Many moons ago, when I was a poor gamer with an antiquated family PC lacking a 3D card, I came across what seemed like a heavenly combination: a game combining the basic principles of rugby with real-time action, the brutality of Blood Bowl, and some light management mechanics.
It sounds like Blood Bowl, although this was a real-time action game rather than a digital remake of a tabletop game. But M.U.D.S. - short for Mean Ugly Dirty Sport - is the kind of game that, these days, may as well not exist. Trying to search for it brings up a litany of unrelated results to the text-based online dungeons that served as the precursor to the early days of 2D and 3D MMOs like Ultima Online, Everquest, Meridian 59 and so on.
I came across M.U.D.S. through Home of the Underdogs, the legendary abandonware archive that often gave pride of place to smaller titles like these that you simply couldn't find on our fair shores. And so when I look at chatter around the gaming world, particularly when it comes to "underrated" games, titles like M.U.D.S. are ones that come to mind.
It's not as if there aren't plenty of modern equivalents. More games are released each week than ever before, thanks to the ubiquity of platforms like Steam and competitor marketplaces like GOG, Green Man Gaming, and so on.
So I wanted to expand the conversation a little this week: when you think of something that was underrated, a game you hold close to your heart that is either unheralded or unloved by the wider masses, what comes to mind?
A few other titles for my liking that you might recognise:
- Star Trek Voyager Elite Force: Basically a reskinned of Quake 3 Arena in multiplayer a down-the-line linear shooter, Elite Force was a game I remember playing for hours on end at a friends' place after primary school. It was far from the best licensed shooter of its time - the Jedi Knight games and especially Alien vs Predator were streets ahead. But, goddamnit, it offered some fast paced 2v2 CTF action with Star Trek guns, and that was good enough as a kid.
- Hotel Dusk Room 215: Point-and-click adventures aren't everyone's cup of tea, and Cing's rotoscoped adventure wasn't easy to get into. But once you worked through the very slow start and began unravelling the characters and clues hidden within, Hotel Dusk had a lot of charm. There were lots of pain points - like being delayed in solving a puzzle even though you knew the answer because you hadn't gone through a very specific set of steps - but whenever I think of my favourite experiences on my old DS Lite, Hotel Dusk is right up there.
What underrated games do you hold dear?