Enlarge (credit: THQ Nordic)

The first Jagged Alliance game was published nine months after X-COM: UFO Defense, despite being developed at nearly the same time, in the same genre, with neither knowing about the other. X-COM took the throne as the progenitor of turn-based tactics games. Jagged Alliance sold okay and became a minor cult classic but is not mentioned in even a fraction of as many histories or ranked lists.

Jagged Alliance 2 was a richer, cruder, funnier, far better game. The sequel more fully meshed ’80s action movie tropes and stereotypes with the peculiar fun of micromanaging a jungle gunfight, while also managing a cast of real characters. Like Soldier of Fortune magazine, or dozens of VHS box covers from the “Action” section, it’s only realistic at a glance. As Darius Kazemi puts it in his wonderful book on the game: “No matter what a war-themed video game claims to do, it inevitably simulates the cultural fantasy of war and never war itself.”

Like its predecessor, Jagged Alliance 2 had exponentially more developer cred than sales. It racked up editors’ awards and high review scores, but its most notable nod was a nomination for “Best Game Nobody Played” in 1999. Nobody expected a true sequel 24 years later. But here we are, with a Jagged Alliance 3 that feels very direct in its sequel-dom.

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