This is the third time I’ve published this top ten list, so if it looks familiar to you, that’s why. It was a crazy year in gaming and competition to place in the top 10 was about as fierce as I’ve ever remembered it being. Obviously 1998 is still the king as far as quality releases go, but 2007 was definitely one of the best. So here’s my top ten, with some honorable mentions at the end.
10) Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords
I understand that this might be a surprising pick for many, especially given the extremely competitive atmosphere this year, but Puzzle Quest kept me glued to my DS for days on end. Combining Bejeweled with some RPG and fantasy elements, Puzzle Quest is a unique puzzle game that begs you to keep playing well beyond the typical time limits you set for yourself in a typical gaming session. Just after the game released I took a cross-country flight with a couple of layovers in both directions, and Puzzle Quest had me more than entertained the entire time. When I first saw this game at E3 last year during a meeting with the boys at D3, I knew that they had something interesting on their hands, but I never expected that they had one of 2007′s most addictive titles in store. Kudos to D3 and everybody involved with the making of Puzzle Quest for putting out a great game on such a small budget.
9) Super Paper Mario
It seems that Super Paper Mario hit at just the perfect time. Right when the inital launch and post-holiday buzz of the Wii was starting to quiet down a bit, gamers were realizing that we didn’t have a whole lot to play on the Wii. Right when the console looked like it was fated to a spell of dust collecting, Super Paper Mario livened things up a bit. I love how charming the game is from start to finish and the nice blend of platforming and traditional RPG battle provided a fresh experience on a very standard genre. While the game had a few nagging quirks, it was one of my favorite RPGs to hit a Nintendo system in years.
8) Halo 3
When it came down to selecting ten titles for my top games of the year, I nearly left Halo 3 off the list. That isn’t to say that the game is bad by any means, it’s just that in a year of high innovation and variety, Halo 3 offered much more of the same that we experienced with Halo and Halo 2 on the original Xbox. Upon further consideration, however, I realized that more Halo wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, by not mucking with the overall formula too much, and by refining and addressing problems that were present in the first two games, Bungie has created the finest game in the series to date. Sure, there are still some things that can be picked at here and there, but the overall experience that Halo 3 provides justifies the cost of entry. The online features of the game are simply mind-blowing and should serve as something to reach for in the development community.
7) Rock Band
After Harmonix split from Activision and joined the ranks of EA and MTV Games, I had a feeling that the dev team would be working hard to push a product onto retail shelves that would make their ex jealous. Rock Band builds upon what Harmonix established with the Guitar Hero franchise and fuses together three different types of rhythm games into one: vocals, guitars, and drumming. The result is a game that easily provides the finest offline multiplayer experience we’ve seen in years. Rock Band proves that gamers are willing to shell out a bit more cash on a single title if the game can manage to provide longevity, a strong multiplayer experience, and depth to a gamer’s personal library. I’ve been enjoying Rock Band since the day it came out, and it’s been the centerpiece activity for several parties I’ve been to or had in my home.
6) Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
The original Metroid Prime was easily the game of the generation for me during the GameCube/PS2/Xbox days, so when I first got my hands on Metroid Prime 3 at its E3 debut, I knew the wait was going to be a painful one. When Metroid Prime 3 released, I found a place where I could pick it up at midnight and I spent the next few hours getting knee deep in Samus’ newest adventure. The Wii controls are excellent, and it was the first FPS style game on the Wii that made me think that motion control could be a great way to experience the genre. With the series moving to a more action-orientated feel, the final installment in the Prime trilogy goes out with a big bang. Here’s hoping that it’s not too long before we get another full-blown Metroid experience, whether it be on the Wii or the DS.
5) Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
The DS is often criticized for being underpowered or incapable of delivering games with both great graphics and deep gameplay. Phantom Hourglass is a shining example of how the DS is not only able to provide both, but that it can excel in the process. Even with the new approach to the series with fully integrated touch controls, I found myself getting captivated by that all so familiar Zelda magic. I was also very happy to see the style of The Wind Waker used for another Zelda game as I found the original to be the most beautiful game from the previous generation. Years from now, Phantom Hourglass will be remembered as one of the finest in the line of Zelda titles.
4) The Orange Box
The Orange Box is hands down the best value in gaming released this year. When you can get Half-Life 2 (former PC Game of the Year winner), HL2: Episode One, HL: Episode Two, Team Fortress 2, and Portal all in one package for the price of a single game, you know youâ€™re getting a steal of a deal. Once I got a few rounds in of Team Fortress 2 I shelved Halo 3, something that I didn’t think would happen so quickly. Portal is my pick for gaming’s most innovative title of the year, and I feel that if it was just a bit longer that it could definitely stand on its own for Game of the Year contention. I really hope that either a sequel to Portal gets released or that Valve can incorporate the Portal gameplay into some sort of FPS game. Whether you pick the package up on the 360, PC, or 360, you’ll have plenty to keep you occupied for quite some time. Oh, and for you Team Fortress 2 beginners, please take the Medic out first!
3) Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Wow. Woah. Infinity Ward caused the gaming community’s collective jaw to drop when Call of Duty 4 hit on the 360, PC, and PS3. Featuring some of the best graphics to be found on consoles, Call of Duty 4 blew my mind whether I was inching through the single player campaign or joining friends online. Call of Duty 4, in my opinion, should be sending red flags up all over the FPS developer community circles…because they all just got shown up big time when it comes to multiplayer integration. Call of Duty 4 is the first game in a while to make me feel satisfaction for each individual kill and consequence for each death. The kill streak reward system helps to keep things tense throughout multiplayer matches and can have you cursing out your opponents when they kill you after your sixth kill in a row (one before you can call in a chopper). Call of Duty 4 has me completely ignoring any other online offerings for the moment except for the occasional Team Fortress 2 break. For FPS and multiplayer fans, it simply does not get any better than this.
When a game gets hyped to the moon and back like BioShock did, you play through the game half expecting a letdown of sorts at some point. As I made my way through the world of Rapture I was repeatedly blown away by the art, atmosphere, and shattered beauty that the development team had created. The gameplay is solid and there never seems to be any instances where I found the story or gameplay to lag in any way. From start to finish I found BioShock to meet the insane amounts of hyped that were heaped upon it leading up to release, and in many ways surpass it. Right now BioShock is receiving top honors from many individuals and media outlets, and I must say that it is all well-deserved praise. In any typical year BioShock would have been my runaway pick for Game of the Year, but this year was the year of…
1) Super Mario Galaxy
…Mario! Super Mario Galaxy is not only the best game available on the Wii, but it’s the best game released in 2007. In a very crowded year, Super Mario Galaxy was the lone title that pops into my head each time I think of the word “fun.” Technically Super Mario Galaxy has been bested by other games this year, but nothing can match the pure amount of enjoyment that Galaxy provides. It’s early to tell, but it’s quite possible that Super Mario Galaxy ends up being remembered as the one of the finest platformer games ever created. The variety of locations, the crazy amount of power ups (the most since Super Mario Bros. 3), the insane boss fights, and the classic Mario charm and polish make Super Mario Galaxy my easy pick for the best game released in 2007.
- Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
- Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations
- Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure
- Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles
- Picross DS
- Worms: Open Warfare 2
- Contra IV
- Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
- Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon
- Mass Effect (I only had limited time with this title)
- God of War 2
Wow, it really was a good year. I had to stop myself with the honorable mentions, because there was plenty more that I could have included. It’s doubtful that 2008 can be as strong as 2007 overall, but there are some big hitters coming around like Metal Gear Solid 4, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Devil May Cry 4, Little Big Planet, Resident Evil 5, and much more.