Thursday, January 20, 2011

Top Ten Games of 2010

A friend of mine told me that, as a holiday activity, he and his college-age sons were discussing their choices for top music of the year. A sort of top ten for 2010. Knowing that we play a lot, he suggested that I do the same with my sons with regards to video games. It sounded like a good idea, so we tried it.

The first thing we agreed upon was that we didn't have ten top games. In fact, we could only name three. There are several reasons for this:

  • I personally don't get a lot of time to play, so when I do play we tend to play games we can play together. Fewer and fewer modern console games support split-screen multi-player. So we tend to play older games.
  • A lot of the "big" games this year were sequels (Uncharted 2, Assassin's Creed 2, Call of Duty I-lost-count, etc.). As good as these games are, they tend to be more of the same. Not really top ten material.
  • Most of our time is spent playing games that we've been playing for a year or more. When we think of our favorite games, they are often two or more years old. They may be top ten for our year of gaming, but not valid candidates as recent releases.
So we quickly realized we had not one, but three lists: a short list of top games for 2010, our actual favorite games for playing, and those games we are looking forward to for 2011. So let's start with...

Top Games for 2010

  • Red Dead Redemption (PS3/Xbox360)
  • Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (PSP)
  • Monster Hunter Tri (Wii)
Red Dead Redemption is clearly one of the best games of 2010. Massive, graphically beautiful, and engrossing game play/story line. No, it is not "art" or an interactive novel (despite side quests, the missions are relatively linear). If there are any negatives to the game it would be that once you are through the missions, there isn't much else to do.

I didn't play Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. But my sons did. Obsessively. For two weeks straight. It seems to be the best and most complete example of a 3D action/strategy game on a handheld device. Mind you, probably best played co-op with a friend. (Rumor has it some levels are almost too tough in single-playermode.)

Best and most complete example of a 3D action/strategy game on a handheld device except for Monster Hunter Freedom 2 on the PSP, which we have been playing continuously for over a year now. But this is an example of the games we play and the best of the year not being in sync. Monster Hunter came out more than two years ago. It is probably still the best 3D action/strategy on a handheld device. But for 2010, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker outshines anything else.

Finally, Monster Hunter Tri. Perhaps not quite as good as Freedom 2, but that's splitting hairs. Tri is definitely better as a single player experience and no other game even comes close to it in style of play or game experience on the Wii.

So those are the top three. There were two others we considered adding to the list:

  • Little Big Planet (PSP)
  • Picross 3D (DS)
We originally thought we had four top games for 2010, because LittleBigPlanet on the PSP is an amazing game. Sure, it is a "downsizing" of Little Big Planet on the PS3. But LBP on the PS3 is such a good game (close to Super Mario 64 and Shadow of the Colossus in terms of best video game ever and reason enough, by itself, to recommend buying a PS3) that a portable version, even without co-op play,  is an amazing game. Problem is, it actually came out at the end of 2009, not the beginning of 2010 as we thought. Sigh.

I also wanted to add Picross 3D. It doesn't have amazing graphics. It doesn't have terribly innovative game play. And, yes, it too is a sequel. But as puzzle games go, it is about as complete an example as you can find; where the music, the game play, the meaningless-though-entertaining animations add up to an addictive experience. But my sons wouldn't agree to adding it to the list. So let's call it a runner up. (While they're not looking!)

That's it for top games of the year. But what are we actually playing?

Favorite Games (What We Actually Play)

Hands down, the games we play the most are LittleBigPlanet on the PS3 and Monster Hunter Freedom 2 on the PSP. As mentioned before, I believe LBP is a candidate for one of the best video games ever. And Monster Hunter is an enthralling, addictive, immersive experience, once you get into it. Mind you, it takes some doing (several hours) before you get hooked. Which might explain why it hasn't caught on in the US yet.

The fact that both games came out more than two years ago (three for Monster Hunter) and we are still playing them gives you some indication of how good we think they are.

After that, comes a slew of games we played and enjoyed: Scribblenauts, Hammerin' Hero, Assassin's Creed, Uncharted 1 and 2, Super Mario Bros. Wii... The list gets longer every time we think about it. But quite frankly, it tends to be an amorphous bundle of fond memories. Each game with its pros and cons, but few that stand out against the few I've already mentioned -- or other spectacular games from the past we haven't played recently (such as Katamari Damacy).

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