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Top 9 Favorite Games for Hardcore Gamer Geeks
Slayve   |  

The number of exceptional games released over the past year was simply staggering. It was also overwhelming. Thanks to this glorious glut of games, I have become an impoverished, sleep-deprived shell of a man, alienated from family and friends, shuffling zombie-like through the mundane world, the light gone from my eyes, brightening only when my fingers lovingly wrap around a game controller. Such is the sad fate of a hardcore gamer during the holidays.

I should mention that, for this year’s list, I have given up the notion of rating games in some kind of purportedly objective way. Hence this list is dubbed my favorite games of the past year instead of what I deem the “best” games. Without getting into the ongoing debate of whether games are, or even can be, art, I would rather talk about the games that gave me the most joy this year. This approach also has the welcome fringe benefit of preempting the flame wars that usually accompany “best” lists. I’m not claiming that these are the best games of the year, this is a completely subjective list, so there’s nothing to argue about. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. We’ll see.

On to the list, presented in ascending order:

The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar

The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar (PC)

I long ago broke my obsession with World of Warcraft, but there is still a quiet corner of my psyche that longs for the reality-dissolving immersiveness of massively multiplayer role playing games. When word came down from the MMO gods that the grandfather of all high fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, was being made into an MMO, it was impossible for me to resist. Ironically, I’m not even that much of a Tolkien fan. For me, reading his books is an almost painful experience. But while I find Tolkien’s writing tedious, I love his stories and characters, and have long thought that they would make a fantastic foundation for an MMO.

Happily, I was right. In the hands of developer Turbine (Asheron’s Call, Dungeons & Dragons Online), Lord of the Rings Online turned out to be a very fun and immersive experience. It did not innovate much, there were still plenty of monotonous fetch quests, escort quests, and “kill x of y creatures” quests. However, it did bring some fresh ideas to the storytelling and profession aspects of the game. There was a main storyline told through high-level quests and well-produced cut scenes, often involving beloved characters from the books like Strider and Samwise. But the best part of LOTRO was exploring Middle-earth, visiting places like Bag End and Rivendell. The art design was simply beautiful, with fantastic vistas, authentic-looking architecture, and some truly lovely sunsets.


The Simpsons Game

The Simpsons Game (all platforms)

I haven’t watched The Simpsons for years. For a long time it was one of my favorite shows, but South Park and Adult Swim have made it feel somewhat irrelevant for me. That said, I still have fond memories of that jaundiced Springfield family, and was pleased to find that The Simpsons Game, unlike the vast majority of Simpsons-related video games, was not only fun but extremely funny. The brilliant conceit of the game was that the Simpsons were trapped in a video game, and, even better, were aware of this surprising fact. This setup allowed the developers to poke fun at many video game clichés, such as exploding barrels, lava pits, and characters who can’t swim. Many levels were very funny parodies of popular games, such as Medal of Homer and Shadow of the Colossal Donut. Each level was also packed with visual gags and in-jokes for both gamers and Simpsons fans, like a poster for Sitar Hero starring everyone’s favorite Indian Quik-E-Mart proprietor. Any game that features a boss battle against Sims creator Will Wright is aces in my book.


The Darkness

The Darkness (Playstation 3, Xbox 360)

I wasn’t familiar with the source material, the comic book series published by Top Cow, but I was familiar with the game’s developer, Starbreeze, who previously made the excellent The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. Starbreeze once again created an excellent story-driven game with an immersive story, interesting characters, and even a couple of poignant relationships. The gameplay wasn’t always as compelling as the story and characters; but, in this case, the whole was far greater than the sum of its parts. See my review of The Darkness here.



Crackdown (Xbox 360)

Crackdown garnered a lot of attention because the game disc included the multiplayer beta for Halo 3. Clearly many people bought the game simply to get their hands on that preview; but what most found was that Crackdown itself was extremely fun. This wasn’t a deep game, the missions were mostly very easy and uninspired. What made it so memorable was how vast, open, and seamless the game world was. Exploring this world was made fun by the power-up orbs scattered around the city, which made you stronger and more agile the more you collected. By the end of the game, you were able to climb to the tops of the highest skyscrapers, leap from rooftop to rooftop, and cause earth-shaking explosions. Online co-op made this one of the most enjoyable sandbox games I’ve played.


Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360)

People are going gaga for Call of Duty 4. It’s winning Game of the Year awards left and right, and I can’t argue with the sentiment. Although to me it felt like just a modern version of the previous Call of Duty games, which were all set in World War II, I can’t deny that developer Infinity Ward knows how to make a tense, visceral shooter. The single-player portion of the game was short, but exceedingly well-balanced and paced from start to finish, with a handful of truly memorable set pieces. The multiplayer portion did a great job of melding an RPG-like character development system with your typical shooter gametypes like team deathmatch and sabotage. Some of the maps looked too much alike for my tastes, and I found it very difficult to stay alive for more than 30 seconds at a time; but I also found it very difficult to keep myself from playing “just one more” match.


Lost Planet: Extreme Condition

Lost Planet: Extreme Condition (PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360)

Japanese gamers don’t particularly like shooters, so Japanese developers don’t usually make them. North American gamers, on the other hand, have an insatiable appetite for this type of game, and Japanese developers are just starting to realize that the American market is too big to pass up. Capcom threw their hat into the ring last year with Lost Planet, a third-person shooter set on an ice world. The graphics are stunning, especially the snow, which is the best I’ve ever seen. The action feels just right, with some great weapons and a grappling hook that opens up the levels to vertical exploration. It balances great on-foot sections with some very fun mech action. Lost Planet is the perfect Japanese/American hybrid action game, with all of the weapons and explosions Western gamers love combined with mechs and an insanely complex story told via sumptuous CGI cut scenes that only a Japanese company could craft.



Portal (PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360)

The other games in the unfortunately named The Orange Box are all excellent in their own right, but the standout for me was Portal. If its cousin, Half-Life 2, is the video game equivalent of a novel, Portal is a short story. It takes only 3-5 hours to complete the game, but don’t let its brevity fool you””this game is packed with action, humor, and one of the most twistedly funny bosses in gaming history. Indeed, its length allowed the developers to make each moment memorable. Put another way, Portal is short but dense. It also has the best end credits song ever. Whether you’re a gamer or not, you should play Portal. Don’t be lame, the cake is not a lie.



Bioshock (PC, Xbox 360)

I’ve never played anything quite like Bioshock. The cinematic immersiveness of the underwater city of Rapture took hold of me like a fever dream””it literally infiltrated my dreamworld during the weeks I was playing the game. The sumptuous art deco architecture, creepy sound effects, disturbing audio recordings of Rapture’s lost citizens, and the already iconic Big Daddies and Little Sisters, melded to create a game that will linger with me for years.


Halo 3

Halo 3 (Xbox 360)

I’ll admit to a bias in naming Halo 3 my favorite game of the year: I’m an unabashed Halo fanboy. Was it better than Bioshock or Portal? Perhaps it wasn’t as atmospheric as Bioshock, or as innovative or downright funny as Portal, but I’m still playing it six months after its release, long after those other games were shelved or sold to Gamestop, and I’m still having a hell of a lot of fun. From playing the campaign co-operatively with friends to playing matchmade multiplayer games to playing with the Forge level editor to watching videos of last night’s exploits, there is always something fun to do in Halo 3. I expected a lot from Bungie for the conclusion of my favorite game franchise, and they gave me more than I even knew I wanted.


  1. While I’m stoked to see Lost Planet and Crackdown on the list, I have to say that CoD4 not being #1 is surprising. I traded Halo 3 in after just over a week. I couldn’t stand it. But CoD4 is the best game I’ve played in a long, long time – even for the multiplayer alone.

    Comment by Stephen Lindsay — March 21, 2008 @ 7:53 am

  2. “Favorite” list instead of a “best” list. Lame. The only thing interesting about these insanely pointless list are the heated discussions they create. Take a stand, present your argument, and defend it from the firestorm.

    Comment by Devo — March 21, 2008 @ 2:30 pm

  3. Devo, the only interesting thing about your post is…wait, there’s nothing interesting about your post. There, I’ve taken a stand. But seriously, there are a million “best” lists out there. I felt that doing yet another one would be “insanely pointless,” as you put it. As a reader, the end-of-year lists I find most useful are the ones with a personal point of view, not the ones where the writers are trying to judge games from a supposedly objective point of view.

    Take a look at most of the top critics’ “best movies” lists. How many of those films were your favorites, the movies that you thoroughly enjoyed watching? I find that these lists are usually full of movies that everyone should see–and like–because they’re “serious” films that comment on society or somehow further the art of cinema. I’m sure those lists are interesting for what I’m guessing is a pretty small minority of moviegoers who care about cinema as an art form. But for the vast majority of movie fans, those lists are annoyingly pseudo-intellectual and come off as arrogant and out of touch with popular tastes. I would much rather read a list of the movies a reviewer enjoyed than those he thought were somehow culturally or socially important.

    Since games, even more than movies, are almost entirely for enjoyment, I am not at all interested in compiling a best list. I think it’s much more useful to readers to hear what games I enjoyed the most. It doesn’t mean that I’m not critical, as anyone who has read one of my reviews knows. But someone else can feed the pointless fanboy flame wars, that adolescent crap bores the hell out of me. Tell me what games you loved last year and why, what games you played over and over, and I’m interested. Lecture me on why I should like a game that isn’t particularly fun but is somehow important to the furtherance of games as an art form and I’m outta here.

    Comment by Slayve — March 24, 2008 @ 1:11 pm

  4. I’m but this list is hardly a list of favorites for hardcore gamers. How are you going to tell me that The Simpsons Game is more loved and revered by hardcore gamers than Deus Ex. If anything this is Top 9 Favorite Game List of your Average gamer, especially considering you threw in Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4 in the mix, though I understand that is just my opinion. The one thing on the list that I could agree with though full-heartly is Bioshock.

    Comment by PersonWithHair — May 17, 2008 @ 2:02 pm

  5. My best are GTA4,CoD4,CoD2,The Warriors,Army Of Two,Painkiller,Rome:Total War and Hidden and Dangerous.

    Comment by The_Warrior — May 17, 2008 @ 3:33 pm

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