Ever since 2007 it’s been hard to narrow my list of games down to just ten. 2009 was special because Modern Warfare 2 was so successful that a bunch of publishers moved their games into 2010 just so they could have a chance at profit. However, a number of truly great games still made it out. Some of them surprised me, the rest met my lofty expectations. Here they all are.
MLB 09: The Show
10. Shadow Complex
I’m just getting into Shadow Complex, but I really like it’s old school design. This is a game that saw a title like Super Metroid and said, “I want to do that.” And it does. There are tons of hidden treasures to find and a somewhat interesting story holding it all together. The controls are terrific and really show off how a 2D shooter can work and seem fresh in this day and age. There were a number of good downloadable games in 2009, but this is the only one that seems like it could have actually passed as a retail product. It looks great, plays great, actually has a cast (featuring the legendary Nolan North) and is a lot of fun. How crazy is that? This game does not exist in the real world. There is no disc, there never will be one. We truly are living in the future.
9. Modern Warfare 2
This game has made a billion dollars. Has that sunk in? Let me write it out: $1,000,000,000. That’s a lot of money, especially for something that came out last November. What it does right is just about everything. The controls are the best among console FPS. The story is short-lived, preposterous, and rather thrilling. The co-op mode, Spec Ops, is the best part of the whole package, and trying to get those three star ratings is really addictive. The online competitive multiplayer is really good too, if that’s your kind of thing. It’s not for me. I’m not interested in putting up with all the trash talk just to lose to a bunch of kids over and over. If that were not the case, I’m sure Modern Warfare 2 would be higher on this list.
8. Dragon Age: Origins
I scooped up Dragon Age during the big Steam sale and I’ve already sunk probably 30 hours into. What’s most amazing about that is that I’m sure I still have a long way to go before I can finish this game. Only Bioware can get away with that. Anyone else that tried to make an old school RPG like this today would either make it too inaccessible or too easy for someone like me. Bioware somehow managed to hit the mark in between those two extremes, creating an addictive RPG that is hard, but totally reasonable. My only real problem with the game is that the conversations, a hallmark of Bioware products, sometimes seem endless. I just wanna kill some dudes, you know? If you’ve got a gaming capable PC, I really recommend you pick this one up, even if you don’t have that Baldur’s Gate history.
7. The Beatles: Rock Band
It’s kind of a miracle that this game could get made. The Beatles still don’t have their music on iTunes. But this game isn’t just Rock Band with Beatles songs, it’s a complete Beatles experience. I love the pseudo-documentary approach to the story mode. The amount of unique content on display is pretty staggering. The visual style is truly great. But what really makes this game work are vocal harmonies. You just can’t beat three people trying to play instruments and sing at the same time. It’s hilarious, challenging, addictive. Everything you look for in a video game. I hope some of these features some how end up in regular Rock Band. My only real problem with the game is the band choice. I mean, come on, The Beatles? What are we a million years old? We need a band that’s actually good at music, you know, like Green Day.
You gotta love the old PlayStation-exclusive developers. Insomniac hit it big with the Resistance series and Ratchet & Clank has taken on a new life on the PS3. The Crash Bandicoot guys are blowing everyone away with the Uncharted series. Now finally the Sly Cooper put out there first Cell-powered game, inFAMOUS. Despite it’s ridiculous title capitalization, this game is a triumph in regards to tight controls. The leveling of powers is really fun too. Oh, and it’s cool how the city changes according to your alignment. That reminds me, the story is pretty interesting too, for that comic book style. Speaking of style, the game looks really good too. Wow, that’s just about every aspect of this game. There’s gotta be something to complain about… Uh, that Zeke guy sucks.
5. Red Fation: Guerilla
For as long as man has wielded tools, he has known one thing: it’s fun to break shit. Red Faction: Guerilla is the best game on the destruction front. Let’s say you see a building and you don’t like it. That fucker’s gotta come down. Well, you could cover it with mines and blow it up. Or you could drive your Mars truck into it, letting it crumble down on you. Or you could go old school and tear that mofo down yourself with your badass sledgehammer. The choice is yours. I was never that interested in the Red Faction series, but hot damn is this is good game. As far as sandbox games, this is one of my favorites. Just thinking about it makes me want to go boot the game up right now. I’m sure some of Mars is still standing, and I want to do something about that.
4. Batman: Arkham Asylum
Holy shit, Batman. You’re in a good game. A really good game, actually. From beginning to end, Arkham Asylum is everything that playing as Batman always should have been. He is confident, in control, and has a plan. He’s not locked in a room full of goons, there locked in a room with him. The stealth is actually fun, something I don’t think I’ve ever written before. Combat is great too, it’s so fluid. Using Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill was a stroke of genius, they breathe a lot of life into their characters. The Riddler Easter eggs are a nice addition too. The stealth and combat challenges are a great way to keep you entertained well after you’ve completed the main adventure. Definitely a must play for anyone who has ever liked the Batman.
3. Assassin’s Creed 2
The first Assassin’s Creed was neat looking, played pretty well, but got repetitive. With the sequel, Ubisoft addressed all the problems they had and through in a bunch of new stuff too, resulting in one of the best games I played all year. The thrill of stalking your target and pouncing on them at the right moment is incredible. The game is a ton of fun to play, but more than that, the star of the show is Renaissance Italy. Very rarely are game worlds infused with so much life, and for this setting to be historical and one we don’t see that often just makes it that much more of an achievement. Assassin’s Creed 2 is packed with content, and I was eager to get all of it that I could. Now that is the mark of a truly great game.
I’ve beaten Borderlands twice. It’s not a short game. I played through it on Xbox, bought it on PC, played through it again. I’m working on my third campaign. That is how addictive the Diablo-style gameplay can be when used correctly. It is here. That it is combined with solid FPS combat creates an experience that is sublime. You are always progressing. You’re gaining XP, leveling weapon skill, and picking up loot. That makes Borderlands a hard game to put down. I love its sense of humor. The visual style is really striking and works well with the kind of game it is. But it’s the loot that keeps me coming back, the “bajillions” of guns, the fancy shields, the helpful class mods. Borderlands is the game I spent the most time with last year, and it looks like I’ll be spending even more with it in 2010.
1. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Remember in Raiders of the Lost Ark that sequence when Indy is chasing that caravan of Nazi trucks? Uncharted 2 has a level like that. Except Drake’s in Tibet. And he has to keep jumping between trucks, because they keep getting blown up. This is just one of the dozens of ridiculous, incredible sequences that you actually get to play through in Uncharted 2. Naughty Dog fixed everything that was wrong the first game in the series. I’m just gonna come out and say it: this is my favorite story in video games right now. It’s probably the best looking game that’s out now too. And it’s got a great multiplayer mode that Nancy and I have gotten to delve a little into and I can’t wait to revisit once he gets a little farther into the game. Uncharted 2 is reason enough to own a PS3, and it’s definitely my 2009 game of the year.