Top Ten Games I Happened to Play in 2009

Sometimes boats will sail out to the international date line to celebrate New Years first.

Most other publications spent much of their run up to the Christmas break publishing lists of their top games published in 2009. Some have even been working on “games of the decade” articles looking at the medium going back to 2000. We here at Gamer Blahhhg find the division of time into discrete units rather silly. I, for one, have no respect for what constitutes a “day” or what others might believe is a “healthy” sleep schedule.

To that end, our list of the top games in 2009 is not restricted to titles published this year. You may find the following list capricious and without purpose, but that’s no less true of any other top ten or games of the year list out there. Without further ado, is proud to present our favorite games of 2009 (played).

Final Fantasy 12 (PS2) – 2009 ended up being the year I finally put a ton of time into this game. I have a tendancy with big RPGs like this to play a bunch when I first buy them, get burnt out and then leave it on the shelf for a long time. The story is really big and the different systems so complex that it can be intimidating to try and pick up where you left off. I had to do a bunch of reading to get back up to spead, but I was able to reorient myself enough to bring my party to the brink of the final battle. I love the game. It has great graphics for the PS2, I love the gambits both in theory and in practice. I’m having enough fun that I’ve put off heading into the final battle to putter around doing a bunch more hunts.

Torchlight (PC) – Currently on sale for $9.99 on Steam (and briefly at $4.99), even at the full price of $20 this is one of the best values of the year. It’s an amazingly refined take on the Diablo style action RPG. The 3D graphics are simple, but expertly crafted and delightfully colorful. The pet mechanic is a blast and the developers have perfectly balanced the character progression and loot acquisition. Top it off with a wonderful score and environments that never wear out their welcome and it’s hard not to be in love with this game.

Need for Speed: Shift (PC/PS3/360) – I’ve never really been a huge racing game fan. I’ve owned a few Gran Turismo games and mostly played the rally modes. Hardcore simulation has never been my thing. But NFS: Shift does an amazing job rewarding your time with experience and money for better rides. I didn’t mess around too much with the tuning, but the upgrading did have a nice RPG feel to gaining improvements. And I actually had a lot of fun with the racing. There was a good variety of competition types allowing you to level up how you wanted to and the invitational races giving you an early glimpse at higher class hardware was a nice touch.

Dragon Age: Origins (PC/PS3/360) – When this game was finally released this fall I devoured it rather ravenously. I don’t think I even realized how strong my craving for a high production value spiritual follow-up to the Baldur’s Gate was. But DA:O just hit the spot sooo good. Great combat, interesting story, fun characters, fantastic voice work and, overall, some really strong graphics. Obviously the engine Bioware created for the game didn’t handle wilderness areas too well, but castles and dungeons were realized in gorgeous fashion. When I finally beat the game after some very long sessions I found I was still eager to go back, try a different race, a new origin and see how the game changes based on the various tough decisions you must make in the story.

Titan Quest (PC) – Another older game I’ve had for a long time but never really gotten into until this year. This was a big game more me in the spring. It’s actually impressive how well the graphics hold up. The levels are huge and gorgeous and streamed seamlessly. The music is very good as well. I really enjoyed the ancient setting, as opposed to the commonly used medieval one. In fact, I had far more fun playing Titan Quest than I ever did playing the vaunted Diablo 2.

Defense Grid: The Awakening (PC/360) – I’ve only owned this game since the beginning of the Steam Holiday Sale about a week ago. I just beat the story mode tonight and Steam tells me I’ve logged almost 23 hours. Not a bad value when you consider I only payed $2.49. Just a blast of a game in the tower defense genre. It looks great, plays better and offers all sorts of great strategic potential. I’ve been playing the crap out of it and loving every minute. Some of those levels are hard!

Borderlands (PC/PS3/360) – Unfortunately, this is one of those games I’ll need to get back into next year. I played a bunch right when it came out, fell in love with the shoot and loot gameplay and their distinctive art style but set it aside to play Dragon Age and Torchlight. Still planning to go back because, despite some flaws, it is just flat out FUN!

Mass Effect (PC/360) – Admittedly, the sequel is just around the corner, but I only managed to get around to beating Mass Effect 1 early this year. I had a ton of fun with the game, but there are some serious areas of improvement I’m hoping the sequel addresses. It’s funny how much I enjoyed playing despite so many glaring flaws. Issues with texture pop in, half baked gun play, horrible, horrible vehicle controls and pointless side quests all seem to fade away thanks to a very engaging stories and a well realized universe.

Fallout 3 (PC/PS3/360) – As a big fan of the first two Fallout games I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed a bit to see Bethesda pick up the license and create a sequel. I wan’t an isometric 3rd person follow-up. But there’s a lot to love in the game Fallout 3 turned out to be. There’s so much to do. The wasteland is just epic in size and the environments are incredibly rich with detail. I’ve never been a fan of Bethesda’s Morrowind games, but placing that style of game in the more interesting fallout universe with the more interesting S.P.E.C.I.A.Ls character system was a big improvement.I sank a ton of time into this game last winter so I guess my disappointment wasn’t too great.

Far Cry 2 (PC/PS3/360) – This was the game of summer for me in 2009. Forget that piece of crap Avatar game built on its engine and play the original in a beautifully realized, seamless African landscape. Well, sure you get a load screen when you go in a building, but you can walk or drive from the jungle to the desert no problem. The gun play is also great. With a huge variety of weapons to procure you are afforded a ton of freedom in how you tackle enemies. The game has issues, mostly in the way it fails to deliver on the promise of two rival factions in the actual gameplay. But it offers so much it’s hard for me to fault it too much. I have high hopes for the sequel.

So that’s it, our top ten in no particular order and adhering to no particular release window.

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