These are the shining examples of gameplay greatness this year, as decided by Snackbar Games staff. In this final installment, we make our overall selection.
Andrew Passafiume: It provides one of the most satisfying gameplay experiences I’ve seen in an RPG, and does shooting better than a lot of shooters. Complete with a lengthy story and plenty of memorable side quests, ME2 is an absolute triumph from start to finish.
Graham Russell: The second game in a trilogy with a focus on story simply shouldn’t be this good. The game threw a lot of things over the side to get going, but what’s left is still a tightly-packed, engrossing world shaped by your decisions and played in whatever style you like. I keep trying to play it again, but that first playthrough just felt like “my” Shepard, and everything else feels wrong. It takes a powerful story to make me care that much.
Chris Ingersoll: Stapling giant mecha turn-based combat onto a dating sim shouldn’t work, but it does. There are times when the BGM steps over the voice acting in awkward ways (the levels of neither are adjustable other than “voice off”), but everything else about the first Sakura Wars title to arrive in the western world is beyond solid. I don’t think I’ve stopped listening to the end credits theme (“Kiss Me Sweet”) since I first heard it.
Andrew Passafiume: You have memorable characters, a pretty enjoyable plot, and one of the most enjoyable Strategy RPG battle systems around. This is easily one of the best localized imports you’ll find on any system.
Eric Schabel: Galaxy 2 is perhaps a perfect game; the developers accomplish everything they set out to do with an impeccable level of polish. The controls are perfect, the graphics are stellar, and the gameplay is challenging but always fun. If this game wasn’t a sequel, I probably would have given it the top spot. Galaxy 2 is just as good as its predecessor, perhaps better (though I enjoyed the original’s soundtrack more, they both feature amazing music). Although it is not a focus of the game, the two-player cooperative feature is also a very welcome addition. There isn’t much else to say here—“perfect game” is as glowing as it can get, right?
Justin Last: Super Mario Galaxy was wonderful, if a little slow to get going. Also, the space station was boring to move around in. SMG2 fixes both of those gripes by starting out with challenging stages, replacing the space station with a world map a-la-Super Mario Bros. 3, and bringing Yoshi back to core Mario games.
Donkey Kong Country Returns
Justin Last: DKC is my favorite SNES game, hands down, and my wife and I adore cooperative games. DKCR is just the right mix of nostalgia, coop, and tight platforming to keep the Wii powered-up and the two of us glued to the TV screen. The Wii excels at local coop, and DKCR is the best of the bunch.
Red Dead Redemption
Eric Schabel: I never expected to fall in love with a Western-themed game…I’ve never held any interest in the genre, and I hardly knew anything about Red Dead Redemption before I started to play. All I can say is, I was floored. Redemption game is incredible and epic; it’s incredibly epic. The game fires on all cylinders—it features a top notch presentation and voice work, and it’s just plain fun. Hunting the numerous creatures, shooting baddies and just riding your trusty steed across the gorgeous environment are just some of the activities that shine; Redemption delivers on all fronts. The game may not be perfect, but as one of the most expensive games ever developed, it’s nice to know the money did not go to waste.
Final Fantasy XIII
Shawn Vermette: Sure, many people disliked the linearity and the characters. However, I have no problem with linearity if it fits the story, which is definitely did, and the only character that bothered me was Vanille. This was, to its core, a Final Fantasy game and because of that, it easily wins PS3 game of the year for me.
What do you think of our picks? Agree? Disagree? Discuss in the comments!