The PS3 era was a happy time. Those halcyon days of seventh generation console gaming feel like an eternity ago for many, but looking back at the annals of history reveals a litany of classic games that seemed, at the time at least, like they could never be bettered. Massive AAA heavy hitters such as GTA V, The Last of Us, Arkham City, the first three Uncharted games, not to mention Skyrim, Fallout: New Vegas and Dark Souls, cemented the seventh generation as a golden age of gaming.
Heavyweight blockbusters such as these may have stolen the headlines and charged ahead in the race for revenue and sales, but there were countless other releases that slipped under the mainstream radar. Sometimes this lack of recognition was utterly warranted, but it remains a sad fact that some games simply never got the credit they deserved despite their obvious qualities. With this list of the 10 most underrated PS3 games, we hope to do our bit to redress that balance.
Developers: People Can Fly
Set during the 26th century, People Can Fly’s hugely kinetic and explosive FPS follows space pirate Grayson Hunt after he is stranded on a hostile planet and tasked with tracking down a nefarious General responsible for tricking him into committing war crimes.
It seems odd, in retrospect, that a game called Bulletstorm could fail to drum up significant attention to avoid its own publishers citing it as a disappointment. Publishers EA bemoaned at the time that the game underperformed against expectations, not making the money expected of it and, according to some reports, not managing to turn a profit for the giant studio at all.
This all seems strange considering the fact that the industry was experiencing a boom in first-person shooters when Bulletstorm dropped in 2011, although some of this apathy might have been explained by the fact that People Can Fly were experimenting with a new and unknown IP. A distinct lack of competitive online multiplayer, a mode that was certainly enjoying massive growth in the FPS market, certainly didn’t help.
Bulletstorm managed to earn itself some very decent reviews, but sales just never met the expectations of its developers or publishers, and a sequel never materialised.
9. Lollipop Chainsaw
Developers: Grasshopper Manufacture
Publishers: Warner Bros.
Lollipop Chainsaw is one of those odd games where it feels like lots of people have heard about it but not many have actually picked up and played the thing. Maybe having a semi-naked cheerleader (always a popular costume for enthusiastic cosplayers) as a mascot helped keep the game alive within the cultural conscience more than the actual game ever could.
Lollipop Chainsaw is essentially a classic hack-and-slash zombie slayer in which you assume the role of Juliet Starling, a ditsy blonde pom-pom twirler clad in nothing but a miniskirt and crop top and wielding an oversized chainsaw, cutting her way through swathes of zombies like Ash Williams cosplaying as one of the protagonists from Mean Girls. Lollipop Chainsaw’s tongue isn’t so much in its cheek as it is digging into its own jawbone like a pneumatic drill.
It’s all lightweight, self-referential fun, but Grasshopper’s experiment was just a bit too flippant and flimsy to be ever taken too seriously as a genuine proposition to warrant further releases, a lightweight piece of diversion that could never quite challenge the AAA titans. Perhaps most notable for featuring Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn as its co-writer, Lollipop Chainsaw ended up as cheap, cheerful and sadly overlooked by the masses and one of the most underrated PS3 games around.
Developer: Bottlerocket, Namco Bandai
Publisher: Namco Bandai
As far as games that do what they say on the tin, you can’t really get more transparent than BottleRocket and Namco’s 2009 blood-soaked hack-and-slasher Splatterhouse, a ludicrously over-the-top reboot of the original Splatterhouse franchise that spends most of its time bathed in swathes of crimson blood and gut-laden gore.
Splatterhouse isn’t just a violent game, it’s an unashamedly weird one, often to its benefit. When his girlfriend Jennifer is kidnapped by a nefarious doctor and professor of necrobiology, protagonist Rick manages to save his own life by putting on a ghoulish disguise known as the Terror Mask, transforming him into a Hulk-like creature blessed with super strength and power.
Everything about Splatterhouse has the trashy, metal-infused psychotic vibes that were more typical of games released in the early to mid-2000s, operating even in 2010 as something of a strange throwback that showed full commitment to its relentlessly gory premise.
With a heavy metal soundtrack blasting away in the background, Splatterhouse is the game to seek out if you like impaling demons on spikes while listening to Five Finger Death Punch. And, let’s face it, who doesn’t?
Developer: Game Republic
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
The first of two appearances for Japanese developers Game Republic on this list, Irish mythology-inspired RPG Folklore was another game that seemed to demonstrate that concepts don’t always translate well from an Eastern studio to Western audiences.
Released in 2007 at the start of a new console generation, Folklore was bold enough to play with a mythology and ideas not often seen within mainstream gaming circles. Greek and Norse legends have become commonplace with releases such as Immortals: Fenyx Rising, Hades and the God of War games, but having the confidence to take on the earthy, mischievous realm of indigenous Irish myths and folktale was pretty much untrodden ground.
What’s striking about Folklore is just how dark and creepy it can be, the tale of a journalist and a young woman drawn into the Celtic Netherworld in order to solve a longstanding murder mystery feeling strange and unsettling, an effect only augmented by some authentic and striking art design. Folklore often feels Alice in Wonderland-esque in terms of the way it pulls you into its dark and dreamy world.
Game Republic’s ambition didn’t pay off, though, certainly not in terms of revenue and commercial return, and while it certainly didn’t end up as a critical dud, Folklore didn’t quite take the world by storm through its glowing reviews, either. The studio couldn’t catch a break during its brief lifespan, with the trippy RPG another entry in a litany of games that failed to spark critical and commercial glory.
If you want a weird, unpolished gem from the past, Folklore is certainly a trip.
6. SIREN: Blood Curse
Developer: Japan Studio
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
With Resident Evil and Silent Hill hogging all of the limelight in the horror games stakes, Japan Studio’s Siren franchise ended up starved of attention. Never an obscure no-hoper but hardly a mainstream colossus, Siren entries ended up being the sort of games played by people with a genuine enthusiasm for the genre rather than by casual tourists looking for a quick and easy fright.
Debuting in 2008 exclusively for the PS3, Blood Curse was a reimagining of the very first Siren game, expanding upon the lore and story of the original with a new graphics engine, additional characters and a deeper, more explorative story. Set in the fictional Hanuda Village in Japan, Blood Curse centres on the attempts of the game’s core cast of players to uncover the mysteries of the strange supernatural forces that have descended upon the isolated village and have caused, among other things, the dead to rise from their graves.
Blood Curse distinguishes itself by being legitimately scary, to the point at which it’s worth going back and revisiting a game that is now nearly fifteen years old yet still capable of eliciting a raise in the heartbeat or chills in the spine.
For fans of Japanese horror, you’d be foolish not to heed the call of Blood Curse’s alluring terrifying siren.
5. Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom
Developer: Game Republic
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
What games like Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom remind us of is that there isn’t enough whimsy in the world of gaming. Yes, charm still abounds if you look in the right places, but the mainstream market is often dominated by violence, chaos and even hard-hitting misery. What’s wrong with games having a little wide-eyed wonder or childlike innocence? Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom had enough sweetness and charm for an entire industry.
What 2010’s hugely underrated action-adventure puzzler demonstrated was that the medium could still enthrall and captivate without constantly reverting back to violence in the age of the multiplayer FPS. The story of a young thief who finds a powerful, mythical creature in order to rescue his homeland from the dread of a mysterious force known as the “Darkness” feels like it wouldn’t be out of place in a Pixar movie.
As is often the case in the cruel modern world, sweetness and light often lose out to cynicism and loud explosions. Strong reviews couldn’t save Majin from relative obscurity, a real shame considering its evident quality. It might have evaded mainstream attention, but the spirit of Game Republic’s charming odyssey lives on in charming tales such as Ori and the Blind Forest and The Last Guardian.
A worthwhile legacy after all, then.
4. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
Developer: Ninja Theory
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Many of the most underrated PS3 games were simply just ahead of their time. A very loose interpretation of the 16th Century Chinese novel Journey to the West, 2009’s Enslaved follows protagonist Monkey as he escorts his companion Trip home after their ship crashes, navigating a hostile futuristic world in which wartime robots called “mechs” are still programmed to eradicate any surviving humans. Sounds familiar.
There are shades of Tomb Raider and Uncharted running through Enslaved, especially in the sequences in which Monkey is effortlessly traversing the ruins of an ancient city or trepidatiously crossing a chasm using a rusty drainpipe. What’s more notable is the influence Enslaved seems to have had on subsequent games, hardly a surprise considering the fact that it originally started its conceptual life as a CGI movie. Just Look at Kena: Bridge of Spirits or the Horizon games for an apparent creative debt.
Despite everything that it had going for it, Enslaved ended up a commercial failure. With developers Ninja Theory investing time and resources into new projects and later relinquishing the IP rights to the game, it seems unlikely that players will enjoy another Odyssey with Monkey and Trip.
Like many of the entries on this list, Vanquish was met with significant enthusiasm from critics and reviewers yet failed to achieve a proper commercial fanbase. With an 84 Metacritic score on the PS3, coupled with frequent eight and nines out of ten, Vanquish looked set to take over the world.
None of this ever quite panned out. It may have sold just under a million copies, but Vanquish always felt like a game that should’ve received more love and affection considering just how good it actually was. Rather tellingly, GameSpot awarded it their coveted award for the Best Game No One Played, a backhanded compliment of an award that feels like the gaming equivalent of winning “Weird Crush of the Year”.
The awarding of such a coveted title wasn’t, however, undeserved or misplaced. Vanquish’s relentlessly fast pace, aided by the augmentations and abilities of your high-tech battle suit, meant that gameplay was a breakneck thrill rather than a stodgy bore, players and critics citing the game’s bold aesthetics and novel mechanics as some of Vanquish’s strongest aspects.
It may now be more than ten years old, but one of the most underrated PS3 games of its day still offers more thrills per minute than most AAA shooters currently on the market.
2. Shadows of the Damned
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Don’t be put off by the slightly overwrought title and some questionable box art, Shadows of the Damned is a strange, woozy concoction that could only result from a gothic-infused piece of punk rock Mexicana developed by a Japanese studio and published by EA. If you want a game with a confused hybrid parentage, this is the one to go for.
Following the trials and tribulations of Garcia Hotspur (just don’t), a sort of Mexican Van Helsing traversing the underworld to rescue his girlfriend from Fleming, Lord of Demons, Shadows of the Damned seems to balance around a hundred different influences and competing ideas, feeling like an enthralling combination of Resident Evil, Red Dead Revolver and Grindhouse all fighting it out in the same package.
In fact, Shadows of the Damned is such an odd mishmash of styles, genres and influences that it’s sometimes hard to process just what’s going on, like having all of your dinner courses served to you in one big bowl so that the trifle is all mixed in with the roast beef, prawn cocktail and After Eights. It’s a relentlessly silly, bloodsoaked, and genital-obsessed piece of work, but come at it with the right mindset and Shadows of the Damned will likely reward you tenfold.
“I am not even going to ask how that makes sense,” quips Garcia after a particularly esoteric piece of textual advice. Players would do well to adopt a similarly brainless attitude. If you take it at face value and don’t think too hard (or at all), Shadows of the Damned is almost the most fun you can have in the underworld. Almost.
1. Dante’s Inferno
Developer: Visceral Games
As far as blatant rip-offs go, Dante’s Inferno is one of the best. Debt to God of War aside, Visceral Games’ own Biblical-inspired effort ironically ended as one of its generation’s most distinctive creations for its unrelentingly grim depiction of what will happen to all those misguided sinners who don’t eat their vegetables or put enough money in the church collection plate.
Focusing on crusader Dante’s quest to rescue his beloved Beatrice from the pits of the underworld, Dante’s Inferno is a classic hack and slasher in which the central protagonist pummels his way through the circles of Hell like The Punisher crossed with a very angry vicar.
It’s certainly a pretty unique experience. How many games can say that they’re based on the first chapter of Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century epic text the Divine Comedy? How many games ask you to fight Lucifer himself (distractingly naked from the waist down) in his goat-footed, giant-horned form? In fact, how many even dare to show the visceral horror of the nine circles of the underworld (Shadows of the Damned and Doom aside)? If nothing else, Dante’s Inferno deserves credit for being exceedingly ballsy, especially with regard to its superb boss designs and unrelenting commitment to its disturbing, unholy premise.
The thing about Dante’s Inferno is that it is just an inherently visceral experience. The undeniable truth is that Hell, while being exceedingly nasty, makes for a stunning backdrop, almost matching the Olympian vistas of the God of War franchise for sheer jaw-dropping scale, grim majesty and atmosphere of unerring terror. If ever there was a game to get you into a confession booth, it’s Dante’s Inferno.
Disturbing, intoxicating and violent, this is about as much fun as you can have in the crushing horror of eternal damnation, and possibly the most underrated PS3 game ever made.
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