GamePro's Best Games of 2009
- December 22, 2009 12:02 PM PST
2009 AWARDS: GamePro recognizes the most notable video games of 2009.
This year, instead of serving up another mind-numbing list of the same old best of the year categories, we decided to award 2009's best games based on the reasons why they deserve our praise. From best storytelling to most impressive developer debut, here are GamePro's picks of the best games that came out this year.
- Most Innovative:
Runners Up: Flower, Half-Minute Hero, DJ Hero
5th Cell made its reputation on developing games that push game design in new and interesting ways, and its finest achievement to date is the wonderfully charming Scribblenauts. While its distinct visual style and quirky sense of humor is enough to make it stand out, it's the immense library of objects and the ingenious ways in which you use them that earns Scribblenauts the distinction of Most Innovative Game of 2009. It not only encourages gamers to be creative but makes it possible -- for the most part -- to act upon their urges. It also tweaks the puzzle game genre by giving gamers the freedom to search out their own solutions rather than forcing them to rely on predetermined ones. We cannot wait to see how 5th Cell improves upon the formula. We expect nothing but great things from this franchise.
- Reinvented Franchise:
- Killzone 2
Runner Up: Red Faction: Guerrilla
From Street Fighter IV to Uncharted 2, 2009 has no shortage of high profile, video game sequels that show how developers transform their franchises into something more refined and fun. But unlike virtually all of 2009's big name sequels, Killzone 2 is a great sequel to a mediocre game. It resurrects Sony's botched "answer to Halo," 2005's Killzone for PS2, which suffers from severely broken A.I. and rampant glitches that mar what it does right. Guerrilla Games not only fixes the original Killzone's technical issues, but they delivered a riveting single-player experience as well as an equally satisfying multiplayer (something also lacking in the first Killzone). Both Killzone and Killzone 2 received tremendous hype prior to their releases, but Killzone 2 actually delivers the thrilling next-gen FPS experience that it promised, raising the bar for future shooters.
- Best New Series:
Runner Up: Dragon Age: Origins, Demon's Souls, DJ Hero
Usually, a video game that tries to meld two different genres overcompensates to one extreme. Borderlands masterfully incorporates the best of both worlds. One part fast-paced gun-slinging action, one part addictive loot collecting and level grinding, this hybrid FPS RPG is a smash hit with fans of both genres. It's obvious from its many pop-culture and gaming references (everything from Diablo to Mystery Science Theater 3000) that the development team at Gearbox Software wanted Borderlands to be hardcore and unafraid to show some personality and sense of humor. Dusty, dangerous, and deliciously addictive (especially with a few online buddies), Borderlands has the potential to expand into something as big as franchise behemoths like Halo and World of Warcraft.
- Best Storytelling:
- Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Runners Up: Assassin's Creed 2, Dragon Age: Origins
It's as much a testament to Uncharted 2's success that it has a phenomenal story and cast of characters as topnotch gameplay. Nathan Drake's first adventure helped cement the treasure hunter as a charismatic new game protagonist, but Naughty Dog fully fleshed Drake out in Uncharted 2 by sticking him in a nail-biting action adventure story replete with lovable (and loathsome) characters that never feel tired or contrived. Though Uncharted 2's story sometimes clings too much to its influences, such as the Indiana Jones-esque "stop the bad guy from great and terrible power" theme, its story vastly surpasses the many popcorn action flicks it draws inspiration from.
- Most Impressive Developer Debut:
Runner Up: Torchlight
With this year's absurdly gory MadWorld already under their belt, and Bayonetta coming out soon, Japanese developer Platinum Games is already building up cred in the industry. Their first game MadWorld gives us high hopes for their future titles. MadWorld, a Wii-exclusive black-and-white action game inspired by Robert Rodriguez's film Sin City, is far from groundbreaking. It is, however, a delightfully over-the-top throwback to arcade-style beat-em-ups like Double Dragon and Streets of Rage. Only MadWorld borrows a page from Mortal Kombat in that you can sever the arms off your enemies with chainsaws, tear out their beating hearts with your bare hands, and even dunk them in a giant tempura vat full of boiling oil. MadWorld is not as concerned with story and good dialogue as it is always feeding you vicious new ways to butcher enemies, which makes for one helluva good time.
- Best Game No One Bought:
- Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
Runners Up: Half-Minute Hero, MadWorld
Despite selling only a fraction of what its bigger brother, Grand Theft Auto IV, did (Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars didn't even break a million sales on the DS, while GTA IV sold over 6 million copies), Chinatown Wars features several refreshing new twists on the GTA formula -- to live up to the GTA brand, it had to make up for its lack of graphical polish. On top of having a protagonist who isn't afraid to directly poke fun at the often absurd storyline and cast of characters that appeared to be lifted right out of a bad action flick, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars' biggest achievement is showcasing a number of inventive uses for the DS's touch-screen (such as repeatedly taping the screen to shatter windshield glass, swapping hard drugs like heroin and cocaine out of a suitcase for cash, and hot-wiring vehicles). The PSP version, released several months after its DS counterpart, actually manages to retain most of what made the DS version such an exceptional handheld experience even without the touch-screen interface.