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Mattalorian's Top Games of 2009

Due to my typically contrarian nature, it's almost a little surprising that this list didn't turn out to be an obscure collection of bizarre and niche titles. Instead, I doubt it holds any real surprises. On the other hand, it's a truth that in the realm of video gaming, popularity and quality go hand-in-hand.
Note that this is merely a list of the games that I, personally, have enjoyed or appreciated the most this year. From what I've heard, I can agree games like Assassin's Creed 2, Uncharted 2, and Killzone 2 are probably among the best this year, but I simply have yet to play them. That's something I plan on changing in the near future.
A few honorable mentions that didn't make it into the final cut include: Zeno Clash, Cryostasis, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, and Tales of Monkey Island.

List items

  • Remember the first Modern Warfare? They made it like that, except the multiplayer is deeper and more engaging. The singleplayer is also very intense and beautifully crafted. More so than the first game? I'm not sure, but it comes close, at any rate. And that's certainly not an unimpressive feat.

  • Who knew that "the Batman game" would turn out to be one of the year's greatest? With some sharp visuals and an elegant art direction, Batman: Arkham Asylum manages to break the "poor movie tie-in" stereotype and be a truly excellent game in it's own right. If you've never wanted to BE the caped crusader, you're not a human being. And fortunately the game delivers on that front as well, with superbly designed gameplay mechanics that make you feel just like the Dark Knight.

  • I can't see Bioware's latest story-driven RPG disappointing anyone. Fans of the old Baldur's Gate series (Dragon Age's spiritual predecessor) will be delighted that Bioware hasn't tragically disgraced the series, but instead built on the best aspects of those games, and cleaned up the not-so-great parts. Newcomers to the genre will also discover a rich RPG with a streamlined interface and well-explained, easily understood mechanics. Not to mention one of the greatest and most epic video game stories I can ever remember experiencing.

  • While certainly not as impressive as it's remarkable predecessor, Resident Evil 5 introduces some features (such as multiplayer co-op) that refreshes the gameplay and makes the fun slower-paced zombie-slaughtering formula even funner.

  • Provided you've got some friends (or you're cool with playing alongside other survivors around the world), you're bound to have tons of fun in this challenging and teamwork oriented first-person-shooter. Valve turned the typically chaotic and mindless zombie shooting genre into a strategic, tactical game where your performance is almost entirely defined by your ability to use teamwork. That's not to say that there isn't tons of zombie shootin', though - Left 4 Dead 2 has some immensely satisfying gore and bodily dismemberment, and that's a good thing, because you and your zombie killing friends will find yourselves mowing down thousands and thousands of living dead.

  • The FPS and the RPG had a child. The child, of course, was Borderlands. Loot, character progression, loot, shooting people, and loot. Sounds like a pretty awesome medley of gameplay mechanics if you ask me. And thankfully Borderlands delivers on that front, making this 4-player cooperative post-apocalyptic FPS one of the greatest games this year. Did I mention loot?

  • The Metroidvania (I do love that term) style of game isn't one that people can really remember themselves enjoying in recent years. If you thought that kind of gameplay simply doesn't work anymore, Shadow Complex just proved you wrong. With an interesting setting, really engaging tactical 2D shooting gameplay, and tons of upgrades and items that are fun (and not to mention pleasantly addicting) to collect, this game is as enjoyable as it is fresh and innovative.

  • Let's face it. Diablo 3 is still TBA 2045 or something like that. So clearly there's enough room on the market for a Diablo-esque game. And fill in that space Torchlight does: It's almost shockingly similar to Diablo. Instrumentally, the soundtrack is almost identical, and even the game's admittedly shallow story resembles that of Diablo's in more than a few ways. These aren't at all bad things, because it's quite the contrary; Diablo was an awesome game in it's time, but it simply doesn't hold up in 2009 because of outdated gameplay philosophies and a depressingly non-streamlined interface. Once those few blemishes are cleaned up, Diablo suddenly works again. And that's exactly what Torchlight does, with great success. Again, this isn't a bad thing, but simply copying someone else's formula and making it your own does sound a little dirty. But that's where Torchlight gets an easy pass: It's made by the same guys who brought you the ACTUAL Diablo games.

  • Trine is artistically beautiful in it's visuals, audibly stellar in it's soundtrack, pleasant in it's storytelling style and lighthearted characters, and fiendishly clever in it's puzzle design. Even if the puzzle genre doesn't appeal to you, this game is something that should be played regardless: The rich presentation and gorgeous visuals is something that can be enjoyed (and should be enjoyed!) by everyone.