I have created a text file every year since 2010 that lists every game I played that year and the order in which I enjoyed them. Now that my blog is operational and I started the #GamesOfTheYear tag in 2017 I felt it was time to look back at those text files and record them here for posterity.
I am going to attempt to not write too much about each game because otherwise it will take me weeks if not months to transcribe all of these text files. My goal is to write a simple one or two line description of the game and what I think I felt about it back when it was first played.
1. Monday Night Combat
Monday Night Combat is a class based third-person shooter that has MOBA-like objectives. Teams are trying to destroy the other's "Moneyball" and there are waves of robots that push each base. You can destroy the robots for money and use it to improve your defense or purchase offensive capabilities.
Just look at these tweets to get an idea of how hyped I was for this game back in 2010.
2. Heavy Rain
Heavy Rain is a whodunit murder mystery where you control four vastly different characters who are somehow involved with the Origami Killer, a serial killer who uses extended periods of rainfall to drown his victims. It is a third-person adventure game that mostly relies on quick time events but the main selling point is that your decisions drastically affect the story and can even lead to the death of some characters.
I thought it was a masterfully crafted story that had me on the edge of my seat. I didn't see the big twist coming and couldn't predict who the killer was but at the same time I didn't feel the revelation came out of nowhere. The second it happened I started thinking about what I was doing the whole game and everything made sense. In my opinion that is the sign of a great story.
3. Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect 2 is obviously the second installment in the Mass Effect franchise. You again assume the role of Commander Shepard, an elite human solider who is trying to rally allies to fight off the threat to the galaxy that you uncovered in the first game. Mass Effect 2 is much heavier on third-person combat than its predecessor. The RPG elements do help flesh out this combat but at its core it is very much a stop and pop cover based shooter first. The amazing storytelling from Mass Effect 1 does continue as well as the absolutely insane amount of dialogue choices that really give you the feeling that you are in control of where the story goes.
Mass Effect 2 is easily my favourite game in the entire franchise. The combat felt great, the story was engaging, I got super attached to all of the characters such that when they died I felt like someone had punched me in the gut. All these years later I only have fond memories of the game which is probably the best praise I can give it.
4. Halo: Reach
Halo: Reach is the sixth installment in the Halo series and Bungie's last game before they broke away from Microsoft and started work on Destiny. It takes place during the events of the Halo: The Fall of Reach novel (which is fantastic and should be read by any Halo fan) as you, the Spartan codenamed Noble Six, defend the planet Reach when it is attacked by the Covenant.
I don't really know what to write about Halo: Reach other than it is Bungie's vision of Halo almost perfected. Bungie still has the best gunplay of any first-person shooter. The story was actually very engaging and even touching at spots which is pretty amazing for a game where the main characters are literally hidden behind metric tons of armor. The visuals were mind blasting at the time and the scope of the levels were unlike anything I had ever experienced. I dare you to find a skybox that engrosses you in a world more than the ones Bungie makes. The level editor, "Forge", was much improved over what they released with Halo 3 and led to hours of entertainment.
Halo: Reach is easily one of the best shooters ever released on a console and is the second best game in the Halo series behind Halo 3 which I probably prefer more just because I got to play as Master Chief and finally finish the fight against the Covenant.
5. Alan Wake
Alan Wake is an action-adventure game from Remedy Entertainment that is part third-person shooter, part psychological TV thriller along the lines of Twin Peaks. You play as the titular Alan Wake as he visits the town of Bright Falls, Washington where he attempts to finish his novel all the while experiencing the events of said novel which he cannot remember writing.
Alan Wake is comprised of six episodes that are framed as if they are actual TV show episodes. You literally get "Last time on Alan Wake" title cards when you start an episode. Each episode is a healthy mix of storytelling, as you traverse the environment and interact with other characters, and action, where the "darkness" comes and you are attacked by murderous shadows. To combat the shadows you are required to weaken them with some light source before you can attack them with a range of weaponry.
Alan Wake has one of the best stories ever told in video games. Honestly it could have been a TV show or movie and would have been just as engaging. The reason it is probably not higher on my list is that the combat leaves much to be desired. On numerous occasions I became frustrated with the controls or the composition of enemies I was fighting and didn't want to play the game anymore. The promise of more of the amazing story was all that kept me going.
6. Dead Rising 2
Dead Rising 2 is a sandbox game where you murder zombies for three in-game days. At the end you either die because you didn't solve the mystery as to why the zombies exist or you did and you survive (yay!) but that is not the reason to play this game. The reason is that you can construct hundreds of makeshift weapons with random components you find lying around to make your zombie massacre easier and more fun. I could go into more detail but really that is all you need to know. If you like the idea of trying to find the funniest/coolest/most efficient way of murdering zombies then the Dead Rising games are for you.
The other absolutely fantastic part of this game is your level carries over between playthroughs as well as abilities and gear you unlock so I honestly just play until I die having all sorts of fun and then just start over again because I am now stronger.
I don't know what else I should write about Dead Rising 2 to convince you why I love it. If a zombie murder sandbox does not sound fun to you that is cool I understand. But for me, there was something about that reward loop of figuring out a new weapon and using it to murder zombies that just kept me playing this game for hours. For fucks sake you can attach chainsaws to a motorcycle and then drive it through a casino! In another playthrough I got a group of nerd survivors to follow me where I then equipped them all with broadswords and did my best Braveheart impersonation. What else do you want people?
7. Kirby's Epic Yarn
Kirby's Epic Yarn is a feel good platformer that will put a huge smile on your face from the second you pick it up until you put it down. Yes it is a touch on the easy side but it just oozes with so much personality. The creativity in every level and the whimsical visuals will fill your heart with glee. It also features a co-op mode so you can share your joy with a friend.
8. Plants vs. Zombies iPhone
Probably the most popular tower-defense game ever released, Plants vs. Zombies popularized the lane based approach where enemies walk straight down one of five lanes and your towers (in this case plants) literally get in their way. Unlike most tower defense games you generate the resources you need from towers you can plant which creates an interesting strategic balance between planting offensive towers to keep you safe while also planting towers to generate resources.
I put hundreds of hours into Plants vs. Zombies. It absolutely destroyed the battery of my iPhone 3G because of how much I played it. I would literally choose to curl up on the couch and play Plants vs. Zombies on my iPhone rather than turn on my PC or console. Plants vs. Zombies is a seminal video game and was part of the beginning of truly engaging video games on mobile devices.
9. Pokémon SoulSilver
What do you want me to say here? I am a Pokémon whore. I have bought basically every Pokémon game that has ever been made. Why the hell wouldn't I buy Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver (a remake of the greatest Pokémon game of all time, Pokémon Gold and Silver) and why wouldn't I enjoy it?
I don't think I need to say anything other than if you enjoy Pokémon games you will enjoy these ones and if you're interested in Pokémon these are great games to play.
10. Professor Layton and the Unwound Future
Professor Layton and the Unwound Future is the third game in the Professor Layton series and continues the tradition of being an excellent puzzle game with an interesting story to boot. If you like brain teasers you should definitely give any of the games from the Professor Layton series a shot.
Limbo is Playdead's inaugural video game. It is a puzzle-platformer where you guide a young boy through a dangerous world in search of his sister. Presented entirely in black-and-white with absolutely no speaking roles, the game relies on the environment and its puzzles to tell the story. It uses the "learn through death" mechanic popularized by games such as Demon's Souls which is the main reason it is so far down on my list. I really did love the game but there were enough frustrating moments where I had to repeat a certain section one too many times that left a very sour taste in my mouth.
I would still recommend that everyone play Limbo because it really is a masterful piece of work but go in with the expectation that you will die a lot and there literally is nothing you can do to stop it. You will be killed to reveal the existence of a trap and there is no other way you could have learned about it.
12. NHL 11
I am Canadian. I like hockey. I like hockey games. Ergo I played NHL 11. This was the first iteration of the franchise that used the skill stick controls where the right analog stick was used to simulate the movement of a player's hockey stick. Through these new controls you had much finer grain control over how you deked as well as your shooting which allowed you to easily do things like fake a shot.
13. Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption is basically Grand Theft Auto in the Wild West. It won a ton of awards and has been universally acclaimed as one of the greatest games of all time and I have absolutely no idea why it is so low on my list. On the flip side I barely remember anything good about the game. It truly was just Grand Theft Auto in the Wild West. I don't remember that being a bad thing but maybe I just saw it as more of the same and wasn't really impressed with the gameplay or the story. I barely even tweeted about Red Dead Redemption. This game seems to have had no lasting impact on me.
Bayonetta is an action-adventure hack and slash game in the same vein as Devil May Cry and God of War. It was the third game released by PlatinumGames and Bayonetta is considered by many to be their breakout title. It established Platinum as an industry leader who merged fast-paced, genre-defining combat with stunning visuals and eclectic storytelling.
Thinking back I have so many good memories of Bayonetta. The combat was so frenetic and yet tight and crisp at the same time. The way Bayonetta would transition between her various attacks had a level of fluidity that is still not matched by most games today. The reason Bayonetta is so far down on this list is because of its absolutely horrible quick time events and final boss. I endured a garbage racing mini-game and then some seizure inducing arcade shooter mini-game only to fight a final boss that was multiple stages and if you died you went back the start. I can only assume that I was so livid after I finally managed to the game that I threw it far down this list as some form of catharsis.
15. Dragon Quest IX
I actually have no idea what Dragon Quest IX was about. I cannot remember playing a single moment of it. But apparently it wasn't the worst game I played in 2010 because we still got a couple more to get through.
16. Puzzle Quest 2
Puzzle Quest 2 is the sequel to Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords one of my favourite games of all time. It mixed puzzle and RPG elements in a way that had never been done before. If I am remembering correctly Puzzle Quest 2 was a little lighter on the RPG elements than its predecessor which is why it isn't higher up on my list.
17. Final Fantasy XIII
Ah the polarizing Final Fantasy XIII. While I do think it had a weaker than average story and very forgettable characters for a Final Fantasy game its fatal flaw was its combat. It took over 20 hours before its combat really clicked and came into its own and the "Paradigm Shift" system finally got to showcase itself. This extended tutorial was particularly brutal and while I may have enjoyed a lot of aspects of Final Fantasy XIII I cannot bring myself to put it higher on my list.
18. God of War III
God of War III is another action-adventure hack and slash from 2010 and as its name implies it is the sequel to God of War II, one of my favourite PlayStation 2 games of all-time. While God of War III is easily one of the most visually stunning games released in 2010 its combat is very much stuck in the world of its predecessor. After playing a game with such fluid combat as Bayonetta it felt like I was wading through molasses in God of War III. Combine this with a fairly mediocre story and you get a game that I was just not impressed with.
19. Infinity Blade
And so we come to Infinity Blade, the first iOS game to use the Unreal Engine. You play an unnamed knight attempting to fight his way to the top of a tower to defeat the immortal God King. In combat you swipe and tap the screen to attack, parry, dodge and block. Whether you win or lose, the game simply starts over from the beginning where your experience and equipment carry over to your descendent.
I played dozens of hours of Infinity Blade. It was one of the first truly impressive mobile games that I played. And then the microtransactions came. I almost forgot about why I hated this game so much but after a quick Google search all the pain came flooding back. I remember being so addicted and thinking "oh if I just buy this one item things will become so much easier" but it never would last. Infinity Blade was probably my first real introduction to microtransactions, a scourge upon video games that has only gotten worse over the years.#GamesOfTheYear