Each year we argue that “THIS is the best year ever for games!” This past year amidst a slow economic recovery, shrinking sales, and increased competition from new entries on the market — iPad and mobile gaming really came into their own, motion games took huge steps — the games industry put a stake in the ground towards asserting itself as a driver of technology and entertainment. And, while only time will tell how this year rates amongst the best ever, one thing is for certain about 2010: The gaming experiences we had were as varied and fun as ever.
This list is the culmination of the SideQuesting staff’s picks for some of our most memorable gaming experiences of the year.
When we began planning out how we were going to manage our Game of the Year this past December, several of the staff members suggested that we expand it to a list of between ten games. The reason: there was an incredible amount of quality games that spanned every electronic platform possible, and they each deserved some time in the light.
First, here’s how we came up with our picks: Though not as convoluted a formula as we’ve suggested in the past, this year we did switch it up a bit from the normal 10, 9, 8, etc. points countdown from first to tenth. Each staff member was asked to give their personal Top Ten games of the year. Game #1 on our lists would be worth 10 points, game #2 would be 8 points, #3 at 6 points, #4 at 4 points, and #5 at 2 points. That left games 6-10 to be valued at ONE point each. Why one point? The gap in personal preference between the games from 6-10 becomes less visible, and our choices tend to blur. In fact, this is where the most shifting takes place. So, games 6-10 could at any point swap places with each other, but 1-5 are much more solid.
What ended up happening was beyond our expectations: A massive 52 different games received votes. Fifty-two. It’s a testament to the varied tastes of the team and one that puts an exclamation point next to the year in record books. This list covers those honorable mentions that just barely missed our Top Ten. In fact, the quality of titles within is enough to be a Top Ten in its own right for any outlet.
This year brought more gaming comebacks by some of our most favorite franchises. Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Mega Man 10, and Goldeneye 007 Wii appeared to critical success and brought back the memories of gaming in college dorm rooms for many of us.
The quality of games like Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, Limbo, and Hydro Thunder Hurricane emphasized that digital distribution wasn’t just a happy by-product of being connected: it was also a force to be reckoned with in sucking up our time (and dollars).
While many thought that the rhythm music genre was dying, the truth was that it was really just evolving. Games like DJ Hero 2 and Rock Band 3 were terrific, finely-tuned evolutions of great franchises, while Dance Central emphasized that technology wouldn’t just help improve the experiences, it would create new ones.
The continuing evolution of the RPG was a great point of contention this year as games like Fable 3 worked to put a new spin on the genre, one that was more social and human-based. Dragon Quest IX took JRPG fans in new directions, borrowing mechanics from MMOs to prolong the game’s play life. Fallout: New Vegas, on the other hand, stayed tried and true to its predecessor and placed the focus on a new setting and refined story.
The genre that has been as firmly cemented as gaming itself is more than likely that of the Action Adventure game. It not only evolves each year, but it also allows for the most revolutionary (and often familiar-feeling) change in mechanic. This year was no different, as Darksiders arrived early on to thrill us for hours in a giant world. Enslaved brought some of the most memorable character acting of this generation. Splinter Cell: Conviction took spy combat to a more personal level.
The year brought us the iPad, an exciting new product from Apple. Though the device provided a great interface for apps, games have thrived on it and further cemented the entire iOS device family as a solid platform for interactive entertainment. Angry Birds, perhaps the most downloaded game of the year, has been a mammoth success story on this and other platforms, spawning a special edition and countless copycats. Geometry Wars HD, originally an XBLA game, is almost like a new experience with the addition of touch controls.
Racing games became the genre du jour of 2010, with several high profile releases. The real hits, though, were those that had more of an arcade-like feel to them, bringing fun over realism to the virtual street. Need for Speed Hot Pursuit was a return to form for the cop chase simulator, and Split/Second had us feeling like stuntmen in a futuristic Mario Kart movie where we could blow up our surroundings to hamper our rivals.
No matter what we say each year, the PC still isn’t dead. In fact, it remains the largest gaming platform on the planet, with some of the highest quality, most addictive games available. The past year brought us great compilations and DLC, like Borderlands: Claptrap’s New Robot Revolution. It also sent us back into the minutia-monitoring world of Civilization with the release of Civilization V. With the adoption of OnLive on the rise and Steam’s incredible growth as a platform within a platform, it’s easy to say “Nope, not dead yet.”
Finally, the shear amount of impressive console games released in 2010 was astounding, especially with release schedules for big games occurring throughout the year instead of just during the holiday back half. Super Street Fighter IV improved on the original game by including more characters, more moves, a better balance, and most importantly: an improved online experience. Heavy Rain was more than a game; it was an interactive experience that shifted genres and focused on a deep, thrilling story, all while dipping into the uncanny valley of visuals and audio. Halo: Reach was a step forward for the franchise’s universe with a refined experience and new vehicle modes, all while not relying on the series’ Master Chief as a necessary inclusion.
With 2010 bringing us some of the most debated, memorable gaming experiences of recent years, it’s no surprise that so many games made our list. And, even those that we’ve listed above are just a small snippet of what the team put together. In the following days we’ll list our Top Ten games of the 2010, but what may be more impressive is that 2011 looks to be potentially even better.