Video games seemed to soar far beyond expectations this year. Without a tentpole release like Bioshock, Halo 3, or Portal, all different kinds of games popped up all over the place, from all platforms. 2008 was a year of games that broke new ground. Games like Far Cry 2 and Mirror's Edge, which took their respective genres to whole new levels. Games like Grand Theft Auto, which broke sales records for video games mere months after the release of the record-setting Halo 3. Games like Fable II, which created one of the first true open-world games to allow you full control over the morality and lifestyle of your character.
Choosing our favorite games was difficult, and there are a lot of fantastic titles that didn't make the list. Please understand that these winners were decided based on votes from each of our staff members, averaged together to form a general consensus. In addition, we had some extra votes from Yumeka of AnimeYume to help even out tie votes. The writeup for each winner has the author's nickname next to it. [Vampt Vo], for example.
Below, our choices for the best video games of 2008.
Third Place ••• Burnout Paradise
Platform(s): Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Designed by: Alex Ward
Developed by: Criterion Games
Published by: Electronic Arts
Trading in your copy of Burnout Revenge for Burnout Paradise is just like buying a new car (with the notable exception that most people could own both games and not be in debt for a tenth of their lifespan). Even though you've done everything you possibly could with the junker, you've done everything you could, and its fun is beginning to wane. Every trick, every shortcut, every navigational nuance has become a yawn. But then the surprise. Grandma's extra generous come Xmas, your parents are footing the bill, you've won the lottery. Enter: Burnout Paradise, a trade-up in almost every respect. Its free-roam world empowers players to have fun en route to an event - Marked Man, Road Rage, Stunt Run, Burning Route, or a good ol' fashioned Race - as well as in it. The sheer number of events and challenges outshine its predecessor, especially when combined with the amazing online capabilities/achievements/rewards. Also, it must be mentioned that the constant (free!) updates range from the simple (new road, new event) to the sublime (Hey, why don't we add motorcycles? OK! Chronology-driven settings and weather conditions? So mote it be!).
The graphics, the car selection, the paint options, and the soundtrack (not to mention how easy it is to play to your own) never fail to impress. The only bit of nostalgia that lingers is that which adored crash events. Sure, you can start your own total-as-many-things-as-possible-for-as-long-as-you-want event at any time during a race or (I think) in free-roam, but it's not the challenge-based event that made things blowing up all the more fun for destruction engineers with OCD. So if there was ever a reason to keep your junker on cinder blocks on the lawn like a decoration you might work on on alternate Saturdays, that's it. Otherwise, feel free to start immersing yourself in the experience of new-and-shiny-ness with no regrets. My gamertag is King Ink. See you on the strip (in the rear-view mirror). [Ink]
Second Place ••• Rock Band 2
Platform(s): Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Designed by: Josh Randall
Developed by: Harmonix
Published by: MTV Games
The number one thing that makes Rock Band 2 the ultimate rhythm game out there: intra-franchise adaptability. Offload the songs from the original Rock Band disc to your hard drive, and they are automatically integrated within the new game for practice, touring, one-session jam, or online co-op...right along with all the content you previously downloaded! RB got it's technical difficulty level right for its target audience, the party gamer not looking to become the next Slash with a plastic axe but just wanting to pretend to play for the fun of it. Still, when you set it to expert, you could expect a good challenge! RB2 stays true to that, unlike Guitar Hero: World Tour, which dumbed things down a bit to appeal to those who might be rock side-kicks instead of full-fledged heroes. Song choice cannot be ignored. Besides the ever-growing cache of content downloads, the disc-list is impressive in both scope and choice. Classic Rock, Metal, Pop, Emo, Country...you name it (so long as you don't name the sadly excluded/marginalized Rap, R&B, Reggae, or Hip-Hip).
A slight bit of envy between RB2 and GHWT is the add-on drum expansion, which only duplicates colors for RB2 (whereas the GHWT kit adds another color for a better/more varied drumming experience). Still, if you care about anything other than the songs when looking to get this game: 1) you're wrong, 2) GHWT does a better job with character customizations and venue settings/graphics, and 3) RB2 offers many more modes of playing than GHWT, though mostly in playlist form (Challenges, Battle of the Bands, etc). I rock Excellent Guitar/Bass, can sing your sister's knockers off, and mess up the simplest of beats and I love jamming with anyone, anytime who has the same love of music that is the soul behind this game. [Ink]
First Place ••• The World Ends with You
Platform(s): Nintendo DS
Designed by: Tatsuya Kando
Developed by: Square Enix & Jupiter
Published by: Square Enix
I'm not a Final Fantasy fan. Long JRPGs that require me to grind endlessly just aren't my style, so Square Enix games never really called to me. On a whim I bought The World Ends with You, and since I started playing it, I can conclude that this is one of the best games released on the Nintendo DS. Your missions are short as you wander the psuedo-Shibuya "Underground," where you must work with your NPC partner to find a way back to the real world. As you complete the missions and learn more about the "UG," the story builds to some very suspenseful crescendos. Beyond the thought-provoking story, the central combat component of the game dominates all else. When choosing clothes, attacks, and even food to eat, you must always consider the brand that is in style in your area, the food preferences of your characters, and even the amount (and types) of experience you will receive. Difficulty (and almost any other stat) can be changed at will, making this a supercomplex, engrossing experience. The World Ends with You is a phenominally fun and strikingly unique title, and it has unquestionably taken its seat among the greatest DS games ever. The JRPG has truly proven its worth. [Vampt Vo]
(The top video game choice from each of our staff members that voted)
- Mitchell "MitchyD" Dyer: Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 (360)
- "Ink": Rock Band 2 (360)
- Maxwell "Pigeonflu" McGee: Left 4 Dead (360)
- Evan "Vampt Vo" Minto: The World Ends with You (DS)
- "Yumeka": Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility (Wii)