I’ve been playing a lot of retro games lately as part of an effort to get through a back catalog of games that grows larger month over month. Sometimes the games are awesome and worth the investment all these years later. Sometimes they are just okay and probably a relic of their time. And sometimes they’re downright terrible and I’d probably be better off not having played at all.
Even worse, there are some games that are lost to time. Some games that are well regarded, highly rated, or even the best in their series, but never saw a re-release and are trapped on their original console. I wanted to look at some of these games today, and find the gems that are exclusive to their console. Some of the most fun, unique games are still only available on their original console, meaning they’re lost to generations of players.
In no particular order, here’s a few of them I wanted to highlight! Each game is a console exclusive that never saw any re-release at a later date, nor did it get a port in a compilation disc, downloadable service, or otherwise. If you want to play these games, you have to own the original (and only) version of the game.
Einhander (Playstation – 1997)
Kicking things off is the game I recently wrote about which inspired this entire list. Einhander is a PS1 shoot’em up from Square. Released during a time when the shoot’em up genre was basically dead, and Square was being launched into the stratosphere with their SNES and PS1 era RPG epics, the game really didn’t stand a chance. Looking back on the game it’s easy to see why it’s great: solid visuals, strong gameplay, and good pacing. With a critical eye you can also see why the game may have flopped upon release: no target audience, a challenging difficulty, and 2.5D gameplay when 3D gameplay was the new fad. It’d be great to see this one shine today, but alas, I think we’re going to be wishing on that for awhile.
Shining Force III (Saturn – 1998)
This one’s kind of weird because North America only technically got the first third of this game on the Saturn. The other two parts of the game never released here, thanks in part to poor Saturn sales and the Dreamcast releasing less than a year after this game. Full version aside, the game is still exclusive to the Saturn, making it incredibly hard to find and enjoy. Shining Force III is also the last game in the series developed by the original creative team at Camelot, as all subsequent games and spinoffs were created by other developers. The Shining series, at least the older ones, are something I’d love to get into if only the availability were better.
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door (Gamecube – 2004)
Easily the highest regarded game in the Paper Mario series remains an exclusive to the Gamecube. That isn’t really a surprise to me though: Nintendo often leaves their spinoff franchises on older consoles. Despite being a Mario game, TTYD can only be enjoyed if you’re rocking a Wii or Gamecube in your room. This one would likely sell like wild on the Switch with just a port. No enhancements needed, just bring the game over and allow folks to play it. I really do think they’d bite and buy. A lot like these next games…
Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance (Gamecube – 2005)
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn (Wii – 2007)
If Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door made sense why it has stayed on the cube, both Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn remaining console exclusives is just crazy. The Fire Emblem franchise has never been hotter with recent releases like Three Houses and Engage being best sellers, and fans clamoring for all things FE. So why not bring back these two games that are often called some of the best released stateside. To make my case stronger here, why have Ike is Super Smash Bros if people playing have essentially no one to enjoy either of the games he in? I’m holding out for a compilation on the Switch soon, but I don’t think I should hold my breath.
Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (DS – 2008)
Oh man, Order of Ecclesia is good! Like, really good. Rounding out a superb trilogy of Castlevania games on the DS, this is also the last Castlevania game I think I enjoyed. Games released after this tended to be more action oriented like the gameplay found in Lords of Shadow. And that’s even if we can get a proper Castlevania game from Konami these days. We did see awesome anniversary collections for a few of the retro NES titles and, more recently, a collection of the three GBA gamees, so maybe there’s hope we get another compilation of this game and the other excellent DS entries!
General Chaos (Genesis – 1993)
This list’s, “Uhh, what?” entry is one of my childhood favorites. I remember renting this tactical strategy game and enjoying it with my brothers. Pick a squad of specialized troops including gunners, bazookas, dynamite, and more, and take out the enemy team. It’s that simple. The game had fun gameplay and a catch Genesis soundtrack, but wasn’t really winning any awards. Despite this, I cannot even tell you how giddy I’d be if this got announced for addition on the Nintendo Switch’s Genesis game collections. Or a full on remake, oh my gosh!
3D Dot Game Heroes (Playstation 3 – 2010)
The Playstation 3 has a lot of RPGs, many of which are likely going to stay on that console and join so many others in relative obscurity. One game I’d love to not subject to that fate is From Software’s 3D Dot Game Heroes. Inspired by action games like The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, and Minecraft (kind of), the game is an action adventure where you can create your own pixel perfect protagonist. If you have full health your sword swings literally encompass the entire screen. In short, this game is a fun, unique, retro take on action games from yesteryear. It’s something every fan of old school games should play, but it’s going to be a PS3 exclusive seemingly forever.
F-Zero GX (Gamecube – 2003)
Oof, this one hurts a bit. We had an opportunity to purchase a copy of this game back in the early 2000s, and my brothers and I passed on it. We just weren’t really into F-Zero or racing games all that much. Fast forward near 20 years and the game’s hard to find, expensive, and has never seen a re-release. It’s almost as if Nintendo wants to completely forget about this one, as there hasn’t been any movement in the F-Zero franchise since the GBA’s entry in 2004. Captain Falcon will join Ike in Super Smash Bros as characters Nintendo seems to want us to forget about…
Mother 3 (Game Boy Advance – 2006)
Wow, maybe this game could be entirely comprised of Nintendo games, because here’s another one that not only hasn’t seen a re-release, but was never even released in North America. Mother 3 is the sequel to Earthbound, one of the Super NES’s most highly regarded and fan favorite RPGs. Japanese RPGs usually require heavy investment from developers to port over to an English audience. This game also released very late in the Game Boy Advance’s lifetime. Combining those two meant bringing this one out at all would be difficult. However with so much fan outcry I’m honestly still surprised Nintendo hasn’t ported this. We got Live A Live last year though, so perhaps there is a light at the end of this exclusive tunnel.
Panzer Dragoon Saga (Saturn – 1998)
I take it back: this entire list could be composed of Sega Saturn games. You know what, let’s throw Sega CD games in there too, because holy crap there are just a ton of exclusives that were never ported. If we’re only looking at one though, I have to pick Panzer Dragoon Saga. It’s one of the most elusive, expensive, and exclusive games out there, routinely selling for close to $1000 for a complete copy. As far as I know there have been no ports of the massive 4-disc game, and the only way to enjoy it is forking over a small fortune and owning a Saturn to play it on. This is a “Holy Grail” game of many collectors, and I can see why. I don’t really care about owning it, I would just like to have an option to play it and not take out a loan.