#16: Sins of a Solar Empire
Nowadays, many games claim that they feature epic storylines and immersive gameplay. How about a space odyssey that spans over 10,000 years, featuring one of the most intense and exciting real time strategy campaigns to date? Sins of a Solar Empire had it all: an engaging story, beautiful visuals, user-friendly controls, and addictive gameplay that would have you staying up until your eyes were sore from staring at your computer screen; your hands cramped from issuing orders to your fleet. And you'd STILL keep playing. An underappreciated entry in one of gaming's longest running genres, Sins of a Solar Empire proved itself as a stellar (no pun intended) experience for gamers everywhere.
#15: World of Goo
Equal parts puzzle game and political commentary, the insanely innovative World of Goo took the WiiWare/PC world by storm with its mixture of quirky physics-based gameplay and mind-boggling puzzles. Taking control of a series of living globs of goo, it's the players goal to construct devices and mechanisms in order to complete each stage... of course, this sounds much easier than it actually is. Whether you're flinging goo at a tower that's blocking your path or creating a bridge in which to lead your goo to the pipe and finish the stage, the feeling of victory that comes with completing a puzzle in this stunning brainteaser is one of the most rewarding experiences you'll feel all year!
#14: Valkyria Chronicles
Roger Ebert has been criticized for stating that "video games aren't art." My challenge to Mr. Ebert is to play five minutes of the simply breathtaking strategy RPG Valkyria Chronicles, and see how his opinion holds up. With stunning watercolor visuals that look as if they were painted onto your monitor, a timeless story of war and triumph, and one of the most interesting and dynamic blends of strategy, role playing and real time action to date made Valkyria Chronicles not only one of the most interesting experiences of 2008, but also one of the most unforgettable.
#13: The Last Guy
If this was a list concerning the greatness of video game titles, I think we all can agree that the short but eloquent The Last Guy would take the number one spot with a bullet. This quirky PSN download featured three of my favorite things: an inexplicably weird and offbeat premise, a killer techno soundtrack, and, of course, zombies! As The Last Guy, it's up to you to traverse landmarks all over the globe, from San Francisco to Sydney, Australia in search of survivors of the zombie holocaust. The more survivors you collect, the longer the line of people behind you grows and the bigger your stamina bar - but don't get too cocky! It only takes one gigantic bug zombie to ruin your entire operation!
#12: Tales of Vesperia
The latest entry in the prestigious Tales series was THE reason to own an Xbox 360 overseas. While gamers were placing pre-orders and camping outside of videogame stores for the highly anticipated release of Tales of Vesperia, this unique RPG simply snuck under the radar of American gamers with bigger titles stealing the scene. Vesperia continued the tradition from past Tales games by creating an incredibly immersive gaming world, memorable characters, and a game that you'll want to experience again and again. With an endless amount of variety from character customization to party configurations, there was something in Tales of Vesperia for everyone!
#11: Order Up!
While the Cooking Mamas of the world hogged the culinary spot-light, Order Up!, an incredibly innovative restaurant management sim slipped under many gamers radars as not only one of the most inventive food-based titles in years, but one of the most addicting games to come out on the Wii in quite some time! As an up and coming chef, it's your job to appeal to various crowds by creating new dishes, all courtesy of the Wii-remote, but not all on your lonesome ala Cooking Mama - no, Order Up! gave you an entire kitchen staff at your disposal, all eager to help make your restaurant the hottest five-star venue in town!
#10: Korg DS-10
An amazing experiment, just a few minutes of sampling beats on Korg DS-10, and you'll be asking yourself one simple question: why didn't anybody think of this sooner?! Mixing the Nintendo DS handheld's innovative touch-screen features with the abilities of a real life KORG MS-10 synthesizer, Korg DS-10 featured an unprecedented amount of musical customization and creation. So next time you need to drop the beat, forget your turn tables and crossfaders - grab your DS and get the party started!
Codemasters' GRID proved itself as the little racing title that could. Armed with amazing graphics, a huge selection of vehicles and three enormous continents to race across (you read that right), GRID took the speedster scene by surprise by cranking up the racing experience to eleven. Gorgeous, innovative, in-depth, and just plain fun, GRID was an amazing foray into the world of racing and while it didn't share a familiar franchise title like the Midnight Clubs and the Need for Speeds of the world, GRID more than made its mark with simply astonishing gameplay that'll keep your foot on the pedal for hours on end.
#8: de Blob
A game focused on (quite literally) painting the town with color? As a colorblind gamer, I can't help but say that I was less than enthused by the concept. "It's just Katamari Damacy with a different name," I shrugged to myself... and then I actually played it. A fantastically quirky and addictive title, de Blob manages to reel you from the very beginning. Practically oozing charm, de Blob featured a delightful plot involving an underground revolution planning to bring color back to the monochromatic city of Chroma, and multiplayer that was an absolute blast with friends battling one another for ultimate color dominance!
#7: Yakuza 2
Releasing on a "last-gen" platform was probably Kazuma Kiryu's biggest mistake. I mean, come on - with technology as old as the Playstation 2, what could you really show off to make your game stand out? Enter Yakuza 2, an outstanding free-roaming sandbox adventure, and follow up to the smash-hit Yakuza. Taking place one year after the events of the first Yakuza, Kazuma decides it's finally time to settle down and take care of his 10 year old daughter. Of course, it's never that easy - in the words of Michael Corleone, "Just when you think you're out, they pull ya back in!" Kazuma is soon thrust into an engaging crime conspiracy that threatens the order of his clan, not to mention his very life. A roller-coaster of twists and turns, Yakuza 2 is an amazing ride from beginning to end, and worth picking up for any adventure aficionado.
Okay, seriously: who doesn't love ninjas? Okay, even with pirates as the obvious exception, it only takes a few seconds of controlling your wall-grinding, platform-leaping shadow warrior in this Flash game turned handheld phenomenon. In a series of cleverly designed stages, you controlled a tiny ninja who, while avoiding dangers such as spikes, bombs and robots, must collect as much gold as possible while traversing treacherous landscapes. An addicting and fascinating experience, N+ comes highly recommended from the GamePro staff!
#5: Metal Gear Solid Mobile
Okay, I know what you're thinking: why play Metal Gear on your cell phone when you can sit down on your couch, beverage in hand, and play any variety of Solid Snake adventures on the big screen? Metal Gear Solid Mobile presented enough brand new changes and new to the series dynamics (such as utilizing your cell phone's camera to create Snake's camo) that more than made the venture back to Shadow Moses worth the price of admission. Not just another cash-in or port, Metal Gear Solid Mobile was completely overhauled for portable devices, featuring brand new 3D art exclusive to the mobile edition and a series of brand new controls and maneuvers to make Solid Snake's first adventure just as memorable as it was the first time you plugged it in on the PlayStation.
#4: Castle Crashers
From the minds behind the cult smash Alien Hominid came the highly anticipated hack n' slash, Castle Crashers! A throwback to side-scrollers of old, Castle Crashers perfectly captured the spirit of retro beat-em-ups, and executed the formula brilliantly via cartoonish hand-drawn graphics and a tongue-firmly-in-cheek sense of humor. A blast to Crash through on your own or with a friend, Castle Crashers was a much needed breath of fresh air in this year's game line-up!
Don't let the simple graphics fool you - Echochrome proved itself to be one of the most complex puzzlers of the year on both the Playstation 3 and the PSP handheld! In Echochrome, it's your job to guide a polygonal man from point A to point B across a strange geometric field. Sounds easy enough, right? Throw in dimension-defying dynamics where changing the way you look at the game's levels alters the very reality of that world, and you have an original, underappreciated puzzler that's well worth your dime.
#2: Persona 4
Only a year after Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 resurrected the famed franchise from it's last-gen slumber, Persona 4 was announced for an end of the year release in 2008, still onthe Playstation 2 - but really, how much can change in one year? With P4 proving itself as one of the quirkiest and most innovative games of 2008, the answer's obvious: quite a bit. An unforgettable cast of memorable characters and an insanely original story made Persona 4 not only one of the best entries in the Shin Megami Tensei series, but one of the best RPGs of 2008.
#1: Boom Blox
Boom Blox was first noticed as it had famed film director Steven Spielberg sign on. The game probably gained even more attention upon release - not because of the mind behind Schindler's List, but thanks to a fantastically addictive and amazingly fun experiment by developer Electronic Arts. Equal parts mind-boggling puzzler and explosive party game, Boom Blox had just enough charm, variety and originality to help it stand out against a sea of mediocre puzzle games.
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