I'm back sooner than I expected... more than a year ago I posted my 'top 10 games of all time'
Every year there seems to be a debate as to if the current year is the best one in gaming history, this makes sense as technology is constantly improving. In films, it's not often true that the sequel is better than the original, there are exceptions (Star Wars, maybe The Godfather...) but these are vastly outweighed by those which aren't (Indiana Jones, Matrix, Lord of the Rings, every horror movie ever... Weekend at Bernies) In games this ratio seems to be reversed, I can think of few games where part 2 isn't better than part 1 (Big ones being Devil May Cry and Halo.)
I acknowledged this in my list where I had the 10th spot as 'reserved for the now'
I think it's interesting how much my list can change in 15 short months so I would like to take this chance to update with annotations about the additions and subtractions.
Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass (Nintendo DS) - (replacing Zelda: Wind Waker) Phantom Hourglass is the direct sequel to WW which is quite rare in the Zelda series, as virtually all of them tend to recreate the story rather than update it. PH is also the most different Zelda game since Zelda II. I loved Wind Waker because I thought it's graphics held up better than the aging Zelda Ocarina of Time and because it was just plain fun. PH updates the formula via the sole reliance on touch-screen controls. That plus the ability to take notes and make marks on the map are genius applications of Nintendo's technology and fit in perfectly with the Zelda series (far more perfectly than the clumsily implemented waggle controls of Zelda: Twilight Princess for Wii)
Joust (just about every videogame system since 1981) - (Returning Champ) I loved and still love the feeling of weight you get while flying, this was the first game which caused me to use Body English to vainly keep my Jouster out of the morgue.
Jet Set Radio Future (Xbox) - (Returning Champ) Man, I love this game. I also just got a used copy of the Gameboy Advance remake of Jet Grind Radio, the Dreamcast original the name was changed from 'Jet Set' to 'Jet Grind' in the west because Rare had a game called Jet Set Gemini for the n64 and threatened to sue Sega if they didn't change it, I guess that wasn't an issue by the time JSRF came out for Xbox, not sure why they didn't revert to 'Set' with the GBA game. In anycase, I'm not a fan of the isometric controls on the GBA version but the music and aesthetics are still strong. As for JSRF, it is perfection... the speed, music, everything. JSRF is a under-appreciated masterwork which never garnered the audience it deserved. Cross genera games have a tendency to do poorly commercially and this Platforming/Skating mash-up is no exception. But it is playable on Xbox 360 if your 360 has had a system update since April 19th 2007 stop reading this and go to ebay and drop $10 on this immediately!
Bioshock (PC,PS3,360) - (Replacing Halo) For my money Bioshock is the best single player FPS. Wonderful design (Underwater Art Deco.) Superbly written with great themes (what other game is a meditation on Objectivism?!) On my list Bioshock replaces the juggernaut called Halo. A wonderful game which has dimmed in my mind as each sequel gets worse and my memories of LAN matches fade into the haze that was 1999.
Starcraft (PC) - (returning champ) still my favourite RTS game though Age of Empires III comes close. I will even spend money to upgrade my PC to play Starcraft II when it comes out.
Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions (PSP) - (replaces Nights: Into Dreams, the memory of which was killed when the awful Wii sequel came out) Shortly after making my list last year I discovered FFT. I got halfway through the PS1 version on my (hacked) PSP before my Hong Kong Knock-off Memory card died. Then I got the PSP Remake which outshines the original in several ways. I played Final Fantasy Tactics in some form or another from September 2007-March 2008, I then got the DS sequel FFT:A2 in June and played THAT for several months. I LOVE these games... LOVE them.
Portal (PC,PS3,360) - (Replacing Super Metroid) The best written game in recent memory is a puzzle game?! strange but true. Portal is so good it got my wife to play a FPS to completion. There is a reason that so much of its content went on to become Internet memes. Portal will be long remembered as a cultural milestone beloved by all. And Then There Will Be Cake!
Every Extend Extra (PSP) or Every Extend Extra Extreme (360) - (Returning Champ) I wrote a rapturous ode to the PSP version of this on my own aborted blog and that still holds up. I think e3 is better than e4 but both try to do different things. e3 recreates Asteroids with shortish bursts of play while e4 is a tantric epic which can take hours.
Burnout Paradise (PS3, 360) - (Replacing WipEout, though the new WipEout HD for ps3 is also spectacular) The flat out best racing game, with the best online features, and prettiest graphics EVER. Just an amazing, stunning achievement and best of all... Criterion keeps on supporting it with new content!
#10 Reserved for the NOW (Little Big Planet, Fallout, and the new GTA IV Content in Feb!)
What have we learned from this?
More than half the entries have changed in a little over a year, only Burnout and Phantom Hourglass are purely technical achievements. Bioshock's wonderful graphics and design help it but it and Portal are both new entries which made the list in large part because of writing (an element which didn't factor on the old list.) Now that graphics and tech resources aren't as limited I think games are freed to explore more areas than just having the most realistic images and best sound. Portal and Bioshock can push narrative. Little Big Planet can push design and user involvement. Fallout, Oblivion and Grand Theft Auto can push immersion. I look forward to writing this list next year and wonder how it will have changed.