Best of 2010

I need to resist the urge to re-order this list every time I see it. I could really go either way with most of these, especially the top 3. So let's just say that as of December 28, 2010, these are my top ten games for the year of our Lord 2010.

List items

  • Red Dead Redemption has the most fully realized game world of any game I played this year. It's easily Rockstar's best game. I never once found myself at a loss for things to do or bored with where the story was heading. And the moment when you cross the river into Mexico for the first time and that <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IkvAb6THQY">Jose Gonzalez song</a> starts playing is one the coolest moments I've ever experienced in a video game. I spent countless hours simply roaming the countryside, just seeing what was happening in this lush, vibrant world. I loved sitting at the top of a plateau, taking in the miles and miles of landscape spreading out to the horizon. I would not hesitate to call this game beautiful. To put it simply, <i>I love this game.</i>

  • BioWare took every criticism thrown their way about Mass Effect's shortcoming and made Mass Effect 2 the best possible sequel it could have been. Though it's narrowly edged out by Red Dead, Mass Effect 2 has incredible atmosphere--not to mention the most amazing opening sequence of any game this year. The Paragon and Renegade actions really help break up the pacing of some of the dialogue sections, not mention being totally badass in most cases. I loved doing the side missions to gain your crew members' loyalty--Mordin is one of the coolest new characters in any game this year. Also, my hat is off to BioWare for making such a deep, rich universe in which to tell this story. One could easily spend hours reading through all of the Codex entries. This is a game not to be missed.

  • I really wanted to put this higher on my list. Even though it improves on AC:II in pretty much every way, I think it suffers--just the <i>tiniest</i> bit--because it came out so soon after the previous game. I never would have thought this, but apparently there is such a thing as Assassin's Fatigue. Notwithstanding, there have been fewer moments cooler in a game this year than the first time you signal to one of your apprentice assassins and a blade-wielding death-dealer materializes out of nowhere and dispatches your target while you sit quietly on a nearby bench. Absolutely amazing.

  • I must confess, I still haven't quite finished the campaign, and multiplayer is a hurdle I don't think I'll ever really jump, but this game is stellar. The original Starcraft is still one of the few RTS games that I've played--let alone finished--so this game was a must-play. It's incredible how much variety exists in the missions, from the lava that floods the lower areas of a level periodically while you try to mine the resources in those areas to the massive wave of fire slowly sweeping across the planet as you frantically try to find a certain artifact. Starcraft II is the pinnacle of the RTS genre.

  • Allow me to echo everyone else's sentiments: this is the best Halo game. From its perfectly plotted campaign (bonus: no Flood!), to its nuanced and moving orchestral score, to its absolutely pitch-perfect multiplayer, this game was a delight from start to finish. Heroic is pretty rough (I'll eventually succumb to my masochistic side and try to beat it on Legendary), but still fair and totally manageable. Halo 3's equipment was a good first step, but I feel like the Armor Abilities in Reach are a revolutionary step. They add so much depth and strategy to the gameplay that it's upsetting when they're taken away in some of the "Classic" modes. Finally, the introduction of Invasion as a multiplayer gametype makes this the most fun I've had playing an FPS this year.

  • I originally wasn't going to get New Vegas because I felt I hadn't done my due diligence--I only finished Fallout 3 a month or two prior to New Vegas's release. I don't know what convinced me, but I'm glad it happened. Yes, the game is buggy. Yes, it hardlocked my Xbox at least twice. I still could not put the game down. I kind of ran into a wall toward the end, when the game basically makes you decide who you're ultimately going to side with, and I haven't quite gotten the nerve to jump back in yet. Partly because Fallout games require a lot of mental investment, but also because I don't want it to end. Hopefully Obsidian will support it with DLC as well as Bethesda did with Fallout 3.

  • Until AC: Brotherhood came out, no other game made me feel like such a badass. Some have said that the Mark and Execute mechanic makes the game too simple, but I think it's a perfect way for a game to showcase the protagonist's skill and cunning without being too hard for the player to pull off. It's not a super long story, but it moves at a good clip and doesn't overstay its welcome. The co-op missions are just as good as the single player--if not better, since you share the badass-ness with a friend. Whenever I need a quick dose of badassery, I throw this game in and do a quick challenge map.

  • Alan Wake has a lot of flaws (most notably the terrible, <i>terrible</i> character models), but it still deserves to be on this list. Very few games can match the atmosphere that this game evokes and fewer still the dread it instills in the player. The story kind of runs out of steam at the end and doesn't really resolve in a satisfying way, but this is a game that everyone should experience, if for no other reason than its atmosphere.

  • I was completely surprised by Enslaved. I had heard next to nothing about it until the week before it came out and I bought it pretty much on a whim. It may be due more to the acting and performances than the writing/story, but I was fully invested in these characters. I cared about them. Whatever tech Ninja Theory used to bring Monkey and Trip to life needs to be used in more games, because I never once thought, "Oh, these are just imaginary video game people." More than anything, it's the incredible facial animation that somehow escapes the uncanny valley and actually is affecting. The platforming holds your hand a little too much and the combat may be a little simplistic, but this is still a great game.

  • I don't really like racing games. I have absolutely no interest in the likes of Gran Turismo, and only marginally more in Forza. They've never really grabbed me. That said, Hot Pursuit is an absolute blast to play. Its sense of speed is unmatched and the destruction you wreak on the cops chasing you is totally empowering. I'd like to rank this higher, but there were too many instances of me being unfairly targeted by the cops when I had no recourse, or the game taking the camera away to show off a (admittedly spectacular) crash before returning the camera to me just in time to have me slam into a wall I literally could not have seen coming. Nevertheless, any fan of racing games should play this.