Three years into a Wii’s lifecycle, and five years into DS’s, could there still be system sellers in 2010? Could there still be games on Wii that would encourage the few remaining fence sitters to grab a remote? Could there be even a handful of games on the ancient DS to make us even still think about it?
Such silly questions. This is Nintendo we’re talking about. We may have heard analysts go on and on this year about a dire present and even more dire future for Nintendo’s hardware– sales have peaked, third party publishers and developers have abandoned, the competition has new or more appealing hardware– but if anything we’ve had too many system-selling games for both systems. Perhaps that’s why DS is just a few million units away from being the greatest-selling video game hardware of all time, and why Wii’s remained in first place in overall sales yet again.
Frankly, there aren’t enough awards to note all the fantastic games that came out on both pieces of hardware (and their downloadable store counterparts), but that’s what our upcoming “Hey You Forgot!” round table is for. Until that’s posted later today, here are our choices of the best of the best, regardless of platform.
BEST GAME OF 2010
Super Mario Galaxy 2
2010 was the year of the sequel, no matter what console you played. For Nintendo, there was Shantae, Mario, Donkey Kong (on console and handhelds!), Metroid, Layton, Ace Attorney, Dragon Quest, Kirby, Final Fantasy, Sin & Punishment, Red Steel, No More Heroes… On other consoles there was Red Dead, Fallout, Mass Effect, God of War, Final Fantasy, Dead Rising, Gran Turismo, Need for Speed, Bioshock, Just Cause, Halo… and these lists aren’t exhaustive. Yes, 2010 was not a big year for new ideas, but a majority of these sequels were excellent.
Yet out of all those sequels (both direct and spiritual), one was clearly at the top, and upon its release over six months ago, the Game of the Year award was sealed up. In fact, had there been more time between Galaxy and Galaxy 2, allowing the game to feel as fresh as Red Dead Redemption, the open world western may not have edged out Mario in Best of 2010 awards at other outlets.
Fortunately, we’re a Nintendo site, so we have no such dilemmas to consider. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is not only the best sequel of the year, and the best game of 2010, but it’s one of the best games of all-time. That it excelled beyond the high marks and grand imagination of its phenomenal predecessor is near inconceivable, but Nintendo and its EAD Tokyo development team have written the definitive book on game design, presentation, control and whimsy, and followed it up with an even better sequel. One near-perfect game wasn’t enough. Now there are two, and we’re likely to be referencing this game as an industry standard, not to mention restarting our personal journey with Spaceship Mario through space again and again, for decades into the future.
BEST OVERALL GAME RUNNERS-UP
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies
You know an RPG has staying power when, after being released in the middle of the summer, people on staff are still playing it and singing its praises half a year later– even dressing their party characters up in holiday-specific outfits as the subsequent months come and go. You’d think this game were Animal Crossing with the continued adoration and attention it receives, but in fact it’s a triple-A sequel in the second-most popular RPG series of all time. And on a handheld, to boot! While we’re unlikely to ever see a mainline Final Fantasy sequel first-released on any handheld, Nintendo, Sony or otherwise, Square Enix and Level 5 threw console-based RPG fans’ world in disarray with Dragon Quest IX. It’s not as flashy as the best looking games on Wii or PS3, but it’s just as good as the best RPGs on those systems, and beautiful for the six-year old hardware it was developed for. With endless items to collect, a stream of new downloadable quests to try out alone or with others online, gamers got more than their money’s worth with Dragon Quest IX; they got one of the best games of the year.
Pokémon HeartGold & SoulSilver
We on the staff debated for awhile as to whether this “remake” deserved an award. But Pokémon HeartGold/SoulSilver‘s fans held fast: with its updated storyline, tweaked and new environments and gameplay tweaks, this mammoth RPG deserved its love and awards. The inclusion of the Pokéwalker pedometer took things to another level. Having a monster-collecting-and-training RPG that’s portable is one thing, but we have school and jobs and friends and family. But with the Pokéwalker: now, we can be playing the game at all waking hours of the day, leveling up our pocket monsters and finding new items without even thinking about it! Of course, HeartGold/SoulSilver is more than a pedometer– the game has scores of updates that make it not only a nice holdover until Black/White comes out this year, but also one of the best ways to spend our gaming time this year.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn
With its light piano music and textile-crafted world, Kirby’s Epic Yarn was momentarily mystifying and off-putting. But once you saw thread pulled to scrunch platforms together, patches peeled back to reveal secret areas, and fabric showing a lump whenever Kirby sneaked under it, you were charmed and excited: this is a game you have to play. And finally, with Epic Yarn, Kirby not only has his first superlative home console game in a decade or more, but he’s even more relevant, appealing and charming for novice and seasoned gamers alike. In a year of many excellent 2D and 3D platforming titles on Nintendo hardware, Epic Yarn is extraordinary to be almost top of the heap.
BEST OVERALL GAME HONORABLE MENTIONS
GoldenEye 007, Monster Hunter Tri and Donkey Kong Country Returns
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?
Tell us which of the above titles you’d pick as the winner, or if you think another game is more deserving, select “Other” and tell us in the comments!