2011: Great Games You Might Have Missed (But Shouldn’t Have)

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2011 was a year of outstanding games.  We’re talking huge commercial hits like Skyrim, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Uncharted 3, and Battlefield 3.  It was truly a remarkable time to be a gamer all year long.  Underneath the bigger hits (and even the moderately good-selling games), there were a few awesome games that you might have missed out on, mainly because they were too “quirky” or just not your speed, if you will.

With that, we’ve decided to take a look at ten games that you might have missed the first time around – but shouldn’t have.  That’s because each of these examples has something extraordinary to offer, whether it’s a twist on a classic concept or just a genuinely fun experience that was nearly impossible to market.  Regardless of reason, you have no excuse not to miss them now – even if you have to pay full price.  (Hey, you get what you pay for.)

Without further ado, here are the 10 great games you might have missed…

Radiant Silvergun (Xbox Live Arcade) – Treasure is responsible for some of the best “hardcore” games on the market right now, including Guardian Heroes (which found a re-release) and Ikaruga.  Something you might have missed from the Sega Saturn games was Radiant Silvergun, one of the toughest shooters ever made.  It’s also one of the most intricate, with its multi-weapon system, as well as one of the most gorgeous and thrilling.  Well, Microsoft has faithfully restored the game on Xbox Live Arcade for a sliver of the cost of the actual Saturn game.  Also, it’s packed with bonus features, including retouched visuals and online leaderboards, as well as a challenging Ikaruga gameplay tweak.  Don’t miss this shooting gem – even if it costs you a little bit of your patience.

Beyond Good and Evil HD (Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network) – “Hey, man, stay zen!”  This multi-platform classic came out last decade and was completely overlooked in favor of more popular titles.  Too bad, because Michel Ancel and his team really created something original and wonderful with the likes of Jade and Pey’j.  Thankfully, Ubisoft brought them back to the forefront with this great HD rendition, complete with plenty of boss encounters, puzzles to solve, and fun places to visit.

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)El Shaddai didn’t really have much market value, due to its overextential religious themes and its somewhat quirky game design.  However, those who took a chance with it and dug deep within its layers found one of the most fascinating game experiences of 2011, complete with vivid, art-like stage design, smooth animation, terrific gameplay and plenty of challenges.  What’s more, its story was way out there, but never to the point that it alienated anyone.  It simply told a wondrous story, and it’s one worth discovering if you haven’t already.

Rayman Origins (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii) – Following its release last month, Rayman Origins has sold a paltry 50,000 units for Ubisoft.  That leaves us wondering – why is everyone missing out on this magnificent game?  Seriously, this is one of the more entertaining multiplayer romps since the good ol’ days of Super Mario Bros Wii, and not nearly as forceful at that.  This game simply involves teamwork and good old-fashioned entertainment as you seek out Lums, slap enemies silly, all while trying to complete every stage without succumbing to gut-busting laughter.  If you miss out on this game, you’re missing out on quite the party.  Seriously.

Cave Story 3D (Nintendo 3DS) – The original Cave Story turned out to be a big hit for NIS, and the follow-up for the Nintendo DS shop wasn’t too shabby either.  But would folks be prepared to pay $40 for a full-blown 3D remake?  While not everyone was willing to make the leap, those who did discovered a great-looking take on the classic game, complete with all the challenging gameplay and plenty of new content for good measure.  This is what old-school gaming is all about, and if you haven’t seen it yet, now’s the time.

Orcs Must Die! (Xbox Live Arcade) – What’s more fun than killing an orc using several traps at your disposal?  How about killing HUNDREDS of orcs?  Robot Entertainment mixes strategy with arcade-style gameplay with tremendously good results, as you defend a series of castles from invading Orc enemies, using everything from floor spikes and arrow-shooting walls, to brute strength to keep them from reaching their destination.  Each stage becomes increasingly harder, and new items open up as you progress through the game, so there’s plenty of reason to keep killing ‘em.  In fact, if you’ll excuse us…

Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection (SCEA) – What’s better than one Team Ico classic re-touched with high-definition flair, stereoscopic 3D, and every ounce of its gameplay kept completely intact?  Well, how about two?  Ico really introduces the team well, with plenty of puzzles to solve and elegant levels to explore, even if you have to drag a gibberish-speaking girl along.  Shadow of the Colossus is even better, as you fight a dozen behemoths by hitting weak points and avoiding their thunderous advances to squash you flat.  Both of these put together, with behind-the-scenes videos and other extras, make it a must have.

Child of Eden (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3) – As superb as the original Rez was back on the Sega Dreamcast (and later on the PS2 and Xbox Live Arcade), Tetsuya Mizuguchi and his team at Q Entertainment had something even bigger and better in mind with Child of Eden.  Featuring a one-of-a-kind soundtrack that has to be heard to be believed, visuals that literally pop out of the screen, fluid motion-sensitive gameplay (it works with the regular controller too), and plenty of unlockable virtual goodies, it truly is a ride worth taking – even if it ends too soon.  The game goes for $19 or so these days, so don’t miss it this time around.

Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet (Xbox Live Arcade) – It’s easy to see why Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet didn’t do big sales when it debuted on Xbox Live Arcade a while back.  It doesn’t feature any recognizable characters, it’s not your typical twin stick shooter, and some folks simply don’t see the appeal – at first.  But, honestly, this is about as good as you’re going to get for Metroidvania-style exploration, combined with thrilling action elements and plenty of difficult obstacles to overcome.  The classic style of game design (smacks of Patapon) is hard to resist, and the world itself will take hours to explore and resolve – if you can, that is.  Indulge today.
 

Shadows of the Damned (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3) – There were high hopes for EA’s offbeat third-person demon shooting game, especially considering all the talent involved, particularly Suda 51 and composer Akira Yokoama.  Unfortunately, it didn’t sell that well, despite the sheer appeal and original storyline.  That’s too bad, because, despite some slight problems with gameplay balance, it’s really a wondrous ride into hell, complete with lots of jolts, laughs and monster-killing moments.  Plus it’s decidedly over the top, just like any good Grindhouse production deserves to be.  It’s going much cheaper now, so don’t miss this thrill ride.

BONUS PICK: Outland (Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network) – We couldn’t resist adding just one more, especially when it’s something as remarkable as Outland.  While this game looks like a simple side-scrolling platformer at first, it’s anything but, thanks to some crazy gameplay mechanics that kick in after about the first hour.  You’ll switch between two character types over the course of the game, absorbing energy (just like Ikaruga) while figuring out puzzles.  You’ll spend hours getting through the whole thing, until the last juggernaut boss is beaten and everything has been restored.  It’s a great trip, one well worth the game’s cheap $10 price tag.

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Robert Workman
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