31-Day Mage Challenge: Day Twenty-Nine – “Favorite Hidden Gem”

31 Day NES Well-Red Cover

Bust out your oversized reading glasses and order your favorite flat-white, soy, extra-hot, half-caff, iced pumpkin spice espresso granita-macchiato with a pinch of matcha green tea powder spritzed on top of the low fat dollop of foamed cream, all you video game hipsters out there! You know who you are. Today we’re traveling back in time to unearth some hidden gems. To clarify, a “hidden gem” describes a game that is currently not very popular or widely known, or wasn’t upon its release for some time, but which maybe has a cult following now and represents an incredible gaming experience. The key is you should be able to say the phrase “But you probably haven’t heard of it” after talking about the game. It’s so underground, it’s practically in China.

What is your Favorite Hidden Gem?




timemage The Timely Mage

There are quite a few games I would consider hidden gems because hardly anyone I know has played them and I don’t hear them referenced very often despite them having some success. A few examples are: Colony Wars, Galerians, The Legend of Dragoon, Blades of Steel, Costume Quest, and Nuclear Throne. I almost chose Sins of a Solar Empire but since I wouldn’t consider it “hidden” enough to put on this list I’d say my favorite is Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. It embodies so many things I appreciate in a fantasy game from the art style to the writing to the class system. I loved how it really took its characters and setting seriously (despite their 2D sprite representations) and gave the themes of war and humanity a reverence that compels it’s players to treat it in like manner.

Tactics.Ogre .Let.Us.Cling.Together.full.602094



blackmage The Black Humor Mage

Monster Hunter Tri on the Wii was such a hidden gem. Not many people in the US played it, and I hadn’t even heard of it until our own Well-Red Mage recommended it. I played it so much when I got it. This was one of the few games that made it worth it to own a Wii. Since then I have fallen in love with the Monster Hunter franchise and plan to get Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and Monster Hunter Generations very soon. I’ve been itching to go on a hunt.




ragemage The Rage Mage

Hahahaha, Titenic! What? Like a resentful dude called the Rage Mage wouldn’t be okay with playing a side-scrolling beat ’em up based off of one of the worst tragedies in history?


“Late at night in my dreams, I see you, I flying kick you~”



FF3-NES-Summoner2 The Green Screen Mage

Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis was a build your own Jurassic Park game for the PS2. I spent hours creating the perfect park. The good balance between herbivores and carnivores and the perfect tourist attractions…. Then destroy the exits and take down all the fences and watch the tourists panic…




whiteoutmage The White Out Mage

Anticipation. Here’s a gem if I ever saw one. Enjoy this strange Pictionary-like board game that will have you scratching your head wondering why you’re playing it. It’s a nostalgic game for me so I have sentimental attachments to it, and now I really want to play it again. Maybe not a hidden gem-gem. But it is hidden.


This is what made the NES great: a bunch of terribly-dressed 35-year olds could get into it.



Untitled2 The Well-Red Mage

I’m going to cheat and name two. They’re both my favorite. They’re both Zelda-esque in terms of presentation and gameplay. They’re from the two best systems ever created: the NES and the SNES. They are Crystalis and Soul Blazer, both early Action RPGs. I don’t usually hear anyone talk about either of these games, great as they are.

Crystalis is everything that Zelda II should have been. It builds upon the schema set in place by the first Legend of Zelda and adds many new exciting gameplay quirks, such as multiple elemental swords, the ability to gain experience and level up, the ability to charge up your attack to release a projectile, and several pieces of equipment. Crystalis is the sequel The Legend of Zelda needed and deserved. Plus, its post-apocalyptic narrative and setting are wholly influenced by Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Castle in the Sky, two of the greatest Miyazaki legends.


Soul Blazer for the Super Nintendo also took the Zelda gameplay route and expanded upon it. In Soul Blazer, you play as a divine messenger sent down to free the captured souls in various regions around the world. This is done by fighting monsters in dungeons. Once a soul is liberated, the village they belong to is reconstructed and new amenities open up. It’s a unique way to push players to fight and kill every baddie and interact with the NPCs. And it’s just as solid of an Action RPG as any you could find on the SNES.



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13 replies »

  1. Mad love to people here for shouting out Goemon (I had 64, but I don’t know where it went *Sobs Uncontrollably*) & Plok! Yay!
    I currently own Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (That Name Doh!) & am greatly (if apprehensively!) lookin forward to it (once I’ve charged PSP & as battery’s flat & I’ve still got non-gaming depression, it may be a lil while… *Sighs Deeply*)
    The quest for Legend of Dragoon continues however!!!!!
    I’ll find you my love!!!!! *Starts Sobbing Again*

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have enjoyed a lot of games which seem to be unknown. I would nominate Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon 2. The story is bizarre (a “ghost summoning machine” summons a ghost who uses the machine to resurrect an ancient demon to turn the world into their “lover’s paradise”), the enemies are an army of strange creatures and is set in Ancient Japan. The game uses a mixture of 2D side-scrolling and exploration of 3D towns, also, as well as exploring levels, the player has to complete challenges to progress. The game is highly enjoyable to play and is 2 player, which makes it more cooperative. I also enjoy Indiana Jones and the Emporer’s Tomb and Indiana Jones and the Staff of the Kings, despite strange gameplay and badly designed saving processes. I have also been looking for a copy of Syndicate as I remember enjoying that game.
    I have actually heard of Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis, someone told me it uses up the entire data in a memory card. Is this true?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Zone of the Enders, which I think I mentioned once before. Zone of the Enders was successful enough to get a sequel (Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner), but it turns out that was because of an Easter egg allowing access to an early demo of the upcoming Metal Gear Solid sequel. Some say it’s too short, and might be right. But it’s beautiful, nonetheless.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. If you like Crystalis and Soul Blazer, have you ever checked out Willow on NES? I think it’s an underrated Zelda-esque with a downright phenomenal soundtrack. Yeah, it’s based on the 80’s film, but at least it’s from a time when licensed games were relatively good!

    My hidden gem pick would also be a Zelda-esque, in Beyond Oasis (“The Story of Thor” in EU) for the Sega Genesis. It was like The Legend of Zelda with an aesthetic more akin to Prince of Persia. There was even a prequel on Saturn called The Legend of Oasis, which was fun too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have countless ones, but Plok, Puggsy, and Superfrog (the character in my avatar) are three that I’d pick in particular. They’re all really solid platformers that go all out with unique and fun ideas, but no one ever really seems to talk about them or even acknowledge them that often (though Plok does have an ongoing web-comic which I HIGHLY recommend that you read).

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m glad the Black Humor Mage talked about Monster Hunter Tri! Since MH4U and the recent release of Monster Hunter Generations, MH has been gaining popularity in the west, which is great. Also, Well Red, I haven’t played the NES original, but I did play the GBC port of Crystalis and overall enjoyed it, so excellent choice there! I can’t even comprehend what Titenic is…

    I’ve played a lot of games that I would consider hidden gems, but none stand out to me as much as Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon for the N64. The game is a 3D platformer with elements of Zelda and RPGs. Explore the world, fight a bunch of enemies, and even traverse interesting puzzle-filled dungeons. I played this game before I played my first Zelda game, so Goemon actually introduced me to dungeon traversal games. You play as 4 likable and humorous characters who each play a little differently. You can also fight as a giant rollerskating robot and engage in mech battles. Oh yes, did I mention that this game took place in ancient Japan, but also had giant rollerskating robots? This game doesn’t take itself seriously at all, evidenced by the in-game laugh track. I love how random it is. The soundtrack is also one of my favorite video game soundtracks, period. All the music has a Japanese vibe, and there are even some vocal songs. It was one of the first games I had played that took place in Japan, and I would say this game sparked my interest in Japanese culture and anime. It’s a very fun game, and it’s a shame that Goemon as a series has mostly been swept away aside from the occasional VC release of the SNES version.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had heard that the GBC version of Crystalis was a weak port, but I’ve never played it myself. Just the NES version.
      I remember Mystical Ninja on N64! It’s been a very long time. That’s one I forgot about. Could’ve been an interesting series of games.

      Liked by 1 person

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