Like 2007, we all have fond gaming memories of 2008. It was packed with a wealth of high-profile sequels to some of the biggest franchises, including Grand Theft Auto, Fallout, and Metal Gear Solid. In addition, there were notable debuts from unexpected gems, like the EA-produced big-budget survival game Dead Space and indie darling Braid, which each proved influential in a variety of ways. Many of the games in 2008 continued to push the boundaries of gaming, offering experiences that were substantial and memorable in their own right.
The GameSpot staff is taking a personal look back at some of the more notable games of 2008, and the impact they’ve had in the ten years since their respective releases. While some of these games became the stepping-stones for something greater–and others have since fallen into obscurity–the impression they left on us is undeniable, and are worth recognition for their tenth anniversary.
Here’s a selection of games–in order of their respective releases–that made 2008 a year to remember for us. And if you want to see the biggest games that turned 10 last year, be sure to check out our feature covering the biggest games that turned 10 in 2007.
Burnout Paradise (January 22, 2008)
Vehicular free-roaming games had existed long before 2008, but none had so eloquently blended urban racing with automotive slaughter like Burnout Paradise. In a time when quest-loaded open-world adventures on consoles were about to hit their stride, Burnout Paradise was a rare 40-hour non-RPG that warranted the time and attention of completionists like myself.
Today’s racing market–dominated by Need for Speed, Forza, and Codemasters games–skew toward realistic car performance regardless if you prefer arcade or sim controls. Upon firing up Burnout Paradise today, I’m reminded of how its car handling has more in common with Sega arcade games of yore than with more recent racers–titles that are tied to their respective franchise goals of realism and authenticity. Burnout Paradise never had to worry about that, especially when your audience expects quarter-mile-long leaps over cliffs and destructive car chases that can stretch halfway around its 26 square-mile map.
The game’s density of goals ensures that the moment you tick off a mission box, you’re just blocks away from starting another. The next quest might even come to you, whether a high-value target happens to drive by or someone challenges you to an online match. And the fact that the online servers are still up–rare for a 10-year-old racing game–is a testament to its following and resiliency. Much larger drivable worlds have sprouted up in the last ten years, but none have managed to replicate the happy and balanced marriage of speed and ruination quite like Burnout Paradise, much to the dismay of fans who long for a successor. — Miguel Concepcion
No More Heroes (JPN December 6 2007; US January 22, 2008)
Killer7 on GameCube was the beginning of a continued fascination with the Goichi Suda (Suda 51) for me, but No More Heroes was the game that sparked that interest and set it aflame. It struck at a high point for Wii software; Super Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime 3 were still fresh in our minds. But No More Heroes stood out because of how abrasively different and boisterous it was, at least on the surface level.
Protagonist Travis Touchdown had a raucously ambivalent attitude and an unhealthy obsession with anime girls, and he set out on adventures that were entirely self-serving, involving copious amounts of slaughter and blood. Suda and Grasshopper Manufacture seemed like they were purposefully going out of their way to be lewd on a characteristically family-friendly console. You had to take a dump on the toilet to save your game. You needed to shake your controller vigorously, and suggestively, to charge your beam katana. Double entendres and bad words were doled out like free candy.
It was easy to see all that and dismiss No More Heroes as straight-up crass. And though its combat and the open world had some great ideas, they were admittedly repetitive and bland in the long run, which might not have helped its broader perception. But once you looked just past the facade, there was something extraordinary about No More Heroes. The game’s attitude housed unique twists that satirised and denounced conventional storytelling structures, and the whole nature of video games and geek culture in general. At the time, I found it completely fascinating.
Ten years later, there’s a laundry list of things that don’t fly as well. And though No More Heroes 2 was great, the rest of Grasshopper’s output has mostly missed the mark, especially as our culture and video games have developed. But No More Heroes is still a defining moment for games in my eyes, so I’m hoping that the return of No More Heroes for Switch, Travis Strikes Back, will use its intriguing game-within-a-game setting to positively revitalize its satirical spirit. — Edmond Tran
Rez HD (January 30, 2008)
When Rez debuted on Xbox 360’s Xbox Live Arcade as Rez HD, I was vaguely aware of it–the Dreamcast version never launched in the US, but reading about the Trance Vibrator accessory as a young teen ensured I’d never completely forget the game it accompanied. Early 2008 was still a time where any new XBLA release was an obligatory purchase, and so I somewhat blindly picked up what would go on to become one of my all-time favorite games.
My immediate impressions were underwhelming–sure, it had an interesting look and some stellar music, but the basic gameplay conceit of highlighting enemies and launching attacks seemed exceedingly simple. As the minutes went by, I cranked up the volume higher and higher and noticed how the music was morphing based on how I was playing. Stats presented at the end of a stage detailing the percentage of enemies or power-ups I was able to collect tapped into my competitive side. By Area 4–home to one of the greatest songs in any video game–the level of intensity and synesthesia-esque sensation provided one of the truly memorable experiences I’ve ever had with a game.
The ensuing spiritual successor, Child of Eden, offered this to some extent, but it couldn’t totally recreate what made Rez special. I found myself returning to Rez HD even years later, believing it to be too niche to ever receive any remaster treatment. Cut to almost a decade later, and Rez Infinite shows up to leverage not only modern graphical technology, but also add a VR mode (which justified a PSVR for me) and a new stage (Area X) that provided a greater level of freedom. Now, a full decade-plus later, I still routinely take the game for a spin, and although I dispatch many of its enemies through sheer memorization, it remains quite unlike anything else. — Chris Pereira
Devil May Cry 4 (February 5, 2008)
Capcom’s popular Devil May Cry series is in a class of its own when it comes to delivering fast-paced action and thrills. As an admirer of the series since the first, I’ve always had a soft spot for the devil-hunting mercenary Dante and his crazy antics. As the Street Fighter of the action genre, DMC is a spectacle to behold in the hands of a skilled player. And while I was never one of those players who was able to juggle multiple enemies at once and execute style switches in rapid fashion, I still found enjoyment from watching other players make magic happen. The DMC community found a lot to love in Devil May Cry 4, and watching what the top players posted online was just as fun as playing the game itself.
When Devil May Cry 4 was announced, Capcom showed brief footage of the game’s new main character, Nero, a younger and more gung-ho brawler with a demonic arm that could yank enemies from afar. While I wasn’t so keen on this new guy at first, I grew to love his style after getting my hands on him, and he ended up complementing Dante’s class-based mechanics. While the community, and its connectedness, came into its own with the fourth game, this particular title was also a bit of a letdown compared to the prequel DMC3. The game featured far more backtracking, and less overall content compared to previous games, which made it the most repetitive of the series. Having said that, DMC4’s combat mechanics are incredibly responsive and refined, offering the best action of the series.
Not long after, the community went into meltdown when Ninja Theory’s DmC: Devil May Cry reboot was announced–and despite the odds, it ended up being one of the strongest games of the series. Still, the fans kept DMC4 alive and well over the last ten years, and even showed the same enthusiasm for the recent Special Edition release. I’d often revisit the game over the years, and while its blemishes are still noticeable, I can’t help but smile at all the cheesy bits and pump my fist when I pull off a slick combo. It’s been a while since OG Dante’s last outing, and with the rumors of DMC5 happening, now seems like a good time for the devil-hunter and his protege Nero to move on and experience something new. — Alessandro Fillari
Super Smash Bros. Brawl (JPN January 31, 2008/US March 9, 2008)
Since the debut of Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo 64, I’ve become hooked on the franchise. Smash Bros. Melee was my favorite game in the series–and one took over my college life. My friends and I would play the game for hours on end, even skipping classes, just so we could get another match in. When Smash Bros. Brawl was first announced for Wii, I knew I was going to pick it up. As the roster was being revealed, I became more and more excited to get my hands on it. This was going to be the largest Smash roster to date with 35 characters, and the idea of playing as Snake, Sonic, Wolf, or even the Pokemon Trainer had me giddy with excitement.
Once the game came out, however, my reaction wasn’t quite as positive towards the changes made. The characters felt a bit “floatier” and as such didn’t feel as fluid as Melee did. The game also introduced a tripping mechanic that I felt took away the competitive feel that Melee had established. As time went on, I did change my tune as I grew to enjoy the game more for what it was. While the new mechanics weren’t necessarily to my liking, the game at its core was still undeniably fun, and I’ve come to appreciate the game for its distinct style and charm. — Gajan Kulasingham
Valkyria Chronicles (April 24, 2008)
Console tactical strategy games, specifically those with settings grounded in reality, have a special place in my heart. The same could also be said of that part of the mid-’00s Sega that was killing it with new franchises: Yakuza, Bayonetta, and Valkyria.
Valkyria Chronicles, the brainchild of the directors behind the Sakura Wars tactics series and the celebrated RPG Skies of Arcadia, remains a beautiful debut. Its seemingly timeless art style, a superb execution of cel-shaded polygons to evoke pencil-drawings and watercolors, is still gorgeous. The setting, a somber, anime-influenced take on Europe during the early stages of World War II, still feels distinct. It tells a sincere story with relatable characters about citizens forced into war to protect their homeland. And its strategic combat system, which mixes top-down, turn-based strategy with third-person, real-time action, is still unique, robust, and satisfying to use.
Its sequels, while competent, never quite lived up to the original for me. The PSP failed to capture the beauty of the visuals, the strategy system felt like it was getting unnecessarily complex, and the stories they told started to get too ambitious and unrelatable for me. Every time I played a new Valkyria Chronicles game, I would inevitably hit a point where I would go back and start another run of the original.
Valkyria Chronicles was remastered for PS4 and PC recently, and it’s very much a game that has held up after ten years. It’s the only game worth playing or revisiting in anticipation for Valkyria Chronicles 4, due for release in 2018. The upcoming sequel is set in the same timeframe as the original game, so here’s hoping Sega remembers what made the first game so special. — Edmond Tran
Grand Theft Auto IV (April 29, 2008)
Playing the Grand Theft Auto series felt something like a rite of passage back in my day. When GTA III first came out in 2001, I was a freshman in high school, and this game captured the interest of my fellow students. It was the game that every kid played, even when their parents told them not to. I’d eventually plow through GTA III, savor the ’80s bliss of Vice City, and stew in the expansiveness of San Andreas–just enjoying the many ways to explore and cause chaos. When Grand Theft Auto IV came around, it was not only the first game on new hardware–showing off new visuals and more convincing storytelling–it was also the first GTA game I played as an adult.
While the previous three games and PSP spin-offs featured a connected story, IV started from scratch. Set in a newly designed Liberty City, it ended up feeling like a reboot for the series. Taking on the role of an eastern-European immigrant named Niko Bellic, the game told a surprisingly subdued and somewhat understated story about an outsider trying to fit in. One of the great strengths of the series is its strong focus on satire, more specifically its critique of American consumerism, greed, and lust for violence. While I caught some of the references and humor in the previous games when I was younger, I’m not ashamed to admit that many of the other critiques flew over my head. While the satire can sometimes have the subtlety of a sledgehammer, many of its jabs at American culture were successful at hitting its mark.
Over the course of the game, GTA IV would grow a bit crazier with its escalating story, but it never quite reached the full-blown absurdity of its predecessors. And you know what? That’s OK. If anything, the new approach to storytelling made for far more convincing and impactful sequences, which include the infamous bank heist mission, Three Leaf Clover. While GTA IV didn’t have as much to do as its predecessors, it did possess a number of ideas forward looking ideas, such as additional playable characters in the following DLC campaigns, a fairly developed online mode, and a mobile phone that yielded opportunities for side-events. All of which would set the stage for what would be core mechanics in GTA V. Still, I have some fond memories of exploring Liberty City. And I wonder to this day if Niko Bellic is still alive and well in the GTA’s world. — Alessandro Fillari
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots (June 12, 2008)
I never swore at a game as often I as did with Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. All the swearing was positive, though; every time there was a callback to a previous Metal Gear game, I couldn’t help but react with an ear-to-ear grin, an expletive, a fist pump, or some combination of the three. My eyes grew when I saw the Hind-D wreckage, a callback to the first Metal Gear Solid that was all the more poignant since you never saw the ship crash in the original game.
The worst and best thing about MGS4 is how it cannot be appreciated on its own. Its variety of finely tuned combat mechanics and its dark theme on the proliferation of paramilitary companies are overshadowed by the abundance of exposition to serve and please its long-term fans. To a newcomer who has no context, hearing Big Mama utter, “That’s my boy!” to Old Snake sounds like simple encouragement. To a fan, that line is loaded with 50 years’ worth of lore, suddenly connecting two characters who never appeared in a game together prior to MGS4. I get a lump in my throat every time I hear it.
MGS4 also exists to tie every major loose end Hideo Kojima unleashed since the original Metal Gear. Resolutions ranged from forced to graceful to inexplicable and many of us fans ate it up, even if we blamed plot issues on nanomachines. In a market where franchises like Halo and Gears of War can potentially outlive its fanfare and leave unresolved narrative threads, it was unreal how many storylines MGS4 resolved. Metal Gear Solid 4 is fan service in its purest form, the likes of which we might never see again. — Miguel Concepcion
Battlefield: Bad Company (June 23, 2008)
It was a decade ago, but I remember playing the Battlefield: Bad Company beta back in early 2008. I didn’t have much experience with previous games in the franchise, as they were focused around PC and I was primarily a console gamer. Right away, from the first match I got into, I remember the multiplayer taking my breath away and showing me something I’d never seen before. Using the power of the Frostbite engine, basically everything in the world could collapse and disintegrate, in turn opening up the battlefield in new and exciting ways. No longer could someone camp in a hideout and live to tell the tale. Just blast them away. Seeing a building collapse and crumble completely changes the way you think in a multiplayer shooter. No area is safe. Danger lurks at every turn. Watching the battlefield change around you as a match progresses afforded a level of dynamism that I hadn’t experienced before.
When the game was officially released, however, it was the campaign that really made Battlefield: Bad Company stand out–and it remains one of my favorite Battlefield games to this day. It was the first title in the series to feature a real campaign, and its characters were some of the more memorable and dynamic ones I can remember in a military FPS. The story was praised for its humour, which was a refreshing change of pace from military games that came before it. A sequel was released in 2010, and it was similarly excellent. While I do also enjoy the mainline Battlefield series and logged many hours on Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 1 (sorry, Battlefield Hardline), I think the time is right for the Bad Company sub-brand to return. The newest rumour is that 2018’s Battlefield is Bad Company 3, and I could not be more excited. — Eddie Makuch
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 (July 10, 2008)
When Persona 4 first released, it didn’t get much recognition. Sure, it had its hardcore fans, but this JRPG released on the outdated PS2 was overlooked. Only in the years following its release was Persona 4 recognized as one of the greatest RPGs on the PS2, if not of all time.
A unique element to Persona is its balance of participating in everyday life while simultaneously dealing with supernatural elements that make up its more traditional RPG gameplay. Participating in every day of a full calendar year lets you experience the daily life of a Japanese high schooler and get an intimate familiarity with the characters. The game focuses heavily on your party member’s personal struggles, mirroring what many teenagers go through. Back in 2008, I was the exact same age as the main character, and I was able to see many of my own insecurities represented in the game. In a medium where power fantasies and fantastical heroes are the norm, to see a group of characters go through the same anxiety I had right then created an attachment that no game has ever been able to match.
In the decade since its release, Persona 4 has gotten the recognition it deserved with numerous spin-offs and an enhanced remaster for the PS Vita, which would be my recommended version to play. Its sequel, Persona 5, has made vast improvements to the series formula and a cast of characters that stand on their own. But as great as that game is, it’s still no Persona 4 for me. The circumstances in which I played Persona 4 will never be recreated. It was there in a time when I needed it, and that’s why it’s one of my favorite games of all time. — Jean-Luc Seipke
Braid (August 6, 2008)
Jonathan Blow busted onto the scene as a prominent independent game developer when Braid released in 2008, and for good reason. It was one of the early hits that thrusted indie games into the mainstream via Xbox Live Arcade, but Braid turned out to be much more than that for those who connected with the game’s themes and gameplay. Braid plays like a 2D side-scrolling platformer but mixes in the ability to reverse time that affects objects and enemies in clever ways. In your effort to piece together protagonist Tim’s past and search for a mysterious princess, you rack your brain to solve the numerous puzzles and execute perfectly timed jumps onto platforms and atop enemies. If you happen to fall to your death, just reverse time and try again in a matter of seconds.
As you progress through Braid, the layers of lessons learned along the way stack, and you’re constantly challenged to use what you know in new ways. Keys tucked away in hard-to-reach ledges unlock doors to make it through levels, but the collectable puzzle pieces paint the picture of a man who lost control of his personal and professional life. The sparse, yet affecting story is arguably one of Braid’s strongest aspects.
Storytelling in independent games was still in a sort of infancy in 2008, but Braid set an example for how smaller games can tell bigger stories. The overarching plot is open to interpretations, even with the extensive post-game texts, but in its final moments, Braid subverts expectations to leave a lasting impact. What starts out lighthearted becomes increasingly foreboding as to earn the final twist and completely flip your interpretation of who you thought Tim and the princess were. A beautiful soundtrack that borrows elements of traditional Celtic folk music to drive home the heartfelt journey further supports Braid’s tale. — Michael Higham
Too Human (August 19, 2008)
Too Human isn’t necessarily something worth going back to, and it also wasn’t exactly praised as a worthwhile game when it released in 2008. It turned out to be a fairly middling third-person action RPG, and in the words of GameSpot reviewer Kevin VanOrd, “It will lift you up only to continually let you down.” Too Human tells the story of Norse mythology in a dystopian sci-fi setting, but its threads are wholly incomplete. Regardless, the systems made for fun combat scenarios, and co-op highlighted those moments. So, why is Too Human worth mentioning? Developer Silicon Knights and Epic Games (makers of Unreal Engine) went into one of the more wild legal disputes in modern gaming history.
Silicon Knights first sued Epic for “failure to provide a working game engine” in July 2007. However, Epic struck back with a counter-suit a month later claiming that both parties were fully aware that features of the engine were still in development and that Silicon Knights violated the license agreement by modifying the engine and sharing technology with Sega. It wouldn’t be until five years after Too Human’s release that the case would be resolved; In 2012, Epic won the suit on grounds that Silicon Knights committed “copyright infringement, misappropriation of trade secrets, and breach of contract.” As a result, Silicon Knights was ordered to destroy all its tech and code that was derived from Unreal Engine 3 and give Epic access to company devices to make sure this happened. This meant that any unsold copies of Too Human (and other titles using UE3 tech) had to be destroyed as well.
The studio went defunct after filing bankruptcy two years later. Luckily, if you really wanted to play this lacking action RPG, used copies are out there for cheap despite the obliteration of copies and its code. It may have been more or less erased from the games market, but the circumstances in which Too Human existed is a story that left a more lasting impression than the game itself. — Michael Higham
Dead Space (October 20, 2008)
The first Dead Space was a bold and unexpected move from publisher Electronic Arts, which was not typically known to dabble in survival-horror games. When I first watched footage of the game on GameSpot back in 2008, it seemed like an Alien-inspired Resident Evil 4 clone, but as I watched further, I was quickly enthralled by its chilling atmosphere, sleek UI, and inventive combat mechanics. As an avid fan of survival-horror games, I knew I had to play it; but after spending all the money I had on Metal Gear Solid 4 and a DualShock 3 controller that year, I was flat-out broke. Luckily, my brother’s friend had a copy I could borrow.
I have fond memories of my first playthrough of Dead Space; its setting and atmosphere affected me in ways I find hard to forget. I often remember how frigid the USG Ishimura seemed, which felt amplified by the chilly weather outside during the time of year I was playing. A cold sweat covered my hands as I tightly gripped my controller, anticipating how I’d strategically dismember the next necromorph waiting to ambush me. I even recall consciously avoiding playing the game at night; the darkness I’d glimpse through my room’s shutter blinds seemed like endless black voids, which made my trek through hallways into the unknown feel all the more haunting.
Dead Space was a terrifying survival-horror game like no other in 2008. To this day, the game remains one of my all-time favorites in the genre. While its sequels don’t quite live up to its brilliance, don’t let that deter you from jumping into this one. It’s well worth it for the gruesome frights and action-packed dismemberment. — Matt Espineli
Far Cry 2 (October 21, 2008)
Today, the Far Cry series revels in allowing its players to explore exotic open worlds in over-the-top fashion–oftentimes with hilarious results. However, there was one game that did something a bit different, telling a story that was tonally unlike the original PC game and its console oriented spin-offs featuring a super-powered Jack Carver. As the first sequel, and also first true open-world game of the series, Far Cry 2 gave off a sense of weight that’s still left an impression on me. Focusing on the exploits of a foreign mercenary in the African wilderness, you’re quickly caught up in a brutal faction war while on the hunt for an infamous arms dealer named The Jackal–who actively sows the seeds of chaos in the isolated country. Oh yeah, and the main character is slowly dying from malaria.
Instead of the B-movie schlockly tone of its predecessor, Far Cry 2’s story focused on the hardships of a country caught in a civil-war, offering some of the most harrowing and even nihilistic moments of the series. FC2 would go on to set standard for open-world action in a the series, such as invading enemy bases and taking on missions with your AI buddy character in tow, and it did it in a way that expressed a level of earnestness that the series hasn’t seen since. The sequel also added in a stark difficulty spike due to its focus on realism that made the previous games feel like they were on training wheels. In a lot of cases, I was gunned down after forgetting that weapons often jam, and that enemies are far more cunning than in the average FPS.
To say that Far Cry 2 sticks out from the rest of the series would be an understatement. Its silent main character has to deal with the reality of existing in a space where the political conflict forces civilians into the crossfire, with many of the most important characters–the ones that can actually stop it all–weighing the cost of their lives over a pile of conflict diamonds. I’d often wonder if I was making this place worse by trying to carry out my own mission, like I was the lever for an ever-turning meat-grinder. At the time of playing this game, I was still in college, and one of my classes brought up the subject of the systemic disruption of Central and Northern Africa’s society from outside influences. It didn’t take long for me to understand where Far Cry 2 was coming from after its bleak conclusion. And that’s really something I haven’t really felt from another game since. — Alessandro Fillari
Fallout 3 (October 28, 2008)
Having a video game, movie, or book set in your city is not uncommon, but when you’re presented with a post-apocalyptic version of a town you know, the imagery takes on new weight. As a kid growing up in Maryland, I had innumerable school field trips and other excursions into DC, so seeing a bombed-out version of the US capitol immediately grabbed my attention. Museums I had visited, streets I had walked, buildings where my own father had worked–these were shown in a post-war light that rendered them both familiar and unrecognizable.
A setting can only get you so far, and that’s where Fallout 3‘s incredibly engaging story and mechanics come into play. An RPG providing you with guns and improvised weapons is nothing new, but the brutality here makes them feel that much more powerful. Mad Max was clearly an influence on Fallout 3, and it shows in the combat and the amateurly constructed weapons you take into battle. It was definitely one of the goriest games of ’08–and your view of the blood splatter got almost too close for comfort thanks to the game’s VATS system.
Outside of combat, your actions and dialogue choices could completely change the course of the story. These branching paths weren’t new–BioWare had already done it a few times–but choosing a side is a theme that carried forward into both New Vegas and Fallout 4, growing in scope each time. The open-endedness of quests also blew my high-school mind. On a second or third playthrough, I stumbled into Raven Rock hours before the story had intended me to, effectively cutting the main quests in half. You wouldn’t know any better if it were to happen on your first experience, but having been through the game before, I was amazed that it allowed for such exploration. To this day, exploring every interesting-looking corner of the map is a habit I happily cannot break. — Tony Wilson
Call of Duty: World At War (November 11, 2008)
Call of Duty: World at War is my favorite COD game. It’s almost certainly not the best–its campaign could not match the thrills of its predecessor, Modern Warfare, and its multiplayer was a little unbalanced–but it’s my favorite, because it brought so many of my friends together.
I was still in school in 2008, and a large portion of my friends group had bought PS3s and Xbox 360s, so I frequently had a dozen or so friends online at the same time, all playing the latest Call of Duty. Luckily, World at War was also the first in the series to include Nazi Zombies–the perfect, ridiculous mode for a group of teenage boys to bond.
We bought all the map packs, played every night, and had an amazing time doing so. As Call of Duty got bigger and we got older, people started dropping off, foregoing Black Ops or Modern Warfare 2 in favor of, I don’t know, alcohol or something. Despite this, World at War will forever be cemented in my memory as a magical time in my life, where socializing was frequent and easy, and included pack-a-punched weapons and exploding zombie heads. Doesn’t it just bring a tear to your eye? — Oscar Dayus
Mirror’s Edge (November 11, 2008)
The original Mirror’s Edge was a critical hit when it landed in 2008, but sadly, its striking presentation and unique gameplay didn’t translate to commercial success. Nevertheless, soaring stories above city streets from one alabaster rooftop to the next was a thrill no other game could match, and for many of us, our memories of Mirror’s Edge feel just as fresh today as the day we made them; neither time nor an open-world sequel could make us forget the first time we took a leap of Faith.
I came to Mirror’s Edge during my first year covering games, back when I was an assistant video producer. I had the simple job of capturing gameplay video of EA’s experimental parkour game, but what began as a routine capture session grew into a short-term obsession, and a long-term appreciation for Mirror’s Edge’s unique accomplishments. Far more for my own satisfaction than my manager’s, I couldn’t rest until I’d perfected the few levels I set out to capture. Run after run, I continued to identify and fix flaws in my approach, and take advantage of new opportunities that revealed themselves to my ever-more trained eye. I was already impressed by the first-person platforming and the clever ways one high-flying maneuver connected to the other, but after coming to grips with how Mirror’s Edge worked, I was able to define my own approach to virtual parkour, and appreciate it on an entirely different level.
I look back on Mirror’s Edge as a game that was far ahead of its time, but one that came at the right time for me. Whether or not the sequel from a couple of years ago proves that the concept was nothing more than a one-hit wonder, I’m okay if EA puts the series to bed indefinitely. I don’t need a new Mirror’s Edge, I only need the Mirror’s Edge that struck a chord with me, the unsuspecting player, ten long years ago. — Peter Brown
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King (November 13, 2008)
It had been four years since I was introduced to the world of Azeroth, and Blizzard’s MMO wasn’t showing signs of slowing down, especially after the release of its first expansion, The Burning Crusade. Even after defeating Illidan Stormrage, I was definitely not prepared for what was around the corner with the game’s next expansion, Wrath of The Lich King, which gave me and everyone else a shot at Arthas still sitting high atop his frozen throne.
Once I managed to wait through the server queue and the crashes, I was finally ready to take my Night Elf Rogue, Philanthropy, and board the boat from Stormwind to the Borean Tundra. I didn’t realize it at the time, but more was changing than just the expansion for me. I ended up transferring servers later that week.
This expansion ended up being one of the more interesting times in my Warcrafting career. The biggest changes were leaving my guild of 300+ active members (we had two 40- raids back in vanilla; it was nuts), transferring to a different server, and undergoing a faction change/realizing my full potential and becoming the world’s edgiest Undead Rogue. It was a whole new experience that showed me a side of World of Warcraft I didn’t know existed. Even with all the changes I still had a great time clearing through dungeon and raid content with the new friends I’d made.
I still look fondly back on late-night runs of Naxxramas, defeating the Old God Yogg-Saron in Ulduar, and eventually getting taken out by the Lich King and watching Tirion Fordring steal our kill. It’s these memories and many more that make me realize just how great Wrath of the Lich King really was. It was the height of the game’s popularity for a reason. — Ben Janca
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (November 16, 2008)
Many remember Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe as the game that toned down the series’ iconic violence, but when it launched in 2008, it gave the series its groove back. Sure, fatalities and over-the-top gore are an integral part of the Mortal Kombat formula, but this was the first time in years where I felt like I was playing a classic Mortal Kombat. It was still on a 3D plane, but for the most part, it felt like those first three games. As a Scorpion player, I was ecstatic to see the return of back, back, low punch (only ’90s kids will remember this). Additionally, seeing some of my favorite superheroes stand in for some of my favorite Mortal Kombat characters was an absolute treat–Batman used his smoke bombs and disappearing act as if he was Smoke, while The Flash tripped up his opponents with his Kabal-like speed.
In addition to the excellent fighting gameplay, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe was the first to feature NetherRealm’s trademark story template. For those who aren’t familiar, it’s basically a movie in which you take part in a couple dozen fights with gameplay and cutscenes transitioning seamlessly between each other. It kicked off a period in which NetherRealm not only made my favorite fighting games, but also some of my favorite single-player experiences. On top of that, it’s used the story template in every one of its games since and has even pushed other fighting game developers to follow suit with cinematic story modes now being featured in games like Street Fighter V, Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite, and Tekken 7.
The Mortal Kombat series may not have regained all of its footing until 2011’s simply titled Mortal Kombat, but it was Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe that planted the seeds for that comeback. And despite NetherRealm putting out four arguably better fighting games since then, I’ll still go back from time to time to play a few matches and remind myself of how it all started. — Mat Paget
Left 4 Dead (November 18, 2008)
While the zombie apocalypse is a bit of a passé setting, even back in 2008, Valve’s Left 4 Dead went about it in ways that weren’t immediately apparent at a first glance. Like many other Valve games, Left 4 Dead was in development for quite some time, and the early trailers showed off a more somber and serious take on the game. The game we got, however, was a little more of a lighthearted and self-aware romp through the zombie apocalypse. Despite the surprising sense of humor, Left 4 Dead still offered a lot of scares and tense moments. Releasing a demo about two weeks before the release, my friends and I would replay the same levels, and found different encounters and death traps in each run.
Focusing on the trials of four unique protagonists–a biker, a vietnam veteran, a college student, and a retail salesman–the group would travel through several zombie-infested cities that offered randomized encounters thanks to the game’s AI director. While players came in expecting a fun co-op zombie-shooter, my friends and I ended up getting an intense online bonding experience. Playing through Left 4 Dead’s stages, which switched up set-pieces depending on your performance, resulted in us watching everyone’s back closely to ensure we were in good shape. Because if it wasn’t the AI zombie horde that got us, it’d be the cunning special monsters controlled by enemy players, such as The Smoker, a hacking and wheezing undead, who’d tangle survivors with its tongue and drag them into a dark alley to be swarmed by other zombies.
By far, the most iconic level of the series is No Mercy. This first stage was the most pure and representative of what people can expect from the game. Starting out on the roof of an apartment building, you’d slowly work your way down through its many rooms to the streets below. Your only hope for survival is a helicopter located on the rooftop of a nearby hospital. Making it there alive would be an exercise in teamwork and patience, while also keeping a quick finger on the trigger. For me, Left 4 Dead wasn’t really about the action in a zombie shooter.
Rather, it was a more affecting and tense experience to see if you could work well with others under pressure–something I still admire about the game to this day. — Alessandro Fillari