Before I worked at GameSpot, I used to post my favorite games of the year. I called my personal little awards "The Cubbies," named for my old username "fiddlecub." Of course, now I am part of the actual awards discussion, and trust me, our GOTY meetings were intense. But having a voice is invigorating, and while I originally shied away from doing a list, my fellow editors have been posting their personal favorites. Tom Mc Shea and Shaun McInnis have already thrown out their thoughts, so I'm throwing out mine.
Of course, it whould be said that these games represent my own thoughts. Any "best of" list is bound to strike a chord (or a nerve). If you need proof, glance at our best-of feature, where clearly not everyone agrees with each other. But we all do agree that we love games, passionately. And when you love a game passionately, you want to cry its greatness from the rooftops in the hopes that others will adore them as much as you do.
For some, that also means disparaging the thoughts of others. Me, well, I would rather focus on the positive and stay away from the negative. 2008 was an incredible year for games, and when I look back, these are the ones I will most remember.
10. Valkyria Chronicles - The art design is awesome, of course, but even beyond that, Valkyria Chronicles does something few other strategy RPGs can manage: remove unnecessary frustrations that come between you and the game. It's *gasp* fun, it's different, and it has the potential to change a genre, in a genre in desperate need of new blood.
9. Tales of Vesperia - On the other hand, Tales of Vesperia does little that's new, but that's ok. It's fun, and it's extremely well paced. Pacing is an important thing in most games, but doubly so in RPGs, which generally have a broader ebb and flow than other genres. With lots of flashy but easy combat, a good smattering of bosses, frequent-but-manageable cutscene, and easy-to-navigate towns, this is the greatest example of how old-fashioned RPG gameplay can be updated for a new generation.
8. Condemned 2 - Dead Space is the horror game most people will remember from this year, but Condemned 2 is less predictable and uses silence and periods of inaction to incredible effect. It gets a bit hokey, but as Shaun would say, you can shank hobos, so that makes up for it. In all seriousness, the sound design, the high-impact melee combat, the creepy locales--all of these elements make Condemned 2 one of 2008's oft-overlooked gems.
7. Geometry Wars 2 - This is probably my most-played game of 2008. I liked but didn't love the original, but hell if the sequel didn't keep me addicted. My favorite mode is possibly the least favorite of others: Waves. But every mode was top-notch, and when you get tired of one, you can just move to another. Pure fun.
6. Okami - I almost didn't includes this, because Okami has had its day in the sun. But who cares? It deserves a day in the sun every year. It is one of the finest action adventures ever created: stunningly gorgeous, long, charming, and a blast to play. It also inspired aspects of another great game from 2008, Prince of Persia. Renewal is an important theme in all art, and it's only natural that games should follow suit.
5. Sins of a Solar Empire - If you didn't play this game, you should. I don't care if you need to scour junkyards for RAM chips, just play it. It's massive, it's extraordinary, and it's hella fun. 2007 was a stronger year for PC strategy games, but that's ok. Just play it, already.
4. Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core - The ending of Crisis Core will stay with me for a long time, and this in a year of memorable moments that strike your very, well, core. It featured an engrossing story yet was still playable on the go, a difficult tightrope-walking act that few portable games can accomplish. And I am not afraid to say it: I wept during the last half-hour. You can't put a price on games that tug at your emotions.
3. Fallout 3 - The bane of some Fallout fans and the apple of others' eyes, Fallout 3 infuriated some old-school enthusiasts, captured others, and managed regardless to be one of the best games of the year. When other games parade around this idea of "meaningful player choices" but deliver nothing more than smoke and mirrors, Fallout 3 makes it happen. Flawed, sure, but eminently playable and totally addicting.
2. No More Heroes - Best game with a lightsaber all year. Yeah, I said it. But really, the game is so funny, so over the top, and so enjoyable that I want to play it right now just because I am writing about it. It also gets motion controls right. It embraces them but it doesn't murder them. Play it, and you won't forget it.
1. Metal Gear Solid 4 - I wrote a lengthy review detailing what makes this game so incredible, so I hate to retread all of that ground again. I am hardly an MGS fanboy; I enjoyed the hell out of MGS2, but MGS3 never captured me, nor was I ever an enormous fan of the original, though I appreciated it a good deal. Yet MGS4 enthralled me from beginning to end. Perhaps you aren't a fan of the storytelling and long cutscenes, but even if you subtract that from the equation (which you shouldn't), you have an incredible game that was just a lot of fun to play. And you know, I like fun.
I would offer up an honorable mention list, but really, where does it end? This was a great year, and for every game on my list, there are two more that could have just as easily been there. What games did you love above all others in 2008?