2010 was one of the best years in recent memory in terms of overall game quality. For the last couple of years there were only one or two really great games. 2010 was stacked from top to bottom, January to December. in every genre with good games. Selecting our 10 favorites left a few other deserving games off the list, but this list represents our picks for our favorites among the best, most memorable games that stuck with us through the whole year.
Mass Effect 2 has been a bit controversial among RPG fans because, well, most of the RPG stuff (behind the scenes dice rolls, weapon stats, etc.) was taken out. It plays more like a typical cover-based third-person-shooter than an RPG. We didn't mind the change. In fact, we greatly preferred it this way. The game is flat out more fun to play now. The story and characters and presentation in the game are among the best you'll find on this generation of consoles. Mass Effect 2 is just incredibly good in every single aspect. It was one of the first games released this year, but it also happened to be the best. Mass Effect 2 is our 2010 Xbox 360 Game of the Year.
It was a close race, but Red Dead Redemption came up just short for our Xbox 360 GOTY. Why? Mexico. The first and last thirds of the game are absolutely fantastic, but John Marston's overlong stay across the border skewed the pacing and focus of the story too much for our tastes. The game is still great overall, though, with excellent presentation, story, gameplay, and some of the finest DLC of the generation in Undead Nightmare. It is easily the best Western-themed game yet, and Rockstar's finest open world game since Bully.
Nier is definitely a love it or hate it game, so you'll have to forgive us for loving it. The gameplay is only okay, the world is too small, and the repetitive mission designs turn it into a bit of a grind, but in spite of all of that Nier is the game that stuck with us the most all year. Nier has an amazingly good story, great characters brought to life with excellent voice acting and well written dialogue, and by far the best soundtrack of any game this year. And you know what? Even with our complaints about the game, we still played through Nier multiple times. It isn't for everyone, but if you do try it, and you do "get" it, you'll find one of the most memorable and stunning game experiences of 2010.
4. Halo: Reach
We liked pretty much everything about Halo: Reach. Great presentation. Great campaign. Great tweaks to the already excellent multiplayer. Firefight mode is better (we love Gruntpocalypse). Forge World is spectacular and lets you build pretty much anything you want. It looks and sounds great and plays fantastically and is easily the most fully-featured Halo game so far. There is no hesitation when we say Reach is the best Halo game yet. It is a good "bang for your buck" game as well since it has so much to offer.
When Vanquish was first shown a lot of people probably said, "Why is Platinum Games wasting time with a TPS? We have enough of those already!". Then we actually played it, and our worries faded away. Platinum knows what it is doing. Vanquish looks like a normal cover-based third-person-shooter, but it turns the speed up to 11, gives you an awesome suit of powered armor, tons of weapons, and lets you go crazy. It is so fast and frenetic and insane that it is hard not to have fun. It looks and sounds phenomenal as well, and has some nifty sci-fi references scattered throughout that fans of the genre should appreciate. Vanquish is great all around.
New Vegas was a little rough and glitchy when it first released, but that didn't stop us from having a ton of fun with it. It tells a cool story full of interesting characters and some tough choices that actually changed how you could play the game. The gameplay is improved over Fallout 3 and much deeper thanks to the factions, weapon customization, and ammo types. The missions are better. The enemies are tougher and actually pose a threat. The game world and story aren't quite as good as FO3, but pretty much everything else in New Vegas tops it. Even with some glitches, Fallout: New Vegas is still one of the best games of 2010.
Dead Rising 2 is a better game than the original Dead Rising in pretty much every way. And we love the original. Dead Rising 2 looks and sounds fantastic, packs hundreds of zombies onscreen, lets you customize weapons and gives you tons of other toys to play with, takes place in a great setting, has a cool story with good characters - it doesn't really do much wrong. It keeps the things that made Dead Rising interesting - the time limit, save system, weapon slot system - but tweaks them just a bit to be a bit more user friendly. The result is a streamlined, greatly improved zombie killing game that is just crazy fun.
Another memorable game from early in 2010 is Bayonetta. This flashy action game turned the hack-and-slash genre on its ear. It is over the top, yet was still accessible enough (something most action games of this type fail at) that anyone could pick up a controller and button mash their way through to some impressive looking moves and beat the game. And when you actually learned how to play properly, Bayonetta turned into a fluid, flawless work of art that was stunning to watch. Oh, and the game around her was good too. Platinum Games was 2 for 2 this year on making great games. Congrats!
9. BioShock 2
BioShock 2 lacked the "wow" factor of the original BioShock (our 2007 Game of the Year) - the return trip to Rapture just plain wasn't as cool, scary, or interesting as the first time -, but that doesn't mean it isn't still a great game on its own. It tells a great story - well, it is great if you actually invest yourself in it and care about your Little Sisters - and offers some fantastic DLC such as the Minerva's Den campaign that rivals and even tops the on-disc campaign. BioShock 2 plays better than the original BioShock, looks and sounds just as good, and tells a bit better story, but that "wow" factor thing kind of knocks it down a peg.
10. Alan Wake
Alan Wake is at the same time one of the best games of 2010, but also one of the more disappointing games of the year as well. It has great graphics and sound, a great story with good voice acting and dialogue, fantastic episodic presentation, neat set pieces, good horror elements, and some great DLC. But it peaks way, way too early. If the gameplay could have advanced even a little bit in the latter half of the game, Alan Wake would probably be Game of the Year. It doesn't, though. What you do in hour 1 is pretty much what you do in hour 12. The other elements of the game are great enough that Alan Wake is still one of the very best Xbox 360 games around, but it is hard to wonder what could have been.