ROMANCE OF THREE KINGDOMS IV / Koei / SNES
The Romance of the Three Kingdoms series has always just sort of done its own thing and catered to its small but dedicated fan base. This game is very hard for a newcomer to get into - it has no tutorials, no explanations of what's going on, it just sort of assumes one has experience with one of the previous entries in the series and sort of dumps you off to sink or swim on your own.
A basic overview of the game is that it's a war-centered simulation of the Three Kingdoms period in medieval China. You pick one prominent ruler and contend against all the others to be the supreme ruler who unites China. There's a Historical mode, where events and character allegiances stick strictly to what actually happened in history, and a Fictional mode where you can recruit any character and even bring in ones that you create yourself. One interesting point about created characters is that they retain skills they've gained over multiple games - they start out comparatively weak but can be built over time into the best characters in the game.
It's a very numbers-heavy game, and there's not much graphical splash to it. You'll spend most of your time managing resources, while negotiating alliances of convenience with other leaders in the game. When you do get into a battle, it's a sort of traditional hex-grid style, though there are some nice touches in this one like being able to set fires and push boulders down mountains onto opposing units.
It's a very good strategy game, with an exceptionally deep level of detail and customization. However, that cuts both ways, as the casual gamer is likely going to be too overwhelmed and find it to be too much of a time investment to learning how the game works (which is largely a matter of trial-and-error on your own). I'm happy to see this available on the VC for the fans of the series and hardcore strategy gamers, but it most certainly isn't for everyone.
* Gameplay Video