Hidden gems of 2010: the games you may have missed

Observer games critics nominate the releases that deserved far greater attention this year

Ancient Trader (Xbox 360, 4kids games)

In what's been a really interesting year for independent games, Ancient Trader was one of the best. An addictive turn-based strategy, set on weathered parchment maps with some stunning hand-drawn art, it can be downloaded from Xbox Live's indie games service for about the cost of a pint. Bargain. Chris Schilling

Deadly Premonition (Xbox 360, Rising Star Games)

A dark, Lynchian tale of murder in a quiet American town, Deadly Premonition was technically flawed, but hugely ambitious and entertaining. In abrasive FBI agent Francis York Morgan, it had the year's most interesting protagonist, plus a host of memorable moments that more than compensated for its graphical shortcomings. Bizarre, but brilliant. CS

NHL 11 (PS3, Xbox 360, EA)

NHL 11 became a favourite non-footie sports sim this year, possibly the best since its Mega Drive glory days. With exceptional realism, from an unpredictable puck to player physics, crunching checks and improved AI, no two plays are alike – especially when breaking your stick, falling on the ice or getting tied up in fights. Arguably, the best two-player sim out there. Felix Atkin

Guwange (Xbox 360, DLC, Cave)

Created by cult Japanese arcade game developer Cave, Guwange was a strange and intense scrolling 2D shooter, unafraid of bewildering its audience. Set in feudal Japan, its strange majesty and intense difficulty made it well worth tracking down, especially for those unafraid of a challenge. Will Freeman

VVVVVV (PC, Mac, online, Terry Cavanagh)

With primitive visuals and seemingly archaic gameplay, VVVVVV was easy to miss. But this lo-fi platform-puzzle game, based on gravity manipulation, was filled with more neat tricks and clever flourishes than most big-budget blockbusters. Unusual and taxing, this was an underground hit that was just the tonic for jaded palates. Serge Pennings


Chris Schilling, Felix Atkin, Will Freeman and Serge Pennings

The GuardianTramp

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