I thought hey, why don’t I write a retrospective top 10? And then I did. For the year 2008.
Why 2008? Well, that’s the first time I began thinking about the video game industry as a whole in terms of building a top 10. I got my xbox 360 this year, I graduated high school this year, and I got my first paying job this year. So I began buying my own games more often, and I began paying attention to video games and their release this year.
I’m going to be glancing at the wikipedia entry for video games released in the year 2008 since there’s no fucking way I’d be able to remember everything I liked that was released in this year. Writing a retrospective top ten means I can put together a more definitive list seeing as so much time has been put between this moment and that year. I’ve probably played all the games that I wanted to play that released in the year 2008. However this also means that some of my choices will be made with nostalgia in mind, but this shouldn’t be a problem, because a retrospective top ten means these are the top games from this year that made an impact on me as a consumer and young critic of video games.
I am not a video game’s critic nor what I ever a young video game’s critic.
This Pokemon is an ice cream cone.
12. Soul Calibur IV
Just missing the top 10 is Soul Calibur IV. Xbox 360.
I love the Soul Calibur games. When I think about fighting games, I want to say that I love games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, and I DO, but when it comes to HAVING FUN, Soul Calibur and Tekken are my games. You can jump in at any skill level and feel like you’re doing some cool looking shit. You can also master these games to the point that you can destroy people who aren’t playing with skill. This is important, because any time I jump into a Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter I feel like a fucking peasant constantly glancing at my moves list and I never get over that beginner’s hurdle into being a competent player. I hate memorizing button combinations. I’m not the kind of player that contains that kind of patience. Tekken, and especially Soul Calibur, feel more natural to play in that I can internalize the button combinations easier. Or I can button mash my way into a sweet looking combo.
Anyway, Soul Calibur IV was the first SC entry in this generation of consoles, and it wasn’t perfect. For one thing, the game’s console specific characters are Star Wars themed and they are overpowered as absolute hell. For another, the armor crashing system was confusing and somewhat broken and completely useless. This marks the first time in my memory that on disc DLC is a thing, in that you could buy ACCESS to the character who appeared in the other console’s game, and given the file size of that purchasable download it is extremely apparent that the character is already on the disc that you buy.
Remember when games ran off the actual disc?
Barring those problems the game was an extremely competent fighting game that was a lot of fun to play. The single player was pretty weak for a Soul Calibur game (weapon lord from SC2 is potentially my favorite single player fighting game mode) but there was still content for you to explore that didn’t feel like a waste of time. The game felt great, the game was good at making the player feel good about whatever combo they managed to bash out of their controller–it was a good 3D fighting game. If you’ve never played a Soul Calibur game, they have great level design, great character design encompassing edgy demon guys and thonged women wielding transforming whips and jiggle physics, the story makes no sense, the announcer spouts grandiose insanity, and you can ring people off the map and cause them to fall to their death. When characters fall to their death they manage the most fitting and hilarious death scream. Good fun.
11. Civilization Revolution
Also missing the top ten–Civ Rev. Xbox 360.
By all intents and purposes this shouldn’t be a possibility–a civilization game on console. At least, that’s what we all thought until Civilization Revolution came along. Now we’re wondering when the sequel is coming!
Maybe I’m over exaggerating and I’m the only person in the world that thought this was a good console port of potentially the most PC-ass video game franchise in the universe. The game is severely limited in terms of capabilities. You only have a handful of nations available to play as. There aren’t as many units, structures, or technologies available. But the Risk inspired strategy is still there, and you’ve still got the different end goals that utilize different gameplay styles capable in a civ game. Everything is presented in a clean and streamlined way truly taking advantage of the console space. The game is a bit smaller compared to its PC cousins, but it’s a successful console release version of a game many thought impossible without the precision of a mouse and keyboard. Even though it released this early in the 360 ps3 generation it’s one of the best strategy games available for those two consoles.
10. Condemned 2: Criminal Origins
The first Condemned was one of the most interesting release titles for the Xbox 360. It was a first person survival horror game with melee combat and terrifyingly low resources making for a tense and adrenaline pumping experience. Its sequel expands on the combat taking a larger emphasis on first person melee and fist fighting. The levels are little more than set pieces, but they are good set pieces, creating memorable moments like running from that disgusting grizzly bear.
There were a few levels at the end of the game that I can remember being annoying, and I particularly remember an annoying mechanic involving alarms. Also, by the end of the game the protagonist receives a godly power that he doesn’t utilize to its fullest extent, and that’s always frustrating. But the melee combat was really fun, and I remember enjoying the majority of this game’s campaign. I thought this series was a good one, and I hope to see some kind of a sequel in the future. We all know we don’t have enough first person horror games these days.
9. World of Goo
Charming indie puzzle game for the PC. Eventually ported to the Wii, and I wouldn’t want to play this game with motion controls so forget that.
An indie puzzle game may seem cliche by today’s standards, but World of Goo was kinda the first indie game in the grandscape of the video game market, and it was one of the first times video game pirating became an issue of severe importance in the minds of video game enthusiasts. This game was released by a developer who actually depended heavily on the sales of their product, and most people seemed to have been pirating the experience since they released it with no DRM.
None of that has anything to do with the quality of the actual game though, just think the mentioning of this game, especially for a list about this time period, brings to mind its historical significance. World of Goo is a fantastic and charming experience about stacking little blobs of goo that differ in purpose and their designated color. It’s a brain teaser with a nice physics system that made experimenting fun and problem solving challenging. It felt satisfying to play, and it was gratifying to look at. One of those rarities that appear from the indie scene that makes you glad to be playing video games, and as I said already, it’s kinda the first one of those.
If you’ve never played the game, you probably should, especially if you like charming and beautiful puzzle games. Just please buy it instead of pirating.
Speaking of early indie games, this was the game that really put the Xbox Arcade titles on the map. Jonathon Blow’s first game, Braid, was a puzzle platformer with brain teasing mechanics. It was all presented within the shell of a story I didn’t care about nor pay attention to. I believe I never beat this game because I got fed up with one of the game’s more difficult puzzles. Spoiler Alert: I don’t beat many games.
I remember my first pay check at that job I loosely referenced in the intro. I wanted to buy this game, and Bionic Commando Rearmed. Would have been $20. I couldn’t afford it, because this was 2008 and most of my paycheck went toward filling my FUCKING gas tank.
Braid may have been a game that merely took a different approach at creating Mario, but it did so in a far more interesting manner than anything at that time, or before it. Seemingly billions of puzzle platformers came to the indie market ever since the release of this, but Braid still holds up as best in the genre, and even more surprising, most unique in the genre. One day I will go back to it and give it a real go. I might even pay attention to the story.
7. Far Cry 2
Far Cry 2 is a beast barely contained within its own disc. The action produces moments you don’t see in video games. It dared to restrict you in a mechanical way, creating giant waves of tension inside gun fights that would otherwise be cliche power trips through typical FPS land. The world itself was a beautiful, living recreating of some place in Africa I couldn’t tell you where exactly, and you played someone suffering malaria. Shit pops up whenever it likes, causing the player to stop to take a pill. Those pills, by the way? You can run out of them. So there’s always this drive to continue story missions because doing so gives the player more medication. Then there’s the guns. These things degrade over time, and most of the ones you get from the bodies of dead enemies are already trashed. When weapons are trashed they jam while reloading at random times, again making gun fights tense as fuck. There are also moments where you have to mash buttons to pull bullets out of your body similar to Far Crys 3 and 4 all while bullets and grenades are flying toward your location. Everything exists to kill you.
The major grip I have with Far Cry 2 is the liberal placement of outposts, and how enemies respawn in those outposts often. As in every five minutes, as long as the player isn’t inside the outpost, enemies respawn. It was a weird design choice implicitly created to make sure players don’t get bored driving and running around without things to shoot. I get that, but it just made the experience less realistic which was at odds with everything else in the game. It was also tedious and frustrating. Like having all your work and progress wiped.
It was far more rewarding in the game’s sequels, Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 4, which allow players to remove an enemy presence through the liberation of outposts. However if it weren’t for Far Cry 2, those games wouldn’t exist at all. Period.
6. Castle Crashers
Castle Crashers is a fun game with a colorful artstyle that holds many secrets and reasons to replay the game until try to replay the game and discover that it’s kind of boring as fuck to play the game again by yourself and then you try to play the game with friends but one of them has internet so bad that the entire universe is lagging so you say fuck it and you never play the game again damn
For what it’s worth I found Castle Crashers to be a fun as hell playthrough, even alone, the first time. The game has a nice RPG system that unlocks skills as you go, weapons rain from the goddamn sky and all range in usefulness depending on your build, and you get to find cute little animals that follow you around and do things.
One of my favorite features of the game was the roster of character you could unlock. You could practically play as every enemy unit, and everyone had their own set of skills to unlock. This gave players something to do as they played the game over and over again with friends. It’s too bad one of my friends rolled with McDonalds internet. Fuckers.
I’ve wanted to replay the game for a while now and that’s a pretty big testament to a game that’s actually just a very basic beat em up with RPG elements. I mean it’s not boring, but the game could have certainly used a few more combos. It feels much more like Golden Axe than Double Dragon or Streets of Rage. This isn’t a bad thing, it just mutes that replayability when going solo.
Also this is Behemoth, and everyone knows their humor follows as such:
GIANT BIRD IS SO FAT AND SHITS ON COW WHO LOOKS AT DONKEY AND PISSES AND THEN DONKEY EXPLODES AND BLOOD IS EVERYWHERE AND THEN BIRD EAT BLOOD AND GET FAAAATER HOLLLLLY FUCK I’M SO LAUGHING FUN.
I’m not really into that but it’s a GOOD GAME OKAY.
5. Bionic Commando Rearmed
Bionic Commando was always a fun game. A Capcom NES title, the game was an experiment with one simple concept–a platformer where you can’t jump.
Bionic Commando Rearmed is a modern remake of the NES classic released first for the Xbox 360. You have a grapple hook for an arm, and you use that to traverse over horizontal jumps, and upward in vertical themed levels. You also have a range of guns that all serve fitting for specific situations. Levels are hard tests of grappling and shooting ability, and I’ve definitely never completed it.
I always loved the colorful graphics and the bombastic physics, but my favorite feature in this game was the soundtrack which I’ll listen to this day. Hell, I’ll even pop it on Spotify right now.
Oh damn. That’s good. Just check out the song “Power Plant” to see what I mean.
This was, to my recollection, the first game to be released as part of the Xbox 360 event–Summer of Arcade. Those collections always featured a handful of amazing indie games, and I wish Microsoft still held these events to this day. I’ve seen Sony try their hand at it, and for the most part they do come out with good collections of indie games, but nothing as groundbreaking as Summer of Arcade.
This first summer of arcade got us Bionic Commando Rearmed, Braid, Castlecrashers, Galaga Legions, and Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2!
4. Rock Band 2
In my mind, and I’m sure to many minds, Rock Band 2 on the Xbox 360 was the last quality game to come out of this fad. You know–the music games requiring plastic instruments. After hours and hours of Rock Band 2, everyone collectively looked around their bedrooms and apartments and thought: “why in the hell do I have all of these fake instruments lying around?”
Rock Band 2 had a stellar song list, a never ending list of DLC with a deep, deep range of musical genres, and a fun career mode that merely invited people to play the game with their friends to progress. It was a smart video game that knew what it was: an ultimate party game.
I always liked playing Guitar Hero more when it came to playing the guitar because their controllers felt like they had more feedback and precision. The Rock Band controller had a slightly longer neck that offered five more buttons up the fret that were used for solos, which was a nice touch. I mostly played Rock Band for the drums since I’m a drummer. I never got good at playing drums on Rock Band, because I’m ass on set, but I always had fun.
There’s nothing else I can really say about this game. The fourth game came out last year and I loosely thought about buying it until I remembered that I didn’t need fake plastic instruments.
3. Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead for the Xbox 360 is a revolutionary COOP experience that everyone knows about. It’s been copied several times, it has a sequel that improved everything about the first game, and everyone wants to know when the third game comes out.
Valve is scared of the number three.
The combat was fun, the tension was high, the survival was interesting, and the multiplayer versus mode was amazing. This was the game that made me pissed as hell that I couldn’t get internet in my bedroom at the time. As fun as playing with the bots is, they do not compare to real players.
Later I would try to play this game on PC and every single person would scream at me just because I used a medkit to heal myself once I saw another, freegame medkit.
Fuck the internet.
Left 4 Dead made it bareable for two minutes though. So thank god for Left 4 Dead.
2. Dead Space
I wasn’t frothing at the mouth to play this game. On the night of its release, I watched a video that convinced me otherwise, basically stating “if you’re a fan of survival horror you need to play this game.” That individual was completely right, and I was glad that I ran out immediately and bought Dead Space for my Xbox 360.
From the unique and satisfying combat to the tense and interesting environments Dead Space really captured what most horror games at the time couldn’t capture, and it was all wrapped up in stellar pacing that kept the game feeling fresh and fun throughout the experience. Most games seemed more interested in forcing horror down your throat without anything fun to do in the game while this game became more interested in Resident Evil 4’s approach which made the horror fun. It was like the developers looked at the plagas in Resident Evil 4 and thought “what if our monsters had those tentacles come out but the player had to dismember them to win?”
Of course dismemberment was so fun because the first weapon you start out with, which was basically like a pistol in any other shooter, was so damn effective and fun to use. It made entire playthroughs just using that plasma cutter possible and rewarding. Players can upgrade their weapons and their armor to provide better utility and this progress became very addicting to me. Upgrade materials were hidden all over the level, requiring careful exploration that felt genuinely rewarding.
I liked Dead Space.
1. Fallout 3
Lately I’ve gone through periods in my life where I can’t stand Bethesda open world games. Back during this period in my life, I actually hated them. I played Oblivion and couldn’t understand anyone’s admiration for the game. Part of it was I hated high fantasy. Another part of it was the game didn’t fucking work and still doesn’t fucking work as it should.
I did love Fallout though. The oldschool CRPG was hard to get through, but I was compelled with the first game due to its humor alone. I loved the world, and how it was twisted yet didn’t take itself entirely seriously. And I was salivating at the chance to experience a new Fallout game in the mechanical and presentation style of Oblivion.
It was amazing. At the time I was completely awestruck and I probably thought I didn’t need another video game for the rest of my life. The sheer scope of the world design, character development, and the chances for different experiences every playthrough made for a package that was unrivaled in terms of quality and value. I loved this game more than any other game that relased in the year 2008. The ending sucked. Most of the DLC sucked, except for the one that fucking fixed the ending, but all that doesn’t matter. In terms of video games released in the year 2008, Fallout 3 is most certainly king. It’s also the only time I ever purchased a collector’s edition in my entire life. Came with a lunch box, a bobblehead, and a making of dvd. Pretty sweet for just $20 extra.
That’s that. My top 10 video games that came out in the year 2008. Sick.
Did you noticed a lack of any video games you thought best of the year 2008? How would your top 10 go?
boy of coffee