My Top Games of 2010

When I wrote last year’s top ten list, I noted how great a year in gaming it had been.  I think 2010 proved to be just as good, but strangely, many of the best games were released before September.  Looking at last year’s list, I’ve decided to change a couple of things.  First I’ll have the top three 2009 games of 2010 or the best games from 2009 that I didn’t get a chance to play until 2010.  Then I’ll list my top ten games of 2010 and a few notables that didn’t quite make the cut.  And like last year, there are quite a few games I’ve only just started playing or haven’t gotten around to, (especially considering I was in New York for the fall) including Dead Rising 2, Civilization 5, Enslaved, Rock Band 3, DJ Hero 2, Super Meat Boy, and Super Mario Galaxy 2.

Top Three 2009 Games of 2010

Dragon Age: Origins

I heard so many great things about this game and love Bioware so much, that forcing myself to wait until I had built a PC was almost unbearable.   It was well worth wait, though the game had some problems with Windows 7 64-bit edition that almost prevented me from playing it at all.  Luckily, I made it to the end, and what an ending it was.

King’s Bounty: Armored Princess

King’s Bounty has fast become my favorite series that no one’s heard of.  Despite the 30 hours+ length of the campaign, I got through the game in only a few weeks.  Calling it addictive is an understatement.

Left 4 Dead 2

When L4D2 was released, I heard pretty bad things about the difficulty being either way too easy or fiendishly difficult.  Luckily, that was mostly a console problem.  After me and my friends all got the game on PC, it fast became the game we play online.  Also way better playing and looking than the first.

Top 10 Games of 2010

10. Metro 2033

After S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and King’s Bounty, I should have expected another charmingly well crafted game from the eastern bloc.  But I was still surprised by this game, which I didn’t even know about until only a few days before it released.  It’s one of those games where the love the games creators have for the source material, subject matter, and craft of games shines through over and over again.  It immerses you in the tunnels of the Moscow Metro with authentic characterizations and little details, like making your character actually pull out a map to figure out where you are.  When you put on a gas mask, your character sets the timer on his watch so both you and he know when the filter has run out.  That sort of stuff could have just been another menu or graphic on the HUD, but its these design choices that made Metro 2033 feel handcrafted for gamers willing to put themselves inside the game.  I’m not sure I can think of a game that does that better.

9. Pokemon: Soul Silver

I only brought two DS games to New York: Picross 3D and Pokemon: Soul Silver.  Once I put the Soul Silver cartridge in I didn’t take it out until I got back to Kansas.  Certainly a lot of this can be chalked up to nostalgia… well, actually pretty much all of it can.  Having not played a Pokemon game for at least seven years, it was comforting coming back to pretty much the exact same game.  Sure, it was prettier, had a ton of new attacks, and streamlined a few things, but for the most part I was just happy with a new Pokemon game.  And that Pokewalker pedometer included with the game was perfect for all the walking I did in the big city.

8. Deadly Premonition

This is my “Noby Noby Boy Memorial Pick” for game that people either loved or hated.  Despite the awful combat, clunky controls, and bad-PS2-game graphics, I still thoroughly enjoyed this game.  It’s bizarre story and characters (an unabashed rip off of Twin Peaks) and… peculiar gameplay choices (a massive but empty open world that requires stupid amounts of driving) created what could really be called a so-bad-its-good experience.  And don’t forget: FK in the Coffee!  It never fails!

7. Alan Wake

Two games inspired by Twin Peaks in one year?  While Alan Wake wasn’t as straight up bonkers as Deadly Premonition, it was certainly more fun to play and easier on the eyes.  In fact, the atmosphere the game creates by playing with shadows and light is one of gaming’s best.  The story also deserves to be lauded, not only for giving me one of the more satisfying endings this year, but for its innovative use of a television serial’s episodic structure.  By dividing the game into 1-2 hour chunks capped off with thrilling cliffhangers, it made every time I sat down with the game a satisfying experience.  And it definitely helped the the musical ‘credits’ for each episode were perfectly chosen.

6. Picross 3D

This was actually one of my most anticipated games this year and it didn’t disappoint.  While I don’t always know what 3 dimensional object I’m carving out of gray blocks, sometimes even after I’ve finished the puzzle, I always want to do another one.  And that’s all any good puzzle game needs to do

5. Limbo

Limbo toys with emotions few video games dare to: dread, regret, hope, and acceptance.  It does so with daring choices: a strictly black and white art style and almost no music throughout.  It could have taken the route of some arty games and forgotten about actually making the gameplay engaging, but it doesn’t forget that its still a game.  In fact, it uses the craft of games to make players feel the helplessness of limbo itself when it takes away some of our controls or forces us into danger.  Thats what really made me like Limbo: it was a game that expressed itself not only through incredible imagery, but through the power of its design.

4. MAG

I was skeptical of 256 player matches.  I was nervous that Sony would charge a subscription fee.  And the art style put me to sleep.  But MAG exceeded my expectations while taking the rightful place as the PS3’s answer to Halo as the consoles preeminent exclusive FPS.  That’s not to say it’s exactly like Halo, because it most certainly is not.  It grander, more like the PC versions of the Battlefield games.  But Battlefield 2 on the PC was still only built for 64 players while MAG drops 256 players into massive warzones.  And it handles this almost gracefully with a communication command structure that subtly guides the 128 player teams towards their goals.  I may not have always seen a hundred players on the screen, but I always felt like I was part of something bigger.

3. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

When I heard of the ‘multiplayer Assassin’s Creed’, I wretched inside and hoped it wouldn’t mean I’d have to wait until 2012 for the next true sequel in the franchise.  Then, a week ago, I found myself not only playing a direct sequel to AC2 that was better in every way imaginable, but also playing a mutliplayer mode so genius in its execution that I was made to feel truly regretful.  Regretful that I had bought Assassin’s Creed 2 and beaten over a long Thanksgiving weekend, never to play it again, and made the idiotic mistake of only renting Brotherhood.  I’m not sure I’ve done it before, but I’m almost sure that I’ll be buying a game after renting it, even having beaten the single player, just for the multiplayer mode.  It’s just that good.

2. Starcraft II

I’d been wait for this for literally a decade and it obviously didn’t disappoint.  The campaign was polished with money into an interactive 3D movie. It’s 30 levels range from traditional one-man infiltrations and base building to train robberies and Night of the Living Zerg.  The story’s ending turns the games universe on its head and utilizes a litany of units not even available in the multiplayer.  Speaking of the multiplayer, I played enough to actually see insane minutae of the tactics possible in the game.  Like looking on the face of God, I was both awed and frightened. And I can’t wait to make these master tactics my own.

1. Mass Effect

First thing’s first: Bioware/EA had better fix the fact that you can only import your save file from the same console you played the previous game on or I’m going to have to find a way to put my Xbox 360 in cryo-stasis until the 3rd game comes out.  I actually played the game before I had the chance to play with my original character, but I still loved the game.  It’s not hyperbole to say that the game has some of the most interesting, fully developed, multi-dimensional characters in any video game.  The final boss looked a little silly, but the combat was fun, the conversations engrossing, and the finale more thrilling than the first games high-stakes conclusion.

Honorable Mentions

Deadly Warriors – Never had an interest in the show, but the game is a fantastic party game.  Matches go quick (sometimes with only one hit) and are ridiculously savage.

Dawn of War II: Chaos Rising – I probably played more of the first game this year, but I thought it was just too cool that I got to import my characters from the first games awesome RTS/RPG hybrid campaign.

Minecraft – I eventually had the epiphany that all my meticulous creations were utterly pointless, but for the brief time (20 hours+) I was dangerously addicted I wanted to do absolutely nothing else.

Just Cause 2 – My name is BOLO SANTOSI.

Darksiders – I haven’t the slightest bit of Zelda nostalgia, so this action adventure’s style and structure was completely new and fantastically engaging for me.

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