Shack Chat: What's a game that didn't do well, but you loved anyway?

The Shack Staff discusses games that they loved despite negative reviews, sales, or perceived low quality.


Shack Chat is back once again, our weekly feature where each Friday where we’ll ask the Shacknews staff to give their opinion on a particular topic, then open the floor to our dedicated Chatty community to provide a diverse mixture of thoughts on the subject. It’s a great way for us to get to know one another better while inspiring healthy debates with all of you passionate gamers out there.

Question: What's a game that didn't do well, but you loved anyway?

Grim Fandango - Asif Khan, The Man with The Briefcase

Grim Fandango did recieved some critical acclaim when it was released, but the sales were also below expectations. This was Tim Schafer’s last game at LucasArts, as he departed the company shortly after the game shipped. His new studio Double Fine Productions was born out of the game’s financial failure.

I really love this game. It has charming voice acting and some great puzzles. The art style is still very unique and the setting was one of the coolest from these point-and-click adventure games. The game also featured Glotis, who is one of my favorite characters ever.

DmC - Brittany Vincent, Senior Editor

As soon as DmC was announced, people lost their minds about how this wasn't "their" Dante or Dante at all. I didn't really care. I didn't like Dante's new look at first, but I was just ready for a new Devil May Cry. Ninja Theory truly knocked it out of the park for one of the best Devil May Cry entries I've played since DMC3 and DMC4. To this day, it remains my favorite of the series. From the Combichrist opening to Vergil's snappy outfit and Dante's cavalier attitude, the game hit all the right notes for me. It's still derided for Dante's look and the game's overall aesthetic and reimagining of the series, but I absolutely love it and wish Ninja Theory had gone back to continue the thread. While DMC5 is fantastic from what I can tell from the demo, I really appreciated Ninja Theory's work as well.

Blur - Ozzie Mejia, Senior Editor

Bizarre Creations, the team behind Xbox's old Project Gotham Racing series, had a grand plan for its Activision debut. Take the real-world, arcade-style racing that it had become known for and sprinkle in power-ups and crazy weapons. In essence, the idea was to make adult Mario Kart. Blur was a brilliant arcade racer, with cars that handled beautifully, looked gorgeous, and were fun to wreck with lightning bolts and whatever else each track could throw in. And with 20 cars packed into a single race, there was no shortage of targets.

Sadly, Blur didn't catch on. It languished with low sales and it ultimately lead to the closure of Bizarre Creations. It's a shame, because it's a studio that deserved better, given what they put together. Even worse, the game itself has proven hard to find, with no Steam release in sight. But if you own a retail version on console, consider yourself lucky, because Blur is at the top of the list when it comes to underappreciated racers.

No Man's Sky - Josh Hawkins, New To Shack Chat

When it first released, there was a ton of controversy surrounding No Man’s Sky and the hype that Hello Games and Sean Murray had created around it. Promising multiplayer in a seamless and unending universe, the game quickly garnered a lot of hate from critics and fans alike. While it was definitely not what we’d been promised, there was something about the idea that pulled me in and made it easy to sink hours into the experience.

Now, over two years after the game’s release, Hello Games has made good on a lot of their promises. Sure, it might be too little, too late, but I still can’t help but love No Man’s Sky and what it has to offer. Diving into the game with a friend is a dream come true, and I just really love the way they’ve done a lot of things in the game. Yeah, it’s never going to be perfect—that dream has sailed long ago—but I still love No Man’s Sky and what it tried to bring to the table, even if it took a while to deliver.

Hoard - Kevin S. Tucker, Deathbringer From The Sky

One of the surprising little gems I was able to play thanks to PlayStation Plus was 2010 release Hoard from the crew at Big Sandwich Games. It’s a lightweight sort of action-strategy game that uses a dual-stick-shooter control scheme and tasks players with burning down villages and collecting resources through the power of dragonflame. The game has a crisp little tabletop fantasy aesthetic, and little touches like happy villagers and stoic knights who spur to the rescue any time princesses are kidnapped give the game a sort of a fairytale vibe. Not only is the game unexpectedly addictive, it’s simple enough even for people who aren’t usually big gamers.

Unfortunately, Hoard just never picked up much steam — players felt like it didn’t have a lot to offer, and they aren’t exactly wrong. Still, it’s a very fun little title, and I’ve purchased it on three separate platforms through the years, because it’s perfect to kill a little time at home or on-the-go, and a fantastic reason to keep breaking out my old PlayStation Portable.

Tokyo Xtreme Racer - Chris Jarrard, The Wolf

With this week’s topic, I feel that literally every game released for the Sega Dreamcast would be applicable to list here, but I’m gonna go a bit farther and select a game that was somewhat unknown, even amongst the console’s library of criminally overlooked gems. Tokyo Xtreme Racer was a launch title for the Dreamcast back in 1999. For folks picking up the console on day one, it would have been easy to miss Tokyo Xtreme Racer when you had juggernauts like Soul Calibur or NFL2K also launching with the new hardware. Even though it managed to fall through the cracks of gaming history, the Japanese street racing game was a near-masterpiece.

The setup for Tokyo Xtreme Racer was simple - crawl your way up the ranks of the illegal Japanese street racing scene by challenging rival cars and gangs to races on Tokyo’s highways. Tokyo Xtreme Racer had a unique setup for its driver showdowns. Rather than simple sprint races to a finish line or time trials, the game gave each car a life bar like you’d find in a fighting game. A car’s health would drop if it fell behind the other. The rate at which the bar fell was dependent on the distance between the cars. Once a car’s life bar was depleted, the race is over and the winner gains credits.

The novel race design was highly addictive and allowed for intense back and forth driving. As you made your way up the ranks, certain car gans and racers acted as boss battles. Winning these races was exhilarating and using the credits to upgrade or buy new cars kept me engaged endlessly. Those who still use their Dreamcast in 2019 or are looking to pick one up should put this game on their shortlist.

All the Dynasty Warriors games - Blake Morse, Musou Master

Sometimes you just wanna turn your brain off and mindlessly hack and slash your way through massive hordes of enemy soldiers. While there are a lot of games out there that offer up such an experience, no one, in my opinion at least, does it better than the Dynasty Warriors series. Its always had its cult following, but in general, critics seem to kick it to the curb. To be fair, each game does tend to have several glaring flaws, but if all pork chops were perfect we wouldn’t have hot dogs.

I don’t play Musou games because they’re a super polished, triple-A experience, I play them because they’re overpowered fun rides. The action is completely over the top, the combos are excessive and varied, and there’s a abundance of variety to the playable characters and weapons. I’ve spent far too many hours of my life playing solo and couch co-op modes with my friends and I will most likely continue to do so until I die. Dynasty Warriors is a fine example that a meal doesn’t need to be fancy to be delicious.

Advent Rising - Charles Singletary Jr, Disgruntled Netherrealm Tennant

The developers and publishers behind Advent Rising thought they had a hit on their hands. It was the first in a trilogy built upon a narrative written by author Orson Scott Card. It had an incredible orchestral score. It had a lot going for it and the marketing reflected that. Advertisements treated it like the next big thing, a comic book series was published for promo, and there was even a $1 million “Race to Save Mankind” contest. launched.

I was super amped for the game, but I didn’t have an Xbox to play it right at that moment. It came out to lukewarm reviews, largely because for all of its ambitions, it was absolutely riddled with bugs. The $1 million contest was canceled and participants were offered a couple free copies of other games. The second and third game were shelved and Advent Rising was relegated to being an unfortunate thing that happened.

I got my hands on it many months later at a pretty steep discount, thinking it could only be so bad. What I experience was an absolute treat that felt like a precursor to cinematic and exciting action adventures that we know and love now. Advent Rising was a blast despite its bugs and introduced me to a world and gameplay-style that I truly feel many gamers have missed out on. A few more months of development and we probably would be discussing it as one of the greatest trilogies of all time. Sadly, we just know it as that buggy game that had a contest for $1 million. I’m actually looking forward to playing it again via the PC port and I hope, somehow, that the series is revived in the future.

Hitman - Bill Lavoy, Agent 48

This one's a bit of a stretch but I’m going to make it work. Hitman (2016) didn’t do as well as it was expected to do, at least initially, yet I still loved it.

When IO Interactive released Hitman through Square Enix in 2016, sales were not where they were expected to be. This was largely attributed to the content release schedule. Hitman was putting out new episodes every couple months, and some players were put off by the slow-drip approach, even with fresh content ideas like the Elusive Targets. Eventually, IO Interactive and Square Enix parted ways.

However, as Destructoid reported, by May of 2018 Hitman had passed 13 million players. I know that sounds like a lot, and it is, but with so many free trials under its belt, it’s hard to tell exactly how many people out of those 13 million actually bought the game, or bought more than the bare bones starter pack. The 13 million players wasn’t necessarily the number of people who had paid for and enjoyed the full experience that Hitman had to offer.

Right from its release in March 2016, I was a huge fan of Hitman. I logged over 70 hours on the PS4 version, then switched to PC where I’ve since put in another 196 hours. Quite simply, it was one of the best games to release in 2016 thanks to the dozens of ways each location and target could be approached. It was not uncommon for me to put 20 hours of playtime into a single area, mastering everything it had to offer before moving on to the next. If you haven’t tried it, you can get the entirety of the Hitman (2016) experience when you buy Hitman 2.

Shadowrun - Sam Chandler, The Man from the Future

The amount of complaining at the release of 2007’s Shadowrun was beyond outrageous. No one wanted something “new” and “unique” done with their precious Shadowrun IP. They wanted another RPG, not a different genre set in the same universe. The game certainly had its flaws, not enough game modes and too few maps, but it did get so much right.

To this day, I maintain that 2007’s Shadowrun was a great game and ahead of its time. Shadowrun took the iconic Counter-Strike playstyle of weapon purchasing and fused it with magic and technology. In fact, I could very well argue that Blizzard took what made Shadowrun so great, changed some features, and delivered Overwatch.

I really don’t think enough people gave Shadowrun a chance. The combat was tight and the potential for strategy was high. The use of magic and technology offered various play choices. I remember loving the resurrect spell, which could bring enemies back to life, with one caveat: you were the anchor keeping that person alive - if you died, they would bleed out. Knowing you were the one person keeping an entire team alive was pulse-pounding.

Even though it wasn’t well received, I loved 2007’s Shadowrun.

Watch Dogs - Donovan Erskine, Intern

The first Watch Dogs game was seen as a disappointment in the eyes of many. Harshly criticized for its dull main character, uninspired story, and its bleak open world. After some pretty impressive showings at events like E3, fans were really expecting this to be Ubisoft’s next big hit.

For one reason or another, I never caught wind of the Watch Dogs hype train. The game wasn’t even on my radar until I found it in the Xbox store shortly after its release. A friend and I picked it up and found ourselves completely engrossed in the world of Watch Dogs. While Aiden Pearce was a pretty boring protagonist, I felt as though his story and goals throughout the campaign had quite the gravity to them, and his tragic origins made him a character I rooted for. In a post-GTA 5 world, it’s hard to make any excuses for Ubisoft’s rendition of Chicago. It’s easily one of the most generic and boring open worlds I’ve experienced. However, the hacking feature allowed me to find entertainment in just about any situation I found myself in. The range of fun and chaos that hacking provided was something I hadn’t gotten from any other game before, and it's what keeps Watch Dogs above the water for me.

Also, Watch Dogs featured an online PvP mode called Invasion, in which players had to use stealth and hacking to steal/protect data from one another. These often morphed into intense games of hide-and-seek as a match progressed and led to some heart-pounding moments. Watch Dogs remains one of my favorite properties under the vast Ubisoft umbrella.

Alpha Protocol - David Craddock, Long Reads Editor

Obsidian Entertainment’s Alpha Protocol will never get a sequel. Maybe that’s for the best. This quirky, glitchy game endeared itself to me through its open-ended story and, more than anything, its open-ended gameplay.

Roleplaying games are dominated by dragons and space-age technology. Alpha Protocol takes cues from Metal Gear and Splinter Cell to offer up the best, most thrilling spy game I’ve played to date. It’s a stealth game. Or an action game. Or a hacking game. It’s whatever you want it to be. Me, I maxed out martial arts, hand guns, and hacking--god mode, in other words. Before entering a room, I’d turn invisible. Then I’d creep in and throat-chop bad guys. Then I’d hack into safes to recover classified files. Then I’d leave, the trail of bodies as good as a signature: David was here, but you never saw him.

Disagree with our picks? Think we're a bunch of clowns? Let us know in the Chatty below.

Shack Staff stories are a collective effort with multiple staff members contributing. Many of our lists often involve entires from several editors, and our weekly Shack Chat is something we all contribute to as a group. 

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