The end of the year puts everybody in the mood to look back. Personally, when I look back, I like to look way back. For example, ten years back. So while everybody else is talking about the best games of 2018, I made a video counting down my ten favorite games of 2008.
I always feel a little uncomfortable ranking my favorite media of any given year. As a professional stuff-liker, I feel pressure to predict which works will survive the test of time, so the notion that I might commit an Academy-Awards-sized opinion blunder terrifies me. I mean, Crash won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2006. Does anyone in 2018 remember or like that movie? Forrest Gump beat Pulp Fiction in 1994. Today, could you imagine someone saying Forrest Gump was “more influential” than Pulp Fiction?
I don’t know what the exact time is after which it becomes legal to declare a work a “classic,” though I’ve noticed people (and the metric system!) seem to love the number ten. So I went with ten. I looked back ten years and plucked out ten games that are still classics today.
Ten years ago, at the beginning of 2008, the iPhone had been around just six months. The PlayStation 3 had been out a little over a year. I was living halfway around the world from where I live today. I was working as a game designer at a triple-A game studio. I might as well have been a completely different person—a completely different person who played just about as many video games as I do now.
The first major video game I played in 2008 was Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Nintendo Wii, which came out in January. Ten years later, in 2018, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate came out for the Nintendo Switch.
It’s almost as though these two years are connected.
It’s almost as though video games—video games never changes.
Fallout 3 came out in 2008. Fallout 76 shocked video game-likers’ imaginations when it was announced in 2018, only to disappoint many of them when its makers revealed it would be an online game and not a traditional Fallout role-playing adventure. It’s almost as though Fallout fans, too, were thinking back with rose-tinted imaginations toward the year 2008.
Far Cry 2 came out in 2008. That’s a game in which the main character has malaria. Grand Theft Auto IV came out in 2008. The first thing I noticed when I played Grand Theft Auto IV in 2008 was that the cars and the main character were much heavier and slower than they were in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. In 2018, we have Red Dead Redemption 2, the slowest, heaviest open-world game yet, full of details that make Far Cry 2's gun jamming and malaria pills mechanics look like something out of a PlayStation 2 game.
Left 4 Dead came out in 2008. Warhammer: Vermintide II came out in 2018.
Braid came out in 2008. Braid made millions of dollars. Braid guaranteed that independent video games would never go away. Braid guaranteed that the puzzle platformers, puzzle games, and platformers would never go away. Ten years later, we have a perfect independent narrative puzzle game (Return of the Obra Dinn) and we also have a perfect independent platform game (Celeste).
Lost Odyssey came out in 2008. Lost Odyssey showed us what happens when the creator of a legendary game series (Final Fantasy’s Hironobu Sakaguchi) teams up with a brilliant manga artist (Vagabond and Slam Dunk’s Takehiko Inoue) and an acclaimed literary fiction author (Kiyoshi Shigematsu) to craft a wildly dense, mature role-playing game for adults.
Nothing in 2018 is as good as Lost Odyssey.
QWOP came out in 2008. Would YouTubers have ever even realized they could get views for yelling at a frustrating video game? Without QWOP, how would developers have learned to make failure look funny?
Space Invaders Extreme came out in 2008. It was 2008's Tetris Effect, only with Space Invaders.
Bangai-O Spirits came out in 2008. I put it at the very top of my list in this video for deeply personal reasons. Please watch this video if you would like to know these reasons.
In this text, I’ve mentioned all of the games that appear in my video, except two (hint: they both have the word “Gear” in the title), though I haven’t told you how I’ve ranked them. You’ll have to watch the video for that. Though if you don’t want to do that, you should be able to figure it out based on clues I’ve embedded in this prose.
For example, I put Bangai-O Spirits at number one and Lost Odyssey at number two.
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With that, goodbye from me for 2018! I’ll see you all in 2019!