Top 10 Most Underrated Video Games of the 2000s

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Top 10 Most Underrated Video Games of the 2000s

VOICE OVER: Callum Janes WRITTEN BY: Johnny Reynolds
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Underrated Games of the 2000s. The 2000s saw a lot of great releases, though some got a lot less love than they deserved. So, for this list, we'll be shining a light on some underappreciated classics. Our countdown includes "Arx Fatalis" (2002), "American McGee's Alice" (2000), "The Darkness" (2007), "Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth" (2005), and more!
Transcript
Script written by Johnny Reynolds

#10: “American McGee’s Alice” (2000)


Long before Tim Burton attempted to make Wonderland weird, game designer American McGee directed this gothic horror retelling. The story follows Alice in a psychiatric hospital after her family dies in a fire. She uses Wonderland to escape from her real life, which allowed the developers to create some seriously twisted imagery due to Alice’s damaged mental state. At the time, it was a completely unique premise. And while it sold well, it’s PC-only release kept console players unaware until it was re-released in 2011. But even with a sequel, it’s a wonderfully nightmarish game that doesn’t get brought up enough when talking about retellings of famous pop culture figures.

#9: “The Darkness” (2007)


Based on the Image Comic of the same name, “The Darkness” follows a hitman for the Italian mob who inherits a dark family secret. That secret being an evil spirit that gleefully basks in death and misery. Surviving an assassination attempt, players must seek vengeance while dealing with the spirit trying to consume them. The FPS gunplay is solid, but the real star is the evil spirit that grants multiple incredible powers throughout the game. Players can summon minions, impale enemies, and gain darkness-enhanced guns to mow down more. It’s incredibly satisfying becoming the monster hiding in the shadows, a facet that “The Darkness” fully cashed in on. While it did get a sequel, it should’ve become a franchise.

#8: “Beyond Good & Evil” (2003)


Ubisoft has produced a lot of famous games. But one of its best has never quite gotten the recognition it deserves. “Beyond Good & Evil” follows Jade, a photojournalist hired to investigate disappearances on her planet. The game is a fantastic study in world-building, from its unique architectural designs to its plot revolving around invading aliens and the elite citizens that may or may not be in cahoots with them. It’s also a unique take on action-adventure gameplay, mixing traditional combat in with Jade’s photography mechanic that is used to gather evidence. A critical darling, “Beyond Good & Evil” was a major financial flop at the time. And while a sequel was announced some time ago, who knows what happened to it.

#7: “Metroid: Zero Mission” (2004)


One of the worst-selling entries in a series that has never been known for strong sales is definite grounds for this list. “Zero Mission” was a remake of the 1987 original released for the GBA. And it was a fantastic remake. It features the same basic plot as its source material, but loads on a ton of new weapons and upgrades, areas, and even some new beasties to slay. That’s not to mention the handheld’s wonderful sprites. But it’s underrated status may be about to change. Following “Metroid: Dread’s” E3 announcement, “Zero Mission” became the best-selling game on the Wii U e-shop, closely followed by the also underrated “Metroid: Fusion”. Now if only Nintendo would put its GBA catalog on their actual current gen system.

#6: “Sacrifice” (2000)


For the year that it was released, “Sacrifice” is monumental. The RTS puts players in the shoes of Eldred, a wandering wizard who’s offered a home by five different gods. But a prophecy that predicts their downfall from a traitor who only Eldred can defeat makes choosing a lot more precarious. The battles are pristine whether in single-player or multiplayer as you must cast spells and summon creatures to desecrate the altars of your opponents. High replayability through the five choosable gods and incredible voice actors, such as the legendary Tim Curry, helped it become one of the coolest strategy games of the era. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean it sold well. And it has largely been forgotten for the innovations it accomplished.

#5: “Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth” (2005)


Horror games and H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythology will always be a great pairing. And developer Headfirst Productions fused the two to fantastic results with this cult classic. Loosely based on Lovecraft’s novella “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” the game follows an unstable PI on a missing persons case in a dilapidated and cult-infested town. The game was designed with hardcore horror gamers in mind, featuring scarce resources, no HUD, and injuries that can vastly impact gameplay. It’s also creepy as Hell. Beyond the spooky Lovecraftian theme, your character’s sanity can affect your playthrough, causing a variety of hallucinations. This should have been the start of a series. But sadly, Headfirst went bankrupt shortly after the game’s release, leaving several planned sequels cancelled.

#4: “Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura” (2001)


There are fantasy RPGs and there are sci-fi RPGs. But “Arcanum” falls somewhere in-between and we wish more games would. The game is set in a recognizable fantasy world in the midst of an industrial revolution. It follows the lone survivor of an attack on a luxury zeppelin, who must then hunt down the perpetrator. The player character is highly customizable from race to skills to a focus on magic or technology. This, along with its open world that adapts its storylines to how you play, was exceptionally impressive at the time. “Arcanum” sold well initially, but didn’t earn enough revenue overall. And after a couple of releases that also weren’t big sellers, developer Troika Games closed down in 2005.

#3: “Arx Fatalis” (2002)


Arkane has always been an underrated developer, though hopefully the incredible “Deathloop” will make players wish to explore the studio’s first release. The first-person fantasy RPG is set in a world whose sun has died, driving all living creatures underground. It’s an engaging premise, backed up by non-linearity with multiple ways to complete sidequests as well as your main quest. Its spell-casting and stealth systems may seem simple now, but at the time they showed promise for the future “Dishonored” developer. However, the game was far from commercially successful, likely because it released around the same time as other high-profile RPGS: BioWare and Obsidian’s “Neverwinter Nights” and Bethesda’s “The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.”

#2: “Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines” (2004)


“Arcanum” was Troika’s most profitable game, but “Bloodlines” holds the legacy as the studio’s most underappreciated gem. Published by Activision in 2004, it had the unenviable task of competing with the highly anticipated “Half-life 2.” Which means it sold incredibly poorly, though a lot of technical bugs from a tumultuous development period probably didn’t help. However, what the game did right was glorious for those who played it. The player controls a new vampire whose abilities and experience can change depending on which vampire clan they side with. There is a ton of variety in how the story can progress, which led to passionate fans who would fix the game’s bugs and add in unused content.

#1: “Psychonauts” (2005)


Despite being re-released on multiple digital storefronts, Double Fine’s “Psychonauts” has seemingly never found a mainstream audience. Though many may have heard of its greatness from the dedicated fanbase over the years, the game has unfortunately never grown to the heights of other 3D platformers. And that’s a real shame. It’s wildly inventive from its outlandish artstyle to its even more insane premise of platforming through each whacky character’s psyche. It’s cartoonish humor and wonderful characters should’ve led to great sales, though it obviously didn’t. However, word of mouth eventually led to 2021’s fully fledged sequel. And hopefully we don’t have to wait another 16 years for a follow-up.
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