Saturday, December 12, 2009

My Favorite Video Games of the Noughties

Man, my thumb aches! I spent the morning and much of last night playing Super Mario Wii with my wife and I've contracted what used to be called Nintendo thumb back in the day. So at the risk of alienating my SIX FOLLOWERS (!) (BTW, thanks, all) I'm going to forgo my list of 8 TV hucksters you should feel comfortable sending your old gold to, and bring you this instead.

(Why Eight? That's how many fingers I've got left when I've got both thumbs up.)

8. New Super Mario Bros. Wii- If the Jones' hadn't loaned this to us, I'd have led with Peasant's Quest, which at least deserves a mention because Trogdor and all the doomed fools who dare oppose him make for a really fine PC adventure parody and I've missed those since I last played Space Quest. Anyway, Super Mario Wii, despite the crippling, debilitating thumb pain, is a sheer delight. Newcomer, yes, but I'm confident it will provide us with many hours of fun at varying degrees of competency. Propeller hats, penguin suits, awesome music and graphics, it's like every previous Mario game at once. But I haven't seen any veggies to pluck up and throw. I'll settle for barrels and my team-mate. Sorry, Mario!

7. Spider-Man 2- The Playstation 2 was my go-to platform this decade. I just don't play as much as I used to, so this list was one of the easiest to make: I probably only tried 20 new games in the last 10 years. But I'm not going to leave off the list any game where the training level has Bruce Campbell hurling abuse at you while you plummet to your imminent death learning to sling a web, any size. I've never completed it, which in fairness is true of every game on this list except number one.

6. Mario Kart Wii- It's also a newbie, but I had a hoot and a half trying it out with our pals the Jones'. I spent most of our first session careening into bottomless pits, but I found steering with the nunchuck joystick instead of the wand itself the second time out improved my not-crashing record amazingly. In fact, I think REAL cars, and indeed starships, should be piloted with joysticks. Who's with me?

5. Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga- I am a great fan of the LEGO games, never thought I would be but there's something deeply satisfying about the shapes I imprinted on as a child, the detailed environments, the puzzles to solve, and the unkillable nature of avatars made out of plastic bricks.

4. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City- A fair few of my traditional New Years Eve parties with Bookmonkey and his family have included this amoral, ANTI-moral, so-sick-it's-well-again kill-fest. I can't tell you how much fun I've had controlling a Hawaiian shirt-wearing, 80's rock-listening, hooker-beating, maniacally vehicular manslaughtering ne'er-do-well through virtual Florida streets. I can't tell you because I'm of the opinion that a year's worth of petty frustrations can be poured into this sort of vicious artificial mayhem and that it prevents me ever actually taking to the streets on a rampage. Of course, there is the school of thought that such games warp young minds and CAUSE real-world violence. Screw you, school of thought!

3. Star Wars: Battlefront 2- Playstation brought me and my then-fiance closer as we exploded one another on the ice plains of Hoth. I have spent more happy hours with this game, shooting droids, respawning, snatching the chance to play as Vader racing at inhuman speeds, saber drawn, cape billowing out behind me, riding tauntauns, crushing my foes with my AT-AT. Ah, good times. Yes, the first 'Battlefront' was a delight. Yes, 'Force Unleashed' would probably rule if I could figure out how to run the insanely complicated force powers. But SWBF2 will always have a special place in my hard, cloned heart.

2. Rock Band Wii- I think I get more fun out of games I play with groups, at least I've started to feel that way lately. Great times with this one, thanks to the people I've played with as much as the music and the challenge. Guitar Hero may have been eclipsed by Rock Band, sadly, but it deserves to be mentioned because I've also had some amazing moments of total solo bliss with my '80's tuneage, clicking and clacking out the chords to Asia's 'Heat of the Moment'. You probably had to be there. My embarrassed wife was.

1. Katamari Damacy- It's got just about everything I could ask for. The chaos and mayhem of Grand Theft Auto (but less bloody), the color and spectacle and sound of the Mario games, and the fine times of camaraderie provided by all of the above. I have enjoyed the experience, and indeed, the tidy philosophy of this bizarre game: where all problems can be solved by rolling things into an ever-expanding, squirming ball of objects and creatures and hurling them into the sun. Get into the Clump Spirit with the Prince of All Cosmos!

We could all take a lesson from these fine video games. And here's to the wonders of the next decade: I'm looking forward to Star Trek Online, myself. I've never really gotten involved in a MMORPG- but it's probably less awful and more addictive than it sounds.

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