Overall, this has been a really good year for games. Almost from January 1 we’ve been feed a constant stream of blockbusters and trusted franchises.

There’s also been a few genuine surprises. Games I really did not expect to be worthwhile when I started playing. Games I often expected to suck, but games I ended up loving.

Below are ten games released this year that turned out to be far better than the hype behind them suggested they would become. Click on the links to read Digitally Downloaded’s full reviews (and thoughts) on these games.

Rainbow Moon

Quite possibly the biggest game released this year, you know you’re in for a long haul when there’s a trophy for reaching level 500 and it’s taken you eight hours to hit level 10. Eastasiasoft’s game is one I hadn’t even heard of before I logged in to the PSN to find it on sale.

Naturally I’m suspicious of any game I haven’t heard of prior to release – if it’s that great why wasn’t there a greater marketing campaign behind it? Luckily for me I took a risk and downloaded it anyway, because this is one of the most addictive grindfests I’ve played in years.

Battle Vs. Chess

Battle Chess is like the B-grade zombie movie of Chess games – it hides an utter lack of depth behind an amusing premise. You don’t buy these games for their highly skilled AI, no, you buy them to watch chess pieces beat one another up.

Battle Vs. Chess turned that notion on its head. Here is a game with reasonably challenging AI and some really great alternative ways to play Chess. I play a lot of Chess games. This one somehow managed to land at the top, against all odds.

Boom Street (Fortune Street)

Fortune Street in America is a game I didn’t necessarily expect to suck, but given Nintendo character’s heritage in digital board games (Mario Party), I went in expecting a very simplified board game. When I heard there were no minigames I wondered what the point of this game was going to be.

Luckily it turned out to be one of the deepest Monopoly clones you’re ever going to find.

Pandora’s Tower

This is a unique game for me. I played the Japanese version and absolutely hated it. Then the English version came along and I really didn’t expect my opinion to be any different.

But it was. Pandora’s Tower has the most breathtaking, heartfelt plot in a game that I’ve ever experienced and I lost a lot of that thanks to a weak understanding of Japanese. And now Pandora’s Tower us up there with my favourite Wii games of all.

Lollipop Chainsaw

Like most people, I went into Lollipop Chainsaw expecting a terribly limited game that was more interested in selling sex than interesting gameplay.

So I was more than pleasantly surprised when I realised that Lollipop Chainsaw was a fine example of post-modernism self-referential plotting. Everything about the lead character, Juliet, is empowered, intelligent and genuinely funny.

Oh, and the game is pretty wild too.

Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen 

The original Shinobido on the PSP was a buggy, dull game. The sequel, contrary to the popular critical opinion, is actually quite a lot of fun. It’s a simple stealth game and there’s the occasional moment of frustration, but for the most part the short-and-sharp missions structure works well for the Vita.

Following on from the PSP game, I really didn’t expect the improvement that we saw in this game. I’ve got my fingers crossed for a third game, because I really think it could go places.

Farming Simulator 2012

A hardcore faming simulator? That was always going to be a niche game, and I went into this one expecting it to be really, really dull.

Luckily the opposite was true. There is something therapeutic from the game’s casual pace and travelling around an environment that looks a little like a model diorama.

The best comparison I can have to this game is the model train hobby. To most people it seems quite dull, but for the niche, there’s something compelling about the abstract recreation of the life of a farmer.

Ninja Gaiden 3

I played this game only after seeing the critical panning it go, and so I went in expecting a game that was essentially broken.

But it wasn’t. It is simply misunderstood – likely because of the name. People expected a hardcore, difficult game thanks to that “Ninja Gaiden” name. What they got was a graceful, elegant study in movement that was more about the spectacle than the challenge.

Which played right into the kind of game I like to play. I think this is the game where my personal opinion has differed the most to the game’s critical and mass-market opinion.

Warlock: Master of the Arcane

I can honestly say I didn’t expect much from this game. On paper and in screenshots it looked like little more than a Civilization clone, with fantasy tropes thrown in.

Considering how good Civilization V is, being an inferior clone is not really a good place to be. Thankfully, Warlock was more than a mere clone of the strategy giant. It shared some similarities, yes, but at the time time it had a soul and personality of its own, and thanks to some superb balancing, it was a great game to play in its own right.

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale

This game took a long time to come out in Australia/ Europe. After getting slaughtered critically in the US I went into this game expecting a very bad game. Now, I don’t know if that extra time was used for further development, but Daggerdale is not terrible. It’s not great, and it’s a poor use of the Dungeons & Dragons license, but as a hack-and-slash, it’s a solid few hours of delving fun.

And that’s at for me, time to turn it over to the comments – have you ever started playing a game you expected to be quite bad, and then discovered that you actually quite enjoyed it? Let us know!

This is the bio under which all legacy DigitallyDownloaded.net articles are published (as in the 12,000-odd, before we moved to the new Website and platform). This is not a member of the DDNet Team. Please see the article's text for byline attribution.

  • I can't believe you've tempted me to check out Farming Simulator 2012. I mean, I trust the review and everything but… really? Farming? Simulator? 2012? Somehow the words don't fit together properly. Oh well, I guess I'll find out!

    On a similar theme, I found that Train Simulator 2012 was surprisingly enjoyable. A gentle, Sunday-morning type of enjoyment, maybe, but still quite fun.

  • Lollipop for the WIN. 30hours in and still loving the Old School Final Fight and Viewtifull Joe clone from Suda51. Tara Strong does her best voice acting in this misunderstood game. GREAT FUN.

  • Daggerdale? No way. It's flawed in nearly everything it does and so very full of bugs. Yikes. Pandora's Tower, on the other hand, will be checked out. As soon as I am finished with Xenoblade and The Last Story, that is.

  • Daggerdale is flawed, there's no denying that. It's just that it isn't *broken*, which is what I went in expecting.

    It was a merely average game, but as someone who enjoys the hack-and-slash genre, average was enough to scratch the itch for a couple of weekends. 🙂

    I wouldn't bother with The Last Story. I personally thought that was a very poor game 😛

  • I haven't played any of these, but most of them I'm interested in. I generally enjoy D&D games, but I've heard so little good about Daggerdale though that I haven't played it yet.

  • actually I think The Last Story complements Xenoblade very well. While the latter one has the big open environments, TLS is perfectly linear. I like it so far, but I have maybe played 30% of the game.

  • ROFL – right there with you Rob. Review sounded great, but it's one of those titles where I pause and am just like: really? is that my idea of a game I'd enjoy? haha

  • I bought Lollipop Chainsaw but I didnt open it and after a few days and reading and watching reviews the bad feeling I had about the game just overwhelmed me and I decided to return it and get Spec Ops the Line instead, I know totally different type of game but I am very glad I did so because Spec Ops although is frustrating at times has an incredible story and its beautiful. I think just by watching Youtube videos I have had my fill of Lollipop so its all good. I cant wait to get Rainbow Moon and put some serious hours into it. And I want to get Chess but dont have anyone I know to play against

  • I'm glad you titled it "I enjoyed" at first i thought it was another reviewers write up on how these games are awesome and everyone should play. However i did not end up liking some of these games I greatly appreciate the facts why you did. Keep it up 😀

  • it might still disappoint me! I can already see that it has its flaws, no question, but so far I'm sticking with it for short bursts of story-driven (very-)light-rpg fun.

  • I'm glad you enjoyed Pandora's Tower, it has a very touching plot, good gameplay and well designed towers! I'm hoping for a more open world with better voice actors sequel on Wii U!

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