Last week, I explained how “BioShock 2’s” unconventional perspective made it my top game of 2010. Here’s a look at the rest of my top 10, ranked roughly in order of how much I loved them. If there’s a unifying theme to the top of my list it’s that my three favorite games last year were all slated for 2009, then bumped to the first two months of 2010, giving developers more time to squash programming bugs.
“Mass Effect 2” (rated M, $20 on PC or Xbox 360, $60 on PlayStation 3) [review]: If “BioShock 2” was my No. 1 game, “ME2” is No. 1A. The amount of lore and detail BioWare packs into its sci-fi space operas makes the franchise the “Star Trek” of video games, and an outstandingly deep, compelling roster of supporting characters gave the developer a perfect outlet for its expert storytelling.
“ME2’s” ability to read players’ saved files from the first game in the series and reflect their choices in its plot was the innovation of the year. The game faltered in a couple of areas, though. In an attempt to streamline inventory management and create a more stripped-down, action-driven experience, BioWare may have gone a bit too far. What’s more, the level design failed to do right by BioWare’s decision to make “ME2” more of a shooter. There were too many long corridors filled with strategically placed, giant metal boxes to hide behind, and every firefight felt the same after a while. The game began last year as a PC and Xbox 360 exclusive but was finally released on the PS3 on Tuesday.
“Bayonetta” (rated M, $30 on Xbox 360 or PS3) [review]: The year’s best action game opened with a long, irritating movie and was often conflicted about whether it wanted to empower women or objectify them. Outside of these two issues, it was a pitch-perfect game about beating and shooting the living crap out of everything in sight.
“Kirby’s Epic Yarn” (rated E, $50 on Wii) [review]: This two-dimensional, platform-jumping game uses just the directional pad and two buttons, making it play like something out of the 1980s. But “Epic Yarn” stands out from the field with a commitment to an artistic vision that gives everything a stitched-together, fabricky feel. The year’s cutest game by far.
“Alan Wake” (rated T, $35 on Xbox 360) [review]: Remedy Entertainment’s gripping story about a writer’s search for his wife in a Washington logging town owes a great deal to the offbeat, early-’90s TV show “Twin Peaks.” “Alan Wake” kept the tension high by having players find pages of a horror manuscript that was coming true. Surprisingly, that axe murderer is still scary even when the game tells you he’s right around the corner.
“Dead Rising 2” (rated M, $30 on PC, $60 on Xbox 360 or PS3) [review]: Capcom’s zombie slaughterfest sequel took everything that made the first “Dead Rising” a cult classic, improved upon it and added two-player co-op. Sure, the online, mini-game-centric “Terror is Reality” game show felt buggy and pointless, but a stand-alone prologue (“Case Zero”) felt like a huge leap forward for players hoping to get a taste of a big game before release day.
“Super Mario Galaxy 2” (rated E, $50 on Wii) [review]: It would be fair to call “SMG2” “yet another Mario game,” but the level design and platform-jumping controls are perfectly executed. I can’t recall a single instance in which poor camera angles or slippy controls led to my death.
“Halo: Reach” (rated M, $60 on Xbox 360) [review]: Consider this spot the blockbuster shooter slot. Even though I don’t play a ton of competitive, multiplayer shooters, it’s hard not to acknowledge the well-tuned pixel crack of “Halo: Reach” and “Call of Duty: Black Ops” multiplayer. “Call of Duty” has the better experience and progression system, as well as the excellent Zombies mode, but “Halo: Reach’s” level-editing Forge World toolkit and ease with which players can make their own gameplay movies and screenshots give it the edge.
“Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood” (rated M, $60 for Xbox 360 or PS3): Now we’re getting into the tricky spot on the list. I’m still a couple more hours from finishing “Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood,” and I haven’t dived into the multiplayer, but I already like what I’ve played more than any number of games I finished in 2010. The open-world game set in Renaissance Rome has few dull moments, thanks to varied quests, frantic action and a well-written story that blends historical fiction with sci-fi. If anything, I could see this game rising on my Top 10 the longer I play it.
“Red Dead Redemption” (rated M, $40 for Xbox 360 or PS3): I had a love-hate relationship with Rockstar Games’ Western that’s topping many Game of the Year lists. The early 20th-century setting, stunning visuals, excellent voice acting and moving score help make it a storytelling experience unlike any other. Frequent glitches, however, required me to restart several missions, and I lost an hour or two of “work” in the process. What’s more, the Mexico portions of the game dragged, which kept me from finishing it. Everyone I know raves about “RDR’s” ending, so I’ll be going back, gutting out the Mexico bits and finishing in between playing 2011 titles.