Top 20 Cult Classic Video Games Of All Time

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Top 20 Cult Classic Video Games Of All Time

VOICE OVER: Riccardo Tucci WRITTEN BY: Garrett Alden
Sometimes, incredible games will have disappointing launches only to develop a passionate cult following later in life. For this list, we'll be going over some of the best games with devoted followings which were underappreciated at the time of their release. Our countdown includes "Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem" (2002), "Grim Fandango" (1998), "Psychonauts" (2005), "Planescape: Torment" (1999), and more!
Transcript
Sometimes, incredible games will have disappointing launches only to develop a passionate cult following later in life. For this list, we’ll be going over some of the best games with devoted followings which were underappreciated at the time of their release. Our countdown includes "Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem" (2002), "Grim Fandango" (1998), "Psychonauts" (2005), "Planescape: Torment" (1999), and more! If there’s a forgotten classic game that we forgot to include, please – start a cult of your own in the comments.

#20: “Catherine” (2011)


“Catherine” is a tough game to categorize and an even tougher one to explain. Essentially, it’s a cross between a dating sim and a puzzle platformer. By day, the protagonist Vincent is torn between two women named Catherine, albeit with differently spelled names. By night, the player must navigate nightmarish block towers in the main gameplay sections…in their underwear. The anime aesthetic and bizarre mashup of gaming elements initially kept it something of a niche game, but a remake/definitive edition and word of mouth has helped people see that “Catherine” is a dream come true.

#19: “Jet Force Gemini” (1999)


Rare put out a ton of great games in the ‘90s and early 2000s, but this one flew under most people’s radars. A sci-fi adventure game, “Jet Force Gemini” gives players control over twin space heroes and their dog as they fight an evil insectoid race bent on conquest. While the controls can get some getting used to, and there can be some tedious collecting in the late game, “Jet Force Gemini” is a solid experience overall, with plenty of worlds to explore and three different characters to control. There’s even multiplayer! And while finding fellow fans of this hidden gem used to be as easy as finding that last Tribal, the word has gotten out in the last few decades.

#18: “TimeSplitters” Franchise (2000-05)


We’re making an exception to our one entry per franchise rule in this case, as this entire series somehow escaped most people’s notice. Although they were developed by many of the same team as famed FPSes “Goldeneye 007” and “Perfect Dark,” the “TimeSplitters” series didn’t receive nearly as much attention as their predecessors. It’s a shame, because their core concept is fantastic – an FPS that spans multiple time periods! TimeSplitters’ inventive premise, fun gameplay, and offbeat sense of humor have won the series a devoted following. With rumors of a new game at last, it’s a great time to take a trip to the past with these games.

#17: “Skies of Arcadia” (2000)


It seems like every other RPG has airships in them, but “Skies of Arcadia” took the concept and ran with it! It’s a shame that gamers didn’t latch on to it with the same enthusiasm, though we can’t for the life of us understand why not! The whole game is set in the skies, which you explore as a crew of heroic sky pirates fighting against a villainous empire. There’s an epic storyline, great turn-based combat, and you even get to customize your own ship! How did this not sell like hot cakes?! It’s a game about sky pirates! Thankfully, “Skies of Arcadia” fans have kept their heads in the clouds.

#16: “Ico” (2001)


The first game by Team Ico, who would go on to create famed games like “Shadow of the Colossus” and “The Last Guardian,” “Ico” didn’t have the reputation or hype its successors did. It's a simple concept, a boy and girl trying to escape a castle together solving puzzles, and is executed artfully and with a skill that feels ahead of its time. While not successful commercially, “Ico” has often been cited by game developers and even filmmakers as being hugely influential, and its cult following has kept it in the discussion of arthouse video games for years.

#15: “Planescape: Torment” (1999)


The obscurity of “Planescape: Torment” has tortured fans of the game for decades, because it’s a fantastic title that is rarely discussed. Set in the “Dungeons & Dragons” setting of Planescape, “Torment” features “D&D”’s complex morality system into its story, with a nameless protagonist who can be good or evil depending on the player’s choices. While there is combat, there’s an emphasis on dialogue throughout the game and some conflicts can be resolved by talking. Thankfully, with the rise in popularity of “D&D,” as well as an enhanced version released across platforms in 2017, “Planescape: Torment” has gotten more recognition as of late.

#14: “The Legend of Dragoon” (1999)


JRPGs can all run together for some people, and “The Legend of Dragoon” didn’t make a splash like its peers on the PS1. While some criticized it as derivative, what JRPG isn’t? On its own, it’s a great game, with an engaging combat system that utilizes QTEs to keep its turn-based combat more engaging and which lets you turn into a dragon during battle! The fan community for the game is surprisingly active and has been enthusiastically trying to create an upscaled version of the game. Here’s hoping their passion gets the game the remake or remaster it deserves.

#13: “Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem” (2002)


Nintendo has a reputation as a family friendly company, whose games can be enjoyed by anyone, so we can understand why a psychological horror game didn’t exactly fly off the shelves. This has driven its fans “crazy,” since this gem is one of the most beloved horror games of the last 20 years. “Eternal Darkness” has an innovative sanity system, which creates random effects on the environment in proximity to enemies, heightening the immersion as the player and characters feel their grip on reality loosening. Along with its wild central mechanic, “Sanity’s Requiem” has a host of other great features, including multiple characters, locations, and even time periods to explore. It’s tragic that attempts at a sequel and spiritual successor haven’t been successful thus far.

#12: “Spec Ops: The Line” (2012)


Shooters can be a dime a dozen, so it can be hard to stand out when there are so many A-list titles out there. Despite being a commercial failure, “Spec Ops: The Line” has developed quite a following over the years. While its gameplay is similar to many of its peers, “Spec Ops” distinguishes itself through its challenging narrative. The game delves into morally questionable territory and confronts the player with the consequences of their choices in a brutal and intriguing way. This dark subject matter has ensured that some feel the game crosses…well, “the line.” For those willing to toe or cross it though, “Spec Ops” is something special.

#11: “American McGee’s Alice” (2000)


“Alice in Wonderland” is already a bizarre and unnerving story, but one of the guys behind “Doom” decided to make it even more disturbing…before Tim Burton did, anyway. The game recontextualizes Alice’s adventures in Wonderland as being inside Alice’s mind and after psychological and physical trauma, her Wonderland gets even darker. A grim, psychological action adventure game, “American McGee’s Alice” went largely unnoticed by the gaming community at large, although its macabre style has drawn interest from people wanting to adapt it to the big screen, and a sequel helped guide even more people down the rabbit hole.

#10: “’Splosion Man” (2009)


In most games, blowing up is something to be avoided. However, in “’Splosion Man,” it’s basically the whole point! By exploding in various ways, the titular character can navigate levels, defeat bosses, and solve puzzles. There is even a co-op mode for up to four players. It also leans into the silliness of its premise and has some great humor. While it did receive a sequel, “’Splosion Man” has not “blown up” among mainstream gamers. But for those willing to give it a chance, this game makes for an explosively good time, whether you play solo or with friends.

#9: “Ōkami” (2006)


As one of the final games to be released on the PS2, “Ōkami” didn’t sell well at first. However, critics praised its gorgeous, cel-shaded art style and fun gameplay, which was modeled after the “Zelda” series. The game’s popularity, like its fiery wolf protagonist Amaterasu, has burned brightly as time has gone on. Several remakes and HD ports have kept “Ōkami” in the public eye. Like many great works of art, “Ōkami” took a while to complete and was unappreciated in its time, but it’s now heralded as a masterpiece.

#8: “Fallout” (1997)


We know what you’re thinking – how can a game with the name brand recognition of “Fallout” be a cult classic? Well, have you played the original “Fallout?” While its franchise is a headliner these days, the original game remains relatively underplayed compared to its successors, despite commercial and critical success. But if gamers have the caps to spend, “Fallout”’s famous, retro-apocalyptic aesthetic is still fresh, plus its turn-based combat is quite different from the action-oriented battles found in later games. Fallout’s cult status helped lead to mainstream success, but it never hurts to look back at where that success came from.

#7: “Grim Fandango” (1998)


Developer/game director Tim Schafer has a reputation for creating some of the best cult classic games out there. “Grim Fandango” is the first we’ll be discussing. A strange mashup of a film noir story and a Day of the Dead aesthetic, “Grim Fandango” is an odd, but charming experience. While not super profitable upon release, as it came out when adventure games were on the downturn, “Grim Fandango” has remained a much-beloved hidden gem, thanks to Schafer’s reputation and a remastered version. “Grim Fandango” is a game unlike any other – make no bones about it.

#6: “Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver” (1999)


“The Legacy of Kain” series is an oft-overlooked dark fantasy franchise from the late ‘90s and early 2000s. “Soul Reaver” follows Raziel, a vampire murdered and betrayed by the titular Kain, and his attempts to defeat his former master. Although the combat can be repetitive and some of the environments simple, “Soul Reaver” has an intriguing mechanic that lets you shift between the real and spectral realms, which is helpful in solving puzzles and traversing obstacles. Plus, its epic story and brilliantly realized world have inspired its legion of fans.

#5: “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines” (2004)


Not every game lives up to its potential at first. “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines” was released barely finished at first, as its developers had run out of time and money. However, at its core, “Bloodlines” has an intriguing setting, with a ton of rich lore about vampires, as well as a unique gameplay system built around keeping vampirism secret from humanity. There are also several clans whose distinctive strengths and weaknesses make every playthrough different. Fortunately, “Bloodlines” has received support from its dedicated fans in the years since its release, patching some of its shortcomings and bugs, and drumming up enough interest for a sequel, which is currently in development.

#4: “System Shock 2” (1999)


A blending of an action RPG and a first person shooter, “System Shock 2” was before its time. While a failure commercially, this sequel was much-lauded by fans and proved highly influential on games that followed, including spiritual successor “BioShock.” In spite of its influence, “System Shock 2”’s cyberpunk/horror aesthetic feels wholly its own and its various weapons, upgrades, and classes give it a great replay value. Fans have clamored for a sequel for decades, and while rumors and plans have floated around for decades, we’re still waiting on anything concrete. Give us more SHODAN!

#3: “God Hand” (2006)


Made by Clover Studio, the same folks behind “Okami,” “God Hand” is another cult classic unappreciated when it was released. A 3D beat ‘em up, “God Hand” is more than the genre’s typical button mashers. Its complex fighting system and tough enemies can take some getting used to, but those into technical combat swear by the game. Not only that, but “God Hand” has some hilarious and wacky humor throughout. No wonder so many went on to be involved in PlatinumGames!

#2: “Psychonauts” (2005)


Tim Schafer strikes again! While “Psychonauts” may have flopped big time upon first release, it has gained a huge following over the years. This platformer follows Raz, a would-be Psychonaut as he attends a summer camp for psychics, and his literal explorations of the rest of the characters’ minds to unravel a conspiracy. “Psychonauts”’ inventive level design, great cast of characters, and Schafer’s signature humor have turned the game into a juggernaut of a cult hit. Its popularity is such that it recently got a long-awaited sequel, driving “Psychonauts” fans out of their minds with joy.

#1: “EarthBound” (1994)


The ultimate cult classic, “EarthBound” sold well in Japan, but bombed in North America. In the years since then however, it has built up a reputation as one of gaming’s best. Technically a sequel, and originally titled “Mother 2,” “EarthBound” is a deceptively simple RPG, with basic, but inventive turn-based combat. Where the game really hooks people is its world and story though, as its goofy, off-beat tone pervades everything from its characters to its enemies to its music. The “EarthBound” fandom has developed fan games, documentaries, and a host of other material on the game and the franchise. In contrast to its title, the praise for “EarthBound” is out of this world.
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