Select/Start Games Best of 2009 Awards

2009 now draws to a close, and for gamers, it has been one of the best years of this generation, if not the best year this generation in terms of quality software. It seemed like no matter what the genre or platform, you could find a game that simply screamed quality, even amidst the many game delays that plagued the year. These awards are by no means comprehensive, or to be taken as law, but they are certainly the games we felt really summed up 2009. Enjoy.

Best Action Game:

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Platform: Playstation 3

The gurus at Naughty Dog really outdid themselves when Uncharted 2: Among Thieves hit the Playstation 3 in October 2009. Featuring the best console graphics to date, a fantastic story rich with humor and strong characterization, and married to some of the best action/platforming and level design ever seen, the sophomore adventure of Nathan Drake and company surpasses the already classic original in every way. Complaints were addressed, and Naughty Dog even added a fully featured and fleshed out competitive and co-operative multi-player mode for those gamers that just love to frag and bag one another (or help get through waves after waves of increasingly difficult enemies, of course).

Without a doubt, Uncharted 2 marked not only a great step forward in the evolution of the Playstation 3 as a gaming platform, but an evolution towards interactive storytelling and visual presentation in a console game.

Runners-up: Killzone 2, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, Resident Evil 5

Best Adventure Game:

Assassin’s Creed 2

Platform: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC

The continuing story of Desmond Miles and his trips through the lives of his ancestors of long ago really pics up steam in a sequel that is so far beyond what the original was, that you almost want to get angry that the first title wasn’t this good. New weapons, combat moves, and gadgets, as well as a plethora of side missions, quests, interesting unlockables, and more varied missions helped realize the potential we all knew was just bubbling underneath the Assassin’s Creed franchise.

The narrative is better woven into the game play, and the character of Ezzio De Florenza Auditorre and his journey down the road of the assassin was far more compelling and entertaining than predecessor Altair. New wrinkles in the growing conspiracy surrounding Desmond and his ancestors is deftly handled with creative mini-games and set pieces that show that Ubisoft Montreal still has what it takes in crafting intriguing, smartly scripted stories. Those that got off the Assassin’s Creed train after part 1 may want to give 2 a try. Like Uncharted 2, Assassin’s Creed 2 is a prime example of a sequel taking the good from the original, and making it better, while nixing the negative elements altogether.

Runners-up: Batman: Arkham Asylum

Best First Person Shooter:

Killzone 2

Platform: Playstation 3

Killzone 2 released early in 2009, but was no less a stellar entry into the FPS series. With visuals never before seen on a console FPS, it set the visual bar for all FPS titles to come. Guerrilla Games pulled out all the stops to create a truly gritty, realistic portrayal of war, wrapped in a unique hard sci fi setting and including an intuitive and first for FPS games first person cover system. The multi-player component was also polished to a fine sheen, adding a twist to standard class based multi-player by allowing players to mix and match Badges in order to create a player more to their play style. The expectations for Killzone 2 were extremely high, and in the end, it brought us the best FPS experience of 2009.

Runners-up: Modern Warfare 2, Borderlands

Best Third Person Shooter:

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Platform: Playstation 3

The 3rd person shooter genre was rather light this year compared to previous years, but even so, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves rises again to the top with it’s incredible mixture of 3rd person shooting, climbing, and platforming. The varied locales, unsteady terrain, and excellent enemy AI add to the intensity of the gunfights, despite the game’s tongue in cheek, pulp adventure heritage.

Runners-up: inFAMOUS (hey, it’s a shooter…in third person!)

Best Sandbox Game:


Platform: Playstation 3

The sandbox genre is a popular one, but has remained fundamentally unchanged since it’s inception on consoles with Grand Theft Auto 3. Fortunately, the masterminds at Sucker Punch decided to break away from the Sly Cooper series to try their hand at the sandbox genre, and introduce us to the electrically charged superhero, Cole McGrath. The results are hands down the best sandbox game of 2009.

The game play mechanics are so polished that you’d think this was the 3rd or 4th entry in the series, and the tale of Cole and his powers is filled with enough twists and turns to keep the “super hero origin story” plot interesting from beginning to end. Being able to grind across power lines, zap enemies with electricity, and hover through the air on static thrusters are only a few of the joys packed into this amazing sandbox adventure.

Runners-up: Prototype

Best Role Playing Game:

Demon’s Souls

Platform: Playstation 3

This was a difficult choice, as Dragon Age and Borderlands are both fantastic RPGs, but I’m compelled to reward innovation and creativity, being as how they are both rather rare in the RPG genre. Demon’s Souls is a unique RPG, and not just because of it’s often harsh difficulty. The way the game combines it’s narrative, game play, and online/cooperative aspects resulted in one of the most genuinely fresh, unique RPGs of the generation, not just the year.

After crafting your avatar and choosing one of 10 classes, players are thrust into a dangerous world filled with some of the most horrifying creature designs and devilishly challenging enemies since the old days of the NES. For players willing to overcome these challenges, they will find an addicting, rewarding RPG that tests their mettle as gamers.

Runners-up: Dragon Age, Borderlands

Best Downloadable Game:

Fat Princess

Platform: Playstation 3 (PSN)

From the moment it was first announced, Fat Princess charmed anyone that laid eyes on it’s quirky art style and cheeky sense of the humor. The multi-player centric downloadable title took classic capture the flag game play, and married to the unique premise of turning the “flag” into a Princess, which must be defended or captured and stuffed full of cake to make it more difficult for the competing team. The addition of classes to the game play made it a lot more team oriented and co-operative than your average CTF game, and the fun game modes and colorful art style really added to it’s charm and fun.

Runners-up: Pixel Junk Shooter, Shadow Complex

Best Multi-Player Game:

Killzone 2

Platform: Playstation 3

As far as FPS multi-player goes, Killzone 2 truly delivers a refreshing experience. The hefty weight to the controls and focus more on skill than aim assisted fragging made the mp affairs in Killzone 2 decidedly more intense than your average mp game. The Badge system also added something to the FPS MP stable, allowing players to mix and max badges between the 6 classes Primary and Secondary skills, and the ability to have player created tournaments, where clans can wager valor points results in one of the most hardcore and polished MP experiences on consoles, and definitely the best multi-player in 2009.

Runners-up: Modern Warfare 2, Left4Dead 2, Halo 3: ODST

Best Survival Horror Game:

Demon’s Souls

Platform: Playstation 3

Demon’s Souls is most certainly an RPG, but anyone who has played the game will tell you how genuinely frightening the game is. The level of tension experienced when methodically navigating the various dungeons in the game is hard to encapsulate in writing, but the knowledge that each step or enemy encounter can be your last, due to the high (but often over-exaggerated) difficulty, keeps you on your toes.

There is nary a moment of respite in Demon’s Souls, and some of the creature designs are truly hair raising, not to mention the many mammoth, and just downright intimidating bosses. Where Resident Evil 5 leaned more towards Action/Adventure than all out Survival Horror, Demon’s Souls took a different approach, but the result is no different: The scariest game of 2009.

Runners-up: Resident Evil 5

Best Platform Game:

Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time

Platform: Playstation 3

The Ratchet and Clank games have been around since the Playstation 2, and have experience 8 core games in the series, and multiple spin-offs, but the Playstation 3 iterations, culminating in Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time, are truly the high point of this classic franchise. Everything about A Crack in Time screams polish. The humor, the graphics, and the superb mixture of shooting, platforming, and space flight are some of the best in the entire series. Even small staples like the  “spherical worlds” are given a huge focus in the game, as players are able, at any time, to hop into their space craft, the Ephelion, and explore the many spherical moons in each of the game’s six sectors.

If there was ever a Ratchet and Clank game that anyone with a love of Action/Platformers could get into, A Crack in Time is it. Even though the game is touted as the last in the Future series, we most certainly hope to see more of this dynamic duo in the future.

Runners-up: Braid, New Super Mario Bros. Wii

Best Playstation 3 Game:

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

What more can be said about Uncharted 2: Among Thieves? In a year that saw the Playstation 3 recieve many high quality games, from Killzone 2, to inFAMOUS, to Demon’s Souls, to Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time, Uncharted 2 shone as the touchstone of what Playstation 3 gaming is all about: Quality. Visuals, Story, Characterization, Game Play, Uncharted 2 encapsulates the entirety of the Playstation 3 experience, and it deserves a place in practically every PS3 owner’s library.

Runners-up: Killzone 2, inFAMOUS, Demon’s Souls, Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time

Best Xbox 360 Game:

Left4Dead 2

Killing zombies never gets old, and developer Valve reminded everyone of that when they released Left4Dead 2 this fall. Refining the game play made popular by the first installment, L4D2 features more of everything: more structure in the campaign mode, more modes, and more variety in zombie types. Killing zombies with friends has never been more tense and exciting as it is here. Out of a rather shallow release schedule for 360 exclusives this year, Left4Dead 2 really stood out as a prime example of fun, quality 360 gaming.

Runners-up: Halo Wars, Halo 3: ODST, Shadow Complex

Best PC Game:

Dragon Age: Origins

Bioware never disappoints when it comes to creating RPGs filled with compelling characters, and rich, detailed worlds. Dragon Age: Origins, a new series from the esteemed developer saw release on 3 platforms this year (PC, 360, and PS3), but the PC version is truly the version invisioned by the developers, and it shows. From visuals, to controls, to game play, to story, Dragon Age: Origins reminds us all why Bioware is one of the best RPG houses in the industry.

Runners-up: World of Warcraft (because, even when no new expansion has come out, it’s still the game PC gamers are thinking about, and playing. I’m sure they’re thinking about it now…)

Best Wii Game:

New Super Mario Bros. Wii

You’d think after gracing consoles for nearly 30 years, the Mario Bros would be looking to retire, but New Super Mario Bros. Wii proved that you can’t have enough of a good thing, and classic 2D platforming, with a 2.5D graphical twist is at it’s finest in the best Wii game of 2009. What makes this entry into the 2D platforming Mario fold so special is the addition of 4 player co-op, which has players helping each other (or harassing) through the expertly designed levels.

Nintendo always manages to ring more out of the ol’ plumber with each game, and New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a testament to quality game design, and the potential of Wii games when the right developers are behind it.

Runners-up: Metroid Prime Collection

Special Bonus Award for Being the Best Batman Game Ever:

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Platforms: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC

Batman is awesome, so I find it horribly ironic that, over the 70 years since his creation, his video games have ranged from mediocre, to well and truly sucktacular. Developer Rocksteady Games, however, managed to do the unthinkable, and craft the best Batman game of all time in Arkham Asylum. Featuring many of the voice cast from Batman: The Animated Series (including Batman himself, Kevin Conroy, and the inimitable Mark Hamil as the Joker), Arkham Asylum truly takes the Caped Crusader seriously, and crafts game play in the same vein as Metroid, but with a Batman twist. Even if you are not a Batman fan, the quality voice acting, solid story, and excellent game play should be enough to entertain. If you are a Batman fan, then this is some quality fan service that is sure to please.

Special Bonus Award for Innovation:

Demon’s Souls

Platform: Playstation 3

This was an interesting award to give, simply because innovation in gaming is so rare, but in truth, not as vital to game enjoyment as many make it out to be. With that said, when a game does innovate, and in a way that is executed as superbly as it is in Demon’s Souls, that game should be given recognition. Demon’s Souls gets this award because of the unique way it implemented online co-op into the world and it’s narrative.

Since the game revolves around souls and characters dying (repeatedly), the online co-op was woven into the fabric of game play. Players are given a special stone that allows them to summon the spirits of dead warriors (ie, other players), to come to their aid and help them take on the many dungeons and demons that dwell within. Furthermore, because of the persistent connection of the online servers, players are allowed to leave helpful (or decietful) messages for other players to read, and rate those messages so that they will be seen more often. Not only that, but players are also given another special stone, that will allow them to break into another players world, and face that player in PVP combat.

Sure, co-op, and PVP aren’t new concepts, but the way Demon’s Souls integrates them into it’s fabric in a way that doesn’t feel “gamey” was truly one of the freshest innovations of 2009.

Game of the Year:

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Platform: Playstation 3

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, once again takes the top spot for best game of 2009. The competition was most certainly fierce, but in the end, the sheer level of polish, fun, and technical expertise of Naughty Dog’s second Playstation 3 game really put it ahead of the pack.

Runners-up: Killzone 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Modern Warfare 2

Best Graphics:

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

This game is damn gorgeous. Period. There’s nothing else to say. It literally shames the competition in practically every way (with Killzone 2 being the only game that matches it’s graphical fidelity, albiet in a different, and first person way), and shows us that, despite a generation in which the HD era has produced some truly beautiful titles, we can still be wowed every once in a while by fantastic art design, and technical know how.

Runners-up: Killzone 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Modern Warfare 2, Borderlands

Big Let Downs: Not enough strong First and Second Party exclusive games from Microsoft. Halo Wars and Halo 3: ODST are all well and good, fine games, but Microsoft really dropped the ball this year when it came to producing more First and Second party games for the Xbox 360. 3rd party developers like Square-Enix and Valve tried to step in and the fill the void with games like Star Ocean 4 and Left4Dead 2, but unless you were a die hard Halo fan (and really loved the excellent Shadow Complex), 360 exclusives were slim pickings. Fortunately, the many quality multi-platform titles that hit this year made it almost a non-issue. Also, 2010 is looking really strong for the Xbox 360, as it’s lineup is full of some rather fantastic looking games.

That’s it for the second annual Select/Start Games Best of Awards, and we’re looking forward to more quality games across all platforms in 2010! Have a safe and Happy New Year everybody!


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