I hate reading and making top 10 lists. Usually. Generally I just don't like it when I see something meaningless like "TOP 10 ASSES OF VIDEAGAEMS" or something similarly silly. A top 10 games of the year or top 10 games of all time list is really the only time when I can excuse the use of a list in such a fashion. Even still, up to this point I resisted making one. I mean, isn't it enough if I say I liked a game? Do I really need to use some kind of imaginary metric to rank them? Then there's the cross-genre problems-how on earth am I supposed to compare Knights of the Old Republic and Team Fortress 2? So, as my "Top 10" list will attest, I tend to stay out of the list business, and I prefer not to associate with such questionable characters who take part in it.
Still, being a person on the Internet changes you. The list-making urge slowly eats at you until you're suddenly considering whether you can get away with the audacity of a top 11 list. There are things I liked! And I have a sudden and uncontrollable urge to put them into list form and rank them! Why? I do not know. But here, here is where I finally give in. I am making a top 10 list because the Internet demands such a sacrifice upon the http altar. Will there be more? Who knows. The Internet's qualities as a deity are decidedly Old Testament-y, complete with obstinate jealously and general d**kishness.
On a more serious note, one thing I did notice about this year was that indie titles dominated my list. The creativity and level of craft in them far outpaced most of what I saw in the big-ticket releases of 2010. A grand total of 5 indie games are in my top 10 list, including 3 of the top 5. I already described some of these entries on the year-end podcast, but because the Internet demands it, here is my full top 10 for 2010.
3D Dot Game Heroes (PlayStation 3)
Nostalgia is a common theme these days. Redoing (or sometimes just re-releasing) old games has been a great way to make some quick cash. However, sometimes we get a decent game or two out of the deal, and that's what happened with Atlus' 3D Dot Game Heroes. An almost pixel-for-pixel spiritual replica of the original Legend of Zelda, it manages to be more than the sum of its parts through pure charm. By embracing what it is instead of trying to hide it, 3D Dot Game Heroes manages to stand out just enough to be noteworthy.
Mega Man 10 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii)
I really enjoyed Mega Man 9. In addition to playing the nostalgia card, it actually fixed some of the long-standing problems from Mega Man days past, such as designing special weapons that were all useful in some way outside of their respective boss fights. Mega Man 10 unfortunately reverted back to the old "two weapons are good, the rest are junk" mantra of its predecessors. However, it still manages to capture the old Mega Man feeling, right down to the infuriating spike-deaths.
Plain Sight (Xbox 360, PC)
This game is about robot ninjas that fly through space trying to kill each other and then explode. I don't feel anything else needs to be said.
Mass Effect 2 (Xbox 360, PC)
Mass Effect 2 represented a few leaps forward in some areas, and a few steps back in others. Still, I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it, as BioWare's characterization efforts are as strong as ever, and at least some of the troublesome aspects of Mass Effect 1 were done away with. Not everything they tried worked, but as a whole it still brought the Mass Effect vim and vigor.
Monday Night Combat (Xbox 360)
A sturdy multiplayer experience in almost every way, and the winner of my "Best New Franchise Award" from the GC podcast. Its only true flaw is its small amount of content. Monday Night Combat is practically begging to be expanded upon, as the lack of more varied maps and game modes really hurts its replayability. With the advent of the PC version I sincerely hope that it gets all of the little things it deserves.
Limbo (Xbox 360)
You will likely spend just as much time talking about Limbo as you do playing it. Charming, unsettling, gorgeous, and surprisingly through-provoking, it manages to be the rare kind of throwback game that actually advances the genre (classic platformers) it is emulating. I'm not ready to call it any sort of monumental achievement, but it more than works for what it is.
Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty (PC)
Does it surpass the original in terms of impact? No. And it wasn't going to no matter what it did. Blizzard seems to have realized this and just given the old Starcraft a shiny new coat of paint and some balance tweaks, which is all it needed.
Reccetear: An Item Shop's Tale (PC)
Here we are taken inside the lives of one of the most prolific yet unexplored characters in role-playing game (RPG) history—the struggling shop owner. Were it not for some horrendous pacing problems this would be one of my favorite games ever and probably (it almost did regardless) would have surpassed the next game on this list…
Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
What was initially seen as a signal by Nintendo that they were out of ideas turned out to be a classic in its own right. Everything from the original Super Mario Galaxy has been fine-tuned to near-perfection, making Super Mario Galaxy 2 almost everything it could have been. While it lacked the heartwarming children's tale that was worked into the original so well, it near-perfectly polishes everything else.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent (PC)
In any other year this spot would have been an excruciating duel between Reccetear and Super Mario Galaxy 2. Instead, 2010 saw the release of the most immersive, visceral, and haunting game I have ever played. Amnesia: The Dark Descent was so good at what it was doing that I almost could not finish it. There are things in this game that I will never, ever forget, and the brilliance with which Frictional Games uses the player's own imagination against him/her is unmatched. Amnesia is the best game that I will never play again.
So that's it. I have now made a list, and I hate myself for it.
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