The PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Project Scarlett are both scheduled to launch next year, and with their release the current gaming generation will come to an end. There are a ton of different video games that have received critical acclaim and high sales figures over the last six years, ranging from platform exclusives to third-party games that released on practically everything. However, there are also plenty of games that didn’t get the appreciation they deserved, either with low review scores or sales, and we’ll be damned if we forget their importance. These are 20 of the most underrated games of the generation, including games on PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.
Dontnod Entertainment did release an excellent sequel to its game Life is Strange, but the studio also had something else cooking that took us by surprise: Vampyr. Set just after World War I, the action-role-playing game stars a doctor who has just been transformed into a vampire and must decide between keeping his Hippocratic Oath and feeding on the living. Its world is filled with unique characters — almost all of whom can be sacrificed to make your character stronger. With supernatural abilities and an atmospheric take on London to explore, it’s enthralling despite its relatively low production values.
Deck13 Interactive’s Lords of the Fallen was a pretty run-of-the-mill Souls-like, with a fantasy setting and little to separate it from similar clones. The studio took a very different direction, however, with The Surge, a science-fiction action-RPG is equal parts Bloodborne and Elysium. With a limb-targeting system, unique upgrades to an exo-suit, and industrial setting, it stood out from the competition and even streamlined some of the genre’s more frustrating mechanics. Its sequel was more widely appreciated, but the first game is definitely worth checking out for anyone looking for their next controller-breaking obsession.
The Evil Within 2
Shinji Mikami directed one of the best survival-horror games of all time, Resident Evil 4, and fans were eager for The Evil Within to see if he was capable of surpassing his masterpiece. The game wasn’t able to match the high standards of its predecessor, often feeling like it was retreading the same ground. However, its much weirder and more polished sequel The Evil Within 2 didn’t want to replicate past successes. Instead, it was a completely original and cerebral take on the genre with storytelling that matched its gameplay. Despite this, sales were very low, and it is unclear if developer Tango Gameworks will be given the chance for a third game.
Read our full The Evil Within 2 review
Developed in collaboration with legendary designer Eugene Jarvis, Housemarque’s Nex Machina might just be the best twin-stick arcade shooter ever made. It’s a relentlessly difficult game that controls like butter, with simple abilities and a huge number of enemies to defeat in order to get through each area and save the humans on the ground. When it comes time to fight a boss, things get quite hectic, and making it through the whole game without dying dozens of times is nearly impossible. Despite being the best game in the studio’s entire catalog, it sold poorly, ultimately leading to Housemarque declaring “arcade is dead” and attempting a comeback in the AAA space, instead. That’s a shame, as it risks losing what made it so special.
Super Daryl Deluxe
Designed primarily by just two people, Super Daryl Deluxe is a Metroidvania game by way of Napoleon Dynamite. Set in a high school where the different classrooms lead to a fantastical world, the game stars the completely silent titular hero, who must venture into the unknown in order to prevent total chaos. The game’s strength lies not only in its gorgeous artwork and music, but its often-hilarious writing. It has jokes about everything from Georgia O’Keeffe to Genghis Khan, all told with a sharp wit and knack for wordplay. Super Daryl Deluxe doesn’t try to reinvent what it means to be an action-platforming game, but it does deliver one fantastic take on the template.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
After the horrendously broken Assassin’s Creed Unity launched in 2014, expectations for the series’ future were at an all-time low, but Ubisoft managed to turn things around with Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. Going even further into the future — all the way to the industrial revolution in London — the stealth-action game stars two twin heroes and builds on the classic franchise tropes in new ways. Missions are less frustrating with fewer auto-fail conditions, combat is more challenging and refined, and the simple stealth mechanics are complemented by traversal options such as a grappling hook tool. It was overshadowed by the next year’s Assassin’s Creed Origins as the series became an RPG, but Syndicate is the better game.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
After launching Rise of the Tomb Raider in 2015, Crystal Dynamics passed off the development torch to Eidos Montreal for its sequel, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider delivered a darker, more personal, and extremely violent conclusion to Lara Croft’s origin story. Set in Latin American, primarily in Peru, the game delivered much of the same stealth and all-out action mixed with traversal we have come to expect from the series, and though it certainly didn’t reinvent the wheel, it was a satisfying way to wrap things up. Of course, there is always still room for another game, and despite the lower review scores compared to its predecessor, Shadow of the Tomb Raider proves that the series is anything but dead.
Read our full Shadow of the Tomb Raider review
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare
Electronic Arts and Dice have had mixed results with their first-person shooters this generation, ranging from the excellent Battlefield 1 to the underwhelming Star Wars: Battlefront reboot. One game that certainly surprised us, however, was Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, which made use of Dice’s Frostbite engine and was developed by PopCap Games. Taking the tower defense game and turning it into a team-based third-person multiplayer shooter shouldn’t have worked, but the different classes’ goofy abilities and a surprisingly engaging progression system helped to make it an excellent title that never got enough attention. Playing the Garden Ops defense mode with a friend or battling it out against other players never gets old.
Read our full Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare review
Resident Evil: Revelations 2
Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 7 both got plenty of acclaim this generation, but the spinoff horror game Resident Evil: Revelations 2 went relatively under the radar in comparison. Starring a mix of new and returning characters, including Resident Evil 2’s Claire Redfield, the game plays like a mix of the original series and the newer, more action-oriented entries. Rather than the doomed ship setting of the previous game, it finds our heroes on a secluded prison island, and they go up against some of the most terrifying enemies in franchise history. Resident Evil: Revelations 2 lacks the production values of the more successful main games, but its old-school influences make it a must-play for horror fans.
Read our full Resident Evil: Revelations 2 review
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
The Call of Duty game that players seem to have forgotten, with bigger titles like Black Ops 4 and Modern Warfare taking the spotlight, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare was the first game that Sledgehammer Games took the lead on, but it does not have the growing pains one might expect. With a thrilling campaign that warns against the dangers of private military contractors, a vertical multiplayer component with exo-suits, and some of the best weapon handling and progression in the series to date, Advanced Warfare is an outstanding shooter. Perhaps the move further into the future was its undoing, as it will likely never get a sequel, but it’s a Call of Duty game done right.
Read our full Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare review
The Crew 2
Forza Horizon 4 is the best racing game available this generation, but that is no reason to knock Ubisoft’s own open-world games. After the underwhelming The Crew, which suffered from pretty abysmal driving physics and uninteresting world-building, the sequel pulled out all the stops. Cars, trucks, planes, dirt bikes, and even boats are all available as you venture across the United States and compete in races. The game is pretty enormous and has plenty of variety, and The Crew 2 ditches the seriousness of its predecessor for something that just lets you have fun. In a racing game like this, it’s definitely the right move.
The first Rage was a very odd game for Id Software, in large part because it just felt so safe with its post-apocalyptic setting, brown and gray environments, and cookie-cutter combat. For the sequel no one really asked for, the studio partnered with Avalanche Studios of Mad Max and Just Cause fame and managed to deliver a completely different type of game. Still maintaining the vehicular combat of the original, Rage 2’s world is much more colorful and vibrant, its side missions are more entertaining, and most importantly, its first-person shooting feels incredible. Perhaps its relatively uninteresting story remains its downfall, but few other games handle the wasting enemies as well as Rage 2.
Read our full Rage 2 review
Sure, Insomniac Games’ Ratchet & Clank remake and Spider-Man game are both classics, but we cannot forget the outstanding Sunset Overdrive it released near the start of the console generation. Originally an Xbox One exclusive, the game blends goofy third-person action with traversal mechanics similar to the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series, all with an irreverent and goofy sense of humor that includes several references to video games themselves and fourth-wall-breaking moments. It didn’t have the name recognition fo some of the studio’s more recent games, but it’s a truly underappreciated gem.
Read our full Sunset Overdrive review
Rough around the edges but with a very solid foundation, Darksiders III may have been a victim of expectations. It’s the sequel to two fairly enormous action-adventure games but developed by a different studio on a fraction of the budget. As such, it’s smaller and shorter, but the core Souls-style combat mechanics and different forms for protagonist Fury still make it incredibly satisfying. The boss design is also excellent, and you feel like every victory is earned rather than given to you with overpowered special attacks.
Read our full Darksiders III review
Valiant Hearts: The Great War
Many war video games attempt to tell an anti-war story while also allowing you to kill hundreds of people. Valiant Hearts: The Great War is not one of those games. Set during World War I and starring several different characters, including a nurse, the game shows how the conflict became a matter of survival and self-preservation for many, and the heroic lengths some went to save their fellow humans. Its environmental and visual storytelling, as well as a truly heartbreaking climax, make it one of the most emotional games of the generation, and one that far too few people have played.
The new game Contra: Rogue Corps is terrible, but the Hard Corps spiritual successor Blazing Chrome is not! Developed as an homage to the classic Contra games of the 16-bit era, this 2D run and gun game delivers an excellent blend of all-out action, difficult boss battles, and weapon choice to deliver the Contra game fans really wanted. Not having the Contra name likely means it will not be played by as many people, but it is far better than anything Konami has done with the series in over a decade.
No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky was certainly not underrated when it launched in 2016. In fact, it was extremely disappointing, with an enormous but relatively pointless universe to explore and little incentive for players to keep going. Over the years, however, updates have added multiplayer, base building, quality-of-life improvements, and plenty of customization options that finally bring it into line with what we expected when it was first announced during the VGX Awards. Hello Games isn’t done yet, either, with large content updates released on a regular basis to add even more features.
Read our full No Man’s Sky review
Yes, we’re serious. The first Knack became a meme for its sheer mediocrity, and for the perplexing decision to make it a PS4 launch game. Its sequel, however, is a much more interesting game, with deeper combat and puzzle mechanics and a charming, if familiar, story. It’s the perfect game for a family to enjoy with their kids, and its difficulty strikes a nice balance between genuine challenge — even for adults — and something that younger players can enjoy without frustration.
Read our full Knack 2 review
Super Time Force
Capybara Games’ unique pixel art style has been used for plenty of adventure and role-playing games over the years, but its unique take on the classic sidescrolling run-and-gun might just be its best. Playing like a blend of Metal Slug and a VCR, you control several different time-traveling heroes and can rewind time in order to duplicate them and have them work together to fight enemies. After just a few minutes, the game’s twist becomes second nature, and it deserves much more recognition than it received.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War
When Middle-earth: Shadow of War first released, it was rightly criticized for microtransactions that had no place in a single-player action-adventure game, but once Monolith Productions removed them and streamlined its progression system, we were left with a brilliant sequel to Shadow of Mordor. Building on its foundation, including the excellent Nemesis system, its mix of Batman-style brawling action and Assassin’s Creed stealth give you numerous ways to approach a situation, even if you just want to send in your minions to do your bidding.
Read our full Middle-earth: Shadow of War review