GOTY 2010

2010 was once again a great year for games, and forcing myself to sit down and make an ordered top 10 list only makes me realize just how much fun I've had playing games this year. Not to mention the slew of awesome games from the year that didn't quite make this list. Anyway, here are my top 10 games of 2010!

List items

  • Mass Effect 2 is, simply put, one of the best, most progressive games I've ever played. This game looks completely amazing and is accompanied by stellar voicework and an awesome soundtrack. It plays just as well, as the shooting and RPG mechanics have been revamped and streamlined to perfection, offering a flawless balance of both genres. But Mass Effect 2's biggest accomplishments are in its characters, its story, and how these aspects are integrated with the gameplay. No other game I've played to date has managed to create such a thrilling universe full of endearing characters, and then allow you to participate in its narrative in meaningful ways. That it does all of this without sacrificing what makes games great in the first place is nothing short of incredible. The result is a powerful, personal sci-fi epic that's a blast to play every step of the way. I've been dreaming about the potential of video game narratives my entire life, and Mass Effect 2 is the single largest step towards realizing that dream I've encountered thus far, making it the clear choice for my game of the year.

  • I still can't believe Starcraft II is finally out. After spending my entire high school and college careers (and then some) waiting, Starcraft II is here, and is bigger and better than I could have ever imagined. This game offers what is hands down the best RTS campaign I've ever played, with brilliant mission designs fueled by an endearing cast of characters and a fun action story. Even better is the multiplayer, as the precise mechanics combine with near perfect balance to create perhaps the most exciting multiplayer action I've ever seen. The redesigned Battle.net's leagues and ladders system ties it all together into a slick package that has something for literally everyone. This is a game that I'll be playing well into 2011, and I'd have to be crazy not to include a quality product such as Starcraft II high on this list.

  • The way Nintendo is able to consistently deliver with Mario is one of the most impressive things in all of gaming. The original Super Mario Galaxy absolutely blew me away, and this sequel sets the bar even higher. The variety, pacing, and level design are simply unmatched by anything else out there. Each and every world has something brand new to show you, and it's all designed with a perfect blend of artistic flair and technical know-how. Super Mario Galaxy 2 also looks and sounds as good as any other game I played this year (regardless of platform), controls like a dream, and offers an adequate challenge and tons of content to boot. To top it all off, it harbors a "joie de vivre" that's all too rare. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a delightful experience that's incredibly fun in all the right ways, and one of the absolute best games of the year.

  • It should be no secret that I'm a long-standing fan of the Civilization series, and Civilization V ranks among the franchise's best efforts. It makes some bold moves with regards to streamlining the entire formula to make it more accessible, and that it accomplishes this goal without losing any of the series' trademark depth is a highly impressive feat. All of the changes shift your focus towards the more "big picture" decisions, while still allowing you to micromanage all of the little details if you want to. It doesn't hurt that Civilization V looks and sounds as amazing as it does, making it way too easy to lose track of time in favor of playing just "one more turn". It's a brilliantly designed game that's as addictive as anything I've ever played, making Civilization V a no brainer on this list.

  • There's something to be said for concise, polished games, and that's exactly what Limbo is. You'd be hard pressed to find a weak link in this beautiful game, especially within its fantastic presentation. The world of Limbo is wild and unpredictable to the point where I was constantly wondering what was around the next corner. It engaged me as much as any video game setting out there, and imbued me with a strong desire to simply survive. That purity is highly refreshing, and the gameplay more than backs it up. Simple platforming and puzzle mechanics combine to great effect, with perfect pacing, variety, and controls punctuating every moment. Limbo is a joy to experience from start to finish, providing an air-tight package that fails to disappoint in any way. Easily one of my favorite games of the year.

  • Heavy Rain is perhaps one of the year's most ambitious games, and it's a lot of fun to witness how its intricate plot unfolds based on the player's actions. The way it empowers you with its simple control scheme is incredibly refreshing, and it makes the narrative highly engaging as a result. It's rare that games allow you to have such a strong influence on proceedings, and it only helps that the characters and basic plot are as gripping as they are. It's just super easy to get invested in the game's happenings, and the way Heavy Rain lets you participate is a bold new direction for the medium. It only goes to show that there are still plenty of unexplored avenues within video games, and Heavy Rain has me excited to see where they may lead.

  • I love a good 2D platformer, and Super Meat Boy is a fantastic example of the genre done right. Sure, it can be tough at times, but this is a game that's always fair in the demands it makes. The amazingly responsive controls make interacting with the game a delight, and it's incredibly satisfying when you finally complete a particularly tricky level. The snappy pacing and brilliant level designs keep the game fresh and exciting throughout, and there's a ton of content to keep even the most masochistic gamer occupied for quite a while. Super Meat Boy also has a ton of heart to it, offering a totally awesome audiovisual presentation that's bursting with personality. Super Meat Boy is the real deal, and one of the finest games I played all year.

  • The original BioShock is easily one of my favorite games ever made, and I was curious how a return to its engrossing world would fare. BioShock 2 doesn't disappoint, as Rapture once again proves to be a highly compelling setting filled with great characters and an interesting story. Exploring this highly detailed environment is once again incredibly fun, and the basic mechanics of balancing, upgrading, and experimenting with all sorts of guns and plasmids remains satisfying at its core. Video games just rarely combine a strong setting, powerful story, and exciting gameplay as well as BioShock 2. It's a great example of what video games are capable of, and playing it was among my favorite experiences of the year.

  • I couldn't really tell you what happens in Bayonetta, but I do know that it was a blast to play. Bayonetta is a bizarre, over-the-top, lightning fast action game that eschews the overly stylized melodrama that plagues games like Devil May Cry in favor of pure insanity. It just so happens that I'm a fan of blatant, unadulterated craziness, and I totally dug the ridiculous set piece moments that seemed to breathe an overwhelming amount of life and personality into every facet of this game. Bayonetta is also a stellar action game, with some great mechanics and fantastic controls holding it all together. Bayonetta delivered on all fronts in a genre that's hard to execute properly, and I had a hell of a time experiencing it.

  • The original Donkey Kong Country trilogy are among my favorite games ever made, and I was hopeful that DKC Returns could recapture the magic. Simply put, Rare's legacy is safely secure in the hands of Retro Studios, as DKC Returns is a fantastic 2D platformer from top to bottom. Tight controls, superb level design, and fantastic variety and pacing combine to create a fun, challenging, and lengthy platformer that stands toe to toe with its SNES predecessors. Even better is how Retro is able to successfully re-create the spirit of those games via gorgeous visuals and a catchy soundtrack. I'd be hard pressed to find a more satisfying follow-up to one of my personal favorite series, making DKC Returns easily one of my favorite games of the year.