Top 5 Video Games – 2010

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As much as I try, I can’t play everything. So if you can’t find Super Scribblenauts or Starcraft II or the latest WoW expansion on this list, it is not a reflection of their merit, so much as an indication that I am but one nerd with finite resources.  Don’t be hatin’.

Red Dead Redemption
Xbox 360, Playstation 3
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: RDR impresses in many ways, none more so than its geography.  The physical layout of 1911 Mexico and America is so accurate that it makes every other game set outdoors pale in comparison.  But, of course, the game makes the list because it’s a real blast to play, not because its mesas, gullies, troughs, foothills, fields and hillocks are geographer approved.  RDR is quite easy, it’s true, but it remains fun, so it’s not a problem.  Rockstar has upped the open-world genre ante yet again.

God Of War 3
Playstation 3
Much like Halo’s health system, GOW’s third-person, fixed-camera, combo-based melee combat gameplay is a much-copied affair.  After years of derivative GOW-like games, God of War 3’s gameplay still managed to be much better than the plethora of wannabes.  Kratos’ epic finale is a revenge gamers had been waiting for for a long time.  What the story may lacks in logic, it makes up for in intensity, anger, and a small, welcome touch of compassion from the Ghost of Sparta.  GOW3’s budget was probably comparable to a small country’s GDP, and it shows in every scene, set piece, nook and cranny. Every moment of this game is impressive, bloody, savage, and satisfying.  After all, nothing quite matches the specific pleasure of punching Zeus in the face for as long as you damn well please.

Mass Effect 2
Xbox 360, PC
Nobody does it quite like Bioware.  Mass Effect, Dragon Age, KOTOR—these guys know how to build a god damn convincing fictional universe.  The history, lore, politics, and societies within the world of Mass Effect are beautifully fleshed out and always presented intelligently.  Although I miss the Mako, and planet probing is beyond tedious, in every other aspect Mass Effect 2 exceeds its already fantastic predecessor.  The ability to carry your ME1 character and all her past decisions into ME2 set a new standard for videogame role playing.  My Commander Shepherd  is as dear to me as any fictional character I can think of.  I remember her trials and her upbringing.  I can tell you how she would react to any given situation because the game has given me leave to create her as I see fit, and to watch her grow.  It’s a significant step forward in the connection between the gamer and the role the gamer is playing.  I can hardly contain a nerdgasm at the mere thought of Mass Effect 3 (ohmygodohmygodohmygod!).

Bioshock 2
Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC
I feel like no one loved Bioshock 2 quite as much as I did, and that just breaks my heart.  My memory isn’t quite what it was before I got all mixed up with the bad kids back in high school, but from what I do remember, BS2 is the most flat-out fun I’ve had with the FPS genre ever—and I’ve probably played a hundred of ‘em.  The combination of plasmids, weapons, enemy types and environments culminates in a brand of highly strategic shooter gameplay that you just can’t find anywhere else.  Leave the vita-chambers to the content tourists:  This game truly shines only on hard, and with vita-chambers turned off.   I giggled many a giggle at the deliciously creative attack combinations with which I dispatched every splicer.  Do I flame-cyclone him to the ceiling and try to pin him up there with the speargun? Do I turn his friends against him then set a swarm of bees on whoever’s left standing? So many choices ...

Heavy Rain
Playstation 3
Remember when prognosticators envisioned a future in which movies and games would merge into some kind of singular, interactive media? I personally pictured VR helmets in movie theatres, or something equally improbable.  In February 2010 such a thing was released in the form of Heavy Rain—a more subtle and more effective franken-media than anyone was expecting.  Heavy Rain inhabits a previously unexplored spot between film and videogame, which is cool, new and exciting.  But what puts it at the top of my list is the depth of its story and the entertainment value therein.  Heavy Rain is a mature, emotionally impactful experience on par with any of the best dramas you’ve seen in the last twelve months.  The fact that your own decisions drastically affect the plotline serves to elevate the experience to something more than simple storytelling.  Heavy Rain is a glimpse of the future and a solid first benchmark for the interactive storytelling trend.