Thursday, December 25, 2008

Retrospective: Top Ten Games of 2008

The title of this post is intentionally misleading. What this retrospective is all about is taking a post to remember 2008, not in terms of new releases, but by examining the games that I spent most of my time playing. I encourage any readers to post their own lists, with optional commentary.

2008 was an extremely busy year for me, between working, applying to graduate school, blogging, programming and designing games I still found time to sink hundreds of hours into new and old classics. The following works of art are especially memorable and set the tone of 2008 quite nicely.

10. Animal Crossing: City Folk
Nintendo's latest entry into the Animal Crossing series has been a pleasure, and a slight disappointment. I was hoping for innovation and expansion of the series's scope, yet neither were delivered. What we received, however, was a solid entry and a slight improvement over Wild World. Incredibly fun if view objectively, one can't help but be disappointed. Though released only a month ago, I think this title sums up the mounting animosity that gamers have with Nintendo. They are abandoning their original consumer base, and, most frighteningly, it's working. Well, good luck in 2009 Nintendo, because there will be a lot less of your games on this list next year.

9. Ys: Book I & II
These classic TG-CD games were hotly anticipated, but were released without much fanfare. I finished Book 1, and am working on Book 2. This is one of two games on the list that I haven't beaten, but I was looking forward to its release for months. Adol's adventures running into the sides of monsters never grows old. If you are looking for some amazing music, look no further. Ys is also forever tied to history; it was the first CD-based RPG. This game really shows, like Mega Man 9, what 8-Bit game design combined with advanced technology can produce.

8. Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia
Another year, another Castlevania game. Don't let my brevity fool you, this is one of the freshest, most enjoyable entries in the series. Gamers unlocked the mystery of the sexy amnesiac and a gunslinger, and our faith in the series remained strong.

7. The Dynastic Hero
One of the first games I played this year, and one of the best. The Dynastic Hero impressed me with its bold visual style, CD-based audio, and intricate quest. Though originally a Wonder Boy game, I think the insect motif fit well with the environment. This game deserves serious credit for inspiring me to start 8-Bit City and to start blogging about lesser-known titles, because I had never heard of the game until it appeared on the Wii's VC. And although this masterpiece takes 250 blocks of precious Wii Storage space, it's worth every bit.

6. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
I'm a little late to the game, and this is the other game that I have not completed. Hurricane Gustav killed my momentum and I moved on to other gaming adventures (NES Pro Wrestling, which is definitely NOT on this list). I don't share in the disappointment for Twilight Princess, however, and I welcome the return of a serious art style. The Zelda series is definitely showing its age, and Nintendo must adapt. Either take the series back to 8-Bits, and keep it simple, or start innovating. The this work is not without flaws, but the true genius and beauty shine through.

5. Adventure Island 2
It's an island of adventure! Many parties this year ended in my friends and I playing Adventure Island 2. The smooth gameplay, lack of serious glitches, brilliant colors and balanced levels have made this game a favorite among my inner circle. I have owned Adventure Island 2 for over 15 years, and both the cart and my desire to conquer dinosaur island remain firmly intact. Keeping hammer tossing, Master Higgins!

4. Cave Story
Pixel's masterpiece painted a brilliant picture of sorrow and triumph. Cave Story showed us that one man can create great video game art. There is no title I anticipate more than the Wii Ware release of Cave Story, coming in early 2009.

3. Super Smash Brothers Brawl
How can I not mention the game that consumed over one month of my life and almost devoured my blog? Super Smash Brothers Brawl should act as a beacon for game designers. Never have I experienced so much content and balance in a fighting game. This game is so close to perfect, one wonders where the series can go from here. Probably down. Please prove me wrong.

2. Mega Man 9
I'm still playing Mega Man 9, in fact, I just beat the game without the helmet (and without dying). MM9 proved that 8-Bit is not an ancient necessity but a legitimate artistic medium. The conscious decision to used "outdated" styles caused ripples in the gaming community. The notion of "graphics" in professional reviews was questioned, and reviewers were forced to look at artistic design rather than technical capacity. Mega Man 9 aided intellectual video game criticism more than any other title and helped the mainstream understand that video games are a serious medium and that an increased vocabulary is need to properly describe them. In addition, Capcom managed to top Mega Man 2 and create the best entry in one of the most popular video game franchises of all time. I would have thought this impossible, and was thankfully proved wrong.

1. Final Fantasy VII
Love, life, and death. I journeyed through the world of Cloud and Tifa again this year, visiting old friends and exploring familiar locations. Everything about this game is dear to me; it is my favorite game of all time. Final Fantasy VII feels real while maintaining the mantle of fiction. It's ambitious story strives to tell a tale equal to the sublime heights of Dante's Comedy. Its themes are timeless, its music profound. It's unique, brilliant, and beautiful.

Extra Mention: 8-Bit Killer
I left this list for a few hours before posting it, and I realized that I left 8-Bit Killer off of the list. This title, along with Fallout 3 and others, are proving the legitimacy of the first person shooter. Anyone not a fan of the genre should play 8-Bit Killer and be converted.

Extra Mention: Monuments of Mars
Personally this game was a big inspiration and a breath of fresh gaming air when I needed a break from other games in which I was involved. Something different and ancient. Addicting gameplay and pure simple graphics.

Extra Mention: Super Paper Mario
I finally played this game, and though I am at the gates of the final castle, I haven't yet beaten it. A great game overall, this is the consciously retro and innovative platformer the Wii needed.

That sums up most of 2008 for me. Other titles probably should have made the list. Anything reviewed for this blog certainly does, but it'd be pretty redundant to just list them all. What about you, when you think back to 2008, what games will you remember playing?


Kyle said...

A lot of those are some pretty kickass games (and the others I haven't played). My list would look something like this, though I couldn't order them.

-Super Smash Bros. Brawl
-Mega Man 1, 2, 9 (grouped together)
-Resident Evil 4
-World of Goo
-Mario Kart Wii
-New Super Mario Bros.
-Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
-No More Heroes
-Order Up!

And by the way, happy holidays!

Anonymous said...

I would have to disagree a bit with Castlevania OoE. It's probably one of my least favorite CV games, which especially sucks because I was really looking forward to it too. It's just not very much fun for some reason. DoS and even PoR were more fun IMO.

Advance Wars: Days of Ruin was pretty awesome, that'd be on my top 10 list for this year for sure.

Anonymous said...

-Knytt Stories (revisited, played new stories)
-Earthbound (finally played the whole thing... damn I was missing a lot all those years)
-Mother 3 (working on this one right now and i LOVE it)
-Cave Story (not sure if i played it this year or last but it's one of my favorites)
-Yume Nikki
-Call of Duty 4
-Chrono Trigger (a revisitation, not on DS. it reminded me what is so great about it, and i got all 12 endings.)
-Passage (didn't take a lot of time but it was quite an experience)

oh and i almost forgot one, how could i possibly forget it!?
-Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden

for christmas i got Beautiful Katamari so i'm looking forward to playing that, since Katamari Damacy and We Love Katamari are two of my favorite games ever.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha, I forgot about Barkley SU&J:G too! The legends of the ancient ballers.. I got as far as the 3rd character in the party (the cyborg) but haven't played it since :(

My favorite part was the "disguise" LeBron James had on and how nobody knew it was him. Larry Bird as the priest was classic.

Benjamin Fennell said...

I played through Yume Nikki a few months ago myself. Brilliantly surreal game. You don't see design concepts and execution like that often.

Still gotta download Barkley.

James Dziezynski said...

Y's Books 1 and 2 is my favorite game of all time, even after all these years. I got the original in 1990 after essentially selling my soul to get the TG-CD (long story).

Also, I have to mention it's a bit sad EGM is leaving the magazine rack -- no other magazine did so much to promote the old school systems back in the day, especially the TG.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes. it has been an interesting year for gaming....Unfortunately for me i spent most my time frittering away on World of Warcraft...damn.

However i did play some other spectacular games this year.
Metal Gear solid 4 (game of the year imo)
Dragon Quest 4 (just started, but its freaking awesome)
Soul Calibur IV
Mega Man 9
Dynastic Hero
Warcraft III

Those aren't really in order but who cares. BTW everyone who owns a DS should go buy Dragon Quest 4. it is an exceptional game.

8bitcity said...

It definitely is an exceptional game, I'm play DQ4 as well. It's a bummer that they removed so much of the game for the American release, but it's still better than the NES version. I'd prefer 8-Bit graphics instead of the somewhat generic DW7-style art, but I'd never expect SE to release an 8-Bit game now. Being able to control your party members is a huge boost to the gameplay, making the annoying aspect of DW4 history.

Reading over these comments I can see a lot of games I forgot to mention on this list: Kyntt Stories and Septerra Core come to mind. I'd even go so far as to put Septerra Core right underneath Mega Man 9, but, alas, the list is done and posted.

Haven't had too much time to post or to visit other blogs recently. I just moved to New Orleans so I'm getting settled and prepped for graduate school on Monday.

Still haven't played BSUaJ:G yet... it's on the list.

And, yes, EGM leaving print is a travesty. What the fuck am I supposed to subscribe to now? Game Informer?

Gavino X said...

Wow, great blog, I look forward to your next entry!

What have I played over 2008? Hmmm...

In no particular order
2, Ace Combat
3, Streets of Rage 2
5, Sensible World of Soccer
6, PES
7, Colony (in an IE browser C64 emulator - great website
8, Football Manager (far too much!)
9, Battlefield Bad Company
10, COD 4

That was tough!

Can I be cheeky and ask that you check out my new blog on gaming at

I hope it's entertaining!

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