What makes a video game truly great? It’s almost impossible to pin down, because the criteria can differ so much from game to game.
In so many cases, an electrifying, sophisticated and gripping narrative is crucial. For instance, where would The Last of Us have been if it hadn’t been able to truly make us care about Joel and Ellie? A great game narrative, like a fantastic movie plot or novel, can stay with us for a very long time.
All the same, a plot alone can’t make a game great, and there are some fantastic titles (racers, fighters, party games and so on) that eschew storytelling altogether.
Consistent quality can be expected of series such as The Legend of Zelda. There’s no surprise in that. What is a huge curveball, however, is when a title comes out of relative obscurity to steal hearts. When it turns gamers at large on to genres that they may not even enjoy otherwise.
Even more surprising is a licensed game knocking it out of the park. Here are some examples of titles that have achieved some of these feats and/or surprised the heck out of us in other ways.
10. Crash Team Racing
Around the time of Crash Team Racing’s release in 1999, one thing was certain about the kart racer genre: Nintendo’s moustachioed maestro Mario essentially owned it. He and his Mushroom Kingdom friends essentially invented (and certainly popularized) it with 1992’s Super Mario Kart.
As with any revolutionary title, Mario’s effort has inspired all manner of pretenders, back then and to this day. Even the Crazy Frog had a kart racer in the early 2000s.
Few of these can claim to have the same sort of quality as Mario Kart, though as PlayStation fans will know, Naughty Dog had a string of beloved platformers to their name at this point, in the original Crash Bandicoot trilogy.
Their first effort at a kart racer was a triumph too.
The roster of characters may not be particularly inspiring, but the racing action, track design, powerful-feeling weapons, Wumpa Fruit boosts and powerslide mechanics all felt extremely polished. A fully-featured title that even boasts a story mode, Crash Team Racing remains beloved.
The release of Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled in 2019 is testament to the original game’s enduring appeal.