Ten for 2010: the 10 most-anticipated games coming in the new year

14_full.jpg For all the things the indies are able to do best -- experiment wildly and allow themselves the infinite creative freedom that otherwise gives stockholders the chilled sweats -- one of their greatest assets is the element of surprise. Unlike the managed valleys and troughs of the four-year-dev-time hype-cycles, fantastic and wholly unexpected indie games pop up weekly and continually knock us flat on our backs. And so, choosing a list of the games we look forward to the most in 2010 is somewhat a fool's errand, as you honestly never know when another Canabalt is going to land from nowhere in a blinding flash. But still, there are enough higher-ambition titles -- especially for indies making their bigger-budget forays onto consoles -- that deserve more attention to make this round-up necessary, so find below ten of the games (of a much larger field about which we know even less: I'm looking at you Bit.Trip: Runner) that you'll likely be hearing much more about in the months ahead, as their gestation periods finally end.
DeathSpank [Hothead, PC/PS3/Xbox 360] Hopes are high for Penny Arcade Adventures dev Hothead's upcoming DeathSpank to be the Brutal Legend of 2010, not for its mechanical or thematic similarities, but rather its pedigree. The game marks the return of original grump Ron Gilbert, creator of LucasArts classics Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion, leading this loot-packing Diablo-esque action/RPG crossed with, well, genuine humor, still one of the things games desperately need more of. Fez [Polytron, Xbox Live Arcade] The excitement for Fez isn't just based on its inimitable style or perspective-shifting basics, though both obviously help: in helping to debut the game at Austin GDC I got a much longer look at the progress it's made since its Independent Games Festival debut and couldn't be more excited for the direction it's headed and the aspects yet to be revealed. Though similarities to Super Paper Mario's dimensional shifts are still being drawn elsewhere, Fez does far more with its z-axis than anyone before has dared, making progress through its world directly reliant on cutting a path through each of its four sides. Joe Danger [Hello Games, platform TBD] UK upstart Hello Games came out of nowhere in 2009 -- well, not nowhere, their Voltron-like team is formed of former Kuju and Criterion leads on games like Burnout 3, Black, Geometry Wars Galaxies and Sega Superstars Tennis -- and their indie debut game Joe Danger rose meteorically to many top most wanted lists, especially after its debut at Eurogamer's 2009 Expo (from which the video above was leaked). Forget the recent World Rally WiiWare remake: Joe Danger is the 21st century Excitebike we didn't know we wanted, with a gorgeous toy-like blue-sky aesthetic and a firm handle on stunt- and trick-jumping that rivals even Trials HD for expert handling. NightSky [Nicalis, WiiWare] Apparently lost in deep-sleep stasis somewhere in a cryo chamber hidden deep within Nintendo, NightSky should have been one of 2009's best, but -- with any luck -- will move on to top 2010 lists. As good a bedtime-story game as we'll probably ever get, NightSky comes from Nicklas 'Nifflas' Nygren -- the same Knytt creator that only weeks ago surprised debuted best-of-2009 champ Saira. With a firm focus on more physics-based platforming and an entirely original approach to What Game Music Can Be -- the lullabies here provided by Chris Schlarb (part of Sufjan Stevens' indie music collective Asthmatic Kitty) -- NightSky's set to be an instant WiiWare classic, if it could only let itself actually emerge. quarrelMap.jpg Quarrel [Denki, Xbox Live Arcade] It'll be hard to tell from simply the screenshot above what to expect from Quarrel, and even if I then go on to explain that it's at heart a competitive word game, you might be forgiven for giving it the same pass as you rightly did a number of the lower-shelf family games that were released to no fanfare on Xbox Live Arcade this year. But this one -- be assured! -- is different. Not just because of the team behind it -- though Denki head Gary Penn has more than proved himself over the years with design credits on the original Grand Theft Auto and Crackdown -- but for the game's more strategic underpinnings, where the actual competitive word battles are simply its substitute for combat in a larger land-grab conquest (which you see above: think DiceWars). Fast-paced, instantly approachable, and considerably and considerately iterated on for the better part of a year, Quarrel is already set to be a game worth yelling about. blooddiamondbits.jpg Diamond Trust [Jason Rohrer, DS] It was the least likely design doc surprise of 2009, as Jason Rohrer -- solo dev behind reigning art-game-champ Passage and the Esquire-curated (?!) game Between -- announced he was partnering with casual publisher Majesco to create a DS game based on "diamond trading in Angola on the eve of the passage of the Kimberly Process." We've only seen the recently released scraps of screenshots (well, and a chick-pea and penny based prototype), but the blood diamond trade is nothing if not a, well, diamond mine of strategic, socio-political, and potential emotional depth, and there are few people other than Rohrer that I'd trust to smartly interpret that in interactive form. scottpilgrim.jpg Scott Pilgrim [Ubisoft, platform TBD] Here's the wildcard of the bunch: we don't really know what Ubisoft's got up its sleeve for the game based on Canadian comic artist Bryan Lee O'Malley's cult hit comic book series, but what we do know is that there is nothing in Scott Pilgrim's already deeply videogame-influenced world that shouldn't perfectly translate into one itself. Deep-Throat rumblings about some of the cherry-picked team behind the game have bolstered some extra high hopes that this won't just be a quick cash-in tie-in with Edgar Wright's film adaptation (itself my most anticipated movie of 2010), but with nothing publicly said about the game other than their intention to create it and continual consultation with O'Malley himself, there's nothing much to do in the meantime but scrunch your eyes up tight and hope. Spelunky [Mossmouth, Xbox Live Arcade] You say: "God, Spelunky again?" I say: absolutely. Even though we've already spent all of 2009 plumbing its procedurally generated depths -- over, and over, and over, and over -- on PC, the forthcoming console port of Derek Yu's retro-platformer is worth watching for all the ways in which it won't be a port. Yu's already recently explained that at least graphically, the Xbox 360 version will be a much different beast, relying on a more painterly approach akin to his work on Aquaria, and in general seems to be hinting that it holds other experimental surprises that will separate it from the freeware version it was branched from. To say nothing of the simple fact that now it's Spelunky in our living rooms! Over, and over, and over, and over. Super Meat Boy [Team Meat, WiiWare] There's nothing necessarily experimental about Team Meat's super-charged console port of their free Flash original Meat Boy: it's just old-school white-knuckle challenge-based platforming done gloriously right. The Meat boys are determined not to make any concessions to the white-livered weaker players among us: having run through its first world, I can assure you that there's essentially no such thing as a safe landing in any of Meat Boy's levels until you've reached the end. It'll be the visceral thrill that separates -- I don't know, the prime cuts from the grist -- and also, unrelatedly, will likely be the most indie-all-star jam packed game of the year, with cameo appearances already assured from Braid star Tim, Bit.Trip protagonist Commander Video, and The Behemoth's original Alien Hominid. Zangeki no Reginleiv [Sandlot, Wii] This list was almost entirely conceived to give proper due to this game, which might be completely unfair as it still hasn't been confirmed for a Western release. On the surface it might appear to be any other word-jumble from the subset of Japanese gaming that only two small handfuls of obsessive sub-culture fans in the West can appreciate, but again, let me assure you this is different. I know this, having seen only as much as the trailer above, because I know developer Sandlot: or rather, I know they are the team behind the jaw-droppingly brilliant and desperately under-appreciated Earth Defense Force games (only one of which has made it to the States as the Xbox 360's Earth Defense Force 2017 -- you can find it for about $10 now and you need to purchase it immediately. Europe was luckier to have received its even more necessary PlayStation 2 prequels). Originally devised as cheap budget thrills, the EDF series is a fantastically simple setup: choose two guns, shoot at about thirty billion cut-and-paste stock-3D-model giant ants and spiders that all swarm at you at once. But it works, better than you'd ever dream, the true gamer's game. And then comes Reginleiv, which takes that same formula and substitutes in Norse mythology for all the future-alien-invasion b-movie tropes, hands you swords to Wii-mote slash on top of the firearm stock (here represent, of course, by "magic"), but leaves in all of the overwhelming and beelining enemy forces and, best, the towering demigods (which you can get a better taste of via this too-short earlier video teaser). Nintendo obviously has higher hopes for this one than all of the budget publishers before have had for their previous works -- they're publishing it themselves in Japan -- and with more ambitious co-op play, this will be the year's biggest tragedy if we don't see it make its way West-ward.


  1. Wow. This is almost enough to get me back into video games again.

    Still waiting for Pirate Baby’s Cabana Battle Street Fight to happen, though.

  2. More looking forward to ModNation Racers, myself. With the beta released what, a week ago, I’m surprised it didn’t make the list. :)

  3. I really hope the Scott Pilgrim game turns out good. I just recently got into the books, and the movie has too many awesome things going for it (Edgar Wright, Michael Cera, etc.) for it to turn out bad. I actually asked Michael Cera if Scott Pilgrim would be an awesome movie at a Q&A session for Youth In Revolt, and he assured me it would, so now we just need the game to not be a bad movie tie in.

  4. As a fan of indie games, I’m elated to see the console market finally beginning to open to the little guys, softwarewise. What’s really peeving me off is how some are starting to treat console owners as better.
    For example, why can’t PC owners purchase the new version of cave story, Meat boy, or spelunky?
    More than half of these are exclusive to a console, which feels like they’re abandoning their PC only fans.
    I’ve known about Fez (which has been renamed Fedge) for a year, and finding out that it’s xbox exclusive pisses me off. At least Braid finally did get a PC release, but there’s many other games I would buy in a heartbeat if they were on steam as well as XBL.

  5. Good article, although the headline is a little misleading – I was 95% expecting to see God of War or Bayonetta etc.

    @ #4 – I believe it’s because one of the console makers will generally pay the developer to make a title exclusive, or because the developer is proficient at coding for a specific console. No one owns the PC, so there’s no one batting for it.

  6. PC market is alive and well for indies, as many of these are being developed on the PC with the PC in mind, but targeting consoles for the exposure. Hell, Spelunky is already playable on the PC. And the build of Joe Danger (absolutely fantastic game that) that was on hand at the Eurogamer expo was played on, yup, PC.

    And there’s nothing mislabeled about the headline. I was 95% expecting to see most of these titles. The other 5% is for, maybe, Greed Corp. Or, er, Super Street Figher IV.

  7. Hi,

    One of the best games made by Sandlot is called Robot Alchemic Drive (RAD), and it was made for the PS2. It’s basically a giant robot anime fantasy with a very clever visual premise. Instead of seeing the action from the perspective of the giant robot itself, you see things from the viewpoint of a young person who’s standing nearby and controlling the giant robot. This draws attention to the immense scale and size of the robot participants, and makes you as the user feel small. It’s really a gem of a game that’s worth seeking out and playing. Look for some videos of it on Youtube.

  8. Also, another good pick for 2010 release is a game called Monster Hunter Tri (or Monster Hunter 3, depending on how you read things). It’s being released for the Wii by Capcom. Again, this is another fabulous title whose description can only be done justice by seeking out some videos of it on Youtube. I predict this will be the most spectacular game for the Wii in 2010.

  9. Personally, I’ve been waiting for an updated excitebike for a long, long time. As long as there’s a level-design feature, it’s golden.

  10. The Scott Pilgrim game is going to be garbage. It’s only going to be a movie tie-in game. Don’t get your hopes up people.

    Also, you missed to Cave Story remake. I can’t wait for it, along with the La-Mulana remake.

  11. Hard to tell from that picture what to expect from “Quarrel?” Are you kidding? It looks like every simplistic variant of Risk I’ve ever seen plus Xbox 360 avatars.

    This article is absolutely ad-tastic. Hope you guys are raking in the dough!

  12. How about two games MANY people have been waiting a long time for Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3. Blizzard follows the mantra we will sell no game before its time so we might not see these in 2010. I’ve even heard of these games possibly getting canceled. That would be like the end of the world… of warcraft.

  13. A Scott Pilgrim game just needs to be a decent River City Ransom type remake.

    Fez is… well, Fez. It will be awesome.

    Zangeki no Reginleiv seems interesting. The story looks neat and it sounds like a bunch of famous Japanese voice actors are in it (pretty sure I recognized Kazuya Nakai and Hōchū Ōtsuka). We shall see about the gameplay.

    – Asm

  14. Let’s not forget Love, the one-man project of Eskil Steenberg. The Alpha was released earlier this year and proved that stunning visuals don’t need the latest hardware. The online play (bear in mind that it was alpha) showed great promise and I have great hopes that this will be one of the independent gaming highlights of 2010.

  15. I’m very excited about Rohrer’s first commercial game.

    Great list there, but I’d add the following titles: Puzzle Bots, The Last Guardian, Sword & Sorcery EP ;-]

  16. Umm, what about Halo:Reach? It’s slightly more anticipated than all of those games put together…

    1. #24, You kind of miss the point. This site mostly focuses on indie and obscure games, so the list is of the top 10 more niche games coming out in 2010. No one needs to hype up a new Halo game. People are gonna buy it regardless.

    2. @anon, 24:
      Anticipated? I didn’t even know they were doing yet another one.

      Then again, that’s because I’m very much a PC gamer, for reasons more practical than dogmatic: Halo has always been “that xbox fps with the mediocre and late PC port” for me. On the downside, it means I’ll also be missing a bunch of the games on this list.

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