Best of the Rest: Griffin's Picks of 2008

Rock Band 2
If one wanted to know the depths of my love for this series, they'd need only observe two things -- my battered, cymbal-expanded, wireless RB2 drum kit, and the two bottle cap-sized blisters currently pulsating beneath the pinkies of my two hands.

This game didn't get much GOTY chatter this year for being a "glorified expansion pack" -- but Harmonix should be recognized for putting together a package that fixes literally every problem with the already-amazing original. They should also be recognized for dropping the best soundtrack of any rhythm game, ever. Costello? Talking Heads? Interpol? Dinosaur Jr.? Harmonix, you spoil me.

Castle Crashers
The outrageous online ailments of Castle Crashers never really enraged me as they apparently enraged everyone else. This is because I am extraordinarily popular, and have many friends who share my proclivity for beat-em-ups. If you haven't done so already, and you possess the social means, you simply must get four people together (and perhaps a few cold ones) and play through this bad boy. If you don't possess the social means, play through it on your own -- it has the best ending of any game this year.

The World Ends With You
If you were to tell me earlier this year that I'd become absolutely enamored with this title -- a Squeenix title, yes; but one that focuses heavily on the fashion and youth culture of Japan -- I would have told you that you were pot-high. But the incredibly unique combat system, the brilliant ways of acquiring experience, and one of the best stories I read all year made The World Ends With You the one handheld game of 2008 that you absolutely cannot miss.

Things I love: rhythm games, cost-efficient downloadable titles, trippy visuals, the ability to import my own music into my games, and roller coasters. The only way that Audiosurf could have tickled my fancy any more is if it somehow made my laptop dispense warm, buttery shrimp scampi. Hopefully that feature will get patched in soon.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Who knows -- if this game's online functionality had been, well, functional, it might have made my top five games of the year. Sadly, without that crucial element, my interest in the game was short-lived. Still, chasing after the Smash Ball in a frantic four-player match was one of the most exciting experiences I had all year.

Grand Theft Auto IV
I imagine that my experience with GTA IV was much like the experience of most of the people who played it -- as I made my first few steps (and murdered my first few pedestrians) in Liberty City, I felt like I was about to enter one of the most realistic, high quality games I'd ever played. Sadly, the story fell flat after the first island, and I feel like the game took a massive step back from San Andreas (one of my favorite games of all time) in terms of fun, exciting gameplay. Still, those blissful first few hours were enough to make me look back on the whole experience with some amount of fondness.

Honorable Mentions
Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved²; God of War: Chains of Olympus; Boom Blox; Professor Layton and the Curious Village; Chrono Trigger; PlayStation Home (you can probably guess why)

  • Endings: It may just seem this way because I played a hojillion games this year, but there seemed to be a dearth of truly satisfying endings in this year's offerings. With some notable exceptions (TWEWY, Mirror's Edge and Castle Crashers come to mind), it seemed like many games that broke the mold in terms of gameplay followed monotonous convention when it came time for the conclusion. Which brings me to...
  • Fable 2: I absolutely loved Fable 2, as my glowing Twitter dispatches during the time I played through it will attest. However, as most Joystiq Podcast listeners already know, the ending didn't exactly resonate with me. It was just so puzzlingly anti-climactic -- and no, I'm not saying that it needed some OMFG HUGE BOSS FITE before the credits rolled. I'm saying that the abstract, nonsensical manner in which the game's main conflict was resolved left me unsatisfied, and somewhat tarnished the entire experience for me.
  • Online Functionality: How are we still having problems figuring out online multiplayer? I'd anticipated spending hundreds of hours in front of LittleBigPlanet, Castle Crashers and Super Smash Bros. Brawl, pummeling my faraway acquaintances via the magic of the internet. Sadly, this was a near impossibility. Now that it's 2009, this sort of oversight is inexcusable. Bungling this crucial element of a multiplayer-centric title should be punishable by tarring and feathering.
  • Guitar Hero: World Tour (X360): I have no doubt that it'll serve as a nice jumping-off point for their next full-band title, but I just couldn't get into this one. The music creator didn't live up to the hype, the note tracking seemed shoddy at points, and the visual aesthetic was unpleasant (to say the least). However, the soundtrack had some truly notable achievements -- Kick Out the Jams? Don't mind if we do.
  • Nintendo Wii: Bias is an inclination often stemming from an unreasoned judgment which can affect impartiality. As such, I feel confident in my unbiasedness when I say that I was completely let down by the Nintendo Wii this year. My judgment isn't without reason -- I purchased a Wii in May specifically for Brawl, and because my hopes were high for some incredible reveals at Nintendo's E3 event. I was, and still am, heartbroken at what unfolded on that stage. That said, my disappointment isn't enough to cloud my impartiality towards Nintendo -- I remain, as ever, willing to give the company that provided me my first beloved gaming experience the benefit of the doubt. Don't break my heart, Ninty.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.