This is my personal favorite game of 2010 for many reasons, all of which you can read in the review I wrote back in May. In a nutshell: It's the best Mario game ever -- in my opinion, but I've been told I'm not alone -- and can pretty much claim the title of best-ever platformer while it's at it. The experience is magical, the design is masterful and if there were one game I could be stranded on a desert island with ... well, this is it.
God of War 3
The final chapter (or is it?) in the epic adventures of Kratos more than lived up to my expectations on PS3 and is, hands-down, my favorite installment in the series. From its opening moments on Mt. Olympus, the game never lets up, throwing one spectacular action sequence after another on screen, all the while playing just as well as earlier God of War titles -- with a few tweaks for the better here and there. I think it will be a long time before I experience a game in the genre that's this magnificent and memorable.
I feel like Darksiders has managed to amass some degree of a fan base, but I don't think it has really received the attention it deserves. Simply put, this amalgamation of Zelda, Devil May Cry and God of War is just about as cool as it sounds -- thanks in no small part to the game and art direction of comic book illustrator Joe Madureira, who, along with design lead Haydn Dalton and the team at Vigil Games, clearly paid attention to myriad small touches in presentation and polish. Plus, it has the absolute best "feeling" sword combat I've ever encountered. (You're a close second, Infinity Blade.)
Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit
Oh, do I ever love racing games. Arcade-style or simulation, if it's good, I'll play it. This year left me torn between two of the former camp for my top spot in the category. Split/Second and NFS: Hot Pursuit are both amazing arcade racers, and I'm glad to see that Black Rock's superb second stab at the genre -- the first being Pure -- earned a very nice spot in our overall top 10 for the year. Still, I ended 2010 with the most fond thoughts of (and current play time with) Criterion's resurrection of the pursuit game. Its online battles between cops and racers never cease to take my breath away.
Disney Epic Mickey
It's a shame that more people won't play this excellent platformer from the unlikeliest of sources -- Deus Ex's Warren Spector -- simply because it's a fairly hardcore game on the Wii. (I'm still holding out for a PS3 / PlayStation Move version so more of you can have as much fun as I did with it!) Epic Mickey is just that: a great big Mickey Mouse adventure with great big moments and great big gameplay ideas. Sure, the camera is suspect (it is, Warren, I'm sorry!) and the lack of voice acting in this day and age is odd to say the least, but neither point should dissuade you from playing -- and enjoying! -- this game ifyou own a Wii. Like I said in my review, you'd almost swear that Miyamoto himself had a hand in some of it.
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
Maybe it's because the game is for PSP, but I'm really surprised at the vacuum of excitement there seemed to be around Peace Walker. Everyone I've talked to since I reviewed it (wow, I reviewed a lot of great games this year!) that also played Peace Walker has absolutely gushed about how much they enjoyed it, and how it's one of their favorite games in the series. It really is a near-perfect portable Metal Gear Solid that, often times, I forgot wasn't a console game. It has the story (thankfully not convoluted -- much), gameplay and soul of the series dialed in perfectly. It's Metal Gear Sold 5 in all but name and another triumph for Hideo Kojima.
None of the previous games managed to grab me with their single-player campaigns the way that Reach did. I think a lot of it had to do with the story, art direction and absolutely superb score (which, unless I'm just not looking in the right places, never got a lot of recognition -- what a shame). A fitting end to Bungie's involvement with Microsoft's flagship FPS.
I know that Ludwig really enjoyed this Shinji Mikami-helmed, all-out action spectacle, too -- and it really deserves to be played by anyone that even remotely enjoys third-person shooters or grew up with Contra. I'm sure my colleague will have his own two cents to give on the game in his BoTR list, and you can check out my review for more of my thoughts. (Hint: You really need to buy it.)
Honorable mentions: God of War: Ghost of Sparta, Infinity Blade, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kirby's Epic Yarn, The Incident, Bit.Trip Runner, Shantae: Risky's Revenge, Real Racing 2, Space Miner: Space Ore Bust.
Joystiq has revealed its 10 favorite games of 2010! Stay tuned to see those games that didn't quite make the cut in Joystiq's Best of the Rest series.