Rarely will you find a top 10 list that you fully agree with. Why? Because every top 10 list for movies, games, and anything in the entertainment industry is based on opinion. Rather than saying something like "Call of Duty: Black Ops is the greatest video-game to ever grace the face of the earth," I'm going to list my favorite 11 games of the year - and COD:BO isn't one of them. Before I get started, I have to add that several action-adventure games made the list, and I've never really been a fan of the genre. I guess there were just a boatload of great action titles this year. Also, I haven't yet played Red Dead Redemption, so it won't be appearing on this list. Anyway, let's start with number 11.
11 Red Steel 2 (Wii) – The first Red Steel sucked, so how could its sequel be any good? Well, by ignoring pretty much everything about the first game. Red Steel 2 is a strange yet brilliant combination of the Wild West, Samurai Japan, and sci-fi. It’s an open world game in the same basic style that Borderlands is, although more simplified. I never really finished it, but it’s the perfect game to play every now and then if you feel like slicing up ninjas before shooting them in the face with a classic revolver. Oh yeah, the game makes good use of the Wii Motion Plus too. I strongly recommend you try it out for your Wii if you haven't yet, but skip out on the first.
10 No More Heroes 2 (Wii) – First of all, do not show this game to young children, please. It’s over the top gory, it’s full of colorful language, it has completely pointless partial nudity from both sexes (always covered up with rolls of toilet paper or similar things,) and it’s quite violent. Of course that’s what makes this game so awesome. You play as Travis Touchdown, an assassin whose trying to become the number 1 assassin…again. Don’t ask, the story cannot be taken seriously, but that’s the whole point. Loaded with self-referencing jokes, parodies, and bizarrely entertaining mini-games, No More Heroes 2 has it all. The further you get into the game, the more insanely awesome everything gets. It also makes good use of the Wiimote’s motion control in a subtle way. In other words, this game is full of win. Again, I never finished it, but that's because I enjoy it the same way I enjoy Red Steel 2 - a little bit at a time.
9 God of War 3 (PS3) – Concluding the God of War trilogy with moments that re-define the word "Epic," God of War 3 is brutal. The violence is gorier than ever as you see your enemies' entrails spilling out of their mangled corpses. God of War 3 may have the best graphics engine yet this generation, and the sound is equally impressive. This game was a bit of a disappointment for me however. Not to say it was bad, in fact it was great, but it was a bit too short for its own good. It also lacked the weapon variety that God of War 2 had. God of War 2 gave you a decent assortment of weapons like the chains, a spear, the Olympian blade, and a frickin warhammer . For some reason, God of War 3 only gives you three chain-based weapons and metal boxing gloves. Yes, the chain weapons each act differently, but I liked God of War 2’s versatility better. Still a great game, but not my favorite GOW game and it could have been better.
8 Dante’s Inferno (Xbox 360, PS3, PSP) – It was hard for me to pick between this and God of War 3, but I decided I liked this one a bit better. Yes, God of War 3 had better graphics, yes its gameplay is more polished, and yes it is the more epic game. On the other hand, God of War 3 stars a raging maniac who mercilessly kills thousands of people left right and center. As awesome as some may say he is, he’s completely un-relatable at this point - at least in the first game he still felt human. Dante feels far more human, as he has his flaws and is trying to redeem himself. The story is all about him trying to save his wife from a Hell he unknowingly caused her. Dante’s Inferno also has far more power-up variety, gameplay variety, and you get to fight the devil himself. God of War may be more exciting overall, but Dante’s Inferno is longer and its story is smarter. That's why it just barely beat out God of War 3 on this list - it's not the better game, but I liked it more anyway.
7 Kirby’s Epic Yarn (Wii) – The feel good game of the year. Seriously, this is one of the only games I’ve ever played that always puts me in a good mood after playing it. Sure, there are a number of movies that put me in a good mood no matter what, but it's much harder to do that with a game. It’s a simple platformer with a cute story and plenty of creativity. Kirby is made of string in this game, as is everything in the game world. You cannot lose in the game, however the game isn’t necessarily about winning, but it’s about having a good time. Not for everyone, especially those who only like challenge, but certainly worthy of being mentioned here.
6 Alan Wake (Xbox 360) – It’s a story about a writer, and I write fiction from time to time – ‘nuff said. Ok I was kidding there, but this game’s both fairly original and really good. Alan Wake is a writer who’s trying to rescue his wife from the powers of darkness. Your primary weapon against the darkness is a flashlight. You have to shine the light on your enemies long enough to weaken them, and then you can shoot them with your conventional weapons. Of course, you’ll also find flashbang grenades and flair guns if you need to eliminate your enemies quicker. This is the only game I’ve seen where flashbang grenades can kill four enemies at once, which makes it awesome. The environments are huge and well detailed, and that's the aspect of the game that surprised me the most. You can tell they put lots of time and effort behind the title, and it really shows. It's not perfect, and the combat can get repetitive after a while, but an engaging story and strong atmosphere easily helped me ignore that aspect.
5 Bayonetta (Xbox 360, PS3) – This game is insane. It’s an over the top epic action game that feels like an anime, and although I care nothing about anime, I had a blast here. You play as a female witch and stop the world from being destroyed. The game over sexes the lead character so much that you can’t take her seriously half the time, but it’s hilarious and I’m pretty sure it was intentional. On the flip-side, the story is engaging and makes you care about the main character and her allies. It’s definitely not for the kiddies with its language, partial nudity, gory violence, and more. Objectionable content-wise, it’s fairly similar to No More Heroes 2 except it's probably worse. For more mature gamers, if you can call us gamers mature, this is one of the more exciting games this year and it's very easy to recommend.
4 Halo: Reach (Xbox 360) – I’ve never been a Halo fan, but if all the Halo games were this good I would be. This game takes everything that’s been good about the series and improves it further while fixing most of its problems at the same time. The ending is so well done that even if you know what’s going to happen before hand, it might still bring tears to your eyes. I'm not going to say much about such a high-profile game when so much has been said everywhere else, so I'll just finish this by saying this is my favorite Halo game and my favorite game to play online on occasion. I'm not much of an online gamer as I've always preferred playing with friends or alone through story modes, but I've always enjoyed playing the Halo games for a few quick matches.
Before I get into the top 3, I have a few special mentions to make.
Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond (Xbox Live Arcade, PSN) – Just like the first Eat Lead game from last year, Matt Hazard spoofs the game industry in general. This is by far the stronger game of the two. While the first was quite enjoyable, it was still a mediocre FPS; this game on the other hand is an intense side-scrolling shooter with some rather creative moments. Gotta love their spoof on Bioshock and CANADA! Definitely among the funnier game releases this year – too bad it’s only on Xbox Live arcade and the PSN, but I guess the first game didn’t do well enough to warrant a longer retail release. If you have a PS3 or Xbox360, check it out.
Crackdown 2 – hugely disappointing. It takes place in the exact same city as the first game, only with minor changes. Instead of fighting three different gangs that often fought each other, you fight one united gang. Instead of taking out bosses to weaken the kingpin's defenses, you simply re-take territories in some of the most boring, repetitive objectives I've ever seen. The game uses an obsolete game engine that was never impressive to begin with and somehow makes the game look even worse. The first game didn't look great technically, but it was still visually appealing thanks to the colourful skyline, yet in this game most of the colour is sucked right out, just like all the things that made the first game so much fun. I was extremely disappointed with this game and I feel cheated - play the first Crackdown again and avoid C2 at all costs.
Eternal Darkness (Gamecube) – Very well done survival horror game that I reviewed earlier this year. It’s worth hunting down a gamecube just for this game, seriously. If this came out this year, it would be number 3 on this list.
Tomb Raider: Guardian of Light (Xbox Live Arcade, PSN, PC) – I’ve enjoyed the three previous Tomb Raider games this generation (Legends, Anniversary, and Underworld,) but they were never anything special. This game simplifies the series into an arcade shooter platformer with co-op, and it greatly benefits from this. Certainly among the many great Xbox Live Arcade titles this year.
Goldeneye 007 (Wii) - Not quite good enough for this list, but this game needs mentioning. The Goldeneye remake somehow found a balance between the feel of the original classic and modern shooters. In other words, it feels both classic and fresh, and I never thought they would pull that off. It's been a while since James Bond has had a good game, and it's about time really. Multiplayer is a blast, single player is a well-done update to one of my favorite Bond movies, and it almost makes up for that terrible Quantum of Solace game. If you have a Wii, do yourself a favor and try this game. If you don't, find a way to try it anyway.
3 Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii) – This is up there with the best Mario games in history. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a never ending festival of creativity – creative art design, creative level design, creative challenges, creative everything. There isn’t a single level in this game that isn’t original in one way or another, and everything is fun. It's also more challenging than the first SMG, however it's never too difficult for the younger gamers as long as they don't play the bonus levels after the main story.
2 Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii) – I've already said this in my video review, but I'll say it again - Donkey Kong has returned! As a long time Donkey Kong fan whose felt abandoned since DK64 (and I had my problems with that game too,) I am 100% satisfied with this game. It frequently references the older classics while bringing plenty of new ideas and challenges. It also gets really hard toward the end, and I welcome the challenge. The Kremlings are missing from this title, but you’ll forget about them quickly. Until this game came out, nothing even came close to topping number 1 on this list, but this game was close. This was almost my favorite game of the year, but there’s no shame in loosing to…
1 Mass Effect 2 (Xbox 360, PC, releasing on the PS3 in 2011) – Yeah, if you’ve been reading my blog from the beginning you saw this one coming. Mass Effect 2 is not only my favorite game of this year, but it’s one of my favorite games of all time. It combines everything from my childhood interest in space and Star Wars, shooting with heavy RPG elements, an epic story, and it’s loaded with deep characters and memorable moments with them. It also happens to be the best looking Xbox 360 game as of this writing, and it came out back in January. It’s not the perfect game; the planet scanning can get monotonous and the armor customization - while still pretty good - could be improved. Even so, the overall package is an excellent game that everyone should at least try. It’s good enough that I played through this 40+ hour game three times in one month, and I never do that.Readers behold - my favorite current-generation game.