This month at Sandbox, we decided to take a look back at some of our favorite underappreciated games and ring in a new season with what we’re coining “The Spring of Sevens”. Though not every game below was a literal seven at launch, all of them were either critically or mixed or have become largely forgotten in the pantheon of games. For one reason or another, the following games are still worth playing.
Tyler: Spore has gotten stuck with a bit of a terrible reputation as a big flop for Maxis, despite critical reception at its release being solid. I don’t think really any game since has attempted such a wide array of gameplay styles and creative options – even if it doesn’t always stick the landing. There’s something so unique about the bizarre creatures you can create, evolve, and encounter in your species evolutionary span. I think that its often maligned 4X late game is also worth highlighting as arguably the game’s strongest point. It serves as a more exploratory and casual strategy game that doesn’t really exist outside of Spore. It’s a shame this series never got given the chance to evolve to the next level.
Also I’d be remiss not to mention Castlevania 64. Castlevania’s first 3D foray is rad, and I’m tired of pretending it’s not.
Val: I will always love Wario’s Woods. I think it did fairly well when it launched in 1994, and Little Val was obsessed with this puzzler. It got to the point that I could close my eyes and envision where the pieces would go while playing out a completely fictional level. I can still hear the soundtrack perfectly in my head. My siblings eventually lost interest in it, but I DID NOT. I keep waiting for it to be ported to the Switch, but the last time it was brought to the eShop was during the Wii U era a decade ago, and I didn’t have the Wii U. Adult Val is still hoping it’ll come back around for all five of us fans.
Tim: We simply must give it up for Mirror’s Edge, a series so nice, it failed to meet sales projections twice. This franchise never got the success it deserved, and I think we all know why — because parkour is a viable, eco-friendly transportation alternative to car-centric urban design, and the Powers That Be don’t want you to know about it.
Tony: Fantasy Life is honestly one of the best co-op games to come to the 3DS. It was like a cute little MMO – that I could carry in my pocket and run around in with my friends after work. It is so simple, so fun and just honestly S-Tier wonderful. Where else can I be a wizard chef who cuts down trees in between dungeon dives?
Pat: I’ll go with the underrated sensation known as Viva Piñata: Party Animals. Is it the best game ever? No. Is it at least pretty good and not overly repetitive? I mean, also no…but that’s beside the point. It’s a chaotic, goofy, fun multiplayer experience that doesn’t take itself seriously – and that’s why I remember it so fondly! It also features perhaps the greatest intro theme song ever. Honorary shout out to 3 on 3 NHL Arcade on Xbox 360 too.
Dan: I was tempted to follow-up Tyler’s entry by talking about Spore: Origins, the Spore spin-off you could play on an iPod Nano… but instead I will shout out the glorious fun of Nicktoons MLB. Released in 2011, Nicktoons MLB took the engine of 2K’s previously released arcade baseball title The Bigs and added Nickelodeon characters alongside real MLB players. The absurdity of the cross-over made it more fun than the purely MLB predecessor in my book, and I think anyone who’s seen David Ortiz slug it out with Larry the Lobster would agree.
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