Don't you just hate it when an awesome looking game is announced, marketed to breaking point, and a hype train gathers steam only for its release to be a disappointing damp squib that alienates its burgeoning fanbase? Looking at you, WATCH_DOGS and Aliens: Colonial Marines. Similarly galling is when an established franchise releases its latest entry only for it to be a squeaky fart - Mass Effect: Andromeda springs to mind.
But what about the other, altogether more pleasant side of this coin? That lovely surprise we all get when a game that no one expected to be any good turns out to be a new classic? Sometimes developers can pull it out of the bag, restoring our faith in the medium just as we were feeling resigned to accepting more Call Of Duty sequels and lootbox-riddled live-service tat.
Whether it's a new IP that sounded poor on paper, a surprisingly solid movie tie-in or a game that finally escapes its franchise's less-than-favourable legacy, there are plenty of games that gives us that warm fuzzy feeling in a sea of disappointments. Let's give some of those dark horses the recognition they deserve.
10. Assassin's Creed Syndicate
Whilst not a masterpiece, and by no means the greatest entry in the Assassin's Creed series (that honour will always go to Black Flag), Assassin's Creed Syndicate was awaited with dread rather than excitement. Unity, released the previous year, was rife with technical issues and dogged by microtransactions, and many considered it the death knell for Assassin's Creed.
However, the release of Syndicate was a pleasant surprise for a weary fanbase. Its Victorian setting was exceptionally well-realised, dual protagonists Jacob and Evie Frye were likeable and engaging, and combat had had a much-needed revamp. Hand-to-hand brawling was the order of the day, and fights frequently involved large groups of urchins in dust clouds of flailing limbs and broken teeth.
Central assassinations were also vastly improved, and were much more rewarding player than in previous entries. Here the player is simply given a multifaceted location and their assassination target, and is free to go about their kill as they see fit. Want to sneak up on the evil doctor and give him the classic hidden blade treatment? Perfectly viable. Want to pose as a corpse then leap off the operating table and stab him up in front of a theatre full of horrified onlookers? Infinitely funnier.