F-Zero Climax – The most prominent example in my own mind, F-Zero Climax was released in 2004, and is the most recent F-Zero title (seriously, Nintendo? Eight years?!) The game plays like the other GBA titles, using Mode-7 graphics a la Super Mariokart and the original F-Zero. Perhaps the most interesting addition to this game is the track editor, which lets you create and store up to 30 original tracks. This, of course, means you could have potentially unlimited track designs to play, and all of them are playable in multiplayer. It’s a great game, and one I’m certainly proud to own. Most of the content is even in English, so you don’t need to know Japanese to be able to play it. You can even play it on US GBA systems, so you won’t run into a snag
Trace Memory 2 – Developed by now-defunct Cing (creators of Hotel Dusk), Trace Memory 2 (called Another Code: R in Europe) is the sequel to Trace Memory, a point-and-click adventure for the DS. By finding clues, Ashley, the protagonist, can unlock secrets and memories of her past and fnd out what happened to her mother 13 years prior. This game was made for Wii, so unfortunately, you’ll have to have a European Wii (or use some sort of dubious, warranty-ruining method) to play it. But it’s been seen online for around $20, so you don’t have to break the bank to own it. If you enjoyed Trace Memory (I know I did!), then this is a must-have.
Last Window: The Secret of Cape West – Many US gamers are familiar with Hotel Dusk, a great little point-and-click adventure for the DS. But many do not know that this game has a sequel that was released in Japan and Europe, but never made it here. While not technically a sequel, the story follows Kyle Hyde as he tries to uncover some strange goings-on at his apartment complex. With a unique visual style and excellent writing, this game (like it’s predecessor) will envelop you in a fascinating story of intrigue and mystery. The best part about this one is you can get it in English, since it was released in Europe. You also don’t need a European system to play it. So what are you waiting for?!
Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland – Ah, yes, everyone’s favorite androgynous fairy, Tingle. Comic relief in the Zelda games, this goof-nugget got his own game back in 2007 which was released in Japan and Europe. It’s an RPG-style game where you feed rupees into a tower to make it bigger. As you might expect, it’s an insane and bizarre game with the objective of getting more and more money. As with some of the other titles mentioned, it was released in Europe for the DS, so you can get an English copy that plays on your DS. If you love Tingle (and who doesn’t?), then go find this game! It’s been seen online for anywhere between $30-50, so it’s not too terribly expensive.
Captain Rainbow – If you have ever seen this game, you’d understand why it was never released outside of Japan. It’s a bizarre adventure game made by Skip (creators of Chibi-Robo). You play as Captain Rainbow, a bizarre superhero, as you try to help some older, disgraced Nintendo stars. For example, one mission involves helping Little Mac (Punch-Out!!) lose all the weight he’s gained. But despite its peculiarities, it looks to be a fantastic title. This one is also on Wii, so a standard US Wii will not play it. It’s also in Japanese, so there are some barriers to enjoying this one. But if you can swing it, it’s worth every yen.
Chibi-Robo 3 – Another game available only in Japan, this one was released a few years back for the DS. In case you don’t know, Chibi-Robo is a charming little robot who cleans people’s houses and takes care of things. It doesn’t sound like a game that would be very fun, but neither does Animal Crossing if you explain it to someone (and we all know how awesome Animal Crossing is!). In this game, Jenny (a girl from the first game) has grown up and now you’re cleaning her house. Out of all the titles mentioned here, this one is probably the most difficult to enjoy. Not only is it in Japanese, but it’s also very expensive. As of this writing, the cheapest copy on eBay is $67. Ouch. So go work overtime one week, then learn Japanese, then go play it. Seriously, do it!!
Of course, it would be difficult to cover all the games never released in the US. And sometimes, those games do make it here eventually (Sin & Punishment [N64] is available on Virtual Console!). These are just a few prominent examples. There are others (Donkey Konga 3, Disaster: Day of Crisis, Ace Attorney Investigations 2), and hopefully we all get the chance to play them someday.
Have some others games we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments!