Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
GR may be famous for ripping into the bad games like a rabid pit bull on PCP, but we can be nice too. No, really.
Alright, alright. So it's not exactly in our nature and requires a great deal of drinking to get us in a kind mood. Or at least we assume it does. We've never tried it any other way. And we're not going to start now.
So break out the whisky and beer and get ready for the sweeter side of GR as we pay tribute to those games that remind us that we occasionally really, really love our jobs.
The rules have changed this year in a fashion we assume will generate more hate mail than usual. Last year we fought so much over the categories and which games belonged in them, we just decided to eliminate that mess altogether. This year it's just the top ten games that we agreed upon, plus a personal pick from each editor in order to avoid further violence.
Let's start handing out trophies...
Blake's Pick - Puzzle Quest – I actually bought this game a week before New Year’s and so far it has completely messed my brain up. I see colored orbs and skulls moving from grid to grid when I close my eyes. It’s even in my dreams when I sleep. I imagine the way I feel about Puzzle Quest is the way most Junkies feel about smack. It’s just so addictive I can’t stop. Definitely my editor's pick for the year.
Nick's Pick - Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 – Quirky, unusual, and uncompromising, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 turns the traditional turn-based Japanese RPGs on its head. A high-school student with the ability to evoke a monstrous Persona by shooting yourself in the head, you must balance your homework and your social life, all the while slashing and mashing abominations of blood and blade at midnight. Now, kids, remember to commit suicide before you go to school. Oh, and I made you lunch.
Duke's Pick - Assassin's Creed– While it had enough issues and mixed feelings to lose its place in the top ten, it's a game I really loved. If you haven't played it yet, take my advice: Turn off all the HUD elements, like your health bar and especially the map. Then just explore the most amazing cities to ever appear in a video game without a guide. Don't try to beat it; just play it.
#10 The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass– A portable on the list! This year?! It’s common to see some Zelda goodness on any “best of” video game list, but that it comes in the form of a handheld is rarer than an orange rupee. Even more impressive is that it exemplifies everything the Nintendo DS is capable of: intuitive stylus controls, wonderful cel-shaded graphics, and catchy tunes. Coupled with an epic adventure and the time-ticking concept of the hourglass, Zelda: Phantom Hourglass firmly opens our Top 10 list.
#9 Halo 3– Truly this was the Halo to end all Halos. Literally. It shined like Flood-slaughtering gold: brilliant graphics, new weapons, the introduction of shield packs and a very deep multiplayer. How many late nights have been spent laying down the pwnage since it came out? Not enough. It will never be enough! They say it would be the last in the series, but this incarnation broke a ton of sales records in the video game industry. You don’t just walk away from success like that. Or do you?
#8 Zack & Wiki– No, there aren’t any gore-laden frag-fests in Zack & Wiki, and you’re not surrounded by hordes of zombies. In fact, the game is totally cute and non-threatening. So how did it end up on the best of list? The intuitive way you use the Wii-mote as various tools to solve puzzles is a first in video games, and the best true innovation of the year. And the puzzles themselves make the game fun but not hair-pulling-out frustrating. In a year full of first-person-shooter frenzy, Zack and Wiki proves that you can be family friendly and still be awesome.
#7 Forza Motorsport 2– Racing simulators roared through all the consoles this year, but Forza Motorsport 2 easily took the checkered flag. With hundreds of cars, customizable paint jobs, realistic physics, and the intuitive visible race line that made the game as easy or as hard as you liked, this game is a true champion. It's a trip you don't want to miss.
#6 Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare– If you love to lay the smackdown on terrorists while blowing insane amounts of crap up, then I sincerely hope you already have a copy of Call of Duty 4. It was one of the best multiplayer games of the year and lived up to that reputation with a RPG-esque leveling system and special “perks” for your soldier. The single player campaign was fun as hell with varied missions and streamlined cinematic quality visuals. It’s worth playing just for the sniper mission. Trust me.