Best of 2009

GregK: Best of 2009

List items

  • I salute From Software as the bravest developer of the year. This game flies in the face of all conventional game-design wisdom and achieves something different and awesome. Though really, From has been practicing its unique brand of crazy for years and years -- but they finally, finally hit the jackpot with Demon's Souls, a game that's a focused meditation on struggling through adversity. The inherent challenge of the game draws you in, especially as you realize that the entire world and multiplayer experience is designed around this singular theme. The sort of game you can fall in love with. Or at least, I can.

  • Just an outstanding game top to bottom. Original and inspired, fantastic-looking, exciting, fresh. I was raving about it the day after it came out and someone asked me if it'd still be a good game if not for Batman. I told him I couldn't imagine the game without Batman in it, that's how true to the spirit of the character it is. This game made me wonder why there aren't more fully 3D games based on the Super Metroid / Symphony of the Night format, since it's such a strong structure. Also, major bonus points to Rocksteady Games for delivering this year's biggest sleeper -- who'd have thought this would turn out this good?

  • I loved the first Uncharted because of its story and characters, and though I didn't like the story as much this time around, the sheer spectacle of the various set pieces and some of the unique moments both in and out of the action left a great lasting impression. What a well made, beautiful game -- the sort of game I'm proud to show to non-players as evidence of what they're missing. Better yet, the moment-to-moment action (when you're shooting people, that is) really is outstanding. A top-notch production and the new high standard for action adventure games.

  • The haters be damned, this game deserves its amazing success. Sometimes I worry that games are getting dumbed down to appeal to the masses, but MW2 is a pure raw challenge and skill test that offers a ton to lifelong game players as well as the uninitiated. The levels pack some incredible surprises and thrilling moments, and the multiplayer makes some brilliant design choices on top of an already outstanding game. Still the high standard for military games, and in many ways for shooters in general. And I give Infinity Ward a ton of credit for the technical excellence of this series -- I feel sorry for people who say they can't see the difference between 60fps and 30fps.

  • I had a lot of doubts about this game since I think BioWare's been struggling for years to come up with an interesting, well-balanced, challenging combat system to match with its mastery of interactive storytelling. So imagine my surprise when Dragon Age turned out to be bigger and deeper than any BioWare game since Baldur's Gate II. I know they've been saying it's the spiritual successor to that game (which remains my favorite BioWare game), but seriously, I thought they were just saying that. Now if only I had a decent PC to run this game the way it's supposed to...

  • Dear Assassin's Creed II, thank you for not falling short of the amazing potential of your concept. The original AC had a fantastic idea and amazing technology but stumbled in the execution on relatively "easy" stuff like audio and mission structure. The sequel pretty much fixes all those problems, and though there's not a lot of challenge to it, this is a case where the lack of difficulty doesn't undermine a sense of gameplay variety and lets you get through a pretty interesting story without frustration. Also one of the best-looking games ever created. I'd stop myself sometimes and just look around for the sake of it.

  • The best thing to happen to strategy games in years. This is a game that essentially tricks you into playing what's a deep and interesting little game through its extremely well executed and charming presentation as well as its brilliant, addictive game loop. Game developers still have a pretty primitive understanding of fun is, on the whole. But PopCap Games seems to have have totally figured it out, and Plants vs. Zombies I think is their best game yet. This is one of those games that really can be recommended to everybody without qualification.

  • It delights and saddens me at the same time that many of the best role-playing games each year are little portable games such as this one. Bowser's Inside Story is a first-rate Nintendo game, with all the charm, attention to detail, humor, and variety that people like me have come to expect. It's also got one of the most entertaining and zany concepts of any of these games, and it's about time Bowser had a starring role. Games like this are a big part of the reason I play my Nintendo DS practically more than all my other game systems combined.

  • Disclosure: I haven't actually played this game yet. It shouldn't really be on this list. But from everything I've heard about it from a variety of sources, it seems like something I'm going to really, really like once I get around to it. Sounds original, surprising, and inspired -- nothing like the action-heavy, unscary typical attempts at the horror game genre. Honorable mention for this spot on the list goes to Cryostasis, another game that sounds really fascinating and that I need to play.

    There were a whole bunch of excellent games I played this year that I considered for this spot, especially Killzone 2, Dawn of War II, Flower, BlazBlue, Left 4 Dead 2, and Shadow Complex.