Number 10. – Darksiders
This game came to me as part of the THQ Humble Bundle. I myself had skipped over it up until this point, for no real good reason. I had never got round to it and well, you know how it is. After getting this bundle it was the first game I played; being in a game drought at this point for me personally, it came at a perfect time. From the moment I picked it up it oozed quality and love. You play War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and you’re accused with starting the end of the world a tad prematurely. The environments are great, along with the way this game feels to play. It’s naturally weighty which, given War’s short stocky build and over-the-top weapon set, seems a perfect fit. The gameplay is a mixture of faster paced spectacle-fighters such as Devil May Cry and adventure titles such as Zelda. The story kept me coming back for more, while the gameplay kept me wanting to play just a little bit longer. With this pretty much dirt cheap everywhere, it’s a time to pick it up if you haven’t already.
Number 9. – Super Mario Galaxy 2
Sorry that I couldn’t put it any higher, but if you take out Yoshi and Luigi feature, this game is the exact same game as the first Galaxy game. Thinking it would be fresh and innovative on the same level of super mario galaxy where it really just rehauled game mechanics similar to super mario sunshine was to super mario 64. The gameplay worlds were entirely the same except for yoshi world which really was the first mario jungle type stages (which was a nice change from the generic prototype art designs of the lava, ice, green pasture, and galaxy levels that were in the original and previous super mario 3d games) my biggest problem though was the level design. Easily the worst besides super mario sunshine. The difficulty was non-existant since the developer made the game with the clear intention that people won’t use any of mario’s special moves. Basically cloud mario was a joke in terms of difficulty. They basically made the levels in order for you to just press A and waggle every time. They didn’t bother to require you to use Z + A double flip the quick backward jump, and wall jumping at the pure minimal possible. I basically saw in world 4 a hint that tells you that you could do a running jump to get through tight spots which is just shocking that nintendo developers made this game for the lowest common denominator. Probably the easiest 3d mario game.
Number 8. – Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
Peace Walker takes the Portable Ops formula and fixes the big issues. It still focuses on short missions, but recruiting enemy soldiers via the Fulton recovery system gets you back to base sooner. Building up Mother Base is a great way to illustrate Big Boss’ growing power, making you eager to hunt down as many recruits as possible. The addition of co-op play provides a fun way for friends to team up, but I was always more interested in Metal Gear as a solo experience. I was also a bit disappointed in the lack of great boss fights. I remember the strange tune Chrysalis emits, but otherwise, a parade of tanks, APCs, and helicopters don’t make for satisfying or noteworthy victories.
Number 7. – Donkey Kong Country Returns
Donkey Kong Country Returns did a lot of things right. It brought back an old franchise with a new sheen that somehow still preserved the magic of the originals, and it re-introduced something I felt was sorely missed from new Nintendo platformers: challenge. Seemingly out of nowhere, Returnstook the Wii by storm, offering up one of the most challenging platforming experiences on the console. Truthfully, as a retro gamer, while I never found the core game to be that challenging, attempting to get everything (including the extra mirror mode that restricts you to one heart and no power-ups) is one of the hardest quests you can ever embark upon in gaming. While I gave up in the original due to some motion frustration, I’m well on my way to utterly completing the 3DS version (I only have mirror mode left), and I’m loving every minute.
Number 6. – Halo Reach
Number 5. – Limbo
Short? Yes! Simplistic? Yes! A bit too easy? Yes! A lot needed more? Yes! But you can’t deny that this game brought back the forgotten Cinematic Platformers like Oddworld. You know that feeling you get after a really intense, really weird dream? You know, that uneasy sense of dislocation as your head continues to reel from the impact of what you perceived the night before? That strange, swirling feeling of an unsettling significance, the source of which you can’t quite put your finger on? Limbo is dripping with that. The Boy’s influence on the world around him with complete freedom. Every puzzle requires a different approach or a new way of thinking, and any concept that is repeated is expanded upon immensely as it progresses. Limbo is a game that really trusts the player to think. There is no tutorial beyond what you learn of your abilities first-hand, and every solution comes about through nothing less than creative thought and experimentation. As well as bringing about fantastic gameplay, it’s a philosophy that also creates a powerful bond with The Boy himself. It’s also a deeply affecting, at times absolutely terrifying emotional experience, with real weight and a subtle but densely-layered narrative. Things won’t look the same after you’ve finished it.
Number 4. – Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
Take Hideo Kojima and his production team, ask them to completely reboot the Castlevania franchise and, in turn, we got the first Castlevania title to efficiently make the transition from side-scroller to 3D. A percentage of fans were rather upset at the conclusion of its story (we’d rather not spoil it for those hoping to still play it), and at Shadow’s obvious influences taken from the God of War series, but overall, Lords of Shadow was rather unforgettable. Robert Carlyle (the dad from 28 Weeks Later), and the ever-great Patrick Stewart provided stellar voice acting as Gabriel Belmont and Zobek, respectively. Despite having both its titan-sized battles and overall combat system both being taken almost directly from Kratos’ playbook, Lords of Shadow proved that killing vampires with a whip is still immensely fun in the modern era of gaming.
Number 3. – Amnesia: The Dark Descent
You can see flashes of Amnesia in Penumbra and its sequel: a first-person adventure game where the world is a reactive, physical space to be poked and prodded. Penumbra nearly made it in here, but there’s something about Amnesia that raises it above the others. The story is ridiculously hokey, and the setting is closer to a cheesy Hammer horror story than something you’d expect to give you sweaty palms. But in Amnesia you’re not a typical game hero: when bad things happen, you don’t have the power to confront it, you don’t have a buff bar full of counters, and you don’t have a gun in your hand. You have a lamp. You have to run and hide and hope whatever it is goes away. Your character’s fear is palpable: the screen shakes and warps as the terror builds, and the monsters seem to wait for the perfect moment to strike at you, delivering the sort of scare that has you hyperventilating along with your character. Just keep telling yourself that it isn’t real.
Number 2. – Red Dead Redemption
When Grand Theft Auto 4 was released it was praised as the holy grail of open world games – the amount of detail and polish that went in to Grand Theft Auto 4 was amazing. Unfortunately, the game lacked variety and gamers grew tired and bored of it’s linear and repetitive game-play. We then had inFamous, a game that had a little more variety and was a lot more fun to play. The Good/Evil system, although shallow, was fun and it certainly added to the sandbox experience. Just Cause 2 was the next sandbox game to deliver top notch graphics with a vibrant and colourful world that was fun to explore – though it was not as realistic as Grand Theft Auto 4 it was definitely more fun to play. We are now getting closer to the release of Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption and so far it’s looking like the best open world sandbox game to date.
Number 1. – Mass Effect 2
Ok, take everything I just said about Knights of the Old Republic and multiply it by 5. Everything that BioWare does great, story, world building, dialogue, combat, was done almost to perfection in this game. You are Commander Shepard (who is always Commander despite actually being given a ship and thus technically being a Captain) the first human to be accepted into the Specters, an elite group of operatives that have free reign to do whatever they want in the interests of protecting the Citadel races. Does that mean nothing to you? Then play the game, I’m not going to explain the entire world to you. Even to summarize it would take up too much space, that’s how much effort BioWare put into creating the world of Mass Effect. It is the most expansive and user determined ending I’ve even encountered in a game. Without spoiling anything I will say that no matter how you choose to play your character, noble hero, hardline human patriot, blood thirsty killer, ect ect you will be able to tailor the ending to fit your character. This game is a must play for any RPG fan.