Top 10 Video Games of 2009

2009 really sucked, but not as badly as 2006. This whole year of gaming was sucking up to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and it was more hyped than The Dark Knight with it’s controversy of shooting civilians in an air port. For the fact that there are just too many idiots going too crazy over something that will get old until the next Call of Duty game shows how lackluster this year really want. This is such a bad way to end the 2000s as it ended as a year celebrating itself for the disease called sequelitis. Not only did 2009 sucked for gaming but also for the many celebrities who died in this very year, Michael Jackson included. This really was a year of mediocre releases, horrid economy, and bad news going all over the place. If Modern Warfare 2 is the only good news happening around the world, you know exactly how much this year sucked! It’s a shame that we could have partied like it was 1999 for 2009, but instead it we were doing the exact opposite, weeping and getting annoyed. This is a year that I do not want to revisit and it’s a miracle that I’ve counted ten good games from this year that’s NOT another fucking military shooter!

Number 10.  –  Plants vs. Zombies

For a while a lot of people believed to be one of the best downloadable games of all time, but after putting so many hours placing our plants to protect our home from the hordes of incoming zombies, it got old really fast. But during our time playing the game, it was became clear that it’s the best tower defense game of the whole genre. Plants vs. Zombies was creative about the many plants that have very different abilities and purposes just to face all of these various challenges that takes a while to beat and very hard as you continue to the end of the game. The biggest compliment I can give to Plants vs. Zombies is colorful, which is something coming from the dark ages of video games. It has so much likeness to it and it so casual to play it that it’s hard to put it down when you start playing it. It’s just too bad that it doesn’t hold a candle after you finally beat it because there’s nothing left but to complete all the achievements.

Number 9.  –  Mario & Luigi:
Bowser’s Inside Story

One thing that makes the Nintendo handheld so fulfilling is the Mario & Luigi RPG series. There’s really nothing like it after all of their hilarious jokes and unique turn-based gameplay. And Bower’s Inside Story captures the series appeal and gave us more than what we expected.  The beauty of the third Mario & Luigi is how AlphaDream has smoothly integrated the use of both the plumber duo and King Koopa into the main story without making any of the gameplay feel forced. Whilst the Italian brothers do not spend the entire game inside the belly of the beast, they do find themselves confined to his innards for the majority of the adventure and the player’s journey is split between controlling Bowser as he wanders around the Mushroom Kingdom in a top-down view, getting up to all sorts of mischief, and working as Mario and Luigi in a 2D plane when they need to explore various sections of the body they are stuck in, taking part in boss fights and numerous mini-games. It really takes quite a special game to receive such an accolade, but AlphaDream certainly has managed to take an old formula and spruce it up so significantly that it not only stands head and shoulders above any of the previous Mario RPG adventures, but manages to out-class nearly every other DS game on the market so far. Comic antics, thrilling action, cranium-scratching puzzles and oozing with sheer class, Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story is a game no Nintendo DS owner should be without.

Number 8.  –  Brutal Legend

I can’t say anything else about Brutal Legend than it is simply Awesome. For a video game that’s completely ‘metal’ all the way through made it a dream come true for us metal heads. It’s amazing that this is a follow up to Tim Schafer and Double Fine Productions after the commercially failed Psychonauts. With EA’s budgeting, they were able to get many of the rock legends as voice actors & special guests and the main selling point was Jack Black as the main lead. We’ve all expected this to be a hack and slack action adventure with so many laughs, but what’s surprising is that this game is part Sandbox and part Real Time Strategy. It took me off by storm to see such ambition, but it discouraged me because RTS SUCKS ASS on consoles. However, Brutal Legend realizes the limitations between playing RTS on a keyboard /mouse and analog stick/buttons that they’ve changed the formula for the genre. You still play as Eddie Riggs and when you’re close to your army just direct them to the direction you want them to take action. After so many years of bad experiences with RTS on consoles, Brutal Legend did it completely right and since then there has never been another RTS Console title that did the same as Brutal Legend. It’s a completely fun, imaginative, creative title that really deserves a second look for all gamers!

Number 7.  –  Batman: Arkham Asylum

Be honest here, back in 2009 you didn’t expect this game to be this good. It really came out of fucking nowhere to see a Batman title to be a fulfilling action-adventure game that has a structure of a metroidvania. One of the biggest things that continued to impress me throughout as I played through the game is how no two things felt the same. Being a huge fan of the Batman lore I was intrigued with every villain and every encounter the game throws at you; from Killer Croc, Scarecrow, and many more! Every boss fight (except for the final showdown with Joker) has a unique method that pertains to their character, and every single gameplay nuance feels fresh thanks to solid controls and a plethora of gadgets. Arkham Asylum is an expertly crafted experience that every Batman fan will fall in love with, and every gamer needs to experience. Batman: Arkham Asylum is one of those games that comes along every few years that will have gamers talking about it long into the future. It is this year’s BioShock, and I for one could not put it down from start to finish. If you enjoy great narrative, interesting boss encounters, fresh gameplay and of course everyone’s favorite detective then Arkham Asylum will not disappoint. Everything comes together so well and there are so many jaw-dropping moments crammed into this disc that the only thing that disappointed me was that it had to end. You owe it to yourself to check out this amazing game, I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Number 6.  –  Infamous

It’s such a shame to see that Sucker Punch is one of those developers that became like Naughty Dog and Insomniac Games where whenever Sony jumps on a new console, they had to make a brand new series. At times, I really want to see Sucker Punch to make another Sly game, but looking at the uncreative and generic titles from ND and IG with Uncharted 2 and Resistance series, Infamous did just enough to get my attention. Sucker Punch really succeeded in creating a living, breathing, changing world with inhabitants (including the bosses) that are truly three dimensional. Rather than just completing mission after mission like any other Sandbox game, you have a Karma rank to decide to be evil or good. The pace is very quick, and the environment is perfectly designed. As Cole’s powers increase, you can start to see the environment from a grander perspective and traverse it much faster. As he becomes more good or more evil, his companions, and the world as a whole, treat him as such. This makes replaying the game and make different decisions from one replay after another to have a different out come. A lot of people compared Infamous to Prototype as they have the ability to reek havoc in the city with new powers. Unfortunately Prototype is a braindead stupid game that makes you play evil throughout and you’re over powered which makes playing the game easy and dull after a while. Personally, I believe that Infamous has a much better storyline, gameplay, controls, and varied mission types. Whatever you’re doing, be it questing for an NPC or just cruising around pretending to be everyone’s favorite web slinger, inFamous is FUN! The combination of character animation, abilities (including being able to target enemies from over the edge of an obstacle, the simple cover system, surviving a fall from any height and so much more), super powers, enemies, visual style and controls is, well, exemplary. At no point will you find yourself bored or thinking of anything else – in fact, while you’re not playing inFamous, you’ll be thinking about it and itching to get back in front of the television.

Number 5.  –  The Sims 3

For putting so many hours on The Sims 2, I always wondered what will Will Wright do next for the series? One of the most consistent complaints attributed to The Sims 2 was how your sim felt disconnected from the rest of the world. Any trip to another house in the same neighborhood was met with a loading screen, and expansion packs were like taking a holiday from the main game. Not so with Sims 3; this time round, the entire neighborhood can be traversed from the off with no loading taking place. Sims can walk around to their hearts content, call for a cab or buy their own vehicles to keep fit or show off their status. Neighbors can be greeted and spoken to at their own homes, which makes organizing parties a lot easier, and there are plenty of places to socialize such as the park and various shops. Customizing your Sims this time around has never been so simple yet very creative this time around and you can create traits for your character to even add much more variety to differentiate one Sim after another. As it stands, Sims 3 is a gallant return to form and takes a direction that breathes new life into a formula that is fast reaching a decade old. Time will tell how many expansions will be released and what new locations will be offered to explore and socialize in, and indeed whether the Sims Store will be a success; it certainly brings the series into line with EA’s current business plan of offering premium content on the side. On it’s own, there’s hours and hours of fun to be had designing homes, meeting other sims, developing a career and having a family. It did just enough to make it a successor over The Sims 2, except the fact that you can only control one Sim in each household.

Number 4.  –  Borderlands

When this game came out I thought to myself “Oh wow, Fallout 3 rip-off” but after playing this game I couldn’t be any more wrong. It’s anything but another Fallout 3, it’s a whole new experience of adventuring to the wasteland and have a unique art style with humor to back it up. If anything, it’s more like Diablo into a FPS-RPG where looting, level grinding, and completing quests to feel present. One of the great things about Borderlands is that there is always plenty to do. In addition to the story missions there are always a number of other missions available, either from characters that you meet in the game or from job boards in the friendly settlements. Even after you finish with The Vault, you can return to the wastelands of Pandora and continue taking on side quests. Borderlands is one of the biggest surprises of 2009 not because of how good it is, but how good it is considering the lack of hype. This game has single-handedly stolen my soul since it arrived at my doorstep and I find myself needing to level up once a night, much like my wife and her World of Warcraft addiction. If you are a fan of shooters or loot gathering games do not hesitate, just buy the game already. The 50 level cap may seem like a burden, but trust me there is more than enough here to warrant a purchase. This is one of the best games out right now and easily in my top five games of the entire year.

Number 3.  –  Dragon Age: Origins

As RPGs have garnered over to the shooter category, there’s still that glance of the classic RPG experience that is almost forgotten. What Bioware gave to the world is that old gameplay and experience of Bulder’s Gate or KOTOR. But word of warning that this game is meant to be played on PC & Mac, NOT consoles. The point and click interface is a lot more simplistic and fun than having to use that analog stick to guide your characters. The experience is similar to Mass Effect where there’s a cinematic experience with moral choices to make that makes your character evil or good.  Origins brought us back to the basic valiant hero and his band of friends adventuring through a strange new land to save a kingdom from an evil horde hellbent on setting the world aflame. It was definitely worthy to be called an Epic Adventure. All it was trying to be was a classic fantasy rpg game and it has that in spades. Again, the timing was right. Flawless. Overall, Dragon Age: Origins can be summed up as a culmination of Bioware’s long-standing strengths. It’s a story that is engaging, exciting, and enthralling, but doesn’t care about needing to be thought-provoking or philosophizing. While its gameplay and design isn’t the best, it hides its weaker components through a beautiful, haunting score and a zealous fixation with detail. It’s a solid story meant to grab gamers and keep them ensorcelled in the world of Thedas.

Number 2.  –  Assassin’s Creed II

It’s not everyday that you’ll find a sequel that realizes how bad original really was that they needed to refine everything; gameplay, story, characters, everything. That’s what Assassin’s Creed II did. Ezio is one of the best debuting characters that has ever came out of the 7th generation of consoles. His charm, the abilities, and how he handles every situation is completely memorable! One of the biggest improvements about AC2 though is the overall structure of the game. In the first outing things became tedious too early and you often felt like you were going through the motions to progress the story. AC2 remedies nearly all of these problems by offering a more cohesive experience that simply keeps you playing for hours on end. The experience is akin to some of the older open-world games where while you are on your way to the next story mission you will take on five side missions simply because they catch your attention. This is easily the biggest improvement and one of the reasons the game will swallow your soul and have you coming back to complete every minuscule task. The sequel keeps the same free-flow combat and movement system from the first game and makes some significant improvements to the formula. Ezio maneuvers around the environment much like Altair, but with more awareness to his environment. The animation on your character as he traverses the geometry is marvelous. Small nuances such as hitting each step and slowing down to catch a ledge better make navigating the environment as beautiful to watch as it is fun. Assassin’s Creed 2 is the epitome of how to make a sequel to a game. Take everything that worked, fix everything that was broken, and listen to what the fans want. I admit the first 30 minutes of the game feel really slow and disappointing, but once you move past that it easily becomes one of the best games I have played this year. With so many impressive titles already on the roster for 2009 it will certainly make picking the best that much harder. Regardless if you even remotely liked the first game or love action/adventure games in general AC2 is a must own. There is so much to love about this game and it ranks up there with some of the best in the Stealth Sandbox genre.

Number 1.  –  Ratchet & Clank:
A Crack in Time

After 6 full length games & 2 PSP spin-offs, it took Insomniac Games this long to make a video game that’s closest to perfection! Churning them out annually it’s unsurprising that the core gameplay of the titles hasn’t really changed much over the years, and as remarkable as that gameplay is, by the time 2007′s Tools of Destruction rolled out the series was getting far too formulaic and a little bit dull. That’s why A Crack In Time is so refreshing; it’s not so much that they’ve changed everything, but they’ve gone and proved how much life can be put into what should be an over-worked concept. ACIT focuses on the theme of time, with Clank becoming the guardian of the Great Clock, an installation that stabilizes time within the universe and Ratchet trying to track him down while trying to trace the routes of his lost civilization. The plot is told as well as any great film and focuses on really building up the separate origins of the duo (and if you don’t care trust me the game will make you). Without saying too much, it’s all held together with strong character ties and conflicting motives and it all plays out with such professionalism that it’ll have you gripped. The zany, goofy, ‘lovably camp’ humor the game provides is exactly the sort that grows on you.

If you already know how R&C gameplay is like there’s nothing much to add here but the amazing Space combat -that allows you to select whatever planet or orbit you want to play, The best Clank gameplay that has a great variety of puzzles, and the smoothest R&C gameplay of all time!  With a nod to Super Mario Galaxy as well as previous Ratchet games, these are optional standalone platforming challenges with a reward waiting at the end, a definite stand out point of the game is exploring these varied and interesting spherical gauntlets. From a series that brought grind rails and swing shots to the common place it’s nice to see Insomniac throwing down another innovative idea that’s sure to catch on. Hover boots change the way Ratchet navigates the landscape and the game relishes on giving you lots of interesting locations and new ways to use them. The device fits over the main gameplay in total harmony and turns some areas into a skate park. The Hover boots control effortlessly and you’ll never find them a source of frustration.

I’m laying on so much praise on this game that I actually feel quite guilty, but the faults really are few and far between.  It’s so rare to play a game with such imagination and as many good ideas as A Crack In Time. It’s even rarer to play one that pulls it off in a manner that never resorts to dragging or frustration. You simply cannot do better than keeping what works, fixing what didn’t and adding a few new neat ideas that are implemented in such a deep way. If this is truly the last Ratchet and Clank release then rest assured that the series goes out with a bang. It’s one of the games of the year and an outstanding exclusive for the Playstation 3. A lot of people would like you to believe that Uncharted 2 is the best game of 2009, but I think it’s all hype considering that the concept and storytelling has been seen in so many Indiana Jones rip-offs. I argue that this is the best time traveling game since Chrono Trigger! Like any game in series, there is tons of replay value packed into the game including a massive universe to explore, and plenty of secrets to be discovered. The reason why it ranks so high is because it’s really the 3D Platformer that I’ve been waiting for! It told the best story, had the best gameplay, best variety, and best conclusion that I’ve ever seen in a 3D Platformer! Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time is really the best game on the Playstation 3 and I can argue some of the most fun I’ve ever had in 7th Generation consoles.

Now that I’ve completed a Top 10 Video Games of each year of the 2000s, stay tuned for the Top 10 Video Games of the 2000s!

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