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Top Video Games of 2008

As I type this from my university-era, Windows ME computer, let us remember the games that, in 2008, provided me some semblance of luxury in an otherwise misbegotten world. Africans may not have water, yet I type here with little more than Diet Squirt.

A few notes on the (one man) voting: I have not yet played many of the big name games, as most of them released in the last 2 months and I had to leave my family with something to wrap. Fallout 3, Gears of War 2, Left 4 Dead, Persona 4 and other numbered and non-numbered games have yet to enter my console. Furthermore, I do not own a PS3, so critical darlings such as Little Big Planet do not here present. I’m not counting ports (Chrono Trigger) or upgrades (Rez HD), which is good, because then I’d have to argue with reader Dave about why I like Rez. Also, I’m not counting games that have physically hurt me, or inspired myself to do the same (Geometry Wars 2). And no terrorists. Or women.

I'm also excluding Rock Band from the list, as it has become its own platform, its own phenomenon. Rock Band 2 only slightly iterated over the previous year's version, anyhow.

This being my first year with money, though, I still played a ton of games. The top 5, in reverse order, are:

5. Mario Super Sluggers (Wii).

This late entry did just arrive after Christmas, but it immediately rekindled in me the arcadey joy that previous Mario sports titles like tennis and golf brought with them on the N64 and GameCube. The game somehow breaks down the complexities of baseball into relatively simple game mechanics (although this is no pick-up-and play number), then rebuilds the opportunity for strategy by giving each of the 71 characters their own, game-altering abilities. Perhaps the most powerful skills – Daisy and Peach’s short shorts – aren’t even noted in the statistics! A short adventure mode whereby you learn the game by recruiting these characters and protecting the baseball kingdom from Bowser adds to the neo-retro appeal, and I can see myself playing Sluggers for many future-past years to come.

4. Prince of Persia/Call of Duty: World at War (multi-platform). I’m combining these 2 games into one slot because, while I loved aspects of each of them, they are each missing that je ne sais quoi that made their predecessors superior. I’ve already obtusely explained my position on Prince of Persia. The new Call of Duty, meanwhile, still succeeds in providing amazing visuals and exciting set pieces, but fails to give its story any real weight. It’s strange to think that Call of Duty 4, where you control modern era troops through fictional Mid-East/Post-Soviet battles, can feel more meaningful than the new game in which you relive World War II; yet that is the case. I definitely felt the horrors of war more profoundly this time around, but much of that impact dissipated with an epilogue bonus game in which you battle Nazi zombies.

3. Burnout Paradise (multi-platform).

Every once in a while I get into a non-karty racing game, with F-Zero GX being the prime example. So when the press continued to fawn over this February release throughout the year – lauding developer Criterion for releasing new, free content and ultimately dropping the price point – I had to jump in. My major gripe is that Burnout takes at least 3 minutes to start up, preventing it from being the perfect “drop in for 5 minutes before heading out to the bars but actually just to the parking lot outside the bars looking in” game. But this initial stumbling block at least helps load the entire “open world lite” that is Paradise City. Despite a lack of pedestrians, the place feels real. This is important, because sometimes, to feel alive, all we want to do is crash into each other.

2. Fable 2 (360). This is another game I've rambled on about at length, so I’ll sum up my experience with a quick Fable anecdote: I was blackmailed after being found out for having multiple wives in multiple cities. I paid the ransom, so that the daughter I loved would one day grow up to respect her old man. I couldn’t care less about my kids in the other cities.

1. The World Ends With You (DS).

When a drunk coworker pulled my DS out of my pocket at the office Christmas party and turned it on, she was greeted by this little gem. She said something to the likes of, “What the F is this?!” and turned it off immediately afterwards. No, this is not a game with which to please your peers. This is a game lovingly crafted to satisfy role-playing fans sick of the same old heroes in the same old worlds. I have never so enjoyed leveling up, never so enjoyed reading through the description of every single piece of equipment, and never been so intrigued by Japanese emo society. The writing and the story are both incredible (I’ll hesitantly qualify that statement with “for a video game”), with an ending that makes no sense at first and perfect sense upon reflection. I realize I haven’t really explained anything here, but I don’t think any explanation would justify (or translate) the experience. Please, somebody else I know with a DS, buy this game. I need to know that somebody out there is sharing this, and that the world doesn’t end with me.

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  1. Blogger Dave | 8:15 AM |  

    Want to lend me your copy of The World Ends with You? $40 for a DS game is a little rough. Maybe I can find a used copy...

    And thank you for the consideration.

  2. Blogger DoktorPeace | 8:20 AM |  

    Unfortunately, The World Ends With You seems to have but one save slot, meaning my file and all its bonuses would be erased. I can't sacrifice progress, not even for you...

    Yeah $40 is the Square-Enix tax, and because they didn't publish a ton of copies of the game, I don't know when the price will drop. Just don't eat for a night and pretend it's a $30 game. That's what I do.

  3. Blogger DoktorPeace | 8:25 AM |  

    Sorry about the formatting (small spaces after periods). I tried to fix it just now and it doesn't seem to have done anything. Blogger was being weird last night, and I was traveling amongst 3 aging computers in my posting effort.

  4. Blogger chris | 9:20 AM |  

    Hey I like Japanese emo culture! Alas, I own no system, much less a DS. Plus that thing scares me - TWO screens?! The future is now!

  5. Blogger William | 4:57 AM |  

    I don't know how you can put Call of Duty World at War on the top five especially since it has been a dropoff from Call of Duty Four. The maps are horrendous on the online multiplayer and in short supply and the campaign is a bit boring as compared to COD4.

  6. Blogger Sean | 1:11 PM |  

    WWII games are soooo tired. Why not WWI for a change?

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