Rob Manuel, Brian Leahy, and Matt Keil's Five Recommended Games From 2009


Posted December 16, 2009 - By Andrew Pfister

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It turned out to be quite the interesting year, didn't it? Even though a batch of games got pushed back to next year, 2009 still had a pretty impressive roster of titles. The obvious ones we've already covered, but we wanted to break down our favorites from the year on a more personal level. All this week we'll be featuring G4tv.com and X-Play staffers' picks from 2009 -- whether they were the best games we've played, the most interesting, or the most under-the-radar, these are the ones that stuck with us the most.

Click here for our official Best of 2009 awards.

*   *   *

Rob Manuel – The Dali Gamer

Weird. Unique. Art. Just fun. Always looking for the next big indie title.

1. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Not only a great game, Uncharted 2 raised the bar for storytelling for the medium. The game treated action as a part of the overall story rather than a way to move from plot point to plot point. Naughty Dog seamlessly integrates cut-scenes within the action itself to raise the drama. Add to this one of the finest cast of characters assembled in a game, and what you get is a video game that plays more like a movie.

2. Borderlands


It’s not often that I care more about the guns I carry around than the characters. My level 37 Siren still packs a shotgun from ten levels ago that can put out more damage than anything else with a trigger. Borderlands came out of nowhere to appease the gnawing hunger left behind with the dearth of quality dungeon crawlers on the market. If nothing else, setting your enemies on fire and listening to them scream is a whole lot of fun. 

3. Torchlight


This may be the best twenty bucks you spend all year. Forget about the story. I’m talking about bottomless dungeons, interesting enemies, and more loot than you could ever hoard. Thankfully, you’ve brought a trusty companion with you to take all the worthless items and sell them in town. Brilliant! Some gamers may be holding their breath for the release of Diablo III. I am breathing easy while grinding my way through this great indie title.

4. Flower


Sometimes a game comes at just the right moment in your life. Flower is beautiful, serene, and a bit of sunshine in a gloomy world. I remember going through a rough spot in my life and turning on Flower for a little break in the day. You fly through luscious landscapes collecting petals and painting the world with life. While short, the game is beautiful in its simplicity and fun to play.

5. Shadow Complex

Shadow Complex

You had me at "Metroidvania." It would seem like an easy concept -- an expansive system of rooms and tunnels that constantly evolve as you gain new powers. Shadow Complex embraces the genre full force with enough creativity and charm that you never feel like they’re trying to rip off the classics. As soon as I saw the floating bodies in the flooded cafeteria, I knew that this was something special.

Brian Leahy

1. Street Fighter IV

Street Fighter IV

I spent more time playing Street Fighter IV this year than any other game, easily. The game has a perfect amount of nostalgia matched with a shiny, new feel and is responsible for revitalizing 2D fighting games outside of Japan. I even went to EVO 2009 and competed (I won one round)! Furthermore, I'm looking forward to Super Street Fighter IV in 2010.

2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

As a longtime multiplayer FPS fanatic, MW2 is a no-brainer for me. The addictive multiplayer from CoD4 has been super-charged with even more to unlock, killstreak customization, and new gametypes. I've been playing this online whenever I can and probably won't stop anytime soon.

3. DJ Hero

DJ Hero

I've been waiting for a US-made DJ game after importing and putting many hours into Beatmania IIDX. I recognize that most people's enjoyment of DJ Hero is going to be directly tied with how good they are at the game, but coming from IIDX, I was able to jump right in and scratch like a natural. Throw in the new mash-ups and this is a great game if you're into the genre.

4. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

What can I say about this game that hasn't already been said? Excellent from start to finish. Amazing writing, acting, and action all coming together in one of the most beautiful and varied games ever released. Get going, Naughty Dog...I'm already waiting for Uncharted 3.

5. Dragon Age: Origins

Dragon Age: Origins

BioWare's return to its roots is something I've been waiting for since Neverwinter Nights failed to grab me the same way Baldur's Gate II did. The game is just sprawling and BioWare has created its own world and ruleset for more games going forward. Just make sure you pick up the PC version for user-created content.


Matt Keil – Avalanche Surfer

Riding the entire holiday release wave to glory…or a rocky death.

In the interest of changing things up a bit, instead of my straight up “Top 5 of 2009,” I’m going to list games that I feel may get lost in the shuffle when it comes time for the industry’s “Best Of” roundups…

1. Assassin’s Creed II

Assassin's Creed II

Except for this one. I was a huge fan of the first game, and the sequel is an all-around improvement that realizes the ambitions of the concept far more effectively. Ezio is a much more engaging character than Altair, the Truth subplot was very appealing to this old X-Files fan, the combat offered far more variety, and there was never any lack of something to do. What could have been a fairly lazy sequel that just sat back and let consumer inertia do its work for it turned out to be an almost full reworking on every level. I’m on board for wherever Ubisoft takes this series next.

2. Street Fighter IV

Street Fighter IV

Not a minor title, but arguably still a niche one in the grand scheme of things. As an arcade rat from the olden days, so much so that my first job was actually working in one (shout out to the old Acardaday crowd in RWC…by the gods of thunder!), the resurgence of fighting games in the last year or so has been a beautiful thing. Street Fighter IV is better than I ever would have thought an installment made so long after the heyday of the series could be, no doubt in large part due to the efforts of designers and producers who grew up playing Street Fighter the same way I did. The most notable element of SFIV for me is the netcode, which makes online matches a viable method of competition after so many years of laggy unplayable messes. This is unquestionably my top multiplayer title of 2009.

3. God of War Collection

God of War Collection

I mention this not just because the God of War games are excellent and deserve the best presentation possible, but because I think this is a wonderful way to showcase last-gen games that perhaps outstripped the hardware they ran on at the time. As new installments of older series crop up this gen, upscaled collections like this one are invaluable for raising awareness and reminding old fans of why they’re excited for a new series entry to begin with. In case you haven’t figured it out by now, this is mostly me trying to convince Sony to do a Team Ico Collection to build hype for The Last Guardian.

4. 1 vs. 100

1 vs. 100

I didn’t give much thought to this game until I started seeing some of my regular online-play friends grouping up and playing it almost every night. Finally I joined up to try it out and was frankly blown away by the presentation and how well it works as an informal social gathering game. The fact that you can win prizes and gain a little notoriety (as chronic #1 ranker A Patch Of Blue has by now) is great, and the online interactive game show is a concept whose time has certainly come, but the social aspect is really the star here. Hanging out in an Xbox Live Party with people you rarely or perhaps never see in person is what puts this game on par with gathering the real-life gang for a poker night or D&D session.

5. Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection

Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection

After many failed attempts to collect SEGA’s former glory days in anthology form, SUGC is what finally succeeded at the task. Top-notch presentation, mostly accurate emulation, and a huge list of titles that covers almost all the best Genesis and 16-bit era arcade hits from the former hardware pusher. As retro releases become more and more prevalent, I hope those working on such things will look to titles like this one as a template for how to do it right. Perhaps the only real frustration is the lack of Revenge of Shinobi. Sonic gets how many collections inside five years, but I can’t get one comprehensive Shinobi Collection? C’mon, guys, my Game Gear broke years ago and I want to play the GG Shinobi again.

Rob Manuel, Brian Leahy, and Matt Keil's Five Recommended Games From 2009


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