Last week I gave my top 5 favorite games of 2009. I'm well aware that 5 was not nearly enough to include every enjoyable game that released in the last 12 months, so I've handed it off to the contributors of MTV Multiplayer to share some of their picks. These are specifically games that didn't make my list, but are still awesome and noteworthy.
Brian Warmoth: "Street Fighter 4"
There are specific itches longtime gamers experience that can only be scratched by certain challenges and gameplay triumphs, and for me executing long chains of super-quick combos from the "Street Fighter" series does the trick. The ornate character details and moves right down to the final moments of the Ultra combos provided the baseline of enjoyment I needed out of this game, but the clincher really game from the boss, Seth, who was one of the most difficult bosses I’ve faced in a new release in recent memory. I respect a game that makes you work for its final credits, and this is a boss that will relentlessly beat the snot out of you round after round. He makes M. Bison feel like fighting a stack of bricks and will frustrate and infuriate first-time challengers, but Seth also makes victory feel rewarding. Speed, difficulty, design and updated classic elements all came together in "Street Fighter 4," and it sucked the wee small hours of the morning out of my days like no other game in 2009.
Jason Cipriano: "MadWorld"
"MadWorld" may not have been the best game of the year, but it was the biggest risk that any publisher took this year. Sega went all in and released an offensive, ultraviolent, mature title on Nintendo's family friendly Wii. As if that wasn't enough, the game's highly stylized, almost entirely black and white color scheme was something that had not been attempted in a major release since the days that black and white were the only two colors available for games. The end result was a funny, over-the-top slaughter fest that starred a guy with a retractable chainsaw built onto his arm.
New IPs alone are a gamble for any publisher, but a game like this, that not only pushes the limits artistically, but also morally, was something that could have failed miserably on multiple levels. While it may not have been a huge commercial success, hopefully "MadWorld" will serve as a win for the industry as a whole, and allow it to move forward, making room for more big-budget titles that think well outside of the box.
The front-runners in this year's Game of the Year race mirror those of 2007, when the exceptional story and game-changing multiplayer on display in "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare" faced off against the refreshingly original first-person undersea adventure in "BioShock." This year's "Modern Warfare 2," which builds on the excellence of its '07 predecessor, edges out "Batman: Arkham Asylum" for me, and there's one big reason for that: Special Ops.
The story in "Modern Warfare 2" replaces the nuanced, message-driven tale told in '07 with a spectacle-driven, over-the-top war story focusing on a Russian invasion of the United States. It fell short for some critics, but I appreciated the change in tone even if pushes the series further away from what some critics might refer to as "high art." The multiplayer lives up to the same great standard set by Infinity Ward in the first "Modern Warfare," adding just enough in the way of new features to make the experience feel fresh and new. But the co-op play in "Modern Warfare 2"'s Special Ops mode is more than just a cherry on top; it also brings on the hot fudge and chopped walnuts. My most memorable gaming experiences of the year have come out of co-op sessions in Special Ops, from the stealthy forward push in Evasion to the mass carnage of the AC-130 escort in Overwatch. Here's hoping that the new year sees continued DLC support of this mode from Infinity Ward, and that future iterations of the series -- whether they come direct from IW or from another developer -- take pains to incorporate bite-sized multiplayer experiences. Bravo Infinity Ward… you guys have done it again.
Locke Webster: "Left 4 Dead 2"
The original "Left 4 Dead" really impressed me. I dug the concept and the teamwork that the game inspired, but the whole experience left me wanting more; like one of those accursed mini red velvet cupcakes that show up at my office these days and never truly satiate my hunger for cake. "Left 4 Dead 2" on the other hand -- arriving just one short year after the original -- is the normal, full-sized cupcake that I've always craved.
Of any game this holiday season, I've spent the most time online with "Left 4 Dead 2." The new weapons, pickups, and special infected add the variety that the original lacked, and the new "Scavenger" mode provides the bite-sized pick-up-and-play kind of gaming that I can manage in a pinch. Without a doubt, "Left 4 Dead 2" is my favorite online game of the year. I just kinda miss the original cast… which is reason enough to look forward to the upcoming "The Passing" DLC where Nick, Ellis, Rochelle and Coach cross paths with OG survivors Francis, Zoey, Bill and Louis.
John Constantine: "Mighty Flip Champs"
Wayforward are a peculiar development house and their games are very strange. Not in that Suda 51, freak out brand of strange. Strange in that no one has made games like they do in a very long time. This year’s "Mighty Flip Champs" in particular feels like a long lost arcade classic, something Namco’s legendary arcade division might have cranked out in 1993. The colorful, expressive characters free of any narrative shackles coupled with the game’s deeply challenging puzzle-platforming make for the sort of pure play experience you just don’t see very often. It isn’t archaic, just of another time. As of right now, it’s one of the scant few good reasons to own a DSi. It was also one of the best reasons to play video games in 2009.
Back in July, I said Monster Hunter Freedom Unite for the PSP was a game I could play for the rest of my life (mainly because it took so long to get started), and celebrated it as the sort of game I could return to time and time again as I grew tired of other games. Five months later, that prediction still holds.
"Monster Hunter Freedom Unite" has outlasted "Soul Calibur," "Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars" and countless other titles for time spent in my PSP, and my appreciation for the game has only increased over that time. While I'm not going to argue that it was the best game of the year — other titles have a far greater claim to that throne — as far as my tastes go, it's one of the most consistently fun, addictive and impressive games I played all year. Sure, it has its flaws (chief among them, the camera issues), but it's hard to argue with the fact that many of the games I've played this year spent just as much time in my PSP, Wii or Playstation 3 as either the review or first trip through the main narrative required. "Monster Hunter," however, has endured.
The game's ever-changing quests, seemingly infinite variations of equipment and wide variety of weapons (and techniques for using them), have kept me coming back to "Monster Hunter" for nearly half a year now, and now that there are more players available to participate with in multiplayer quests, it makes an even more convincing argument for time in my PSP. Heck, it's starting to feel like other games are just the things I do when I'm not hunting monsters.