This week’s edition of Top 10 Tuesdays is the third installment of “This Year in Gaming,” but this time I decided to go with a more recent year. The last two installments have been more than a decade ago, but with the current console generation coming to close, I decided to look back at one of the best release years for the current systems. Not only did I have trouble narrowing this list down to only 10 games, but I even had to make some tough cuts for the five honorable mentions, and when you can go over 15 slots deep and still find fantastic games, you know it was an amazing year. The consoles really started hitting their stride a couple years into the cycle, and both 2007 and 2008 had a staggering number of excellent games. 2007 may have a slight advantage in terms of both quality and quantity of quality, but 2008 was still a historically great year.
*”HD”denotes a release on PC, PS3, and 360.
Left 4 Dead (PC, 360), LittleBigPlanet (PS3), Dead Space (HD), Burnout Paradise (HD), Rock Band 2 (Wii, PS2, PS3, 360),
10. Valkyria Chronicles (PS3)
Both the original Playstation and the PS2 had huge libraries of Japanese Role Playing Games, consisting of many all time classics, but even two years after launch RPG fans were still waiting for that defining JRPG for the PS3. Valkyria Chronicles wasn’t exactly the traditional JRPG people were waiting for, but it was an excellent turn based strategy game with some RPG trappings. Valkyria Chronicles ditched the grid based format most strategy RPGs used in favor of more open environments and greater player control. Utilizing a behind the back camera and action game like controls, Valkyria Chronicles kept the deep strategy while making the actual gameplay much more engaging. This game is probably not one of the most remembered or highest profile games of 2008, but I really enjoyed it.
9. Battlefield Bad Company (PS3, 360)
Battlefield has traditionally been a multiplayer only PC franchise, so when DICE announced Battlefield: Bad Company, a console only entry in the series with a focus on single player, people were rightfully skeptical. However, against all odds, Bad Company turned out great. The trademark Battlefield multiplayer was still intact, albeit in a more console friendly form, but the real standout here was the single player. Standing in stark contrast to most first person shooters, Bad Company’s campaign featured enormous, wide open environments with all kinds of vehicles and innovative destructible environments. Unlike it’s competition, Bad Company had a very lighthearted tone and succeeded mostly on the strength of its likeable characters and surprisingly well done humor. It’s a shame DICE drifted slightly away from this tone with the sequel and shifted completely to a cliché FPS story for Battlefield 3.
8. Fable II (360)
Fable was a pretty good action adventure/role playing game for the original Xbox, but ultimately failed to live up to the extremely hyperbolic promises of its creator, Peter Molyneaux. The sequel aimed to deliver more on the initial promise of the original game, and while it was certainly a much better game than the first, it once again failed to live up to Molyneaux’s vision of “the greatest role playing game of all time.” Over-hyping aside, Fable II was a great game that I personally got dozens of hours of enjoyment from. The game featured satisfying combat, a beautiful and expansive world, and that uniquely British sense of humor Lionhead has become known for. I consider Fable II the best game in the trilogy and the number 8 game of 2008.
7. Gears of War 2 (360)
Gears of War was a fantastic game. It set the standard for current generation graphical fidelity, it basically created the cover based shooter genre, and it established another mega franchise for the Xbox to sit alongside Halo. So obviously a sequel was inevitable, but Gears 2 certainly had a lot to live up to. In my opinion it surpassed the original in almost every conceivable way, and while Gears of War 3 has since surpassed Gears 2 in almost every conceivable way, it doesn’t diminish its quality. Gears 2 took the solid gameplay and design framework of the original and expanded upon it. The game wound up being almost twice as long as the original, it really blew out the multiplayer, adding tons of new modes, and upped the ante with spectacle, featuring many over the top boss fights and some improved storytelling. The Gears series is one that has gotten significantly better with each release, and as such Gears 2 is the second best game in the series.
6. Lost Odyssey (360)
I may not have played Lost Odyssey in 2008, having played it for the time quite recently as a “Bargain Bin Review”, but I still really enjoyed this game. Lost Odyssey is very much a classic JRPG with a modern coat of paint, but it worked for me because most of its gameplay and design concepts are taken straight out of what I consider the golden age for JRPGs. Lost Odyssey has an excellent story with some memorable characters and fantastic writing. I never would have though I would enjoy reading short stories in a video game, but the “Thousand Years of Dreams” sequences are some of the best moments of the game. Most people wouldn’t expect one of the best JRPGs of the entire console generation to be an Xbox exclusive, but that is the case with Lost Odyssey, and its my number 6 game of 2008.