2009 has come and gone, and with it we are left with the memories of all of the wonderful video games we have played throughout the year. Which game deserves Game of the Year? What games don't?
Here we take a look at what went right in 2009, and what went wrong. Although there were numerous quality console video game releases this year, remember, only one can claim the top spot.
Most Unnecessary Peripheral(s)
Beatles: Rockband Instruments
Runner Up: Tony Hawk: Ride Skateboard
What makes this generation of video game consoles stand out to others is the plethora of plastic crap that accompany our systems. The Beatles: Rockband, despite selling like hotcakes, include a box of plastic replicas of the band's instruments for $250 (including the game, of course). Do we really our living rooms to be filled with any more plastic?
Biggest Surprise Hit of the Year
Borderlands (XBOX360, PS3, PC)
With well-established and big budget video game franchises such as Modern Warfare and Uncharted hogging all of the limelight this year, it isn't unreasonable to think that Gearbox's Borderlands would not receive the attention that it deserves. However, the stylish loot-grinding game has been picking up momentum, mostly by word of mouth since its October 20th release date. Jeff Gerstmann from Giant Bomb called it a successful loot-driven first person shooter "where plenty of other Diablo-inspired games have failed miserably". As of December 2009, the game has sold over two million copies according to publisher Take-Two's financial report.
Most Watered-Down Franchise
"-Hero" Series (XBOX 360, PS3. Wii)
There were a total of six "-Hero" titles released in 2009. Six! The following "-Hero" games have been released since the beginning of 2009:
Guitar Hero: Metallica (March 29)
Guitar Hero: Smash Hits (June 16)
Guitar Hero 5 (September 1)
DJ Hero (October 27)
Band Hero (November 3)
- Guitar Hero: Van Halen (December 22)
Publisher Activision knows that the "-Hero" games have selling power. The Guitar Hero franchise has sold more than 25 million units worldwide, earning $2 billion USD worldwide. That's a lot of plastic guitars! The series is claimed by Activision to be the third largest video game franchise, after the Mario and Madden franchises.
Unfortunately, the publisher continued to butcher the brand name, releasing game after game that were too similar to one another. The series is significantly watered down at this point, and no one really gives a crap about the series anymore. In fact, Activision handed out free copies of Guitar Hero: Van Halen to early purchasers of Guitar Hero 5.
Best Series Revival
Tales of Monkey Island (Wii)
Runner Up: Street Fighter IV (XBOX360, PS3)
2009 has been a great year for the revival of many long-forgotten video game series. The series reboot of Street Fighter IV, for example, brought back memories of the 1990s arcade and reminded everyone why fighting games were fun again.
Most notably, however, 2009 marked the series revival of the Monkey Island games. It has been almost 10 years since LucasArts released a Monkey Island game, the last one being Escape from Monkey Island in 2000. Critics and long-time fans of the series praised the new direction of the series under the new developer, Telltale Games. They retain the witty dialogue and pop culture references while introducing new characters and bringing back old favorites. Tales of MI marked the most successful Telltale franchise to date.
(Author's Note: Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge is my favorite game of all time.)
Best Console Downloadable Game
Shadow Complex (XBOX360)
Runner up: Tales of Monkey Island (Wii)
"I think right now - in the future, when people look back, I think it's the renaissance of video games." These are the words of Jenova Chen, creator of games Flower and flOw, about the role of digital distribution in the video game industry. While high production costs of big budget video games forced many video game companies out of business, the low-cost and affordable downloadable games on XBOX Live, Wiiware and PSN allow game designers to be more diverse and creative without much loss.
The best console downloadable game goes to Shadow Complex for the XBOX 360. Ever since the dawn of 3D gaming, metroidvania-style games such as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Super Metroid have lost their place in the video game industry. Epic Games' Shadow Complex resurrects the long forgotten genre, along with what made them so addicting in the first place. The game's still about exploring and collecting powerups, but they've now thrown in modern day gameplay mechanics like twin stick shooting and leaderboards.
Best Wii Game
New Super Mario Bros Wii
2009 was a good year for the Wii. This past year, the Wii "grew up" a bit and had an abundance of diverse, mature titles. Games like Muramasa: The Demon Blade, The Conduit, Dead Space Extraction, and Madworld showed the world that Nintendo's latest system is a capable platform for mature, unique games. It's a damn shame that no one played any of them, though. However, we all know why we bought the Wii. It's to play Nintendo first party games.
New Super Mario Bros Wii, despite having the most ridiculous name in video game history, brings the Mario franchise back to its roots. It is the first 2-D side scrolling classic Mario platformer to appear on a console game since the SNES. Although you can't play the game online (boo!), playing with three friends in the same room is so much fun that no one will care. It doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it's one of the best Mario games in the series.
Best XBOX360 Game:
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Runner Up: Resident Evil 5
Within 24 hours of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2's release, sales for the game generated more than $310 million in North America and the U.K., making it the biggest launch in history across all forms of entertainment. With a record that smashes N*Sync's No Strings Attached and James Cameron's Titanic, how can we not give Modern Warfare 2 with this award?
Best PS3 Game:
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Runner Up: COD: Modern Warfare 2
The Playstation 3 had a very diverse 2009, with numerous exclusives that set it apart from its evil brother, the XBOX360. Although Modern Warfare 2 met the expectations of many gamers, it was Uncharted 2 that raised the bar. Not only does Uncharted 2 deserve the best PS3 game of the year, but it is the overall best game this year. (See below.)
Game of the Year 2009
Uncharted 2 (PS3)
Runner Up: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (XBOX 360, PS3)
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Uncharted 2 deserves every bit of the 2009 game of the year. Everything from the humorous storyline to the breathtaking graphics illustrate how talented developer Naughty Dog is at their craft.
What makes this game so close to perfection? Right off the bat, the storyline and acting is filled with adventure and humor similar to those of the classic Indiana Jones movies. The subtle interactions with protagonist Nathan Drake and the world that he traverses allow the player to feel that every landscape within Uncharted 2 is believable. Honestly, there must have been at least five unique animations whenever Drake squeezes himself between debris. The interactions between the large cast of characters with each other brings life to each "person", and would often make you forget that these are polygons, not actors, that are on the screen. Most impressive are the numerous action sequences that break up the exploration. The action is choreographed in such a way that the player feels like he is playing a high-budget action movie.
Uncharted 2 is not only this year's game of the year, but it will be remembered for years to come as a classic.