SB Staff Picks ’10: Graham Russell

December 23, 2010

One of Snackbar Games’ traditions is to have staffers pick their top ten games of the year. We’re so all over the map in our tastes that our lists are never similar. Today, managing editor Graham Russell shares his picks. He’s the guy you can blame for groan-worthy puns in intros like this one.

Wow, this year has been an amazing one. I’m not sure which half of the year was better, which I certainly could never have said before, and we had an even mix of iterative successes and new ideas. Anyway, onto my list:

10. Chime (XBLA/PC): I think I’ve gushed about this game a few times now. It has that kind of gameplay that can really get you in the zone and, at least for a while, it did it for charity. The Steam release added one more song, which is a pretty big deal with such a short list. I’m hoping for another title in this vein, if not a legitimate sequel.

9. Protect Me Knight (XBLIG): The Indie Games service is home to some very strange things, but one big advantage is that it has no region restrictions. So it is that gamers outside of Japan get to experience Ancient’s Protect Me Knight (Mamotte Knight), a four-player co-op action game with a retro style and entirely amusing Engrish.  It only takes an hour or so to play through once, but at four bucks, you can’t really complain.

8. Heavy Rain (PS3): Story is a key component in games, but until Heavy Rain, I didn’t think it could carry one all by itself. I’d love to experience more types of stories like this, but Quantic Dream isn’t one to do that sort of thing.

7. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii): Nintendo doesn’t take curtain calls. Yet we have a direct Mario sequel, something that hasn’t happened since Lost Levels on the NES. This time, they focused on tightening the gameplay and just sprinkled some mechanics here and there. Does it feel a little like leftovers? Yeah, it does, but like really good leftovers.

6. Blur (360/PS3): What happened, guys? Blur came out, it was a heck of a lot of fun, and apparently barely anyone bought it. Sure, the single-player was disappointing and tedious, but if you want that, there are other high-profile racers this year. Blur got multiplayer right, and that’s all I needed.

5.  Civilization V (PC/Mac): The best chance for a game’s success? Focus, focus, focus. Get down to one core thing and make sure that’s great. Well, then there’s Civilization, a game whose sheer scale is only matched by how well it’s executed.

4. NBA Jam (Wii/PS3/360): I’m pretty sure I’m on record about Jam and my love for it. The additions in the new game aren’t exactly wonderful, but the core game is there, and the updated rosters and graphics make it just a little more accessible.

3. Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love (Wii/PS2): We’ll probably never get another Sakura Wars in the West. That said, we should embrace the one we got, and it was a charming game that just happened to have a fun combat system too. It’s a JRPG without being a grind-fest, and… what the heck, there’s something to be said for absurdity.

2. Valkyria Chronicles II (PSP): Yes, I’d rather have it on PS3. But it handled the limitations well, and I’ll take any kind of Valkyria Chronicles made available to me. The sequel had more progression and customization, and just generally more to do.

1. Mass Effect 2 (360/PC): You wouldn’t expect the second game in a story-heavy trilogy to be this good. I could gush about this, but we really already have, so I’ll say this: Mass Effect 3 will be the most amazing thing I’ve ever experienced, or it will be a huge disappointment.