2010 has come to an end and many of us are now reflecting on the best games of the year. While most people are concerning themselves with the big-name titles, I have decided to place my focus solely on downloadable games. Obviously, there are going to be a few here and there that I have missed because none of us can play every single game, nor are we able to access all of them due to funds, insufficient hardware, or simple lack of awareness. Regardless, I have compiled a comprehensive list of what I consider to be the Best Downloadable Games of 2010.
Probably the first noteworthy indie game of 2010, VVVVVV stars Captain Viridian and feels like a time warp back to the days of the Commodore64. It is far more sophisticated than anything I ever played on the C64, however, as the entire game is based around the ability to reverse gravity. And this isn’t merely a gimmick within the game; our hero can’t jump, so this is his primary mode of traversing the levels, aside from walking. It can be very difficult and frustrating at times, but it’s also chock full of checkpoints, so it is at least kind enough to not make you start over from the beginning.
Original release date: 1/11/2010
Wizard Land is one of those games you don’t expect to like. After all, it’s just another match-three game and we’ve got hundreds of those to choose from. This one, however, has a slight twist and doesn’t limit you to simply swapping gems. At any given time, if you run out of moves, you can hit a tab which will shuffle the board and change the playing type. In addition to Swap, the other two modes are Group (clicking on groups like Poppit) and Chain (linking neighboring like colors together). You can also rotate the board in 45° intervals. And to make sure you actually use these nifty features, each level requires you to guide a key through a set path to its destination, which almost always involves different strategies.
Original release date: 1/12/2010
How Mole Control didn’t manage to get more recognition and coverage is baffling to say the least. Okay, so maybe it isn’t the crème de la crème of the puzzler genre, but it has no problem holding its own. A perfect treat for anyone who loves Minesweeper, this is a delightful romp through people’s yards in a hunt for pesky explosive moles. And there’s even a mystery to boot! The rhyming narrative gets a bit old, but it’s a small price to pay for such a fun game. Be sure to take a look at our Mole Control review for more information.
Original release date: 1/20/2010
Bob Came In Pieces
To be perfectly honest, I’m getting sick of physics-based puzzle games. For whatever reason, they seem to be a rite of passage for all indie developers. Bob Came In Pieces, however, has my forgiveness because of its cleverness and because of the complicated level designs. In brief, Bob has crash-landed on a planet, which has his ship in pretty bad shape. He must now navigate across the planet while collecting parts, which can be placed (and moved) onto very parts of the body. The amount and placement of parts will have an effect on your flight and it will also allow you to solve various puzzles that require a bit of thinking and clever maneuvering.
Original release date: 1/22/2010
Often overlooked, KrissX is a fun word puzzler that doesn’t really provide much of a challenge but is a great way to kill time. As mentioned in the KrissX review, it is basically a game of Clabbers that has been jumbled. For anyone who enjoys anagram games like Text Twist, this Konami sleeper is a great addition to your downloadable collection.
Platforms: Xbox 360, PC
Original release date: 1/27/2010
Max & The Magic Marker
Before Epic Mickey and his paintbrush, there was Max & The Magic Marker, a delightful side-scrolling platformer in which you use a magic marker to overcome your obstacles. Having a lot of the same innovation seen in Scribblenauts, this is a clever adventure that is as easy or difficult as your mind makes it. Is a platform too high? Draw some stairs. Need to avoid the rain? Place yourself in a protective box. Just be careful because physics do play a role here, so you need to make sure your structures will be able to sustain your weight. For further details about this game where your only limit is the amount of ink in your marker, check out our Max & The Magic Marker review.
Platforms: PC, Wii
Original release date: 2/8/2010
The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom
This monochromatic tale, in style of an old silent film, involves a pie-loving man in a quest for more pies. He loves them so much, in fact, that he will do anything it takes to get them, even breaking the laws of physics and time. P.B. Winterbottom is a complex platform puzzler that allows you to manipulate time and record clones of yourself, either standing still or stuck in a never-ending time loop. This clever mechanism allows you to relegate clones to tasks such as flipping switches or reaching difficult pies. With or without the great visual style, this would be an engaging and challenging adventure, but it is certainly a nice touch.
Platforms: Xbox 360, PC
Original release date: 2/17/2010
Aside from the success of Civilization V, turn-based strategy games seem to have been forgotten by the average gamer. Gone are the days when games like Gemfire were the go-to for anyone needing a strategy fix, so it was a nice surprise when Greed Corp came onto the scene. And it actually has a unique, fun way of handling the playing field and how domination works. Even for people who don’t normally like the genre, you can’t really go wrong with this gem. Read our Greed Corp review for more reasons why this is a must-have game.
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Original release date: 2/24/2010
For reasons beyond me, Lazy Raiders has not received nearly as much credit or recognition as it deserves. Considering that this is the first console game by veteran developers Sarbakan, it was quite a successful foray; you’d never know that this isn’t a regular thing for them. This physics-based marriage of Tomb Raider and LocoRoco is one of my personal topmost picks of the year, and with good reason. I dare you to play this and not enjoy every minute of it.
Platforms: Xbox 360
Original release date: 2/24/2010
As described in our Globulos Party review, this little DSiWare title is chock full of minigames to be enjoyed by you and your friends on the go. All of the games share the same basic principle of pointing your creatures in specified directions and watching them take off and bounce across the playing field, but there is a heck of a lot of variety. With 20 basic games, each having several different modes, there is a lot to keep anyone busy and most games are the perfect length for a quick car ride to the store or a commercial break. It unfortunately doesn’t have as many features as the original online Flash version, but it has the benefit of being portable.
Original release date: 3/1/2010
A game that took many of us by surprise, Toy Soldiers is easily one of the best tower defense games ever made, right next to the beloved Plants Vs. Zombies. Taking place in a WWI-themed toy box, it has a great old-fashioned feel to it, further compliment by muted color schemes and occasional grainy images. This is one of the few games to stand out in its genre, allowing the player to directly control any of the units (aside from infantry) to defend against incoming enemies. Even better, you are not confined to a stationary defensive position; you get to traverse the playing field using various vehicles to set up an early line of defense or to take the offense and capture your enemy’s toy box. It’s an absolute blast and you can find more information by reading our Toy Soldiers review.
Platforms: Xbox 360
Original release date: 3/3/2010
Rage of the Gladiator
Rage of the Gladiator is a first-person combat game that will have you flailing about like there’s no tomorrow. Put Punch-Out!! in a mythological setting with barbaric weapons and fantastic creatures and you basically have Rage. It is a surprisingly fun and humorous fighting game that proves that waggle controls aren’t just for your grandparents. For once, you can actually have fun while looking stupid. Our in-depth Rage of the Gladiator review can better illustrate what makes this a must-have WiiWare title.
Original release date: 3/15/2010
A rehash of an older Flash game, Cave Story is a story about a cave. A really, really big Metroidvania-style cave. Much to the pleasure of older gamers, this is a classic old-school platforming shooter game, which is what folks like me were raised on a couple of decades ago. But aside from being nostalgic, it is a very entertaining and solid gaming experience that is sure to be enjoyed by anyone willing to give it the time of day. Fans of the original version are definitely going to feel at home here. Be sure to read our Cave Story review for additional information.
Platforms: Wii, DSi
Original release date: 3/22/2010
Hamlet, Or The Last Game Without MMORPG Features, Shaders, And Product Placement
Stupid name, great game. Hamlet is a point-and-click adventure with a style somewhat similar to Machinarium‘s in the sense that each screen is a puzzle in which you must figure out the right sequence of events. In this particular adventure, you play as a time traveler who accidentally killed Hamlet and must now rescue Ophelia to avoid ruining the timeline. The story makes no sense (nor does the overall game), but it’s a lot of fun and has a very pleasing art style.
Original release date: 4/8/2010
Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse
The latest episodic Sam & Max series shouldn’t need an introduction. This season, Max is given psychic abilities (as if you didn’t see that one coming) which they then use to fend off their latest threats. It is pretty standard fare as far as the series goes (in other words: it’s awesome) and has the same hilarious dialog and top-notch acting that we have come to expect. The only difference, of course, is that there is a new story and each episode is inspired by a different movie style. Also, new controls have been added for those who wish to play with a controller. If you enjoyed the first two seasons, there is nothing to prevent you from enjoying this one just as much, if not more.
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, iPad (only the first episode so far)
Original release date: 4/15/2010
Sleep Is Death
This one’s a bit different because it is hard to categorize Sleep Is Death strictly as a game. If anything, it is more like a graphical program that allows one to tell interactive stories. The whole experience is just two people interacting with each other. One person tells the story and controls the world while the other one plays it all out. Think of it as being like an online two-player version of a tabletop RPG. The graphics are fully customizable and you are free to do nearly anything; the entire experience is as engaging or boring as you and your partner make it. Like I said, it doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the list. But when all is said and done, it resembles a game and can be played like one, so here it is.
Original release date: 4/20/2010
Many old-school gamers were delighted to see the 2010 revival of the Rocket Knight franchise, which hadn’t been seen since 1994. Some complained that the game hadn’t changed enough over the years, but that’s what made this such an enjoyable experience. This type of platforming is dated, yes, but it never stopped being fun. There is a reason that so many of these games are long-time classics that we’ll never forget, and that was emulated quite well in the latest iteration, although the difficulty was admittedly questionable at times.
Platforms: Xbox 360, PC, PlayStation 3
Original release date: 5/12/2010
Although not the best of the Bit.Trip series, Runner is still one of the better ones. This one puts you in control of Commander Video for the first time as he runs along various landscapes, deftly avoiding obstacles. The gameplay is incredible simple: our protagonist does all of the running while you hit certain buttons to kick, duck, and jump. That, however, does not mean to imply that this will be an easy game in the slightest. After all, this is a Gaijin game we’re talking about, so you will be facing a challenge and a half. The mesmerizing visuals and enchanting music will make it more than worth the effort, though. And of course, don’t forget to check out our Bit.Trip Runner review (scroll down).
Original release date: 5/17/2010
Joe Danger is basically Trials HD for those of us who don’t have the patience or precision to get high scores on all of the levels (or complete them at all). Mind you, the simplification doesn’t make Joe Danger a bad game by any means; it just focuses more on fun stress-free obstacle courses and Excitebike-like races. Best of all, you get to jump over sharks just like The Fonz. If that doesn’t sway you, nothing else will.
Platforms: PlayStation 3
Original release date: 6/8/2010
2010 was full of cute and charming games, and Strawdog Studios‘ Space Ark was up near the top of the list. It combines all things good about Arkanoid, Rainbow Island, and other retro games and mashes them up into an explosion of colors and furry little animals. It’s a break-bricking fruit-collecting space adventure with some pinball features to help spice things up. It’s hard to sum up the squishy joy of this game in just one small paragraph, so give our Space Ark review a read to see what makes this game a must-have.
Platforms: Xbox 360
Original release date: 6/16/2010
Puzzle Quest 2
The long-awaited sequel to the best puzzle-RPG hybrid available so far, Puzzle Quest 2 was finally able to quench the thirst of people who weren’t completely satisfied with Galactrix. The style and format changed unnecessarily, but the core gameplay is still the same and has even been improved in several aspects, which is what’s really important. Match-three games are a dime a dozen, but Puzzle Quest usually manages to make you forget that you’re playing one.
Platforms: DS (non-downloadable), Xbox 360, PC, iPhone
Original release date: 6/22/2010
Ah, the Telltale puzzle game that knows it’s a puzzle game. Borrowing elements from the Professor Layton series and a handful of movies including Fargo, Puzzle Agent isn’t particularly original, but it makes up for that with its humor, playful art style, and interesting story. The most important thing about a game is how much fun you have with it, which is never an issue for this dialog-driven adventure.
Platforms: PC, iPhone
Original release date: 6/30/2010
If you haven’t heard of Limbo by now, I don’t really know what to say because love it or hate it, it was one of the most popular and talked-about games of 2010, downloadable or otherwise. The game was criticized by some for not having many gameplay elements or a clear story, which is a fair enough assessment, but there’s no denying that this beautifully dark game is nothing short of art. Despite some clever and challenging puzzle elements, the overall gameplay isn’t notable, but this is a game that should be in the collection of anyone who wants something a bit different. For more details, read our Limbo review.
Platforms: Xbox 360
Original release date: 7/21/2010
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game
Based on the hit comic book miniseries of the same name (sans subtitle) and featuring a killer soundtrack by Anamanaguchi, Scott Pilgrim gave everyone a swift kick to the face in 2010. Featuring a retro look and classic beat-’em-up gameplay, it provided a surprisingly fresh breath of air for gamers of all ages. It unfortunately suffers from being a bit too difficult at times, but if you stick with it long enough, you eventually get a chance to turn the tables.
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Original release date: 8/10/2010
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
The quickest way to describe Amnesia is to say that it is a cross between Silent Hill 2 and Clock Tower. That alone should be enough information to know that you’ll need an extra pair of underwear when playing. Though the thought of being scared by a video game sounds rather silly, it is hard to imagine anyone not being significantly creeped out by what may or may not be lurking in the shadows. And with a clever sanity meter, you can’t always be certain that what you are seeing is really there. This is more like an immersive experience than a game, which makes it even creepier. Read our Amnesia: The Dark Descent review to get an idea of what makes this game so scary and why everyone should at least give it a shot.
Original release date: 9/8/2010
Based on a 1930′s novel and film of the same name, Lost Horizon fits into a subgenre that does not typically fare well for developers who aren’t Telltale: adaptations. Having never heard of the tale before playing the game, I can’t say how true this stays to the original, but it was very enjoyable and satisfying nonetheless. It is a point-and-click adventure in a noir setting that doesn’t do anything innovative, but the story and characters were very compelling. Trying to play for five or ten minutes will usually turn into an hour without notice.
Original release date: 9/24/2010
Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode I
Finally, the game so many of us waited for well over ten years. Sonic was a great franchise in its heyday and it was strong contender against Mario. But then, without any proper warning, the games changed and lost almost everything that made the series fun. There have been some good titles along the way, but it seems that the franchise gets increasingly worse every year. Sonic 4 showed up when most were ready to give up on the little fur ball and it has been met with some bitter criticism, but this return to the classic format could be enough to finally bring Sonic back towards the top.
Platforms: iPhone, Wii, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Original release date: 10/7/2010
Costume Quest isn’t a particularly exciting or engaging game, but it is a must-have for its uniqueness and charm. Much of the western world has outgrown turn-based RPG’s, but when a game stars a bunch of kids on Halloween night who transform into the characters represented by their costumes, it’s hard to resist the urge to indulge in the once-beloved gameplay style. The game itself has the misfortune of being a bit stale at times, but it more than makes up for it by having such a fun story with a great premise.
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Original release date: 10/19/2010
Super Meat Boy
A strong contender for the top games of 2010, Super Meat Boy is the successor to the Flash game Meat Boy, originally found on Newgrounds. It is both praised and criticized for being a ridiculously hard platformer. Every level takes only seconds to beat if played perfectly, but some of them may take hours for you to figure out just the right timing and patterns in order to keep yourself from being killed in a myriad of different ways. It’s just as frustrating as it sounds, but its simple design, responsive controls, and free updates keep everyone coming back for more. Our Super Meat Boy review goes into further detail.
Platforms: Xbox 360, PC
Original release date: 10/20/2010
Joining in on the trend of great indie games in 2010, Nimbus was a great puzzler that has gone largely unnoticed. In order to save your girlfriend from a giant robot, you take off in a gliding vehicle that doesn’t really have a whole lot of oomph to it. With no real propulsion system, you must propel yourself through each obstacle-laden level by shooting yourself out of cannons, bouncing off of rubber walls, and using everything else at your disposal. Inertia is your best friend and greatest foe in this clever indie title.
Original release date: 10/25/2010
Pinball FX 2
Aside from 3-D Ultra Pinball: Creep Night and Space Cadet, I’ve never cared much for pinball games. They are never intuitive enough and they simply don’t compare to the real thing. And then Pinball FX 2 came along and sucked up numerous hours of my time without warning. Providing a healthy blend of traditional and digital pinball, it is easily one of the best games of its type and is an easy choice for anyone who even remotely enjoys pinball. Better yet, it acts as a gaming portal, allowing you to import tables from its predecessor or purchase additional downloadable tables, all at your own discretion. With all of the different themes, there is something for everyone. Check out our Pinball FX 2 review for more details.
Platforms: Xbox 360 (The Marvel Pinball add-on is available for PS3, but the core game is not)
Original release date: 10/27/2010
If you were disappointed by the lack of a 2D side-scrolling WALL-E platformer, fret not because Robox is here and he is a fairly suitable substitution. While not as cute or personable of the adored Pixar robot, Robox has his own charm…and a fun Metroidvania game suitable for both hardcore and casual gamers. Our new robot pal has a lot of limitations (he’s sluggish and can only shoot directly in front of him) and we are essentially thrown into the game with virtually no storyline or direction, which is frowned upon in many games, but given that this is an obvious throwback to some classic NES titles, it actually makes more sense this way. And although it provides the occasional frustrating challenge, it never gets in the way of the fun.
Original release date: 11/1/2010
Luxor: 5th Passage
Most of you are familiar with Luxor, but many of you probably weren’t aware that a new one was released in 2010. Because so many people already know what to expect, it flew under the radar somewhat. But it is worth noticing because it has gone back to its roots and plays much more like the favored Luxor 2 while also providing some new powerups and a ton of new (as well as some old) levels. The core gameplay hasn’t changed, but that’s because it’s fun the way it is. And best of all, it has tossed out many of the odd changes seen in the last couple of games, making this an instant classic that old fans can enjoy. Feel free to read our Luxor: 5th Passage review for a more in-depth look.
Original release date: 11/19/2010
Funky Lab Rat
Like The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom, the PS3′s Funky Lab Rat deals with the manipulation of time. In this case, however, our pal Diego is able to freeze time in order to alter objects in the level and rewind time (up to a point) in order to correct a mistake. It doesn’t play as big of a role as it could, but it still allows for a fun puzzle platformer that is a bit different and provides a decent challenge. For further details, be sure to read our Funky Lab Rat review.
Platforms: PlayStation 3
Original release date: 11/30/2010
The Flying Hamster
The Flying Hamster is a great transitional shmup game that can be enjoyed by veterans and newcomers alike. It is likely to appeal more to the latter group, but still, there’s a heck of a lot of charm here. Who couldn’t enjoy playing as a flying hamster who spits seeds and beer at his enemies while on the hunt for his kidnapped girlfriend? It’s got charm and silliness coming out of the wazoo and because it’s not ridiculously hard (unless you play the unlockable difficulty setting), it is very easy to get into and enjoy. If that doesn’t sound like enough, our Flying Hamster review provides further support for this fun little romp.
Platforms: PSP, PlayStation 3
Original release date: 12/7/2010
Doritos Crash Course
In 2009, Doritos sponsored the Unlock Xbox competition, which led to us getting the free advergame Dash of Destruction, which left a lot to be desired. In 2010, gamers were tasked with voting for their favorite of two finalists, a dud called Harms Way and the surprisingly entertaining Doritos Crash Course. Playing like an episode of Wipeout or Sasuke (AKA Ninja Warrior), this competition winner is a fun romp through various obstacle courses. Getting from start to finish isn’t particularly difficult, but trying to beat all of the challenge times proves to be quite tough on many of the later courses. It’s really not bad at all for a free game, but it will only be available for a limited time.
Platforms: Xbox 360
Original release date: 12/8/2010
Back To The Future: The Game – Episode 1
The brilliant minds at Telltale Games are at it again with their revival of the classic 1980′s trilogy. Doc Brown is once again in trouble and Marty McFly needs to haul ass through time in order to help him. It’s everything you expect from a Telltale point-and-click adventure: great acting, funny dialog, clever puzzles, wacky situations, and an all-around fantastic experience. When starting a new series, they usually need some time to build up steam, but they’ve already hit the nail on the head with this first installment, which is reason for excitement. If they keep it up at this pace, they could very possibly surpass all of their previous games.
Original release date: 12/22/2010
As the final XBLA release of 2010, Raskulls did a great job of ending the year in style. It’s a great fast-paced mix of platforming, foot racing, and Mr. Driller puzzle action which results in a rather fun adventure. Everything is solid, the art style is perfect, and the dialog and story are hilarious. The only real fault to this game is that there isn’t more to do in the multiplayer. As expressed in our Raskulls review, it’s going to leave you wanting more, but it will also make you feel like you got your money’s worth.
Platforms: Xbox 360
Original release date: 12/29/2010
Thank you for taking the time to read—or at least skim through—this long list. Many hours went into playing, cataloging, and writing about all of these great games (as well as many bad ones). All of these games have been listed in order of original release date and all dates are based on US releases. If you notice that any games are missing, it is either because it didn’t actually release in 2010 (I was surprised by several games), I didn’t quite think it qualified as a must-have title, or I am simply unaware of it. Feel free to discuss any games that you think deserve to be included and keep in mind that these are just one man’s opinions (along with some minor input).