The Overlooked Games of 2010

The first article I did for GameYayFun was about the games that got overlooked for last year. Whenever I’m interested in writing, it usually focuses on something that’s not getting due praise. With that in mind, it seems only appropriate to talk about the games of 2010 that got overlooked. Obviously this sort of thing will happen every year, but it’s depressing that it’s often the most unique or interesting games that get ignored.

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle (Wii)

If Kill Bill, Metal Gear, Otaku no Video and Star Wars had a bastard child, the No More Heroes series would be their baby boy. It’s hardly surprising that a sequel to an oft ignored title got little to no attention, but it doesn’t make it any less of a travesty. While the first No More Heroes had half-baked open-world elements, the sequel sticks to the action and boss fights that made the first game so charming. Some people may be turned off by Travis Touchdown’s gleefully murderous attitude, but most of these assassins have it coming. No More Heroes 2 continues to prove that if done right, motion controls can really add to an action game and it’s one of the best hardcore games on the Wii. Suda 51 is more concerned about what’s cool than what sells and  I love his punk rock game design.

Resonance of Fate (360, PS3)

When I did a video for this game (our most popular video, by the way), I said that Resonance of Fate had the same goal as Mass Effect, with an opposite conclusion. Both titles want to mix the best of the Action and RPG genres. Mass Effect did this by layering RPG elements on top of an action game. Resonance of Fate on the other hand does this by taking all the cool acrobatic and bullet ballet elements of a Max Payne or Devil May Cry and having them executed in a very RPG way. Sure there is some twitch here, but most of the time you just need to hit a button to make your character do something cool. For those that want all the craziness of an action game without the button mashing, Resonance of Fate works. Beyond just bringing unique gameplay, it also has beauty (despite being set in a dystopian future), the graphics really match up with some of the best in the genre this gen. If you like action RPGs like Star Ocean or the Tales series and want your heroes to trade out swords for guns, Resonance of Fate is worth a look.

Red Steel 2 (Wii)

The first Red Steel sold tons of copies just based on the promise of motion controlled sword fighting. The sequel actually delivered that, along with a more unique setting and stylized graphics. Unfortunately a better game doesn’t mean as good or better sales. Red Steel completely got ignored by most gamers, despite the fact that it was arguably the best game to play with Wii Motion Plus. A sequel only in name, Red Steel 2 had a new setting, art style and re-invented gameplay. It also had big set pieces and a real sense of place, which is something not enough games developed for Wii attempt to accomplish. While it’s unlikely that there will ever be a Red Steel 3, I’m happy that Ubisoft tried to make good with gamers with this sequel. Their efforts are appreciated by those that gave the game a try.

Nier (360, PS3)

A male demon possesses a girl, turning her into a hermaphrodite. A spell book yells at you in a British accent. Your main character is uglier than Frank West. Nier is a weird game. But considering how many RPGs try to have the same story and setting, this certainly isn’t a bad thing in my eyes. Featuring an engaging story, fun sword and sorcery combat and a great soundtrack, this game would have been a huge hit in the nineties. But in a world where JRPGs are regularly ignored for being more of the same, a JRPG that legitimately tried to be different still got ignored. It makes it tough to take any of gamer’s criticisms seriously when chance takers are met with empty wallets. Luckily for Nier though, despite its low sales, it’s built an impressive cult following that will likely have it talked about for years to come.

Lost Planet 2 (360, PS3, PC)

Lost Planet 2 is a better and worse game than the original. If you wanted more of what Lost Planet 1 delivered, Lost Planet 2 will likely be a disappointment to you. Capcom took the Vital Suits, thermal heat and pirates of the original and brought them into Lost Planet 2, but changed almost everything else. To those that have played Monster Hunter, it’s easy to see that Lost Planet 2 attempts to be the gun-toting Western aimed answer to that franchise. It mostly succeeds too! The biggest co-op campaign I’ve ever played allows you and 4 friends to go in and try to take on all sorts of multi-story monsters and mech driving psychopaths. The game launched with some seriously hardcore limitations (die at part 3 of a 3 level mission and you have to go back to the start), but they listened to fans and patched the game, fixing nearly every complaint. By that time though, most fans of the first had written off Lost Planet 2 and that’s a shame because it’s one of the best co-op experiences I’ve ever had and a typical level in Lost Planet 2 plays out in such a grand way, that it seems like a last boss encounter. Now found on the racks for under ten dollars new, the failure of Lost Planet 2 is one of the saddest moments in gaming for me this year.

Alan Wake (360)

Maybe Alan Wake took too long to come out, but it seemed like all of the excitement for the game had drained away by the time it actually released. That’s a shame, because it adeptly mixes survival horror, adventure and action into a Stephen King-esque story and setting. The format of different episodes perfectly fit the style of game that Alan Wake is, and allowed you to catch up on what happened last time, or get excited for the next chapter. Using light as your weapon and sometimes only companion, Alan Wake kept you scared by always putting your feeble character in danger. Well done graphics and amazing physics help make for some really impressive action sequences. This should have been a multi-game franchise (and was planned to be), but because too few gave Wake a chance, his story will likely never be properly completed.

ModNation Racers (PS3, PSP)

This seemed like a sure-fire hit when it was originally revealed. Take the toy mod community idea and throw it on top of a kart racer, with player created tracks and cars. This could have been the only kart racer you’d ever need to buy again, with an ever-expanding amount of user-generated tracks and cars. Despite all the great ideas though, ModNation came out at a bad time and got drowned out by the noise of Red Dead Redemption and all the racing games being released at the same time (Split/Second, Blur). Maybe kart racers need marketable mascots to hit big, but it’s too bad that creativity wasn’t a big enough sell for this well done racer.

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (PSP)

Four player co-op through an entire mainline Metal Gear story is a great thought, and it’s exactly what Peace Walker delivers. Finally if you get caught by a guard, your blunder can be offset by a well placed sniper shot from a friend. Sneaking in tandem in a big cardboard box, or holding onto each other while you sneak up to an enemy are just some of the co-op specific scenarios present. Some people still get confused by what the Metal Gear series actually is (trust me, MGS1 was more talky and crazy than you may remember it to be), but for those that are long time fans of the series, there’s no reason to not buy MGS: Peace Walker. It’s not just the best entry on the PSP, it’s one of the best entries period.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold (Wii)

I love Arkham Asylum as much as the next guy (maybe even more), but I don’t have to have a brooding and  serious Batman experience to enjoy myself. The Brave and the Bold TV series harkens back to the days of Adam West playing Batman and brings with it all the silly and fun things that modern Batman tales leave out. The Wii game does an amazing job of capturing the look, sound and feel of the show and each series of levels are broken out like episodes of the show, complete with guest stars and opening sequences. The game itself plays like a brawler from the SNES era in the best way possible. When I was a kid and I imagined what games would be like in the future, Batman: The Brave and the Bold is what I thought it would look like.  2 player co-op and button mashing brawler gameplay make this easy game fun, even for adults.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (360, PS3)

Ninja Theory can’t catch a break. Their excellent PS3 exclusive Heavenly Sword didn’t sell to expectations and so they went out to make multi-platform titles. Enslaved is their first multi-platform title and by all accounts, it seems like it’s not selling anywhere near what it should be. Like Heavenly Sword, Enslaved keeps all the beautiful visuals and best in class mo-cap, along with some really well done sound and music. The game is definitely tuned to avoid failure, but if you’re the type of gamer that is more interested in the experience than the challenge, Enslaved is made for you. The game tries to be Uncharted mixed with Ninja Gaiden and it mostly succeeds.

Vanquish (360, PS3)

If Marcus Phoenix had rocket legs that allowed him to do the most bad ass rock n’ roll knee slide ever, than he’d look a lot like the main character in Vanquish. Essentially a quicker, more acrobatic, more Japanese Gears of War, Vanquish tries to appeal to the West by making a game that’s influenced by our best. But it still retains the over the top craziness of what makes Japanese developed games so great. Your main character smokes when he gets any free moment and rather than holding onto a gun, his arm just transforms into one. He also does flips while making giant robots eat missiles. Platinum games is no stranger to making great action games (Bayonetta, Mad World), so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Vanquish is one fuck of a wild ride. It’s a short ride, but like most roller coasters, it’s one you’ll likely want to repeat again.

Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom (360, PS3)

If you ever wanted to befriend one of the characters of Where the Wild Things Are and have him help you solve puzzles and destroy any foe that got in your way, then Majin is made for you. The game plays out like a single player co-op experience (the Majin acting like your player 2). The story and gameplay work to make you feel close to the giant beast and he’s about as adorable as any giant can be. Like Enslaved, this game was also published by Namco Bandai and it’s too bad that within a month of its release, stores were cutting the price in half to get rid of it. If you’re a fan of Ico or games of that sort, you really should give Majin a chance.

Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes (Wii, PS3)

This game is huge in Japan. There are snacks, drinks, toys, anime and more based on the series. It’s a revolution that has helped popularize feudal era Japan to the modern Japanese populace. In the west though, Sengoku Basara will never be as big as Dynasty Warriors, despite having the same over the top army destroying action, and really fantastic re-imaginings of old warlords. What would Musashi look like if he had modern fashion sense, but old world means? This game lets you know, and while it won’t get you any points for accurate world history, I don’t need that, when I can surf on a giant robot samurai’s back. When you beat a general in the game, he explodes and sends any soldier near him flying into the air, in what looks like a human filled mini-nuclear explosion. The combat of the game is simple and fluid and even though I’m not typically into this sort of game, the combos and responsiveness of the controls, as well as the insanity on the screen, kept me interested.

*EDIT*

I must also point out that I was originally going to put Yakuza 3, Monster Hunter Tri and Darksiders on this list, but those games all hit at or above the meager expectations that the publishers had for them. Despite this, those games are all amazing in pretty different ways and deserve to have giant rabid fan bases across the globe.

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