Friday, December 25, 2009

Games of the Decade: #45 - 41

#45: Wii Sports (2006)
Wii Sports is one of the most important games ever made, and if it's not higher on this list it's only because despite being important it's not actually that great a game. Bundled with the Nintendo Wii, it's the game that not only introduced the Wii to worldwide audiences (and began an unprecented sales tornado that catapulted Nintendo back to the top of the gaming industry), but it's the game that unlocked a whole new marketplace for Nintendo (and eventually other publishers) to exploit. Ads featuring celebrities such as Olivia Newton-John enjoying tennis in Wii Sports told the world that the Wii was a console not only for gamers, but also for mothers, fathers, families, entertainers, and everyone who doesn't consider themselves "in" on the complex world of videogames.

#44: Sam & Max Save The World (2006)
PC, XBox 360, Wii
One of the defining events of the 1990s in gaming was LucasArts killing the point-n-click adventure genre; one of the defining events of the 2000s was Telltale Games resurrecting it. Through the medium of monthly episodic content, Telltale delivered two "seasons" of excellent Sam & Max games, along with four episodes of Wallace and Gromit, five episodes of Strong Bad, and a final triumphant resurrection of the Monkey Island franchise through the five-part Tales of Monkey Island. Sam & Max Save The World (the first Sam & Max season) stands in for all those accomplishments although it's a thoroughly deserving candidate in and of itself - funny, clever, and fully comfortable with its unique episodic format from the moment it steps out of the gate.

#43: WipeOut Pure (2007)
PlayStation Portable

The whole WipeOut franchise is an exemplary achievement in gaming; WipeOut Pure just happens to be the one I enjoyed most. They're amazing high-speed futuristic racing games but if that was all they were they'd lag behind Criterion's Burnout franchise. What sets WipeOut apart is the mood. WipeOut channels state-of-the-art electronica and trance music and combines it with soothing colour palettes and smooth, eye-pleasing lines to create not so much a game as a mental zone, a meditative state which, above and beyond the finish line, is the real destination of every WipeOut race.

#42: Ico (2001)
PlayStation 2
Ico is a game about holding hands. That's all it's about. It's about journeying from point A, to point B, while holding hands. Point A and point B are both located with an immense, brooding castle that at times is starkly lit and at other times hides in billowing shadows. With no real exposition, with no dialogue to speak of, Ico manages to create a poignantly emotional gaming experience without peer and is a must-play for everyone who aspires to discuss games.

#41: Psychonauts (2005)
PlayStation 2

Psychonauts is a great game, combining witty dialogue, well-crafted humour, and the most original level concepts ever seen in a videogame. But its real significance is in what it's come to stand for. Psychonauts is the game that got nothing but glowing reviews in every publication that reviewed it, and flopped on store shelves. It was a massive financial disaster for publisher Majesco. It's the key argument in the ongoing discussion of the battle between quality gaming and commercial success and as such is one of the most important games of the decade.


Grant said...

Sorry, Wii Sports is absolute pants. A tech demo, no matter how many copies are given away with the console, does not a game make.

Greg Tannahill said...

Failing to please the 10% of the market who identify as gamers is no sin; 90% of conversations I have with non-gamers are about Wii Sports and the consensus is they love it. Brain Age isn't a game either and it did millions. They're not applications and they're not visual demos; ergo they're games.

Anonymous said...

Your experience with the wipeout franchise is completely different to mine. I too would rate it in the top games of decade but my reason would be the muti player aspect.

The game is total anarchy. An average round between 4 players lasts about 20 seconds of not stop vertigo and destruction. And the feature that lets dead players launch missiles at remaining players allows the instant gratification of blowing apart the player that just bumped you off the track.

Full marks from me as a party game.

Grant said...

Conversely, a mass audience finding something popular does not indicate quality - Transformers 2 was one of the most financially successful movies of the year, yet it doesn't make many Top 10 lists.

Greg Tannahill said...

The success of Transformers 2 would have been more notable if (as here) a majority of its sales were to people largely new to the medium.

Wii Sports is exceptional not only because of how many copies it sold but who it sold them to.