Everyone grows up with different games and while there’ll always be some shared experiences, there’ll also be games that’ve slid under the radar or gone unnoticed by most. Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s was particularly interesting for PC gamers because there were so many weird and experimental titles being played at home or at school in an era where gaming hadn’t yet hit the mainstream.
From shareware titles at school fetes to discs being passed around school playgrounds, there were plenty of ways to get your hands on good video games. But it’s always wild to sit down with mates and discuss what you did and didn’t play back then.
It’s even weirder when you’ve played and loved a game that nobody else seems to have ever even seen.
There’s plenty of underrated games out there, and many which didn’t get the audience they deserved. Here are just a few examples of underrated games I personally played and loved which never seemed to gain a fanbase — and I’d love to hear your picks in the comments below!
The Urbz: Sims in the City (DS)
I’ll take any chance I can get to shout out the underrated Sims games for handheld consoles.
Like the other weird games in the franchise, The Urbz took the classic Sims formula and injected it with a dose of strange beings, conspiracies, ghosts and bayou backwaters. Rather than being a straightforward life simulator, this adventure is more a Sims story RPG where players complete quests and attempt to overthrow the tyranny of capitalism.
If that isn’t enough to convince you to play the games, check out my in depth interview with the crew who made it for why should absolutely dig out this adventure:
It’s an absolutely bonkers series that’s extremely underrated.
Fairies of the Forest
Fairies of the Forest is a late 90s era game developed in Australia by Glow Zone Interactive, and it’s a cutesy storybook adventure about a fairy who wants to fly. It’s not a particularly good game, but it’s one that I played repeatedly when I was young so I have very fond memories of it. Sadly, it seems like I’m the only one who actually has a copy.
The footage uploaded above is the only footage of the game I can find online, and I recorded it from my own home PC. While I’ve since had a few people reach out and chat to me about the game, its existence and sales history is a mystery. Personally, I grabbed my copy from the bargain bin at Harvey Norman when I was very young — but I’m not sure how widely it was released.
Glow Zone Interactive barely has a presence online despite its published books (The Monster That Ate Canberra, The Dinosaur Who Wanted To Fly) being wildly popular in the 90s. It seems to be a defunct Australian developer, but there’s not much buzz around the company or the games it made now.
Contact is a game so underrated I couldn’t actually find any decently sized images of gameplay — so this ancient video from our pals over at IGN will have to do. This RPG adventure for the Nintendo DS is genuinely brilliant, and I’m surprised it doesn’t have more of a following.
Beyond a terrific story, it’s also a beautiful, pixel art game filled with gorgeous landscapes, memorable characters and great boss battles. While the dual screen system was wildly under-utilised, the game was too good to be impacted by this choice. With plenty of places to explore and items to gather, it should be regarded as one of the best titles from the Nintendo DS era.
If there’s any Contact fans around, shout out!
Kingsley’s Adventure is a 1999 3D platformer developed for the PlayStation One that was launched and quickly forgotten by nearly everyone. But with its cute, cartoonish aesthetic and unsettling atmosphere, it’s a fantastic journey everyone should’ve played.
I know at least one person other than me has played Kingsley’s Adventure because there’s a 2000s-era mural of the game’s main character on the way to Bankstown in Sydney — but it seems like it’s just me and the mystery painter who loved the game.
On the way to Bankstown, there's a weird little brick wall. The painting was clearly done in the early 2000s, but the strangest thing is the mural includes Kingsley, from 1999's Kingsley's Adventure – a game that was a definitive flop and had little cultural impact. pic.twitter.com/LSVk2zU8A4
— Leah J. Williams (@legenette) August 19, 2018
Regardless, Kingsley’s Adventure is a gorgeous, wholesome game that was unfortunately shafted in an era when endless 3D platformers were overrunning the market. Even though it was succeeded by better and brighter games, Kingsley’s Adventure is still a wonderful time, and deserves far better than it got.
Mars Underground is a 2019 Aussie indie game which features a Groundhog Day story where protagonist Mars is locked in an endless timeloop where the only way to escape is by dying over and over again. It’s accompanied by a creepy soundtrack, well-paced mysteries and gameplay that’s genuinely fun and rewarding. Sadly, it never quite got the attention its quality demanded.
If you’re a fan of point-and-click adventures or you’re just in the mood for some spooky time travel adventures, Mars Underground is absolutely a game you should play.
It’s one of those games that’ll stick with you for a long time.
Pokémon Conquest is one of the least celebrated Pokémon spin-offs of all time, and that’s unfortunate because it’s great. This game is a Nobunaga’s Ambition crossover that uses Pokémon grid battles (also seen in Fire Emblem) to advance the story.
The turn-based gameplay means it’s a game packed with strategy, and as you conquer new locations you’ll be able to rearrange and perfect your perfect Pokémon battle squad. It’s a challenging game, but one that’s always clever and fun — and it’s a real shame it never seemed to gain the popularity of fellow spin-offs like Snap or Stadium.
Should the series ever return, a Pokémon Conquest for Switch would go down a treat.
Now it’s your turn. What forgotten games did you play and love that nobody ever seems to talk about anymore?
It doesn’t have to be from your childhood — there’s plenty of modern games that go unnoticed amongst the current deluge of indie and AAA adventures.
Tell us about it, and why more people should play it in the comments below!