I’ve never gone back and put together a list of my favorite games from 2000-2009. Until now. Here are my retrospective favorite games from 2008.
Great Games I Didn’t Play
Devil May Cry 4
Gears of War 2
LittleBigPlanet was revolutionary when it released early on in the PS3 lifecycle. It established a way for creative people to make their own video game levels, inside an already great game. It wasn’t the easiest system to learn, but it was definitely a step up from stuff like RPG Maker. I never got too deep into the creation aspect, but I played dozens of fantastic levels created by other people. And really, that was just one feature of the game. It also had a surprisingly long single player campaign that had a great sense of humor and a fun collectible oriented mindset. The platforming wasn’t anywhere near as tight as something like Mario, but it got the job done. And difficulty wasn’t the main goal. The bright colors and cute, wildly customizable characters made this game very memorable.
9. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
A lot of people over the years have come down on The Force Unleashed. I feel like when it released, everyone thought that it was pretty fun, despite some obvious shortcomings. But in recent years, I’ve seen a surprising amount of vitriol thrown its way, and I don’t get it. I thought The Force Unleashed was awesome for what it was. That’s an admittedly important caveat, as the game never set out to be a real continuation of the Star Wars story. While it did fit into canon at the time (though that’s no longer true thanks to Disney), elements of it weren’t to be taken as fact. It’s a bit confusing, really, but not all that important. What stood out to me were the incredibly fun, over the top force powers, surprisingly deep story, and the ability to fight some favorite Star Wars characters thanks to your robot “buddy,” PROXY.
8. Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead is a game that has stood the test of time. It’s been nearly a decade since it was released, and there are still people that regularly play the addictive co-op multiplayer. Sure, the sequel offered plenty of improvements, but there’s just something special about the original. To be honest, I don’t even remember playing the game by myself. My memories of Left 4 Dead are full of teaming up with some online friends on Xbox 360 and killing dozens and dozens of mindless zombies. And it was a blast. The special enemy types all required different kinds of teamwork, and it was easy to become overwhelmed if even one person wasn’t pulling their weight. On top of that, the guns felt great to shoot and had fantastic sound effects.
7. Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Super Smash Bros. Melee is one of my favorite games of all time, mostly due to the countless weekend nights spent playing it with friends in high school. Brawl didn’t quite live up to the lofty expectations we all had, but it’s still a fantastic entry in the stellar series. Favorite characters like Mario, Pikachu, and Marth returned, but there were also a bunch of new fighters like Meta Knight and Lucario. Not all of them were awesome (I’m looking at you, R.O.B.), but it was still fun to experiment with new move sets. The single player sub-space emissary mode was also surprisingly complex, with side-scrolling levels before epic boss fights. But the true greatness of Brawl was still in its four-player competitive mode. I personally still prefer Melee, but there were plenty of good times to be had with this one.
6. Mario Kart Wii
Another great Wii game, Mario Kart came out and blew my expectations away. To be fair, I preferred to play with the Gamecube controller rather than fiddle with the Wii mote or that stupid steering wheel peripheral. Regardless, the core game was excellent. I had several fun evenings completely trashing my girlfriend and college buddies with this game. With as much unfair bullcrap as Mario Kart tends to throw at you, my win percentage was nothing short of amazing. Nintendo was also smart and brought back plenty of fan favorite tracks with upgraded visuals and some small design changes. The new tracks weren’t really anything to write home about, but there’s something about multiplayer Nintendo games that makes you forget about their weaknesses.
5. Rock Band 2
in the battle of Guitar Hero and Rock Band games, Rock Band 2 stands out as my personal favorite. As with a few other entries on this list, a lot of my love comes from the good times spent playing with friends. Most of us were musicians in one form or another, so it was always great to rock through a challenging song on the highest difficulty. As a drummer, I definitely favored the Rock Band drum kit over the Guitar Hero variant, too. The song list was solid, with some of my favorite tracks being “Panic Attack” by Dream Theater, Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades,” and The Who’s classic “Pinball Wizard.” I fell off rhythm games completely after Rock Band 2, so there was clearly something special about the game and that time in my life.
4. Mirror’s Edge
Mirror’s Edge became something of a cult hit after its release, as the game didn’t end up selling very well at launch. I can definitely recognize its flaws in story and shooting, but the graphics and world design were absolutely stunning. For as barren as the pristine city really was, it fit the style and tone of the game. Plus, first-person platforming was a genre that hadn’t really been explored in the AAA video game space, and it really did work. There was a little bit of jank here and there, as Faith sometimes struggled to move in the precise way she needed to, but the freerunning and exploration were super fun. I wished for a little more freedom when it came to getting from one place to another, as the levels could be surprisingly linear. But that didn’t really detract from the overall experience.
3. Grand Theft Auto 4
Another year, another Grand Theft Auto game in the top ten. I don’t mean that to detract from the series, as they’ve by and large all been stellar experiences, but it does speak to my growing apathy towards seeing another entry. Grand Theft Auto 4 is quite possibly the best game in the series, which is definitely saying something. I would hear arguments for San Andreas and Vice City — and even Grand Theft Auto 5 — but I’m giving the edge to GTA 4 based on its story. Exploring the open world was as fun as ever, and there were always an insane amount of things to do, but Niko’s journey and attempt to shake his shady past was the most engrossing part.
2. Fallout 3
The Fallout series is another fun one when it comes to arguing over the best entry. Plenty of people say Fallout 3 or New Vegas, but there’s also an argument to be made for Fallout 4. Personally, I think I’d give the crown to Fallout 3 because it introduced me to this universe and overwhelmed me with its side stories and exploration possibilities. The actual shooting wasn’t all that great without VATs, but it was still fun. Really it came down to the characters and the little things you could only find by exploring every nook and cranny. I’m not taking mods into account for the purpose of this list, but that scene for Fallout 3 is also outstanding, and makes the game worth returning to every few years.
1. Dead Space
Dude, Dead Space is crazy good. I can’t believe how much I love this game. I tend to hate horror movies and games because being scared makes me feel like a wuss and gets me all sweaty and whatnot. But I tried out Dead Space on the advice of my brother, and I’m so glad that I did. If you looked at my list of favorite games ever, you’d see the expected things from me like RPGs and character focused games, and then you’d see the anomaly that is Dead Space. The way it established a sense of place was truly unique, from the music and sound effects to the dilapidated visuals to the character and enemy designs. The guns were also fun to use, and fit within the fiction that the game created. The corridors and jump scares started wearing a bit thin towards the end, but it thankfully didn’t overstay its welcome. It’s just a shame that neither of the sequels could come anywhere close to matching the original.
And there you have it, my top 10 games from 2008! Be sure to leave your favorite in the comments, and check out my other video game rankings!