4 Overlooked RPG Gems

For anyone that knows my gaming habits they understand that RPG’s are my love. From the Western RPG utilizing a derivative of the Dungeon and Dragons system, to the often odd Japanese RPG’s – I love them all.

There are a plethora of lists and discussion out there pertaining to the big and well known RPG’s. Titles like Final Fantasy, Fallout, Mass Effect, and so on spring to mind. However, there are many lesser celebrated but equally awesome RPG’s that bring something unique to the genre. These games often suffered from numerous bugs, lackluster graphics and stilted voice-acting, but there was something about them that made them unique.

Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura

Arcanum – what an utterly fantastic game! Developed by the now defunct Trokia Games, Arcanum was released in 2001. Review scores were fairly good, but due to bugs and terrible graphics for its time, Arcanum did not get the recognition I felt it deserved. 

The sheer depth found in Arcanum is astonishing. A player can choose from many typical high fantasy races; Elves, Orcs, Humans, Gnomes and such. This is then tied together with a vast myriad of skills and racial traits that will have a meaningful impact on the game, even outside of combat.


You are then dropped into a freeform open world to explore at your digression.

Early players had to make a choice, go with the mastery of all things magical, or go with the new marvels of technology. These discaplines do not blend well with one another. However you can opt for a mixture for more flexibility, forgoing some of the more powerful abilities and items from either side. Arcanum was all about choice, and you sure had an abundance of it!

What also makes Arcanum so unique is its setting. Being in a world where magic conflicts with technology, you have a varied and interesting landscape to traverse. Then there is the diversity in style of play. Whether being an Orc gentile, beguiling his way through many altercations, or a techie Elf constructing steampunk weaponry, blasting his way through each encounter, Arcanum caters for it all. 

Arcanum is a true role-players role-playing game, and a must-play for serious fans of the genre. 

Shin Megami Tensei or MegaTen

Developed by Atlus, the MegaTen titles can be found in many flavours on a handful of consoles. Some titles on the PS2 included – Persona, Digital Devil Saga and Lucifer’s Call.  There is even a Free-To-Play MMORPG named Shin Megami Tensei: IMAGINE – and most are superb!

Like the Final Fantasy series, the MegaTen titles share similar themes between its iterations. All titles draw upon the occult and mythology for its denizens and lore. In most games you will have the ability to summon or recruit creatures spanning from demons to Greek Mythological creatures as well as many Asian inspired beings. You can then fuse said entities into new creatures obtaining new abilities as you do so.

The motifs behind the games are always strange, somber and surreal making them a great change of pace from the humdrum Sword and Sorcery settings. They are frequently set in Modern Japan, and often revolve around moral or metaphysical choices. There is also tremendous character growth in the series, where characters make true revelations about themselves and their reality.

The MegaTen games received praise from many reviewers and gamers, but outside the more dedicated JRPG-ers, they never found a strong footing in the West. Highly recommended!

The Gothic Series

Gothic is a true diamond in the rough. While it suffered from many bugs and bad voice acting, the sheer amount of role-playing goodness contained within is first-rate! 

Gothic was birthed by German developer Piranha Bytes. There are three games in the series as well as one expansion. I also want to point out another game, Risen, since it has the same gaming style and was developed by the same people. Risen was released on PC and Xbox 360 in 2009 and is also a great play in the same vein. (Ed. steer clear of Risen on Xbox 360, seriously)


Gothic is a challenging, oft ruthless RPG, where one gets to explore vast tracks of land, overcoming horrendous monsters and learning new skills as they progress. Early game is particularly arduous since the game allows you to journey anywhere. Bumping into something nasty which would deliver your demise in one fell swipe is not uncommon, but that makes Gothic exciting. 

There is a slew to do besides exploration. One can gather herbs, brew them into potions, or go mine ore then forge said ore into weapons of destruction. Each game also has a faction system giving the player access to unique items, spells, armor and minor story elements.

Overall Gothic is highly advocated if you enjoy large interesting areas to roam with no “fast-travel” option that so many of the new games have. The wilderness is also severe and very rewarding to explore unlike many newer dumbed-down games.

Shadow Hearts

Shadow Hearts was conceived by Sacnoth/Nautilus and released on the PS2. There are three in the series – Shadow Hearts, Shadow Hearts: Covenant, and Shadow Hearts: From the New World.

Shadow Hearts is a quirky game to say the least. It contains some truly odd characters.  From the over-the-top gay brothers who travel, offering services which include selling and stitching together items for your party of misfits, to the 400 year old Wrestler Vampire, and Mao the giant talking pink cat who loves to drink, and wishes to be a movie star! 

Shadow Hearts

All of this is set to a backdrop of twisted historical facts. Historical events, locales and figures pop up often which most people will recognise from general history.

From a gameplay perspective Shadow Hearts utilizes an awesome feature called the Judgement Ring. This Ring appears whenever issuing a skill or attack command, and a radar like line moves around a circle through lines of colour. You have to button-press on certain colours to successfully attack or use any skill. It is reflex based and makes sure you are paying attention to even the minor battles.

A very offbeat series of games, but that fact makes them stand out for me.

Drink the Kool-Aid, join us!

These games are all fantastic but do not get the recognition they deserve. Which RPGs do you think have cult status or were overlooked by the general public?  Share yours in the forums



Join the conversation

  • CrzWaco

    Gothic Series is un unpolished gem since there are lots of buggs that can cause game breaking.

    Same for Risen also a few where it breaks the game completely. Also it take to dam long to do something with the animation being so long, like drinking water you can hold in your mouse button to dring non stop you have to click watch the animation click again and so on.

    These games are play at your own risk since you might end up with a game that keeps getting broken because of a bug.

  • Dracolusus

    I must concur with Arcanum, what a rich RPG, like nothing out there. Me thinks I'll be dig up my old disc and give it another go 😀

  • Uhm

    I agree with all of them. You left out one of the most important which could've been your fifth and should've been at the top of the list. Planescape.

  • RIP Troika

    Arcanum and Gothic. Hells yeah.

  • Tarryn van der Byl

    I hate myself for saying this, I really do, because it always annoys me to no end when morons whine about lists, insisting that this, that, or the other thing should have been included.

    But seriously.

    Where the **** is Planescape: Torment?

  • WTF Tarren


  • simon.

    Actually there are 2 expansions in the series.
    1st one is for Gothic 2. Night of the Raven.
    2nd expansion is Forsaken Gods which is for Gothic 3. Everything was developed by Piranah Bytes except for Forsaken Gods which was developed by Trine. Apparently full of bugs.

  • Myles Gray

    My bad simon. I remembered the Gothic 3 Expansion after I sent this article in. From what I read however, it it has more bugs than ever and not even worth playing. But far for me Gothic 3 was the worst.

    And Planescape – I fully agree Tarryn! But it seems more people acknowledge it compared to Arcanum and Gothic so I went with them.

    There are other games I could have easily added, even more if I decided to look farther back.

  • Buffel

    The Megaten series is currently the only game series where I will buy every new entry on day 1 and not even bother with reviews or other such silliness. Pity we're probably in for a long wait before the next one. Ah well. Maybe that means I'll actually have time to finish DDS2 and the Raidou Kuzunoha games.

    It's also the series that made me realise just how silly the Final Fantasy series is.

    I've been meaning to play Shadow Hearts for a while now. Just need to try and find a copy somewhere.

  • Buffel

    Although I'll add that the statement about the Megaten series not finding a strong footing in the West isn't entirely accurate. Persona 3 and 4 managed to carve out a very respectable niche for themselves.

  • DogMeat

    I dont think anything made by black isles could be considered "OverLooked" and planescape torment had just as many bugs (to the point i could get the game to run)

    while all these games have there moments there are reasons they are over looked.. bad game play / voice acting / and unacceptable bugs. even with good story lines they just dont hold up to the top teir RPG's… (but sense there arent alot for 360 they might get some play)

4 Overlooked RPG Gems