Top ten games that didn’t make Game of the Year 2009

As you may have seen by now, Destructoid and a number of outer outlets have posted their games of the year. The usual suspects were all in attendance — games like New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Modern Warfare 2, and of course Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

With only ten spaces on your traditional GotY nominations list, there are plenty of games that got forgotten. Fortunately, Destructoid never forgets, and while our winners have been named, we felt it only right to pay tribute to the games of 2009 that are not getting their due honors this year. 

There are a number of games that would have been just as welcome on any GotY listing, but didn’t make the cut due to bad luck or fickle, forgetful minds. It is with great pleasure, then, that I give to you our top ten games that didn’t make Game of the Year 2009. Written in conjunction with Jonathan Holmes, I proudly present to you our list of the ten games you better not forget!

Shatter (PlayStation 3)
Developher: Sidhe
Publisher: Sidhe
Released: July 23, 2009

Undoubtedly one of the best downloadable games of the year, Shatter is to paddle-and-ball games what Geometry Wars is to twin-stick shooters. With its amazing soundtrack, unique visual style and an inventive little blow/suck mechanic that gives players a measure of control over the ball, Shatter was a simple game with a surprising amount of depth to it. 

While there are tons of Arkanoid clones on the market, Shatter stands out because its differences are subtle enough to not look gimmicky, but different enough to make the game feel much more involved than your average paddle-puzzler. It uses physics to create blocks that aren’t just an obstacle, but an active threat to the player, and employs some remarkably challenging boss battles to keep things fresh. 

If you’re a fan of retro games and haven’t played Shatter yet, make that something you do before 2009 is over. It’s well worth your time and money!

LostWinds: Winter of the Melodias (Wii)
Developer: Frontier Developments
Publisher: Frontier Developments
Released: October 19, 2009

LostWinds was the game that proved from the get-go how good-looking and fun WiiWare games could be. This year, it got a sequel, and like any good sequel should, LostWinds 2 outdid its predecessor in every way. Everything about the game was bigger and better. New power-ups, a larger, more diverse world, and even a playable green chicken-headed singing thing are all part of what make LostWinds 2 an inarguably better game than the original. 

Like the first game, what really makes LostWinds 2 so great is the way it takes the 2D platforming genre and turns it on its head. Simultaneously controlling the powerless boy Toku with the Nunchuk, while blowing him (lol) as the wind spirit Enril. The Wii remote works to make the over-twenty-year-old genre feel fresh again, while providing the player with a level of control and immersion not possible with traditional control methods. Seeing this style of gaming copied by other WiiWare games like NyxQuest, and bigger-name titles like next year’s pointer-controlled re-release of LittleBigPlanet, shows how big of a deal these games really are. 

The LostWinds series may be among the most influential games you’ve never played. 

Red Faction: Guerrilla (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Developer: Volition, Inc.
Publisher: THQ
Released: June 2, 2009

There were a lot of open-world games released this year — inFAMOUS, Prototype and Assassin’s Creed II, to name a few — but Red Faction: Guerrilla never got much of a look-in when the GotY nominations rolled in. Depending on who you ask, that’s a crime against taste, as Guerrilla is considered by many to be the greatest sandbox game released this year, and one of the best ever made. 

There are many reasons why this game is so well-regarded. The fact that your actions influence the world around you and allow you to slowly wrest control of Mars from the oppressive EDF; the impressive physics; and most importantly of all, the fact that you get to destroy loads and loads and loads and loads of stuff. 

Bombs, rocket launchers and giant hammers are all employed to help turn whole buildings into piles of precious scrap metal, and while the game can be incredibly tough at times, the endless amounts of human-on-structure violence that can be had leads to a very satisfying experience for anybody with an appetite for destruction. 

‘Splosion Man (Xbox 360)
Developer: Twisted Pixel Games
Publisher: Twisted Pixel Games
Released: July 22, 2009

‘Splosion Man is hilarious. From the brilliant animations and noises of the hyperactive, explosive, completely remorseless anti-hero to that classic donut song, ‘Splosion Man is one of the funniest games you’ll play all year. It also helps that Twisted Pixel created an intensely clever and challenging puzzle/platformer experience that marks it out as one of 2009’s most brilliant titles. 

Playing as the titular ‘Splosion Man, your job is to help a test subject gone horribly wrong to escape from some sort of genetic research lab. ‘Splosion Man is armed with the ability to, well, explode himself. Explosions allow him to reach higher areas, and he can blow up three times in a row before needing to recharge. While this conceit sounds limited, the amount of gameplay variety Twisted Pixel was able to squeeze out of it is incredibly impressive. The game is a constant surprise, throwing all manner of obstacles, puzzles and bosses in your way. 

But again, it all goes back to one thing — this game is fucking funny! ‘Splosion Man himself is like the insane Gremlin from Gremlins II: The New Batch, unable to stop himself from moving, making funny noises, pretending to be an airplane, or simply laughing like a psycho. One of the most memorable and hilarious game protagonists of all time, ‘Splosion Man‘s hero is reason alone to give this game a round of applause. 

Torchlight (PC)
Developer: Runic Games
Publisher: Perfect World Entertainment, Encore
Released: October 27, 2009

While loot fans patiently tap their feet and wait for Diablo III, Runic Games has the world covered with Torchlight. Unapologetically set in the same mold as Blizzard’s famous RPG series, Torchlight takes players into a huge world full of bizarre monsters, nasty traps and endless streams of delicious loot. It also has a beautiful cartoon-esque visual style that helps the game stand out on its own.

As players take on the role of a Destroyer, Alchemist or Vanquisher, they will enter hundreds of randomized dungeons in their quest for Ember, the precious power source that has leveled countless civilizations in the past. Fans of click-on-everything RPGs will feel right at home with Torchlight, which does nothing to revolutionize the genre, but simply does everything so undeniably well that it makes for a truly addictive experience. It also employs a few neat tricks — like a dog that can carry your loot back to town — that help to make the experience more efficient and less aggravating for the player. 

Torchlight is a fantastic RPG, one of the best of the year, and it’s shameful that it never got more of a spotlight than it deserved, a situation that Destructoid itself is also guilty of aiding. In any case, the thing is on sale for $4.99 via Steam right now. I beg you to buy it if you like Western RPGs in any way. Your money will scarcely be better spent!

Little King’s Story (Wii)
Developer: Cing, Town Factory
Publisher: XSEED Games, Marvelous Entertainment
Released: July 21, 2009

Here’s a game that combines comedy, sociology, violence, and God-like power over your fellow man, all from a little developer, and delivered with a level of craftsmanship normally found only in AAA-budgeted titles. It’s the kind of game that gaming journalists normally rant about for years, right? Well, a lot of them did, but an equal measure of them didn’t play the game at all. Same goes for the general public. The game’s “T” rating combined with its “kiddie” art direction likely worked to repel kids and adults alike, limiting its audience quite a bit.

Still, the people that did give the game a chance were treated to one of the best real-time strategy battalion-style action RPGs ever made. Until you’ve killed the giant TV king and carved a giant chicken monster with a flying, clever-flaying shoryuken attack, you really haven’t experienced everything that this year in videogames had to offer.

The Saboteur (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Developer: Pandemic
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Released: December 8, 2009

Released in December and a few weeks after Assassin’s Creed II, Pandemic’s World War II open-world game was never destined for huge success. The Saboteur is one of those games that’s very easy to write off as a derivative, uninteresting game. However, those who have actually played the thing tend to come away with one thought in mind — it’s pretty damn good, despite a significant number of problems. 

The Saboteur is one of those games that has quite a few kinks, but manages to rise above its issues to provide an overall entertaining experience. The unique black-and-white visuals that represent Nazi oppression, the brilliant destructive missions, and the affable hero Sean Devlin all combine to make a wonderful overlooked gem, albeit a gem surrounded by hard-to-penetrate stone. 

Above all, however, The Saboteur deserves kudos for taking two overused and boring gameplay crutches — open-world gameplay and WWII settings — and combining them to make something that feels fresh and interesting. For that, Pandemic deserved much more recognition in 2009. 

Killzone 2 (PlayStation 3)
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Released: February 27, 2009

I know, I know. You might not agree with this being here. Surely this is a list of underrated and overlooked games, while Killzone 2 was incredibly hyped and got masses of review scores, right? Right!

However, Killzone 2 is a game strangely absent from many nominations, despite its huge status as a big AAA exclusive, and I believe the answer to this is simple — it was released in February. Such an early release for such a big title has led to Killzone 2 remaining largely forgotten when the year-end honors came to town, and I think, if anything, this game stands as proof that most GotY nominations are based upon recent memory, and not the year taken as a whole. Killzone 2 was shafted because most people in charge of nominatons completely forgot the thing. Had Killzone 2 and Uncharted 2 swapped places this year, I bet we’d have seen quite a few less GotY awards for Naughty Dog’s effort. 

In any case, Killzone 2 deserves a place on this list, as it was one of the best shooters of the year. A campaign full of setpieces and explosions, beautiful graphics, and a hugely entertaining online mode that threatened to suck up days of one’s life with its addictive design, Killzone 2 was one of the best games of 2009. The fact that it barely ended up on any nominee lists is a bloody farce. 

Half-Minute Hero (PlayStation Portable)
Developer: Marvelous Entertainment
Publisher: XSEED
Released: October 12, 2009

Is it any surprise that a PSP game was left off of the GotY ballot? Largely forgotten due to its platform of choice, Half-Minute Hero is nevertheless one of the most fun and brilliant puzzle games you could ever hope to find. The whole thing is an amusing commentary on the repetitive and grinding nature of Japanese role-playing games, as it takes an entire RPG experience and squashes it into thirty seconds of gameplay. 

The game seems to be making the statement that these massive, eighty-hour experiences only contain about half a minute of varied gameplay. They’re all the same thing — a bit of dialog, a smudge of plot, and hours upon hours of grinding. By turning those hours into seconds, Marvelous demonstrates just how much time we waste playing those things. 

Half-Minute-Hero is more than a one-note joke, however. The gameplay is surprisingly varied and mentally challenging, as players have to learn time management and efficiency in order to save the day. It’s not just a funny game, it’s very clever too. A definite must for PSP owners, and one of the best games of the year. 

Demon’s Souls (PlayStation 3)
Developer: From Software
Publisher: Atlus
Released: October 7, 2009

My personal game of the year, Demon’s Souls is one of the few games I could describe as almost perfect. The incredible tough-but-fair gameplay, the bleak and lonely atmosphere, and a beautifully realized game world make Demon’s Souls stand out as one of the best RPG experiences of all time.

Players take on a role of a hero who must save the dying world of Boletaria from the Old One. The plot is largely hidden, but it’s subtly woven throughout the whole game, taking on more importance than glancing players would actually believe. The whole game is the story — the crippled, decaying, corrupted world of Boletaria and the scenes of long-forgotten slaughters tell us so much about the game and paint an awesomely vivid picture in our mind about what has happened to this world. The game tells us so much just with what we see. 

The unique ability to leave messages online for other players and view how players before you have died also turn this into a strange multiplayer experience as well. In Demon’s Souls, everybody helps each other, even if they’re not directly interacting. You get a sense that everybody in the game is playing together, despite living in their own game worlds and doing their own thing. 

Demon’s Souls is a beautiful, challenging, and haunting RPG that remains one of the best titles ever made, let alone released this year. Truly a fantastic title. Truly something that deserved to be on more Game of the Year lists than it managed. 

You damn right, Demon’s Souls.

Jim Sterling