Mega Man 9 (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii)
In an environment where video games are touted as the most cutting edge or offering all new gameplay, Capcom's Mega Man 9 trended the other direction and opted to go 8-bit old-school. As a downloadable game for each of the major consoles, MM9 became a huge hit and reminded us that simpler games with retro graphics are just as fun (and often more so) than the big budget titles pumped out week after week.
Personal Highlight: The difficulty. While there is an elite fraternity of Mega Man diehards that were able to tear through the game on the most difficult game modes, completing a single stage was cause for celebration for me. I question whether it was really that much more difficult than the Mega Man games of the late 80s, or if becoming an adult really has made me a shell of my former gamer self.
Other Notable Releases in 2008: LittleBigPlanet (PS3), CCC's game of the year, pushed creativity to the limits and showed us that platforming as we know it is still alive and well. Burnout Paradise (PS3, Xbox 360) revamped the long-lived racing franchise. Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii) brings Solid Snake and his cardboard box to the franchise. Fable II (Xbox 360) promises grandiose changes to the RPG genre from a pet dog to a living world. Gears of War 2 (Xbox 360) unleashes Horde mode upon unsuspecting gamers.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
Following in the wake of the original Modern Warfare, the sequel hit "ABSURD" on the gaming Richter scale. Perhaps the best example yet of the magnitude of video games, over 4.7 million games were sold in the first 24 hours of release, surpassing Grand Theft Auto IV, and bringing in more single-day revenue than any other form of entertainment, ever, including the movie and music industries. It wasn't without it's controversy, though, with specific plot points coming under fire from watchdog groups.
Personal Highlight: Unlike everyone else on the planet, I actually haven't had a chance to play Modern Warfare 2 yet, other than a quick hour or so. I shudder to think how badly I'll be defeated in online play. Maybe I'll stick to something more my speed to save myself the embarrassment. Who's up for some Duke Nukem 3D?
Dragon Age: Origins (PC, Xbox 360)
Dragon Age promised to be a different kind of RPG. Decisions without clear good/evil options and adult-oriented content without gratuity for the sake of shock value were what was served up in another genre-defining game. Themes of religion, slavery, discrimination, sexual abuse, and self-sacrifice were explored within the confines of a fantasy world with elves and dwarves. There's a reason BioWare is considered the king of RPGs (at least Western RPGs) and Dragon Age: Origins once again proves why.
Personal Highlight: With the number of hours I've poured into this game so far, it's hard to pick one thing. Without spoiling anything, easily the biggest and most memorable decision came near the end of the game with Morrigan and a proposal she put forth. The consequences and benefits were so great that I sat for over ten minutes discussing and debating with myself what to do. Even after making my decision I didn't feel good about it; when a game can do that it's crossed a very special threshold into rarified air.