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...
Windy's Pick - Ivy the Kiwi?– The game I'm most thankful for this year is Ivy the Kiwi? A game title that ends in a question mark? About a lesser known bird from a remote corner of the planet? Writing the review and having it make sense was a challenge in itself.
It feels like a picture book – a love worn one, complete with dog-eared corners, a broken spine, and hot chocolate rings on some of the pages – and I'm thankful for the childhood memories and the brief glimpse of Nirvana that Ivy brought back to me this year.
Jesse's Pick - Hang-On– I owe Sega’s arcade classic Hang-On some hefty thanks. Because of my dad’s monomaniacal obsession with this bullet bike classic, I got more than a few extra trips to the local arcade. Back then, arcade cabinets didn’t have pansy little wands and remotes to wave around; no, in those days, “motion controls” meant having to sit on a full-sized crotch rocket and leaning that mother from side to side.
Even as new cabinets rolled in over the years, that game with the big red fake bike defied the gods of obsolescence—in no small part thanks to my dad single-handedly subsidizing the machine for years on end. Thank you, Hang-On, for luring my dad like a moth to your coin-operated flame.
Kuulei's Pick - Rainbow Six: Vegas– When I first joined the online realm of shooter heaven on the Xbox 360, I had no idea that my first match would consist of being called a noob for getting 2 kills and 20 deaths. Getting killed repeatedly was the norm of my online gaming existence in Call of Duty 2 and Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, but that all changed in 2006 with Rainbow Six: Vegas.
Even though RSV wasn't the first shooter I played, it was the first that gave me a change to adjust to playing online. It allowed me to fit my character to my playstyle through their customization system, and with its addicting gameplay, I was playing several hours a day. I fell completely in love with the game and eventually fell for the entire genre itself, to the point where I got good enough never to be called a noob again.
Jessica's Pick - Mass Effect 2– Let's just face it: if you've played a game so long that every time your roommates see you play it they say "Why are you still playing this game?! Didn't you beat it like a year ago!? I want to watch Jersey Shore on the good TV!", it probably holds a warm fuzzy space in your heart. Crappy Reality TV be damned. DAMNED I SAY!
The game has everything I want: custom gameplay, character creation, and incredibly cinematic and immersive cut-scenes. The fact that they were able to make the sequel to an already great game ten times more amazing is impressive. If I feel like being a space commander badass chick who likes to warp the crap out of synthetic robot goons while blasting them with my rocket launcher, I can do that.
[Jessica's our fantastic video editor, by the way. ~Ed.]
Kevin Schaller's Pick - Tetris – The game I’m most thankful for is probably Tetris. It’s been a game I’ve spent copious amounts of time on over the years, trying to reach various high score marks and even gunning from the NES version’s world high score (which I was close to at one point, but then the record was broken... and I cried).
One of the highlights of my life was recently meeting Alexey Pajitnov, shaking his hand, and just talking to him about the game he made on that old Siberian computer all those years ago. Plus, if you ever need to hypnotize somebody, what’s better than a bunch of falling blocks that disappear when they complete a line?
Bonus: Eduardo's Pick - Spy Hunter– Forget about the aborted 'The Rock' Dwayne Johnson movie adaptation. I'm talking about the original NES game here. I freaking love the Spy Hunter series. The first one was probably one of my earliest gaming memories and I've played it to death.
'Super' came in late, after I had the chance to improve my NES collection when a rental place next door was closing down. Even though it didn't technically start off as a Spy Hunter game, it's incredibly fun and challenging. Very few games these days make me try to break 'em like this game did back then - like taking out spiked wheeled cars without shooting them! Love it!