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Top 10 Import-Only Oddities

Not every game makes its way to North America. In many cases, this is understandable; train simulators and anime dating games wouldn’t find the same audience over here as they do overseas. But what about the games that seem like a good fit? Some of them are installments in well-known series, while others come from respected development studios. The following list breaks down the top 10 games that could have made it big in North America if things had been different.

1. Mother 1 and 3

Let’s get this one out of the way first, since it seems to have sparked the most fan outrage and online petitions. We got Earthbound on SNES in 1994 – but that was actually the second game in the series known as Mother in Japan. Earthbound is a 16-bit classic, but Nintendo has demonstrated no desire to bring the other two games in this modern-day RPG series to North America. The company hasn’t clarified its reasoning for keeping Mother 1 and 3 off our shores, and it probably never will  (no matter how many angry letters people write).

2. Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII

This is a weird one, since Before Crisis is the mobile phone-exclusive entry in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII project (which also included Dirge of Cerberus and Advent Children). Before Crisis is an action/RPG starring the Turks, and acts as a prequel to the events of Final Fantasy VII. While many hardcore Final Fantasy fans would probably love to experience this story, it first released on Japanese phones in 2004 – long before mobile phone gaming took off Stateside. Square Enix is rumored to be considering a 3DS remake, but no announcements have been made, and previous plans to bring the game here in 2006 fell through.

3. Fatal Frame 4

Cameras and ghosts are a terrifying combination. The first three Fatal Frame titles released in North America, and the series won the hearts of horror fans with eerie atmosphere and disturbing scares. When the fourth installment released in Japan in 2008, gaming publication Famitsu awarded it a solid score (34/40). Unfortunately, interest in Fatal Frame 4 in other territories was apparently insufficient, since a scheduled European release was cancelled and no North American release was ever announced.

4. Michigan: Report from Hell

Developer Suda 51 and his studio Grasshopper Manufacture are responsible for cult hits like No More Heroes and Killer 7. The development house has a knack for stylish atmosphere and quirky characters, though the gameplay sometimes suffers for the sake of the presentation. This was apparently also the case with Michigan: Report from Hell on PS2, which puts players in charge of a TV cameraman recording mysterious phenomenon. The game didn’t get great reviews, but it did see a 2005 release in Europe following its 2004 Japanese debut. That means that there is an English version out there, but you need to import the game and acquire the proper equipment to play it.

5. A.S.H.: Archaic Sealed Heat

The DS already has plenty of role-playing games, so what makes this one so special? For starters, it is from Mistwalker – the studio founded by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. It was released in Japan in 2007, and even though anticipation for Mistwalker’s other titles (like Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey) was high in North America, A.S.H. never made it across the Pacific. The saddest part for would-be fans is that it came so close; Nintendo went so far as to get A.S.H. ESRB-rated before canning the U.S. release.

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