I'll cut straight to the chase on this one, 2010 has had some phenomenal games. Most years start out a little slow and then wind up into a big bang, but honestly it's hard to imagine anything better around the corner aside from a few releases here or there.
So before we get all wrapped up in Halo: Reach, or severely addicted to the latest MMO, let's take this time to reflect upon the phenomenal games that the first half of 2010 have brought to us.
God of War III
A long anticipated end to one of the most brutal, over-the-top, fun game series ever made, God Of War III took everything that made the first two games great and immediately improved upon them. But what makes this game so memorable isn't its mechanics. Quicktime events, button mashing, and advanced combos are things gamers expect as standard, particularly from the God of War series (which arguably started it all). No, what made God of War III great was the astonishing amount of detail poured into it graphically. Few developers know how to turn a great fight into an epic struggle, and though the ride was a little short it was most certainly one that set a high bar for adventure games to come.
Review: God of War III
Super Mario Galaxy 2
It's impossible to know where to start with Super Mario Galaxy 2. Everything from the controls, to the level design represent the absolute best of what Nintendo has to offer. It's hard to find a game that can be suggested to just about anyone, but SMG2 is most definitely just that. If you own a Wii and don't own this game, you're committing some sort of sin. It's that simple.
Review: Super Mario Galaxy 2
Red Dead Redemption
Western games have been far and few in between, but as a whole they haven't been so good. Something about that feeling of the west, the excitement of being in a brand new land filled with limitless possibilities, it just doesn't seem to really translate quite the same through a controller. That is, until Red Dead Redemption was made. The game takes every aspect of the Old West, from the sweeping plains to the wild gunfights, and packages it in a way that only Rockstar would know how. Even better than the perfectly rendered world would be the story, which somehow manages to hold the essence of a spaghetti western while at the same time making many modern day references to a Manifest Destiny gone wrong. Red Dead Redemption is nothing short of a work of art.
Review: Red Dead Redemption
Super Street Fighter 4
Fighting games are a hit and miss genre for a lot of people, but those who pay attention to them are part of a large and very tight knit community. Super Street Fighter 4 isn't on this list because it's one of the most recognizable franchises out there, it's on this list because it's done absolutely everything right. Reliable netcode, rebalanced characters, gorgeous art and plenty of developer support has turned SSF4 into the poster boy for the mainstream fighting scene. Now lets just hope with the bar set so high, someone's up to the challenge of dethroning this king.
Final Fantasy XIII
Perhaps one of the more controversial names on this list, Final Fantasy XIII is the not here to be praised for its storyline. It is here however, to be praised for the risks that were taken in producing it. In the short term FFXIII may seem very shallow and repetitive, but it's a game designed with a very specific learning curve and once you learn the tempo the beat is a joy to dance to. Looking past the bland character development, Final Fantasy XIII presented players with a genuinely engaging (and at times difficult) experience and furthered an ailing genre.
Review: Final Fantasy XIII
There's a lot that makes Heavy Rain memorable in my book, beyond the silly box art and origami tutorial. The graphics were impressive, really highlighting how far the industry has come in character modeling. The storyline was solid, proving yet again that good writing makes (or breaks) just about any game. But what really sold Heavy Rain for me was the fact that I wasn't playing a game, I was acting out a drama. Many of the typical gaming elements (collecting items, solving puzzles, stomping bad guys) were all there, but so well blended that it never really felt like a typical game. It felt like a story unfolding, specifically driven by the player. To have the same engrossing feeling of a good book wrapped around the fold of my PlayStation controller is a rare feeling, and one Heavy Rain deserves quite a bit of praise for.
Review: Heavy Rain
Mass Effect 2
Sequels can be a tricky business, particularly for any kind for RPG. Fortunately Bioware seems to know what they're doing, as Mass Effect 2 was a vast improvement on everything from the first game (just as long as you don't count resource collecting). A very sharp class system made the squad based combat a blast to play, and though the individual character missions are a little short, there's a lot to be said about how much background is poured into each one of the Normandy's crew members. Bioware was even kind enough to feature an ending that lets players kill themselves and their entire crew, which is a great reward for anyone who really hates mining planets.
Review: Mass Effect 2
Tatsunoko vs. Capcom
Good Wii games come few and far in between, and great Wii games are even rarer than that. Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is a fantastic game, and one whose existence is important for a wide variety of reasons. Using minor tweaks and improvements to the old Marvel vs. Capcom system, TvC applies complex combo strategies with easy-to-learn controls. TvC also features a lot of fan service, from the popular Capcom franchises and classic Manga comics, to popular game mechanics. The amount of detail put into a game for a console typically overlooked by competitive gamers is really impressive, and the result is a fighting game that deserves every bit of praise it receives.
Review: Tatsunoko vs Capcom
Platinum Games' premier title released with the most fanfare and aggressive marketing seen in a long while. Bayonetta herself showed up just about anywhere and everywhere, and while the focus was typically on her ridiculous body, it was her stylish moves that made Bayonetta such a success. Wild boss fights, an interactive combo system, finishing moves, and over-the-top action helped define one of the most ridiculous (and fun) action games to come along in a while. Anyone interested in fast paced combat and a bit of tongue-and-cheek humor should find Bayonetta to be an absolute blast.
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
Metal Gear Solid games are all known for their massive storyline, first and foremost. The amount of loving detail poured into the plot is really jaw dropping, considering how many games the franchise encompasses and how many consoles have been involved in its history. Peace Walker is no exception, which makes it both a true MGS title and a gem on the PSP. Tons of missions, an expansive storyline, four person multiplayer, impressive graphics, the list of things that Peace Walker does right goes on and on.
Review: Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker