GamePro's Best Games of 2009

  • by GamePro Staff
  • December 22, 2009 12:02 PM PST

2009 AWARDS: GamePro recognizes the most notable video games of 2009.

This year, instead of serving up another mind-numbing list of the same old best of the year categories, we decided to award 2009's best games based on the reasons why they deserve our praise. From best storytelling to most impressive developer debut, here are GamePro's picks of the best games that came out this year.

  • Most Innovative:
  • Scribblenauts
12 Best Video Games of 2009
12 Best Video Games of 2009
Runners Up: Flower, Half-Minute Hero, DJ Hero

5th Cell made its reputation on developing games that push game design in new and interesting ways, and its finest achievement to date is the wonderfully charming Scribblenauts. While its distinct visual style and quirky sense of humor is enough to make it stand out, it's the immense library of objects and the ingenious ways in which you use them that earns Scribblenauts the distinction of Most Innovative Game of 2009. It not only encourages gamers to be creative but makes it possible -- for the most part -- to act upon their urges. It also tweaks the puzzle game genre by giving gamers the freedom to search out their own solutions rather than forcing them to rely on predetermined ones. We cannot wait to see how 5th Cell improves upon the formula. We expect nothing but great things from this franchise.

  • Reinvented Franchise:
  • Killzone 2
12 Greatest Video Games of 2009
12 Greatest Video Games of 2009
Runner Up: Red Faction: Guerrilla

From Street Fighter IV to Uncharted 2, 2009 has no shortage of high profile, video game sequels that show how developers transform their franchises into something more refined and fun. But unlike virtually all of 2009's big name sequels, Killzone 2 is a great sequel to a mediocre game. It resurrects Sony's botched "answer to Halo," 2005's Killzone for PS2, which suffers from severely broken A.I. and rampant glitches that mar what it does right. Guerrilla Games not only fixes the original Killzone's technical issues, but they delivered a riveting single-player experience as well as an equally satisfying multiplayer (something also lacking in the first Killzone). Both Killzone and Killzone 2 received tremendous hype prior to their releases, but Killzone 2 actually delivers the thrilling next-gen FPS experience that it promised, raising the bar for future shooters.

  • Best New Series:
  • Borderlands
12 Greatest Video Games of 2009
12 Greatest Video Games of 2009
Runner Up: Dragon Age: Origins, Demon's Souls, DJ Hero

Usually, a video game that tries to meld two different genres overcompensates to one extreme. Borderlands masterfully incorporates the best of both worlds. One part fast-paced gun-slinging action, one part addictive loot collecting and level grinding, this hybrid FPS RPG is a smash hit with fans of both genres. It's obvious from its many pop-culture and gaming references (everything from Diablo to Mystery Science Theater 3000) that the development team at Gearbox Software wanted Borderlands to be hardcore and unafraid to show some personality and sense of humor. Dusty, dangerous, and deliciously addictive (especially with a few online buddies), Borderlands has the potential to expand into something as big as franchise behemoths like Halo and World of Warcraft.

  • Best Storytelling:
  • Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
12 Greatest Video Games of 2009
12 Greatest Video Games of 2009
Runners Up: Assassin's Creed 2, Dragon Age: Origins

It's as much a testament to Uncharted 2's success that it has a phenomenal story and cast of characters as topnotch gameplay. Nathan Drake's first adventure helped cement the treasure hunter as a charismatic new game protagonist, but Naughty Dog fully fleshed Drake out in Uncharted 2 by sticking him in a nail-biting action adventure story replete with lovable (and loathsome) characters that never feel tired or contrived. Though Uncharted 2's story sometimes clings too much to its influences, such as the Indiana Jones-esque "stop the bad guy from great and terrible power" theme, its story vastly surpasses the many popcorn action flicks it draws inspiration from.

  • Most Impressive Developer Debut:
  • MadWorld
12 Greatest Video Games of 2009
12 Greatest Video Games of 2009
Runner Up: Torchlight

With this year's absurdly gory MadWorld already under their belt, and Bayonetta coming out soon, Japanese developer Platinum Games is already building up cred in the industry. Their first game MadWorld gives us high hopes for their future titles. MadWorld, a Wii-exclusive black-and-white action game inspired by Robert Rodriguez's film Sin City, is far from groundbreaking. It is, however, a delightfully over-the-top throwback to arcade-style beat-em-ups like Double Dragon and Streets of Rage. Only MadWorld borrows a page from Mortal Kombat in that you can sever the arms off your enemies with chainsaws, tear out their beating hearts with your bare hands, and even dunk them in a giant tempura vat full of boiling oil. MadWorld is not as concerned with story and good dialogue as it is always feeding you vicious new ways to butcher enemies, which makes for one helluva good time.

  • Best Game No One Bought:
  • Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
12 Greatest Video Games of 2009
12 Greatest Video Games of 2009
Runners Up: Half-Minute Hero, MadWorld

Despite selling only a fraction of what its bigger brother, Grand Theft Auto IV, did (Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars didn't even break a million sales on the DS, while GTA IV sold over 6 million copies), Chinatown Wars features several refreshing new twists on the GTA formula -- to live up to the GTA brand, it had to make up for its lack of graphical polish. On top of having a protagonist who isn't afraid to directly poke fun at the often absurd storyline and cast of characters that appeared to be lifted right out of a bad action flick, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars' biggest achievement is showcasing a number of inventive uses for the DS's touch-screen (such as repeatedly taping the screen to shatter windshield glass, swapping hard drugs like heroin and cocaine out of a suitcase for cash, and hot-wiring vehicles). The PSP version, released several months after its DS counterpart, actually manages to retain most of what made the DS version such an exceptional handheld experience even without the touch-screen interface.

Comments [35]

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Couldn't agree with you guys more. Assassin's Creed II is five times the game the original was. Delivered and exceeded expectations on every level.


Good list, although I disagree about MW2 being the biggest risk-taker. I thought that the airport level was excellent storytelling and controversial, but I would argue that such an anticipated title had a far better chance of doing something avant-garde and "getting away with it" than a title from either a new, or only mildly-popular franchise. I would say Demon's Souls was a bigger risk: brutally difficult dungeon-crawler with a really unique online element, and it became a huge success.


i think this list is perfect with the exception of mw2 taking the risk .... it was only one level.. and it was that bad so i think tony hawk ride was a bgigger risk why ? cause it failed.


teelelen wrote:

what happened to good categories like shooter and rpg

I agree, although I love how you guys at gamepro made catagories like best game nobody played, I would have liked to have seen best shooter game, best RPG game, best Casual game, best Multiplayer etc.
I think that all of these catagories would have fit nicely sitting beside the catagories I have listed above.

P.S I also agree with the GOTY, although I havent played MW2 or Uncharted 2 yet (I will be getitng those very soon), ACII was just spectacular. Ubisoft did a superb job on creating a perfect game. Not just the storyline and the graphics are amazing but I love how there is so much extra content within the game to collect. Like feathers, codex pages, paintings, statues, etc.


teelelen wrote:

what happened to good categories like shooter and rpg

We figured you'd be seeing categories like that on just about every video game related site on the web, and didn't think that simply providing ANOTHER ONE would be that interesting. Instead, we came up with categories that we felt were really significant this year, so there was an opportunity to reward games that we felt were especially noteworthy.


they should of had Best Open-World or Sandbox game of the year. cause it was like 5 of them this year.

Red Faction Guerrilla
Assassins Creed 2


F Borderlands in my opinion. Uncharted should have swept everything!! Haha.


Kthulhu360 wrote:


Why do you have to bring fanboyism here? There is no better console, it depends on personal taste

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