The 10: The Games of 2010
Goodbye 2010, welcome 2011! 2010 was a year in which we got to welcome quite a lot of new technology but that remained in the sign of well-known values, with great sequels of games. While Move and Kinect tried to overthrow the Wii as king of the casual games, gamers were mostly impressed with epic games like Mass Effect 2 and immersive surprises like Red Dead Redemption.
On top of that Nintendo wasn’t planning to just let everyone walk over them and the Wii hit back hard with top titles like Super Mario Galaxy 2, Donkey Kong Country Returns, GoldenEye 007 and Metroid: Other M. Those that thought the Wii story was finished can get ready for a new chapter in 2011. Also when it comes to handhelds Nintendo remained supreme ruler except in Japan where the PSP managed to win some ground thanks to the Monster Hunter series. In the rest of the world only Kratos and Konami managed to get us interested enough to take the dust off our PSP.
2010 was also the year in which downloadable content became common good for young and old, but luckily also room was made for originality, revolutionary retro gameplay (Pac-Man CE DX!) and creativity by smallers developers. Especially on PSN and Xbox Live some true pearls could be found for those that wanted some variation to the big hitters. Counterweight that was given by amongst others Limbo and Super Meat Boy to increasingly larger but also more and more predictable entertainment like for instance in Black Ops.
The RPG is back, the oldskool adventure has found a second breath and people may still like music games, but they clearly have enough plastic instruments in their living room. Also the PC remains standing its ground with top titles like Civilization V, Cataclysm for the eternal MMO World of Warcraft, and of course the new king of RTS: Starcraft 2. It also seems a new trend started with remaking classics in high definition, but if publishers want to keep having success with that they’ll have to look up the word “classic” in a dictionary and put enough effort in polishing it. The Sly Collection gives the good example and hopefully ICO/Shadow of the Colossus will soon confirm this trend in a positive way.
In other words: a lot more to remember, cherish and play than you can ever display with a simple Top10. We do it anyway, just because it’s fun to debate and think about it. However, we do know that dozens of other games don’t get an honorable mention due to this and there’s plenty of other juwels that slipped through the mazes of the net, maybe because we even didn’t get the chance to play them. Don’t hesitate to point them out in the comments, but for now we salute Bayonetta, Bad Company 2, Rock Band 3 and Super Street Fighter IV who just fell out of the Top10.
The Top Ten of 2010 according to Fragland:
10. Heavy Rain (Sony, PS3)
Heavy Rain is a game about which anyone who plays it, with or without Move, will have a varying opinion. One finds it boring as hell and doesn’t see the fun in opening doors or walking around for minutes with a child on your shoulders. Building an emotional bond and getting your reward out of the fact that this kid afterwards smiles a bit is more difficult than looking back at a killstreak. On top of that the devs with David Cage in the lead aren’t make it easy with dialogues and situations that often come over clumsy and don’t match up to the level of a great movie. During the best moments, however, you’re completely in the game, have been immersed in the emotions of the lead characters and feel for a brief moment how powerful and unforgettable this genre can become in the future.
What Heavy Rain certainly has proven already is that we can expect lots and lots of innovation and new experiences from our hobby. Simple and revolutionary at the same time, it’s proven that adventures are still hip and alive and that controllers have to be at the service of the experience. A unique game that you have to have played, whether you’ll enjoy it or not, and that shows that taking risks is often more than worth it.
9. Super Meat Boy (Team Meat, X360, PC)
We love Super Meat Boy with all our heart. And the credit for that goes to the developers for who it’s a work of love, who added their new icon life and a soul on Twitter, and who didn’t only make their game incredibly difficult but also included perfect controls and a world that’s both a retro journey and a discovery.
Each level is filled with danger but has as many rewards as it has bloody endings for your meat man. Each succesful jump combination is a party, each time you reach the end of one of the 300 maps a victory on yourself, each time you go into a warp zone a moment to sit at the tip of your chair. You’ll literally die a thousand deaths before you reach the end of Light World (read: the easy world), let alone before you can take on the almost impossible dark side.
In exchange for a bit more than one cinema ticket for a bad 3D movie you get tons of content, a great soundtrack and a generous amount of extras. Those that didn’t give this one a chance yet you new go to Steam or XBLA! Just be prepared: it’s a trip you won’t easily forget, nor let go of.
8. Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies (Square Enix, Nintendo DS)
This epic RPG just had to be present in this Top10. We almost looked over the Nintendo DS but this game managed to keep millions of gamers all over the world for dozens and hundreds of hours to their two screens.
The series continues on its classic strengths. There are cute and very human characters, dozens of storylines that can futile but immersive at the same time, fine comedy and hidden jokes, monsters that have more originality than some completely different games and there’s more gameplay than you could think was possible in a DS game.
The challenge is solid and the possibilities enormous: you can completely personalise your party, adjust armor and weapons, change classes and improve skills. Level 5 and Square Enix also added a multiplayer system that’s unique and perfectly usable and you can constantly get new stuff through the WiFi connection. In these times of 10 euros for three maps you can download new items, start fresh quests or score rare stuff for this DQIX on an almost daily basis.
And that’s why you need to have this RPG and that’s why it deserved to be a bit higher on this list. An absolute recommendation and for some the best RPG of the year.
7. FIFA 11 (Electronic Arts, multiplatform)
FIFA 10 was the best soccer game until FIFA 11 arrived on the market. No big leaps forward this year but some fine dribbles to perfect each feature and make this new episode the unchallenged number one of the moment. This Barcelona in game shape guarantees hours of fun with your friends, alone or in the living room. No other game offers that unique experience you get when you order pizza with four friends and then take on each other with passes, stifts, dribbles and whining that the keeper didn’t react fast enough.
If you want a party game but don’t feel like looking at the face of Mario or your Mii, than throw away your Rock Band instruments and play some soccer. Even if you don’t like the real life equivalent.
6. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty (Blizzard, PC)
I hugely suck in StarCraft II. Ask me to play a game online and I’ll go down like a rock that falls from the sky. We all know the stories from Korea and the madness surrounding the competitions there and it was for those lunatics, just like noobs like me, that Blizzard has to make a successor to one of the best real-time strategy games ever.
And they succeeded with class. As expected we got a refinement of the well-known and o so succesful gameplay, with new units and hair sharp graphics like only the PC can put on your screen. The result is an epic story with a perfectly built up and varied campaign for players that aren’t so much into online combat, while veterans and digital warriors get an online arena where you need to have hair on your teeth. Luckily the balancing of the three sides is almost perfect and the online possibilities are more extensive than ever. A game of chess or a duel between two champions in Street Fighter II: this is top sport as well.
5. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Nintendo, Wii)
Not a lot could be improved on the first Super Mario Galaxy. The colorful graphics and cute sounds, the endless variation in gameplay, challenges and worlds, the playing with gravity, new gameplay elements every fifteen minutes and an everlasting parade of gaming fun as only the geniouses from Nintendo could create. And then we have even talked about the tight controls and perfect finishing.
And still Super Mario Galaxy 2 does it better! We even dare say this is the ultimate 3D platformer. Who buys this game can sleep on both ears: you won’t need another platform game for the rest of the year. There’s even more variation, even more elements and oldies that still have a NES, Super Nintendo or N64 will regularly be reminded of those nostalgic moments when they were a little boy or girl. Levels, sounds, a piece of soundtrack, the makers regularly take you on a trip down memory lane and then you realise that Mario has become an integrated part of gaming history. And then you hadn’t even realised the Yoshi’s back!
Dozens of worlds, hundreds of levels and challenges… Galaxy 2 is a candy store that has something sweeter in every jar, where each piece of candy let’s you enjoy a new experience, where the beautiful blonde babe behind the counter encourages you to try something new and at the same time jumps around while clapping her hands and make funny noises. To afterwards not charge you for anything and yell “See you next time!” while winking her eye.
4. God of War III (Sony, PS3)
Kratos is an asshole, let’s be clear about that. But that’s fortunate as otherwise we would never have gotten those three console adventures filled with bloodshed, unequalled action and graphical violence. God of War 3 came, and saw that it was good. And then the makers thought: “What if we would REALLY push the EPIC button?”.
Your PS3 is almost hurting of so much ostentative and reckless muscle rolling while you will be sitting on your sofa, smiling of enjoyment. The gameplay is still as addictive, the weapons as powerful and nice to decapitate enemies or whatever else is possible, and the puzzles remain fun variations to let you wipe the sweat off your hands and onto your head.
What we’ll most of all remember of this final episode of the trilogy, however, is how angry the lead character is and how grand the location. You fight on a titan while it’s fighting with a god, brought to life more spectacular than you deemed possible. Yes, this is fat and you need to smack this in your PS3. Smack, I say, as otherwise Kratos will come to rip your throat out. Through your anus! Because he’s an asshole.
3. Halo: Reach (Microsoft, X360)
Bungie and Halo are parting ways but to celebrate that the devs made Halo: Reach. In fact this is a game of which we can tell the least spectacular things. The story of Reach places you in the shoes of a squad of Spartans that need to save the planet Reach of demise during an overwhelming attack of the Covenant. An impossible mission, but one that allows to crank up the necessary space combat to suitingly big events while the human drama and the feel of a lost world get poured into your brain through more subtle conversations and most of all an unfortgettable soundtrack.
Just like with so many sequels this year, the gameplay has changed only little, but perfectioned so much more. No matter which difficulty level you choose, or with how many players you take on the adventure, you’ll satisfyingly put bullet holes in the opposition which is varied and for once also intelligent. No need to talk about the multiplayer as it’s rock solid and more extensive and personalisable than ever. An example of how a series needs to be built out and gameplay distilled. An unfortgettable ending of a fantastic series of games.
2. Mass Effect 2 (Electronic Arts, X360, PC)
Mass Effect 2 still needs to be released on PS3, but it will no doubt be an experience as it has been for so many gamers already: an experience they’ll never forget. A sci-fi adventure that in a balanced and brilliant way manages to combine the role-playing with the action of a third person shooter and the drama of a movie. BioWare left nothing to the coincidence for the sequel after a beautiful, but still sometimes flawed, first game.
The epic main story is of course more than worthwhile, but it’s the extensive and most of all credible world that really steals the show. We loved exploring, for the exploring as such, not because we got a new cut-scene or Achievement for it, but because it dragged us into a different world. A universe populated with deeply worked out characters with human motivations and feelings that were also added with perfect voicing. Probably it’s that type of realism and those relations we built up with the team from Mass Effect 2 that catapulted Mass Effect 2 to second place. Next to the gameplay of course… and the beautiful graphics which you’ll enjoy for days thanks to plenty of replayability.
Play this, and fast, so that you’re ready for the no doubt memorable Mass Effect 3 that will bring us back to our Earth.
Game of the Year: Red Dead Redemption (Rockstar, PS3, X360)
The first Western game that became a classic, it’s that simple. Rockstar learnt their lessons from the GTA series, created a world that’s as open as it is enchanting, and created a game world that will grab you by the balls like the best westerns with Clint Eastwood.
The best we’ve seen from the developers up to now and an absolute masterpiece on all accounts. Red Dead Redemption combines art with gameplay like nothing before. Grand Theft Auto IV gets swept away by this journey through a ruthless, rough and analog time that we had forgotten about and that for the first time gets brought back to life here so that we can also pretend to be a real cowboy for once.
Especially a wide environments manage to convince. Together with your loyal hours you can ride around for hours through a world that does nothing but convince over and over again. Red sundowns, bunnies jumping away, eagles shouting, and a puma that suddenly jumps you… the wilderness is real and the time you spend between villages and missions isn’t a waste of time, it’s one of the highlights of the game. Not only thanks to the atmospheric graphics, but also due to the beautiful and expressive soundtrack and ingenious choice of a handful of songs that suitingly and dynamically mark your adventures. We’ve never experienced anything better…
We also get that atmosphere with tons during the missions, the conversations and the movies. The story is adult, and so are the characters. At no time are you aware you’re playing a videogame. This is entertainment for our generation, with gameplay that satisfies, elements that work perfectly and reward good players, missions for collectors and hardcore gamers, but embedded in a world filled with detail and artistic value. On top of this the game also got the best downloadable content with the Undead Nightmare DLC.
No dubt one of the best games of this generation and the last decade. No doubt the number one of 2010 and no doubt a game that deserves a place of honor in your collection.
Agree? Don’t agree? Let us know your opinion in the comments. Enjoy New Year’s Eve and see you in 2011!