Merry Christmas and welcome back to the countdown of my 100 favorite games of the past decade. Tonight we have the next thirty games on the list. I liked them a lot!
50. MLB ’09 The Show - 2009 I’m sorry Ken Griffey Jr. Present Major League Baseball, but MLB ‘09 The Show is the best baseball video game of all time. Looks great, plays great, blah blah blah. At the end of the day, I’ve played the road to the show mode of this game more than the next two games on this list combined. And if playing my created shortstop, Guts Grigsby, is this much fun on the last place Orioles, I can’t imagine how great it’ll be once we get out of arbitration. Sports gaming at its finest.
49. Jet Set Radio Future - 2002 Bigger isn’t necessarily better, but Jet Set Radio Future left the fundamentals of its beloved predecessor intact while using the Xbox’s considerable power increase to expand the scope of the game’s environments and still sexy stylized graphics.
48. Sly 2: Band of Thieves - 2004 It’s like Ocean’s Eleven, but instead of Brad Pitt and George Clooney, you have a raccoon and a turtle. And a pink hippo. And some of the best platforming of the past decade. They don’t make enough heist video games, with or without the animals.
47. Kingdom Hearts - 2002 The story hasn’t aged gracefully, but hitting Hercules in the face with a giant key until he dies is still much too fun. Who knew?
46. Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 - 2007 Ghost Recon has a tendency to get lost in the clusterfuck of Tom Clancy military shooters that dominated the decade (primarily because the earlier entries were so unforgivably terrible), but the Advanced Warfighter series’ fantastic graphics, setting and gameplay make it the most justifiable reason to give Tom Clancy money since Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory.
45. WarioWare Twisted! - 2005 True story: Twisted was the last good WarioWare game. It was also one of the most inventive games of the past ten years and the peak of what was once one of the most promising new series of the aughts.
44. Mass Effect - 2007 Bioware found the missing piece of their proverbial puzzle, crafting fun gameplay that finally matched their reputation for quality storytelling and presentation. Mass Effect made sci-fi youthful and sexy years before JJ Abrams ripped it off did the same.
43. Power Stone 2 - 2000 Also known as the most underrated fighting game of all time, Power Stone 2 is the poster boy for the tragically under-appreciated golden era of the Dreamcast. I hope all you bastards enjoyed Fantavision and the Bouncer.
42. Dead Rising - 2006 The first truly good original game for the Xbox 360, Dead Rising combined the youthful suburban fantasy of free reign in a deserted (well, of human life) mall with the video game industry’s zombie fetish and a dash of Shaun of the Dead-style humor to produce a game whose closest equivalent would be Dynasty Warriors: Zombie. The Xbox 360 wasn’t worth owning until Dead Rising.
41. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - 2005 The investigation sections quickly became tedious exercises in pixel hunting, but the time spent in court is undoubtedly the most heart-pumping fun I’ve had with a handheld video game. You know that feeling when you’re reading a good book and you start quickly skimming paragraphs ahead because it’s too exciting? That’s how Phoenix Wright feels at its best.
40. Crackdown - 2007 Man, I don’t know either. I bought this game for the Halo 3 beta ticket and ended up playing it every day for two months as a method of unwinding. Come home, turn on some music or a podcast and unwind while leaping buildings and collecting every last agility orb. Who knew Grand Theft Auto knock-offs could be so relaxing?
39. Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader - 2001 This was the Gamecube showcase title. Eighth grade Scott used to carry his new Gamecube (by the handle of course) to his friends house and play the final Endor mission in front of them. We all agreed that this was the future of video games. It didn’t hurt that Rogue Leader was also one of the best Star Wars games of all time. It’s become a running joke in the video game industry since, but this was the best Hoth mission ever, Shadows of the Empire be damned.
38. Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath - 2005 Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath has the best plot twist in gaming over the past ten years, abruptly transforming the game from an inventive, but slow first-person shooter focused on collecting and strategically using small woodland creatures as ammo (yeah) into a fast-paced third-person adventure. The best part? Both halves were pretty damn fun.
37. Super Smash Bros. Melee - 2001 Did you only own a Gamecube for the first few years of the decade too? Well, this is what you played for a year until Nintendo decided to release anything else worth playing. Luckily, Melee was so fun, it was probably all you were going to play anyway.
36. Professor Layton and the Curious Village - 2008 From last year’s game of the year awards: “The best parts of Layton are the best parts of riddles: beating your head against the wall trying to figure something out, puzzling over a single question for hours with friends and then feeling like the the Nobel Prize winner for “smartest mother fucker alive” when you do end up solving it.” Professor Layton is a small, charming, digital, interactive riddle book. It’s also one of the best handheld games I’ve ever played.
35. God of War II - 2007 God of War II needs to calm down. Kratos loses his divinity, fights an animated Colossus of Rhodes, eventually killing it from the inside with a sword given to him by Zeus, who then precedes to betray Kratos with said sword, killing our hero and sending him to hell (from which he promptly escapes). This is the first twenty minutes of the game. Even more impressive? It doesn’t really slow down much after that.
34. Gears of War 2 - 2008 From last year’s game of the year awards: “While the “stop-and-pop” gameplay remains relatively unchanged and as fundamentally fun as when it convinced you the first Gears of War was second place material in 2006, the variety of environments, mission objectives and gameplay mechanics is unmatched by any other action game this year. Every fifteen minutes the game introduces a new way to play: drive across this frozen lake, carry this bomb in a three-leg race, play this on-rails shooter segment, drive this dinosaur. It’s big, it’s fun, it’s dumb and every half an hour while you were sitting on your couch playing through the entire campaign on co-op, you would scream at the top of your lungs that you couldn’t believe this ‘fucking shit.’ High five. And the multiplayer Horde mode was pretty fun to boot.”
33. Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask - 2000 Majora’s Mask gets a lot of grief for it’s groundhog day time-travel premise, it’s lack of dungeons and for basically not being Ocarina of Time, but the haters don’t see that the first Zelda game of this decade was the most intelligent entry in the venerated series. This is a Zelda game about relationships, and a lot of people couldn’t wrap their minds around that. Luckily for them, the mask-shifting gameplay provided some of the most fun moments in series history as well.
32. Soul Calibur II - 2003 Playing Soul Calibur II must be similar to knitting or whittling. I didn’t think about what my hands were doing. Whatever was happening down on the controller just felt right; my fingers would flow seamlessly. This was my fighting game. It was second nature. I could literally read a book while winning at this game. It all felt so natural.
31. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker - 2003 The story of Wind Waker haters is kinda funny. First, it was the art style that was the problem. Once the game was finally released, the critics more or less came to their senses and realized this was (and still is) the most gorgeous Zelda game. However, the more justifiable complaint about the tedious sailing and fetch quests couldn’t be avoided. I loved the sailing though, which probably explains why this was my favorite Zelda game of the decade.
30. Kingdom Hearts 2 - 2006 Kingdom Hearts 2 is a stunning accomplishment in fan service. Kingdom Hearts fans not only got to play as Rikku, but fueled their fan fiction as the sexually ambiguous relationship between him and main character Sora heated up. SquareEnix quit fucking around and gave Disney fans playable worlds in the Mulan, Pirates of the Caribbean, Lion King, Steamboat Willy and even Tron universes. And I got a great game that finally abandoned the horrible platforming and evolved the previously mash-happy combat into something considerably more enjoyable. Thanks SquareEnix!
29. Left 4 Dead - 2008 Until Left 4 Dead, zombie video games never properly emulated good zombie movies. Zombie movies are about the tension and the fear of being human against the overwhelming odds of a relentless, bloodthirsty monster of an enemy. They’re about trying to survive as a group and slowly watching as the few remaining humans are terrifyingly devoured one by one. Zombie video games were about blonde-haired dudes who wear sunglasses in dark mansions and have terrible voice acting. Left 4 Dead’s campaigns always felt like playing the scariest zombie movies, relying on your companions for your only slim chance of survival against seemingly insurmountable odds. Oh, and the great adversarial mode took all the fun of griefing and proved that being turned into a zombie isn’t so bad after all.
28. Flower - 2009 Flower is great! You play as a flower pedal and you float around grassy fields, drifting from blossoming flower to blo- um. I’m going to get beat up at recess tomorrow, aren’t I? Whatever. The final level of Flower is the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to a life-changing epiphany in digital form. You don’t need to think video games are art to recognize Flower as a work of beauty.
27. Katamari Damacy - 2004 It’s easy to forget because Namco has done everything but package King of All Cosmos toys in Happy Meals in the years since, but when Katamari Damacy was first released, it was weird. None of us had ever played a game this strange before. Katamari made Earthworm Jim look like Mario Bros. The first time I saw the opening sequence (you know, the one with the dancing pandas on the mushrooms?), I shut off the PS2 and called a friend over before I tried it again. And while the ensuing sequels have unfortunately run the series into the ground, I would be remiss to forget how much wacky joy the first game was to play. Man, what were they thinking?
26. Peggle - 2007 You either get Peggle or you don’t, which is to say you’ve either played Peggle or you haven’t. PopCap Games built its reputation on simple, colorful, addicting games and Peggle is truly this formula’s greatest success. I would say Peggle almost caused me to fail a few classes, but honestly I was more enthusiastic than ever about going to lecture knowing I had this puppy on my laptop.
25. Halo 3 - 2007 It is embarrassing to all other developers how well-executed and complete Halo 3’s online infrastructure was upon its release. The online stat tracking is still unprecedented in video games, the ability to watch replays of every match was surprisingly addicting and the party system pioneered by Halo 2 was even more refined this time around. The campaign was finally made interesting with the addition of competitive four-player online co-op. Oh, and the multiplayer was the series’ most balanced, despite the addition of many weapons. Halo 3 was the game Halo 2 was supposed to be: simply amazing.
24. Team Fortress 2 - 2007 The most telling character class in Team Fortress 2 is the spy. Able to camouflage himself as any class on the opposing team, players must think how to act like every class, lest they be discovered. How would an enemy engineer act? What about an enemy Medic or Scout? In addition to being a great deal of fun, it demonstrates that nine different classes present nine very different experiences, and all of them were pretty darn good.
23. Grand Theft Auto III - 2001 Honestly? I remember how it felt to play Grand Theft Auto III for the first time more than the feeling of watching the news on September 11th. Video games could do this? It was eye opening and changed the way I looked at video games. I never finished the game, but my brother and I took turns fleeing from the police for weeks. I’m not sure if we ever played a mission during that time. That feeling of freedom and unlimited possibility is why I play video games.
22. Pac-Man Championship Edition - 2007 Pac-Man Championship Edition is the closest I’ve ever come to video game addiction. A single round only lasted five minutes, but I played for hours and hours, unable to leave the couch until I set a new high score. Afternoons spilled into evenings and nights became early mornings as attaining the score became increasing more difficult. I eventually worked my way into the top 50 players worldwide, but my relationship with this game was unhealthy. Luckily, Bioshock came along and broke the habit, but man, Pac-Man.
21. Burnout Paradise - 2008 From last year’s game of the year awards (again): “The Burnout series is, has been, and most likely always will be the epitomy of racing games that do not predominately feature bananas and red turtle shells as legitimate and necessary avenues through which to pursue victory. But like an old man who refuses to stop eating the spicy foods that give him heartburn, my love for the Burnout series has always been a painful one. There have been wildly vulgar and invented obscenities that I have yelled at previous installments of this series that I have never used in other contexts in my life. With Paradise’s predecessors relying so heavily on brutal trial-and-error, I started to develop an obessive compulsive disorder from restarting race events after the most minor mistakes. But with the evolution of the series from a linear, event-driven game to a open-world, Burnout Paradise has finally saved me from myself.
Since Burnout 3 recieved the runner-up spot on my 2004 Game of the Year Awards, the fundamental hook of the series has remained unchanged: absurdly ridiculous speed. When Burnout is at its best is when you’re hunched over the edge of your seat, haven’t blinked in four minutes, an imaginary tow line begins to form between the bumper of your speeding car and the back of your head that is slowly pulling your brain through your eye sockets and you start to feel like Dave from the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey when he enters the Star Gate and trips on acid while realizing the true meaning of everything. That’s all still there, but the open world further encourages attention deficit disorder development by removing the ability to focus (or in my case obsess) on a single event. With no ability to immediately retry a failed race, and distractions at literally every intersection between the restart line and the spot of failure, it’s not only easy, but almost impossible not to lose yourself, and hours of your time, exploring Paradise City.”
If games this good don’t even break the top twenty, you know we’re in for an exciting conclusion. See you tomorrow for the next ten.
For the first time since my brother and I received a Super Nintendo as the best Christmas present of all time in 1991, I quit playing video games for more than six months this year. It was good for me, but as a result, I’m way behind on my year-end list. Finishing my best of 2009 awards by the end of January will be a stretch, so to compensate, I’m going to reveal my favorite games of the past decade over the coming days.
It’s worth noting that the list will obviously be lacking many 2009 releases. Once I finish my best of ‘09 awards in the next few months, I’ll come back and make any necessary changes to this master list.
If this is your first time around the horn, the rules for my decade list are similar to those of my annual awards. This isn’t a list of the best games of the previous decade. Any idiot can look at Metacritic and get a pretty close approximation of the decade’s critical darlings. Rather, these are my favorite games that I’ve played over the past ten years. If I didn’t play the game, it can’t be on the list! Unfortunately this probably skews my list more heavily towards the latter half of the decade when I had more disposable income, but whatever, this a blog. Chill out. My other rule is that I had to finish a game to include it on the list. Fair enough, right?
More personal weaknesses worth explaining before we start: Carson Daly hosted TRL more recently than I’ve played some of these games, so memory inadequacies and nostalgia were less than impartial judges on my panel. Finally, sequels obviously affected my opinion of their predecessors. Even though Pandora Tomorrow was my favorite game of 2004, Chaos Theory was so superior in every way, it bumped its predecessor down to #63 on the list. Sorry about that, Kingdom Hearts.
Now that’s we’re square on the rules, I’m happy to present you with the first half of my top 100 games of the 00’s.
100. Final Fantasy X - 2001
99. Metal Gear Solid 4 - 2008
98. Final Fantasy XII - 2006
97. Gun (Xbox 360) - 2005
96. Rock Band - 2007
95. Mirror’s Edge - 2008
94. No More Heroes - 2008
93. MechAssault - 2002
92. Animal Crossing - 2002
91. Mario Kart Wii - 2008
90. Street Fighter 4 - 2009
89. Spider-Man 2 - 2004
88. Elite Beat Agents - 2006
87. Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter - 2006
86. Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 - 2001
85. NBA 2k1 - 2000
84. Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure - 2009
83. Tetris DS - 2006
82. Castlevania: Circle of the Moon - 2001
81. Chu Chu Rocket! (GBA) - 2001
80. Ninja Five-O - 2003
79. Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords (DS) - 2007
78. Resident Evil 4 - 2005
77. Super Mario Sunshine - 2002
76. New Super Mario Bros. - 2006
75. Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves - 2005
74. Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 - 2008
73. Halo 2 - 2004
72. Fable 2 - 2008
71. Prince of Persia: Two Thrones - 2005
70. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga - 2003
69. Star Wars: Republic Commando - 2005
68. Perfect Dark – 2000
67. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune - 2007
66. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic - 2003
65. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare - 2007
64. Burnout Revenge - 2005
63. Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow - 2004
62. Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved - 2007
61. Warhawk - 2007
60. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed - 2008
59. Prince of Persia - 2008
58. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater - 2004
57. Guitar Hero 2 (Xbox 360) - 2006
56. NFL 2k1 - 2000
55. Mario Kart: Double Dash!! - 2003
54. Mario Tennis (GBC) - 2001
52. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars - 2009
51. Metroid: Zero Mission - 2004
Check back tomorrow to see if I remember to post the next thirty!
“Sometimes I think ‘seeking adventure’ is just a euphemism for ‘seeking abuse just to feel like you’re living.’”—Jeff Engebretson, whose writing I will stop identifying with the day I start taking myself too seriously
We decided to organize some camera statistics from photos uploaded to Tumblr, and it revealed some interesting data:
One of the most surprising results is the dominance of photos taken with Apple’s Photo Booth application, which snaps photos from the built-in webcams in most Macs.
Entry-level SLRs are extremely popular among Tumblr photographers, especially Canon’s Digital Rebel series. The Digital Rebel XTi/400D is our most popular standalone camera. It’s a well-deserved position: the XTi is a great camera for a great price that introduced many people — myself included — to the world of high-quality photography.
Most Canon SLRs also record the Canon lens model used to take each photo:
The first and second are the new and old (respectively) “kit” lenses bundled with most Canon SLRs. The third-place lens, the 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM, is frequently sold as part of a premium bundle for a few hundred dollars more than the standard kit.
The inexpensive 50mm primes are cumulatively the most popular non-kit lenses. This is also well-deserved: these lenses provide excellent optical quality for very little money.
Many people take photos with their mobile phones. Here’s how the top modern smartphone types break down:
Beyond the expected dominance of iPhone OS and BlackBerry devices, Palm’s webOS (Pre, Pixi) isn’t very popular among Tumblr users, but Android devices are gaining popularity.
But the real surprise was Apple’s role, including Photo Booth, in overall camera brands:
The popularity of Macs and iPhones is powerful enough to make Apple almost as popular as Nikon for Tumblr photography.
Advice after reading "decade-best" video game lists
#7. Super Smash Bros. Melee is not a better game than Super Smash Bros. Brawl. People just think it is because Brawl wasn’t the only game they could play for the nine long months until another decent Gamecube game was released while all their friends were playing Halo.
#8. If God of War II is better than God of War in every regard (and it is), then God of War II is a better game than God of War.
Man. People need to stop having wrong opinions, right?