The closing days of 2009 also brings to an end the third year of the development cycle of the 7th generation of gaming consoles. Unlike the first two years, 2009 did not see a large number of series and titles. Instead, the majority of games in 2009 were sequels or spin offs from previous successful titles and series. Despite the dearth of new games and the sour economy, 2009 did see a few impressive new titles and a large number of sequels that exceeded their predecessors. Of the over 800 games released in 2009, the following ten games were better than the competition.
10. Final Fantasy XIII (PS3) – Technically, Final Fantasy XIII has only been released in Japan so far, with a US released date in March of 2010. Despite only having been on the market for a week, this game has already sold over 2 million copies, with 1 million of those sales in the first 24 hours. Early reviews have raved over the game and every preview has been met with high praise. All signs point to the American and European releases being just as strong. Thus, despite its late release, Final Fantasy XIII earns the final spot on this list.
9. The Sims 3 (PC) – Building off of the original SimCity franchise, The Sims was an unprecedented success. Later, when the Sims 2 was released, the game simply improved on the original in every way. Released in June, the newest game in the Sims series has sold nearly 6 million copies. Online game reviewers have consistently praised it for being the best Sims game to date, adding new features like careers and opportunities. As the best casual game in the market today, The Sims 3 earns the 9th spot on this list.
8. New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii) – New Super Mario Bros. Wii is practically a love letter to retro gamers who still pine for Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World. Unlike recent games in the Mario series (Super Mario Galaxy and Mario 64 for example), New Super Mario Bros. Wii returns to the side scrolling roots of the Mario series. The control pad uses the standard NES setup of the Wii remote held sideways in combination with the motion sensitive properties of the Wii. The classic game play and familiar worlds of the older games blends perfectly with the new power ups, terrain, and enemies. Finally, the addition of multi-player allows for up to four players to enjoy the game simultaneously. By returning to old school play, New Super Mario Bros. Wii appeals to gamers from a wide spectrum of age and background, earning it the 8th spot on this list.
7. Resident Evil 5 (360, PS3, PC) – After four games in the main series and about a half dozen spin off games, the Resident Evil series was beginning to grow stagnant. Resident Evil 4 resolved some of the stagnancy issues by moving the game to an entirely new setting, but game play changed very little. Resident Evil 5 continued in the direction of its predecessor, once again changing the setting, and added the much awaited feature of multiplayer action. One or two players can control the main characters of Resident Evil 5 and players can switch in or out freely. In addition, the multiplayer action is set up to work online or in the same room. Combined with a powerful and logical story that ties together a large number of dangling plot arcs, the game is the sequel that fans have been waiting years for. Fans will be especially delighted that at the conclusion of the game, they can finally kill Albert Wesker, the series long antagonist. With great plot and great multiplayer, this game earns the 7th spot on this list.
6. Plants vs. Zombies (PC, Mac, 360, DS) – Some games are simply so unique and so original that they surpass the competition, regardless of complexity of game play or power of graphics. Plants vs. Zombies is one of these games. It is a light tower defense game with a ridiculous, but thoroughly entertaining premise: plants have combined forces to defend the humans that water them from brain eating zombies. This charming game features dated but humorous and colorful graphics that frame surprisingly well-balanced game play. At a price of $9.99 when downloaded from Steam, this game is simply too good a deal to pass up and earns the 6th spot on this list.
5. Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3, 360, PC) – Batman: Arkham Asylum is one of the few standout original titles of the year. Based off the Batman comic book series, it features Batman, Joker, and Harley Quinn in game play that can best be described as Metal Gear Solid meets Prince of Persia. The game combines stealth with free-form combat, all the while remaining true to the original source material. Long time fans of the Batman cartoon will be pleased to hear the familiar voice work of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill in the roles of Batman and the Joker, respectively. As one of the few truly great comic book adaptations, Batman: Arkham Asylum earns the 5th spot on this list.
4. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3) – As the sequel to Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, this game takes up two years after the first game left off and never misses a step. Utilizing 3rd person over the shoulder game play that has become the standard for action-adventure games in today’s market, Uncharted 2 has a nearly perfect mix of fast paced action and complex puzzle solving. In addition to the single player mode, it features a multi-player mode for up to 10 online players. Critics have almost universally given it high marks and the game earned 2009 Game of the Year awards from both the Spike Video Game Awards and Game Critics Awards. With its only real flaw being that besides a new story there is little originality from its predecessor, this game easily earns the 4th spot on this list.
3. The Beatles: Rock Band (PS3, Wii, 360) – For a while it seemed like the Rock Band series would simply release sequels that were essentially no different than the previous games. This little gem of a game proved that Rock Band still had something new for gamers. In truth, game play for this game is identical to Rock Band 2, but that doesn’t detract from it in any way. The brilliance of this game is that every single song, image, and piece of video footage is of the Beatles. No rock band has as impressive a library of songs or is as recognizable. Each song features a different backdrop of a location where the Beatles played it. The one bit of frustration is that despite a huge list of songs and additional songs available as downloadable content, there are still songs from the Beatles library that are not available. This must-buy for any Beatles fans easily deserves the 3rd spot on this list.
2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (PS3, 360, PC) – Before release, this game received some of the most intense marketing of any video game ever. Four different versions were released for both the PS3 and Xbox 360, ranging from just the game to the Prestige version that was packaged with fully functioning night vision goggles. Estimates put sales in the first 24 hours after release at over 4 million units sold. Luckily for Activision, the game lived up to all the hype. The game includes a single player campaign mode, cooperative multiplayer, and a whole host of online multiplayer options. Game play is virtually unchanged from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, but with slightly better graphics and AI. The fanfare surrounding this game truly did pay off and game critics consistently rate it as one of the best games ever of its genre, earning it the 2nd spot on this list.
1. Dragon Age: Origins (PS3, 360, PC, Mac) – After the spectacular success of the Baldur’s Gate series, fans of BioWare have been eagerly awaiting the release of BioWare’s next role playing game. Dragon Age: Origins is that next game and it handily live up to all of the expectations. With an entirely new and unique world and storyline, the plot of this game is enthralling and evocative. Due to the origin system, the game has a remarkably high replay value and the potential for nearly unlimited endings. The graphics highlight the power of the 7th generation consoles and modern computers while the grand orchestral music creates a powerful score. Just about any of the top four games could have earned the top honor, but as the only original game, Dragon Age: Origins deserves its honor as the best game of 2009.
Despite a lack of new concepts in 2009, there was still a long list of games deserving recognition for combining stellar game play, stunning music, and amazing graphics into a truly excellent game. In addition to the ten games that topped the chart, Forza Motorsport 3, FIFA 10, Left 4 Dead 2, Assassin’s Creed 2, and Demon’s Soul all deserve recognition for excellence. With a host of new announced games in the upcoming year, time will tell if 2010 provides as great games as 2009.