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The best videogames of 2009 ... so far

4:00 PM on 06.30.2009 // Chad Concelmo

In addition to the satisfaction of dragging that last bite of delicious popsicle off of its stick and the pride that fills your body after spelling your name with the trail of a sparkler, the summer months also bring about one other inevitable feeling: the emptiness of not having many videogames to play.

For some odd reason, publishers like to release all their major games at the beginning and end of the year, leaving the middle, extra sunny months a veritable gaming release ghost town: one filled with movie-licensed tumbleweed and dusty, shovelware saloon doors.

But there is still hope!

Today marks the midway point of the year, so what better way to prepare you for the upcoming months of gaming desolation than with a list of the best videogames of 2009?! Using this list, you can start playing some outstanding games that either fell off your radar earlier in the year, or are ones you just haven’t had time to get around to yet. Whatever the reason, these first half of 2009 games should not be missed!

Grab a nice, cool glass of lemonade and hit the jump for a list of fifteen games we here at Destructoid think are worth checking out during this slow, lazy summer: our list of the best videogames of 2009 ... so far.

Here they are (in alphabetical order):

Bit.Trip Beat (WiiWare)

Bit.Trip Beat has no “characters.” It has no story. It may even have the most “basic” graphics of any game on a current-generation console.

But, man, the game is ridiculously fun.

Playing like a weird hybrid of Pong, Rez, and, I don’t know, Dance Dance Revolution, Bit.Trip Beat is a funky, unique, and mind-numbingly addictive experiment for WiiWare. Using the tilt controls of the Wiimote (no buttons needed!), players are asked to catch “beats” as they cross from one side of the screen to the other. The premise is basic, but seeing the way the game perfectly combines its lovely visuals with the outstanding music is exhilarating. You really need to play it to truly understand the game’s genius!

Choice review excerpt:Bit.Trip Beat feels like an intentional deconstruction of videogames as a whole, with all forms of complexity stripped away in favor of delivering a simple, concentrated experience.”

(You can read the full review of Bit.Trip Beat right here)

Picked as a favorite by these editors:


Boom Blox: Bash Party (Wii)

Go ahead and laugh at us for including the sequel to Steven Spielberg-created Wii game Boom Blox on our list of the best games of the year so far. While you are laughing, we will be having one of the best times ever throwing balls at blocks and watching them topple ever-so-satisfyingly to the ground.

Okay, after reading that, I may have laughed too, but, trust us: Boom Blox: Bash Party is an incredibly fun game -- one of the best games you will find on the Wii!

Choice review excerpt: “Addictive and inherently fun, Boom Blox: Bash Party is a must-have for your Wii collection.”

(You can read the full review of Boom Blox: Bash Party right here)

Picked as a favorite by these editors:


Crayon Physics Deluxe (PC)

Crayon Physics Deluxe is, hands-down, one of the most creative and original puzzle games to ever be released. (Heck, it seemed to even inspire an upcoming WiiWare game and most likely was the root of Scribblenauts' existence.)

By drawing on the screen, players create a wide variety of objects to help guide a ball to touch all the stars on the screen. The way the drawing mechanic works, combined with the realistic gravity-based physics, is, simply put, jaw-dropping. Anyone with even an inkling of curiosity about the beauty of game design has to check this revolutionary game out.

Choice review excerpt:Crayon Physics Deluxe is a game full of charm and imagination the likes of which you've never, ever seen before.”

(You can read the full review of Crayon Physics Deluxe right here)

Picked as a favorite by these editors:


Fight Night Round 4 (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)

Oh my gosh, a sports game?! RUN FOR THE HILLS!

I kid, I kid. (But, seriously, keep the car running.)

While the majority of the Destructoid staff is scared of sports games (thank heavens for Samit!), Fight Night Round 4 manages to transcend the intimidating genre by offering some realistic, bloody gameplay and out-of-control pretty visuals. Punching people in the face has never been so much fun! Well, until the release of Fight Night Round 5: Old Ladies, that is.

Choice review excerpt: Review not posted yet.

Picked as a favorite by these editors:


Flower (PlayStation Network)

It’s such a beautiful thing when a videogame can actually duplicate the relaxing “zen” feeling of a flower petal riding the breeze through an open field and not come across as a complete gimmick.

Flower manages to take this crazy premise and form it into a fully realized game containing gorgeous graphics, splendid music, and one of the greatest, most visceral last levels in recent gaming memory. Even though some people argue it isn’t really a “game” in the traditional sense, I, for one, am still playing Flower over and over again this many months after its release. Whatever you choose to call it, Flower offers an exceptional, wholly unique experience.

Choice review excerpt: “Experimental games are generally built upon the foundation of a simple mechanic or idea. Flower is simple, yet the mixture and introduction of new gameplay elements keeps you entertained.”

(You can read the full review of Flower right here)

Picked as a favorite by these editors:


Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure (DS)

If you had asked me years ago if I would have been excited to play a game combining the 2D side-scrolling gameplay of something like Super Mario World with the addictive puzzle action of Tetris Attack, I would have done two things. First, I would make out with you for even thinking about such an incredible hybrid. Then, I would push you in a mud puddle for teasing me about something so amazing that obviously would never work.

Well, get up out of that mud puddle, because Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure achieved the near-impossible! The DS game somehow managed to combine the square peg of the platformer with the round hole of the puzzle genre into a deep, very challenging action game that -- gasp! -- actually works. And works well!

Choice review excerpt: “The way in which Henry Hatsworth forces players to focus on both the traditional platforming and puzzles is nothing short of brilliant.”

(You can read the full review of Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure right here)

Picked as a favorite by these editors:


Killzone 2 (PlayStation 3)

Say what you will about the sometimes awkward control scheme (wait, how do I manage that sniper rifle, again?), but when it comes to first-person shooters, Killzone 2 is easily one of the best. Sporting a robust and impressive multiplayer mode and arguably the greatest visuals on the PlayStation 3, the anticipated sequel delivered on its hype in a big way.

True, the game falls into some generic trappings (so much brown and gray!), but what it does, it does really well.

Choice review excerpt: “Standing on its own and shirking the responsibility of a 'PS3 killer-app,' Killzone 2 is a simply superb experience.”

(You can read the full review of Killzone 2 right here)

Picked as a favorite by these editors:


Plants vs. Zombies (PC)

PopCap knows how to release addictive games -- just ask any gamer (and their moms) how much they play Bejeweled and Peggle. But I think everyone was surprised that the company’s latest offering, Plants vs. Zombies, turned out to be this incredible.

At its most basic, Plants vs. Zombies is a tower defense game starring an army of various plants with different abilities, selected to defend the humans living inside various residencies from hordes of brain-devouring zombies. Well, I guess that is not so much “basic” as it is “awesome.”

Outside of the solid, addictive gameplay, however, is one of the funniest, most charming videogames in recent memory.

Choice review excerpt: “Every inch of Plants vs. Zombies is jam-packed with humor and attention to detail, and I never once stopped enjoying its clever take on the genre even after I had exhausted everything it had to offer. Do not miss this game -- titles this good don't come around often.”

(You can read the full review of Plants vs. Zombies right here)

Picked as a favorite by these editors:


Punch-Out!! (Wii)

Since I am the one writing this article, I am going to take this opportunity to force my opinion on you right now. I adore Punch-Out!! for the Wii. In fact, it may be my favorite game of the year so far (next to all the others my hyperbole-fueled mouth has declared “Best game EVER!”).

Punch-Out!! takes the best parts of both the original Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! for the NES and Super Punch-Out!! for the Super Nintendo and combines them into one giant package of unadulterated awesome! Seriously, I don’t think I have had more fun playing any other videogame this year. From the smooth animation to the simple, yet deep, gameplay, Punch-Out!! reminds us all what is so remarkably refreshing about great, old-school gaming.

Choice review excerpt: “Fans of the original game can breathe a sigh of relief, as nearly everything you cherished about the original remains intact in Punch-Out!!

(You can read the full review of Punch-Out!! right here)

Picked as a favorite by these editors:


Resident Evil 5 (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)

First off, we know that Resident Evil 5 is not even close to being as great as its masterpiece of a predecessor Resident Evil 4. But standing on its own, the admittedly over-hyped sequel is an outstanding action game. And, yup, I used the term “action game” on purpose. With this fifth game in the numbered series, Resident Evil moved from survival horror to straight-up action.

But what an action game it is! Featuring gorgeous visuals, incredible boss fights, and creative, satisfying co-op, Resident Evil 5 is a polished, extremely well-made videogame. It’s just a shame it had the misfortune of coming out after No. 4.

Choice review excerpt: “In a world where Resident Evil 4 doesn’t exist, Resident Evil 5 probably would have been a more mind-blowing overall package.”

(You can read the full review of Resident Evil 5 right here)

Picked as a favorite by these editors:


Retro Game Challenge (DS)

For fans of, you guessed it, retro games (especially ones released on the original NES), Retro Game Challenge is a dream come true. In the game, you play a young boy or girl tasked with completing multiple challenges in eight completely original (and completely varied) retro-style videogames. And, seriously, you get a little bit of everything in Retro Game Challenge: from a simple vertical-scrolling space shooter to an elaborate, surprisingly lengthy RPG.

The attention to detail in the game is stunning, with players able to look through in-game (fictional) videogame magazines to find hints and cheat codes that will actually work with the in-game retro games your main character plays. (Did that sentence read as confusing as it sounded when it came out of my head?)

Choice review excerpt:Retro Game Challenge is a love letter to those of us who grew up playing videogames in the 8-bit era.”

(You can read the full review of Retro Game Challenge right here)

Picked as a favorite by these editors:


Rhythm Heaven (DS)

Although a handful of songs received some questionable localization, the North American release of Rhythm Heaven (originally named Rhythm Tengoku Gold in Japan) is still one of the most joyful, addictive videogames to ever come out on the DS.

Just try not to smile during this. Seriously.

Choice review excerpt: “If wading your way through Japanese intimidates you but you still have interest in this game, don't miss Rhythm Heaven, because games this good and this addictive are few and far between.”

(You can read the full review of Rhythm Heaven right here)

Picked as a favorite by these editors:


Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor (DS)

With Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor -- the latest game in the long-running Shin Megami Tensei series -- Atlus proves yet again it is the king (or queen?) of making stellar RPGs. In this DS gem, players take on the role of a 17-year-old high school student (surprise!) who must summon demons using a special device and engage in epic battles that combine the grid-based movement of a strategy game with the turn-based gameplay of a traditional RPG.

Yeah, it does sound kind of complicated and overwhelming.

But, this being Atlus, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor turns out to be the right combination of challenge and accessibility that makes for the perfect role-playing experience.

Choice review excerpt: “Its time-based, branching story and clever blend of both strategy and turn-based gameplay styles make for a highly original title.”

(You can read the full review of Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor right here)

Picked as a favorite by these editors:


Street Fighter IV (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)

It seemed almost an impossible feat to combine the fast-paced, balanced action of Super Street Fighter II with the depth and skilled button presses of Street Fighter III 3rd Strike, but Capcom somehow managed to do it with the ridiculously anticipated sequel Street Fighter IV. Even the highly stylized graphics -- an early worry amongst fans -- turned out absolutely gorgeous, with some gamers calling Street Fighter IV the best-looking game in the beloved series.

Also, any iteration of Street Fighter that can actually get me to play (and love!) Vega is a winner in my book.

Also (also), giant thighs and bulging packages!

Choice review excerpt: “Despite its thin selection of modes, the core of the game is so remarkably solid that anyone with a passing interest would be a fool to pass up what’s clearly solidified itself as the new standard for the future of fighters.”

(You can read the full review of Street Fighter IV right here)

Picked as a favorite by these editors:


Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures (PC)

Telltale Games may be only one (albeit large) part of the glorious resurgence of classic point-and-click adventure games, but they single-handedly are the only company to prove that episodic gaming can be successful. And by combining this new, exciting release format with characters as beloved as Wallace & Gromit, Telltale has created a new episodic adventure series that is as cheeky as it is well-designed.

Unless the last game in the series is a huge bust (the soon-to-be-released The Bogey Man), Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures is sure to be remembered as a widely entertaining addition to the adventure game genre.

Choice review excerpt: “If you've held out on playing these, this is the point at which I can wholeheartedly encourage an investment in the series.”

(You can read the full reviews of the Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures episodes here, here, and here)

Picked as a favorite by these editors:

In addition, be sure to check out these honorable mentions!

Demigod (PC)
Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride (DS)
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (DS)
MadWorld (Wii)
The Maw (Xbox Live Arcade)
Red Faction: Guerrilla (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Windosill (PC)


So, what do you think? Do you agree these are the best 2009 has to offer so far, or did we leave some exceptional videogames off the list? With the busy holiday season only a few months away, what upcoming games do you think will overtake our picks? On that same note, which early 2009 games do you think will hold on and maintain their position as best of the year?

Let us know in the comments.

Chad Concelmo,
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