GOTY 2008

This list is as simple as they come. 2008 was a huge year for games, and I feel compelled to make a top 10 list just like everyone else. What's interesting about this year in particular is that I can actually make a legitimate top 10 list- I don't know if I've ever been able to do that before! Usually it's a top 5 or something. But in 2008 I had a hard time narrowing it down to even 10 games. Even then, ordering them was difficult. Anyway, here are my 10 favorite games of 2008! In order!

GOTY 2008 Redux

The original list stands as I wrote it at the end of 2008. But my thoughts evolve over time, whether I play more of these games during the following years, or it just takes time for my thoughts to fully settle. I think it's worth noting that evolution. Given that, if I were to redo this list today, it would look like this:

Noted in parenthesis are each games' change in position from the original list.

  1. The World Ends With You (+0)
  2. Dead Space (+0)
  3. Burnout Paradise (+5)
  4. Braid (-1)
  5. Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (+5)
  6. Valkyria Chronicles (New)
  7. Professor Layton and the Curious Village (-3)
  8. World of Goo (-1)
  9. Super Smash Bros. Brawl (-4)
  10. Prince of Persia (New)

Gears of War 2 and Fallout 3 are the casualties.

List items

  • I might be the only person I know who will pin The World Ends With You as my "Game of the Year", but I simply had more fun playing this game than any other in 2008. The way it tore down so many outdated Japanese RPG mechanics, and rebuilt them into something completely fresh was astonishing. Everything from the battle system to item management just felt right, and lent themselves to a pacing and seamlessness that was fulfilling in every way. The characters, setting, soundtrack, and overall narrative were so engaging, making it incredibly easy to invest in the game's happenings. The World Ends With You introduced many other smart design decisions, such as the brilliant "risk versus reward" difficulty sliders that could be adjusted on the fly. The tightness of these aspects combine to make a game that adapts to players' individual styles, and flows without a hitch all the way to the perfectly timed ending. The World Ends With You hit all the right notes at the right times, and perhaps surprisingly comes away as my game of the year.

  • To be frank, Dead Space wasn't a game that was initially on my radar. It had all the trappings of a cliche shooter, and the "space survival horror" vibe didn't do anything to dispel its pretense of unoriginality. After playing it, however, I've learned to never judge a game without playing it ever again. While the premise may not be the most unique in the world, it is executed with such resounding perfection that it is impossible to complain. This is a game that builds on so many years of gaming advances, and brings it all together in a seamless package. Not to mention the breath-taking visuals (probably the best looking game I played all year) and the level of total immersion. It's simply a game that did literally everything right, making Dead Space one of the of the best games of the year.

  • Braid has already built a reputation for being one of the year's most visionary titles, and there are plenty of good reasons for that. First and foremost, is the game's brilliant level of puzzle design. These are devilishly clever puzzles that reward "outside-the-box" thinking from the player. They are just so creative, and come in such large variety. Then there is the aesthetic, "artsy" side of proceedings. The narrative presented in Braid is just astounding, and it's done in such a way that most everyone should find it appealing in some way. But on top of everything, it's the way these two seemingly disjoint pieces combine to make a satisfying whole that really puts Braid on the map. Games rarely connect every piece of the puzzle so well, making Braid one of 2008's stand-out titles.

  • If it was possible to make a game out of pure charm, Professor Layton and the Curious Village would be it. This is easily one of the most charming titles I've played in my life, and the fact that it has the substance to back it up only enhances its impact. The game's astonishing variety of clever puzzles never wear thin from beginning to end, and they come at such a pacing that makes the game great to play either in short bursts, or for hours on end. The whole thing is wrapped beautifully in a narrative that's as interesting as it is charming. Professor Layton himself is also pretty much the man, and guides the story to a heartwarming conclusion. Professor Layton and the Curious Village is a brilliantly charming gem from start to finish, and certainly one of the year's best.

  • When the year began, Super Smash Bros. Brawl was easily one of my most anticipated titles of 2008, and there's no denying how much fun I had playing the thing following its release. This is the rare multiplayer game that I feel I could pick up at any time and just play. It's so accessible and easy to get into- it wears that "easy to learn, hard to master" vibe so prominently, making it hard to imagine someone not having a blast with Brawl. The game has a great selection of playable characters and levels, all of which are packed to the brim with tons of video game lore and nostalgia. Last but certainly not least, Brawl offers one of the finest soundtracks video games have ever seen. Super Smash Bros. Brawl is a game that pulled out all the stops, making it easily one of my favorite games of the year.

  • The original Gears of War remains one of my favorite shooters this generation, so it's easy to see why I was excited to get my hands on Gears of War 2. And the good folks at Epic Games were not about to disappoint. Gears of War 2 is bigger and better then ever before- more weapons, bigger setting/story, more exciting set pieces, and a lot more multiplayer options. The new Horde mode is fantastic, and really showcases what the game does best. Cooperative play has rarely been done so well in shooters, making Gears of War 2 the rare shooter that's great to play by yourself, or with friends. This is a "larger-than-life" game that's just a blast to play at every turn. You simply can't talk about the best games of 2008 without mentioning this action packed ride.

  • World of Goo came out of nowhere for me, which was very surprising considering how good it is. The concept of building towers of goo may not seem so intriguing, but the game's stellar puzzle design goes to great lengths to make this simple concept super fun. The great mechanics produce so many "Wow!" moments in the game, making it incredibly rewarding from beginning to end. The game also packs tons of variety across close to 50 puzzle filled levels, and presents itself in a wholly charming way that's impossible not to like. If that wasn't enough, the game comes in a tight, $15 downloadable package. This was one of those rare games that never disappointed me in any way. Everything just felt right, making World of Goo a game that stood out among 2008's finest.

  • If you had asked me a few years ago what my thoughts on racing games were, I would have said that I pretty much hate the genre. Burnout 3 came along and changed that perception, and now Burnout Paradise has only further emphasized why racing games can be so damn fun. High speed thrills are just so abundant in Burnout Paradise, and this remains the benchmark franchise for exhilarating speed and over-the-top crashes in racing games. The new open world nature only enhances the experience, and the streamlined interface makes navigating Paradise City totally enjoyable. It's the next step for racing games, and one I had a blast experiencing, making Burnout Paradise an easy pick for this list.

  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is one of my favorite games ever, so it should go without saying that I was looking forward to Fallout 3. Fortunately, the game delivered the same brand of role-playing goodness that Bethesda is known for. The post apocalyptic wasteland presented here is so immersive, and gives the game an amazing sense of atmosphere. The role-playing is also top notch, with interesting character building options, great characters, varied quests, and stellar production values tying the whole thing together. What I'll remember most about Fallout 3, however, is how it constantly gives you choices that actually make a difference in the game world. Many games try to do such a thing, but rarely execute it as well as Fallout 3 did. Easily one of the year's best games.

  • I loved the Nintendo 64 Banjo-Kazooie games, but Rare's track record on the Xbox 360 has been mediocre at best. Also consider the new vehicle based gameplay being a stark departure from the series' platforming roots, and it's easy to see how one could be skeptical about Nuts and Bolts. Fortunately, once I actually got my hands on the game, all of those fears went away. Vehicle creation is as intuitive as it is enjoyable, and to me, this game is now the benchmark design for user created content. The whole vibe of the game is also pure Banjo-Kazooie goodness- the characters, dialog, and the magnificent soundtrack (easily one of my favorites of the year) just give off that quirky vibe, which is too awesome. I thoroughly enjoyed Nuts and Bolts, making it one of my favorite games of the year.