2. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
Shu Takumi, the creative genius behind the Ace Attorney series, has created some of the most memorable stories and characters in all of gaming. So when he announced that he was working on Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, a brand-new adventure game for DS, we already knew that it would be something special. And when we finally got to play it for ourselves and experienced its truly mind-bending and heartwarming tale (featuring the greatest game dog of all time, hands down), we hoped with all our niche gamer hearts that Ghost Trick would catch on just as Phoenix Wright had before.
Alas, it wasn't to be. Not only did Ghost Trick sell poorly, but Capcom even went so far as to specifically call it out as a contributing factor in their recent fiscal downturn. Seriously, people, this is why we can't have nice things. All of you who ignored Ghost Trick are missing out on one of the DS’s most charming experiences, on par with the magic of Disney or Pixar, with what's possibly the best ending of the year. For the small number of us who actually played it, the saddest part is that we'll probably never see a sequel. Thanks for that, everyone else.
1. Rayman Origins
We don’t know what sort of insanity prompted Ubisoft to release Rayman Origins on November 15, but the timing put developer Michel Ancel’s quirky side-scroller in direct competition with heavyweights like Modern Warfare 3, Saints Row The Third, Zelda: Skyward Sword and even Ubi’s own Assassin’s Creed Revelations. Pushed out to fend for itself in a crowded field like that, it really isn’t surprising that Origins sold a piddly 50,000 copies across three platforms in its first two weeks (for reference, Revelations sold more than 25 times as many).
While it’s not surprising, however, it’s certainly a shame. Origins is a beautifully animated, gorgeously realized and instantly absorbing piece of inspired lunacy that sees Rayman and his misshapen friends out to liberate their silly dreamworld from its annoyed neighbors, the Livid Dead. It starts out as a seemingly simple side-scroller, but quickly becomes so much more; after granting Rayman and company an assortment of new powers and luring them to the “end” of its easy but addictive levels, it turns the tables and becomes a wickedly balls-hard romp through some of the most demanding, timing-intensive 2D gameplay we’ve seen since the Super NES was king. And yet even at its most soul-crushing, Origins’ perfectly tuned action and endlessly entertaining personality makes it impossible to put down the controller.
So yeah, Origins is pretty badass. In a year filled with explosive spectacle and deep storytelling, it opted to simply be a game, and it stood out because of it. Unfortunately, it also got steamrolled right out the gate, making it one of the sadder instances of a game that the buying public blew right by. Oh well, maybe the inevitable post-2011 discount – and a re-release on Vita early next year – will give it the audience it deserves.
What’s your choice for the best overlooked game of 2011? Champion it in the comments and maybe, just maybe, you’ll give it a second chance at success.