Games That Never Get The Recognition They Deserve

It's easy to bug out about how amazing Fallout 4 is, or the huge influence that Grand Theft Auto has had on the gaming industry as a whole. At the heart of gaming, past all the grandness, lies the small innovations and quirks that make these huge, blockbuster games possible. There are hundreds of games released every year and, statistically, only a few really gain momentum, leaving a ton of smart, fun, and innovative games just off of everyone's radar. Here are a handful of games deserving of your attention and recognition that you may have overlooked.

Bad Day on the Midway (PC)

As pioneers of weirdness, the musical ensemble/game designer team known as The Residents have always embraced technology as a means to reach their audience and enhance their strangeness. In 1995, they released Bad Day on the Midway, a creepy, interactive story for PC in which the player leaps from ill-fated character to ill-fated character while exploring a doomed boardwalk freak show. The game offers multiple endings depending on how the player approaches the story, as well as beautifully illustrated cutscenes by artists like Dave McKean. Bad Day was innovative in a lot of ways, and even if the graphics are primitive, it all comes together in a very David Lynch-like nightmare.

Punch-Out!! (Wii)

Nintendo's Wii made a lot of promises about getting people's lazy butts off of the couch, but aside from its various fitness and sports games, the Wii never really got people moving effectively. While Punch-Out!! can be played with the Wii's basic controller, the real game happens when you stand up and actually dodge, block, and punch your way through the game's almost-racist stereotypes. It's a far better game than anything included with Wii Sports, and way more fun than Wii Fit. The challenge of physically fighting King Hippo is more deeply satisfying than most other games—and you'll get some actual sweaty cardio in, too.

ClayFighter (SNES)

ClayFighter was produced around the same time as fighting classics like Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, and Killer Instinct as a humorous dig at violent beat 'em ups, but as a parody, it never really made a mark. While ClayFighter lacked a good fighting engine, it made up for it in graphical innovations, using stop-motion animation and clay figures to illustrate nearly every fighting move. Doug TenNapel would borrow the technique for his popular Neverhood and Skullmonkeys games, and even Nintendo would use this visual approach for Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, even if they didn't actually get their hands dirty with clay. If you're into beating up an evil clown as a doughy Elvis, this is the game for you.

Mega Man 9 (Wii, PS3, Xbox 360)

After the release of Mega Man 6 in 1993, Capcom stopped developing Mega Man games for the original Nintendo and moved the series to the Super Nintendo and other platforms. In 2008, they decided to resurrect the 8-bit series after a huge hiatus. Mega Man 9 (and the subsequent Mega Man 10) were presented in the classic, unrelentingly difficult style of the originals, and Capcom didn't miss a beat. Loading up Mega Man 9 felt like plugging in the old NES, blowing into the cartridge, and being frustrated like it was 1993 all over again. It's not easy to pull off a perfect sequel to a 15-year-old game, but this did it.

GoldenEye 007 (Wii)

Everyone talks about the original, Nintendo 64 version of GoldenEye 007 like it's the second coming. While there's no denying that the hours of amazing local multiplayer fun was exceptional, the later GoldenEye 007 for the Wii had one of the more exciting and enduring online multiplayer modes in 2010. At the time, the FPS scene was dominated by the likes of Battlefield and Halo. A spy-style shooter didn't really have the mass appeal of engaging in war simulations and fighting aliens, but until servers were finally shut off in early 2015, GoldenEye still had a dedicated following, even if it never made front-page gaming news.

Secret of Evermore (SNES)

Secret of Mana is usually regarded as one of the best SNES RPGs available, alongside Chrono Trigger and EarthBound, but Secret of Evermore is generally ignored. On one hand, this makes Secret of Evermore an inexpensive game to pick up during the retro gaming boom, but on the other, the spiritual successor to Mana never got the love it deserved. Evermore transports a boy and his dog through four periods of history and presents an enthralling time-travel story as the heroes try to make it back to modern times, giving the player everything from robots to dinosaurs to dragons to encounter. It's a solid game, but it's unfortunately overshadowed by all of the awesome RPGs of the era.

Dead Head Fred (PSP)

There aren't too many games where you're already dead and decapitated when you hit start, but Dead Head Fred is certainly the best of those games. Using the decapitated heads of your enemies, your hero acquires different powers as you explore New Jersey and seek revenge on your killer, all in a noir thriller setting. If this doesn't sound like enough of a reason to play the game, it also won an WGA award for writing, making it the first video game to ever win the award. Even if it doesn't have the most exciting fighting mechanics, the story and strangeness is enough to warrant a visit to the title, especially if you missed it the first time around.

Scribblenauts Unmasked (WiiU, 3DS)

It's easy to write off Scribblenauts Unmasked as a cheap cash-grab between two popular properties, but once you pick up Unmasked, all of that goes out the window. Gamers are already familiar with the problem-solving nature of the Scribblenauts franchise, but combining it with the complete history of DC Comics is really something else. While it's easy to just solve every problem by being Superman, it's a lot more fun to plumb the weirder parts of the Silver Age and become Robotman or the Metal Men's Lead and see what they can do in an open world. If you're a fan of comics, it's a surprisingly satisfying trip to Krypton and beyond.

Brutal Legend (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)

Playing through Brutal Legend is like rampaging through a heavy metal album cover, and that's a good thing. A strange mix of action and strategy, the game features a range of famous voice talents, including Lita Ford and the deceased Lemmy Kilmister, as well as a blistering metal soundtrack that far surpasses most modern game albums in terms of sheer motivational value. Despite capturing a solid B average rating among gaming websites, Brutal Legend hit the discount bin pretty quickly, branding it as a retail failure, mostly because no one knew what to expect from the game aside from an awesome set of tunes.