really feel insignificant. A smaller part of a much grander conspiracy where you have nowhere near enough clout to coerce with the actual ‘main characters’. It also has some of the best dialogue and voice acting I’ve ever experienced, and bundled with a spooky, grungy atmospheric soundtrack, it means Bloodlines is also one of the most immersive games I’ve ever played.
Unfortunately, Bloodlines was rushed out of the door and thus has a ton of bugs, glitches and jank. It’s damn near unplayable without a fan patch for christ’s sake! Meaning it reviewed quite poorly upon release. It also had the unfortunate coincidence of being released alongside Half-Life 2, so it never really stood a chance sales wise either. But I promise you, it’s good. So, if you’d like to give this game it’s deserved attention, please check it out!
Initially released waaay back on the original Xbox as a console exclusive in 2004, Psychonauts was a brilliant story driven platforming game that was unfortunately dead on arrival. Only selling 100,000 copies by the end of the year, which is a real shame! Because the game itself is a fun romp that takes place in a children’s summer camp, that is actually a front for the Psychonauts! A group of psychically gifted agents who are looking to scout and recruit talented children to help them stop evil doers! Controlling Raz, you quite literally enter the minds of others to help sort them through their deep rooted trauma, mental health issues and emotional baggage! It also sounds super heavy, but this entire game is played for laughs and I found it genuinely hilarious.
Thankfully, Psychonauts would eventually re-release on Steam and through sheer word of mouth, developed a much larger audience. The resurgence in popularity even allowed for Double Fine’s kickstarter for a sequel to be successfully funded, which was released earlier this year! So, if you’re to test your platforming skills but want a bit more story to sink your teeth into beyond the princess getting captured, Psychonauts is definitely worth your time!
The Evil Within 2
So this is a bit of a weird one. The original The Evil Within, wasn’t particularly special. But regardless of its poor reviews, it sold like hotcakes because of the name attached to the project. Directed by Shinji Mikami, of Resident Evil fame. Which meant a sequel was greenlit, and in the bizarre circumstance of the sequel being better than the original, they actually fixed all the issues from the first one! The result being a fantastically tense and spooky survival horror game… that no one bought. I guess the heartbreak of the original being underwhelming was enough to sour those who were on the fence. But I urge you to give it a chance!
About a retired cop trying to find his daughter (cliche, I know) you enter the ‘Union’, an alternate subconscious reality thing (kind of like the Animus in Assassin’s Creed?) and things are not okay here. Exploration is the name of the game, and scavenging for scrap metal and weapons to assist you in crafting back at the safe house is immensely satisfying. Only stepping out of the safe house is terrifying because of how dangerous and spooky the enemies are in this game. There’s one that like… whispers to you through the PS4 controller and I was just about ready to Frisbee my game disc. Highly recommended for big boys, but perhaps stay away if you’re a scaredy cat.
Easily the cutest game on this list, Chibi-Robo is about a little house cleaning robot who assists the Sanderson’s family around their cheerful suburban home. Despite only being a few centimetres tall, you help assist the family in their chores, and acquire happy points after a job well done! Only, things aren’t as they seem in the Sanderson’s household. The relationship between the father and mother is perhaps a bit more unstable than it might’ve initially seemed. And the daughter is convinced she’s a frog? Also, what’s that noise coming from the basement?
Chibi-Robo is delightfully bizarre, and I desperately wish more people knew about it. However, released in late 2006 for the Nintendo Gamecube, it never really stood a chance to acquire mass appeal. By that point in time, the Nintendo DS was already out, the Nintendo Wii was mere months away, the Xbox 360 had also recently released, and the Playstation 3 was on the horizon. Needless to say, it sold poorly. Chibi-Robo’s claim to fame remains being a trophy in Super Smash Bros. Disappointing to say the least. Second hand copies of this are also absurdly priced, so maybe check out a playthrough online if this seems like your thing.
Finally, we have the oldest game on this list, the ever charming Earthbound (1995). It was unlike anything out at the time. Earthbound was about a group of kids set in the modern day. It was constantly cracking jokes, breaking the fourth wall, it was just goofy. And because it was so counterculture I think it ended up scaring off an audience who immediately dismissed it as childish. It also unfortunately released late within the Super Nintendo’s life cycle, and was critically panned for its simplistic graphics in a time where the industry was transitioning to 3D.
But that’s all hogwash I say, hogwash! Earthbound is a brilliant game and an introspective look into identity, belonging and nostalgia. Its 16-bit chiptune music soundtrack also remains one of the more eclectic I’ve heard on the console, and I feel the game has finally received its due fanfare all these years later. At least Ness is a fully playable character in Super Smash Bros. That’s how you know you’ve made it.
So, that was my list of my favourite games that nobody bought! Be sure to let me know if I missed any in the comments section down below! Otherwise, feel free to check out some of our other gaming blog posts here, or check out some of our other content over on our YouTube Channel. Thanks for reading 🙂