Every now and again games have the ability to completely surprise us, even in this age of leaks and spoilers. But this time round I'm talking mainly about games that sound like they're going to be super crappy, but turn out to be pretty great. Utterly fantastic in some cases.
Take these seven examples I've pulled from my head. What do you think, were you expecting these to be solid from the get-go, or...?
1. 'Dark Souls'
An RPG that's impossibly dark, impossible to beat, and has some of the hardest bosses in video game history. Isn't everyday life hard enough without going back home to Dark Souls and dying over and over and over again? Where's the fun in that?
Well, that's exactly the point and the fun behind this wonderful trilogy: the difficulty. Once you take down that bad guy after 98 attempts, you are enveloped with the sweetest of rushes. You truly are a gaming God, if only for a few fleeting moments. Praise the sun.
2. Telltale's 'The Walking Dead'
The comics were incredible, the show is too — sometimes — and now there's a friggin' point and click adventure that wants to jump on the zombie slaying bandwagon as well? Haven't we had enough over-saturation of the dead?
Actually, it turned out that we hadn't, because Telltale turned what could've been an utter mess into one of the most exciting, rewarding, well written and emotionally moving video games of the past decade. And it has some of the best voice acting found in a medium of entertainment.
3. 'Assassin's Creed: Syndicate'
Another like for like Ass Creed game coming so soon after the clustercuss that was Unity, but this time set in ol' London town? I dunno, I'm still burnt by the mess that was digital Paris.
But out of the embers of anger rose the metaphorical cockney phoenix, and an actually pretty entertaining game. London has never looked so great in a game, the voice acting was strong, the missions engaging, and who would've thought reversing in a horse and carriage would look so effortless?
4. 'Transformers: Devastation'
Licensed games are, more often than not, utter terrors that will make you fall to your knees and scream "WHY!?" at festering clouds. And now our childhoods will be sullied somewhat more by another attempt at making Transformers relevant.
Well, we should've put more trust in Bayonetta & Star Fox Zero devs' PlatinumGames because they turned out a cel-shaded, nostalgic feast of a brawler that even managed to corral the old voice talent from the OG animated series. And man does it play well.
5. 'Batman: Arkham Asylum'
Superheroes haven't had the best of times in games, and the Dark Knight is one of the shining examples of that particular discourse.
But confined to tight, dark spaces, and with a combat system that birthed a thousand imitators, Arkham Asylum was a total surprise arrival to form for Bats. The game's stealth element was strong, the story was excellent and the voice acting was beautifully hammy.
6. Any LEGO Game
LEGO. Video games. I mean, come on?
But pretty much every LEGO game released has been a fan service marathon of brilliant in-jokes and pretty ingenious puzzles. And they're huge, too! I mean LEGO Jurassic World has all four movies available as playable missions. And it's super fun!
7. 'The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker'
Although it's funny to look back at the fallout surrounding this famous fantasy franchise making the jump from realism to cartoony, cel-shaded animation, at the time it was a major shock. After the beauty of Ocarina & Mask, this felt like a slap in the face from Nintendo.
But the game turned out to be the most solid of GameCube's Zeldas, and one of the most beautiful games around. Tough, cute and engaging, The Wind Waker captures the essence of Zelda lore like no other title fronted by the Hero of Time.