It’s a common belief that the most popular games in a franchise are the best of the bunch, but that’s not always the case. You see, plenty of great games can get pushed under the rug due to a multitude of reasons, and that leads to criminally underrated games. To that end, here are 10 examples of such franchises where the least popular is actually one of our favorites.

Splinter Cell: Conviction – Splinter Cell

splinter cell conviction

Splinter Cell: Conviction was released in 2010 to a divisive reception, and a lot of that can be associated with the radical changes that the game made with respect to franchise norms. It veered away from the tactical stealth action that made the original games popular in the first place, and introduced new elements like Mark and Execute which can be used to clear out rooms full of enemies in an instant alongside the inability to hide dead bodies among others. These changes were mostly made in an effort to make the game appeal to the masses.

Sure, it’s understandable why fans of older games didn’t gel with this formula – but we adore Splinter Cell: Conviction simply because these new mechanics enable a sense of flow to the gameplay proceedings. Sam Fisher moves at a brisk pace, dotting from cover to cover and clearing out huge hordes of enemies with relative ease – and that feels really empowering which is something that’s missing from other entries. And that’s also really fitting since you are racing against time to prevent a terrorist plot, so better to be quick and ruthless than clean and slow.

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The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword – The Legend of Zelda series

It’s really difficult to pick out the least popular game from the powerhouse that is The Legend of Zelda, but if we had to put a finger on one – that would be Skyward Sword. Not that it’s a bad game, but questionable design decisions like clunky motion controls and overtly simple combat really hampered the game’s quality for many fans. But if you manage to look past that – which has become a lot easier thanks to the HD re-release on Switch – you will find that Skyward Sword has so much to love.

From the charming story and art style to memorable side quests and so much more, Skyward Sword has no shortage of merits that would put it on the same (or even a higher pedestal) than other mainline entries. And the fact that it’s technically the first game in the mainline Zelda timeline also makes it really easy to get into.

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Grand Theft Auto 4 – GTA Series

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The 3D Grand Theft Auto has always been a cultural behemoth, raking in millions and millions in sales and plenty of media coverage with every numbered release. It was the same case with Grand Theft Auto 4, but now that several years have passed since its release – this underrated classic rarely gets brought up as often as its other siblings. And this is a shame really, because Grand Theft Auto 4 houses one of the best stories in the series; it masterfully balances the gritty nature of Niko with goofy characters like Roman Bellic.

It also manages to tell a serious story about the cycle of violence, but without skimping on the satire that defines these games. Sure, the gameplay might not have aged the best or it might not have the best online component – but the story really grips you and takes you through this wonderful adventure. Try it once again, and you’ll be surprised.

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Max Payne 3 – Max Payne series

Max Payne 3 is an incredibly stylish game that boasts solid gameplay and a gripping narrative filled with double-crossing characters and betrayals that one would expect from a game of this ilk. And while it was well received by critics, sales figures tell a completely different story. It sold a lot less than what Rockstar had hoped for, and the project was ultimately deemed a flop.

Why many fans didn’t jump on this game can be boiled down to just how different the game feels with respect to its predecessors, not just in the gameplay department but also in the tonality of writing. And while I can agree on those complaints in some sense, I like to view that shift in Max’s personality as a part of his cynical character development – largely influenced by his alcohol consumption and the grief of his loved one’s deaths.

Once you view it from that lens, Max Payne 3 starts to make so much more sense than before from a narrative department. The gameplay might feel heavier and limiting in terms of weapon choices, but it’s easily the most polished of the trilogy, and it comes with some of the best levels – complete with set pieces and all the markings of a AAA quality experience.

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Mass Effect Andromeda – Mass Effect

Mass Effect Andromeda - Elaaden Architect

Mass Effect: Andromeda was bombarded with negative reviews at launch, and that was for a good reason. The game was released in a poor technical state, and game breaking bugs and glitches ran rampant in the launch version. But underneath that mountain of technical inefficiencies lies a surprisingly solid game that went unrecognized by most people. Sure, Andromeda might not compare to Mass Effect 2 in terms of story or the rich atmosphere – but it certainly made many leaps in terms of gameplay, and that should count towards something.

Gone are the crooked seventh-generation animations, and players are greeted to a reactive combat system that’s just so much better and an absolute joy to engage with.

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Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops – Metal Gear series

Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops - Gene

When talking about Metal Gear, it’s easy to see the discussion revolve around the mainline entries – and that’s totally understandable since they are the blockbusters that coalesce to form the canon storyline of the series. But that doesn’t really help the PSP exclusive Portable Ops case, which is really disappointing because it definitely deserves the same praise that its bigger brothers get.

Translating a complex stealth experience like Metal Gear into a handheld format is a tough task, but one that Portable Ops accomplishes with flying colors. There’s little to no compromise in terms of boss fights which are as riveting as ever, the stealth which is as fun as ever, and the story which of course, remains as convoluted as ever. For its time, it was stellar stealth experience for a handheld game.

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inFamous: Second Son – The inFamous series

infamous second son

Sucker Punch delivered two great games in the inFamous franchise before moving on to, a game that would go on to be remembered as the underrated title of the franchise. But those believing that would be discounting the many leaps that Second Son made in the gameplay department, and how fun and balanced it is when compared to its predecessors

You get a total of 4 different elements that you can upgrade and use in combat situations, and it all meshes together really well – resulting in a smooth and modern gameplay that rarely gets stale throughout the journey. Sure, the story might be up for debate, but when you get to wreak havoc upon your enemies with so much style – a weak plot is rarely the biggest concern.

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Batman: Arkham Origins – Batman Arkham Series

batman arkham origins

It’s pretty rare to see someone talk about Arkham Origins in a positive light, and while that sentiment is largely understandable considering how amazing the rest of the games are – that’s not really fair to Origins either. I’d argue that Origins often gets misunderstood by fans, and that it deserves to be put on an equal pedestal as Arkham City or Asylum.

Arkham Origins tells a markedly more grounded story revolving around Batman’s early years, and that has an irrefutable charm to it. Furthermore, the gameplay remains as fun as ever – and you also get a sizable roster of villains to work through. Deathstroke is particularly a highlight of the experience, thanks to its well-designed boss fight and arena. And if you wish to see more of Mr. Freeze, there’s always the delightful DLC that you can check out as well.

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Lost Planet 3

lost-planet-3

The Lost Planet series is a franchise that’s mostly been lost to the times, and many fans blame Lost Planet 3’s commercial shortcomings as a major reason for the premature end of the series. There’s some truth to this sentiment, but that doesn’t really sum up Lost Planet 3 as an experience.

Spark Unlimited tried some new things with Lost Planet 3 such as adding survival horror elements to the experience alongside RPG-esque progression. And if you look at the game in isolation, it’s a really solid experience with plenty to love and appreciate – and Lost Planet 3’s gameplay surprisingly holds up to this day.

Resident Evil: Code Veronica – Resident Evil

Having been released very close to Resident Evil 3 and that too on a different platform, it’s no surprise that Resident Evil: Code Veronica rarely gets brought up in any conversations about this long-running survival horror franchise. But anyone who checked this game out would tell you how underrated it is, and we firmly stand by this sentiment.

Code Veronica’s story perfectly embodies the spirit of Resident Evil as it pulls a masterful act of balancing the absurd and the zaniness of it all through and through. Sure, the gameplay hasn’t aged all too well after these years – but a remake similar to RE2 is all that’s needed to show what fans have been missing out on.

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