2009's best under-the-radar games


Metacritic score: 85 


Looks aren't everything, but in Machinarium, they count for a lot. An old-school point-and-click adventure at heart, Machinarium features some of the most stunning, hand-drawn visuals around. The incredible aesthetics make some of the more annoying aspects -- namely the fairly steep level of difficulty -- much more tolerable. It's beautiful, understated, and one of the best point-and-click adventures to come around in years.



Metacritic score: 77 


World of Warcraft has dominated the MMORPG field for over five years, but the problem is, it looks like a five-year old game. Enter Aion. This fantasy role-playing experience doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it refines the gameplay mechanics of the genre, making them much more streamlined, with plenty of Player vs Player action and a good deal of variety. And it sure does look pretty. Just be prepared to do a lot of grinding, because – as a Korean-developed MMO – Aion requires quite a bit of it to progress.


DJ Hero

Metacritic score: 86 


We all laughed when Activision announced a DJ-based rhythm game. After all, this was a company that had continually released new Guitar Hero games until the market became oversaturated, and now they were trying to sell us another plastic peripheral? But then something unexpected happened: DJ Hero was good. Great, in fact. A terrific track listing combined with some satisfying, turntable-based gameplay created a truly fresh rhythm game, something that's becoming increasingly rare. Now we wait for the inevitable flood of sequels (assuming someone eventually buys a copy, that is).


Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

Metacritic score: 93 


True, Chinatown Wars didn’t exactly fly under a lot of people’s radars, but because few of you bought it, we’re throwing it in for your (re-)consideration. GTA may be one of the biggest gaming brands on the planet, but a large part of its appeal is in the massive cities you're given to explore. How exactly does that translate to the relatively underpowered Nintendo DS? As it turns out, very well. Despite its goofy name, Chinatown Wars was able to do everything that its console counterparts could do, only on a smaller scale. Throw in some cool touch-screen minigames (which sadly aren’t as fun on the PSP version), and you have one of the best games to be released on the platform – not that that convinced anyone to buy it.



Metacritic score: 80 


Yet another indie game we never saw coming, Trine is an action-platformer that makes up for a lack of variety with some great combat and puzzles. Featuring three playable characters that you can switch between at any time, the game enables you to choose how best to progress. Use the wizard's magic to create platforms to jump on, use the knight to bash through enemies or simply use the thief's grappling hook to swing across chasms. It's completely up to you.


Rock Band Unplugged

Metacritic score: 79 


The appeal of Rock Band comes mainly from two things: the ability to play with friends and to feel like you're really rocking out, even though you're actually holding an expensive piece of plastic. Take those aspects away, and what are you left with? Rock Band Unplugged. Somehow Harmonix was able to strip away some of the most important aspects of the Rock Band games and still create something that was not only playable, but fun. It may not be perfect, but it's the best rhythm experience you can find outside of a console.


The Maw

Metacritic score: 75 


While a lengthy adventure is all well and good, sometimes you just want something short and sweet. Like The Maw, for instance. This downloadable gem is a fairly standard action-adventure game, but with a twist: you're partnered with an indestructible, continually growing eating machine that absorbs the traits of everything it consumes, a la Kirby. The game is absolutely packed with personality, with a colorful, vibrant world to explore and plenty of goofy characters to meet. It was also the debut game for developer Twisted Pixel, who quickly followed it up with the excellent 'Splosion Man and the upcoming Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley, which are similarly fun, fresh, and succinct.


Excitebots: Trick Racing

Metacritic score: 77 

 Above: It’s almost impossible to read that in a non-sarcastic voice

Though the early Wii racer Excite Truck was somewhat bland, its follow-up was nothing of the sort. In fact, Excitebots is downright crazy. Anthropomorphic, transforming cars? Check. A bizarre Poker Race mode? Check. Minigames that range from bowling to dart-throwing? Check. This game has it all. But beneath its eccentric exterior, Excitebots is an absolute blast to play, and that’s what really matters.

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  • whatsherface - December 5, 2009 2:11 a.m.

    I think Magician's Quest for the DS was overlooked by a lot.
  • fionnoh - December 3, 2009 4:22 p.m.

    i loved little kings story!! i was stuck playing my wii for so damn long. wasn't that big of a fan of excite-bot trick racing though. it was good, but not great.
  • DoctorNuclear - December 3, 2009 6:58 a.m.

    I think some of the most painfully overlooked games of the year were the Bit.Trip games on WiiWare.
  • johnthe5th - December 2, 2009 3:30 a.m.

    haha oops my bad... just realized the ginormous "2009" on the title... that explains the whole okami thing lol
  • johnthe5th - December 2, 2009 3:20 a.m.

    ?!?! No Okami?? Who are you and what have you done with GamesRadar?! Haha anyway I'm really glad someone mentioned Aion. It's REALLY fun and has gorgeous graphics. It actually has a pretty steady community and I'm hoping it will keep growing in the future and not go the way of all the other MMOs that dare to compete with WoW...
  • gmilf71 - December 1, 2009 4:34 a.m.

    Dude DJ hero is so fun. I might actually want to buy that.
  • chinesesoldier - December 1, 2009 3:19 a.m.

    Trine, GTA Chinatown Wars (Chinatown!), and Rock Band Unplugged are games I would love to get.
  • Tomsta666 - November 30, 2009 11:10 p.m.

    To be fair GamesRadar a lot of these games were fairly high profile. Albeit most of them downloadable, but still they generated a lot of hype. That said I just wanted to comment on the Maw. That game was an absolute joy to play. What I loved about it was it's extreme N64iness (If that made sense) Real fun game. Twisted Pixel are a studio to keep an eye on thats for sure!!
  • Cyberninja - November 30, 2009 9:34 p.m.

    where is muramasa you should have put it here instead of dj hero dj hero may be good but i not about spend 120 dollars on a turntable for 1 game
  • Metroidhunter32 - November 29, 2009 9:26 p.m.

    I can't belive you missed Muramasa.
  • jackthemenace - November 29, 2009 9:57 a.m.

    i havent even HEARD of half of these! but a couple look interesting, like demons souls
  • Romination - November 29, 2009 8:47 a.m.

    @SuperBadnik I care too. So there. HENRY HATSWORTH MENTION!!!! Seriously, please, if anyone out there owns a DS, fucking WONDERFUL GAME.
  • legory - November 29, 2009 7:08 a.m.

    The Maw wasn't released in 2009. It was released in 2008. ;)
  • SuperBadnik - November 29, 2009 12:17 a.m.

    @JoeMasturbaby: Never said i didn't like GTA: CW.
  • Alipeewee - November 28, 2009 6:57 p.m.

    Where's Deadly Creatures? One of th best Wii games of the year, and no mention? And yeah, DJ hero adverts are playing non-stop in the UK
  • SumthingStupid - November 28, 2009 6:48 p.m.

    the Maw was awsome and shawdow complex was super hyped by Cliffy B
  • AuthorityFigure - November 28, 2009 3:06 p.m.

    DJ Hero is garbage. Who's gonna' be playing that in 5 (or even 1) year?
  • Fransinn - November 28, 2009 10:47 a.m.

    Great games! But the scoring is feeling kinda random.
  • kor2disturbed - November 28, 2009 7:25 a.m.

    How was shadow complex and trials HD under the radar? Both were awesome. I bought both of them and the maw. But I can understand the maw. The maw is a game that will easily be overlooked by a hardcore gamer.
  • zigs - November 28, 2009 1:59 a.m.

    @darkvare awesome! thanks for the heads up, and excuse my idiocy :P Gunna give that a crack tomorrow then, cheers!

Showing 1-20 of 41 comments

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