Am I the only one smiling a hair less enthusiastically along with this year’s top 10 lists? Know what I’m talking about? Scan the news sites and see for yourself. The feeds are bleeding numbers. “Top 10 Games of 2008,” reads one. “Top 10 Controversies,” teases another. Oh look, it’s Braid! And there’s LittleBigPlanet, cute and clumsy as a dangling button. Fallout 3, of course, full of ballistically bloody holiday cheer. And don’t forget World of Goo, a startlingly clever little time-waster you probably haven’t played but should.
Keep looking and you’ll spot Metal Gear Solid 4 full of brain-tangling “ologies” and “isms,” or Chrono Trigger DS, Square Enix’s latest mercy reanimation to assuage its obsessively nostalgic base. Ironclad’s majestic Sins of a Solar Empire made other real-time strategy games look puny and inconsequential, while Far Cry 2 seemed like the year’s most promising roam-if-you-want-to shooter before committing gameplay suicide with its brain-dead checkpoint re-spawns.
And so on.
I know. “Top 10” is perennial and occasionally unreliable, just like egg nog, punditry, and David Letterman. It’s what “the kids” are doing. It’s a hit-getter. It’s easy I/O. Have some World of Warcraft, a helping of Grand Theft Auto IV, a dollop of Fable 2. Check, check, and check.
Why not portion out my picks for 2008’s cream?
Because that’s what we always do. Because after a year as generally all-around terrific as 2008, I’m not sure how I feel about raising my blinged-out journalistic scepter and bestowing upon either safely populist or “boldly” counterculture picks such arbitrary honorifics as “Best Shooter” or “Top Indie Download” (or if I’m feeling especially trendy, tedious finger-flippers like “Game That Only 90% Sucked”).
Because sometimes it’s more interesting to swim upriver.
Or not to swim at all, which makes it easier to take in what’s transpiring around you.
Which brings me to this: What are your top video game picks of the year? I’d like to know. Give me simple lists, give me picks with justifications. Give me all of the above, or more if you’re able. Post your thoughts below, and I’ll add my own as we go. What flipped your lid? What didn’t? What’s on your esteemed holiday playlist? And why?