We gamers often complain that there are too many first-person shooters or yearly sports updates being released and not enough innovative titles in development. However, there are times when developers do take a chance and release something that little bit different, only for the game to fall short at retail. Of course, it's not always our fault - sometimes the publishers are to blame for not advertising the game, sometimes a slew of great games hit the shelves at the same time, and occasionally it just isn't a good fit for the console, despite being something of a masterpiece. Digital Spy takes a look at some of the best games to have never made their mark, as well as some of the possible reasons for their failure.
One of the most beautiful and emotive games ever made, ICO should have been a far bigger hit than it was. With the aid of some wonderful animation, a dazzling soundtrack and bewitching art style, the developers managed to stir a myriad of emotions within the heart of every gamer lucky enough to nab a copy during either of the game's release periods. From the sense of loneliness and isolation that typified the early stages of the game, to the feeling of companionship and love that crept in with the introduction of Yorda, Team Ico are one of the few developers to have crafted a video game experience on par with the finest that Hollywood has to offer.
What went wrong: Before it was re-released to coincide with the launch of Shadow of the Colossus in 2005/2006, Ico was near impossible to get a hold of without shelling out some serious cash on websites such as eBay. It has achieved moderate success, but for a game of its quality, it deserved a far bigger promotional push than it received.
Where is it now: The original PS2 version can be purchased without too much hassle and for a reasonable price from online retailers, although the limited edition with postcards still fetches a pretty penny. This September also sees the release of the Ico/Shadow of the Colossus collection for the PS3.
Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem
In many respects, Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem was way ahead of its time. Players control a series of characters throughout the course of history, each somehow linked to Alexandra Roivas, the game's primary protagonist. Each character has their own weapons and can use magic to solve puzzles and lay waste to the hordes of monstrous baddies roaming the land - all of which sounds fairly conventional, that is, until the sanity effects kick in and the game becomes truly terrifying. Up becomes down, left becomes right, walls drip with blood and desperate cries of pain and suffering can be heard at every turn, making it one of the better survival horror games to have ever been released and a must for H.P. Lovecraft fans.
What went wrong: Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem would have probably stood a better chance on the PS2, which was far more popular than Nintendo's ill-fated Gamecube. It also faced stiff competition from Capcom's Resident Evil franchise. New Resident Evil games were exclusive to the Gamecube at the time, leaving Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem with the difficult task of carving out a following in the face of such sterling competition.
Where is it now: With Gamecube compatibility disappearing with the Wii U, now's the time to pick one up on the cheap. The game, on the other hand, might cost you more than the machine. New copies are quite pricey from certain online retailers, although second-hand copies are plentiful and relatively inexpensive.
Beyond Good & Evil
Beyond Good & Evil is an adventure game in a similar vein to The Legend of Zelda, but achieved nowhere near the same amount of commercial success. As Jade, a photojournalist and guardian of orphaned children, players are charged with uncovering a sinister conspiracy involving a diabolical dictatorship. The game contains a nice blend of action and stealth gameplay, and utilises Jade's photojournalist skills, as well as her uncanny knack to use a bo staff and pilot vehicles. The game won numerous awards largely thanks to its absorbing plot and superb storytelling techniques, which were finely complemented by the varied and enjoyable action.
What went wrong: Some attribute its failure to a lack of marketing, or the publishers not being able to find the right kind of audience. As with any game that is released in November, Beyond Good & Evil faced a great deal of competition from other Christmas releases, which may have been another factor in its poor performance at retail.
Where is it now: A HD remake of Beyond Good & Evil was recently released on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade, and a sequel is due for release on next-generation systems.
Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath
Featuring a combination of first and third-person gameplay, Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath is a rather unique video game, typical of the team who bought us Abe's Oddysee and Abe's Exodus. As Stranger, a bounty hunter with a bit of Clint Eastwood about him, players must hunt down wanted outlaws in order to raise some serious moolah. In addition to forcing players to catch their own ammunition, Stranger's Wrath also gives gamers an enormous amount of freedom to tackle missions in their own way. Whether going in all guns blazing and killing everything in sight, or taking a stealth approach and capturing outlaws alive, there is a multitude of ways to see the game to its conclusion. It also features some of the best graphics seen on the Xbox, as well as a really enjoyable storyline, making its lack of success all the more difficult to understand.
What went wrong: First-person shooters have never been in short supply, especially on the Xbox, which is the home of Halo after all. Alternatively, maybe the platform gameplay proved a turn-off for those craving a straightforward shooter. Also, the cartoon visuals may not sit too well with most FPS fans more used to plugging Nazis with machine guns instead of bandits with Boombats.
Where is it now: Unfortunately, the game was never made backward compatible with the Xbox 360. Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath can be downloaded from Steam, however, and a PlayStation Network re-release is on its way this summer.
Most platform games feature cute and cuddly mascots battling misbehaving monsters or Italian plumbers rescuing princesses clad in pink. Psychonauts, on the other hand, was more of an interactive therapy session, taking players on a madcap journey into the deepest, darkest recesses of the mind. With Tim Schafer at the helm - of Monkey Island fame - the game's dark humour and weaving narrative was to be expected, but the near-flawless platform gameplay and design may have taken some players by surprise, especially coming from a man famous for graphic adventure games and a development team (Double Fine) in its infancy.
What went wrong: It's hard to say, really. The game was unanimously praised by critics and consumers, but simply failed to shift many copies. Maybe the adult themes made it difficult to market within the 3D platform genre, or perhaps it was the sheer number of competing Xbox and PS2 games available at the time.
Where is it now: Psychonauts can be downloaded from Steam or from Xbox Live for the bargain price of 1200 Microsoft Points (£10.20 / $15).
Okami was an innovative action adventure game released on the PS2 in 2006 (North America) and the Wii in 2008. Playing as sun goddess Amaterasu, players were charged with restoring light to a land increasingly threatened by darkness. Armed with the Celestial Brush, Amaterasu could conjure objects, attack enemies and summon the elements by painting on the beautiful cel-shaded environment. In fact, the game's distinct art-style was by far its biggest strength, and the prominent use of ink and watercolours gave Okami a magical quality simply not present in other adventure games.
What went wrong: Clover Studios had a knack of producing great games that appealed to the hardcore video gamer, but failed to generate huge sales. Viewtiful Joe was perhaps its most popular title, while the criminally underrated God Hand could quite easily have made this list. Timing may have been the biggest issue, however, as Okami was released mere months before the arrival of the PlayStation 3.
Where is it now: The PS2 version can be picked up online for a reasonable price, while the Wii version and Nintendo DS sequel Okamiden are available from most high street stores. Lead character Amaterasu is also a playable character in Marvel Vs. Capcom 3.
Earth Defence Force 2017
Playing Earth Defence Force 2017 (and PS2 predecessor Global Defence Force) is like participating in a virtual B-movie. Waves and waves of giant insects and robots are terrorising cities around the world and can only be stopped by pumping them full of lead. Featuring a whopping number of levels and a never-ending supply of enemies, Earth Defence Force 2017 isn't teeming with depth, but contains enough action and carnage to compete with any shooter both past and present. It may not feature the finest visuals or presentation, but what it lacks in sophistication it more than makes up for in charm, personality and sheer enjoyment, which is why it remains popular with its devoted fanbase.
What went wrong: Both Global Defence Force and Earth Defence Force 2017 received a fairly limited push at retail. Many shops didn't stock the PS2 original, although, oddly enough, it seemed to find its way into many a bargain bin at local supermarkets. The sequel faired far better, making its way into most high street stores, but was only ever going to do so well without a big advertising campaign to raise awareness.
Where is it now: Earth Defence Force 2017 can still be found in most video game stores and is available online, although prices are rapidly increasing. Its PS2 predecessor can also be found online, but be prepared to pay slightly over the odds for it. A sequel entitled Earth Defence Force: Insect Armageddon is due to be released for the PS3 and Xbox 360 on July 5 and July 8 in the US and UK respectively.
Muramasa: The Demon Blade
Released for the Wii in 2009, Muramasa: The Demon Blade went largely unnoticed by the general public, despite receiving predominantly rave reviews from the video game press. An old-school action game with RPG elements, it features a whole host of ninjas, demons, spirits, princesses and mythical blades, all taken from the pages of Japanese mythology. It also sports some of the most impressive visuals seen on the Wii to date, utilising a hand-drawn art-style oozing with rich and vibrant colours.
What went wrong: Muramasa: The Demon Blade is a hardcore game on a Wii console which is marketed more towards families and children. It is also a Japanese-centric title and not necessarily in tune with the wants of the Western gamer. Coming out around the same time as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 probably didn't help either, or the lack of advertising for that matter.
Where is it now: It can still be found in most high-street stores, usually in multi-buy deals with other games. It can also be picked up online, alongside its PS2 spiritual predecessor Odin Sphere - another criminally underrated game.
What are your favourite under-appreciated titles? Add a comment to the space below!