Video games of the Year 2010

Happy New Year! Welcome to the DarkZero Awards 2010, the 5th edition of the super annual article where DZ staff vote like they’ve never voted before to decide the greatest games of the year that just passed. This year, our vote ended with us putting together a Top 20 list of, what we deem to be, the most impressive, exciting, and fun games of 2010.

To go along with the list, there are some comments from various members of staff voicing their approval, and, at times, dissatisfaction at the placing of certain titles.

We are sure you have an opinion on what the year had to offer too, so feel free to tell us your own favorites in the comments below, along with what you think we got right/wrong – mostly right though, we like praise!

Here is hoping 2011 will be just as exciting.

Ben: Well written and humorous video games are a rare thing, and ones suited to both adults and children rarer still. Yet Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge succeeds on all counts, following the adventures of inept pirate Guybrush Threepwood across ficticious Caribbean islands. This Special edition gives the 1991 Amiga original a HD visual overhaul, also bringing the addition of voice acting to an already superb sountrack.

LucasArts demonstrates exactly how old classics can be brought right up to date, while retaining as much of their original charm as possible. A noteworthy feature is allowing the player to switch back and forth between the charming pixelated graphics of the original and the new updated HD mode. Equally impressive the release across such a diverse range of formats: Xbox Live, PSN, PC, iPhone, iPod and iPad.

Sean: As a huge fan of the Fallout series, I enjoyed Fallout 3 but felt it fell short in a few areas. In particular, the story and quests weren’t particularly strong, which was pretty disappointing considering I still remember some of my favourite lines from Fallout 2, roughly ten years since I last played it. So when it was announced that Obsidian were tackling New Vegas, my wishlist consisted of the following:


And, by gosh, that is exactly what we got. Much sharper writing combined with a branching story, wonderfully grey moral decisions and the ability to make people’s heads explode in slow-motion over and over and over and over and over and over again forever make this one of my favourite RPGs of all time.

Dominic: Super Meat Boy is a game that at first glance tricks the player into thinking that this is an easy platformer. Oh how evil it is for lying to you. You see the thing is once you’ve got past the first world the game sticks twos up at you. Life? You won’t even care what life is after playing Super Meat Boy. You’ll be throwing lives away in this game like a lonely night with the Kleenex box. Death is just a small step in delaying the evitable; the evitable being that you won’t be able to stop playing this intellectual designed skill based 2D platfomer.

Super Meat Boy is incredibly challenging, brilliantly rewarding and jam packed with content and extras. It’s one of the best indie titles I’ve ever grasped and if Meat Boy was real I’d smoother him all over me to enjoy his meaty goodness.

Owen: The accepted wisdom in games marketing is that platform games with cutesy characters are popular with kids, so they should be kept fun and easy so that younger gamers don’t get too frustrated with them. The result is that all big-name platform games released today are absolutely pathetic, the most ‘difficult’ levels usually testing your patience more than your technical skill. Super Meat Boy takes this theory and gives it a welcome kick in the balls. Even the most experienced gamers will frequently encounter levels that seem outright impossible, but you always know deep down that the only reason you died was because you just weren’t good enough. It is harsh but always fair, tells a few good jokes just through the positions of saws and keys, and gets bonus points from me for all the references to other indie games – this is probably the closest you’ll ever get to playing Mighty Jill-Off on a console!

Andi: I only bought Super Meat Boy recently and it has single handedly put playing any other games on hold. The fact I can fire it up and mindlessly try a stage over and over again is perfect for whenever I have five minutes to kill or a few hours. I don’t actually have any fun; in fact, it downright infuriates me most of the time, but that is little to do with the game and more to do with my inability to play it at the standard I would like to. I keep coming back, though, edging ever closer to that golden standard I have set myself.

Super Meat Boy succeeds by nailing the two things a platform game needs above all other things – superb level design and a sense of inertia to the character that ensures that you are always in control, and therefore any mistake is your own stupid, rubbish fault. The insane difficulty spikes may mean that it isn’t for everyone, but those who enjoy masochistic platform games where the only options are GET BETTER or DIE HORRIBLY, Super Meat Boy is an essential release.

Ben: There have long been calls for a re-release of N64 classic GoldenEye, one of the most influential FPS games of all time. Thanks to its convoluted legacy – being published by Nintendo, developed by Rare (now owned by Microsoft) and the license now belonging to Activision – prospects of a HD re-release remain unlikely. What we have instead however is a new game based on the same story. These are now easy footsteps to follow; most James Bond games since 1997 have been dismissed as failures. But Eurocom’s Wii game is one of the best yet, and you’ll know this after playing the first mission and watching the sublime intro sequence begin that wouldn’t look out out of place in a Bond film.

I wouldn’t describe the single player as classic; the gameplay is solid but there’s too much mindless shooting. At times it succeeds in reminding you of those N64 days as you equip your silencer and sneak up on a guard. Pleasingly the introduction of Daniel Craig is not just superficial; the game feels more visceral and you as the player can be more hands-on, subduing enemies if you get close enough. Also new is the ability to vault over obstacles and jump down from balconies, adding some realism and providing more freedom. The multiplayer action is where the most fun can be found, either online or playing four-way splitscreen with friends. There’s characters such as Jaws, Scaramanga, Oddjob and the Golden Gun mode seals the deal – Bond fans will find this 007 outing a worthwhile experience.

Dominic: I was scared about how Activision would treat this legacy. EA had already tried to cash in on this golden name once before with their Rogue Agent title… it hurt my heart… so much pain! It was a load of tosh!

Thankfully Eurocom respected the original game and decided to modernize it rather than simply remake the classic, it turned out great. Sure it features some gameplay inheritance from Call of Duty but what it also manages to do is still keep the Bond aspect intact. This means you’ll still be following the mission objectives, sneaking around and using Bond gadgets but all updated for the Wii. It’s a brilliant shooter and all fans of the original shouldn’t sniff up at some of the changes, you’ll be presently surprised at what Eurocom has done.

Thomas: Remaking a classic is probably the hardest feat to tackle in the entertainment industry. Regardless of if it is a song, movie, TV show, or game you are always going to get compared to the predecessor, and, as a result, held up to lofty high standard by the original’s fans. Eurocom have certainly put their best foot forward though, and as a result 2010 gave us another great game to bear the GoldenEye name.

It’s not the GoldenEye you once loved, but it does enough right to make you want to fall in love all over again. That is the best way I can explain this latest effort in the Bond franchise.

Gloria: I really don’t like remakes, I’ve seen loads over the years, as TV shows, films and games, but very few matched up to the original, so I was pretty wary when I heard Activision were remaking Goldeneye. Who in their right mind would try and remake one of the greatest games of all time? And with Activisions strategy of cashing in on a franchise, milking them to death (Guitar Hero and Call of Duty) even the most optimistic weren’t expecting anything more than a cash in on the name.

But as it turns out all the worries and cynicism were unnecessary, as developers Eurocom made a fine job of it, incorporating modern FPS gamestylings without losing the feel of the original. The end result is not only one of the best games on the Wii this year, but a FPS to rival the best on any console in the last year. It’s a shame more of our writers don’t own a Wii, then it would get the placing it deserves in our list, as it is just know that it has beaten some of this years biggest releases just getting on here in the first place.

Thomas: This is my own personal game of the year. It may have released just a few short days into the beginning of 2010, but the fun I had with it stuck with me all the way until year end. I am not 100% sure why I adore it so much though, maybe it is the Commodore graphics, the chiptune music, the insane difficulty, the fact I won €50 from a mate for beating his best Super Gravitron time, or just the game’s “I’m walking on the ceiling now, you argument is invalid” attitude.

Hell, it’s probably a combination of all of the above. Whatever the reason, I sunk an unholy amount of time into the game over 2010, and still feel an urge to play as we march into 2011. Super Meat Boy grabbed my attention later in the year for much the same reasons, and, if I took the time to tally up the times, I probably ended up playing it more, but VVVVVV is still the king for me.

Chris: Gran Turismo 5 is a series of games that works in numbers, years to develop? 6, cars to feature so far? 1031, locations? 26, tracks to date? 71, poloygons per premium car? 500,000. This is a game definitely not small on scale and to say it would be big in ambition would be an understatement. Yamauchi and his development studio Polyphony Digital have created the largest scale and best driving on the planet, without a doubt. You have your Need for Speed: Hot Pursuits, Forza’s and Burnout games, but this is a game building on the foundations of its predecessors and providing you with everything on a grander scale. Sure there are the naysayers saying the game is dull and not thrill-seeking enough. Get to level 40 (which I have yet to reach) and say you haven’t had thrills and get back to me.

The fact of the matter is, Gran Turismo 5 is the largest and best driving simulation you will ever play with a physics engine to die for and visuals which will make the most avid petrol-head drool, throw in 3D visual capabilities, which may I add are absolutely phenomenal and you have the best visual and gameplay driving undertaking achieved thus far in our lifetimes. With the added continued support, updates and DLC this game will only continue to grow. It is not simple Gran Turismo gaming world, but a Gran Turismo Universe at your finger-tips.

Dominic: It was a long time coming but Gran Turismo 5 finally arrived into the PlayStation 3 catalogue. I know that some people think it’s a bit inconsistent across the board because of the 800 standard cars not looking as damn right sexy as the 230 premium models. I see it as this… would you rather have 230 premium cars and nothing else, or would you still like to be able to drive your real life car (yes without cockpit, but still!), tune it and then test it to see how well it does against some of the other cars in the world? That’s what I like to do and I feel no other game does simulated style racing better than Gran Turismo 5. Add in the variety of racing with Rally, Nascar and Go Karting and you have a splendid package that will last you for AGES… and my god those premium cars look so damn real.

Ian: Heavy Rain is flawed, there’s no denying that. There are plot-holes and continuity errors galore, and some of the potential choices that can be made completely defy the character development at times. That point made, I have nothing but respect for Heavy Rain. Ironically it’s for none of the reasons check-listed on the back of the box. I couldn’t care less about the fancy graphics, or the fact that it’s bridging the gap between games and films. The multiple endings were cool I guess but that still isn’t what impressed me about Heavy Rain. What really got me the most, in spite of all the fancy superfluous crap that David Cage was busy pushing in an attempt to establish himself as a Hollywood director, was the game’s ability to make you finally understand parenthood.

Never before have I realised just how hopeless and confusing being a parent can be. Playing as Ethan Mars and struggling to cheer my son Shaun up really hit me in a way I hadn’t expected. There are times during the scene when I felt genuinely helpless, nothing I could do could bring this child out of his miserable state and as a result I too was becoming sucked into a state of depression. It made me understand parenting in a way I’d not considered before and for that reason Heavy Rain struck a chord. It may not be the best game of 2010 but its ambition and scope certainly deserve an enormous amount of praise.

Dominic: If there was a category for best narrative of the year Heavy Rain would win this for me. I’ve never felt so emotionally involved with a game before. I was playing as if I was put into the same situations as Ethan Mars.

There was one point in the game where I just couldn’t put his life on the line, the part with the poison, you’ll know what I mean if you have played it. I just couldn’t end a life like that. For a game to make me so passionately involved with choices that drastically affect the story is mind blowing, so Heavy Rain has to be doing something astounding.

Thomas: To tell the truth, there is a lot I hate about Heavy Rain. The stupid accents, the endless repeating of “JA-SON,” that clown with the balloon, annoying plotholes, unresolved story content, and the stupid twist. However, looking back, I still get the feeling I took part in something special. In a year when just about everything else felt more like an evolution than a revolution, Heavy Rain truly aimed for something very different. Sure, it did not execute everything as expertly as it needed to be for a game with such grand scope, and came up short in places. But I still enjoyed what I played, even if, at times, I felt like I stumbled into what games could be like in the future a decade too early.

Andi: I still cannot tell if I hate Heavy Rain or not. I know for certain I don’t love it, but there are times where I think I should give it another shot. Perhaps I’m being too harsh on it? As it stands, though, I really did not get on with David Cage’s “masterpiece”. For a game so hyped as a cinematic experience, the plot was dull, predictable and full of holes. I genuinely appreciate how different it was and sure, there were loads of different routes and endings and possibilities – in that respect Heavy Rain was a success, but I can’t shake the feeling that maybe if all those great ideas used in the narrative were put into a better video game, they’d be more effective.

I feel Cage pushed interactive cinema way, way too close to the cinema side, and lost sight of what makes a good video game in the process. Heavy Rain deserves recognition for being brave and different. It doesn’t deserve recognition for being a good game.

Thomas: As I said in my review of the game, Namco outdid themselves with this one. I honestly don’t think there is any better way to take an old gaming icon, and once again make them feel fresh, new and still relevant years later. The core of the old game from decades back is still there, but it is all wrapped up in everything a current-gen gamer expects. That’s an amazing feat to pull off, but Namco somehow did it.


I’ve never been a huge fan of Pac-Man, and while I appreciated the changes made in Pac-Man CE, it wasn’t enough to really get me hooked. CE DX, on the other hand, is a masterpiece. It’s barely the same game as the original in a lot of ways, of course, but as well as ramping up the intensity and the feeling of being ‘in the zone’, the developers have also made the game seem fairer, and frequently allow you to annihilate the absolute crap out of the normally all-powerful ghosts. Between this and Space Invaders: Infinity Gene, the past is looking brighter than ever.

Dominic: Ever wondered what brutality would look like with the power of the PlayStation 3? Well look no further than God of War III. From start to finish the war with Zeus and the Gods is nothing but an insane rollercoaster ride. It’s one of the titles in this year’s game releases that kept putting my jaw on the floor with its graphics and sense of scale. There are some HUGE boss battles featured that makes wonder how the team at Sony’s Santa Monica studio managed to pull that off in real time. Absolutely bonkers and an epic action game!

Chris: Any game that uses the name God of War in its title is not trying to be a shy and retiring endeavour, you are damn right it is not. God of War III continues the adventures of the God/deity slaying Kratos in his unrelenting quest for revenge.

Beginning with you and your initial fellow allies the titans as you storm Mount Olympus in an attempt to kill Zeus and the Olympian Gods, with confrontations in the over and underworlds, epic is a game which is lavishly applied to this experience and incomparably unique adventure.

Featuring the best, yes the best visuals you will see on any console this generation. Ok discounting Heavy Rain and Uncharted 2/3, this is best looking game on any console. Also it is one of the best experiences you will come across this generation, with some excellent QTS sequences, the largest-scale boss battles you will probably ever encounter and with more attitude than a gangster rappers video, with even more scantily-clad ladies, God of War III is indeed a game everyone should play.

If you have a PS3 what are you waiting for? Get out there now and play this!

Gloria: If there was one gaming character due for a comeback it was this guy, he’s one of the biggest characters in gaming, and not just because he’s a giant gorilla. Donkey Kong kick started Marios career, he sat side by side with Pacman in the arcades back in the day, he’s one of the oldest, and greatest characters ever to come from gaming, and now he’s back.

And back with a bang too, Retro studios have taken his finest hour and given it a good sprucing up with a slice of 2D platforming that manages to feel old and new at the same time. It feels like a seamless continuation from the original SNES games, but adds enough to also feel like a completely new game. And it’s tough as nails too, something that’s been missing in a lot of games these days. There’s no doubt about it, Kong is still king.

Dominic: As a big fan of RARE’s Donkey Kong Country trilogy I was super stoked when Donkey Kong Country Returns was announced at Nintendo’s E3 press conference. I’m not too hot on the game’s title but what I am digging is the nostalgic formula that Retro Studios has based this new instalment on. It manages to take the old and add some new gameplay elements to make it feel like a sequel rather than a rehash down memory lane. Fantastic art direction and brilliant level design make this the best 2D platformer of the year.

Andi: I have done one level of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 on single player. It seemed like a pretty good first person shooter. The multiplayer, however, is without question the best online shooter available on the market. Modern Warfare 2/Black Ops are fun and all, but shallow run and gun experiences. Every match, no matter what the mode, you will find people in those games talking about MY killstreak, MY weapons, MY kills to deaths ratio. MY MY MY ME ME ME. Bad Company 2 puts you in a group with three other soldiers, each with the choice of differing abilities and weapons, and rewards you for working as a team.

A medic gets more points for healing than killing. Spotting someone miles off for one of your teams snipers rather than shooting at them with your piddly machine gun and giving away position gains you points. It is all geared around making you think “What is best for the team?” and then actually giving you a reason to do it. A group of friends, all in a group, working tightly and efficiently, can single handedly turn the tide of a battle. I’ve seen it happen, I’ve been part of it and it is by far one of the most rewarding feelings you can have in the crowded online shooter world.

Dominic: While I admit that I play this game more for its top notch multiplayer mode (which I believe to be better than any of the Call of Duty games) I still enjoyed my playthrough of the single player. The cast of characters are what make the single player experience an enjoyable light hearted romp, but let’s not kid here people, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 doesn’t shine in the single player, it explodes in the multiplayer. This is the best multiplayer shooter of the year.

Thomas: In a year when COD: Black Ops, Medal of Honor, and Bad Company 2 all hit shelves, come year end, I never expected Bad Company 2 to still be king. Sure, I immensely enjoyed it when I first played it, but with the high amount of hype surrounding the others, I was sure its grandeur would get overthrown before the end of the year came. But that’s not what happened at all, and to be truthful, both of the latest entries in the COD and MOH franchise fell a little flat. Bad Company, on the other hand, seems to be the only one, still on the up.

Dominic: This game was a present surprise “Zach” as it doesn’t really look or play like a good game. Yet as you keep playing you seem to be absorbed into the murder mystery that Francis York Morgan is trying to solve. The bizarre nature and story of this game is something truly deranged, but even with all the broken aspects of the game you can’t help but love Mr Morgan. He’s a big contender for best new character to be introduced in the year 2010, he’s just so unique, quite like Deadly Premonition really.

Andi: I unironically love Deadly Premonition. Perhaps it has something to do with my love for survival horror games, but some of the “it is so bad it is amazing” talk was lost on me a bit, because I’ve enjoyed titles with far worse voice acting and gameplay than Deadly Premonition. I mean, Silent Hill 2 is one of the best games ever made and the combat in it is shocking. Deadly Premonition is, however, one of the funniest games I have played in a long time, and I still cannot tell whether it is intentional or not!

Much like another “B game”, Raw Danger, underneath the slightly ropey design and the fact that you can stop laughing at it, not with it, there are actually some really good ideas in it that could be assimilated into – I’m not going to say better – but a bigger budget title and succeed.

Perhaps that is the genius of Deadly Premonition? The fact that if it is played for laughs it is one of the best written games of all time and if it ISN’T then it is some of the greatest unintentional humour this side of Faces of Death Volume 3. What do you think, Zach?

Ian: They said it couldn’t be done, that it was impossible, that nobody was mad enough to try it, but they only went and bloody did it. Deadly Premonition is officially the first ever B-Game. Sure there have been games in the past that have succeeded in spite of their flawed design, but none have ever intended for their game to be a bit, well, rubbish. Until now! Deadly Premonition goes miles out of its way to wave its bottom in the face of the AAA crowd. Give it to your average fourteen year old Assassin’s Creed fan and the reaction will almost definitely be “this is crap, the graphics are crap, the shooting  is crap, the driving is crap”. And you know what it? It IS crap, but it’s also brilliant!

No game that I’ve played this year has made me smile (and often laugh out loud) quite as much as Deadly Premonition. A bizarre and wonderfully confusing paranormal mystery, set in what is basically a video game version of Twin Peaks, and starring the most wonderful protagonist in all of gaming, the completely mental Agent Francis York Morgan, Deadly Premonition never lets up with its weird and often unsettling traits. It’s part open-world adventure, part survival horror and part murder mystery. Oh and it’s all completely ridiculous, but for that reason it never ceases to entertain.

Deadly Premonition is quite literally a game like no other. It’s as compelling as it is baffling, and is as amusing as it is disconcerting. Released as a budget title you can pick it up for about fifteen quid so you really have no excuses to miss out on the game Alan Wake wishes it was – hell, it’s the game every game wishes it was.

Andi: Let’s get one thing straight – Demon’s Souls isn’t hard, as such. It is completely unforgiving, yes, challenging, certainly. Hard? No. Not at all. Demon’s Souls is completely fair, and all of the horrible deaths that befall your character are your fault. You didn’t see that hole. You didn’t dodge that fireball. You bit off more than you could chew with that group of monsters. YOUR FAULT.

Defeating the Tower Knight is an experience like no other. He’s the boss of the second area – a big bastard made of steel, and the first time you get to him he will smear you across the ground. You’ll pick yourself up, get some more souls and try again, usually with the same results. Try and try again, and eventually, he will fall. Beating that one boss, or any boss in Demon’s Souls, for that matter, is more satisfying than completing most games. Even getting those few metres further in a dungeon is more rewarding than 90% of the games on the shelves this Christmas. Finished Black Ops on Veteran, did you? A laughable achievent. I beat the DRAGON GOD in Demon’s Souls SECOND TIME! That is the true mark of a man.

Demon’s Souls is the best game in a genre of one. There are better platformers than Donkey Kong Country Returns, better shooters than Battlefield Bad Company 2. Hell, there are even better action games than Vanquish, just not many. There is no Demon’s Souls game better than Demon’s Souls. Solid gameplay, brilliant risk/reward design and some genius multiplayer features all create one of the most unique video games in recent memory, and leaves extremely high hopes for FROM Software’s next project. They only have themselves to beat.

Sean: I’ve been a fan of From Software for some time, but generally they’re known for playing it safe, sticking to long-running franchises about ninjas and massive robots. So, to see them come up with one of the most original and openly hostile games in recent years was pretty incredible. A willingness to absolutely destroy the player seemingly without warning is something that most games would never get away with, and yet here’s a game designed in such a way as to make it the entire point. Yes, Demon’s Souls is hard, but with every failure comes a lesson, and a little bit more progress on your next attempt. A bold and intelligent game that absolutely everyone should at least have a crack at, even if you give up after two hours.

Dominic: Fuck! Demon’s Souls is so god damn hard!

Ben: This is one of my top games of the year. It was certainly one of the most memorable and striking. The monochrome visuals are not just there for show; they play a central role in shaping both the atmosphere and the silhouetted obstacles you face.

Limbo is not the longest of games, but it’s challenging at times. If you resist referring to a walkthrough it could take you a good 5 or 6 hours, which is well worth it in my opinion.

Thomas: I picked up Limbo for 1200MP close to the very second it first released on XBLA. I played it without turning it off right to the end, and after that never played it again. I am sure that would lead many people to criticize the game as not great value for money, but what Limbo brought to the table over that 5 hour span was one of the more enthralling experiences I had all year. It shows you so little, and tells you even less, but there is still so much to get lost in. Oh, and that ending, whatever the hell it is about, it’s epic.

Andi: The minor changes to Street Fighter IV are going to be lost on most, but those who lived and breathed the best game of last year were all too pleased to see that Capcom took on an “if it ain’t broke, tweak it slightly” approach to this reworked release. Much debate was made over whether it could’ve been DLC or not, but there are enough core changes to the gameplay to warrant Super Street Fighter IV its own release. Being able to save your best matches and a reworked multiplayer mode, including the wonderful endless battle, cement Street Fighter as the real king of fighters. Only Capcom themselves look to dethrone it any time soon.

Dominic: Super Street Fighter IV is one of my most played games of the year. I’ve put in over 300 hours and that’s just playing online.

Street Fighter IV was a brilliant fighter and it pretty much restarted the whole fighting genre again. Taking that formula and adding more characters that I am attracted to is a simple yet genius way to keep the interest in the game.
Fighting games have never been so popular and we have to thank Capcom for this. I’m sure I’m not the only guy who has started watching all the Super Street Fighter IV tournaments since playing this game. As multiplayer goes this is my multiplayer game of the year. There is nothing like going one on one with someone and outplaying them till they are “down for the count.”

Owen: Super Street Fighter IV heralds a return to the classic Capcom strategy of milking successful games to death with iterative updates. The good news is that we’re still on the upward stage of the cycle – the new characters, moves and modes add a lot of variety to the game, and make the characters feel a lot more balanced. As slight improvements to already-great games go, this is one of the best; easily one of the finest current-gen beat-em-ups available.

Owen: Super Mario Galaxy 2 was initially conceived as a sort of extended remake of Super Mario Galaxy. This would explain why it feels so uninspired and done-before. Level designs alternate between rehashes of concepts from the previous game, gimmicky mini-games, and 2D platforming stages that pale in comparison to New Super Mario Bros. The few new levels that stand out – the Chompworks galaxy comes to mind – are disappointingly brief, since most only feature two or three missions.

Perhaps the worst design decision made was to include so many references to Super Mario World and Super Mario 64, which only served to remind me how much more magical those games were. One example is the game’s ‘hub world’ – Mario 64 introduced this concept to the series magnificently with Peach’s castle, full of mysterious nooks and crannies for players to explore between levels; SMG2’s equivalent is Starship Mario, a vessel that gradually fills up with powerups and NPCs which only exist to offer tutorial-grade advice that is already redundant by the time they are unlocked. It’s pretty amazing to see the extent to which Nintendo have resorted to thoughtless, imitative design in their own flagship franchise.

The nicest thing I can say about Super Mario Galaxy 2 is that if you haven’t played many other Mario games you might not realise how disappointing it is. And even a sub-standard Mario game is still a lot better than most other 3D platformers out there.

Dominic: If I was to select one game, just one shining example of what gaming is about then Super Mario Galaxy 2 would be my choice. The reason I play games and believe them to be the best entertainment medium out there is because of games like this showing up. So it doesn’t have the power of the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 to wow us with high definition graphics, but who cares? What we get instead is a game entirely based on fantastic art direction and some of the best platforming to ever exist… in the universe.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 is purely about gameplay and giving the gamer the utmost enjoyment. I thought it would be quite impossible to improve on the already near perfect Super Mario Galaxy. I don’t know how they did it but Nintendo took the formula and improved on it by throwing in ambitious and exceptional level designs that are some of the most refreshing since the original game came out in 2007. For me this is the best game of 2010 and also why I love gaming.

Thomas: I don’t know of any better game to give me a stupid kiddy childish grin than Super Mario Galaxy 2. Maybe Kirby’s Epic Yarn is up there, but that did not come out in PAL regions this year so YOU DON’T COUNT! Even though I suck at getting some of the later stars in the game, I still could not help put smile when playing, and that is a very special quality for any game to have. I have made a promise to get all of the game’s stars over the course of 2011, all two hundred and forty whatever of them. Hopefully I will still be smiling then.

Sean: While I appreciate that Bayonetta features more technical depth and certainly more imagination in its characters and setting, I think I actually had more fun playing Vanquish. It’s a source of genuine sadness to me that so many critics and punters alike have allowed it to become a relative commercial flop; you can understand Bayonetta tanking at retail because it’s weird, and a good 90% of the games-buying public are risk-averse morons. But Vanquish is an unashamedly lunk-headed third-person shooter, and morons love that kind of thing. Never mind the fact that it’s the finest example of how to re-invigorate a stale genre since Resident Evil 4, with set-pieces that put any Call of Duty title to shame whilst still allowing a skilled player to actually improvise their way through a fight instead of hitting a load of stationary, constantly respawning targets.

Andi: Oh my word this game was right up my street. Shinji Mikami working with Platinum Games was always going to come up trumps, but even I didn’t expect the end result to be so satisfying. In 2010, everything Platinum Games touched turned to gold, so when they tried their hand at one of the most creatively void genres – the cover based shooter – they managed to give it a similar boot up the arse that Resident Evil 4 gave survival horror all those years ago.

In Vanquish, you shoot enemies and duck in and out of cover – so far, so Gears of War. However, unlike most other games in this genre where you spend most of your time trying to work out where the best place to get at the few pixels of enemy that is popping out from behind a wall, Vanquish is all about moment to moment decisions. Do you boost out towards them and melee attack? Change weapons and try a different approach? Dive out of cover and use the bullet time feature to hit a weak spot? Throw a stun grenade and pick them off while they’re out of action? There is scarce a moment to think strategically, Vanquish is a game that relies on pure instinct. If you played this and somehow managed to stay away from the very edge of your seat, then clearly you have died playing far inferior games. Vanquish is the perfect antidote to all those cookie cutter cover shooters. Makes you wonder why any of them are going to bother any more?

Dominic: Do you like to shoot stuff? Do you like to do it fast? If so then you should have played Vanquish. It takes the cover base mechanics of Gears of War and mixes it up with some nitrous oxide. Interesting mixture since your result is a cover based shooter with the ability to use the main character’s suit to rocket propel slide anytime you want. It’s a much faster paced game than most shooters, almost feeling like the Afterburner Climax of the third person shooter genre as you slide at crazy speeds past your enemies blasting them with your choice of weapon.

So it’s a short game? So what? At the end of it all it should be about the experience and with Vanquish there’s no other game that replicates boosting up to some dude on your knees and then punching them in the face! What we have learnt here is that rocket boosting slides are the best invention in video games of 2010!

Ian: I was riding my horse up near Pike’s Basin when a man came running toward me. He was yelling that bandits were going to string up his wife and there was no one else around to help. I consider myself to be a good man, and as such I rode for ‘the hanging tree’ with all my might, gun in hand prepared for the inevitable. As I approached , the gang took up arms and as I lay into the first two with my six-shooter another kicked the horse that was holding the damsel in distress, noose around her neck. I took out two more and in the heat of the moment I aimed for the rope that was now strangling the poor woman to death. In the confusion a stray bullet – a bullet from my own gun – struck her in the head and killed her.

As the dust settled from the heated battle, I could hear nothing but the cries of the husband. Hunched up over his dead wife, the tears fell and I, not knowing what to do, simply rode away toward town, the whimpers fading behind me. As I reached the saloon I had only one thing in mind, I was going to drink away my sorrows. As I downed the whiskey the room began to spin, and at that moment I started to hear screams from outside. It was a woman, and she was screaming for help. This was my chance for redemption, I stood up and staggered for the door, but before I could reach the other side of the room I’d collapsed on the floor. As I lay there paralysed by the whiskey I listened as the screams continued, then stopped dead. When I finally came to, I rushed outside but all that I found was the bloodied body of a whore, stabbed to death while I was too busy feeling sorry for myself.

Sean: GTA with horses, yes. But also one of the finest blends of pre-determined and emergent narrative we’ve yet to see, and for that reason Red Dead Redemption finds itself right near the top of our list. As well as the sharp dialogue and memorable characters we’ve come to expect from Rockstar (albeit with the usual lazy racial stereotyping), the game gives you enough freedom to weave your own little narratives outside of the main story, too. Considering that, prior to the game’s release, we heard nothing but tales of woe surrounding its development, it would’ve been incredible if it even turned out to be half-decent. As it happens, it’s one of the most absorbing games of 2010. I’m not about to say it was worth all the development staff basically being worked to death over it, but hopefully the universal critical acclaim and millions of copies sold went some way towards repairing the damage done to their marriages, sanity and health.

Twenty minutes of randomly generated events in Red Dead Redemption made me feel more sorrow, guilt and anger than the entirety of any other game in 2010.

Owen: One of my most common complaints about RPGs is that the cutscenes are quite interesting, but the gameplay – which comprises the bulk of your game time – is dull and repetitive. Mass Effect 2 surprised me by flipping this criticism on its head. The plot isn’t terrible but feels really anticlimactic compared to the first game – the bulk of your mission is quite openly about ticking off items from a shopping list, and the TOUGH DECISIONS have been replaced with clearly signposted tests that you will probably pass. The upside is that the tedious inventory interface and planet-crawling has been streamlined down, and combat made much more varied and multi-layered – rarely challenging, but with a broad assortment of weapons and powers that are a pleasure to experiment with. I hated a lot of the new characters and their stilted stories, but I was having too much fun to stop. And for those who are interested, the DLC missions are pretty good.

Andi: The big one. My number one. Saving the galaxy once again with my Shepard. Yes, MY Shepard. Not my brothers Shepard, not my girlfriend’s Shepard. Not my housemates Shepard. ESPECIALLY not YOUR Shepard, was one of the most exhilarating moments I have had in a video game for years.

Loading your character in from the first game already gives you a huge emotional attachment to what goes on in the Mass Effect universe. Every decision, every battle, everything you do MEANS something. You ARE Commander Shepard. The story was thrilling, engaging and still only part of what is one of the greatest Sci Fi tales ever told – across any medium.

This is all forgetting about the fact that Bioware improved the gameplay tenfold from the original. Everything tedious was streamlined. Combat was improved. Graphics were fixed and it was a much better game even before you took your first steps towards completing Shepard’s mission. The best part? It isn’t over yet! Mass Effect 2 is the Empire Strikes Back of the series, and despite spending some time setting up the final installment, still satisfies completely on its own.

I’m Andi Hamilton, and this is my favourite game of 2010

Ian: This should really be Mass Effect AND Mass Effect 2. I’ve heard there are people that played – and enjoyed- Mass Effect 2 as a standalone game, but quite frankly I don’t want to know them, or ever meet them. Mass Effect’s narrative is the driving force behind this incredible game, and to play the sequel without having made the choices and decisions that mould your destiny in the first game, is to deny yourself a huge slice of the experience.

Mass Effect 2 is quite simply the greatest sequel since Empire Strikes Back. It cleverly manipulates the player, drawing on friendships and relationships established in the first game, and forcing them out into the open until you’re consciously debating the fate of your team based solely on your own pathetically-human feelings. By the end of the game I was reduced to an emotional wreck, something only Metal Gear Solid 4 has managed to do to me previously. The decisions you make in Mass Effect will haunt you for life, and for a game to have that affect on a person is something very special indeed.

Sean: I had to bully a lot of people into playing the original Mass Effect when this came out, largely thanks to the way that your save-file carried over and affected the way you experienced Mass Effect 2. It was telling that the only people asking if the sequel was worth a punt were the same people who hadn’t played the original, while those who had were already awaiting their pre-ordered copies. Thank goodness, then, that the game didn’t disappoint at all. Stuff we didn’t like from the original was removed entirely, while everything else was made better. What’s more, importing your original Mass Effect save worked a treat; while a lot of the heaviest punches were pulled in anticipation of Mass Effect 3, your decisions still had a considerable effect on the way Mass Effect 2 played. It’s an interesting way of making you feel in control of a very narrative-heavy series without forcing each game to start and end at a weird, non-committal ‘neutral’ point. That said, just trying to imagine the flowcharts lining the walls at BioWare makes me feel slightly ill.

Dominic: Oh this girl is such a saucy woman. Bayonetta is a game full of plenty of “what the feck is happening” moments. Yet within all this craziness is a rock solid action game with the best combat mechanics to be implemented in this genre. God of War III might have the scale and looks but Bayonetta has the gameplay and some mind boggling moments of hectic action. It’s not often you get such a strong female leading character, and yet you have that here. Her onscreen persona is so strong that you can feel your balls been squeezed by it, it’s just so overwhelming, just like the game.

Ian: It fills me with joy to see Bayonetta at the top of this list. Not because it’s undeserving by any stretch of the imagination, but because it was released merely five days into the year. For 2010’s very first game to make it all the way to the end and finish up top would suggest that this has been a slow year for video games, but simply glance down (or back up) this list and you’ll see that isn’t the case; in fact the amount of quality titles released in 2010 has made it one of the most competitive years yet.

No, Bayonetta is top of this list because Bayonetta is one of the most beautifully crafted video games of all time. To most it’s either too bizarre or simply a platform for filth (very few people can get past the idea of a semi-nude woman fighting demons with her hair) but for the ones that ‘get it’ Bayonetta is a triumph – the end result of near forty years of videogaming history. Peel away the layers of sleaze that so many people prefer to acknowledge, and beneath the apparent misogyny lies a combat system that rivals the best of the best. To be good (and I mean REALLY good) at Bayonetta is a skill on par with the likes of Ikaruga and Street Fighter. Watch an expert play it on the hardest difficulty setting and you immediately begin to understand just how much depth there is to this supposed ‘pornographic farce’.

Bayonetta is a gift to gamers. It’s the shining light in a time when the sun is blocked out by morons waving their arms in the air and jumping up and down in their living rooms. Bayonetta is a reflection of my youth, it references, it mocks, it expands and it brings it all together in a single brilliant package. Would I be out of line to say it’s the perfect video game? Maybe, but I’m going to anyway.

Thomas: I don’t even know how I am supposed to sum up Bayonetta for an article such as this. There was so much to see and do, which leads to an endless amount of stuff to talk about. I guess I will just say the there were few other games released in 2010 that kept me as continually entertained over their run like Bayonetta did. The music, the intense action, the never-ending over the top insanity, and its near refusal to end were just a few of the things that kept me grinning from ear to ear as I played. It is, quite simply, one of the years most unforgettable releases.

Andi: I remember having a conversation with a one Mr. Ian Dickson shortly after Bayonetta was released, and we both swore an oath to not forget about it come the Game of the Year nominations. We didn’t.

2010 was the year when Platinum Games cemented their place as the World’s most exciting developers. You genuinely do not know what to expect from their releases, other than the tightest gameplay imaginable. They deal in games that reward you for getting better and punish you for making a mistake. They never cheat you. They never offer you anything but a level playing field – if you’re good enough, of course. It may seem that you are up against insurmountable odds, but in Bayonetta, in Vanquish, in God Hand, you always have the tools at your disposal to deal with any situation. Bayonetta is this perfect videogaming ideal distilled. It is the visualization of that design philosophy fully realized.

Gameplay this perfect rarely exists outside of a Mario game. Bayonetta is a rare and special title, one fully deserving of the title THE BEST GAME OF 2010.

Sean: Known to its friends as ‘The real sequel to Devil May Cry”, I actually worried that Bayonetta was going to be forgotten about when it came to the staff GotY vote, as often happens with games that are released so early in the year. Still, that’s not the case, and with good reason. Bayonetta is one of the fastest, tightest and most elegant video games ever built, with a brilliant sense of humour to boot. I liked it so much that I’ve masturbated over women cosplaying as the main character, and I deleted a friend on Facebook because he said it was rubbish.