Best Games of 2008: The Runner-Ups

So many games came out in 2008 that it’s just stupid. There’s no excuse for publishers to be putting out so many titles, and it’s frankly kind of disgusting that so many of them were good. How is anyone supposed to remember what they played in January, or even July, when fun entertainment is raining down from above like so many DK-plastered barrels.

I’m only being a little facetious here, because the typical fall/winter deluge of software is kind of unfair to both the consumer and the developer(s) that worked hard on titles that many people, including myself, don’t have the time or the money to play. It’s not like it’s a sin to hold off until the next year to tackle a game you missed, but the industry is so dependent on immediate sales that a game with longer shelf life can appear to be an off-the-truck failure if you don’t “run out and get dat.”

Nevertheless, I’m pretty confident that I played a wide breadth of titles, some for work and some purely because they were on my list of musts. I’ll get into my Top 10 soon, but for now let’s take a quick look at the five runner-ups that were a butt hair away from higher honors.

Burnout Paradise
Paradise is without a doubt the most fun you’ll have inside a virtual car this year, or maybe even until the next Burnout game comes out. Though racing to the GPS-aided destinations can take some getting used to, there isn’t anything out there that matches the speed and intensity of a well-fought battle on these gorgeous streets. The multiplayer is already incredibly influential, as well, and there’s a wealth of downloadable content to dig into.

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia
While I wasn’t one of the many people that were apparently dissatisfied with the previous portable entry, Portrait of Ruin, I’ll concede that this is the superior game. The map-based progression offers a wider variety of locales than normal and the bosses are absolutely damnable. Koji Igarashi may be mad for getting anywhere near Judgment on Wii, but his insanity is welcome here.

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4
I’m not long for this “role-playing” world. As each year passes, they seem more and more absurd to me, and their current-gen incarnations (see The Last Remnant for a particularly nasty example) are even more archaic than their forefathers. The Persona series continues to impress with the way it strays from what one expects of the genre, though, and Persona 4 improves on its predecessor in some subtle yet important ways.

Bionic Commando Rearmed
Bionic Commando—the NES game not the arcade original—is still one of the most original platformers of all time. You don’t see anyone mimicking its jump-free gimmick because Capcom nailed it on their first go, and Stockholm-based developer GRIN nailed this polished remake, as well. The controls are pitch perfect, and they have to be, because Rearmed ain’t nothin’ like a stroll through the Mushroom Kingdom. It’s a real platformer with a lot of humor and genuine reverence for the series’ roots. It’s also absurdly cheap, so buy it.

Gears of War 2
I know, right? This should probably be in my Top 10, and it was pretty darn close to getting the gold, but a couple of key titles outed this follow-up to one of the most astoundingly sexy looking gray games ever. It doesn’t play too bad, either, with some really memorable levels like a gore-soaked nod to Contra and a last hurrah that almost makes up for some of the earlier vehicle stage missteps. Protip: play it with a friend, then play it with nine more in the brutally addicting competitive modes.

Hopefully none of this shocked your system too heavily. Before we get to the first part of the Top 10, though, I think I’ll take some time to look back on some of the dreck. Stay tuned!

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