Donkey Kong Country Returns

Donkey Kong Country Returns — It’s not often that a non-RPG will top my Game of the Year list… but Donkey Kong Country Returns, developed by the out-of-left-field Retro Studios (developers of the Metroid Prime series), is an easy pick for me in an RPG-light year.

From the charming art direction (Those silhouette levels? Gorgeous) to the tight, responsive controls and top-notch level design, Donkey Kong Country Returns hit all the same buttons as the original SNES entries in the series and blew other recent platformers (like New! Super Mario Bros. Wii and Kirby’s Epic Yarn) right out of the water. Another classic in the long-running Nintendo franchise.

Honourable Mentions


Limbo — A stylish puzzle/platformer unlike anything I’ve played before. A testament to small development teams with big vision.

Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2 — Improved over the first game in some ways (atmosphere, graphics, cast), downgraded in others (exploration, RPG-elements, story). A good-but-flawed sequel to one of my favourite games of this console generation.

Dragon Quest IX

Dragon Quest IX — I had huge hopes for this game (being an enormous fan of the earlier games), but was left both satisfied and disappointed by the ninth entry in the long-running series. The gameplay was addictive, but the story just didn’t grasp me in the way that Dragon Quest V did.

Civilization V

Civilization V — What is there to say? As a casual fan of the series, I love the streamlining of the game systems and the new combat mechanics. Just as addicting as the previous Civilization games, with an added layer of pretty graphics on top.

Biggest Disappointment

Final Fantasy XIII

Final Fantasy XIII — It’s hard not to put Fable III in this spot… but at least I managed to finish that one. Unlike Donkey Kong Country Returns, Final Fantasy XIII was missing absolutely everything that make the early entries in the series so important to me as a gamer. It’s incredibly linear, the characters are under-developed, the scenario is contrived and poorly directed, and the writing… oh god, the writing.

  • Scott December 29, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Indeed. Agreed on the best, DKCR is so amazing. My gf is playing it as we speak actually. Great game!

    FF13 was SUCH a letdown….I was annoyed that I would get to play for like 5 minutes and then had to watch a 15 minute cutscene…then play for 5 then 20 minute cutscene….god it was just bad….and I used to LOVE the series…FFX is one of my all time faves ever!

  • Liz December 29, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Glad to see Civ V up on your list. I’m a longtime Civ fanatic and despite the Mac performance issues, I have to say I’m loving the improvements to the game.

    I have yet to play DKCR but it’s on my list. I played the heck out of the original SNES game back in the day, so I’m looking forward to the new game!

  • TankSpill December 29, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    Unfortunately, the Final Fantasy games have been that way for a long time now. IX was okay, but other than that, they’ve been a let down since VII. VI and IV still rule supremely. I have little hope for good new FF games, but Square’s new game, The Last Story, is looking to be very promising.

  • Peta (The Bookling) December 30, 2010 at 1:28 am

    You’re really nailed it on FF13. I got it for Christmas and was bored, bored, bored after a couple of hours when I realised that I was going to do nothing else in the game but walk a bit, hit X a few times, watch a film and then repeat. Such a shame.

  • Mark Chitty December 30, 2010 at 2:23 am

    I’ve not played any of your top games of the year, but I did play FFXIII and completely agree that it was such a letdown. The games I’ve played have been older releases (seeing as I only got an Xbox at the end of 2009), but of those I’ve played I’ve loved Borderlands and Left 4 Dead 2 :)

  • Sev December 30, 2010 at 3:40 am

    ME2 was great until the Reaper fight, which ruined the overall experience a bit. One thing you didn’t mention though, were the DLCs. Overlord was good, but Lair of the Shadow Broker was truly fantastic. A first in DLC history.
    Other than that, 2010 was a great year for games. Heavy Rain, Bayonetta, God of War 3, PixelJunk Shooters, Red Dead Redemption, FIFA11, Vanquish, Castlevania and SSF4 on PS3, with Starcraft2, Call of Pripyat, Metro 2033, Just Cause2, New Vegas on PC. And then we have Minecraft, far and away GOTY for me, and other great indie games like Emberwind, Super Meat Boy, Amnesia, VVVVVV, Dwarf Fortress, Warband, The Ball, Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom, Shoot First, Hydorah, Super Crate Box, …. I may play too many games. Don’t know if it’s a good thing that 2011 looks like it’s going to be even better. (Last Guardian, Ico+SotC HD, MGS Rising, Uncharted3, Witcher2,…)

  • logankstewart December 30, 2010 at 6:23 am

    DKC looks awesome. Hopefully I’ll get to play it some time.

    I’m right there with you on FF13. I made about 10-12 hours into it, popped it out to play something else, and never put it back in. Such a waste of money… Beautiful game, but a terrible experience.

  • Alex December 30, 2010 at 10:53 am

    I reaaaaaally wanna play Limbo, looks cool. Might download the demo.

    Seems Final Fantasy hasn’t been good for a while, more’s the pity. Used to love the old SNES & PSX Square RPGs, but the last FF I played was on the PS2 and really wasn’t much cop at all.

    Seems there’s a trend these days, harking back to the “interactive movies” of the 90s, where games are becoming quite on-the-rails again, all set-pieces and semi-playable cutscenes. I’ve just completed Black Ops which was great fun but very much like that. Think it definitely relates to an impetus to be somehow cinematic…

    Think New Vegas might be my disappointment of the year: although by no means a bad game, it’s not a patch on Fallout 3, although it does sometimes come across as just an expansion.

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  • brandon S. December 31, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Wow. To me, FFXIII was OKAY. Not great, just okay. although I would say that the BIG letdowns for me this year were ENSLAVED (FUCK ninja theory!) and suprisingly civillitation V (just seemed like your typical tactics game given a new spit shine in terms of graphics).

    And while you might disagree with me, the fable series might just be the closest thing we may ever get to a FIRST LAW-ish type of rpg.

  • Carl V. January 3, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    I really enjoyed Mass Effect 2, liked it better than the first actually, but not by much. Anxiously awaiting the third game. Fallout: New Vegas was great as well.

    I’m with you regarding FF. I tried playing a used copy I bought for a friend’s daughter (had it on her wish list) and while it was beautiful to look at it felt so repetitive and dull only a short way into it that I promptly deleted the file from my XBox to use the space for something else.

    I meant to play Limbo when it first came out and didn’t get around to it, but it is on my list. The demo was great.

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