What is Underrated?

Posted: October 25, 2013 in Current Gaming
Tags: , , , , ,

I posed this question on Twitter recently. I was thinking about Blaster Master: Overdrive and how I consider it to be an underrated game, but then I read that it received a mostly positive reception (reviews). If ratings were high, how could it possibly be underrated? I’m coming to think that when we say underrated, we are actually saying something else, but what is that? And is there a way to quantify something being underrated or is it all very personal?

Joke or not, this was a pretty honest answer, and, I suspect, the truth when it comes to statements of something being underrated. When we say a game is underrated, aren’t we really saying that we really loved it but the masses, on average, didn’t? I love the game NIER. It’s one of my personal favorites from the most recent generation, but reviews, both professional and from regular gamers (via ratings on Amazon, GameFAQs, etc…), were generally lukewarm. I’ve spent quite a chunk of time defending this game because of my love for it. I feel like those that dismiss it or disparage it are missing something integral to the game somehow, but I have to realize that just as I have my strong positive opinion about NIER, others are just as valid in their mediocre or negative opinions.

That said, I do still believe that NIER is underrated, but it’s because I think many gamers avoided it due to the middling scores from the so-called professional reviewers. This seems to run counter to my main point, but my personal point of contention with the reviews is that many reviewers couldn’t figure out a very basic fishing mechanic that the game insists you master before moving on. I had no trouble with this part of the game, finishing it in literally under a minute, but some high profile reviewers simply couldn’t do this, so their review of the game suffered because they didn’t understand the play mechanic. A potential buyer reading a review that made a game sound almost unplayable is probably going to avoid that game. Had I waited for reviews, I may have done so myself, and missed what I consider to be a unique gem.

In this case, I do think saying a game is underrated is very fair. When the reviewers tasked with putting a number beside a game’s title fail to be able to play the game and punish it for their own ineptitude, that’s a major problem, and one only noticed by those people that play the game and see that for themselves.

Hard to argue with this as well. I’ve already pointed out the misunderstood problem with NIER, but what about being overshadowed. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption was a well reviewed game for the Nintendo Wii that sold pretty well (1.3 million copies). However, it was released at the same time as Halo 3 for the Xbox 360. The Metroid series is my favorite gaming franchise, but I’d be delusional if I tried to argue it was more popular than the Halo franchise. It also didn’t help that it was released on a console that was fighting the stigma of being considered a “casual” system. As a result, Halo 3 sold 11.5 million copies and received all the attention come launch time, which was understandable. I’m not at all saying that it didn’t deserve this attention and actually, by all accounts, Halo 3 was a very well made game. For Prime 3 though, it was a loosing battle with a juggernaut being released on a “serious” gamers machine. So, can we call Prime 3 underrated? It would be a hard argument if we take the term literally, but if we expand it to mean overshadowed, then I think you can reasonably make that argument.

I think this response best sums up the arguments I’ve laid out above. Especially a game being under appreciated and/or unsung. At the end of the day, all thoughts on games are going to be subject to our tastes and preferences. Calling a game underrated uses the subjective opinions of reviewers in conjunction with your own. But arguing that it’s under appreciated or unsung uses your own thoughts independent of others’ opinions. You can frame your arguments based on your personal opinions about the game and your experience. My argument for NIER is that despite less than groundbreaking gameplay, it needs to be experienced because it has an amazing soundtrack coupled with one of the most striking stories I’ve ever seen in a game. That argument is very personal to me and requires the person playing the game to place a lot of emphasis on a game’s story. I do, some people don’t.

At the end of the day, all the opinions we throw out are personal. We can argue why a game should be played, but we also have to accept that there is no game that everyone is going to like, and sometimes we’re just going to disagree. So, when we say underrated, it may be wrong in the literal sense of the word, but when expanded to include your personal opinion of the appreciation or popularity it has achieved, it is very accurate.

As an aside, if you came here via Twitter and aren’t already following the three accounts listed above, I would highly recommend all of them. Very engaging group of guys up there.

  1. brandonmc87 says:

    I’m with you on Metroid. That entire franchise is underrated (with maybe the exception of Prime 1, which got plenty of attention, sales, and critical praise). You’re spot-on about Prime 3, though. nobody cared about it because of the CoD4/Halo 3 war at the time. Even Wii owners were more concerned with Mario Galaxy (Which to me is vastly OVERrated).

    • javgbadmin says:

      I do wonder how the Prime games would have performed if we were in an alternate universe and they were published on the PS2/PS3 or Xbox/Xbox 360. From the gamecube on, I think “serious” games have suffered on Nintendo’s consoles b/c they can’t shake that “kid” label they somehow wound up with.

      • brandonmc87 says:

        I’ve noticed that a lot of people simply don’t have the patience to play the Prime games. They expect a FPS and shit themselves when they realize there’s exploration involved.

      • javgbadmin says:

        I know you’re right and I realize it’s just my personal taste, but for the life of me I can’t understand how someone would get impatient playing any of the Prime games.

  2. brandonmc87 says:

    And in response to your question, I think games can be over/underrated in terms of sales/popularity, fan feedback, media attention, and review scores. For instance, I’d say the Gran Turismo games are overrated from a review score standpoint, but not from a fan feedback standpoint (I rarely see fanboys raving about GT).

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