I had this fun idea to do a series of blogs about games from the past decade, one entry per month about one year from 2010 until 2019, where I would talk about either my top and bottom 3 or my top and bottom 5 depending on how many titles from that year I’ve actually played. Then GameExplain started doing exactly that on their youtube channel. I’m going to go ahead and do this anyway though because this subject matter is incredibly subjective. Just because some of us see Black Ops 2 as a game of the decade, and Mass Effect: Andromeda as the worst thing ever doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with those points of view! Anyway, with that ramble of a preamble out of the way, I’m going to talk about 2010 in gaming and how it applies to me. Just a quick warning that there will be spoilers up ahead; spoilers for games that are roughly a decade old. Also, unfortunately, I’ll probably be doing much more than a top and bottom 5 so I hope you enjoy text walls.
I want to get the bad out of the way first, and for 2010 I consider Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 to be the worst of the worst. Here’s the thing though, and I promise I’ll never do this again, but I’ve never actually played this game. I played the first game multiple times over, and when I heard there was a sequel in the works I was damn-near ecstatic. Then it was announced that The Force Unleashed 2 was going to be a direct sequel, even though the canon ending of the first game sees Starkiller making a noble sacrifice. My understanding of the Force Unleashed series was that it would fill in gaps in the main Star Wars canon by letting players control powerful Force users who lived and operated on the periphery of the action shown in the films and possibly other expanded universe media. I wasn’t expecting to play as Marka Ragnos or Exar Kun, but I would have thought the next game would focus on a Jedi who fought during the Clone Wars. At the time, there was a lot of fertile ground for compelling stories to be told around that era, (and there still is) but instead it was thrown away on a quick-and-dirty cash grab, centered around a love interest that didn’t exist. The Force Unleashed 2 is my most hated game of 2010, and an example of a pre-Disney Star Wars plot that I never accepted as canon to begin with. Out of every game I’ve ever boycotted, this is the only one that I haven’t eventually caved on and played.
(The FU2 is somehow more useless than this no-name character above)
I’m going to talk about a good game now, and I might as well lead with my favorite of 2010: Fallout New Vegas! To date, I must have put a few hundred hours into New Vegas between both the PS3 and 360 releases, and I haven’t even started a full PC playthrough yet, but I’m ready to do so. Despite all the time I’ve put into New Vegas though, I’ve never actually finished all of the available DLC. I love how flexible the character creator is. It’s hard to build a character who can’t succeed, whether you choose to play as a silver-tongued brawler who’s prone to hallucinations, a demolitions expert with brittle bone disease, or the kind of person who lets their friends do the fighting for them. There are also a lot of factions you interact with, who you can join or destroy as you please. If you’re the law and order type, you can join the NCR or the Brotherhood of Steel. If you’re into obeying the law or being crucified, there’s Caesar’s Legion. If you’re a fan of Walt Disney, gambling, and robots, you can also work for Mr. House. If you want to join a group of outlaw, raider-types you can join up with The Powder Gangers or The Great Khans (or Caesar’s Legion, again). Every group has allies and enemies, so don’t expect to be everybody’s friend: The NCR hate The Legion for example, Mr. House doesn’t particularly like anybody, and the Great Khans...well, they just want to sell drugs and get high in the desert for the most part. New Vegas is one of those games that I can always recommend, but I don’t really need to since it’s so universally revered. It’s kind of lame that one of the roads takes you to a bunch of unkillable flies, and another path takes you to a mountain pass infested with Deathclaws, but I can’t think of many major flaws with New Vegas, especially considering how many mods are available for it now, and the greatest of its issues were patched out years ago.
Launched as a Gamestop exclusive during the 2010 Holiday season, Super Mario All-Stars on the Wii struck me as an insult though not nearly to the same degree as The Force Unleashed 2. By 2010 The Wii’s virtual console already had the first 3 Super Mario Bros games, and Lost Levels. All of which were available to download, and had been, since 2007. If your internet connection is unreliable, having the option to buy these games on disc didn’t seem like a bad idea, but as I mentioned above this release was only available for a limited time, and through one specific retailer. The other problem I have is that this collection doesn’t include Super Mario World. Many years ago, on the Super Nintendo, there was a version of Super Mario All-Stars that included not only the 3 official SMB games, and Lost Levels, but also the then-new Super Mario World. I can understand why this version of Super Mario All-Stars didn’t include any of the 3D games, but to only have the NES titles just seemed odd to me. This version of the All-Star collection also came with a soundtrack CD which helped justify the $40 price point, but at the end of the day Nintendo was asking people to pay $40 for 4 roms on 1 disc, and a CD with a few tracks from each game. I’m not saying the Super Mario Bros. series from the NES are bad games, my main issue with this collection is just how little it offers for its price. 2010 was the year Nintendo launched Super Mario Galaxy 2, an expansion that was marketed as a new game. Metroid Other M, Donkey Kong Country Returns, and Kirby’s Epic Yarn launched on the Wii this year too, and out of those games Donkey Kong is the only one that I remember particularly fondly. The Super Mario All-Stars launch at the end of 2010 just seemed like a moldy cherry on top of a largely unimpressive ice cream Sundae for Nintendo.
(An objectively better game than the Wii version)
I’m going to break up the bad with another good, and my second favorite game of 2010 is Pokemon. I had imported Pokemon Soul Silver a year before, but I still picked up the US releases of Heart Gold and Soul Silver when they launched. Later in the year, I imported Pokemon White because the Nintendo DSlite was region free, and I absolutely utilized that feature. At its core, Pokemon hasn’t really changed: You form a party of up to 6 monsters, you travel a region (Johto and Kanto in HG/SS, Unova in Black/White), collect badges, topple the terrorist organisation of the day, compete in the Pokemon League, and you’re golden. What you get with HG/SS is a fantastic remake of Gold and Silver from the Game Boy Color days. It features updated Pokemon sprites, the ability to transfer Pokemon from Hoenn and Sinnoh, and whichever Pokemon is at the head of your party will follow you outside of their Pokeball. It’s a small but endearing feature that wouldn’t come back until Let’s Go launched on the Switch eight years later. Pokemon Black and White doesn’t really add much in terms of gameplay, the setting is inspired by New York City, and some of the new Pokemon are based off of ice cream, garbage bags, and construction workers. The plot is also a bit more compelling, since Team Plasma don’t seem all that bad at first. After a few hours though, Black and White get more familiar as the true leader of Team Plasma reveals himself and the world nearly ends because of people monkeying about with Legendary Pokemon again. Pokemon Soul Silver is my favorite entry in the series, and I would recommend that as well as Black and White.
It’s been said that Final Fantasy XIII gets better later. The first time I played it, I repeated that mantra to myself as I struggled to make progress through the many hallways, the long cutscenes, and the boring gameplay. When I finally made it to chapter 11, the point wherein the game gets better, I couldn’t beat the mandatory boss, I couldn’t level up past the level cap, and I gave up, because at the time, Final Fantasy XIII was the worst game I’d played in that series. It took me a couple of years before I was ready to try again, and when I did, I managed to make it through the game in totality. Final Fantasy XIII is still my most disliked entry in the series, and I don’t see myself ever playing it again. It’s true I haven’t beaten Final Fantasies V, VIII, or XII yet, but I enjoy those games much more than XIII. What made me want to get to the end of this game was spite: Annoyed, irritated, spite. What I really hate about the combat system of XIII is how it doesn’t make me feel like I’m in control. I give direct controls to the party leader, but the other party members act based on whatever role they’re assigned. If I want to get Snow to stop punching things and heal, I need to swap his role from Offensive into Support and trust the AI to keep me alive. If the party leader has their HP knocked down to 0, it’s game over (unless you chose to restart the battle that killed you). I need to know I’m in control of my characters, and for me, watching them walk around the battlefield is a spectacle that lost its charm within the first few minutes. Final Fantasy XIII is an undoubtedly pretty game, but I hated actually playing it.
Fist of the North Star crossed with Dynasty Warriors seems like a fantastic idea to me, and in 2010 it happened. Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage is another game I’ve put over a hundred hours into because of how much I love the premise and how well it worked. If you’ve never played Dynasty Warriors, you play as one of several generals, are sent into a war zone, and you use a combination of melee weapons and magic to murder hundreds of enemy troops. If you’ve never seen Fist of the North Star, it’s essentially that but the person murdering hundreds of dudes is Kenshiro, the last surviving practitioner of Hokuto no Ken (and if it’s not him, it’s one of the several dozen practitioners of Nanto Suichouken). It’s incredibly violent since these martial arts techniques just make people explode or fall to gory pieces, and it makes for some really satisfying, if simple, gameplay. Ken’s Rage retells the story of the original Fist of the North Star series. Kenshiro is betrayed by his friend and rival Shin, left for dead in the post-apocalyptic wasteland, and journeys in the hope of one day reuniting with his lost lover Yuria. Along his journey, Ken befriends rambunctious children, disgraced masters of the rival martial art Nanto Suichouken, and proves that he is the worthy successor of his own martial art. There are also a ton of manly tears in Ken’s Rage. I’m somewhat disappointed that this hasn’t been remastered as there are long load times and some texture issues that could be smoothed out here. I didn’t care about that too much back when I would play this for five minutes only to realize those five minutes turned into four hours.
Fable 3 was made specifically to run on the Xbox 360, and yet it was one of the worst optimized games I remember playing on that platform. Making money is surprisingly necessary in this entry, and the most reliable means by which to fill up your coffers is by playing one of three mini-games that run at anywhere from 2 to 30 frames-per-second, seemingly at random. I think one of the big factors that destabilized Fable 3 came from the fact that instead of having menu screens to manage your inventory, hitting the pause button sends you to a mansion outside of time and space wherein you must wander through rooms to find the items you need. Leveling up does something similar: you don’t just go to a menu to improve yourself, you go on an ethereal path and open ghost treasure chests until you’re deemed ready to become The King. Having these big areas constantly running in the background probably took up a lot of memory, so it’s unsurprising that other parts of the game faltered. Did you like endearing yourself to the masses in Fable and Fable 2? Well you can’t do that in Fable 3: Now you can only endear yourself to one person at a time, thus making the whole process infinitely more time consuming and less appealing. Magic is still massively overpowered, swordplay is still unsatisfying, gunplay is still fine, and the plot is actually fairly decent with a twist that was unexpected and subversive. Then again, the twist is somewhat undermined when your player character falls into a 2-month long coma out of nowhere and awakens to a city in flaming ruins. Fable 3 isn’t the worst game in its franchise, it isn’t the worst game of 2010, but compared to Fable and Fable 2, it’s a game that I look at and just can’t help but wonder, what happened?
Murdering zombies can be a lot of fun, but there’s been talk of oversaturation in the zombie department for years upon years. Dead Rising 2 freshened up the experience of zombie murder by letting you tape chainsaws to the ends of a kayak paddle. If that’s a bit too hands on for you, you could always duct tape those chainsaws onto a dirt bike. If that’s not American enough for you, you could always duct tape a bunch of big machine guns onto a wheelchair to role play as FDR, or into the arms of a teddy bear to have someone fight for you. Like with the previous game, Dead Rising 2 will kill you frequently, but your experience and level sticks with you as you restart the game. Eventually, you become strong enough to make it through all seven days in Not-Vegas, find out that you got a bad ending and spend another dozen or so hours optimizing your time spent killing zombies and saving people until you get the best ending possible. I haven’t played this game in a few years, but I feel more compelled to play this than its bleak looking sequel Dead Rising 3, or the pointless looking holiday cash-in, Dead Rising 4.
I remember not liking Alien vs Predator and I remember not liking Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, but I can’t recall too much about them in general. For Lords of Shadow, I recall it played a lot more like God of War than Castlevania, and being really bitter about that. I rented it from work (I worked at Blockbuster at the time!) played it for about 2 or 3 hours, and never booted it up again. As for Alien vs Predator, I spent at least an hour in each of the three campaigns before giving up on it. The marine campaign is a standard first-person shooter, where you use your mighty guns to murder aliens, and other aliens. The predator campaign is still in first person but utilizes stealth and platforming, which would have worked much better in third person. Stealth kills take long enough that you’re likely to be spotted by enemies and attacked. The Xenomorph campaign is also stealth focused, but it’s more ‘hide in the shadows’ stealth rather than cloaking device in a high place stealth. It’s also unclear how much of you needs to be in darkness to be invisible. Once you’re spotted, you’re basically dead, and even though you can crawl on walls and through vents, the speed at which you move makes for a really disorienting experience. It almost feels like you’re playing the game at double-time. I would probably play AvP again before Lords of Shadow so I’ll rank them like that.
Since I mashed up my remaining bad games into one paragraph, I think I’ll try and do that with the games of 2010 that I really liked, but which I can’t really give a gold, silver, or bronze medal. I haven’t beaten it yet, and I first played it not too long ago, but I’m really enjoying Amnesia: The Dark Descent. The atmosphere is really tense, and I never realized I would feel so relieved to find myself running from a cyst-filled hallway into a cistern. Donkey Kong Country Returns kicked my ass, and it kicked my ass relentlessly. I’ve beaten it, that is to say, I’ve run through all of the levels and beat all of the bosses, but I haven’t collected all of the things and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to. If nothing else, DKCR was by far my favorite Wii game of 2010, even though King K Rool is nowhere to be seen. Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock is Guitar Hero 3 but with drum and karaoke support. I think my most played songs were Children of the Grave (Black Sabbath), Bloodlines (Dethklok), 2112 (Rush), and the trio of Megadeth songs that were on the set list. I also recall making custom characters who looked like Krauser and Camus from the incredible anime Detroit Metal City.
Halo: Reach is one of the few Halo games that don’t have any levels featuring The Flood, and for that reason alone it’s my favorite in the series. I also love how many levels plop you into a vehicle. I’m currently playing it on PC, and I’m enjoying it just as much now as I did back in 2010, when the textures weren’t nearly as nice, and there was a lower frame rate. Just Cause 2 is fantastic! It’s easy to just call it a terrorism sim because of how the plot and gameplay revolve around destroying monuments and buildings with massive explosions in order to destabilize an island nation. I can’t recommend it highly enough, if only for the spectacle. Mass Effect 2 has more of an emphasis on action than the original did. Mass Effect 2 doesn’t have as strong an overarching plot as the original did, but what’s there is focused on a really interesting cast of characters. I’ve played Mass Effect 2 more times than the 3rd, but I don’t think I can say I like it more than the 3rd. I don’t think you can actually buy and play Scott Pilgrim vs The World anymore. If you’re curious to see what it was like, longplays exist on youtube, and if you’re curious to play a game like it, I suggest River City Ransom. I don’t think I’ve ever finished Super Meat Boy: It’s a brutally difficult platformer, but you’re brought back to life and thrown at levels almost instantly after you die. Super Meat Boy is basically on everything and typing about it right now makes me want to reinstall it, if only for a little bit.
(Basically, these are my winners of 2010, especially Pokemon, but especially New Vegas)
If you noticed that my list has a few really major games missing, that’s because they were nestled here in my ‘meh’ paragraph. At best, these are the games that I recognize as being well-made but which I didn’t personally like. Take Bayonetta; I played the PS3 version briefly, then I played the Wii U version for about two or three hours. I think my issue is that I just don’t like spectacle fighters as a genre. God of War 3 is another spectacle fighter that launched in 2010, and the only reason I got through it once is because I wanted to see how the trilogy ends. Ironically, God of War 3 is the only game in the franchise I’ve finished. Knowing that there was closure at the end kept me going more than anything else since the gameplay got kind of dull fairly early on. I admire 1v1 fighting games, but actually playing them is another matter entirely. Tatsunoko vs Capcom is a game that I’ve played and from a conceptual level I really liked it. It unlocked memories I didn’t realize I still had when I saw Ken the Eagle and played as him. Street Fighter type games all feel very similar to me though, so after a little bit of play I felt like I had got as much out of Tatsunoko as I was going to get. I would revisit this game a few times, but I just can’t stick with games of this genre. In hindsight, Bioshock 2 is a lot better than I gave it credit for, but at the time it was just Bioshock but more. The Big Sister enemies mixed things up a bit, but it was weird that being evil didn’t spawn them every time. I have fonder memories of playing through Dante’s Inferno than I have with Bayonetta or God of War 3.
The concept, and first level of, Naughty Bear keeps it from being thrown into the bad pile. Unfortunately, Naughty Bear felt really half baked after that first level. I strongly believe that the concept can work, I just wish it was better executed this time. I played Heavy Rain a few times: The first being when I worked at Blockbuster and didn’t own any other PS3 games, the last time on PS4 when I was looking for easy platinums. The plot didn’t really grip me, with the exception of the finger bit. Knowing who the killer is, and knowing that the killer never changes, even though anybody in the plot could have been the killer, really keeps me from wanting to go back and play again. Kirby’s Epic Yarn is literally impossible to lose unless you stop playing. It’s aesthetic is incredibly charming, but there’s no challenge whatsoever, and what you’re rewarded with for perfect play is the ability to furnish apartments. I’m ambivalent towards Metroid Mom; I don’t hate it outright which I’m sure is still controversial depending on who you ask. The plot and narrative take away a lot of Samus’ agency and power, and what you do as her contradicts what you’re shown. The Samus you’re shown has severe PTSD and is prone to panic. The Samus you play as is an unflinching, kill-machine who cannot be stopped. It’s usually difficult to control a 3D character in 3D space using 2D inputs, but it worked much better in Other M than I expected. I didn’t like first-person aiming in Other M, but that aspect of gameplay doesn’t come up regularly. My strong dislike of the Wild West and cowboy fiction is what kept me from liking Red Dead Redemption. On a technical level, it’s fantastic, and I love walking into town, tying up everybody, and throwing them onto train tracks, but I just couldn’t get into the story. I tried, but by the time I had made it to Mexico my patients with the narrative had completely evaporated. There are very few Rockstar games that I make it through, and Red Dead wasn’t ever going to be one of them.
(2010 didn't have many straight-up losers, but to me these are they)
If you made it this far, then thanks for reading through my opinions of gaming in 2010. I may eventually play Darksiders, No More Heroes 2, Red Steel 2, Alan Wake, Sin and Punishment, Singularity, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and some of the other games that launched in 2010 that I've accidentally snubbed. I have no interest in playing Shattered Memories, Dead to Rights: Retribution, Nier, Lost Planet 2, Peace Walker, Crackdown 2, Starcraft 2, Kane and Lynch 2, or anything having to do with the Kinect. 2010 was a decent year for gaming, but I wouldn’t say it was spectacular. Nintendo didn’t launch anything that made me want a Wii, Microsoft was focusing on the Kinect, and my excitement for the Playstation 3 faded fairly quickly after I got one. I go through stages of being very into, and disconnecting from gaming, and during the early part of the decade I was trying to get back into it after being away for a while. I remember spending a lot of time playing games on a DSlite I picked up from Gamestop around this time, specifically Pokemon Diamond and Dawn of Sorrow. Upon reflection though, I think that might have been my 2009. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll be ranking the years against each other at the end of this series, but if I do I don’t see 2010 making it very high in the overall ranking. Fallout: New Vegas and Pokemon made 2010 a fine enough year, I’m just not sure if it’s worthy of a bronze, silver, or gold. Stay tuned though, I don’t remember 2011 very well so for all I know things are about to get worse!