Here, just for fun, are a few reflections on my favorite games of 2010. Naturally this is limited to the games I actually got around to playing. There are many undoubtedly great games I just didn't manage to squeeze in.
5. Super Meat Boy
While the Super Mario Galaxy games continue to take 3D platforming to incredible new heights, Super Meat Boy (and to a lesser extent the excellent Donkey Kong Country Returns) demonstrated that with excellent controls and great level design, side-scrolling 2D platformers can be as exciting today as they were when the original Super Mario Bros. burst onto the scene 25 years ago. Super Meat Boy may treat me real bad, but it always feel so good. (Van here in the office got the achievement for 100% completion. He's my hero.)
4. Super Mario Galaxy 2
When the last decade came to a close and I wrote about my favorite games of the 00's, this is what I said about the original Super Mario Galaxy:
"Super Mario Galaxy is as close as any game has come to perfection for me this decade. It's an absolutely incredible achievement, feeling both like a natural extension of the series' roots, and a totally fresh, at times exhilaratingly innovative experience. The level designs are nothing short of brilliant, and the music, visuals and gameplay frequently combined to foster a sense of ebullient joy in me akin to what I might feel at the most inspired moments of a great Pixar or Miyazaki film."
Super Mario Galaxy 2 delivers more of all the things that made the original Super Mario Galaxy one of my favorite games of the 00's. It's amazing to me that the geniuses behind Galaxy had enough brilliant ideas to fill not one but two games with this magic.
3. Mass Effect 2
The first Mass Effect seemed to have all the necessary components to be the ultimate "You are the starship captain of your dreams" role-playing game: a richly developed sci-fi universe, a crisis that places all of said universe in jeopardy, and you, as a bad-ass starship captain of your own making, on a mission to save that universe. But while I enjoyed Mass Effect well enough, the pieces just didn't come together for me in an entirely satisfying way. Mass Effect 2, on the other hand, is the sci-fi fantasy fulfillment game of my dreams. With excellent pacing, a terrific ragtag crew to organize for a desperate suicide mission, exciting combat that incorporates shooting and wonderfully fun Jedi-style abilities, a wide range of gorgeous and atmospheric worlds to visit, and the chain-smoking, eerily Martin Sheen-like Illusive Man chiming in from time to time, I became thoroughly caught up in Bioware's space saga. I'm positively desperate to play the next chapter when it releases later this year, though the pain of waiting for that sequel has been mitigated a bit by the excellent downloadable add-ons that have been released, giving me a great excuse to return to the deck of the Normandy and seek out new adventures.
For my money, easily the best pure action game of the year. The combat here is exceptional, striking a perfect balance between accessibility and depth--it rewards skill and good timing but doesn't force you to memorize lots of complex combos before you can start kicking major ass. The game's eponymous heroine is a phenomenal addition to the realm of video game stars. Sure, some aspects of Bayonetta's exhibitionistic behavior and often literally in-your-face sexuality struck me as perhaps pandering to certain segments of the audience, but she's so strong and confident and draws so much power from her identity that I was often too caught up in the nonstop, over-the-top style and energy of the game to care. Nods to Sega's arcade history via gameplay references and musical references to games like Hang-On, Outrun and Afterburner were a constant source of delight for me. Far from a straightforward action game, the levels often play with gravity and perspective in inspired ways that seem to owe something to Super Mario Galaxy. And in a game that's all about connections between Earth, purgatory, hell and heaven, it's appropriate that the ending is an audacious and spectacular affair that truly felt to me like a transcendent religious experience.
1. Red Dead Redemption
(WARNING: I discuss the story and ending in detail. Only read this section if you have already finished the game or don't care about having it spoiled for you.)
For me, the best game of 2010, and the game with what is in my opinion the best story ever told in a game. (I could go on about the thrilling and diverse gameplay, but in the interests of keeping this from becoming too terribly long, I want to focus on the story here.) Of course, this is nothing new for me. Before RDR came along, I would have said that Rockstar's outstanding GTA IV had the best story told in a game. But with Red Dead Redemption, they've outdone themselves. Here we have dialogue that communicates a richness, depth and complexity of character unseen in any games and even many films. In John Marston's struggle to leave his outlaw past behind him and make a new, peaceful life with his family, we have a sympathetic goal that we yearn to see come true, even though we are often given clues that there's no escaping the things he's done, and that his dream will never become a reality. People often describe the end of the game as satisfying, and it is immensely satisfying, but it is also tragic, for we see John's son Jack taking up the outlaw mantle of his father to exact revenge on the man most responsible for his death, and in that moment we know that all of John's hopes for a more peaceful life for his son have come to naught. Violence breeds violence, both on the personal scale and the national scale, as Red Dead suggests via its glimpses of a revolution in Mexico and in the treachery of the government men whose promises to John of a chance to make a new life with his family prove to be empty. (This theme of prices that need to be paid is common in Westerns. If you see the Coen Brothers' fine new Western, True Grit, you'll see that in the end, the main character's revenge comes at a cost. If you haven't seen it, you should, if for no other reason than there's a man wearing a bear suit in it.) The storytelling in Red Dead is often subtle and insightful. There's a moment, for instance, when we see Bonnie sadly kick some dirt as John Marston rides away, and this one small moment communicates volumes about how she feels for him, all the things she never said. Generally speaking, games just don't have this kind of observational storytelling.
I also adore Red Dead's use of music, particularly the way that, when you first cross into Mexico, a song plays that could not possibly accompany the visuals more perfectly. Riding into that stark new landscape while "Far Away" played was simply a shivers-down-the-spine moment of beauty on a level games rarely deliver.
Red Dead Redemption is an unparalleled achievement, both intimate and tremendous in scope, and it's my favorite game of 2010.
Extremely honorable mention: Pac-Man CE DX
Pac-Man and I go way, way back. What astounds me is the way that, in recent years, the Pac-Man formula has been shifted in ways to make the original arcade blockbuster irresistibly addictive all over again. I thought I'd permanently recovered from my full-blown case of Pac-Man Fever way back in 1984, but I've caught a bad case of it all over again, and I couldn't be happier. There's something amazing about turning off the lights, turning up the music, and losing myself in the neon, dance-club visuals of Pac-Man CE DX, a game that forces you to react instantaneously, with no time to think--only to experience the moment. (Tom may be kicking my ass right now, but this battle isn't over.)
Best racing game: Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
High-speed, high-impact car chases. Criterion got some Burnout in my Need for Speed, and I love it!
Special Jury Prize: World of Warcraft
I played a lot of World of Warcraft when it launched, and it was a great social experience, but I found it hard to get invested in the game as a game rather than as a diverting thing to do while chatting with friends. That's primarily because I like to feel as if I'm having a lasting impact on a world as I play a role-playing game, and in WoW, you had no impact whatsoever. You would kill an evil gnoll chieftain or a powerful demon of the netherworld, only to have these baddies respawn a few minutes after your victory so that the next group of intrepid adventurers could defeat them, too. In a sense, WoW was literally a game I was playing for little other reason than it's what everyone else was playing.
Now, in the wake of last year's "The Shattering" patch, World of Warcraft makes frequent use of "phasing" to make the world around you change dramatically as a result of your actions. This has made a huge difference for me, making me feel more invested in my character and the world. I actually enjoy WoW as a game now and not just as an attractive and addictive chat room. And seeing this phasing technology work in WoW gives me hope that this year's The Old Republic *might* actually manage to be an MMO whose story makes me feel invested in that world, which is something I once was skeptical would ever happen.
Game I most wanted to love but just drives me crazy every time I think about it: Heavy Rain
I absolutely adore what Heavy Rain tries to do. I think its ambitions are thrilling, and that it comes so very close to delivering the immersive, interactive story experience it sets out to deliver. Moment to moment, when you're not thinking about the big picture, each individual scene is exciting on its own. But for me, that only makes its massive issues all the more glaring. There's nothing holding these scenes together, and when you devote even the slightest bit of analysis to the story, it completely falls apart like a house of cards. No, seriously, what the hell is up with stuff like Ethan blacking out AND THEN WAKING UP WITH ORIGAMI IN HIS HANDS?! There are so many massive things that the game makes no effort to explain. I think with a little more work on the plot, Heavy Rain could have been something really special, and I admire it for blazing new ground and telling a new kind of interactive tale. I just hope that someone takes this idea and actually uses it to tell a *good* story next time.
Best game I played just because it had something to do with TRON: TRON: Evolution
Yep, I totally played this game.
@carolynmichelle; I am a big fan of all Mass Effect games and I was taken by surprise with Bayonetta I love this game. As for Heavy Rain I am thinking of getting it. Also on Red Dead Redemption I tried it but I did not give it enough time. So maybe after I finish Bayonetta & Alan Wake I will give it a retry. Take Care Mayra
@_Junkie_ So I'm not out on a limb here--though even if I were the only one who felt this way, I would stick to my guns about it. (Giant Bomb and GameSpot both awarded Red Dead with the Best Story of 2010, and I am sure others agree.)
You see characters who are cliched beyond belief. I won't argue that a character like Irish isn't a cliche, but I think he's a cliche of a sort you often see in Westerns, and Red Dead is certainly trying to evoke the essence of classic Western storytelling here. I also think that characters like John, Bonnie, Jack and many others are more relatable and fascinating than those in almost any other game.
What you see as a weakness in the story--the shifting gears after Bill Williamson--I see as a strength. This is a long, epic tale. This creates an emotional investment in hunting down Williamson in the early chapters, and when you finally get him, you feel like you've really accomplished something. Then you realize that this has only been one part of your journey, that Marston is not nearly out of the woods yet, and it suggests that probably, he never will be.
Again, you're totally welcome to your opinion. But it is not "far fetched" to suggest that Red Dead has the greatest story told in a game. It is just a different opinion from yours. It's up to you, of course, but again I'll just politely ask that if commenting in my blog, you do so in ways that aren't so dismissive of those who hold a different viewpoint. Thanks.
@_Junkie_ I'm not alone. Here's what Giant Bomb's Brad Shoemaker said, for instance, in his video about his ten best games of the year, which you can find [url=http://www.giantbomb.com/game-of-the-year-2010-brads-top-10/17-3644/]here[/url]. (Red Dead is his number one game of 2010, by the way.)
"Before this year, I looked at Rockstar and I saw the best writing and the most relatable characters in the video game industry, wrapped up in average, slightly clunky action games. Red Dead Redemption changed all that, preserving those best-in-class narrative aspects, and marrying them to a stunning Wild West landscape and satisfying, rootin', tootin' shootin' action that I never got tired of. The word "masterpiece" is not one to throw around lightly, but that's exactly how I'll remember the deeply personal and tragic tale of John Marston. It's simply one of the best games in years."
Does Brad explicitly state that he thinks it has the best story ever? No, but considering that he does say that Rockstar has the best writing and characters in the business, that Red Dead has those "best-in-class narrative aspects," that the game is a "masterpiece" that tells a "deeply personal and tragic tale," I think it's safe to conclude that he thinks it's one of the absolute best stories in a game ever. (Or is thinking it's the second best, or third best story in a game that much more reasonable to you than thinking it's the best?)
@carolynmichelle It isn't the fact that you said it had a good story, but the fact that you said it had the BEST story. Every character is 2-dimensional and cliched beyond belief. The antagonist of the story switches around so much, I began to lose track. Why was the narrative so focused on Bill Williamson, right up until you kill him? It is like the game does an entire 180 out of nowhere. By the way, I have yet to see anybody make a claim as far fetched as RDR having "The best story in a video game" as you have.
@wiserat4 Yeah, that's what David Cage said. But the thing is, with a Macguffin, the substance of what it is doesn't matter. For instance, it doesn't really matter what's in the suitcase in Pulp Fiction. People can argue about it--create theories that it's this or that--but in the end, whether any of those are right or wrong doesn't really matter.
The problem with the issues in Heavy Rain is that the truth behind them matters very, very much to the substance of the story. Imagine that in a movie, we see the hero die, and then in a later scene, without any explanation whatsoever, he's totally alive again. "Wait," we would say, "how the hell did that happen?"
And we can say "How the hell did that happen?" about the stuff in Heavy Rain, too. (You cannot say "How the hell did that happen?" about the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. It is an important object, not an inexplicable event. That is a true Macguffin.) The Heavy Rain situations, if you ask me, are plot holes, not Macguffins.
I know you don't like the cliff hangers in Heavy Rain, such as the unexplained origami incident, but in my book that's what makes such stories so special. Alfred Hitchcock would have called it a "macguffin." It's simply a techinic that drives the story. Quentin Tarantino used a "macguffin" in Pulp Fiction as well. If Hitchcock and Tarantina could do it with their masterpieces, then so can Heavy Rain. That's the way I see it.
@_Junkie_ I know, right? What am I and everyone else who thinks that game has an absolutely amazing story thinking? We must all be insane to have a different opinion than you do. (You're welcome to dislike the game's story, of course, and I respect that, but you might try stating your opinions in ways that aren't dismissive to those who disagree. At least when you're commenting on my blog, I'd appreciate it.)
Red Dead Redemption? Best story in a video game? I had to read that several times to decipher if there was some sort sarcasm in the post that I missed. Nope. You were being entirely serious. That's a real shame.
@Starduke I've used spoiler tags here because I again mention major details of Red Dead's ending. [spoiler] Sometimes in books, films, and television, the central character, the character we've most grown to identify with and care about, has to die to give the story the impact or meaning it needs. Hamlet would not be a great play, for instance, if at the end, Hamlet lived happily ever after. She is not the central character, but in FF VII, Aeris, a character the player has presumably grown attached to, needs to die--it makes you all the more motivated to defeat Sephiroth. Red Dead Redemption is the same way. The whole story is about the effects of violence, about a man trying (and failing) to escape from all the bad things he's done. I understand that it might be kind of a bummer, and that it doesn't sound like a game you want to play. That's totally legitimate. But if it didn't end the way it did, Red Dead would have been way less meaningful and powerful. It's the ending that story needed to have. (Incidentally, he dies sacrificing himself so that his wife and son can escape.) [/spoiler] I'm not trying to argue with you; I think I understand where you're coming from. But there was a reason they did what they did and why the story ends the way it does. Not every story can or should have a happy ending.
I'm sorry, but I have a problem with wasting hours playing a game, and then having the character I was playing as die at the end. I've spent hours and hours keeping that character alive, and then the devs decide to go and kill it off becuase they thought that it would be a good ending. At least in some games, I'm not going to mention which ones, there are multiple endings, I could decide not to have my character die at the end.
@starduke Lame? To each their own. I think it's exactly the ending the game's story needed, and probably the best ending I've ever encountered in a game.
This is one time I will thank some one for having a spoiler. RD2's ending is so LAME! So, thank you for spoiling it for me, becuase now I know it has an ending I won't like at all, and now I won't bother playing it.
yo the bestes games ever ar gta 4....... mafia 1..... godfather 1and 2 thumbs up for mafia 1 :) but ay got a psp not a ps3 a psp ay whant a game like mafia pls respond !!! the game name for psp remember ay ned a game like gta or mafia tenks pls respond ooo and good work man !
RDR really gives Rockstar new cred beyond "let's shock people with GTA violence". And I'm hoping (and really expecting) LA Noire continues that trend. I have to get back to it since I downloaded Undead Nightmare the day it was on holiday sale. I had hoped to buy Bayonetta with a gift card to Best Buy, but it was sold out and inFamous got my money instead. It's still on my wish list.
I should really start playing RDR again. I guess I'm missing something special by not doing so.:D The only complaint I had about ME 2 is that lots of RPG elements (customizing your character and team members) were lost in it, they simplified it a bit too much in my opinion. GT5 or no GT5, for me NFS : Hot Pursuit was the best racing game in 2010.
BOOoooOOO LAME!! :P Just kidding. Heheheh, I would substitute No 2 with number 1, but damn, both are still awesome games. And I loved that music too in RDR too, really gives me that awesome feeling of a lone cowboy in a unfamiliar land.
Before clicking the link to get to your blog, I had expected that Pac-Man Championship DX might be in your list.
@wiserat4 Here's a blog our community manager wrote about the User Soapbox. It's a few years old but the info is still accurate. http://www.gamespot.com/users/JodyR/show_blog_entry.php?topic_id=m-100-25704146&tag=all-about;blog1
How do I post something on soapbox? Where do I click to mention my favorite games of 2010? Please help me, thanks.
I really enjoyed all five of those games. Heavy Rain was my biggest disappointment of the year and now that I see so many people praise its characters and writing it is the only game I have played that is starting to make me sick whenever I see people talk about it. Before I began to want to bash my head against the wall every time people say what an excellent writer David Cage is, I liked the story when I took it as a comedy.
Wow, this is a really great top 5 game lists! I'm so glad to see Bayonetta in there. Over the last week I've been reading lots of top 10, top 5 games of this year on this site and a couple others, and this is only the third time I've seen Bayonetta on a list. I really love that game if you couldn't tell. :P I'm also glad to know I'm not the only one who noticed the Bonnie thing in Red Dead. I don't think anyone else I know really noticed that part, and thought anything of it. I It originally made me think the story of that game was going to go in a different direction with Marston. Made me think of how incredible the story and the story telling is that game.