Monday, February 29, 2016

Awesome video games no one bought

In the world of video games, every now and then we'll find sleeper hits: games that fly under the radar and become huge successes, both commercially and critically. Other times, we come across games that only manage to be critical successes while performing poorly at retail. We lament these games, because not only were they awesome, but we wanted the amazing experiences they offered to spread throughout the industry. Let's pour one out for these games that were awesome, but just didn't sell like gangbusters.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was a game that was poised to do very well, especially considering the fact that the game's world and lore were crafted by renowned fantasy writer R.A. Salvatore and the art design was courtesy of Todd McFarlane himself. Kingdoms of Amalur boasted a huge world with plenty of quests to undertake, giving players over 200 hours of gameplay. This amount of content might have been a little excessive to some players, but it was there and waiting for them just in case they wanted to traverse Amalur's five regions and play it all as a fantasy adventurer.

Unfortunately, the game suffered on store shelves and only sold 1.2 million copies by the 90-day mark of its release. This might sound like an alright number, but it's considered a failure since it needed to sell three million copies to break even. And as further bad news, the game's developer, 38 Studios, filed for bankruptcy after creating this game.

Tales of Vesperia

Vesperia is actually one of the better-selling entries of the Tales series, but that's not saying much when you consider that it's part of a very niche market. While not everyone appreciates the anime-esque art style, the tons of DLC costumes, and other goodies that JRPGs have to offer, fans found a lot to like in the very first Tales game for the Xbox 360. Even though it helped Xbox 360 sales in Japan, Tales of Vesperia never reached the heights of Final Fantasy XIII's popularity or its sales. This is a shame, because the story of Yuri, Estelle, and the rest of the gang made for some great, lighthearted fare. The cel-shaded graphics were gorgeous and made the game appear to be an anime come to life. If only its sales had gone toe-to-toe with Square Enix's JRPG juggernaut.

Grim Fandago

Tim Schafer's baby, Grim Fandago, is a cult classic that was published by LucasArts, back when LucasArts was still a thing. It was the very first adventure game published by the company to use 3D graphics on pre-rendered backgrounds, making for a very unique aesthetic. The game was chock-full of film noir feels and forever immortalized Manny Calavera as one of the more unique video game characters in the medium's history.

Grim Fandago won high critical acclaim and was praised for its artistic design and direction. Unfortunately, it's considered a commercial failure, having moved about 500,000 copies in worldwide sales. That didn't stop the game from finding new life later on, as it was remastered in January 2015. If you've never played the game before (and if its sales are any indicator, you haven't), we suggest you trying Grim Fandango.


EarthBound is one of those games that not too many have played, but is still considered one of the best games in the world and is highly sought-after. Nowadays, players almost revere EarthBound, which is also known as Mother 2, and will pay almost anything to get their hands on a physical copy of the game. This is funny, because the game only sold about 140,000 units in the States, which is about half of what it sold in Japan in 1994. Some blame the poor sales on its bad marketing and the cartoony graphics, which weren't very appealing to gamers of the time. EarthBound became more popular as the years went on and actually spawned a sequel that was released in Japan in 2006 and a Wii Virtual Console port that was released in 2013. Though it didn't do well back then, it eventually won the hearts and minds of many gamers long after its original release.

Beyond Good & Evil

Ubisoft's plucky action-adventure game, Beyond Good & Evil, enjoys its status as a legend. The tale of Jade and her buddy, Pey'j, received great reviews and was critically acclaimed for its excellent graphics, storytelling, and unique cast. Moreover, its controls were very solid and made for an enjoyable gaming experience. All in all, it seemed as if Beyond Good & Evil was poised to become one of the greatest games of all time, but it suffered poor sales during its original release in 2003. Some attribute its terrible sales to bad marketing and being released at a time when the market was oversaturated with big titles. A remastered version was released in 2011 for the PlayStation network and Xbox Live Arcade, so you can play it now in glorious HD.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars was the very first GTA title developed for the Nintendo DS. Its gameplay hearkened back to the Grand Theft Auto titles of old, offering a top-down view of the action as they controlled Huang Lee in his adventures with the Triads of Liberty City. Chinatown Wars sold under 90,000 units in its first two weeks on the American market, making it a commercial dud even though it boasted amazing Grand Theft Auto gameplay that fully made use of the DS' capabilities. Some believe the problem was that the Nintendo DS, at the time, was mainly marketed as a kid-friendly handheld platform, and a game like Chinatown Wars was certainly not "kid-friendly."

Shenmue II

Ryo Hazuki continued his search for revenge in Shenmue II, a game from Sega that was released on the Dreamcast in 2001. We saw Ryo head to China, which meant that he'd be interacting with folk in a denser, more urban environment. Players spent hours talking to random people on the streets, taking jobs to earn money, and even partaking in activities like street fighting and arm wrestling.

Shenmue II was met with stellar reviews, although its sales did not reflect this positive reception. Two years after it was released, it had only moved 100,000 copies, which was far below what the original game shipped in sales. A lucky hit, Shenmue II was not.


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