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2009's best under-the-radar games

It's a rare occurrence nowadays, but every once in a while, a game you’ve never even heard of comes along and absolutely blows you away. Sometimes it's a little indie gem that didn't get enough promotion. Other times, what appears to be a quick cash-in turns out to be an awesome game. These games don't normally sell that well, but those who play them love them. They're like a breath of fresh air in an industry packed with over-hyped blockbusters, and 2009 has seen more than its share of them. Here are some of our favorite surprises so far.

Critter Crunch

Metacritic score: 86 

Turning a puzzle game that began life on mobile phones into a high-def PSN game may not sound like the best idea, but it sure turned out well for developer Capybara Games. Despite being a downloadable title, Critter Crunch has been hailed as one of the best-looking games on the PS3, with an undeniably adorable art style and some great animation, which goes quite well with the incredibly addictive puzzle experience you'll find when you get past its good looks. Not bad for a 2008 iPhone game about eating bugs.

 

Dead Space Extraction

Metacritic score: 82 

Light-gun games have been given some new life on the Wii, but many of them feel regressive, giving players little control over their experience. So it's not surprising that many gamers had written off the Wii-exclusive follow up to last year's excellent Dead Space as a cheap cash-in before it was even released. But despite the limitations of the genre, Dead Space Extraction turned out to be an engaging and terrifying – albeit brief – experience worthy of the franchise name. Be sure to play with the lights on.

 

Demon's Souls

Metacritic score: 89 

In an age when games seem to be getting easier and more accommodating, Demon's Souls stands apart. It's brutally difficult and doles out many, many more punishments than it does rewards. It at times feels archaic, harking back to frustrating 8- and 16-bit classics, but adds enough new stuff that critics have been giving it near-universal praise. Who would've thought that the best-rated RPG of the year would be the one that makes you want to break your controller in half?

 

Shadow Complex

Metacritic score: 88 

Like Demon's Souls, Shadow Complex is decidedly old-school in its design. But while Souls’ crushing difficulty recalls sadistic arcade quarter-munchers, Shadow Complex is a 2D action platformer in the vein of classics like Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. But in spite of its retro leanings, the game was so well crafted that modern gamers embraced it wholeheartedly, bringing the side-scrolling action genre out of its handheld exile and back into the modern day. It goes light on the story, instead focusing on what it does best: delivering a fine-tuned action experience that's at the same time classic and contemporary.

 

Little King's Story

Metacritic score: 87 

There’s no shortage of colorful, cutesy games on the Wii, and for that reason many gamers didn’t give Little King's Story so much as a second thought. And that's a shame, because beneath its kid-friendly veneer lies one of the most in-depth, absorbing games on the console. A blend of real-time strategy, simulation, adventure and role-playing, Little King's Story is a unique and engaging experience that was sadly ignored by most. But be sure you have a lot of spare time before you decide to pick this one up, as it’s a seriously time-consuming epic.

 

Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure

Metacritic score: 82 

An odd blend of platformer and puzzle game, Henry Hatsworth is hard to explain, but even harder to put down. With traditional side-scrolling action taking place on the top screen of the DS and an addictive match-three puzzle game on the bottom, Hatsworth is uniquely suited to the platform. And while each element may not be the greatest on its own, together they form one damn fine game. Throw in an absolutely charming main character and game world, and you have one of the best games to hit Nintendo's handheld this year.

 

Trials HD

Metacritic score: 86 

There's just something about incredibly tough challenges that brings out the competitive nature in people. As much a puzzle game as it is a racer, Trials HD features over 50 tracks to frustrate the hell out of gamers attempting to 1) actually finish each stage and 2) rack up the highest score possible. There really is little else like it on the market, and that's a big part of its appeal (though not as much as getting the high-score bragging rights among your friends).

 

Torchlight

Metacritic score: 84 

Action/role-playing fans may be anxiously awaiting the release of Diablo III, but the wait got much easier to bear with Torchlight. Developed by the same team behind the ill-fated Mythos, formerly of Flagship Studios, Torchlight combines the obsessive, loot-gathering gameplay that makes its genre so addictive with a gorgeous art style and character designs. Given the promise and ultimate disappointment that was Hellgate: London, it's understandable that many were skeptical of Torchlight. But the finished product is something that no action-RPG fan should miss, and is one of the most addictive experiences in recent memory.

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41 comments

  • Jacob816 - November 27, 2009 4:44 p.m.

    How was Shadow Complex under the radar? That game was really good, and from my understanding, it sold well enough for a potential sequel. Also, Demon's Souls wasn't really under the radar, people knew about it and sold well enough in North America to a certain section of the gaming populace.
  • zigs - November 27, 2009 5:17 p.m.

    Just wanted to say that I always love these sorts of articles on GamesRadar. Read all the ones you've done in this similar vain in the past and it always inspires me to try some of the mentioned games. Great reads, always, and really beneficial to us gamers who are a bit bored of the norm. Unfortunately, the only games in this list that interest me i've already played/own (excluding Machinarium, but my PC has a terrible spec for gaming)
  • darkvare - November 27, 2009 5:31 p.m.

    maquinarium rocks even if it is a little short excite bots sucks balls though
  • darkvare - November 27, 2009 5:32 p.m.

    sorry for double post but zigs machinarium is actually a flash game so is not demanding in the slightest
  • noobeater - November 27, 2009 6:23 p.m.

    trials HD is good albeit very very tough towards the end shadow complex was awesome. and deserves better
  • crumbdunky - November 27, 2009 6:29 p.m.

    Under the radar? Well, in the Uk sdome aren't even getting releases-Demon's Souls and Excite Bots for two! Anyway, personal moans aside I'd heard of all of these before release(FFS the aaaages it took Trine to release was embarrassing andeveryone knew about it-justfew of us, sadly as it's pretty cool, didn't care!)and can't really call any of them belowthe radar in truth. Maybe they weren't expected to be as good as they were in some cases but it's not like many pulled up any trees in the sales world anyway! And Shodow Complex is possibly the single most hped XBLA game ever made! Uner the Rasar? It was born on the radar while it's mum weas transmitting it's existence and amazing-ness well before conception! I think it might have MADE a few radars myself.
  • erreip199 - November 27, 2009 6:32 p.m.

    i own torchlight and chinatown wars been planing to get dead space extraction, Trials HD, shadow complex, my personal radar is allways on the look of games with good gameplay
  • JohnnyMaverik - November 27, 2009 6:44 p.m.

    Hmmm... most of those games are just games that reviewed well but didn't sell millions of copies, however I woulden't call most of them under-rated, atleast half of them did very well in gterms of sales for what they were...
  • TheCreamFilling - November 27, 2009 6:45 p.m.

    Shadow Complex was a huge surprise for me. I normally hate side scrolling games but this made me totally change what I think about them.
  • SuperBadnik - November 27, 2009 6:59 p.m.

    Just accept it. Nobody cares about GTA: Chinatown Wars.
  • JoeMasturbaby - November 27, 2009 6:59 p.m.

    not being an owner of current gen. consoles, i was kinda hoping the platforms would be listed along with the game. but i loved reading all this.
  • JoeMasturbaby - November 27, 2009 7 p.m.

    @SuperBadnik: odd coincidence you posted right before me. i love GTA:CW, and you dont because youve never played it im sure.
  • JackSkellingtonsSkin - November 27, 2009 7:58 p.m.

    You could have replaced that dj hero paragraph with a mention of Okami (even if this is 09).
  • AaronTheGamingGeek - November 27, 2009 8:54 p.m.

    Here are some other good to great games that went under the radar. if i say some games that was in the radar please tell. Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising NHL 2010 Muramasa: The Demon Blade IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey Bubble Bobble Plus! Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Fuel Demigod And Yet It Moves and some others
  • Yeager1122 - November 27, 2009 9:14 p.m.

    I didnt buy any of these maybe i should pick one up.
  • TheWebSwinger - November 27, 2009 10:13 p.m.

    More like "2009's under-the-GAMESradar-games", amiritegaiz?!? ...gaiz?
  • waynski1457 - November 27, 2009 11:04 p.m.

    Under-the-radar? Really? There's some games that deserve to be here much more than that. What about Osmos, Madballs iB:I, I MAED A GAEM W/ Z0MB1ES, etc? This definitely needs a follow-up.
  • AyJay - November 28, 2009 12:06 a.m.

    Will be getting DJ Hero this Christmas.
  • key0blade - November 28, 2009 1:33 a.m.

    I keep wondering why nobody has played GTA Chinatown Wars yet, being one of my favorite games. Ever...
  • SuperGoomba64 - November 28, 2009 1:43 a.m.

    I bought Chinatown Wars where my cookie. Also not sure if was released in 09, but Killing Floor on PC is a very good

Showing 1-20 of 41 comments

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