Here is a short list of Top 7 video games in 2010 so far, acording to Games Reviews. What follows, then, aren’t merely the best of 2010 so far. Judging by their quality and by the rest of the release calendar, these might be the best of 2010 period.
Below: These games are great… but in a year that started like this, not nearly great enough.
So, here is the Top 7 list…
The great thing about Bayonetta is the way it doesn’t cut any corners. Where Devil May Cry 4 would make you fight a previously-beaten boss again, Bayonetta throws in a Space Harrier remake. Where Heavenly Sword gives you a QTE run down a giant rope, Bayonetta gives you a fully-controllable dash up a boss’s tongue. And where almost any game would pad out a level with a fetch and carry quest, Bayonetta sends you to a spectacular new area where you get to jump across slow-motion fountains and find an hourglass that rewinds time. There’s just so much imagination and quality here, it’s embarrassing for everyone else.
The gameplay is impeccably balanced and always fair. Learning how to use witch time is only your first step to mastering the combat, which can be augmented until you can block any attack. Even then, the challenge of finishing levels without taking a single hit is the hardest of hardcore challenges – and you’ll really want those elusive Pure Platinum grades.
Bayonetta herself may not be immediately likeable – a lot of gamers are put off by her overt sexuality – but we reckon she’s one of the strongest and most developed characters in gaming. And besides, any girl who wears her own hair as a catsuit is alright in our book.
6. Final Fantasy XIII
Nowadays it’s normal, and almost expected, to encounter a few bugs in every game, so there’s something fundamentally, indescribably pleasing about playing through an epic 50- to 60-hour experience in which you can just feel that every last detail was entirely deliberate and thoughtfully considered. Final Fantasy XII oozes that perfection from every pixel, and represents not only a great technical achievement, but also a milestone – no other current-gen title has anywhere near the level of polish.
Specifically, let’s talk about the battle system. In the proud tradition of previous Final Fantasies, XIII takes the Active Time Battle we all know and love, then adds its own twist: the Paradigm system. ATB was originally introduced to make battles more fast-paced than traditional turn-based RPGs, but the Paradigm system takes this a step further, creating some of the fastest, tensest action the genre has ever seen. We dare anyone who claims that the battles play themselves to complete all 64 Cie’th Stone missions without uttering the word “impossible” at least once.
Final Fantasy’s ensemble cast isn’t entirely lovable, it’s true, but the good characters are really, really good. Sazh in particular is a GamesRadar office favorite, and we’d go so far as to play a Chocobo Racing sequel if he were in it – Square-Enix, make it happen!
5. BioShock 2
Like many fans, we thought the original BioShock was a one-of-a-kind masterpiece that could not – and should not – be repeated. This sequel proved us wrong in so many different ways, however, that we still have trouble figuring out how the Ken Levine-less development team at 2K Marin managed to pull it off.
How do you improve on a mysterious protagonist whose very identity represented one of gaming’s greatest twists? Cast the player as an iconic Big Daddy, searching for a hidden past that only the equally iconic Little Sisters can reveal to him. What’s better than genetic weapons like hypnosis and telekinesis? A drill the size of a battering ram, for starters, but also the ability to upgrade or combine plasmids into new and more dangerous powers. Can Rapture continue to inspire fear? If the underwater city is made to feel more real and – with the addition of screeching, needle-armed Big Sisters – more dangerous, then yes. Oh yes.
None of these solutions are obvious, though, and all had the potential for franchise-killing disaster. The fact that BioShock 2 is such a worthy follow-up, then, is something of a minor miracle… or a major testament to the creators’ care and devotion for a series we’re now happy to see expand.
4. God of War III
When you see Kratos on the front of the box, you instantly know what to expect. A very angry man with very deadly weapons, ripping and tearing and screwing the entirety of ancient Greece – its mythological monsters, its arrogant gods, its beautiful women, its epic settings – into unbelievably bloody bits and pieces. God of War III was never expected to be anything but “more of the same.”
It’s the sheer scale and practiced perfection of the “more” that’s truly surprising, then. The bosses aren’t just bigger. Within minutes of starting the game, Kratos has become so dwarfed by the size of his first opponents that he’s barely more than a shirtless pixel on the screen. The violence hasn’t merely been increased. By the end of this stomach-churning gore fest, this will be one of the more pleasant things you’ve witnessed:
Yeah, the infamous sex minigames are especially scandalous the third time ’round, too. What makes God of War III such a clear choice for this best-of-the-year countdown, however, are not the gratuitous and visually obvious changes, but the subtler enhancements to gameplay. Like secondary weapons that are finally as cool as the chain-blades. Like puzzles that are both deviously clever and immediately intuitive. Like quick-time events that don’t completely distract from the action, and that act more as rewards than as frustrating obstacles. If that last example isn’t enough to justify God of War III’s place on this list, we don’t know what else would be.
3. Mass Effect 2
The first Mass Effect was a time-devouring trip into a galaxy so fully realized and thoroughly detailed, it seemed like part of a decades-long franchise of books, television and film. In reality, it was only one game, but one so well put together that you could easily overlook the frequent bugs, emotionless faces and occasionally repetitive planet-scouring missions.
All that praise and still Mass Effect 2 completely trumps its predecessor. The focus is tighter, the gunplay is faster and the characters themselves are intensely interesting – no small feat when you’re dealing with a story that puts all biological life on the cutting board. Rather than dwell on this looming apocalypse, the game spends most of its time connecting you to each member of Commander Shepard’s team, creating a very personal motive for each partner to leap into harm’s way and potentially sacrifice themselves for the greater good.
The universe saw upgrades too. Compare any supposed “nightclub” in the first game to Afterlife, a smoky, seedy watering hole every bit as arresting as Blade Runner. Side quests, instead of continuously repeating the same cave over and over, now took place in unique, one-off locations. The established lore even continued to grow as you learn more about Reapers, Collectors, Batarians, the Krogan genophage and a dozen other hot topics carried over from the original.
In short, Mass Effect 2 is an immensely improved sequel to a game that was already in the 9 and 10/10 range. Mass Effect 3 can’t release soon enough.
2. Super Mario Galaxy 2
Not everyone was excited for Super Mario Galaxy 2. Some feared a copy-and-paste sequel, one that lazily repeated the tricks of the first game without adding any of its own. Others played the underwhelming, overrated New Super Mario Bros Wii and wondered if Nintendo’s originality had dried up.
If anything, though, Galaxy 2 proves that the Mario team was only getting started back in 2007. Here is just a partial list of all the new and wonderful ideas you’ll experience: Light Yoshi, Cloud Mario, Rock Mario, bowling with Rock Mario, swimming between floating cubes of water, exploring a half-ice and half-fire planet, rolling giant snowballs, gliding with a massive bird, butt-stomping puzzle pieces into place, reading a supersized pop-up book and discovering that what seems like a brand new world is actually a loving remake of a classic Super Mario 64 level. There’s so much amazing extra stuff going on, in fact, that the old powers barely show up… but when they do, they’re implemented in unique and surprising ways as well.
But you know what’s best about Super Mario Galaxy 2? The game isn’t a Wii stereotype. The graphics are gorgeous, the focus is on pure hardcore platforming and the tutorials refuse to treat you like a helpless child, throwing Mario right into the fray right at the beginning. This is Nintendo at its absolute best.
1. Red Dead Redemption
Regular readers of the site are already shocked. Did we seriously just give our top spot to the only game in this countdown that didn’t receive a 10/10? Can we really declare that Red Dead Redemption, a product so riddled with glitches that the programming confuses women with donkeys, is the best of the year so far?
Yes, and to be honest, the decision was pretty damn easy. Rockstar’s Western is flawed for sure, and not an experience that everyone will enjoy, but it is – hands down – the game that has most occupied our office discussions, most consumed our hours at home and most captured our collective imaginations. Each morning, at least one editor will rush in to describe the beautiful desert sunset he watched over Nuevo Parisio the night before, or to brag about the number of murderous grizzly bears he hunted and skinned in the forests of West Elizabeth, or to marvel at how much time he wasted on a single virtual poker game in the virtual saloons of virtual Armadillo.
Red Dead Redemption’s world is that deep. It’s that detailed. It’s that absorbing. And, as you may have noticed, we’re only talking about the side stuff. Considering the game also boasts a mature, historically significant story, features blazing, bullet-riddled missions that could fit right into any classic Western film and stars one of the most likable and believable heroes of this generation… well, that’s why we feel so confident awarding Red Dead Redemption the (current) best game of 2010.