8. Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon
Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon is a 3D action-adventure game that sees Goemon and his friends try to stop a gang from turning Japan into a theater (seriously). Along the way, they battle giant robots, help out the locals, and participate in a series of increasingly bizarre sidequests that often rely on surprising and strange humor. Indeed, many of the early criticisms of the game (that weren’t focused on that game’s wonky camera controls, that is) mentioned that it may be too weird for Western gamers. The title’s Western sales seemed to support that theory.
Years later, though, I think it’s that exact element of the title that has helped it age so well. Not only is this game genuinely very funny, but, much like the Yakuza and Shenmue franchises, it really shines whenever you’re interacting with occasionally awkward NPCs, simply wandering around, or participating in various minigames. Minor problems aside, this is one of those games that is easier to revisit now over so many “classics” of the era due to its abundance of personality and modern ideas.
7. Space Station Silicon Valley
Space Station Silicon Valley’s gameplay requires you to essentially “possess” various animals and use their unique abilities to solve puzzles. To put it mildly, this game was a pretty tough sell in 1998 when it was sitting on shelves alongside some of the greatest games ever made. Even those who bought into that basic idea still had to contend with this title’s sometimes frustrating gameplay and strange sense of humor.
Today, though, it’s easy to respect not only Space Station‘s infectious personality but the boldness of its 3D exploration/puzzle-solving gameplay. Space Station lacked some of the simpler pleasures of other 3D platformers of this era, but it made up for that shortcoming with almost Portal-like puzzle gameplay that always felt satisfying to solve. It’s no wonder the studio that made this game (DMA Design) went on to become the legendary Rockstar North. Interestingly, this isn’t the only DMA game on this list…
6. Jet Force Gemini
Much has been written about Rare’s legendary run of incredible N64 games. While many of those games remain beloved today (Banjo-Kazooie, GoldenEye 007), a few of them really only started to get the love they deserve over the last few years or so. Of course, there is arguably no Rare N64 game worthier of a widespread reappraisal than Jet Force Gemini.
Jet Force Gemini is a third-person sci-fi action game that could easily be considered the spiritual predecessor to the Ratchet and Clank series. Unlike that excellent franchise, though, Jet Force Gemini still features quite a few of the platforming elements that defined some of the biggest Rare games of that era. Granted, not all of those elements worked out for the best (having to rescue every Tribal remains a pain in the ass), but there’s certainly something to be said for the way that Rare emphasized the “adventure” part of the action/adventure genre better than even some of the more refined entries in that genre that followed.