the Mouth of Madness:
By Jason "loonyboi" Bergman
What's new this week in loonygames? As our loony editor.
elcome back everyone! If you noticed some strange things happening with the server last Friday, it was because we finally made the move to our new server, and there were some minor kinks to work out. We’ve got a couple of bugs still left to squish, so as I write this, the feedback@ address isn’t working just yet. Don’t worry, we’ll get it back in time to get this week’s Mailbag done.
Anyway, let’s have some fun this week, eh? I’ve been seeing a lot of those "best games ever" lists popping up, and there are always ten or so games that everyone leaves out, so in this week’s column, I’ve decided to provide my list of the ten most underrated games of all time. Now before we begin the festivities, a few notes: first of all, these are not in any particular order, so don’t judge them based on that. They’re all great games, and I’m sure a lot of you out there missed a bunch of ‘em. Which brings me to my second point: most (if not all of these) are available either via emulators, or are still available for purchase. I highly recommend hunting these down if you can! They’re worth it. Every one. So okay…let’s do this thing. :)
Adventure (Atari 2600)
Ahh…adventure. The "dot" game. One of the true classics of the 2600 era, Adventure is often overlooked, because while games like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong have a sort of universal charm, Adventure is pretty dated from the first glance. But regardless of how dated it might look, Adventure was a truly classic game. Basically the game was about you navigating through a maze, but it meant so much more to me when I first played it. I have memories of playing adventure and genuinely thinking I was hunting down a monstrous dragon…and when I picked up the sword (Adventure fact: you can actually pick it up backwards) I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Playing it now, it seems a bit silly to some, but I tell you…this game is immortal. One last thing: Adventure has a great easter egg…but I won’t tell you how to find it. It’s worth figuring out on your own.
The Lurking Horror (Various PC platforms)
There are so many overlooked Infocom games that I had a tough time choosing just one…but considering that The Lurking Horror is one of my favorite games of all time I decided to go with this one. The Lurking Horror was one of the first horror games ever made, and it’s still one of the best. For those who aren’t familiar with Infocom games, they’re text adventures. Yeah, that’s right…no graphics at all. If that’s a problem…well, stop reading right here. If it’s not…then prepare yourself for one of the coolest games ever made. The Lurking Horror was inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, and it takes place in the dungeons of G.U.E. Tech (get it? If you don’t…you obviously weren’t a subscriber to the New Zork Times) so already you know you’re in for a wild ride. The game was written by none other than Infocom mainstay Dave Lebling, the author of such classics as the original Zork Trillogy, Enchanter, and Suspect, amongst others. It’s a fantastic game, and one no text adventure fan should miss. Oh, and a nice little tidbit: all the locales in the game were modeled after real places at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I’ve intentionally never been to MIT for just that reason…I think it’d scare the piss out of me. ;)
The Smurfs (ColecoVision)
I swear, every time I publicly state my love for this game, I immediately get about thirty letters from people who agree with me 100%. So why is it that no critics ever seem to remember this groundbreaking title? Reeased for the ColecoVision in 1982 under the title "Smurf Rescue in Gargamel’s Castle," this game has since become legend, known simply as, "that ColecoVision Smurfs game." Why? It’s simple, really. The Smurfs was released in ’82, a full three years before the NES made its American debut, this game looks almost as good as Super Mario Bros. The gameplay isn’t as advanced, but it’s a ton of fun, and a landmark in game design. Oh, and there’s even a way to have Smurfette remove her clothing at the end. Now that’s a game!
Phantasy Star (Sega Master System)
If I was ordering this in any way, this would probably be the number one most underrated game of all time. Phantasy Star is one of my favorite games of all time, and it was also the first real console RPG I ever played. Unfortunately, Sega’s Master System was pretty much blown away by the Nintendo Entertainment System, so only those of us who dared to stray from the flock actually got to enjoy it. Phantasy Star has gorgeous graphics, a combination of first person and top down perspectives, and a great storyline that blew away its competition on other consoles. A genuine classic…don’t miss it.
System Shock (PC)
Oh, man. System Shock was some goooood stuff. While Doom made an impact with its creepy environments and "find the key" style levels, System Shock allowed you to walk backwards through levels (if you dropped an item you could actually go back and pick it up later!) and it actually managed to convey the feeling that you were on board a real space station. Not to mention its incredibly unique inventory and cyberspace system. Throw in a genuinely integrated plot (almost five years before Half-Life) and you’ve got a genuine classic. Unfortunately it wasn’t promoted especially well, and was pretty much snowed over by first Doom and later Duke 3D and Dark Forces. If you can still find it (and I’ve been trying to hunt it down for ages now) do yourself a favor and pick it up.
Credits: From the Mouth of Madness logo illustrated by and is © 1999 Dan Zalkus. From the Mouth of Madness is © 1999 Jason Bergman. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't do it...or we'll just forget about your. Let's see how you like it.