Before Christmas, the three wise men of the Telegraph video games section decided to write about their own personal top ten games that they liked more than other games in 2010 and put them in a nice list. The idea was that each of us would have our own sounding board to talk about the games we loved. Unfortunately, for various reasons involving an evil wizard and Nick Cowen being sick from eating too much draeworss we were asked to boil it down to one handy list, which can be found here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/video-games/8216904/The-best-video-games-of-2010.html
Some of our own entries made the list anyway, but having written them out I felt the need to dump the rest of them here. For catharsis or whatever. My mortal enemy Ashton Raze did the same over at his blog here: http://www.ashtonraze.com/
So, without further ado here are my own personal choices for 2010 and why I loved them so. It was an awesome year, and 2011 is shaping up to be a belter aswell.
Genius, joyous, insatiably inventive. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the world’s finest game designers let loose, crafting Mario’s intergalactic playgrounds with boundless, endless creativity. At the centre of it all is the plumber himself, as ebullient and delightful to control as ever. Galaxy 2 perfects the platformer over 120 golden stars then when, you think it’s all over, shatters its boundaries over 120 more. For me, it’s almost unfair to crown it my game of the year, because it’s Galaxy 2 … then it’s everything else. Not just my favourite game of this year, but of any year full stop.
2. Mass Effect 2 (Xbox 360, PC)
BioWare’s fabulous space opera sequel is a masterclass in sci-fi world-building, weaving an engaging tale in its meticulously crafted universe. But raising it above and beyond is its characters; a ragtag crew of differing skills and species. It’s not often in video games that you’ll be desperate to get to know your squadmates, but you will here, discovering their fears, motivations and testing their loyalty and dedication. And who can forget Mordin singing Gilbert & Sullivan?
A game that defies scoring, defies even common sense. It has some very real, very pervasive mechanical issues and its wilfully insane themes will absolutely not be to all tastes. But those that fall for Deadly Premonition’s wonderful weirdness fall hard. And Francis York Morgan is, without doubt, the most fascinating video game character in years. While its debt to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks is huge, Deadly Premonition’s story is genuinely complex, disturbing and engaging. The very definition of a cult hit, with a fierce and vocal group of fans that will scream from the rooftops about how you must play this game. I’m one of them.
Bayonetta, like many other games in this list, is genre defining stuff. Its core combat system is unrivalled in terms of depth and complexity for those looking to perfect it, but is built in a way that means even button mashers can pick it up and have fun. The level and enemy design is ever-increasingly bonkers, brilliant and overblown. And then there’s Bayonetta herself, a curious mix of schoolteacher and S&M queen whose catsuit multitasks as clothes, hair and weapon, often leaving our heroine in a state of undress. A boyish fantasy for sure, but it’s telling that even the GMA nominated Lauren Wainwright turned up to share her thoughts: “The game is so ridiculous the sexiness is just a play on it, you couldn’t put any other character in and make it work”. It’s her favourite game of the year.
For all the hype about Heavy Rain and Alan Wake progressing stories in video games this year, Portsmouth-based Climax Studios quietly went about bettering the pair of them with this re-imagining of the original Silent Hill. The story of Harry Mason’s search for his missing daughter in the fog-ridden creepy town is rapier-sharp in and of itself, but it’s in the telling that it really shines. Light on traditional gameplay, Shattered Memories is akin to a ghost walk. Its tale is spun in splintered fragments, subtly altered by your answers in frighteningly intense psychiatrist sessions that break up your search. Its dénouement is startlingly brilliant; pulling the disparate elements together before spinning them on their head.
A fantastic comeback for Nintendo’s hirsute primate. As a big fan of the original SNES titles, it tickled the nostalgia buds to hear the old music cues and hop on the back of Rambi rhino again. But Returns is exponentially more than a trip down memory lane, with gorgeous, inventive and exciting 2D platforming. Proof –if proof were needed– there’s a place in this time of huge expansive 3D worlds for the focussed thrill of this classic genre. As long as it’s as wonderfully designed as this, of course.
8. Halo Reach (Xbox 360)
Full disclosure: I adore Halo. Simply because the art of combat that Bungie has crafted is such extraordinarily good fun. Reach was never going to have the impact that the original Halo did –few games have– but as a swansong to Bungie’s work on the series, it’s magnificent. Cherry picking the best of their work over the last decade, Reach is a Halo’s Greatest Hits, built in a new, punchier engine. It’s not going to convert non-believers, but for fans it’s the finest send off you could imagine.
If you had said to me even a few months ago that a Kinect game –and a dancing one at that– would have made it into my top ten for the year I’d have scoffed at the very idea. But Dance Central converted me to Microsoft’s magic camera and the dancing game phenomenon with surprisingly little resistance. Most importantly, it is arguably the purest and most hilarious fun I’ve had with any game this year. Exquisitely made too, with unquestionably the best menu interface I’ve ever seen –just imagine Minority Report in a 70s disco.
10. FIFA 11 (Xbox 360, PS3)
It might seem a bit lame to include an annual sports title in my list, but I’d be fibbing to myself if I didn’t mention FIFA11. Since October, this has been my go-to-game between reviews, straight into the disc tray when I find myself with a chance to play ‘just for fun’. Whether it’s taking control of my beloved Watford in career mode, or going online for a quick one-on-one, there are few games that manage to get me fired up and leaping from my sofa as much as this. It’s also fantastic to see a sports series going from strength to strength every year. No wholesale changes from FIFA10, but the carefully considered nips and tucks continue to push the game towards footballing perfection.
Rock Band 3 – Botched launch which means the hardware for its marquee mode remains unavailable is the only thing keeping it out ofmy top ten. Magnificent music game, remarkable learning tool.
Fable III – A disappointing finale holds Fable III back from the highest praise, but it’s still a magical, funny and charming fairytale. Its land of Albion is painted with such passion and verve that –for all its faults– it’s hard not to be bewitched.