The Top 10 Games of 2010

by Logan

December 4, 2010

Fable 3

"You can do anything!" Those words still sting a contingent of gamers who have been forever bitten by Peter Molyneux and the enormous expectations he surrounds his Fable franchise with. Regardless of any promises they've fallen short of, I've always been a huge advocate of the series. While all the things Fable III does aren't perfect, the emotional connections and other factors that you can't measure are where the game really makes it money. Whether it be the bond introduced in Fable II with your virtual canine companion, or any sense of responsibility you felt for your pixilated children, the fact that the game can affect anyone on that sort of level is a testament to its success. In this regard, Fable III does just what it attempted to do and is just as engrossing as its predecessors. Ditching the more cliché approach Fable I and II took, Fable 3 leads you and your character on a rebellion that eventually leads in your ascent to royalty. The "Fable twist" comes in the fact that once you've made it to your ultimate goal of King or Queen, you have to live with any consequences or responsibilities that come with your newfound position.

While that part of the game isn't as well done as the first half, the ability to make you to question your own decisions and actually give something as trivial as a fictional kingdom a sort of pulse is amazing. On the gameplay side of things, Fable III is nearly identical to Fable II. Fighting revolves around ranged, melee, and spell-based weapons and each is controlled by a single button and a push of the analog stick. It doesn't try to do anything new, but like they say, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." However, there were plenty of things that were broken with Fable II and Lionhead did their best to fix some of the main ones. The biggest problem with the previous Fable games was their clunky inventory and journal systems. Fable III takes an extremely ballsy move attempting to rectify this as it strips away nearly the entire HUD and replaces your standard pause menu with a 3D space that you interact with in order to do something such as change weapons. It sounds really abstract and silly when you read it, but it works incredibly well once you get your hands on it. Add in some brilliant voiceover work from John Cleese and Fable III's biggest change becomes one of its most welcomed ones. Another change was that of the horrendously dated cooperative play system that Fable II represented. Rather than two heroes being confined to one camera, Fable III now allows you to instantly drop in and out of your friend's worlds and actually bring your own character in while doing so. While there are some gimmicks like Player Marriages and such, the core gameplay works quite well with two people and is definitely worth trying out. In the end, Fable III certainly won't convert anyone who didn't enjoy the first two, but it's definitely the best one out of the three and a hell of a lot of fun to play.

Super Mario Galaxy 2

About 3 years after Nintendo's most famous character's last Wii outing, Mario is back with Galaxy 2. I wasn't a huge fan of the first game, but I found myself drawn to Galaxy 2 for hours on end. Regardless of what I said about "sequelitis" above, there is certainly nothing wrong with sequels when they're done right, and SMG2 is the perfect example of such. Everything from the design, to the control, to even the aesthetics is done with such care and precision that any twinge of déjà vu you feel is negligible. SMG2 copies the same kind of spherical world hopping mechanic that the first did, but it peppers in a lot of sections that make it feel like a classic Mario game. The real treat is just how seamlessly these are integrated into otherwise pedestrian looking areas.

That integration is what makes SMG2 work so well. The ability to transition between some neat new 3D challenges while also treating older fans to some classically-styled sections makes it feel a lot more complete than the first game. Another thing I'd like to point out is how fantastic the music is. Bucking the long standing Nintendo trend of midi-tracks, Galaxy 2 actually has a fully orchestrated score. It all sounds wonderful and there are even a few classic tunes that have been redone in this manner that make the package all the more awesome. At the end of the day, what can I say? It's a freaking Mario game and that should speak for itself right there. I thought they missed the mark a bit with Galaxy 1 but they definitely hit one out of the park with SMG2. It's simply a must play for any Wii owner this year.

Red Dead Redemption

A game that was assumed for the longest time to be in an irreversible development hell, Red Dead Redemption rose from the ashes and released earlier this year to universal acclaim. Rightfully so seeing as how it is one of the most polished and well written games of this generation. Fans affectionally refer to it as "Grand Theft Stagecoach" due to its glaring similarities to Rockstar's mega franchise. It's safe to say that RDR is basically a wild west version of the GTA series, but to call it that would be doing it a disservice. I say this because as good as the GTA games have been recently, there isn't anything they do that Red Dead doesn't do better. It's definitely the gold standard as far as sandbox action games go for this year and arguably of all time.

Trading in the bright lights and fast cars of the big city for open sprawls and covered wagons adds a sense of exploration that has been lacking from the latest entries in its counterparts. While the game may be set in the desolate West, there is certainly no shortage of things to do. RDR adopts the same mission based gameplay of the GTA games, but really shines with an absolute TON of other stuff to do. Whether it's basic time wasters like playing poker or horseshoes or full-fledged engagements like bounty hunting or scavenger hunts, there is never a shortage of things to do in this game. Still, as good as the gameplay is, the keystone of this game comes from its brilliant protagonist and cast of characters. Everyone, John Marston especially, comes off as believable and very lifelike thanks to a good script and even better voice acting. Apart from some boring missions at the beginning and spread sporadically throughout, RDR is simply a masterpiece. It manages to capture the mystery and overall sense of hope that the Wild West embodied and fills it with characters who feel like they belong there. If you've ever been a fan of Westerns, the GTA series, or just good games, make sure you check out RDR (and its awesome DLC!) this year.

Bayonetta

Without a doubt the best game you haven't played this year, Bayonetta is the latest creation from Devil May Cry creator Hideki Kamiya. During its development, Kamiya stated that he wished to perfect the action genre that he felt that he established nearly a decade earlier when he created the first DMC. Well the good news is that he just about freaking succeeded as Bayonetta is without a doubt the most complete title you'll be able to find this year. Storywise, I wouldn't even have a clue as to where I'd begin when it comes to describing this game. You play as Bayonetta, the titular witch who is basically on a search for her lost past. I don't really have to finish typing any of that for you to realize that the storytelling is not what this game hangs its hat on. The real meat of this game comes from its absolutely unrelenting pace and stellar combat. There are tons of different weapons and attacks and the over-the-top nature the game embraces when it comes to utilizing these tools is second to none. As much fun as it is pummeling waves upon waves of enemies, the game also does a great job of varying the missions in attempt to keep the gameplay fun and ever fresh. This is supplemented by some of the most insane and grand boss fights that I have ever seen in a video game.

As if the nonstop gameplay wasn't enough, the cinematics director from the Devil May Cry series Yuji Shimomura, lends his bit of craziness to the game's ridiculous cutscenes. All of this culminates in the final three levels of the game that are simply so awesome that they cannot be described in words. As I mentioned many times above, we've become so accustomed to this "Micotransaction Age" and the steady flow of DLC that we tend to overlook games that attempt to separate themselves from that trend. Bayonetta is so chock full of stuff such as a trial levels, three playable characters, bonus weapons, hidden bosses, and a complete endurance mode that it offers more out of the box than other games do in their entire lifecycle. Don't let it's lilting and feminine exterior put you off, Bayonetta is one of the most old-school and hardcore games you can find this year. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up on the cheap from somewhere.

Super Street Fighter 4

As much as I love gushing about the other games on this list, there is simply no other game that was as memorable this year as Mass Effect 2. It embodies all the things that are right with video games on the development side of things and has left me dying in anticipation for future installments in the franchise. ME2 continues the story of Commander Shepard and his (or her!) conquest to protect the galaxy from the enigmatic Reapers. While Mass Effect 1 did such a good job of setting up the universe, Mass Effect 2 hits the ground running and never looks back. The dialogue, the voice acting, the gameplay, every bit of it is done to the highest quality. ME2's greatest accomplishment however is the implementation of all the changes from its flawed, yet brilliant, predecessor. BioWare stated early that one of the most important factors was feedback from the fans, and nearly every little problem you can ever recall hearing about the first game hasn't just been fixed, they've been eradicated. Gone is the awkward Mako and clunky gameplay, and in is a cover-based combat system that is both fast-paced and engaging. Sure it ditches a lot of the RPG features from the first game, but it's a worthwhile sacrifice when you see how much more kinetic and lively the encounters are.

Plot wise, rather than rehash the first game where you hop around the universe and bask in the fame that you've accumulated, ME2 thrusts you into a seedier part of the galaxy and forces you to basically start over again all whilst building to a dramatic conclusion. The biggest draw comes from witnessing previous actions and events shape the world around you. It starts to feel like a gigantic movie that you get to direct and edit on the fly and that feeling makes the conclusion even more satisfying (or devastating). Compile this with the permanence that the Suicide Mission the game revolves around presents and it really becomes an adventure that you shape yourself. I know that's pretty much a keystone feature of any RPG, but the ability to span that over two games really makes it shine on a personal level. The only gripe I can even think to levy against it is that the narrative really ties itself down to one small part of this trilogy it's attempting to paint and it puts a lot of responsibility on ME3's story when it comes to the overarching plot. Nitpicking and a few boring minigames aside, there is simply not enough I can say about Mass Effect 2. Everything is just as good if not better than ME1 and all the areas they improved on are based strictly upon feedback that people who actually care about the game submitted. Add upon this some of the best DLC packs there are this year (some of which are free!) and you've got a complete package that nobody should miss. It's a testament to respecting a fanbase and making a really fucking good game at the same time, and that's why I have no problem declaring Mass Effect 2 the best game of 2010. Go play it!

Like the list? Love it? Hate it? Hate me? Well that's all fine and dandy because you can sound off in the comments below or on the forums. While you're at the forums, check out the The Game of the Year 2010 Giveaway Thread! for a chance to win a game of your choice!