It’s the end of the year of an old year and a beginning of a new one. After getting together with a bunch of gamers (both hardcore and casual), here’s our list for the “Top 10” games of 2009. The list is only in alphabetical order so don’t get feisty because Assassin’s Creed 2 is at the top and Uncharted 2 is at the bottom. The 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. 19, 2008. The reasoning for titles to be excluded under 250k in sales is that even that critics might love a game but if a game isn’t well received by the mass market, then it’s hard to call it a top game (which hurt a lot of Wii games since there were several people who voted for this list who wanted to vote for games like Silent Hill: Scattered Memories and Madworld). This list is about the Top 10 games that everyone enjoyed, not just the critics.
Like the list? Hate it? Leave a comment because no list is perfect and any discussion is welcome.
Assassin’s Creed 2 – Ubisoft (PS3, Xbox 360)
Rarely do video game companies actually take criticism well. The original Assassin’s Creed sold well but the sales weren’t attributed to high praise; most came from the advertising blitz Ubisoft unleashed upon the world. Many gamers did not know what they were getting themselves into. The gameplay was repetitive and, while it wasn’t bad, it could have been better. To Ubisoft’s credit, they could have easily thrown all the complaints into the garbage and gone back to counting all the money they made with the original game. They didn’t and every problem that plagued the original was addressed in this year’s sequel. Assassin’s Creed 2 took what many imagined the original should have been and made it a reality. Being a stealthy assassin was no longer a labourious task. Sure, there is still room to improve but while we’re waiting for the third game, we’re having a blast with this year’s version.
Batman: Arkham Asylum – Eidos & Warner Bros. (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
Most beat-em-ups are fun games to play. It’s a hard genre to screw up. Coming out of this year’s E3, the jury was still out on Batman: Arkham Asylum. It was a Batman beat-em-up which we’ve already seen before. It didn’t help that there was already a pretty good comic brawler on the market with Marvel: Ultimate Alliance which had improved on the genre by offering RPG elements. Maybe it’s because E3 wasn’t exactly the best place to show off some of the features outside of brawling like the puzzles and the psychological elements, but people who wrote off the game after E3 were blown away when they got the final product in their hands. Much like the Christian Bale Batman movies, it feels as if the series has been refreshed.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – Activision (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
Here’s the problem with Modern Warfare 2; it really hasn’t improved all that much since the original game. The thing, though, is that the original Modern Warfare was so greatly superior to other FPS on the market that Activision could have released five Modern Warfare clones this year and they all probably would have made this list. The single-player campaign mode is very short but has a really engaging story and the controls are incredible. It’s one of the most immersive FPS games available. The real reason people buy the game is because of the stellar multi-player. New maps and tons of customizable options bring back players addicted to the first. Creativity and intense action bring in new players. Add all that up and you have one of the most popular multiplayer games for years to come.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars – Rockstar (DS version)
Rockstar has been apprehensive about releasing games on the Nintendo platforms. It was a bit perplexing that Rockstar was planning on releasing a Grand Theft Auto game on the kid friendly, senior approved Nintendo DS. The series had met success with two PSP releases but the DS is vastly underpowered compared to the PSP. Rockstar had some clever tricks up their sleeve by bringing the series back to an overhead-perspective and offering cel-shaded graphics to give everything a graphic-novel look to it. It worked way better than most expected. The game also feels more complete than even some of the console games as some of the more senseless mini-games have been replaced by some interesting features such as a drug-trading game which is more fun than it should be and other side quests. The touch-screen elements are also creative and make the game feel more real as now the player is forced to hot-wire cars and disarm security systems instead of these things magically doing themselves (which is why the DS version is better than the PSP version that was released months afterwards). While the DS version did not sell millions of copies, it did sell well enough to make Rockstar money which means we can have hope that there will be a sequel.
InFamous – SCEA (PSP)
Open world and sandbox games are becoming more common each year. InFamous breaks away enough from the formula to feel fresh. It’s one of the few games where the story actually matters since you need to complete objectives to learn more about the story and what has happened in the game’s world. It’s also a blast to play and has many of the elements of several of the games on this list. It may not exactly feel completely original but it takes a lot of elements that are a lot of fun in games and puts it together: platforming, role-playing characteristics, and moral dilemmas, among other things. Some may argue that Sony tried throwing everything but the kitchen sink around the wall to see what sticks but a lot stuck; and furthermore, it all works very well.
Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story – Nintendo (DS)
One problem with most RPGs is that they’re slow. The you-hit-me-then-I-hit-you mechanic is lame and many series have evolved from this mode of gameplay. Mario and Luigi series has always been a way of getting new gamers hooked into RPGs. Instead of relying on the famous mascot to sell a billion copies of the game, the game offers some really interesting concepts to stray away from the dull formula. Controlling both brothers at the same time has always made for some clever puzzles. Making battles more interactive by allowing for the brothers to be able to counteract attacks with well-timed button presses makes a lot of sense than inputting commands for the computer to carry out. This version throws Bowser into the mix by having Bowser fight battles on the DS’s top screen with the brothers interacting within King Koopa on the bottom screen by solving puzzles and battling baddies within Bowser’s belly. Even for more advanced gamers, this game is one of the most creative RPGs on the market.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii – Nintendo (Wii)
Nintendo takes delicate care of its major franchises even though it seems Mario is pimped out to any novelty game that the Big N feels they can make money from. When it comes to the traditional platformer, Nintendo only releases a real Mario game every second blue moon. New Super Mario Bros. Wii doesn’t exactly feel fresh and original but the nostalgia trip more than makes up for it. Sure the motion controls feel gimmicky (like most Wii games) and the multiplayer experience, while fun and supposed to be the main attraction, feels rough around the edges. However, the single-player game is a lot of fun and can be incredibly challenging. It’s one of the few games available that can appease a younger audience and still remain such a large experience that older, more experienced gamers will spend hours trying to rescue the princess again.
Resident Evil 5 – Capcom (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
Much like Modern Warfare 2, Resident Evil 5 had large shoes to fill. Resident Evil 4 is considered one of the best games of all time. The game has been released three times on different consoles and has sold a ton of copies each time. To say Resident Evil 5 was highly anticipated would be an understandment. Unlike Modern Warfare 2’s recipe of more of the same, Resident Evil 5 maintained much of the same foundation of RE4 but branched out and tried new things. The main addition was the introduction of co-op play which made the game a two-player experience. While a good idea on paper, it still had some bugs that spoiled the experience for some. However, it’s still a fantastic experience and feels like a worthy successor to RE4. Better graphics and the same solid gameplay make this game one of the best in the series.
Torchlight – Perfect World & Encore (PC)
It’s tough to be a PC gamer at the moment. It used to be that the best experiences were available first on the PC and then they would trickle down to the consoles. Now that consoles rival even the most powerful PC setups in terms of horsepower, PC exclusive releases have dwindled down to a bunch of casual releases and niche titles. Torchlight not only is one of the best PC games of the year but one of the best games overall. It offers excellent action-RPG gameplay that fans of Diablo are sure to more than enjoy. It’s engrossing and engaging. Instead offering mini-games within the adventure to act simply as a diversion, every little thing that you do in the game matters; fishing and side-quests do more than act as a way to add value to the title. Each adventure is different as the maps are randomly created with the start of a new game. It’s a fun PC game that involves more than one screen and doesn’t involve matching three items in a row. We might be a long way away from a PC gaming renaissance but Torchlight might be the torch-bearer.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves – Sony (PS3)
Sony’s crown jewel of 2009 was an excellent adventure. Sony’s ad hit it right on the head when they were saying that onlookers would never know that it’s a video game. It feels like an interactive movie. It’s gorgeous, has a good story, lots of action, and deals out intense gameplay. Nathan Drake has become this generation’s Indiana Jones. While the game offers a decent multiplayer option, it’s one of the few games this year that hasn’t focused on it like it’s the sole reason for what most people want in a video game. There’s a reason why Uncharted 2 has found its way into so many people’s homes; it offers one of the most solid single-player experiences not only of this year but this generation of consoles.