No need for a long-winded preamble this time. Here are numbers 10-6:
10) Dead Space
EA has taken a bold step with this one and, regardless of any lacking sales, it’s one of the best action/horror games ever made. The atmosphere is disgustingly thick, and even the cheap closet scares are pretty thrilling. If more games don’t start using a HUD similar to the one in Dead Space, I’ll be plenty sore. It will also be a while before I shake some of the game’s more sublime moments, like stepping out of the ship’s confines and right into the unnerving silence of space. Maybe we should all go buy some downloadable suits so they’ll hurry up and give us more.
9) Ninja Gaiden II
Yeah yeah, the camera sucks and the game can be cheap as hell sometimes. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s the best straight-up action game that came out all year. Capcom may as well give up on Dante unless they can match the speed and skill with which Ryu Hayabusa absolutely pulverizes every living creature. The icing on the cake is a story worthy of the most primal action figure fiesta, complete with a four-armed werewolf king and a pair of double-Ds that gleefully send gaming back to the tomb raiding 90s.
8) Prince of Persia
Last year Altair satisfied my need to run and jump like a buffoon, but the Prince takes it a step further in this reboot that everyone should be required by law to play. Well, everyone that’s interested in platforming, at least, because that’s 90% of the game here, and don’t let the haters squawk for too long about the lack of a game over screen. Prince of Persia moves its genre forward rather than keeping it at a standstill, and it does so in both the method of storytelling and the gameplay itself, with combat that manages to be as cinematic as a cutscene without becoming the type of straight-up Quick Time Event gauntlet that made The Force Unleashed a backward-thinking chore to get through.
7) Mega Man 9
If Prince of Persia is the progression of the platformer, Mega Man 9 is a game that embraces its roots to the highest degree, dialing back the visuals to a time that must scare the living shit out of today’s children. Get this, though, the level design actually exceeds that of its predecessors, even classics like Mega Man 2 and 3. It’s the type of satisfying challenge that gets richer with the more time you commit to learning every button-crushing jump, and is actually accessible to anyone willing to sit down for just a few hours and get into the groove. The only thing breaking the illusion of this being some time-capsuled relic of the past is Capcom’s very modern insistence on nickel-and-diming everyone to death with DLC.
6) Soul Calibur IV
Who would have thought that this would end up being my most played game of 2008? I never even spoke word one of it on Robotronic Dynamite, and how could I? Its tendrils had my entire apartment ensnared for months, dropping a dark veil of curse-filled ranked matches over most nights of the week. My online reputation has suffered many a blow from these cheap thrills, my 360’s inbox is full of stuff like “ur a nub,” and I’m pretty sure my controllers sport physical damage in a few places. If it hadn’t worn so thin on me through sheer repetition at this point, it would probably be even higher on my list. As it stands, it’s the most fun and best looking 3D fighter your money can buy.