History is written by the winners, and that applies to games, too. While we hold up our post-apocalyptic wasteland adventures, period piece assassinations and Liberty City crime sprees on a pedestal, we would do well to remember the little guys. These underseen, criminally underplayed games didn't do well critically or commercially, but they were still wonderful experiences. Here's a small list of recommendations of unsung heroes of the PS3/Xbox 360/Wii era.
Like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, developer Obsidian did their best with what they had when it came to Alpha Protocol. It was clearly rushed out the door in time for Christmas, so it's not really a surprise that it recieved mediocre scores across the board. But don't let the Metacritic page dissuade you -- Alpha Protocol is quite entertaining, for the right and wrong reasons. It's like the Tango & Cash of video games.
Players take control of Michael Thorton, the newest recruit of government black ops group that happens to share a name with the title on the box. As with any decent spy thriller, there are plenty of twists, betrayals and ill-advised trysts with sexy women who are obviously working for the bad guy. The great part is how AP manages to work the genre cliches into its own fantastic story-branching system.
Thorton is a surprisingly customizable character, not only just his in-game skillset, but also in the way he engages with the story. Instead of the usual binary choices between Good/Evil, Paragon/Renegade or Save Baby Otter/Bash Baby Otter Over the Head and Harvest its Valuable Oils, almost all dialogue and plot decisions lie in a gray area.
Though the game was touted as letting you play as "Bond, Bourne or Bauer," it's totally possible to just be an irredeemable asshole. You'll never know just how much you wanted an Archer video game until you play Alpha Protocol.
The only reason this game ended up ignored is because the part where you actually play it is pretty bad. It's got tons of graphical issues and glitches and a weird difficulty spike in the middle. Even if everything worked, the gunplay would still remain kinda crappy. Despite those issues, no game to date has matched AP's sense of control over the story -- it's like a Telltale adventure game, if your choices actually made a difference.
You should definitely give Alpha Protocol a shot. It's the least you can do for the guys who brought you Fallout: New Vegas.
Not every Mario spinoff ends up like Mario Kart. Mario Strikers Charged is Mario's second futbol adventure, after the Gamecube original. And while it may not be the most well-known of the mustachioed plumber's extracirricular activities, it's definitely the craziest. As you can see in the seriously metal intro, Strikers puts an edge on Nintendo characters we rarely see. Bowser bears Freddy Krugery claws, Donkey Kong craters the field to get at the ball and Mario's eyes light up like he's possessed by the Phoenix Force.
Most games don't live up to their awesome CG intros, but Strikers Charged eclipses it. The real game might be even more chaotic than the trailer, what with all of the environmental hazards and nutty character abilities. Some fields feature erupting volcanos, and in others there are such strong winds you can see tractors flying by. Strikers Charged was already the most unique futbol game this side of Mega Man Soccer for the SNES, but then the developers went ahead and added a Mario Kart-style weapon system. Between the crazy environments, fierce competitors and super shots worth up to six goals (yes, as in the number 6), Strikers Charged is never not insane.
Even the character celebrations are incredible. Dry Bones loses his head while he does "the worm," Birdo more or less invents twerking and DK straight-up tackles the cameraman. We should expect nothing less from the series that gave us Waluigi telling an entire stadium to "Suck it!"
If you need more than that in a video game, I don't know what to tell you.