The 5 Best-Reviewed Games You Might Not Have Heard Of

3. Freedom Force – 90%

Baldur’s Gate — and its influence on practically every RPG to come after it — cannot be overlooked. Freedom Force was heavily influenced by Baldur’s Gate, and unfortunately often can be. A campy, tongue-in-cheek take on superhero combat, the game cannily invokes the Silver Age of comics, when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created heroes with absolutely no concept of irony.

Freedom Force’s heroes are controlled four at a time, at the squad level. Players can stop, slow, or speed up time in order to better coordinate the actions of their chosen superhero quartet. Clever touches like destructible (and wieldable) scenery, fire that accidentally spreads, and a fully unfettered camera makes the action that much more fun. Throw in a robust set of character creation tools and the ability to import player-created characters into the game, and you’ve got a potent super-serum of enjoyment.

Critics apparently agreed, handing out 9-10 scores like The Thing hands out punches to the face. Despite the approbation it received around the time of its 2002 release, Freedom Force is available on Steam for only $4.99.

2. Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor – 92%

Michigan-based developers Stardock are deservedly praised for their tight relationship with fans, so it’s fitting that they got their best review scores for this expansion pack, which incorporated a number of fan-suggested changes. Twilight of the Arnor perfected what was already a great game, tweaking the 4X formula Stardock established in Galactic Civilizations II in all the right ways.

Critics point to the clear differentiation between civilizations as the biggest change, and it’s this deft move by the developers that revolutionizes diplomacy, research, and replay value. By programming the Twilight of the Arnor’s already-clever AI to behave in civilization-specific manner, Stardock was also able to ensure a consistent challenge in a game that lacks multiplayer. The Galactic Civlizations II Ultimate Edition, with all expansions included, is available for download on Gamestop’s “Impulse Driven” imprint for $19.99.

1. The Operative: No One Lives Forever – 91%

Austin Powers was still riding high in 2000, though The Operative: No One Lives Forever earned its glowing review scores entirely on merit, not by association. Monolith Productions took a swinging 60′s secret agent premise, flipped the script by introducing a female lead, and created an all-time classic.

Packed full of Bondian gadgetry, period music, goofy humor, and exotic locales, NOLF is the rare game that can blend an irreverent tone with deep, nuanced gameplay. Bodacious heroine Cate Archer will have to use stealth, violence and ingenuity to make it to the end of the game, all the while avoiding civilian casualties and tangling with enemies who dodge and take cover — two abilities that turned a lot of heads when the game was released.

Unfortunately, like most of Ms. Archer’s wardrobe, NOLF is currently out of style — to get the game, you’ll buy a physical copy (what is this, the 60′s?). All the more reason that it should feature as the #1 game in this list!

If there’s a forgotten game with great scores that you think we should’ve included and didn’t, why not call our attention to it in the comments?

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10 Comments on The 5 Best-Reviewed Games You Might Not Have Heard Of

daniel whatever

On September 21, 2011 at 1:21 am

the Number 4 is – Dreamfall , the longest Journey … i guess :D

daniel whatever

On September 21, 2011 at 1:22 am

ahhh xD that was something else … sorry :p

Ron Whitaker

On September 21, 2011 at 5:54 am

NOLF was one of the the best games of its time. Not only was it fun to play, you could spend all kinds of time creeping around, listening in on the conversations the guards were having about buying and selling monkeys and other inane topics.

If you’ve never played it and you happen across a copy, do yourself a favor and pick it up.

Leen

On September 21, 2011 at 8:24 am

@daniel whatever

Dreamfall The Longest Journey is actually the sequel of The Longest Journey.

Robin

On September 21, 2011 at 10:44 am

I bought both the NOLF games and I enjoyed them very much. I didn’t like the respawning bad guys though. I wouldn’t mind seeing another, but I’m guessing its inclusion on this list means it didn’t sell all that well.

Steve

On September 21, 2011 at 2:19 pm

NOLF did well on its release in 2000. It just didn’t have a cult following that, say, Deus Ex or Hitman: Codename 47 had. It must have garned enough attention since it later spawned a sequel and a spinoff.

Another great game that came out in 2000 that I bet most have never heard of:

Giants: Citizen Kabuto

And mostly like NOLF, a great game with tons of tongue & cheeck humor. Just no massive cult following.

NOLF and Giants:CK are generally filed under “rare little gems”.

DSERiES

On September 21, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, Psychonauts, Grim Fandango, Silent Storm, Nexus: The Jupiter Incident, Beyond Good & Evil, Battle Realms, Outcast, Omikron: The Nomad Soul, Freedom Fighters, Tribes: Vengeance, Uplink, Mafia maybe…

Steve

On September 21, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Ughh… Tribes: Vengeance. I’ll never forgive Irrational for it. It deserves to be forgotten.

Ron Whitaker

On September 22, 2011 at 5:42 am

Three cheers for Nexus: The Jupiter Incident. I had the good fortune to review that game when it came out, and it was a gem.

As far as Tribes: Vengeance goes, I’ll have to side with Steve. Let it go – it wasn’t all that good if you were a fan of the series.

Ron Whitaker

On September 22, 2011 at 5:43 am

Giants: Citizen Kabuto was a gem. It also had some pretty great graphics when it was released. If you haven’t ever heard of it or played it, check it out.