I present to you, my top ten games of 2010! Some of these may have been expected, some maybe took you for surprise. Some of you don't even care, and that's fine too! A big lacking in downloadable titles this year, I just couldn't think of one super duper high quality game in that regard. Oh well, there's always next year -- with Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 on the horizon. Not to mention the full-fledged games set for arrival: Skyrim, Uncharted 3, Dead Space 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution...MAN, that is fully loaded. 2010 wasn't too shabby, though!
Holy crap, I haven't been scared by a video game seriously in many years. It's so scary in fact, that I actually find it hard to play this game. Hard to advance into the next room, the next encounter with shadows, insanity, thinking and seeing things...even the thought of thinking of things is scaring me! But hey, it deserves a spot on this list just for its ability to force me to stop playing it. Not since the original Clock Tower on the PS1...
Surprise late entry, fitting that this would chime in at #9 on my list! This game harkens back to old NES adventure games like Shadowgate, complete with dark overtones. This is a game that features a lot of dialog, along with some very interesting plot twists and character development. It features multiple endings, and you're sort of supposed to go through the bad endings first to gather intelligence to help you with the good ones. Definitely an awesome game.
Lords of Shadow is sort of like God of War. I mean, the 3D action brawler stuff is there, the long chain combos by hitting one of a couple buttons in sequence are there, the sprawling environments and epic set-pieces are there too. But what propels Castlevania further than any of those games (including GoW itself) is the honest-to-goodness challenging encounters (tons of boss battles), pure money-to-gameplay ratio, and the wild twist of a story that it presents you with. A real underrated classic of 2010, if you so much as passively LIKE to hit one button on a controller, followed by another, followed by a quick evasive roll to the left or right...you have to play this game.
I've been following Alan Wake for years, I never gave up hope that it would come out, and sure enough it finally did early in 2010! While this game in no way lives up to the memories I have with Max Payne 1&2 (particularly Max Payne 2), it has that same knack for storytelling then the aforementioned titles. The narration by Mr. Wake himself is a refreshing take on a horror novel, and the story itself sees many twists, turns, and bumps along the road to a fairly satisfying conclusion that doesn't really explain much (but that's the way I like it!). The DLC sort of pisses on the game a bit in my opinion, as I don't think Alan's story needs to be expanded on any further -- I'd much rather let the story fade into obscurity the way it was left in the retail copy of the game.
What can be said about Street Fighter that I didn't say last year? Super Street Fighter IV is a fantastic upgrade of the vanilla flavor, adding a bunch of new characters and modes, balance changes, and online functionality to the mix. I didn't play it all that much this year, as I had that life-changing event half way through the year, but I plan to keep grinding away at this well into 2011 when I get the chance.
Heavy Rain probably takes the cake in the moral ambiguity category. So many choices in this game led to dire consequences, and none of them were easy to make. I was a little uneasy playing this game, which was compounded by the fantastic storytelling and human emotion that was being conveyed from the in-game models. Sure the voice acting is hilariously un-American, and the controls leave something to be desired, but Heavy Rain is one of the most unique gaming experiences in 2010, and should be played by everyone. The twist in this game is a little unbelievable and sort of out-of-nowhere, especially considering how likable the character in question was, from a background and performance perspective. Oh well!
2010 started off with a bang when I decided to make Mass Effect 2 my first impulse purchase in January. I never played the first game, but it really didn't matter -- I was blown away regardless. I love moral choices, no matter how polarizing and binary they may be...and Mass Effect 2 may take the cake in that regard. I just got so damn addicted to picking the renegade decisions, since that's where most of the dialog fun happens! Of course, the real morally ambiguous decisions in this game were really tough to make, with all the choices falling somewhere in the grey area. Better than the choices were my deep emotional unrest upon picking them, but it was something that needed to be done. Oh yeah, and there's some shooter RPG elements and stuff, which is pretty cool. But yeah, CHOICES N' SHIT!
A surprise hit for myself, I really didn't know what to expect going into Civilization V. All I knew is that Civ 4 was pretty sweet from the little amount that I played of it, and I was hype as hell for this installment. What ensued after the games release, were countless nights -- crack sessions, if you will -- nights filled with global supremacy, winning my countries rights into space exploration, forming fake treaties, brutally slaughtering other nations, discovering nuclear technology required to begin the Manhattan Project...and I didn't even explore the tutorial section. It just wasn't needed. The game is so streamlined and user-friendly, despite all its inherent complexities. Now that's a GAME.
This game seems to gather a lot of scrutiny from people, and I'm not really sure why. A sequel isn't required to blow you away with new features, this game in particular removed inessential crap from the original, and added a couple cool things to an otherwise perfect formula. I could probably glide around the city for another 40 hours and still have much of the same experience. If they came out with a Crackdown 3 tomorrow I would gladly purchase it, to check out the slight feature modifications, and more importantly...to get more orbs!
No game captured my heart like this gem. Shades of the original Legend of Zelda, but somehow better. The writing is charming, winking and nodding in every game players direction, and the music is eerily familiar to rpgs of yore. The most striking aspect of this game however, is the graphical stylings. Every inch, every pixel, constructed with the care of a lego set, everything existing at a 90-degree angle. Oh yeah, and you get some big fuckin' swords. That's pretty darn cool if you ask me.
I have a couple other awards to give out, honerable mentions if-you-will:
This was a gem I uncovered from years past, back when I was way into JRPG's and a little console called the PS1. I never really got a chance to play through this game at that time, for whatever reason I glanced over it. And man, was I missing out! This is one of the best, most thought-provoking JRPG's I've ever played. I highly recommend it.
I never actually played Deadly Premonition, but from watching all of the endurance run stuff Giant Bomb put out, I could tell that the game from a mechanical standpoint was awful. Still, the game was severely entertaining, in thanks mostly to the main protagonist, Francis York Morgan. You can call him "York," it's easier that way. Just his banter between his two separate personalities (York and Zach), and the interesting questions posed throughout the game -- "Who is Zach? An actual being? A figment made up in York's mind? The player playing the game?" -- make for one of the best character developments in a video game I've seen in a long while.