The Top 10 Video Games of 2009

Here’s Time Magazine’s look at the Top 10 video games of 2010, plus links to where you can snag these titles or the toys based on the hits!

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Some mornings you wake up in bed. Some mornings you wake up trapped in a wrecked train car that’s hanging off a cliff. That’s life when you’re Nathan Drake, artifact hunter. The charming, roguish Drake is after the secret of Marco Polo’s lost fleet, and it’s going to take a lot of fisticuffs and gunplay and problem-solving to find it. The hunt takes you through an unbelievable sequence of epic settings, one after another, each one topping the one before it: jungle ruins, mountaintops, Tibetan cities. As if that weren’t enough, the writing and voice acting are way above par for a video game. Seriously. Anybody who was disappointed by the last Indiana Jones movie — meaning everybody — should try Uncharted 2 instead.

Assassin’s Creed II for XBox
Assassin’s Creed II for PS3

Most sequels are creative flops, just cheap makeovers of the originals. Not Assassin’s Creed 2, a follow-up to the 2007 smash hit. This is a smarter, more polished version, with a visually stunning backdrop — Renaissance Italy. While the game looks beautiful, game play has been refined and tweaked for the ultimate open-world RPG experience. There’s even more assassinating, jumping from rooftop to rooftop and history lessons, with an emphasis on Renaissance art. Leonardo would be proud — except for those cheesy Italian voice-overs.

Halo 3: ODST
Just when it was starting to look like the Halo franchise was played out, Bungie took it for a sharp turn, down an alleyway and directly into the shadows. You no longer play the superpowered Master Chief; instead, you play, serially, the members of a squad of comparatively vulnerable Orbital Drop Shock Troopers. The squad is lost and scattered through the ruins of New Mombasa, on a secret mission the point of which its members are only gradually figuring out. It’s a dark, slow, jazzy, hard-boiled take on the Halo world — think Master Chief as Philip Marlowe.

Maybe the developers of Scribblenauts were bored with existing puzzle games, but something inspired them to think outside the box. In fact, that’s also what they want players to do. You’re presented with one objective at every level of play, with different parameters and limitations. Your quest is to capture the Starite, and you’re allowed to bring in help. Think a stapler or a dinosaur or a wizard can assist you in your quest? Simply type in the name of your chosen ally, and, poof!, it appears. As your vocabulary grows, so does your potential army of allies

Geo-Defense Swarm (available on iTunes)
I never thought I’d be sitting around singing the praises of the iPhone on this list. The hardware was just too limited — no buttons, no sticks, no tactile feedback. But hordes of developers have proved me totally wrong: this thing can game. Exhibit A out of dozens of quality iPhone games this year: Geo-Defense Swarm, a rich, fast-paced, visually stunning take on the tower-defense genre. Tricked out with neon-glowing candy colors that show off the iPhone’s ridiculously overpowered display, Swarm is a little masterpiece of interface design, balanced game play and clever level design.

New Super Mario Bros Wii
Welcome back, Mario. We missed you. The classic side-scrolling platformer is back with updated graphics and a multiplayer mode that’s so much fun it might supplant DJ Hero as the go-to party game. The story isn’t much different from what we’re used to and involves rescuing the princess because, yet again, she’s stuck in a castle somewhere at the other end of the map. But you get some nice 3-D effects and better use of lighting, which gives the screen more depth. What’s more, the little kids watching you play can join in the game as novices. Of course, that means there will be no one left to get you popcorn.

Borderlands for XBox
Borderlands for PS3
Borderlands for PC

Pandora is a down-and-dirty mining planet that resembles a trashed, irradiated version of the American Wild West. Your job is to scour that landscape in search of the Vault, a semi-legendary cache of technology and wealth. This mostly involves collecting an astounding variety of bad-ass guns and tooling around in funky dune-buggy-type vehicles with really bouncy suspensions while blowing away deranged and mutated bad guys. Borderlands is a marvel of hybrid game design: you add levels and skills as in a role-playing game, but you’re doing it in a sandbox-style open world while engaging in run-and-gun first-person-shooter combat. Add in astounding graphics and wickedly clever writing, and you have something that’s about as close as you can get to a perfect game.

DJ Hero WII Bundle with Turntable
DJ Hero Bundle for XBox with Turntable
DJ Hero for PS3 Bundle with Turntable

In a world of wannabe rock bands — enough already with the rehashed songs from yesteryear — DJ Hero offers a welcome change. With an incredible sound track of exclusive mixes and some lush nightclub graphics, DJ Hero is the new contender for best party game. True, it feels a bit awkward at first to be hunched over a plastic faux turntable, but once you start scratching and mixing, you’ll quickly fall into the groove. And where else could you blend Blondie with a mix of the Gorillaz or Daft Punk with Queen?

Batman: Arkham Asylum for PS3
Batman: Arkham Asylum for XBox
Batman: Arkham Asylum for PC

The ghoulish Joker may never scare movie audiences again, but the struggle between good and evil rages on with Batman: Arkham Asylum, which picks up right where Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight left off. Gotham’s savior finds himself trapped in Arkham Asylum, surrounded by every deviant he’s ever put away — with the Joker at the helm. Unlike earlier video-game adaptations of the DC Comics hero, Arkham Asylum is the total package, with compelling story lines and a kick-butt combat system. Of course, you’ll have to supply your own cape.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 for XBox
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 for PS3

This is a game that sends a message: Video games have something intelligent to say about contemporary military conflicts. In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, you hop around the globe, chasing the front lines of globalized, asymmetrical combat, where not everybody wears uniforms, war isn’t always declared, and the battlefield isn’t clearly marked — battles rage through suburbs, airports and people’s living rooms. There’s tons of raw, riveting military action in Modern Warfare 2, but it’s very much about how the game has changed: limiting civilian casualties and figuring out whom to fight and why are just as important as staying alive.

* * *

And for those of you who want to take gaming into the real world, we’ve got a huge selection of video game toys over in CmdStore’s Video Game Section! Check ’em out!