My Top Games of 2009

Simply put, 2009 was a great year for video games.  I not only played numerous fantastic new releases, but I played for the first time Valkyria Chronicles, Uncharted: Drakes Fortune, Bully, Call of Cthulu, Gun, and a game that could easily have made my top ten this year, Earth Defense Force 2017.  I feel I need to disqualify a few games because I either haven’t played them or they’re too fresh in my mind to be fairly placed on the list: Brutal Legend, Dragon Age: Origins, King’s Bounty: Armored Princess, and Shatter.  On with the list!

10. Shadow Complex

Shadow Complex is a game that doesn’t even try to fight it’s label as a Metroidvania game by embracing the 2D exploring, fighting, backtracking and upgrading mechanics established by some of the finest series around.  The modern innovations from the Unreal Engine and the real time in game leader boards are an obvious plus, but the game completely succeeds by it’s own merits.  Pitch perfect controls, fun weapons, and a surprisingly varied secret base to explore make this the XBLA game to dethrone next year.

9. Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time

It seems odd saying this, but to me  A Crack in Time is a good, old-fashioned style of video game.  Maybe it’s because I really got into gaming around the original Ratchet, I feel nostalgic for that style of gameplay in much the same ways older gamers feel about Super Mario. I feel like it’s the definition of a video game.  And this particular Ratchet is easily the best in the series; best writing, best level design, best graphics, best gameplay.  Sometimes you just want an unabashed video game, with excessive explosions, charming characters, beautiful levels and  nothing to get in the way of the fun.  That’s exactly what A Crack in Time does.

8. Flower

The circumstances I played Flower in should have made me hate the game.  I was sick with the flu, had piles of homework to do, and recent losses in my family were still weighing on my mind.  What makes this a truly memorable game for me is how much it affected me despite all that.  It really, personally brought my spirits up, actually making me feel better not just through its gameplay and visuals, but for its message.  It’s an unfortunate cliché to say this these days, but that’s something most video games are sorely lacking.

7. Resident Evil 5

Resident Evil 5 isn’t really a good game, at least if you play it alone.  For me however, playing it with a bunch of friends who all loved Resident Evil 4, this was the cooperative game we never knew we wanted, and are always up for playing.  There are some bad choices (the controls are still unnecessarily clunky) and some awful boss battles (at one point, you fight a boulder with your fists) that would normally make this a game worthy of irrelevance, but its precisely for these reasons that the multiplayer, that shared experience with your friends becomes insanely entertaining.  I’d call it a b-movie in game form except for the fact that the game contains some really ingenious cooperative gameplay mechanics that show some real thought and care went into the experience my friends and I share again and again.

6. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

There isn’t really much more to say about Uncharted 2.  It’s gorgeous, action packed, well acted and told, has a great multiplayer mode, and it’s gorgeous.  There are some really beautiful moments in the game I don’t want to spoil that contain something games usually lack: subtleness. And that very, very last scene before the credits role?  Magical.

5. Noby Noby Boy

In this game you can eat a bear on a pogo-stick, then gobble up a tiny astronaut right after you swallow a catman driving a carrot car.  After that you can fart until you explode your butt off, you can eat your butt, then you can go to Jupiter.  A squirrel represents game loads and the picture above is for changing the fart volume.  For no good reason, the “game” can be played cooperatively with four players and everyone playing adds their length to a giant GIRL in order to reach Pluto.  There is no way to win, no score, no items, the controls aren’t great, and it looks like a 1980’s CGI cartoon.  And I loved every minute of it. Basically, you either get this game or you don’t.

4. Batman: Arkham Asylum

Truly the surprise of the year, Batman: Arkham Asylum makes it hard to conceive of a better possible Batman game.  It’s been said before, but it’s absolutely true: the game makes you feel like Batman.  You don’t just jump into a bunch of bad guys and punch them to death, you silently sneak about them, using your gadgets and your wits to slowly cut down there numbers until there’s only one frightened thug left.  You feel like the worlds greatest detective searching for clues, you feel like your fighting Batmans greatest enemy (thanks in part to Mark Hamil’s excellent portrayal of the Joker), and you feel the unease of Arkham Asylum itself.

3. Red Faction: Guerrilla

No wait, Batman wasn’t the surprise of the year since it has to be Red Faction.  I had absolutely no interest in this series or particular game until I tried the demo: it was love at first demolished building.  Once I tried the multiplayer demo and found myself returning to it night after night, I knew this was a game I need right away.  It’s a testament to just how much I wanted to play this game that I gladly payed full price the day it came out, and even more incredible that I didn’t regret it in the slightest.  Truly revolutionary destructibility, ridiculously fun vehicles and weapons, and a multiplayer mode more addicting than anything since Teamfortress 2.  If you haven’t yet played this game, then I have five words for you: get your ass to Mars!

2. Drop 7

Drop 7 is the new Tetris.  It’s that simple.  30 seconds of messing around and you learn the entire game, but you’ll quickly understanding how fiercly it strokes that part of your brain that tells you to drop one more piece.  It’s the iPhone/iPod Touch game to own not only because it’s absolutely perfect for a touchscreen device, but because it will save you money: you won’t want to buy anything else.

1. Assassins Creed 2

There probably aren’t enough superlatives to describe  Assassins Creed 2, but here I go anyway: phenomenal graphics, an enormous world, fantastic varied missions, top of the line voice acting, and a story full of secrets you’ll spend the extra time solving. I ended up playing this game on my 5 day Thanksgiving holiday. Normally, cramming a 20+ hour game into 5 days would just end up highliting the flaws and minimizing its feats.  Not so for Assassins Creed 2.  After spending all that time in the game, all I wanted was more.  Resquiescat in pace.

Honorable Mentions:

Borderlands: On some days, this perfect blend of FPS and RPG could have taken Ratchet or Uncharted’s spot.

Beatles: Rock Band: It’s the Beatles, which you either like or love, so…

Demon’s Souls: So hard, it’s practically masochistic. So why do I keep coming back?

Zombie Apocalypse: Geometry Wars + Left 4 Dead which should be enough for you to buy it.

50 Cent: Blood on the Sands: I do my bankin’ online!

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One Response to My Top Games of 2009

  1. joseph wasinger says:

    Clayton, I’m gonna have to take offense to this list (just like most people do with any list that isn’t theirs). Ratchet and Clank was too easy, RE5 is RE4 lite, and Noby Noby Boy doesn’t belong on this list because it isn’t a game.

    I found Red Faction: Guerrilla to be pretty disappointing actually. The game’s main selling point is destructible scenery, but all that scenery feels… I don’t know… fake (faker than a video game such as this should feel). In the (admittedly short) time that I played it, it felt as though all the destructible scenery and buildings were merely placed up on top of the “actual” environment. Here’s what I’d like to see – a game like left for dead where you can knock down the walls with axes and shit, where the mollys actually catch the buildings on fire, and where the pipe bombs (or the like) can take down supporting columns and whatnot.

    Finally, no mention of Renegade… WTF manNNNNNNNN?

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