Announcing the 2010 Game of the Year Awards from the First Hour! We published over 60 full reviews this year, tripling our output from last year. Of course, our writing staff has grown quite a bit also. I personally beat 30 games, undoubtedly making 2010 my most productive video gaming year ever. We also played over 55 first hours, keeping up a steady pace of one a week. We have not been lacking for great games or content this year.
This isn't your normal Game of the Year awards, we cover everything from older game of the year to worst first hour, so keep scrolling all the way to the bottom! If anything, our game of the year picks are the least interesting decisions. The writers here also don't vote on the categories, instead, everyone is welcome to submit their picks as their own definitive decision.
Platforming perfected. I thought I would have to pick between this and Mass Effect 2 after collecting the game's first 120 stars, but then I realized I was only half way done. Everything wrong with the first Galaxy was fixed (and those problems were few and far between as it was). Super Mario Galaxy 2 is my 2010 game of the year.
Incredible game from start to finish (as long as you skip the cutscenes). Star Successor uses the pointer functionality of the Wii remote and a ton of variety to take a rather one-dimensional genre, the rail shooter, and make it into something new and incredible. I played a ton of great games this year, but Sin & Punishment: Star Successor was definitely the best.
Super Street Fighter IV may be a bit too easy to pick for me, as it will also win my "most hours played" (not to mention Steve picked Street Fighter IV for his game of the year last year too -ed). However, in my eyes, it really does deserve the top spot. The original revitalized the fighting game scene that's been holding on for dear life over the past decade, largely kept on life support by Marvel vs Capcom 2. With the update/expansion, the game is further balanced, added onto and really, as good as a fighting game as you'll see at this time. It joins as a perfect portrait of its genre, and for that, Super Street Fighter IV receives my game of the year pick.
Our favorite games that were released before 2010.
This is probably my favorite award to pick as I generally play a lot more older games than newer games. This turned out to be a bit different this year as we received a good helping of review copies for new games, but I still thought about it for a while. I technically gave Super Mario Galaxy (the first one) a 10 out of 10, but it would be horribly lame to give my two big awards to the same series. Super Mario Galaxy 2 exemplifies everything I love about both games.
As for The Minish Cap, it's rare I regret not playing a game earlier than I did. I unfairly wrote the game off when it was released and when I finally got around to playing it this year, I absolutely loved it. It's right up there with Majora's Mask and A Link to the Past for my favorite Zelda games. While the game aged perfectly over five years time, I just wish I had played it when it was released.
When I think of a perfect game, I think of Valve's first person puzzler hit, which I only just got my hands on this year. Every aspect of the product, from gameplay concept and execution to narrative and progression, is a huge success. It's hard to overstate my satisfaction. That doesn't necessarily mean it's my favorite game, but if I were teaching a course on how to make a great video game, I'd spend most of class pointing at Portal.
An amazing chapter in The Dark Knight's legacy, Batman: Arkham Asylum has to be the greatest Batman game ever made.
Mirror's Edge is still a standout in my mind, really taking a unique approach in both its presentation but its solid gameplay as well. Despite some smaller issues, I still absolutely enjoyed the game and am hoping a worthy sequel is eventually released. Right now things are still up in the air, as EA has won their (ridiculous) lawsuit over the name but still have reservations on a sequel since the first wasn't the success they've hoped and they've pointed to the game specifically as an example of why all new big games need a multiplayer model for success...
My new favorite franchise of all time kicked off its second game with a balls-to-the-wall opening scene and then followed it up with an explosive escape topped off by another action packed level. All while priming up one of the best stories of the year. Mass Effect 2's first hour blew me away.
The home stretch of Kratos' long quest for revenge begins with the titans assaulting the gods of Mount Olympus. Think about that. God of War III starts with the most epic conflict that Greek mythology could possibly produce. The scale of it all is mind-blowing, and yet every detail is pixel-perfect. And it ends with a shocking, satisfying eye gouge.
The entire first hour of Donkey Kong Country Returns was played with a huge smile on my face if not a look of complete amazement. After playing the first hour I couldn't put it down for the next three--and then had the same problem for days. A one hour session isn't enough.
While not a great first hour in the traditional sense, VVVVVV masterfully compacted enough fun and logic into its first hour that it still manages to earn my pick. Non-stop and brutal yet satisfying, the game never rests to keep you moving, thinking and working on getting pixel-precise movements down just so you can pass into the next room and continue your quest. I couldn't put it down.
The games where we couldn't wait to put down the controller.
This was a painful mess of bad gameplay, worse dialog, and awful mini-games. I was counting down the minutes until I could stop playing Alpha Protocol, and then I still had to finish writing the review on its first hour.
In sixty minutes of play time, only fifteen of them were an actual Mega Man game. And not a good Mega Man game, either. Yeah, I'm about six years late on Mega Man X8, but sometimes I have to revisit the dark days of Mega Man before I can get back to its present state (which is rooted firmly in 1993).
I enjoyed some of the concepts of Final Fantasy XIV and some of its potential, but the time I spent with the game was more painful than anything else. It's not good when people leave your game with most of their hours confused and unsatisfied. Square-Enix gives you almost no tutorial of any sort and really nothing good to latch onto for the first hours of play, aside from some pretty images and sounds.
The games that started well, but went downhill from there.
Nothing could prepare me for the waggle-fest I was in for in the game's final hours, but at least the charm of Zack and Wiki was able to last throughout the game. This one honestly really disappointed me. I wanted to like another Wii game this year besides Super Mario Galaxy 2.
Its combat begins in Kratos' shadow, but finishes with its own flavor. It's plot premise shows promise, but the story of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow turns boring. Humdrum early puzzles make way for some complex brainbusters. It starts out gorgeous, but ends up rather plain. And the platforming doesn't even really start until halfway through. The first hour of Lords of Shadow was pretty good, but overall the game ended up...well, pretty good. Just a different form of pretty good.
The games that sucked our time away like no other.
60 hours of awesome Japanese RPG in space. I would have never thought that was even possible before Infinite Space landed in my Nintendo DS.
Mega Man 10 was available for download at noon on March 1st. I beat the game by 3pm that afternoon. Then I played it for another fifty hours. That's a lot of time for me to spend on any one game anymore, let alone one that only lasts about as long as a Lord of the Rings movie from start to finish. This game, like its wonderful retro-revival predecessor Mega Man 9, is packed with extra features for obsessed Mega-fans like me to explore and master. I never did finish that perfect, no-damage run though...
I'm over 480 hours into Monster Hunter Tri, and counting, and loving every second of it. There's just so much to do, collect, and customize--and once you've done it all, you'll want to do it all again (and again). There's a surprising amount of variability in monster behavior; no two fights are the same, but every fight is as fun as the last...more so if you bring some friends along for the hunt. This is the most time I've invested in a game (Wii or otherwise) since Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
Super Street Fighter IV is essentially the reason I caved and bought a 360 during the close-outs of the old model, and it's hardly surprising that it's my most played-game of the year, taking into account how much I've played with friends as well.
I bought my wife an iPod Touch last year for Christmas with the slight ulterior motive of being able to play the slew of cheap and successful iOS games available for the platform. A few of the games I reviewed, including Bad Cube, Plants vs. Zombies, Dead Panic, and Game Dev Story, but I also tried out a selection of other games including, ahem, Sally's Spa. iOS games can be great fun in small bites.
I shelled out $15 for this low budget cash-grab from Nintendo last year after having a few drinks. I recently started playing this shallow game in earnest, and I'm surprised at how much fun I'm having with Pokemon Rumble. I guess I'm still a sucker for Pokemon, even in such a cheap form, after all these years.
While I may be a bit shamed to admit it, I put several hours into Doritos Crash Course a few weeks ago upon its release. For a free arcade game, it is surprisingly full-featured and its competitive race gameplay quickly becomes addicting with its strong online competition backbone holding the entire thing up.
I don't even own a PlayStation 3 but Mass Effect 2 is just way too good for one console. One of the best games ever is going multiplatform like it should have originally. It's just a little sad PS3 only owners won't get to play the first game which I like even more. I'd also like to throw a shout out to Harmonix for going independent again and avoiding the soul-crushing behemoth of Activision. That was a very pleasant surprise.
Six months ago, you would've thought that Donkey Kong Country's days were done for good. Today, it's back and better than ever with Donkey Kong Country Returns. Retro Studios, of Metroid Prime fame, proves that its mastery isn't limited to mood-thick 3D adventures. The limitations of a simple 2D platformer don't stunt the studio's creativity one bit: I can't remember the last platformer I played with such attention to detail in its environments.
Without a doubt, I was most surprised and hopeful about the Child of Eden announcement this year at E3. That's what a next-gen spiritual successor to Rez will do for you. It also helped reinforce my decision in purchasing a 360, as I would have to buy one eventually for this game anyway. I've put heavy hours into Rez, Rez HD, and the Space Channel 5 games (part 2 coming soon to consoles near you!), so this surprise was nothing but positive for me.
Maybe the game will be awesome, it is BioWare after all, but it really seems like EA has already infected the great studio into rushing the Dragon Age sequel out after only 15 months (if the release date holds true). There was 26 months between Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, so cutting almost a year off that timeline seems super ambitious for a developer so focused on quality. I'm kind of using Dragon Age II as my barometer for how EA might be treating Mass Effect 3, which will be released about 22 months after Mass Effect 2. Of course, developers get better at what they do as the learn the platform and familiarize themselves with the game engines, so I'm probably just getting upset over nothing.
Ever since I first stormed Dracula's demon castle, I've dreamed of doing it cooperatively with a friend. Castlevania: Harmony of Despair delivers exactly what I wanted...to the one system I don't own. My vampire-killing pals all gave up on the 360 after so many hardware failures, and I'd rather play the game on a system that doesn't demand $60 every year just to play online. Here's hoping for a PlayStation Network port...
Apparently 2010 was the year of three dimensions.
I guess I don't know for sure if Picross 3D undersold or is underappreciated, but this is a huge, addicting puzzle game on the Nintendo DS that deserves to be played. Not to mention that at release it was only $20.
Lost in the hype of so many other great PS3 titles this spring, 3D Dot Game Heroes is an homage/knockoff of the original Legend of Zelda that celebrates the style and quirks of NES-era adventure RPGs. The unclear progression and easily-skipped sidequests are offset by some great humor, a fair challenge, plenty of content, and some very familiar abilities and dungeon design. If you're a Zelda fan, you should probably check out this game as well. It was clearly made by some Zelda fans.
A sad year for these Rare games.
I'm not sure who greenlit this half-port, but Perfect Dark on Xbox Live Arcade is a bizarre mess of nostalgia-destroying awfulness. I wish I had never played this as it makes me want to strangle a part of my childhood.
The Wii reimagining of the N64 classic is anything but a cheap cash-in. On the other hand, GoldenEye 007 DS makes most cheap cash-ins look pretty good. The Half-Hour Handheld I completed for this game was the longest 30 minutes I've played all year.
These may seem like a cop-out because they're such easy targets but really, they're also the most deserving. My first is Square-Enix, specifically with their release of Final Fantasy XIV. Almost unarguably on the downturn for a while now, Final Fantasy XIV just caps off and exemplifies the company's failure. In ignoring the current gaming climate, ignoring the alpha testers, ignoring the beta testers, they released Final Fantasy XIV exactly how some producer wanted it at the expense of everything else. They probably thought that the Final Fantasy name and Final Fantasy XI subscribers would alone transfer success onto XIV, but in the end it was a deserved failure at launch and the entire company has been scrambling to keep the project alive since public and stockholder opinion has been overwhelmingly negative. At this point, large amounts of the administrative team has been fired/replaced and the game's monthly fees have been rescinded so far, in an attempt to salvage the project.
Adding to the shame is Activision, with their alleged treatment towards Infinity Ward (the team that made them billions) along with overall treatment and thoughts on the gaming public. Right now they're the EA of 10 years ago and by far the bad-boy publishers of the industry, at least in the eyes of the media.
Then I couldn't finish without adding Microsoft to this list. Ever since the release of the 360, MS has been trying to squeeze money out of consumers at every chance possible, and this continues into 2010 and beyond. I have ran into so many obvious method of near extortion this past year (after purchase of my 360) that it's really almost depressing. Most consumers will just readily pay for the 'conveniences' Microsoft gives but really it's a matter of them micro-managing and controlling the entire platform and trying to bleed the most out of its customers. I'm not saying it's not smart, because it's definitely working for them. After the losses of the original Xbox, I can see trying to recoup that, but I personally can't stand what they're doing with the system (which I've also talked about in a previous article). Their continued focus on console rather than PC (for controlled profits) adds to my shame towards the company.
Immortal Defense was honestly one of my earlier indie games played and it still stands out in my mind as being so unique with a proven concept. Introducing a heavy story and heavy hours into a tower defense game is above the realm of even mainstream games of the type. Everything about it was fresh and fantastic.
Very few XBLA games have even tempted me in regards to a purchase, but I pulled the trigger on After Burner Climax and definitely got my money worth, and even plan to play more of the game in the future to complete it one day. Around in the (physical) arcades since 2006, it was only released this year on consoles and is a perfect reminder of the classic arcade experience. Speed, precision, graphics, sound, difficulty, flash. It's all there in this package. I'll hope to have an proper review of this title up at some point.