Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Favorite Games of 2010

I originally typed "1010." I guess my favorite game of 1010 would involve some use of the rotary grindstone, or a strategy game based on the Battle of Mortlach.

This last year was a tough year for me, gaming-wise. I think it ranks among my most disappointing gaming years ever, and I'm not sure it was the games.

I think it might have been me.

My patience for games has diminished. I'm no longer willing to play for hours to get to the point where a game is fun, or play a dozen bad games to find one diamond in the rough.

However, even in a year where I didn't feel as involved in gaming as I normally have been, there were still highlights, and I will share them with you here.

I named this post "Favorite Games", not "Best Games", because opinions are incredibly subjective, and I would never claim otherwise. And please note: I still haven't played Minecraft.

#11 Backbreaker (360)
An absolutely phenomenal animation system, an innovative approach to in-game perspective, and bright, bold colors made this an amazing game to see. It was, unfortunately, not as much fun to play--at least, until the "Greathouse" patch took care of many of the problems. What didn't get fixed: two-minute A.I., which is always one of my pet peeves. Still, this game was a hell of a lot more fun than Madden or NCAA, and mods are available that incorporate NFL uniforms, team names, and logos. Yes, it's a little disappointing, because this could have been the best football game ever made, but what we did get still deserves mention.

#10 Dwarf Fortress (PC)
This game will always be in my top ten favorite games list as long as Tarn and Zach are still working on it. It's a convoluted wonder.

#9 Heavy Rain (PS3)
Heavy Rain is hard to describe, because it was both delicate and ham-handed, soaring and ridiculous. I thought it was a very compelling story, though--even tremendously moving at times--and the gameplay worked well enough to sustain the narrative.

#8 Mafia II (PC)
It's hard to stop focusing on what this game should have been, because I think it was well on its way to being one of the best games ever made before its content was gutted. Still, it's a mostly brilliant story, the game world is beautiful, and damn, the voice acting is sensational.

#7 Mystery Indie Game (PC)
A DQ reader let me play a work-in-progress last year, and even though it's still not finished, it's an absolutely terrific game, combining Puzzle Quest-type gameplay with rogue elements. If it was finished, it would have made the top three, easily. I thought it was incredibly entertaining and utterly addictive, so the onus is on you, J.L., to finish it this year.

#6 Game Dev Story (Android)
This game saved my life during our trip to The City Who Must Not Be Named, because I played it compulsively (thanks to a tip from my friend John Harwood). You're running a game studio, basically, but without most of the trauma. "So you're playing a game about making games," Gloria said. "Isn't that a bit meta?" Yes, it is, but it was also damn fine fun--it's cute, it's funny, and it's interesting.

#5 NHL 11 (360)
This is the best sports game today, and Eli 9.5 and I share a player in Be-A-Pro mode. The atmosphere, the animation, the simulation elements--it entirely outclasses anything else out there, and it's light years ahead of any other sports "sim" EA makes. A wonderful, wonderful game.

#4 Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
Impeccable, and with outstanding co-op play, SMG2 was a worthy sequel to one of the best games I've ever played (the original SMG). Beautiful and silly and charming in equal measures, this game just didn't have any faults.

#3 NFL Training Camp (Wii)
It's a workout program, technically, not a game, but man, it's great. GREAT. On the highest difficulty setting, it's incredibly challenging, and surprisingly, the NFL atmosphere really contributes to the game. Plus, the difficulty ramping as you progress through workouts is excellent.

Yes, I know what you're thinking: there's no way this could be difficult. Well, I've almost reached the end of Phase 2 (40 days) of the 60-Day Challenge, and during the course of a 40-minute workout earlier this week, I wound up doing 95 squat jumps over the course of five sets. And four full minutes of foot fires. And lots of other things. My legs felt like cement when I was done.

Seriously, this is my favorite workout program.

#2 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors (DS)
This is one of the most interesting games I've ever played in a narrative sense. And I'm not going to give you any details that qualify as spoilers, but I will say that the narrative is like an onion, with layer after layer peeling away as you play. I was genuinely shocked and regretful at times.

The translation is bumpy at times, but this is an incredibly compelling, forceful game that manages to sustain a constant undercurrent of tension.

#1 Just Cause 2 (PC)
There was just no doubt that this game would top the list. I played it for over 65 hours, and from moment to moment, there was just so much fun. It was an open-world destruction simulator, really, with absolutely superb play mechanics. I've never had so much fun blowing things up.

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