We here at the Shelf decided that there was no better way to ring in 2011 than by compiling a list (A list at the end of the year?! What a concept!) of our favourite games of 2010. In an industry regularly dominated by triple A titles and billion dollar publishers, this past year proved to be a breakthrough of sorts for indie gaming. This is not to say that there weren’t great blockbuster games this year — there were plenty — or that indie games weren’t a force to be reckoned with in years past. 2010 merely showed us all that good games are good games, period.
It was a year where you could easily hear Super Meat Boy and Halo: Reach mentioned in the same breath. There were great games to be found on every platform, from the indiest of indie to the most conglomerated of corporate titles. However, like most years only a few of these games will have the distinction of being remembered in the years to come. Here are a few. – Will Perkins
At E3, Nintendo strutted in a way that disgusted some and enthralled others. No longer were they pushing gimmicky white apertures but instead brought out their big guns so quickly and aggressively it made you want to pull out a cigarette after it was all said and done. Some argued that it was a cheap way to rally their fan base, I argue that I really don’t give a shit. Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Goldeneye, NBA Jam and Donkey Kong Country Returns may not revolutionize anything, but they are severely well executed remakes, sequels and retrospects. DK, NBA Jam and Goldeneye were crafted by folks who clearly cherish the material they are dealing with. Identifying what about those titles made them so everlasting, but just leaving it at that would not have made them stellar, no, they went above the pale by bringing these gems to the contemporary, adding elements that represent the modern state of gaming be it through direct mechanics or just painful attention to creative detail.
Not all of the best was found on the Wii, but it was a nice change of pace that a lot of it was. For the more conventional ‘next-gen’ entries, we seemed to have a year built upon left fielders. While the original Red Dead Revolver was a hidden gem, few were prepared for the magnitude of the follow-up, Red Dead Redemption, a massive western game, nay, experience, that would have players pinned to a time that’s always found trouble finding its destiny in the gaming world. The year was certainly back loaded, many triumphant entries seemed to flop out of some neglected closet, Enlsaved and Vanquish are two stellar, gorgeous, if not unassuming action games and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, while only kind of a Castlevania game, is still an attractive adventure. Downloadables shouldn’t be neglected either, with Clandun, Scott Pilgrim, Super Meat Boy, Chime, Cave Story, After Burner Climax, Pac-Man Championship Edition DX and Costume Quest letting you game nice without bothering to put on pants.
The catch-up played by Sony and Microsoft with Kinect and Move may have more competent tech to rival the Wii, but the majority of releases seem like nothing we weren’t getting done before. Sports games, dance games and fitness games have played maypole with Nintendo in both good and bad variations. But leave it to the best to at least give us some reason to hope, or at the very least, drunk dare the hell out of our closest friends. I mentioned that there is no shortage of dance games, but Dance Central is the dance game realized, no longer vaguely asking you to move in certain directions, but entirely challenging you to contort gestures you hope no one is watching you perform. Only people are totally, totally watching you. Oh, and the variety of songs is good too, so. – Zack Kotzer
Some gamers soured on 2K Marin’s sequel to the 2007 masterpiece, deeming it “too familiar” to the first. But there really isn’t any setting in video games like Rapture, and the second dive below the Atlantic has everything that made the first so impressive and then some. The combat is deeper, hacking is no longer a pain in the butt. The environments are even creepier than in the first (Little Sister Orphanage, I’m looking at you). The kill-or-spare choices are increasingly complex and morally muddled, although the “Saviour” achievement erases the entire idea behind it. And this game’s “oh shit” moment is arguably more emotionally devastating than the first’s. Top it off with the utterly fantastic DLC episode Minerva’s Den and you have one of the best single-player experiences this year. – Jonathan Ore
Fallout: New Vegas
I loved Fallout 3, but like many I thought it was missing something. Bethesda’s crack at the seminal post-apocalyptic role-playing game reinvented the series as a quasi-shooter with RPG tendencies – ‘Oblivion with guns’ they called it. For whatever reason, Fallout 3 lacked the character and humour that made the original Black Isle Fallout games so memorable, which was why old schoolers like myself were so pleased when it was announced that Obsidian Entertainment – a studio made up of many key Black Isle designers – would be handed the reigns to the spin-off: Fallout: New Vegas.
Back was the twisted sense of humour and tangible sense of horror that the post-nuclear wasteland evoked. Characters were more memorable, combat more intense and consequential, choices more stark and morally grey. Fallout: New Vegas for all of its graphical shortcomings and oft-reported bugs was everything Fallout 3 should have been and wasn’t. Never has the hellish, brutal and irradiated wasteland of the post-apocalypse been so inviting. – Will Perkins
Super Street Fighter IV
Last I checked, my total playtime for SSFIV was over 135 hours. I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of what I can do in this game. SSFIV has one of the biggest rosters in the Street Fighter series, and a large active player base. Finding opponents of all skill levels online is a breeze, so whether you want to have fun throwing fireballs or work on your painfully difficult 1-frame link combos, you’ll find the right kind of competition. That’s to say nothing of the gorgeous visual design and unforgettable characters. Super SFIV’s new characters run the SF Canon gamut, and Juri and Hakan are both welcome newcomers. It’s the pinnacle of the fighting game genre from the people who defined it. – Jonathan Ore
No 2010 list of games would be complete without mentioning this game. Originally made by one guy in a week, Minecraft turned into one of the biggest gaming success stories of the decade. The rudimentary graphics betray a stunning complexity that the game makes possible. Minecraft is essentially one giant sandbox, a digital Lego set that allows the player to build pretty much anything they can imagine. Scale model of the USS Enterprise? Sure! Custom sky castle? Why not? Gargantuan underground fortress? Of course! Working arithmetic logic unit…? Uh, holy shit… yeah, that too! A quick search of YouTube with the term ‘Minecraft’ will reveal some of the insane creations players have constructed in-game
I was completely sucked in by Minecraft, playing every chance I got for about a month straight. Simple in concept and rendering, but absolutely enthralling to anyone with a creative bone in their body. – Will Perkins