GOTY 2009

Alright, it's time to do this thing. I've been putting it off for a bit, because this is one of the most difficult top 10 lists I've ever had to make. A lot of internal debate has occurred over the past week or so, as there are easily more than 10 games that I feel deserve a spot on this list. Even past that, ordering the 10 that made it proved to be incredibly difficult. But in the end, I feel confident that I got everything right. Behold, my top 10 games of 2009!

GOTY 2009 Redux

The original list stands as I wrote it at the end of 2009. 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. Batman: Arkham Asylum (+0)
  2. Demon's Souls (+1)
  3. Borderlands (+5)
  4. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (+5)
  5. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (-3)
  6. Shadow Complex (-1)
  7. Resident Evil 5 (-1)
  8. Little King's Story (+2)
  9. 'Splosion Man (-5)
  10. Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (-3)

No casualties, only the ordering needed adjustment.

List items

  • Batman: Arkham Asylum is not just the best Batman game ever made. Nor is it simply the greatest comic book game ever made. Batman breaks free from all of those shallow qualifiers to stand as one of the best games I've ever played, regardless of its thematic origin. This is a game that just does all the right things- fun combat, fantastic exploration, superb stealth, great atmosphere, awesome visuals, and some stellar voice acting. Even more than that, the way it's able to bring each piece together into a unifying whole is super impressive- I've never played a game that so perfectly combines excellent combat, exploration, and stealth all into one tidy package. The result is a fresh, varied game that knows how to pace itself beautifully. And even though I played many similarly well made games in 2009, this is the one that aligns with my gaming tastes the most. Batman: Arkham Asylum is a game that seems to understand exactly why video games are my entertainment medium of choice, and for that comes away as my game of the year.

  • The original Uncharted was fantastic, but it did have its rough edges. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves smooths over every last one of them. Excellent gunplay, a terrific musical score, unparalleled voice acting, amazing pacing, mind blowing variety, and last but not least, the best visuals I've ever seen- hands down. From the lifelike character animations to the highly detailed environments, everything in Uncharted 2 just looks absolutely gorgeous. And yet, even more then the flawless execution of these aspects, Uncharted 2 has a real genuine heart to it. The way it drives the action via its character driven narrative is superb, and its cast is one that you'll come to love by the game's end. Uncharted 2 is an action-packed ride that never has a dull moment, making it one of my favorite games of the year.

  • I had never heard of Demon's Souls until it was already on shelves, garnering a reputation for how "hard" it is. And after playing through the game for myself, I can see why Demon's Souls has the reputation it does. It can be challenging at times, but it is always fair, and is consistently rewarding. This is one epic game that knows how to make the player feel like a total badass after completing each level. Perhaps most impressive is the incredible balancing act it pulls off with character customization and advancement- I can safely say that no RPG I've ever played has provided so many equally viable character options. The result is an original, exciting, and gripping experience that remains stellar throughout, and is simply one of the best, most memorable games to come out in 2009. There's nothing quite like Demon's Souls.

  • 'Splosion Man proved to be one of the year's best surprises for me- this downloadable title never shortchanges the player on quality during its sizable campaign. It gets a ton of mileage off of a few simple ideas, and constantly throws new scenarios at you. It also harnesses an appropriate level of challenge that ultimately makes the game that much more rewarding. Throw in an impressive cooperative campaign that's equally as lengthy and fun as the single player, as well as a fantastic sense of humor (everybody loves donuts!), and you've got quite the package- a $10 package at that. I don't know that I've ever played a game that unites such a level of quality and quantity under that kind of price tag, making 'Splosion Man one of the best deals I've ever seen, as well as one of my personal favorites.

  • I love Super Metroid, and when favorable comparisons were being drawn between that classic and Shadow Complex, I was immediately interested. And you know what? That's a totally accurate comparison. Shadow Complex successfully evokes the feel of the "Metroidvania" formula, and implements all of the genre's best aspects. Exploring and collecting upgrades is as fun as it's ever been- the world crafted here is extremely well designed, and all the items are super fun to use. Better yet, Shadow Complex doesn't feel like it's cheap in copying that classic formula. Rather, it feels like it's paying homage to those games, while updating things for modern times. The craziest part of the whole thing? It's only $15. Shadow Complex is just a fantastic package, and one of my favorites to boot.

  • Resident Evil 4 is easily one of my favorite games ever made. Needless to say, I had high hopes for Resident Evil 5. And while it may not leave the mark that its predecessor did, there's no denying that this is a damn fun shooter. Practically everything that made Resident Evil 4's gameplay so thrilling returns, from the tightness of the shooting all the way down to the streamlined pacing. You just never stop moving from one action packed encounter to the next, shooting crazy enemies with crazy guns. Not to mention that Resident Evil 5 has some of the best graphics this generation, as well as one of the best cooperative experiences of the year. It may not reinvent the wheel, but Resident Evil 5 is still a blast, and one of my favorite games of the year.

  • I've really enjoyed every Mario and Luigi game thus far, and Bowser's Inside Story is perhaps the best one yet. While it might not do a whole lot that the series hasn't done before, it does it all bigger and better. Better pacing, better variety, better controls, better graphics, better story, and better dialogue. In fact, it's that dialogue and story that probably end up being the most memorable aspects of the game. I encountered plenty of "laugh out loud" moments- something games rarely do for me, or at least not intentionally. Wrap all this silliness within some gameplay as streamlined as what you find here, and it's easy to see why Bowser's Inside Story strikes the chord that it does. Easily one of the year's best, as well as one of my personal favorites.

  • After hearing a lot of hype about how Borderlands was going to be a "role playing shooter" or "Diablo with guns", I was both kind of confused and/or skeptical about the whole thing. But after playing Borderlands for many, many hours (probably my most played game of the year at this point), I'll have to say that both of those assessments are pretty much spot-on. Even better is that it works. I've never played a game that combines RPG style character progression with solid action nearly this well. The variety of class options, the crazy guns you can find, the tightness of the controls- all of these aspects combine to create some addictive gameplay that fuses the best aspects of both genres. Borderlands is just an all around entertaining game, and one of the year's stand out titles.

  • For all the minor gripes and frustrations I could level against Infinity Ward's latest effort, there aren't many games that can rightfully justify the amount of time I've already sunk into Modern Warfare 2. Even when things go wrong, I always have the urge to jump right back in the action, which never stops. There's so much customization, and so much variety in how the game can be played that it can be tailored to suit any type of player. And on the whole, it all feels pretty balanced (especially after some recent patches). Modern Warfare 2 is not only one of my favorite games of the year, but it's also one of my favorite competitive shooters I've ever played. It's the total multiplayer package, and a game I'll be playing well into 2010.

  • I didn't really know what to expect going into Little King's Story. Comparisons to Pikmin drew me in originally, but there ultimately isn't anything like Little King's Story. The whole process of conquering the world to expand your own kingdom is simply addictive, and the real time strategic combat is as robust as it is enjoyable. More than anything else, however, I'll remember Little King's Story for its charming presentation and narrative. The visuals and dialogue are incredibly entertaining, the over-the-top boss encounters are a blast (seriously, these guys are just crazy), and the thoughtful ending is one of the most memorable I've seen in years. Little King's Story is an experience I won't soon forget, making it one of my favorites of the year.