A Top Ten List of Fun Games

As 2008 draws to a close, so does another year of gaming. So what was great and what wasn’t this year?

A lot of these are multiplatform releases, but I indicated which version I played in parenthesis.

1) Fallout 3 (PC version)
Die hards can nitpick all of what went wrong with this game…I can, too…and miss out on the long term benefits of it having resurrected the franchise in today’s cutthroat market. Fallout 3 is fun, delivering a unique experience to today’s players that may have never heard of the franchise, and has a few things that even a veteran scavenger like myself can appreciate. For someone that occasionally fires up Fallout 1, 2, and still has his original disk copies of Wasteland somewhere in this clutter, Fallout 3 manages to do more things right than wrong and that’s always a good thing. After all, it could have become like Microsoft’s Shadowrun.

You'll shoot your eye out, kid

You'll shoot your eye out, kid.


2) Metal Gear Solid 4 – Guns of the Patriots (PS3)

Hideo Kojima’s magnum opus in closing the story of one of gaming’s most respected icons is the kind of title that can only come out after twenty years of incredible success. It’s a game that actually makes you feel proud to own a PS3 and as a Metal Gear fan, is filled with all of the answers to the questions that the series had started off with, confusing us with endless speculation and debate on what is really going on. After the weirdness of MGS2 and the redemption of MGS3, the twisted, unexpectedly fourth-wall breaking, PMC commentary of MGS4 has finally capped everything off without sending anyone to the psyche ward this time around. Rest easy, Snake. You’ve earned it.

This warrior's fight is over, but the series will likely live on.

This warrior's fight is over, but the series will likely live on.

3) Dead Space (360 version)
Dead Space was a huge surprise for me. I wasn’t immediately blown away by its initial announcement last year by yet another “survival horror” title or by the screenshots of the banded armor that the guy was wearing, until I actually sat down and started playing the thing. It comes off as a huge mashup of bits and pieces of games such as System Shock and Resident Evil while layering it with a little celluloid from Event Horizon and Aliens. The final result is a scary, action packed adventure in the bowels of space that bodes well as a new IP for EA. I couldn’t get into the RE5 demo as much as I loved RE4. Dead Space clearly improved on its approach to third person controls.

The game isn't above throwing mutant babies at you, either. Mutant BABIES. Parasite Eve, is that you?

The game isn't above throwing mutant babies at you, either. Mutant BABIES. Parasite Eve, is that you?

4) Tales of Vesperia (360)
The 360’s RPG offerings have been improved significantly this year with an incredible number of holiday releases focused on the console. Namco Bandai’s “Tales” series makes its debut on Microsoft’s box with a fantastic entry into the storied franchise with “Tales of Vesperia”, one of the best RPGs that newcomers and veterans both can have fun with. With a solid, if predictable, story, charming characters, and a host of upgrade options and skills that they can collect to create a party of infinite power, it’s also a JRPG that delivers an entertainingly fresh perspective on the traditional hero model with an older, more seasoned, protagonist than previously leading roles in the series had been. A brilliant entry into the series for fans, but the action formula is getting a bit long in the tooth.

Sure it's cutesy, but the gameplay and character interactions are great stuff.

Sure it's cutesy, but the gameplay and character interactions are worth the sugary feeling your eyes get.

5) Mirror’s Edge (360 version)
I’m putting it on this list despite its gameplay issues because when it works, it’s an incredibly unique experience to play through. It plays off as a first-person, free running simulation, with all of the slides, jumps, and clambering over obstacles that you should expect while being able to see your appendages instead of feeling like a floating camera. The setting is a bleached city with deceptively clean buildings and streets, a controlled world where information is monitored and the only people that are free are those that can leap from rooftop to rooftop on their own two feet. I can still pick up and use weapons in the game, but it’s a lot more rewarding in playing the role of a runner trying to stay a step ahead of the heat in using the environment against them.

Mirror's Edge won't help with your fear of heights, but makes it fun to pretend that you don't have any.

Mirror's Edge won't help with your fear of heights, but makes it fun to pretend that you don't have any.

6) Valkyria Chronicles (PS3)
This was an unexpected, but very much appreciated, surprise from Sega this holiday season. Valkyria Chronicles’ unique approach to its third person strategy coupled with a tear-jerking cast of memorable characters (including cameos from Skies of Arcadia) help embellish its storybook aesthetics in creating a stunning and unforgettable experience for PS3 owners. Unfortunately, as sales figures for it were disappointingly low…likely owing to its presence in the US as a new IP lost amidst the regular retail rush for FPSs, sports, and familiar names…its future as a possible franchise is in heavy doubt on this side of the ocean.

Unfortunately, the market demands those shooters, sports titles, and sequels to popular properties because those are what most of the purchasing public votes for with their dollars. Valkyria Chronicles is a stunning achievement from Sega, but you can’t convince a shooter fan or a sports nut that it’s what they should add to their weltanschauung if they only want more of the same.

Sega has announced the porting over of the DLC from Japan that introduces new campaigns and a different side to the story, so fans can continue to enjoy one of the best internally developed releases that Sega has had this year.

Interpersonal conflicts are only a small window on the war in Valkyria Chronicles

Interpersonal conflicts are only a small window on the war in Valkyria Chronicles


7) Grand Theft Auto IV (360 version)

As a major chapter showcasing Rockstar’s technical prowess in delivering a living, breathing cityscape for the next generation, it is a roller coaster ride from start to finish with all of the gunplay and open-world possibilities that the franchise has created a reputation for. I liked GTAIV’s action packed free roaming gameplay and its technical merits are a preview of what Rockstar has planned for the franchise going forward in much the same way that its PS2 offering had advanced it. What I didn’t like so much were the baby steps that it took to further distance itself from the somewhat tongue-in-cheek approach that its previous iterations were known for by moving ahead with a Sopranos-like adherence to its story and characters. Bowling, darts, and socialization were made key components to the design, overriding some of the more flamboyant elements such as property purchases, or neighborhood defense which made sense in terms of what the game wanted to be, but weren’t all that fun in practice. What’s the point of earning all that dough if there’s nothing to spend it on…unless you want to burn hundreds of thousands of dollars at pool and, uh, darts.

Niko is in town to enjoy the American Dream and steal cars with Brucie

Niko is in town to enjoy the American Dream and steal cars with Brucie

8 ) Gears of War 2 (360)
Comic book writer and author, Joshua Ortega, was brought onboard to help flesh out the characters and the plot, making it more noticeably focused this time around with less caveman talk and more dry commentary from Damon. The ferocious action and the twisting revelations unraveling in this third-person shooter along with Horde multiplayer make it a tremendously exciting trip on the 360. It can feel like it’s more of the same, but if you love Gears and can’t get enough of it, Cliff Blezinski and his crew at Epic ring up plenty of gory holiday treats with the sequel.

The COG declares total war on the Locust. Dueling chainsaws included.

The COG declares total war on the Locust. Dueling chainsaws included.

9) Resistance 2 (PS3)
Not to be outdone, PS3 fans have a lot to celebrate with the sequel to Insomniac’s Resistance. The theme this holiday season is war, and Resistance 2 drops you down into a gripping campaign and some of the most thrilling multiplayer that you might ever experience on Sony’s console. With co-op missions, rankings, in-game experience, and classes to choose from along with a healthy number of gameplay modes supporting up to 60 players, Resistance 2 is a remarkable achievement even with how buggy it can get. Too bad that the best parts of the story were turned into “collectables” instead of integrated into the ongoing campaign, or that much of the single player feels formulaic, but it manages to pull ahead of its shortcomings by providing plenty of eye candy and entertaining action that kept me plugging on until the bitter end.

This may only be an artists rendering of the invasion, but it's not far from what you'll see in the game. The Chimera weren't too happy about what you did in the first Resistance.

This may only be an artist's rendering of the invasion, but it's not far from what you'll see in the game. The Chimera weren't too happy about what you did in the first Resistance.

10) Persona 4 (PS2)
The PS2 isn’t dead yet, but with Persona 4 ringing out the year on the console, it’s given a deservedly solid sendoff with one of the most compelling JRPGs to come out for it. Persona 3’s addicting blend of social sim and RPG makes another comeback with its sequel, set with different characters and in no way directly related to its predecessor making it a stand-alone story that newcomers and veterans can enjoy without having to worry about what happened before. If you haven’t played any of the Persona titles before, you’re in for a real treat.

Exploring streets, stores, chatting up NPCs, and befriending others will build up your social links...and you ability to wield powerful Personas to do battle with.

Exploring streets, stores, chatting up NPCs, and befriending others will build up your social links...and you ability to wield powerful Personas to do battle with.

Honorable Mention
Yakuza 2 (PS2)
I loved the first game and the second one delivers even more curb stomping, face punching, sign smashing action taking players deep into a fictionalized account of a former Yakuza strongman’s quest to find answers on the streets of Japan’s underworld. It’s another Sega production that dares to be different, with an all Japanese, subtitled voice track and its connection to the real-world with a setting ripped straight out of a Japanese atlas for Osaka. It’s a unique title that will also likely go unnoticed in the face of more popular offerings, but as a gem of a release with nothing else really like it, and if you feel the need to dance on the wild side as a legendary gangster, you might want to pick this up with all five fingers.

You might dress like you're out of the eighties, but you also have the ablity to smash people's faces with your snakeskin boots.

You might dress like you're out of the eighties, but you also have the ablity to smash people's faces with your snakeskin boots.

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4 responses to “A Top Ten List of Fun Games

  1. So, is there any reason all of these multi-console games are listed as for the Xbox 360? Are they any better on that console or is it just the way you decided to write the article?

    • I edited the article to be a little clearer, but no preference, really. I buy nearly all of the games I play and borrow or rent those that my wallet won’t let me. A few of these were rentals and I simply grabbed what was available at the time. The PC version of Fallout 3, though, was picked for that platform because I knew it would eventually get mod support the same way Oblivion did and I wanted to tinker with it once the editor was released.

  2. A surprisingly good, balanced list. For those willing to go a bit further, please look into Sins of a Solar Empire as well. Insanely addictive.

    • Will do, I’ve heard nothing but great things about it. I already have a few friends that are addicted to it and can’t wait for a few of the mods, and the expansion, to get finished.

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