Favorite 50 of the 00s: 30-26

This batch of five contains some Gamecube favorites sandwiched between a couple current gen gems.
 

LBP's excellent single player portion is just a snippet of it's content and appeal. Media Molecule made good on their promise of the power of user generated content by providing the right tools and continuing to foster a creative culture. The result is a sustained lifespan and no shortage of community brilliance. Hopefully LBP is a glimpse of what's to come in the 10s.

With Pikmin, Nintendo successfully crafted a console RTS by boiling the genre down to it's basics and substituting in originality and charm for the loss of complexity. Captain Olimar's struggle to return home is surprisingly human, yet the ever loyal Pikmin are able to keep his optimism afloat as they help retrieve his lost ship parts by engaging enemies and clearing out paths.

Midway's winning taste for arcade ridiculousness revealed another layer in 2001 with NHL Hitz, taking a sport I generally dislike, and overexposing the coolest aspects in true video game fashion. The result was the quintessential hockey experience for anyone looking to just have some fun. Even the use of Limp Bizkit could be forgiven.

Third Person Shooters have become a forefront genre this generation of consoles, and RE4's impact can no doubt be traced back to. It's a content rich 20+ hour experience with no shortage of action thrills or foreboding atmosphere. The over-the-shoulder shooting structure gives the game a feel all of it's own, captured in time and spliced into the genre's DNA before being obsoleted by it's admirers.
 
Pure is a 2008 love letter to the action sports boom of the early 00s. SSX spent the second half of the decade in hiding, and Black Rock Studio proudly stepped in to create a game as good as EA Sport Big's best. The jumps are ridiculous, the tricks are bombastic, and the handling feels perfect. You'll headhunt for first in races and succumb to combo fever in score attacks. It has all the elements of arcade excellence.
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Favorite 50 of the 00s: 40-31

One week deep into the 2010s and nothing is different! Here's 10 more games I really liked from the past decade. These games tend to be concentrated around the middle of the aughts, covering late last-gen and early next-gen. We also see the most contemporary release on the list, right off the bat...
 

Killzone 2 remarkably overcame it's predecessor's shortcomings and made good on those E3 2005 expectations. The visuals and sound design are top of the class and the game feels wholly original and thoroughly crafted. Killzone 2 pulls off a sense of warfare like no other game. The weapons have weight and momentum and the bullets have impact, and I'm a huge fan of the overall feel.

The original Guitar Hero built such a solid structure that we really haven't moved very far in the four years since. The guitar controller has a natural pick up and play quality, the note highway is the ultimate display method, the difficulty curve is smart, and the game includes a solid soundtrack with excellent covers. Guitar Hero sparked a genre revolution for good reason.

San Andreas is my favorite installment of the GTA 3 trilogy for an accumulation of personal taste and series progression. Being a GTA-caliber tale set in an early 90s gangsta setting was more than enough to get me on board. Then they went ahead and crafted an entire state rather than a singular city. The gameplay was also completely refined in a much appreciated gesture. The result was 60 enjoyable hours spent in g-funk era.

"Stop n Pop" never caught on as a gaming buzzword, but the third person cover system Gears lifted and improved from Kill.Switch went a long way in influencing the genre. There are campaign hinges and I can't stand the multiplayer, but overall, Gears is a great action game with surprisingly likable characters. The shooting is satisfying, curb stomps and chainsaw kills are twice as much.

In a series that defines itself by straddling the arcade/sim line, PGR3 delivers the best of both worlds, as style goes a long way to enhance substance. Real world locations and a roster of supercars are visually morphed by motion blur and color saturation, and the handling model is tweaked to encourage showboating drifts. Screw the technical, it's fun to look cool

Rainbow Six Vegas is a fun tactical shooter set in fantastic location. Simple and effective command abilities open the door to accessible strategy. Having a third person cover system may weird some people out, but I feel that makes sense for a game where your view of the current situation needs to be enhanced since you're in command. Vegas is a solid package, offline and on.

Though it was a heinous decade for the hedgehog, it wasn't all shit, just mostly. Of the few good 00s entries in the series, Rush stands the tallest. It is a bullet paced adrenaline high that you're actually in control of, where most entries make the mistake of ditching interactivity. Rush is very smart about implementing action and score combo elements in well designed levels that span two screens.

Advance Wars boils down turn based strategy to the basics and builds an excellent war-torn cartoon universe around it. A growing cast of enjoyable command officers drive the campaign's story and each battle finds a new way to test your ability to wisely control an enemy engagement. War should be this fun, vibrant, and addictive when handled on a Gameboy (emulator).

Despite the lackluster critical reception, I couldn't deny how much enjoyable the demo was, and Shadowrun turned out to be a perfect summer title. It's a multiplayer FPS that wisely sets itself apart it the crowded genre. Equippable magic and tech abilities allow strategies to be planned and adjusted instinctively and it's this off the cuff, think and react edge embodied in a fun FPS model that champions Shadowrun as a great multiplayer experience.

Having two characters per kart was a really odd addition for this Mario Kart entry, but it totally worked to create subtle but effective item and weight strategy variations. Double Dash is my favorite iteration in the series thanks to this unique feature and a great overall design. The tracks are very well crafted, the items are better balanced than usual, and the handling feels spot on.
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Favorite 50 of the 00s: 50-41

It's New Years Eve 2009, the final day day of the decade. While, just like everything else, I'll place the 90s over the 00s for video games, it certainly was a much more important decade in terms of gaming for me. I entered 2000 with a Genesis, SNES, and Gameboy Color and I leave 2009 with just about every console under the sun. I've been thinking about my favorite games of the aughts since this past summer, and now it is finally time to kick it off. Games 50-41 tend to represent early decade entries that I first experienced years after their initial release. The fact that such an impact was still made attests to their high quality.
 

 
It just so happened that one of the most significant releases of the decade ended up at number 50. While I wasn't overcome by a revolutionary blueprint for virtual city fun, I can't deny that GTA3 is a great game. Occasional clumsiness could be forgiven thanks to an excellent crime story and setting.


 
My short stint with the Dreamcast wasn't terribly successful. By 2005, most of the best titles had been ported or lost a battle with time. Jet Grind Radio was the absolute highlight. The soundtrack, characters, settings, and presentation oozed style. Hell, by introducing cel-shaded graphics to the industry, the game was actually revolutionary for looking cool.  
 

 

The Ratchet & Clank commercials will probably go down as some of the most memorable game commercials from the 00s. They summed up the game pretty well; cartoon-crazy weapons and a good sense of humor. The only part missing was the really well crafted adventure, you had to purchase the game for that.

 
 

It may be Battlefield 2: Lite, but without a gaming PC, it was an ample substitute for one of the best multiplayer shooters ever released. The open field, class based, 12 on 12 battles were a lot of fun, and gave me my modern warfare fill for the decade. Also, ditching helicopters with passengers who didn't know how to parachute was griefing gold.


 

A forgotten entry in a forgotten franchise. Wave Race: Blue Storm is an overlooked Gamecube launch title that successfully builds upon the water physics, visuals, and analog control of it's N64 predecessor. Also, just like its big brother, Blue Storm is a unique racer that ages remarkably well.


 

The chaotic, comedic, deliberately R rated tale of Conker's "bad fur day" was the last hurrah for the N64 in 2001, and it's remake arrived toward the end of the line for the Xbox. Live & Reloaded retold the excellent, movie spoof happy, fubar yet tongue in cheek situations of the original while adding in an online multiplayer component that provided a much appreciated break from Halo 2.


 

The Crash Bandicoot games were strictly linear experiences. Naughty Dog headed in a different direction with Jak and Daxter, focusing more on exploration and collection than streamlined action. The key is that they crafted a thematically varied world that was interesting to thoroughly trek and push that completion percentage toward 100. Their ability to produce lovable, mascot-caliber characters remained intact.


 

The ultimate band experience. Rock Band 2 may be a 1.5 sequel, but that was a stellar blueprint to refine upon. A better soundtrack and the necessary tweaks have established Rock Band 2 as the ideal band game platform, frequently returned to thanks to weekly DLC and the undying equation of widespread appeal and local multiplayer.



Motorstorm is the white knuckle, arcade style, off-road racing experience my white trash side has always yearned for. Multiple car classes duking it out on jungle gym race tracks, complete with mudpools, narrow bridges, and big ass ramps. There really is no better way to explain it than a messy storm of off-road vehicles striving for 1st by any means necessary.


 

The platforming sequences in The Sands of Time are some of the best the entire genre has to offer. It's an absolute thrill maneuvering through the obstacles and platforms separating point B from point A. The story, setting, and protagonists are textbook charming. The only thing holding this game back from a legendary stature is a lousy combat system that often gets in the way.

 
That's 50-41. This list will continue with 40-31 in the new decade.
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Top 15 2009 Releases I Need to Play in 2010 and Beyond

As of right now, Killzone 2, The Dishwasher, 'Splosion Man, Shadow Complex, and 1 Vs.100 stand as the only 2009 releases I've played this year, and they will soon be joined by Rhythm Heaven and Uncharted 2 come Christmas. I could put together a hasty Top 5 Games of 2009 list before the new decade arrives, but that'd be no good. I've missed out on some major releases this year, and without experiencing them, I feel that list would be incomplete and rendered useless. So I've opted to make this list instead!
 

Trash Panic could very well be the next Katamari with its uncut Japanese presentation and simple gameplay premise with great addiction potential. Just instead of rolling shit up, you break it all down to keep a trash can from overflowing. A clever take on the usual Tetris-style limited capacity puzzler, replacing the usual blocks, puyo beans, or gems with actual three-dimensional objects with realized physics and durability is a real breath of fresh air. The only thing holding Trash Panic back from being a top 5 contender is a reported progression structure that wants to punish, if not torture, the player and celebrate hypertension. I guess they had to out-Japanese Katamari somehow.


The parallels between the Guitar Hero series and the Tony Hawk series are easy and obvious. The ridiculous Activision O2 line of extreme sports games in 02-03 has finally been echoed by the ridiculous Activision "Hero" line of rhythm games seen in 08-09. Activision clearly doesn't understand the concept of oversaturation. Yet DJ Hero sticks out like a sore thumb in the list of "Hero" titles. It doesn't rock, it cuts, scratches, and cross fades. The turntable controller has that new, unfamiliar magnetism that possesses you to get your hands on it and give it a whirl when the chance arrives, similar to the new toy sheen of the guitar controller in 05 and the drum kit in 07. As soon as I was ready to dismiss the genre and ride out the wave with Rock Band 2 DLC, FreeStyleGames came along with a well developed game that finally explores hip-hop/dance music with it's own gameplay hooks. Activision could have shelled out a quick and dirty spin off cash-in, and thankfully they contracted the job to a dedicated developer. Once the price drops low enough, I'm jumping on board.
 

I've never been as infatuated, or up to date, with the GTA series as millions of people seem to be. However, I don't let the overbearing critical and cultural popularity of the series get in the way of enjoying the games years after their release, once the hype machine wildfires extinguish. This year's well received handheld entry will certainly find it's way into my DS at some point in the 2010s, and I thoroughly look forward to exploring Liberty City once again. That is, after I catch up with my sealed copy of GTA IV from June 2008. Oh man, I suck.


Following up RE4, one of the most notable titles of the entire decade, is as tough an act to follow as ever. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" happens to really break down when there are four years, a console generation shift, and a genre revolution separating two franchise entries in the video game industry. Especially so when that genre revolution was sparked by your predecessor. Since RE4's release, Gears of War showed us how to stretch that over-the-shoulder shooting blueprint into a more action ready form, Condemned showed us to truly frighten the player, and Dead Space wrapped this all together into the survival horror darling of the late-00s. So with so much stacked against the tragically solid RE5, why did it rank so high? Well, it's still a very well received game that is sure to provide a lengthy adventure with no shortage of undead African thrills. Disgusting mutants, impressive visuals, and a batshit crazy narrative that ties a bow around the series are also enticing. Add in the potential for co-op fun, and I can remain optimistic about the RE5 experience. 


I don't know jackshit about this game. Outside of some minor E3 coverage and that one time I played it for a minute while I waited for the guy at Best Buy to check the backroom for Super Mario Galaxy, all I know about Bowser's Inside Story is that it is yet another well received Mario RPG. I really need to catch up with the line of Mario RPGs. Whether it's starting off with the SNES original or Paper Mario for the N64, I desperately need to get on board. I'm missing out big time by never finishing Paper Mario or the original Mario & Luigi in years past, and working my way up to Bowser's Inside Story is certainly a gaming priority to keep in mind in 2010.
 

Well, it's rather obvious who won the great inFAMOUS v. [Prototype] war of open world action-adventure games with crazy superpower leads and grammatically dumb titles. While Prototype garnered mixed reception, Infamous helped the Year of the Playstation charge headfirst into the industry's annual summertime lull. Cole's arsenal of electric superpowers equip him with a surprisingly vast combat edge, and he also apparently controls very well, making large city navigation and mission undertakings full of satisfying promise. Given the backbone of a comic book storyline thriving with moral strife, Infamous sound likes an open world experience that packs some serious punch. Also, it's from the dudes that made Sly Cooper, perhaps my greatest older game experience of 2009.


Sometimes rocky reviews only enhance your interest in a video game, if only to see if your own criticisms create an experience that matches what the reviewer felt, or if the strong points are bold enough to keep your opinion afloat in a seas of 7s. While Gravity Crash was no critical slouch, it still stands as the lowest rated game on this list, and one of the most overlooked. That happens when you're a Thanksgiving week digital release. From my time spent with the demo and the quick look that introduced it to my radar, Gravity Crash is a gorgeous throwback experience, with laser sharp faux vector graphics complimenting an appealing space exploration shooter-adventure. That's right, more fake genres I made up on the spot. My sights will remain on Gravity Crash until I finally plunk down the virtual $10.
 
 
Rock Band Unplugged seems like a really smart game. The title is clever. Successfully returning to the series spiritual roots while avoiding legal issues with Sony is a stroke of genius. Being able to release it under a highly successful brand name as a result continues the cunning. Avoiding the mistake of porting the series to a handheld by developing a game built around a hamfisted peripheral add-on keeps them safely off the Activision short bus. The fact that they can mostly use songs they've already gained the licenses to from previous Rock Band entries while still creating an entirely separate and correspondingly fun experience for the player is brilliant. At least the demo seemed really fun.
 

Dirt 2 seems to have taken the "bigger, better, more bad[itude]" approach to following up an already good rally racer. The original Dirt forged a path into more Americanized territory for the historically British Colin McRae series, and garnered some minor criticism from traditional fans as a result. Well, two years later, rally racing's X Games presence has only grown, and Colin McRae is dead. The game is now full on American, with the arena hopping RV lifestyle embedded into the actual menus, which may be the most impressive menus in any video game. Splashes of neon throughout the presentation and a decidedly Warped soundtrack are always abound to remind you who the audience is. As for the actual game, it seems to be Dirt with all the necessary improvements, which is obviously great. Dirt did have some floaty handling that many weren't keen on, and that has been a point of focus for this sequel. Dirt also felt a bit plain and lifeless, or traditionally British if we're being PC, which Dirt 2 looks to have blown out the water, with exciting, Motorstorm-esque race venues complete with saturated colors and occasional exterior excitement. Like fireworks!


Similar to Mario and Luigi, the latest, and reportedly best, entry in the Ratchet & Clank series mostly serves as a dire reminder of how much I have to catch up on with the PS2's triple threat of platformer trilogies. I've already caught up with the first entry of each series, with the goal being to finish them up by the end of 2010. Then it's all about hitting up the Ratchet & Clank Future trilogy at a patient, calculated rate so I don't burnout on it. That is key! It should be noted that what I have seen from A Crack in Time looks like an absolute blast.
 

Despite having a really bad name, PixelJunk Shooter stands out as the most appealing PixelJunk entry of the bunch. Fairly similiar to fellow PSN release Gravity Crash, PixelJunk Shooter totally fits under that shooter-adventure label, only this one is all about crazy fluids that physically act "dynamically", a visual and technical feat that impresses right off the bat. From what I've seen, the puzzle possibilities involving these reactionary fluids and elements in the game are grand. The game itself is also so visually smooth, or dare I say...fluid. Oh! 
 

The platforming genre is far from dead, as many loved to warn of in recent years. Sure, platformers don't overrun the industry like they did in the 90s, but the genre's standing as we head into 2010 is rather ideal. Old reliables like Nintendo and Sony first/second parties will always be counted on to provide major console titles featuring their beloved mascots, and the rise of digital downloads has generated a wave of forward thinking entries that elaborate upon the genres basics in hundreds of directions. Trine is one of the brightest stars in 2009's line of digital run n' jumpers. This sidescroller handles environmental puzzles and combat scenarios by giving the player a revolving door character with the ability to transform into an acrobatic thief, a stalwart knight, and a wizard with the ability to levitate objects and create handy blocks. Constantly having to change tracks as you slay skeleton demons, magically fidget with physics to balance a scale and open a door, and then grapple hook to that unreachable ledge to make your escape is what makes Trine so appealing. 
 

I've always enjoyed Breakout and Arkanoid style games, and I'm thrilled finally see one get the "Geometry Wars treatment". I don't really care for twinstick shooters, but I love the recent wave's deliberately retro take on what the 80s thought 21st century games would be like. Shatter has now taken that view to a genre I actually enjoy, and the game looks hella fun. Shatter brings some new gameplay concepts to the table, like the ability to affect the trajectory of the ball with wind current control, blocks that now float along their gravitational pull, and even boss battles. Apparently to go along with the hectic, post-Millennium enhanced gameplay is one of the best video game soundtracks of 2009. Shatter may very well be the arcade experience of the year. In the year of the Playstation, even PSN was able to trounce XBLA.
 

The path of the ninja is a patient one. I should know, I have successfully clocked a day or two worth of playtime on the original Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox since April 2004, and half a decade later, I have yet to complete it. It's a vicious cycle of starting up a new save, progressing through the game, hitting a new brick wall, and then placing myself on injury reserve for half a year. It hasn't been time wasted though. On the contrary, Ninja Gaiden is simply the best action game I've ever played, and I'll gladly return to it year after year. However, with a refined version of the sequel now available on the PS3, it's time to get my ass in gear and finally forge a victorious quest against Doku. 
 

The Super Mario series is undoubtedly my favorite series in video games. From Super Mario Bros. 3 to Super Mario Galaxy, there is always an abundance of fun to be had with every main entry. They always end up being one of my favorite games not only in the years of their release, but also for the platforms they're released for. Despite this consistency, New Super Mario Bros. for the DS was personally shrouded in skepticism before its release. The concern was that Nintendo could have rehashed their old material and simply banked on nostalgia for a free pass. The title of the game didn't exactly help. NSMB turned out to be genuinely new though, and the end result was a game that played differently but was just as enjoyable as the original series. It now ranks as both my favorite game of 2006 and my favorite DS game. 
 
E3 2009 was a redemption year for Nintendo following back to back sleep-a-thons. In my opinion, they nailed it. They successfully kept their surprise announcements under wraps (Sony) and they kicked off the conference with none other than New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Not only is it a sequel to the DS classic, but it's a console release, which only elevates the standards. Carrying a shiny new feature checklist in tow, including frantic multiplayer play and crazy new power up suits, NSMBW overcomes it's supremely retarded title and stands as the 2009 I most urgently want to play in 2010 and beyond.
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09.09.09

I've been looking forward to this day for a while. If only for all the Dreamcast retrospectives. Now as it's about to hit midnight and become just another day, I'll just post some thoughts and memories on the system's anniversary.
 
My earliest Dreamcast memory is from August 1999, when after spending the morning with my friend and her dad going through South Boston, we ended up at a Toys R Us to get some Pokemon cards. They had recently set up the line of Dreamcast kiosks, and I caught a glimpse of a kid playing the killer whale sequence of Sonic Adventure. It was the quintessential way to be introduced to the system, on a sunny summer day with the most eye catching moment drawing my attention. I ultimately made the decision in April 2000 to get an N64 over a Dreamcast, a decision I don't regret. 
 
I ended up buying a used Dreamcast from EB Games in February 2005, and eventually purchased a handful of games including Jet Grind Radio, Sega Rally 2, and Daytona USA. I had some enjoyment with them, but ultimately sold it on eBay 2 years later. I do regret that. I would've gladly played it today in celebration. 
 
The Dreamcast is a very interesting system. Most people are surprised that it's already 10 years old in the US, but I'm not. It feels like a classic system, and has felt that way for quite a while. By 2003, it was history. PS2 turns 9 next month, and it still manages to be relevant, yet the DC was a memory by its 3rd birthday. It may belong to the same generation, but it is strongly separated. However, everything about it is just...cool. The logo is great, 9.9.1999 is as cool of a release date as it gets, it has the ambitious features that set it apart, and the highly celebrated game library. 
 
I think I may buy one of the sealed Dreamcasts at some point in the coming year just to get the feeling of opening a new one. I'll gradually build up the library and see how it all stacks up a decade later. These nine 09.09.09 quick look throwbacks provided a great glimpse into the amount of fun that can still be had with the system, be it September 9th 1999, or 2009. The Dreamcast gave the 90s a glimpse of the 00s, and continues to enjoy rabid loyalty as we head into the 2010s. No anniversary of the system will match this one, and I honestly feel that GB has provided the best coverage.

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Third time's the charm, right?

My third 360 arrived today from the 360 repair center. Here's a run down of my 360 lifespan history:

Xbox 360 the First: December 25th 2006 - September 1st 2007
Xbox 360 the Second: September 24th 2007 - July 3rd 2009
Xbox 360 the Third: July 27th 2009 - Present

The wait hasn't been that bad since my attention has been on my shiny new PS3 anyways. Also, my 360 is still under warranty, so I don't feel very bitter about it. The 360 was actually delivered to my house twice last week, but I was on vacation. Sorry UPS guy with the exposed hairy chest.

Now it's time to turn off Resistance and its annoying lack of checkpoints, set my 360 back up, and try out some of that discount N+ I downloaded during it's demise. I also gotta give the Splosion Man demo a shot.

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Games That Split the Fanbase

I was just thinking about what games I can recall that split a fanbase of an established franchise. Here's what came to mind:

Burnout Paradise: There seems to be a major divide between those who loved the streamlined experience of Burnout 3 and those who appreciate the open world and online innovations of Paradise

Grand Theft Auto IV: The GTA 3 trilogy was one of the most acclaimed game series of last gen. GTA IV has become one of the most acclaimed games of this gen, but is also faces one of the most prolific fanbase splits. Some loved how ridiculous the series got by San Andreas, others praise the more serious nature of GTA IV.

Halo 2: Many were dissapointed by how the storyline went down, while others were too distracted by the multiplayer that set the modern standard for console online multiplayer. 

Resident Evil 4: For many, 2005's game of the year came less than 2 weeks into the year. This highly influencial game reset the series gameplay with a new over the shoulder aiming mechanic and a higher focus on action rather than adventure. Some longtime franchise fans resented that change.

Every Console Zelda Game Following OoT: If there is one thing that just about every Zelda fan can agree with, it's that Ocarina of Time was an exceptional entry in the series and a landmark moment for video games. The 3 major sequels that followed it then provided some noticable cracks in the fanbase. People seem to either love or hate Majoras Mask. Wind Wakers cel-shaded art style provided a new aspect of the series to debate. Most recently, Twilight Princess has created an entirely new split between those who dug the fan service experience it strived for while others were turned off by how similiar it is to OoT and the tacked on motion controls the Wii version included.

Other Ones

Sonic Adventure
Prince of Persia: Warrior Within
Jak II
Street Fighter 3
Guitar Hero 3
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts
Metal Gear Solid 2
Colin McRae Dirt
Call of Duty World at War
Rainbow Six Lockdown
Left 4 Dead 2
Deus Ex: Invisible War
SW Knights of the Old Republic 2
Super Mario Sunshine
World of Warcraft
Final Fantasy XI and XIV
Fallout 3

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