Bayonetta …For 2010
Played on: Xbox 360
Like many people, I’m sure, I had no idea what to make of Bayonetta the first time I saw it advertised. The premise of an ancient witch (with guns attached to her legs) pirouetting through the air, blasting angels to death, and crushing them with dominatrix toys from hell seemed so odd at first.
Nevertheless, Bayonetta ended up being wicked fun. Whilst the game’s sexual theming does age the production somewhat (Platinum Games toned this down for the sequel), the furious action is backed by a wonderful soundtrack and wacky vignettes that reveal the developers’ fondness for Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden.
It doesn’t always work — the consumable power-ups and hidden challenges that upset the game’s scoring system are a sore point — and yet, with so many memorable moments and awesome boss battles, Bayonetta remains one of Platinum’s true classics.
I completed the game so thoroughly on my Xbox 360 save file, I’ve felt little reason to replay it. Although, since there’s an upgraded PC port now available, the time to revisit this piece of (pure) Platinum could be fast approaching.
Streets of Rage Remake …For 2011
Played on: PC
I admit, calling myself a Dark Souls super fan and then not listing it here feels very weird! Technically though, I first played Dark Souls in February 2012 (thus disqualifying it from the 2011 slot). Even then, I still think Streets of Rage Remake would be good enough to steal it anyway.
This is the only non-commercial video game to appear on my list. It’s 100% unofficial and bursting with passion; a fan-made production free from publisher meddling, with every delightful nuance of Sega’s original Streets of Rage trilogy considered and improved upon in a compilation for the ages.
Worthy of praise is the original stuff it adds in. The rebuilt 2D fighting engine is enhanced with all sorts of new particle effects, animations and sprite work; effort that brings brand new playable characters and a shop menu unlocking cheats and other goodies.
Streets of Rage Remake has been ported numerous times (I have it installed on my original Xbox), and it was recently updated to include widescreen support, new music, enhanced AI, and even an achievement system.
If you only have room for one scrolling fighting game in your life, forget Streets of Rage 4 and stick with the real deal right here.
Pokémon Black and White Version 2 …For 2012
Played on: Nintendo DS
“Version 2” is the peak of the Pokémon franchise for me: a sequel I didn’t know the Nintendo DS (which was seven years old at the time) had left in it. Every generation of Pokémon had seen re-releases before, but never quite on the scale of Pokémon Black and White.
The Version 2 edition has an entirely new story following on from the previous game, with fantastic new features and oodles of end game content to keep fans busy for a very long time. I had my ideal team planned and mapped out months in advance and Version 2 supported this strategy so well that by the time I finally wrapped up all the content the cartridge had to offer, my team of monsters were all at the maximum level of 100, or close to it. A very satisfying end indeed.
I was enormously hyped for this release and it didn’t disappoint in the slightest. Console gaming had taken a bit of a downswing for me the year prior, so the quality of Version 2 made it an easy contender for 2012’s best.
BioShock Infinite …For 2013
Played on: Xbox 360
Although Dark Souls was a revelation that would change my tastes in video gaming for years to come, it was not a change that happened immediately. As good as it was, I still found the original Dark Souls to be a frustrating experience in some ways, and it took some time before FromSoftware’s series would obtain the unequalled status it now holds in my heart.
The truth is, Dark Souls was a bright spot in a miserable period for me, as far as video games were concerned. Mass Effect 3 was certainly not a bad game overall, but its terrible final act had soured a good story. Duke Nukem Forever and Hitman: Absolution were both huge misfires, and Resident Evil 6 was so incredibly wretched, I haven’t purchased a new release by Capcom since.
I became a lot tighter in 2013 and was buying fewer new releases. I only played BioShock Infinite because a friend lent me his copy. To that end, the game gets the spot here mainly because it’s one of the few eligible options I have for 2013 in the first place.
I shouldn’t downplay BioShock Infinite too much because I did mostly enjoy my time with it. The pre-release gameplay trailers had impressed me no end, though it’s fair to say now the final product didn’t live up to what was promised in those early demonstrations.
The game is set in a steampunk world above the clouds where our protagonist called Booker rescues a mysterious girl amid a civil war threatening the fabric of time and space. The plot touches on mature themes like racism and abuse, and all sorts of time travel trickery that makes following the plot challenging when you’re in the middle of yet another frantic gun fight.
The story of BioShock Infinite is deep and thoughtful enough to prompt discussions on multiple sides with some players praising its creativity and others decrying the inconsistencies in its time-altering premise. For my money, whilst I couldn’t grasp the whole story without further study after the fact, the game’s commitment to drama was original enough to hold my attention even when the routine FPS action couldn’t. It’s a game that certainly sticks in my memory, even if it does so in a less conventional way.