How did we come to these decisions? Listen to today's deliberation podcast and find out!
Best Downloadable Add-On
BioShock 2: Minerva's Den
2010 might go down in history as the year story-based DLC finally really came into its own, with significant new add-ons hitting some of the biggest games of the year and giving you some great reasons to fire those games back up weeks or months after you finished playing through their core storylines. But while plenty of this year's best DLC added onto and fleshed out the games on which they were based, no DLC felt like such a complete story and package in its own right like Minerva's Den.
Rather than trying to shoehorn a misplaced interlude into the events and framework of BioShock 2 itself, Minerva acts as its own self-contained story featuring entirely new areas and residents of Rapture. Minerva not only established and explored the technological backbone of Rapture with some fantastic vintage dawn-of-computing-style trappings (vacuum tubes! Alan Turing!), it also expertly told the tragic tale of Charles Milton Porter, the brilliant computer scientist who gave so much to his fellow citizens and was rewarded for it with betrayal. Minerva arguably surpasses BioShock 2 itself and is one of the best examples so far of how much can be accomplished with a low-priced downloadable add-on.
Runners-up: Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, Mass Effect 2: Lair of the Shadow Broker
It shouldn't surprise you to hear that Halo: Reach is a terrific cooperative experience. Like the rest of the game, Reach's co-op follows in the footsteps of Bungie's previous Halo games, letting you work your way through the campaign with a crew, laying waste to everything in your path. Sure, you might not get the real feel of the game's story, since you're probably going to be yelling at your partners through most of the game, but working your way through waves and waves of enemy forces with a crew makes the campaign way more exciting.
Then there's Firefight mode, which was greatly expanded for Halo: Reach to make it a far more exciting take on the whole wave-based survival style. With the ability to tweak plenty of different variables when playing with friends to the variety of different maps you can use, Firefight might be good enough to take this category on its own. But when you add all that stuff together, Halo: Reach is the best cooperative experience to be had in 2010.
Runners-up: Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction
Best Download-Only Game
Arguably one of the strongest categories in 2010, the downloadable space saw a huge number of amazing original titles this year, though none captured our collective imaginations quite like this re-reimagining of that most venerable of pill-poppers, Pac-Man.
It's kind of unbelievable that Pac-Man could feel as vital now as he did when he first debuted some 30 years ago, but by shifting the focus from simple survival to a community-driven high-score race, and layering it with a jaw-clenching club-drug aesthetic, Namco has done precisely that. It's a miraculous balancing act between some really deep-seated nostalgic triggers and fresh, frenetic gameplay, and it's our pick for best download-only game of 2010.
Runners-up: Super Meat Boy, VVVVVV
I can scarcely recall a game so thoroughly dedicated to crafting an aesthetic as Kirby's Epic Yarn is. The latest platformer starring Nintendo's huggably squishy puff-ball of a hero, Kirby, is set in a world where everything has gone fully arts-and-crafts. All the characters (Kirby included) are constructed out of outlines of yarn, buttons, zippers, and other things you'd typically find at the local fabric store. Developer Good Feel stitches every single piece of this world with this patchwork art style, and manages to make it all mind-numbingly adorable in the process. Seriously, just watch Kirby morph into a little Kirby car, and dare yourself not to go "d'awwwww." Seriously, try it! If there's a heart in your chest, you'll fail!
Runners-up: Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, Limbo
Best Xbox 360-Only Game
With the launch of the Kinect drawing much of Microsoft's focus this year, it felt like the third-parties had much more to offer Xbox 360 owners in 2010. But Bungie still made a huge impact by leaving its final mark on the first-person shooter it created, Halo. Halo: Reach combines some of the best that Halo has to offer, including a quality campaign, terrific competitive multiplayer and the best cooperative play that we saw all year.
Reach also stands out for its interesting story, which fills in a key time in the Halo universe that, up until the release of Reach, had only been addressed in book form. Reach's story is great, and even though you know how it will ultimately end--the battle of Reach certainly ain't pretty for our side--the game makes the whole thing interesting by letting you see it through the eyes of the Noble Team, a great group of characters that are strong enough to make you forget about that " Master Chief" dude.
With its stellar suite of options and high quality throughout, Halo: Reach stands tall as the best thing that you can only get on an Xbox 360 this year.
Runners-up: Limbo, Dance Central