After conferring with several serious gamers, here is our list for the “Top 10” games for 2008. This list is in no particular order other than alphabetical. This qualifications for a title to be part of this list was that it had to have had sales of at least 250 000 units in the Americas on at least one single system (according to sales website http://vgchartz.com) through Dec. 13, 2008. This means that a couple of notable titles such as No More Heroes and Patapon were not even considered. Considering the critical reception for each game, if they were not able to make it past 200k units in the several months that they had, then is should be assumed that the general public did not care for these games (for the record, Patapon had a February release and No More Heroes almost had a full year with a January 2008 release). This list is about the Top 10 games that everyone enjoyed, not just the critics. Speaking of which, here’s the list:
Dead Space – Electronics Arts (Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC)
While not making the new Madden or Need for Speed game, someone at EA actually developed an original idea. Ok, so the game feels like a mix between Metroid and Resident Evil but when you have a game that plays well and feels very polished, you have a winner. Dead Space will no doubt be another franchise for EA to milk, which may not be a bad thing considering that Dead Space was one of the most engrossing titles of the year. People are already frothing at the mouth for a Dead Space 2.
Fable 2 – Microsoft (Xbox 360)
Microsoft’s answer to the RPG incorporates some of the best elements of games like Final Fantasy and Legend of Zelda. Fable 2 is a game in which people who hate RPGs enjoy because it doesn’t feel tedious. It also works for people who hate action games because each big decision you make decides your fate later on. This game did not receive the amount of hype that Gears of War 2 did but it delivered plenty to gamers.
Fallout 3 – Bethesda (Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC)
While to the unenlightened, some may think this is Bioshock 2 but Fallout has been around for ages. Now from a first-person shooter perspective, the game feels more real than any other shooter prior to it. Everything you do has a consequence. Weapons fall apart over time just from wear and tear. It’s the little things that make the most difference. Fallout 3 is a great game because every time you play it can be a different experience.
Gears of War 2 – Microsoft (Xbox 360)
Microsoft is becoming well known for their shooters; and not just because of all the money they throw down on advertising their products. Gears of War 2 is an incredible shooter with one of the grittiest storylines in gaming. Combined with a strong online community has made Gears of War 2 a staple for the Xbox 360. This game shows that Microsoft’s machine is more than a Halo 3 player.
Grand Theft Auto 4 – Rockstar (Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC)
While some may criticize Rockstar for doing nothing more to GTA IV than polishing up the graphics, they are missing the point. While there may not be anything revolutionary about GTA IV, everything about the previous games is bigger and better in this game. The graphics are much nicer and the gameplay options are larger. Players are sinking more and more time into the side quests and minigames because they have become so much detail has been put into making Liberty City a fully functional city with a bunch of microchips. Grand Theft Auto revolutionized sandbox gameplay and with it’s fourth iteration, it shows just how large that sandbox can be.
Little Big Planet – Sony (Playstation 3)
No matter how badly Sony tried to screw up the launch of Little Big Planet, this game was so good that people ignored all the garbage surrounding this release. It’s the next big step in 2D (or 2.5D if you want to call it that) platform gaming. With an extremely smart physics engine and an adorable fully-customizable mascot, both math freaks and little girls are falling in love with Sackboy. Sony gave players the option to design their own levels which people have been dreaming of since they first played Super Mario Bros. Unlike other create-a-level gimmicks (cough, Smash Bros., cough) there really is no limit to what one can design for Little Big Planet other than the limitations of one’s own imagination.
Mario Kart Wii – Nintendo (Wii)
Jack of all trades, master of none. While it is not the tightest racer of the series nor does it have the best tracks, Mario Kart Wii seems to have taken everything that has worked in the previous games and put them together in a strong package. Sure the battle mode feels watered down but it’s still a lot of fun to play with 3 friends with a lot of “you’re so lucky you didn’t get hit by my red shell” moments. Nintendo finally made an online game that works on the Wii and is still a blast to play over half-a-year after it’s release. The inclusion of motorbikes to the series kind of makes the “Kart” part of the title seem awkward but now we’re just nitpicking. Mario Kart is one of the few games that can be played with friends at your house or online and by people of all ages of all walks of life that puts a smile on everyone’s face. A rarity in this industry.
Mega Man 9 – Capcom (Wii, Xbox 360, Playstation 3)
Capcom’s decision to create a new Mega Man game did not raise any eyebrows initially because Capcom seems to release Mega Man games almost every week. When it was revealed though that Mega Man 9 would be using an 8-bit engine similar to earlier Mega Man games for the original Nintendo, children of the 80s began to salivate. When it finally did release, gamers were not disappointed as the graphics looked just as good as they did back then (which means they look horrible by today’s standards). Everything is intact from the original Mega Man games: the interesting bosses, the incredible music, and the irritating level difficulty. Mega Man 9 made us remember just how great gaming was when we had to blow into our game cartridges to make them work.
Metal Gear Solid 4 – Sony (Playstation 3)
What may or may not be the final game in the Metal Gear Solid series, it did it’s best to pay tribute to the entire series by looking back at the previous games and incorporating them into the gameplay and story of this installment. It might be the best looking game of the year as Sony took advantage of the capabilities of the Cell processor. This series changed the concept of gaming from getting your character from point A to point B to become part of telling the story. The line between playing the game and being part of the game was blurred as MGS4 felt like a cinematic experience.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)
This title could have been very bad. Originally slated for the launch of the Wii, it’s release was pushed back over a year. Fanboys were ready to riot at Nintendo’s offices when rumours circulated that online play might be removed. It wasn’t and when Nintendo’s mascot fighter was finally released people mobbed videogame stores only to seclude themselves in their basements for weeks afterwards trying to unlock every last thing that this game had to offer. The numerous amount of creative stages this game had to offer was complemented by the roster of characters this game had to offer (Sonic the Hedgehog and Solid Snake in a Nintendo-fighter?). The game even offered a create-a-stage editor that, while limited, has still offered the creative types out there to create some interesting works. Like GTA IV, Smash Bros. doesn’t offer much new stuff in terms of gameplay mechanics but takes what has worked well for the series and improved upon it.
Notice an interesting trend? Eight out of the ten games on this list are sequels. There were a couple of original titles that came short but when it comes down to it, we seem to be more comfortable with titles we know than dedicate time to something that may feel foreign to us.
While it’s nice to look back at the titles that we enjoyed this past year, there were also titles that disappointed as well. There were titles that did not live up to the hype or just had so much potential but played horribly. This title though was a very good game but did horribly at retail.
The Most Disappointing Title of the Year
Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds – Sony (Playstation 3)
Hot Shots Golf is probably the best golf series that doesn’t have Mario or Tiger in the title. The games offer an easy golfing experience on a video game console with the emphasis being on fun. Out of Bounds continues this tradition with stunning graphics and improved online play and downloadable content. Not only was this game solid but it was one of the best in the entire series. It did well with critics and Sony gave a decent advertising push. Even with all that it was going for it, it has yet to break sales of 200 000 units in the Americas in 9 months of release.
There are a couple of reasons that could be argued for its poor sales. One argument that can’t be used is that sales have suffered because of Sony’s poor showing overall with the Playstation 3. Even though they’re sitting third in the console race, Sony has still managed to sell over 7 million consoles in North America. With those numbers, Hot Shots Golf should have hit half a million units. Maybe the game just doesn’t work with the main demographic of the system’s install base (mostly males 18-34). It’s cartoony and most likely would have done better if put on Nintendo’s kid-friendly console. Or maybe golf as a whole doesn’t work on the Playstation 3 as a whole because the Tiger Woods series isn’t faring too much better.
It’s disappointing because people have forgotten about this title. While No More Heroes and Patapon continue to get a lot of hype and publicity for their interesting gameplay, people are still balking at purchasing those two games. Out of Bounds has been completely forgotten by even the critics which is disappointing because it is probably the best casual golf experience this generation of consoles outside of Wii Sports.