Best of 2009

2009 was a relatively disappointing year of games for me. While yes, some fantastic games were released (and will be mentioned soon), but, unlike 2007 or 2008, there aren't really any leftover games I feel like I need to get. The ten games on the list were really the only games I really liked this year, with the exception of these honorable mentions: 

  • Torchlight: I've never played a Diablo game before, or even a game really remotely like Diablo. That's why I'm so surprised that I like this game so much. However, since I haven't quite found the time to finish up the last few floors, and its lackluster story prevent me from putting the game on the list.
  • Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride: I've always respected the Dragon Quest franchise for their fantastic art style and traditional, but solid, RPG elements. Dragon Quest V is my favorite of the series I've played so far. It has a neat party system, and really puts you in the shoes of this character as you go through his life. It also left me with one of the most difficult choices I've had to face in a game since Mass Effect. Still, last I checked, I'm only fourteen hours into the epic, and sidequested far away from the main story to the point where I'm not really sure as to where I go next, so the game is off the list.
  • Machinarium: I've only spent about an hour and a half with Machinarium, but I've really loved what I've played of it so far. Yet, as an adventure game newbie, I never really excel with the puzzle-elements of the genre. Just giving a shout-out to a game that has style in spades.
Anyways, now that those games have been mentioned, time for the real list of games I actually finished: 

List items

  • While yes, it may be a little cliched to put Uncharted 2 in my number one spot, it deserves it, mainly because it's just a fantastic action movie in game form. It's got good action, memorable and convincing characters, beautiful settings, and a cohesive story. I really liked the first Uncharted, and even felt its combat was fine. However, Uncharted 2 took that gigantic leap of improvement the franchise needed. From the improved grenade aiming, to the stealth combat, to the lowered health of the enemies, Uncharted 2 is just a much more complete package. What really pushed Uncharted 2 over the edge for me was the set-pieces, and Nathan Drake's reactions to them. Nathan Drake isn't some trained soldier with a plan, he's just a treasure hunter who gets much deeper into things than expected. His improvising style not only made him a more endearing character, it also transferred over to me, creating a character-player link I've never quite seen done better in a third-person game. That's really Uncharted 2 in a nutshell: just a step above practically every other cinematic experience on the market.

  • It may seem cool to knock on Modern Warfare 2 now, but I really don't see why it gets the hate it does. Yeah, the multiplayer had some glitches, and the campaign's plot isn't very plausible, and there are some players that are just downright cheap. However, those faults never really got to me, or made me think of Modern Warfare 2 as any less of a fantastic game. The story's implausibility never really phased me much because of its incredible production values. Some have likened MW2 to a Michael Bay movie, to which I say is completely ridiculous. Not to mention that it's a pretty damn tight campaign, although its near-constant action does eventually bog down the player. The competitive multiplayer may also have some faults, but it's still the most addictive and fun multiplayer suite on the market. I've sunk over 40 hours into Modern Warfare 2's multiplayer which is well over double what I've spent with any other's. The killstreaks, maps, options on how to smoke (or knife) dudes, and leveling system just make it one of the most addictive games out there. Lastly, there's the Spec Ops mode. Few co-op games require nearly as much strategy and communication, and the emphasis the co-op puts on communication pushes it over the top. The game's three stellar modes end up combining to make one fantastic argument for my number two spot.

  • I have very few problems with InFamous. I found its story ripe with enough twists to keep me interested. I thought its moral choices, although very black and white, were still fairly difficult to make. Lastly, and most importantly, it probably had the best combat system of any game I played this year. The different powers and their evolutions, the platforming, and the breakneck speed the game moves at made it one of the few games I actually seeked combat out in. As someone who has played Pen & Paper Superhero RPGs, InFamous feels like the most complete translation of the non-linearity in combat of those RPGs.

    I mean, there was this one time when I used a shockwave to throw a guy off this building. Sadly, my attempt to kill him failed, as he landed on the railroad tracks below. Then a train came around, and crushed him.

    Any game where that is possible deserves its place in this list.

  • At first, I didn't really like Arkham Asylum that much. I thought it had clunky controls, weird animation, and some major plot holes (re: Batman not having all of his gadgets at the start of the game for no reason at all). However, by the time the Bane fight came around, I was hooked. Much like InFamous, Batman: Arkham Asylum made me feel like a super hero, but this time, I was the freaing Batman. I was picking off armed criminals and smashing their unarmed brethren with style. Even though it isn't always perfect, Arkham Asylum was a thrilling and atmospheric experience that I won't soon forget.

  • Fire Emblem is one of my favorite franchises. Even though the stories, characters and difficulty may be uneven in the series, I can always count on a Fire Emblem game to provide an addictive, strategic and challenging experience. Shadow Dragon may be a port of a 20 year old game, but despite a story that's a little bit on the generic side, its age rarely shows.

  • Pokemon Platinum didn't really do much to the old Pokemon formula, but for me, it didn't really need to. I managed to sink a good 40 hours into Platinum, and rarely put my DS down inbetween. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, and Pokemon most definitely isn't broke.

  • I've never been the biggest fan of the Halo series, but ODST's similarities to Firefly and fantastic lighting effects persuaded me into checking it out. What I found was a surprisingly atmospheric game that managed to stray from the male-power fantasy I hated from the previous Halo games just enough for me to actually like it. Sprinkle some Firefight on top, and add in a disc full of Halo 3 multiplayer maps I never saw before, and you have a game that was just a pleasant surprise.

  • Even though I don't consider the iPhone to be the best gaming platform out there, Canabalt takes the weaknesses of the platform's controls and manages to make a truly addictive and stylish game.

  • Every time I play flower, my jaw drops. Be it because of its striking beauty, or how terribly pretentious its second-to-last chapter was, flower struck up emotion in me. While the environmental message is forced, and the game will only take you an hour or two to beat, it's still a chill and beautiful game that implored me to explore, which games rarely do for me.

  • I really like the Beatles, and I really like Rock Band. 'Nuff said.