Boing Boing


Xbox 360/PS3/PC

Gearbox's promise to deliver a first-person, dungeon-crawling shooter has gone without a hitch -- the result is one of the most compulsive plays since Fallout 3.

Brutal Legend

Double Fine
Xbox 360/PS3

Former LucasArts adventure designer Tim Schafer and his Double Fine studio bring the apocalyptic vistas of classic heavy metal album covers fantastically to life.

Cactus Arcade


An essential primer to cult indie dev Cactus, collecting games like his experimental quasi-Lynchian lo-fi first-person Mondo series, which excel at taking tasks like basic navigation and turning them on their head.


Semi Secret

Adam 'Atomic' Saltsman's one-button game was one of the truest "sensations" this year: launched in late August as a knocked-out five-day experiment which took instant storm. Run for your life.

Captain Forever


Captain Forever's retro aesthetic and anachronistic faux-command-line inconvenience warp you into an 80s-star-pilot narrative that literally binds you (via your webcam) to the seat of your ship.


Zoƫ Mode
Xbox Live Arcade

Chime's music and gameplay are more tightly and directly integrated than even its Lumines inspiration: it's as truly hypnotic and zone-inducing (particularly, and not surprisingly, when mixed with Philip Glass) as puzzlers come.

Critter Crunch

PlayStation 3

Capy's puzzle game Critter Crunch is staggering for the soft, surreal wonder of its Ghibli-esque backdrops, which underscore the hectic hand animated critter-bursts on top.



You've either never played Drop7 or the mere mention of its name sends nic-fit twinges through your spine. There is no middle ground. If you haven't played it yet, by all means go. But go forewarned.


Toshio Iwai
Nintendo DSi

A fantastic primer to Iwai's brilliant touch/sound/light gallery installations made more accessible as consumer software, it's one of the highlights of the DS's library, and its most awesomely meditative experience.


Steph Thirion

A curious concoction of accessible play and alien origin, Eliss effortlessly gives us a sense of style leagues above the App Store's standard fare of pastel-shaded and casual-focused design.

Every Day The Same Dream


Every Day The Same Dream plays at issues of lives led in quiet, soul-sapping desperation by forcing you to subvert your own easy routines and comes fully loaded with a gut-punch for anyone who has been or is currently a wage-slave office drone.

Glum Buster


Developer Justin 'CosMind' Leingang's 4-year labor of love still hasn't quite earned the reputation it deserves. It stands as one of 2009's best surrealist short stories.

Hook Champ

iPhone ]

The easy and lazy description reads: Spelunky meets Bionic Commando, and for once maybe lazy says it best. Retro styled and far more complex than it first appears, it's a perfect example of the App Store's overlooked gems.

Little King's Story


Overlooked due to its crayon and pastel fantasy, Little King's Story was one of 2009's best left field surprises. Manage a township unwittingly put under your control, protect your subjects, and conquer the things they fear.

LostWinds: Winter of the Melodias


Arguably the best exclusive franchise WiiWare has to offer, Melodias brings every bit of the quiet charm of the original, and should be on top of the download list for any Wii owner.



Gone are the simple pixel-hunt-and-click-to-move-on tasks of Jakub Dvorsky's earlier games. Machinarium dives deeper into the bizarre order of its rusted steam-bot world, returning with a complex and rewarding set of puzzles.

Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes

Nintendo DS

Clash of Heroes overlays its fantasy RPG tale with intricately and brilliantly devised puzzle-battles, which play out by color-matching lines of troops to create, fuse and link attacks to launch against your enemies.

Noby Noby Boy


The design of each individual play session is as lackadaisical and boundless as the BOY himself. Those that said that Noby Noby Boy -- the Katamari Damacy follow-up from creator Keita Takahashi -- had no point themselves missed the point.

Plants Vs. Zombies


Plants Vs. Zombies gave the tower defense genre a much-needed shot in the arm of accessibility and brilliant humor, without uprooting the core entirely.

Retro Game Challenge


A collection of remade early-days NES classics that never were, perfectly evoking a nostalgia we thought only emulators could summon.

Rhythm Heaven


Heaven's the truest example of a music game that's purely about rhythm, and not just about Simon Says-ing patterns or following bars down your screen to the tune of your dad's favorite classic rock. It's alsot one of the year's funniest.

Rock Band

Harmonix/EA Mobile

Losing the plastic-instrument charade might at first seem a down-step too far for more casual players, but with its promise of a continually refreshed music library, Rock Band is a long, long overdue and essential musical addition to the App Store.

Rock Band: Unplugged


Unplugged works the same magic pioneered back on the PS2's Frequency and Amplitude: you just need the willingness to escape into music without the fake plastic instruments.

Rolando 2

Hand Circus

For every part that feels slightly safer than its prequel, it feels doubly refined, smarter, flashier. It hits all the right notes that should have made it the iPhone's signature mascot -- its Mario or Sonic.



And then, from nowhere, came Saira, catching everyone off-guard, and expertly encapsulating the joy of exploration in a world as stunningly expressive and atmospheric as it is austere.


5th Cell

Scribblenauts lets players conjure objects -- krakens, keyboard cats, Gods, time-traveling robot-zombie-smashing T-rexes -- to solve puzzles simply by sketching them. It's a thrill to try and stump the system and learn that they've got you covered.

Shadow Complex

Xbox 360

Shadow Complex was the best retro revival this year that had no predecessor of its own. For once, it wasn't lazy to give the game the comparative nod back to Super Metroid: it was unabashedly right there in front of you.

Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor

Tiger Style

A brilliantly crafted mix of arcade overtones, beautifully vintage children's book style, and a mature story that reclines quietly and lets players ask all the questions of it rather than imposing itself on you.

Small Worlds

David Shute

What it does best is take Castlevania: Symphony of the Night or Metroid's iron-grip compulsion to 100% reveal map screens and bring it directly to the fore of the game itself, making it its own reward.



Taking the Rogue formula and applying it to the 8-bit platformer genre, Spelunky's enduring power and charm is its ability to create "situations" rather than rote level layouts.

Uncharted 2

Naughty Dog

The finest rollercoaster of the year that makes you climb off the train and rebuild the engine at the bottom of every hill.



VVVVVV isn't a redefinition but rather a confident and novel refinement of simple platform play, a game delightfully self-referencing and -aware, and a fantastic start to the new year of indie gaming.



Windosill is made up of mathematical magic that lends a remarkable tangibility to its unearthly toy-box components. Even its most bizarre creations move as they "should" to our prods and pokes.