The games I most enjoyed over the past decade...
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City - the series is getting a little repetitive, but I think for sheer hours of enjoyment, these games top the list. GTA4 is in most ways a better game, but Vice City was my first, plus it had helicopters, and captured that 80s "Miami Vice" feel in spades. Man, I love any game with a helicopter. Anyway, the way this series put fun missions over something very like a "living breathing world" that was fun just to tool around in, playing with cars, cycles, and guns... it's hardly topped in all of game-dom. (Also neat how your character is basically the same at the end of the game- it's the player that knows where all the guns and cool things are.)
- Rogue Squadron 2: Rogue Leader - I've always been a huge Star Wars fan boy, and honestly it's mostly because of the space ship stuff. This game that came out with the GameCube put you inside an X-wing... and that's all it had to do. The "Battle for Endor" level finale was the first time I saw anything of that scale, with just swarms of TIEs - the classic "There's too many of them!" line came home for the first time.
- Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction HULK SMASH!!! Captured the crazy kinetic energy of being a superpowered being like nothing I've seen.
- Earth Defense Force 2017 - best B-movie game ever, and probably the one I've beaten the most often, usually pairing up with JZ to take on the vast hoards of supersized ants, giant leaping spiders, and walkers straight out of War of the Worlds. I don't know what was more awesome - taking on this absolutely vast AT-AT behemoth (you come to about its little tow) or just destroying one of the more "normal" humanoid (but huge) walkers, only to see its brother trudging through the fiery smoke, guns blazing.
- Bangai-O - one of the last hurrahs for the Dreamcast, a game I wrote a full Walkthrough FAQ for, and the pinnacle of what can be done with many, many, many tiny sprites. Plus the whole "wait 'til you're on the verge of lazery death, THEN bust out the massive devastating-offense-is-the-best-defense superweapon" mechanic is superb.
- Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts - the most recent game on this list. The format is pretty typical, Mario-64 hub world challenges, but the ability to build your own car, copter, boat, plane, hovercraft, jet, bulldozer... and have the mechanics of what you put together really matter, in a cartoon-physics-y kind of way... honestly, it kind of blows LEGO out of the water.
- Spybotics: The Nightfall Incident - an online LEGO tie-in, actually, by the sadly shut-down Gamelab. Lego seems to be dropping the game, but it still lives on, like at that link. Another one I made a Walkthrough for - (Junkbot is another great gamelab/LLEGOteamup, that arguably as a lot more to do with actual building, but it didn't grab me quite as much as the SNAFU-meets-turn based strategy of this one)
- Fantastic Contraption - another Flash game, this one with a great clever building and physics element. Challenging puzzles, plus the way they made it community based, allowing people to see how others took on the challenges, was great.
- WarioWare: Twisted! - the original game introduced the world to microgames, the tiniest bits of gameplay pleasure imaginable, wrapped into continuous trail of challenging fun. Twisted kept up the tradition, with a unique gyro-sensor used in all kinds of imaginative ways - plus the toys and minigames they gave you to unlock were a serious inspiration for my Java Advent Calendar
- Jet Set Radio Future - some people still prefer the ground-breaking Dreamcast that basically showed the gaming world what Cel-shading could be. The xbox version raised the bar, making it more kinetic, and (IMO) wisely dumped the fiddly graffiti minigame. The soundtrack was also fantastic, probably more songs from here made it into my iPod than even DDR.
Two categories of honorable mentoins: also-rans, and multiplayer...
Multiplayer games provide me with many hours of bonding fun with my buds and family - Dr. Mario has risen to prominence, though it's pretty old at this point- but in terms of play this weekend, it plus "Puzzle League" were the go-to games.. Super Monkey Ball 2's Monkey Target is brilliant, the Dogfight is fantastic, Monkey Punch is just pure mayhem, and even the race was a good holdover 'til Mario Kart came out. (Mario Kart being another series not to be sneezed at.) Finally Super Smash Bros Melee took the brilliant middle-school "What if X fought Y" of the orignal and made it kinetic.
Mercenaries 2 may be the only game to really let me enjoy driving a tank around this generation - lots of little tactical "figure out how to get through this" options with lots of weapons, vehicles, and huge explosions.
Crimson Skies was a good prelude to Rogue Squadron, flying an old combat fighter around in an stylish alternate history, where the time between the World Wars was quite different... Super Mario Galaxies was just plain cool
Gears of War and Halo both get props for their Co-op modes, one of my favorite forms of gaming.
Finally, how can I forget my own labor of love , JoustPong for the Atari 2600???
All joking - and fears that it cost me my marriage (though that might be mixing cause and effect) aside - this is a great little head-to-head game, as we demonstrated at the New England Classic Gamers tourney we had.
...of the moment
Off to see Monster Trucks in New Hampshire... for real.
Man, monster trucks are LOUD. I like when they use 'em like bulldozers to adjust the rows of car before they roll over them.