2009 was a great year for gaming. We saw some fantastic releases, big and small, on all platforms. The PS3 and PSP, in particular, had some note worthy exclusives. The DS’s library continued to grow, and the Wii also offered fun, niche titles. The 360 didn’t have as much luck in terms of exclusives, but with all the multiplatform releases, no 360 owner starved this year.
I have already done videos on my Youtube channel for my top 5 favorite games for each platform, and if you haven’t already, be sure to check those out. Here, however, let’s take a look at my top 10 favorite overall releases for the year.
10] Demon’s Souls / PS3 / Atlus
Blending elements of both JRPGs and WRPGs, Demon’s Souls is a game that is unforgiving, but not unfair. Though its difficulty is brutal, learning its ins and outs is part of process. Challenging and addictive, Demon’s Souls also adds unique connectivity elements to the genre. It is both frustrating and enjoyable at the same time.
9] Half-Minute Hero / PSP / XSEED
A real breath fresh air on a platform typically driven by tried-and-true console style games, I was pleasantly surprised by Half-Minute Hero. It turns the RPG genre (as well as the shmup and strategy genres) on its head, and never loses its sense of humor. With great pixel art and catchy music, this is a real gem.
8] Phantasy Star 0 / DS / Sega
Sega lost a bit of goodwill with Phantasy Star fans after Phantasy Star Universe (although Phantasy Star Portable on the PSP seemed to enjoy some popularity in Japan), but Phantasy Star 0 on the DS goes back to Phantasy Star Online’s roots. This one feels a lot more like the Dreamcast original. It’s great fun to team up online with some friends, and even the single player campaign is quite good.
7] Dissidia: Final Fantasy / PSP / Square Enix
I was anticipating Dissidia, but unsure of the kind of experience it would deliver. Dissidia combines aspects of fighting, action and RPG genres into a completely unique experience. One on one battles with different Final Fantasy characters are fast, cinematic and a total blast. Leveling up your characters and outfitting them with new equipment really adds to the longevity.
6] Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers / Wii / Square Enix
The Crystal Bearers received polarizing, and often conflicting, reviews upon its release, but after playing the game extensively myself, I find the mixed reactions more baffling than the game itself. It’s true that The Crystal Bearers travels off the beaten path blazed by other action-adventure games like The Legend of Zelda, and it does carry its fair share of blemishes, it mostly succeeds in offering a novel and fun approach to the genre.
5] Ghostbusters: The Video Game / Multiplatform / Atari
Ghostbusters released on every platform imaginable, but this entry specifically refers to the 360 and PS3 builds. Admittedly, I’m a huge Ghostbusters fan so I’m a bit biased, but if this game sucked, I would probably be complaining the loudest. Ghostbusters plays largely like a third-person shooter, but carries enough of its own unique mechanics to stand apart. Fun and funny, Ghostbusters is an incredibly enjoyable experience.
4] Flower / PSN / Sony Computer Entertainment
Truly one of the most inspiring games I’ve ever played. Flower’s innocuous beginnings mask its epic crescendo, leading to an incredibly satisfying ending. Flower is something remarkable, and should not be missed.
3] Batman: Arkham Asylum / Multiplatform / Eidos Interactive and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Seemingly out of left field, Batman: Arkham Asylum gave us an incredibly well done single player experience in the vein of Metroid or BioShock. It’s atmospheric and pays its respects to its franchise, and a real treat in an industry that is placing an increasing focus on the multiplayer experience (often at the expense of the single player). Great use of action, puzzle solving and stealth, Arkham Asylum is a game everyone should check out.
2] Retro Game Challenge / DS / XSEED
Trapped in the 80s, and forced to play 8-bit games riddled with typos and cheat codes. This is the premise of Retro Game Challenge, and it brilliantly captures the magic of yesteryear and all the nostalgia it entails. As you play a variety of old school styled games on the DS’s top screen, your child avatar and his friend lay in front of their TV and Famicom on the bottom screen, as you might have done as kid yourself. Between bouts, you can share rumors, thumb through video game magazines or look for hints in instruction booklets. A terrific addition to the DS’s library.
1] Uncharted 2: Among Thieves / PS3 / Sony Computer Entertainment
Uncharted 2 stole my attention like few games have. The pacing is brilliant, and there never feels like a good time to put the controller. There’s always something happening, always something to shoot for. The game simply grabs you, and does not let go. The storytelling, action and platforming weave together, and it becomes impossible to remove Uncharted 2′s individual components. It stands in a league of its own and really drives its genre forward.