Best of 2009

2009 was another fantastic year for gaming, and that's actually fairly shocking, considering how little I was looking forward to coming into the year. In fact, most of my highly anticipated games ended up being pushed back into the early 2010/TBD time frame. Another problem is that I just didn't have the time or money to play all the games I wanted to. For instance, you'll notice a severe lack of Playstation 3 games on my list (Uncharted 2 being the biggest one). Since I don't have a PS3, I can't really give an opinion of them, and because most of the best games seemed to come from that console, it was actually tough thinking of 10 games that deserved such high honors that I actually had the chance to play.
 
Thus, my top 10 will be limited to a top 8, until something else happens to come to mind.

List items

  • Dragon Age: Origins wins a top spot for being the best RPG I've played since my favorite game of all time (hint: it was an infinity engine game). It has become an instant classic, in my eye, and having spent 80 hours on my first playthrough, I'll soon be returning to the realm of Ferelden.

  • Borderlands is (probably) one of the most fun co-op experiences of the year. I wouldn't know, since I've only played through it solo, so far. However, it has been my shooter of choice, this year, keeping me hooked on the "loot lust," as I try to climb my way up to level 50.

    I've heard it said many places, and I tend to agree: while the single elements of Borderlands are no more than mediocre iterations of other games, the combination of all these elements come together to create something truly fun to play for hours on end.

  • Probably my biggest surprise of the year. I barely paid attention to this game's development, writing it off as a Castlevania/Metroid clone. It totally *is* exactly that, but I guess I just didn't realize how much I was pining for that kind of a game. And while it is a blatant clone of those aforementioned games in terms of gameplay, it brings a lot to the table, as well. What particularly drew me to this game was the setting. A modern day shadow military complex with mostly every-day weapons is a lot different than the atmosphere of a medieval castle or alien planets.

    But since I suppose those reasons to enjoy it sound pretty weak, I've got to say the most important thing: it's a fun game. The item collection OCD-ness, the laser sight on every weapon that helps you aim, the gorgeous graphics, and the highly tactical gameplay, once you crank up the difficulty to the point where you'll be dead in a matter of seconds.

    My only real beef with the game is with the ties to Orson Scott Card, but I didn't let that ruin my enjoyment of the game, and I don't suggest that you do, either.

  • "But Fallout 3 came out last year!" you say.

    True, but I'm of the opinion that, with an entire games worth of DLC released this year, it deserves a chance to be in the top spot, again.

    While not all of the Fallout 3 DLC was top-notch (and all of it had been riddled with some game-stopping bugs upon release), I'd say that the quality of Broken Steel and Point Lookout makes up for the shortcomings of Operation: anchorage. The Pitt is middling, with my biggest complaint with it being just how broken it was for at least a week after it was officially released (then subsequently taken down again). I have yet to play Mothership Zeta, so I won't be able to include that, specifically.

    Basically, when you add more gameplay to what probably would have been my game of the year, last year, you get a winning combination. I'd recommend this game to pretty much anyone.

  • An odd choice for me, especially since I didn't technically play it, myself. I watched other people play it, from beginning to end. Maybe that should disqualify this choice, but I don't think so. I just have a tough time playing horror games.

    What really makes this game is the psychological part of it. The way the game plays out reflects your personality, and choices that you make. I don't want to spoil the game for anyone, but the plot has some excellent, if perhaps somewhat predicable, twists to it. But it isn't even what happens that makes it so interesting, it's the implications of it, and what you make of it, personally. It's hard to explain, but needless to say, it's a deserving game for a top spot, and one I hope more people will play, because I really like this sort of a direction for the Silent Hill series.

    Oh, and no combat, whatsoever. It's a bold choice that seems to have drawn a lot of controversy with fans of the series, but I, personally, think it's one of the best parts of the game. Having to run away from freakish, screeching beings is a lot more scary than having to fight them with woefully underpowered weapons crippled by a horrible combat system. It's pretty much what I hoped Alan Wake would be, except that game seems to have taken on a more straight-up shooter angle throughout development.

  • I almost didn't want to include this in my top of '09, falling for the talk that it is simply another rehashed Mario game. In a lot of ways, it is, and yes, I admit that the direction that Mario took in Mario Galaxy was different enough to be considered a top-tiered game; an instant classic. New Super Mario Bros. Wii, despite having possibly the worst name for a video game, to date, falls into that guilty pleasure category. Yes, I know I'm playing a mishmash of Mario 3, Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. on the DS, but it's suprisingly well-done, and much more challenging than I'd expect from a softened, kid-friendly Nintendo. Of course, it could have been a lot more challenging if the game weren't feeding you extra lives all the time, and even then, lives don't matter, since you can continue an infinite number of times. Still, what makes a Mario game over "imitation" platformers is the level design, and I really like some of the "nostalgia with a twist" moments in NSMB Wii.

    Then there's co-op mode, which can range from interesting to frustrating, depending on who you're playing with. I don't really have a problem, since the only person I've played this game multiplayer with is my brother, and we actually work together, for the most part, to get through obstacles. Despite the problems with how much the screen will zoom out when you become too separated from the group (if you get left behind and fall off-screen, you will die), it manages to stay fun.

  • I don't have much to say about Madden 10. It's been 5 years since my last upgrade in the Madden series, and coming from Madden 2005, it is a spectacular upgrade. Would I think less of it if I had continued buying into the series all these years? Probably. But where it stands, it's the best simulation of the football experience that has existed to date. Many of the frustrations in unrealistic passing, running, and general awkwardness have been all but fixed.

    So why, if I have so much negativity towards the game, is it on my top games of 2009 list? Well, sticking with the theme of awesome co-op play, this game is a blast to play with family. My brother and I have a long tradition of pounding through seasons of Madden, dating back from Madden 2000 for the PC, and it continues to be a blast. Certainly, it's less depressing scraping our way to the Super Bowl with the Giants than it is to watch the real Giants fail out on their season by reaching a depressing losing streak.

    And that reminds me: reason number one why Madden 10 rocks is that they finally added back in the ability to play co-operatively. And on that note, you'll see why Madden 11 probably won't be on my top games of 2010; because there just isn't enough to change about the game every year to justify it being anything more than a roster update.

  • Fear 2 is a solid shooter, and definitely a huge step up from the non-Monolith developed expansion packs to the original game. Sadly, I'd have to say that, compared to the games released later into the 2009 year, the shooting is a little standard. My big draw to the game is the somehow gripping story and creepy atmosphere, and I'd recommend the game to anyone who played and loved the original Fear. The ridiculous twist at the ending, alone, is probably worth the experience.