So the last decade was pretty good for video games. We didn’t really get that much of a technological leap, we are still looking at pixels after all. Beautiful, high definition pixels. But online gameplay and distribution came to prominence, the Wii was interesting, and the medium as a whole became one of the biggest of them all. Here are my ten favorite games.
Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009)
Mass Effect (2007)
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 (2001)
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2003)
Super Mario Galaxy (2007)
10. Super Smash Bros. Melee (2001)
Yo dude, Kirby’s my guy. I’ve heard things like this said. That’s because Super Smash Bros. Melee was such an amazingly good multiplayer game, that I’ve been playing it at gettogethers from New Year’s Eve 2001 right on through college. I don’t think you can beat that. Nintendo tried with Super Smash Bros. Brawl, which added new characters and gameplay tweaks, but that great game has never been able to capture players like Melee. The simplicity and accessibility of the game’s controls hide it’s amazing depth. There are people out there who actually do play Fox only, Final Destination, no items. They worry about tiers and other complex issues. That’s awesome. It’s ridiculous, but those people are having more fun than anyone else. Oh, and just to piss those people off, I like to press up to jump. Deal with it.
9. Metroid Prime (2002)
Talk about immersion. In Metroid Prime, you are Samus Aran. You are alone on an alien world, stripped of your precious gear, and faced with overcoming an army of space pirates featuring a gargantuan robotic pterodactyl named after the heroine of the Alien series. This game remains the king of first person platforming, and it’s pretty outstanding how well it plays given the general jankiness of the GameCube controller. It is so fun to look around in this game, scan some stuff and look for hidden treasures. Yes, it all eventually ends with you doing way to much backtracking, but I’ll allow it. Some games I get stuck and just move on. I tried to do that with Metroid Prime, but I could not let it go. This game is just too good.
8. Halo: Combat Evolved (2001)
First person shooters only work on computers. The precision they require can only be delivered by a mouse and keyboard. This is what we used to think. Halo was a game-changer. The controls were so tight and the multiplayer so ingeniously crafted that it’s not too surprising that by 2009, first person shooters are the biggest genre in gaming and almost all are developed with consoles in mind. I remember what really did it for me was the vehicles. Being able to just hop into a Warthog and run fools over was so fun. In fact, this game is so fun we’re still playing it every once in a while today. Because of infinite grenades. Glorious, infinite burning plasma grenades.
7. Shadow of the Colossus (2005)
If games are indeed art, and they are, this is one of the titles that helps prove that point. You play as the wanderer, there’s some chick who seems ill, you’ve got an awesome horse, and that’s about the whole story. The wanderer sets out into these beautiful landscapes to kill these colossi, who seem like terrible beasts but it still feels really wrong when you kill them. Yes, there are flaws in this game. The art style is gorgeous, but the graphics are technically somewhat lacking. The controls aren’t perfect. Sometimes you can end up frustrated and confused. But those are really minor complaints when you’re talking about one of the most emotionally powerful games I’ve ever played. There are moments that just blew me away when I first played through this PS2 classic. If you can, I really recommend you spend the time to go all the way through Shadow of the Colossus.
6. Resident Evil 4 (2005)
I never liked the Resident Evil series. The controls weren’t that good and frankly survival horror has always been one of the least appealing genres of games. That all changed with RE4. The game revolutionized third person shooting with its ingenious run-and-gun gameplay. Big dudes slightly off center? Shenmue-style quicktime events in cinematics? Yeah, this game came up with that. The combat is so thrilling because of the intentionally imposed limitations on ammo and movement, combined with the games creepy atmosphere and unsettling enemies. And let’s not forget, chainsaw controller. My biggest problem with Reisdent Evil 5 was that there was no way it could live up to its successor. Which, in the grand scheme of things, is a pretty good problem to have.
5. World of Warcraft (2004)
Something has to be said for the incredible investment of time and money that World of Warcraft is able to demand from its players. And that is that the game is really good. Not only was it well-made, but the amount of support Blizzard has given the game over the past 5 years has been incredible. Two expansion packs along with an almost constant stream of patches have balanced and rebalanced the game into something almost completely different from what it originally was. I remember when they added weather, threatened to remove ammunition, and lowered mount level caps. I last quit the game back in the fall, but I’ll probably get pulled back in around Cataclysm’s release. I don’t really want to keep playing, it just evolves into a need over time. I believe that’s called an addiction.
4. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (2009)
It is a little scary putting a three month old game on a best of the decade list. But when you have such an exceptional game, you have to give credit where credit’s due. Graphically, it’s just about peerless. Not only is the game great to look at still, but there are so many incidental animations that watching the game is like watching a terrific movie. The acting is great, there’s a reason Nolan North is the reigning king of voice actors. The gameplay is so good you’ll be amazed that you are actually controlling Drake in these crazy scenes. And there are so many crazy scenes. Calling this the most cinematic game I’ve ever played still doesn’t really do it justice, since, you know, it’s a video game, not a movie.
3. Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (2002)
The decade was marked by two outstanding Star Wars game franchises, Jedi Knight and Knights of the Old Republic. Well, Rogue Squadron was no slouch either. Force Unleashed was pretty fun too. Anyway, there’s no game I’ve come back to more frequently than Jedi Outcast. I’ve beaten it dozens of times. Played countless mods. Just a couple days ago, when I couldn’t find my disc, I bought the game again on Steam. Jedi Outcast is just a game I can’t get enough of. Sure, Jedi Academy is an improvement on this game, but it sacrifices a great character and story to get that. There’s something that’s so thrilling about finally getting that lightsaber. I have so many memories of playing this game that I’m surprised it’s not even higher on this list.
2. The Orange Box (2007)
I thought of going with Half-Life 2, since that game did so much for stories in first person shooters. But at the end of the day, you could argue that game is indeed just a really good FPS. The Orange Box transcends that. When it was released, it instantly became the best deal in video games. Episode 2‘s campaign might have been on the short side, but it still packed some of the best action and story sequences of the entire Half-Life saga. Team Fortress 2 is an outstanding multiplayer game with a fantastic visual style and great sense of humor. The fact that it is updated so frequently that the game today is totally different from when it first came out helps too. Then there’s Portal, which is simply one of the greatest games that has ever been made. Put it all together and The Orange Box is undeniable.
1. Rock Band 2 (2008)
While it can be argued that The Beatles: Rock Band offers a better, and possibly more important, experience, I think the undeniable pinnacle of not only the Rock Band series but the rhythm game genre is Rock Band 2. They made vast improvements over the first Rock Band game, increasing the ease in joining into a game, sorting songs, and gameplay modes. Couple that with Harmonix’s knack for charting songs and their incredible dedication to DLC and you have what I think is the quintessential experience of the decade. What could better sum up the aughts than spending hundreds of dollars on DLC to play songs on tiny, plastic instruments?