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Gamasutra's Best Of 2010: Top 5 PC Games
Gamasutra's Best Of 2010: Top 5 PC Games
December 20, 2010 | By Kris Graft

December 20, 2010 | By Kris Graft
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    26 comments
More: Console/PC



[Continuing Gamasutra's 2010 roundup, here are our top 5 PC game selections, including the terrifying Amnesia, the refreshed Civilization V and a certain sci-fi RTS.

Previously in our end-of-year round-up: Top 10 Indie Games, Top 5 Developers, Top 5 Trends, Top 5 Major Industry Events, Top 5 Surprises, Top 5 Disappointments, Top 5 Controversies, and Most Anticipated Games Of 2011.
]

The definition of a "PC game" continued to become cloudier in 2010. Is it a "triple-A" PC-exclusive? Are indie games included? Is it browser-based games? Cloud-based games? Social network gaming? Free-to-play?

The beautiful thing about PC gaming is that the answer to everything is a resounding "yes." Just about anything can happen on the ubiquitous and open PC. The only limit is developers' ingenuity and imagination.

There's no certification with the platform holder as there is with a console -- the power is solely in the hands of the developer, and that remains PC gaming's biggest advantage.

While technically PC gaming does include any game that is played on a PC, Gamasutra is breaking out in separate lists social network games and indie games, which are often played on PC (although there will still be a small amount of overlap with indies).

Absent from this list are two of the biggest phenomena on PC this year -- Blizzard's World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, which is an expansion and not a wholly new game, and Markus Persson's Minecraft, which while utterly brilliant and recognized on our indie list, is still technically in beta.

Even without those entries, 2010 once again brought the kind of variety that PC is known for, whether its the improved FPS/RPG hybrid Stalker: Call of Pripyat, the terrifying Amnesia: The Dark Descent, the cross-platform sci-fi epic RPG Mass Effect 2, the rebooted and refined Civilization V or the incomparable StarCraft II.

Notably, there's only one game on our 2010 list that isn't PC-exclusive, one less than last year. That wasn't a conscious decision -- it really just worked out that way.

5. Stalker: Call of Pripyat (GSC Game World)

Having debuted in 2007, GSC Game World's Stalker franchise still possesses one of the more unique experiences in PC gaming. And this year's Stalker: Call of Pripyat, the third entry in the series, impresses with gameplay that feeds into the immersive post-nuclear wasteland called "The Zone."

Don't let the RPG-derived questing framework fool you; there's no experience points or leveling. The only way you'll survive mutant attacks in the irradiated Zone surrounding the devastated Chernobyl nuclear power plant is to find the right tools and meet the right people, not by grinding.

What Call of Pripyat does best is make the player feel like he is fighting against The Zone and its inhabitants, struggling to survive, but at the same time dependent on its resources and people. Plenty of tense horror-inspired encounters with mutated monsters punctuate players' time in this latest imagining of the franchise, contributing to the players' give-and-take relationship with The Zone.

4. Amnesia: The Dark Descent (Frictional Games)

Player dis-empowerment isn't anything new to the survival horror genre, but among big-name video game entries that have a horror slant, whether it's the latest Resident Evil, Dead Space or Fear, there's an arms race that has resulted in protagonists who are armed to the teeth with anything from bazookas to assault rifles and incendiary grenades.

In the world of Frictional Games' Amnesia: The Dark Descent you don't have grenade launchers, M16s or shotguns. And even if you did, they probably would be of little use. The gruesome creatures within dreary Brennenburg castle possess a ghost-like, ever-present supernatural-ness that makes them terrifying, as if they can appear at will in order to menace protagonist Daniel. A Raccoon City S.T.A.R.S. member would likely wind up a sobbing mess in a corner somewhere deep within Brennenburg.

It's not just the creatures, but the castle itself that has the ability to petrify players, with immersive, eerie sounds and environments that, even with no enemies in sight, often bear down so hard on players that they have to step back and collect their own sanity to remind themselves that this is only a game.

3. Mass Effect 2 (BioWare)

While designed with the console player and controller in mind, BioWare did a commendable job of bringing the action-oriented role-playing game Mass Effect 2 to PC players. A sprawling universe, unexpected, clever story developments and a memorable ending (much more so than the original Mass Effect) means this RPG finds fans on both sides of the PC-console divide.

There are some legitimate complaints about the game: the battle system, while improved, could still do with more interesting inter-character combo attacks, the side roads of a branching storyline ultimately merge back into a largely linear interstate, and, well, there was the planet scanning (which wasn't quite as tedious with a mouse as opposed to a controller).

But even with those concerns, Mass Effect 2 is overall an experience infused with memorable characters, planets and events that feel distinctly "Mass Effect," a notable achievement in such a crowded genre.

2. Civilization V (Firaxis)

It's somewhat ironic that Take-Two developer Firaxis delivered such a thorough re-freshening of the classic Civilization franchise by employing a decades-old strategy game concept: the hex map.

Civilization V is the first time that the franchise has used a hex map, but the changes and improvements to the series went far beyond that fundamental shift. As a whole, Firaxis managed to accomplish a supremely difficult task, which is streamlining a complex strategy game to make it more accessible without dumbing it down.

It launched with some issues -- particularly with the A.I. -- that Firaxis is sorting out with patches. But for most players, even on release day, Civilization V was still was fun enough to play for hours straight. To call this game a timesink is a disservice; Civilization V solidifies the continuing relevance of the revered series, and is one of the best arguments for the relevance of the overall turn-based strategy genre that you can find.

1. StarCraft II (Blizzard Entertainment)

Some have derided StarCraft II as an antiquated click-fest; a remnant of resource-gathering real-time strategy gameplay that came to prominence -- and should have stayed -- in the 1990s.

Perhaps some fans of StarCraft II would like to argue that such naysayers are completely wrong, but actually, detractors have a bit of a point. If you want huge innovation in an RTS game, don't look to StarCraft II.

But if you want fast-paced multiplayer gameplay that has over a decade of polish under its belt (plus continuing balancing) and a single-player story that delivers the flawlessly-delivered, borderline sci-fi camp-ness and action that StarCraft fans expect, then here's your game. Innovation was never Blizzard's goal with StarCraft II -- the goal was peerless execution.

Just the fact that the incredibly-polished StarCraft II delivered on such inordinately high expectations is enough for it to make the top of this list. Successfully take on the enormously difficult task of integrating the game with a totally new Battle.net, sell a million copies on opening day and bring back old StarCraft fans while creating new ones... then you have the standout PC game of 2010.

Honorable Mentions

ArmA 2 (Bohemia Interactive)
Supreme Commander 2 (Gas Powered Games)
Call of Duty: Black Ops (Treyarch)
Fallout: New Vegas (Obsidian)
RUSE (Eugen Systems)
Super Meat Boy (Team Meat)
Bejeweled 3 (PopCap)
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (EA DICE)
DeathSpank (Hothead Games)


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Comments


Chris Melby
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Kris,



On your Mass Effect 2 comment, you state this; "While designed with the console player and controller in mind...".



Is this something you heard or read from the developers, or just an assumption on your part?



I know that does apply to the first Mass Effect, but I hadn't heard that about the second, which was developed for both 360 and PC for a simultaneous release and I recall the PC version was announced about the same time as the 360 version. I recall the developers talking about the PC eccentric features early on.

Maurício Gomes
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Really? Why then they needed multiple pathes to the mining interface because on PC it was really sucky?

Chris Melby
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If I'm reading things right, I didn't have any problems with the mining in ME2. Nothing that needed patching.



Most of the complaints I heard were from the console-camp, as the stick was much slower at moving the reticle around than a mouse and the pro FPS guys just don't like grinding.



Their choice of shortcut keys for the mining interface on the PC was ODD though as it was ass-backwards, but it was at least changeable using that ME2 hex editor -- which I used to split the single-action key back into separate keys.

Cody Scott
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it was really sucky on console also...just saying.

Michael Kolb
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I thought it was a good break in pace but then again I'm a bit more open with gaming preferences.

Maurício Gomes
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Chris that was my point, if it was designed for PC, it would not be needed to do hex editing... ;)

David Hughes
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The planet scanning mini-game (if you can attribute 'game' to it) was hands-down the worst part of ME2.

Scott Galloway
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its a given that when developing for cross platform games that you will have different control schemes to bear in mind. you simply do not design for one control scheme as it would be too costly in terms of time of programing/redesigning interfaces as well as counter-intuitive to do.

Chris Remo
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Nice list. I think my all-platforms game of the year for 2010 is probably STALKER: Call of Pripyat. It really connected with me. I wasted a ton of time near the end of the game just prolonging the ending, past the point where there was much interesting stuff left for me to do.



That said, StarCraft II probably consumed more of my time than any other game this year, followed by Civ V, and I'm having a ton of fun with Super Meat Boy.



It was a good year for PC games, I think.

Franklin Brown
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So how much did Firaxis pay for you to put Civilization V on this list? They must be a valued customer.



Civilization V was an absolute failure. They did nothing but completely break a successful franchise with that game, and long-time fans of the series are almost universally unanimous in their contempt for the game and the direction Firaxis took with it. If you'd taken maybe five minutes to read the forums at CivFanatics you'd know this, but I'm guessing you don't care.

Chris Remo
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Why should he care? He's not writing "CivFanatics' Best of 2010," he's writing "Gamasutra's Best of 2010." I'm no longer an employee of Gamasutra, but if I were, I would have backed up the choice of Civ V entirely.



I've been playing Civilization since 1993 when I first installed the original game from a dozen floppy disks, and I love Civ V.

Tom Baird
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@ Franklin

Going to a forum to get the overall feedback about a game is almost always a bad idea.



Going through any game forum I've ever seen is nothing but nasty "I hate this game", "Why this game is broken", "Devs can't do anything right" etc...



People go to forums to complain and criticize, while the happy players are busy playing the actual game. Forums provide a skewed and biased set of feedback that shouldn't be used to judge the overall reception of a game. Just check out the forums for WoW, mostly angry posts about how bad the game is, completely ignoring it's massive amount of appeal and success.

Robert Boyd
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I've loved the Civilization series since I first played the original and I love Civ V. Not only that, but like all Civ games, they're going to continue to support it with patches, updates, and the like. Why, just a few days ago, they released a patch that fixed and improved a lot of the issues that people had with the original release like improving the enemy AI, making diplomacy more transparent, creating serious penalties for allowing your empire to fall deep into unhappiness, and making maritime city states less overpowered.

Carl Chavez
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I spent five minutes browsing CivFanatics and saw several negative posts, followed by pages of replies pointing out how over-amped the original poster was.

David Tarris
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Amazing how often the vocal minority manages to complain its way into believing it's the majority.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Mark Harris
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Not really, since the crap they normally complain about doesn't mean jack to the majority of players, hence the huge sales numbers.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Jose Resines
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StarCraft 2: as undeserving of being number 1 (or anywhere near Top 50) as Blizzard was of being in the Top 5 developers list. Even if we forget about the forced "you HAVE TO play through B.Net 2.0" that delayed the game a year, the RealID fiasco, the lack of LAN, the lack of crossregion support, the lack of freedom and censorship in mapping, etc, as a game StarCraft 2 isn't even half the game Company of Heroes was. And Company of Heroes is a 2006 game, where Relic didn't have anywhere near the money or time Blizzard dumped into SC2.



For me, SC2 is the biggest disappointment of 2010, and probably of all the decade.



As for Civ V, probably it will be more deserving of that Top 5 next year, after a bunch of patches. There's a lot of potential there, but it was as rushed as Civ IV.



So far, not good.

Mark Harris
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And yet they're still up there, and have sold many millions of copies (SC2 and Civ V).



You are welcome to your opinion, but realize that there are plenty of people who appreciate SC2 and Civ V and are in total agreement with their presence on this list.



Perhaps you could provide us with your list of top 5 PC games this year?

david paradis
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The real ID fiasco was a forum issue, delaying the game doesnt make the game worse, lack of LAN effects an extremely small number of people, and a lot of games don't even have a map editor.



The cross-region support, I will agree with. But honestly, just the single player portion alone is worthy of mention. It was one of my all-tme favorite PC game experiences.



Most of those "issues" the average game player will never notice unless they read about them on a gaming site.



It sucks that there are a small group of people effected directly by these things, but it doesnt reduce the greatness of the game for the other millions of people playing it.

Dale Craig
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Glad to see Amnesia on the list. This was a well designed game that had a definite point of view and goal, and carried these out in a very effective way. Also, this was a game not from a major publisher and one that did not have an extensive DRM.



I like to think that good game design is always appreciated and sometimes recognized.

David Tarris
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Seconded.

Michael Kolb
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Mass Effect 2 is my game of the year but than again I played it on my 360 so I don't know how the PC version was. I heard however that the PC version was the superior version although I bet this will change soon as people will say the PS3 version is the superior version. The big thing in Mass Effect is how Bioware can watch what gamers do, what we like and what we don't. Then they can design around that, great incentive to let them track my player choices if it creates better games. Starcraft II is most definitely a runner up, loved the campaign and still playing multiplayer with all the community maps coming out. I also reaaaaly like Bejeweled 3 but how could you give a Bejeweled game a GOTY award with so much more available with other games. Not saying they didn't pack that game with content. Another runner up would be Criterion's NFS: Hot Pursuit which never gets old. It's basically a cops and robbers type system.

Sebastian Cardoso
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Good to see Amnesia on the list. Puzzled to see Fallout: New Vegas as an honorable mention. Buggiest triple-A game in the last 10 years.

Eric Geer
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Agreed--I just finished New Vegas over the weekend(took so long--mainly because I was sick of the glitches) but when I finished the final scene/conversation but before I got the epilogue the damn game crashed--



The game is great---but still needs plenty of work--even after all the patches.


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