Monday, January 10, 2011

Best Games of 2010

2010 was almost a lost year when it comes to these lists, because for about two thirds of it I didn't have much spending money to actually check out new stuff. I ended up with some lists I'm happy with though, even if I would have liked to have some more candidates available to get on. This list of games is pretty heavy on the first part of the year when I was actually getting paid, but it was a strong enough period that I'm comfortable saying these are all definitely worth playing.

Best of 2010

8. Shantae: Risky's Revenge (DSi)

The download-only sequel to the Game Boy Color cult hit seemed to get into a lot more hands, if only because it was on a system people were actually still using. The game's not perfect - I wish it had been just a tad meatier in terms of truly compelling stuff to do, but the dungeons that are there are fun, the platforming is solid, and the art and dialogue are completely charming. A fun, quick adventure.

7. Call of Duty: Black Ops (Multi)

I don't know if Call of Duty purists will ever allow Treyarch to think they made a game better than what Infinity Ward could do, but they managed their strongest effort to date with Black Ops. The campaign managed to avoid most of the series' traditional pitfalls and had an enjoyable if completely over the top story leading you from gun fight to gun fight. And judging by the fact that my brother is still playing the online almost nightly, I'd say they did a good job with that part as well.

6. Costume Quest (Multi)

Much like Shantae, Costume Quest is a game that could have probably used more content but was still pretty delightful while it lasted. The combat was simple but rewarding, and the adventure elements were clever without being obtuse. Add Double Fine's continuing excellence in the field of funny dialogue that actually amuses, and it's certainly worth a download.

5. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (Multi)

If this year was any indication, DICE is going to have a hard time ever making a game that really surpasses Call of Duty's stranglehold on the hardcore modern shooter market. But those who played it liked it a lot, both for the multiplayer which nicely translates the grand experience from the PC to a slightly smaller scale, and the campaign, which while a bit sloppy, is also in some ways a lot more interesting than the chain of scripted events that has come to define the genre.

4. Heavy Rain (PS3)

Heavy Rain is a very polarizing game, and for good reasons. If you don't like quick time events you'll never get into it, and the plot really goes off the rails by the end. But it's also amazingly well presented, the kind of thing that designers with respect for actual story structure could do a lot with. Heavy Rain provided some of the most tense and thrilling sequences I played through all year, and I didn't have to kill hundreds of people to do it. If nothing else, it's a very interesting game.

3. Darksiders (Multi)

Darksiders is a game I wish we saw more of, something that came out of a true place of creative inspiration (even if it was a silly one) rather than a board room meeting trying to figure out what the kids are into these days, while still having the look and polish of a large budget title. The combat was imperfect but enjoyable, and the puzzle-filled dungeons were some of my favorites in a game in years. There, you see? You can write about Darksiders without mentioning Zelda.

2. God of War III (PS3)

I was surprised to see a number of people recently express disappointment at how this game turned out. God of War has always been about pairing bloody, over-the-top hack and slash action with light puzzle solving and platforming in a pretty game engine, and this game's PS3-backed visuals and new twists on the old ideas meant that it did them better than ever before. What were they expecting? God of War III is awesome.

1. Red Dead Redemption (Multi)

Grand Theft Auto IV was acclaimed upon its release but then seemed to leave a lot of bad will behind afterward, which is why it was impressive seeing how many people said that Red Dead made up for it. It has the best shooting in a Rockstar game to date, and the setting is one of their best realized as well. Add a truly likable protagonist at the center of maybe their best story, and Redemption has a real case as the company's best game ever. Add the best ending all year, and it's a heck of a product.

Notable Exception

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (Multi)

I started playing this last week, and while it sort of feels like just more of the second game, that game was also sort of awesome, so I'm having a pretty good time. I haven't played nearly enough of it to put it on the list, but the campaign's potential along with how interesting the multiplayer looks makes me pretty sure it would have made it if I had. I just hope they don't keep pumping these out and make it tiring.

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