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Skullgirls (Konami, 2012)
Xbox 360, PS3
We say: A smooth-playing, well-balanced fighting game that knows how to have fun. The animation is brilliant—a stylish, frenetic comic book come to life, with characters that are weird, eccentric, and cute such as Filia, an amnesiac schoolgirl with a pet parasite named Samson. Great for fighting fans who never use guy characters.
Megaman 9 (Capcom, 2008)
Xbox 360, PS3, Wii
That it took more than ten years since the last entry in the series’ main canon makes this deserving of a resounding hooray. Megaman 9 is old school gaming at its finest: tough, unforgiving, but wholly rewarding. Series main baddie, Dr. Wily, is still up to his no-good, mad genius ways. So who better to save the day? Well, we’d pick this retro bot over Robocop any day.
Limbo (Microsoft Game Studios, Playdead, 2010)
Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Mac
We say: You’re a boy who wakes up in the middle of nowhere, which turns out to be the edge of hell. You’re looking for you sister. This game is spooky, like a Tim Burton movie that wants to mess with your mind through the sparing use of atmospheric sounds and the all-consuming feel of its monochromatic visual style. A powerful example of game as art, critics say.
Odin Sphere (Atlus, 2007)
We say: George Kamitani, president and art director for the game, is a genius for the visual style he implements in this side-scrolling action game. Imagine reading a meticulously detailed pop-up story book filled with mythical dragons, courageous heroes with legendary weapons, and you get Odin Sphere. At times you just want to lie down and prop both your feet up with your hands cupping your face to marvel at the action.
Little Big Planet (Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, 2008)
We say: Nitpickers will point out that it’s a 2.5D game. Don’t mind ‘em; you still go from left to right most of the time. This is its unique selling point: You get to make your own unique levels that you can upload and let others access and play in. It’s a virtual online playground where you stroll around as your Sackboy/girl avatar who has the ability to frown, smile, or fume with anger.
Muramasa: The Demon Blade (Ignition Entertainment, 2009)
We say: Like its spiritual predecessor, Odin Sphere, Muramasa is gaming eye-candy. It retains the series vibrant style, as though bags of Skittles were used to paint the landscape. Japanese mythology figures in strongly, as you take the role of two characters: a ninja who has conveniently forgotten his past crimes, and a princess possessed by the malevolent spirit of a dead samurai. The goal: to hunt down legendary katanas to fell dragons and demon gods.
Patapon (Sony Computer Entertainment, 2008)
We say: One of the best side-scrollers of all time. You are an unseen supreme god commander issuing commands with drum beats. Keep the beat in time, and your pint-sized army of brave spear-throwing, arrow-shooting, sword-swinging, and dare we say, cute Patapon warriors will rampage through gigantic monsters of myth. They march. Like the warriors of Sparta, they march—minus the abs, of course.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game (Ubisoft, 2010)
Xbox 360, PS3
We say: If Cartoon Network made a beat ‘em up, this might be the end product. You can play as the titular Scott Pilgrim or any of his three friends, one of whom is Scott’s love interest, Ramona Flowers. Through the course of this adventure, Scott faces what every man faces when wooing a girl: her exes. Ramona has seven of them, some of whom have psychic powers. No worries, you’ll have access to screen-clearing super moves too.
Trigger Heart Exelica (Sega, 2006)
We say: A shooter in the same vein as Strikers 1945 released initially for the arcade, then the Sega Dreamcast, PS2, and Xbox 360. When you have sexy anime girls in the lead, fancy robots, flashy lasers, and a unique homing system that allows you to use a captured ship in a couple of cool ways, the number of different releases for different system becomes readily understandable.
Xbox 360, PS3, Mac, PC, Linux
We say: Critics call it imaginative, innovative and highly engrossing. That’s as spot on as it gets. The story, a deceptively simple save-the-princess plotline, packs surprises as you traverse the brilliant water-color landscape of the game. Along the way, you solve puzzles mix in with classic 2D-platforming elements. This is a 2D game that says 2D games are definitely not over yet.