On behalf of the XBLAFans staff, welcome to the first annual XBLAFans 2010 Game of Year Awards!

2010 was a fantastic year for the Xbox Live Arcade, filled with surprises, letdowns, and, of course, great releases that will be remembered for years to come, like Limbo, Super Meat Boy and Monday Night Combat.

We even saw the triumphant return of some classic franchises, with games like Perfect Dark, Casltevania: Harmony of Despair, Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light and Hydro Thunder Hurricane lighting up friend lists everywhere.

Yes, it was a fine year for the XBLA indeed.

We at XBLAFans.com have spent countless hours playing, discussing and writing about our favorite games to come out on Microsoft’s digital store. We know you love the XBLA as much as we do, and nominating five titles for each of the categories below was difficult. Deciding the winners was even more difficult, as many great titles sadly did not make the cut.

In the end, only a few winners received our highest accolades, with an honorable mention given to the runner-up. Here are the winners for the 2010 Game of the Year Awards:

Best Game Design: Super Meat Boy

Super Meat Boy can be brutal. But it balances that fine line between being unbelievably frustrating and  offering a feeling of true accomplishment in a way few games can. And in the end that boils down completely to the game design. Each level is well crafted, but a game hinges on its controls. Perhaps no game this year was as precise when it came to player movements. To quote our review, “The controls are so responsive that the tiniest leap, dodge, and dash is exactly how you input it on the controller. If you miss a wall-jump by a fraction of an inch, it’s because you missed that wall-jump by a fraction of an inch.

John Laster, Editor-in-Chief

Runner-up: Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light


Best Visual Style: Limbo

The first thing one notices about Limbo is abundance of black, white and gray. There are no colors in this title, at all. A grainy, hazy white-ish gray makes up the background, while black forms the landscape and characters. Is this a problem? Not at all — it adds to the atmosphere, as Limbo is unsurprisingly set limbo. This is not a place one wants to be, and the bleak environment reinforces that idea tenfold.

Limbo isn’t devoid of cheer though, specifically in the animation of the main character, which supposedly took one animator three years to create. Whether that is true or not, the game is animated beautifully, and serves as the bar for all 2D games from this point forward, as far as animation is concerned. Limbo achieves many things, but the greatest point of the game is definitely the visual design.

– Cameron Titus, Contributing Reporter

Runner-up: Shank


Best Audio: Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game

Forget being the best audio in an XBLA game, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game contains some of the best music of any game, on any platform in years. Chiptune powerhouse Anamanaguchi brought their A-game with their work on Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game. From the moment the game begins, the music stands out as the most dominant element. The soundtrack debuted at #3 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart and it wasn’t a fluke.

So go fire up Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game, find a safe spot, set the controller down and enjoy the sweet sounds of Anamanaguchi’s “Another Winter” right now!

Andrew Crews, Staff Writer

Runner Up: Chime


Best Developer: Team Meat

For me, the vote for best developer was an easy one. Team Meat stood head and shoulders above their peers. The two man team of Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes, produced one of the most compelling games of the year. Along the way, they also outlined their thoughts on game design as a whole. Always honest and upfront with their fans, Team Meat showed a level of transparency that may be unrivaled in the industry; not only through their blog but also through twitter. Not to mention, the shear level of content they have made available. They clearly aren’t in it only for money, as not only has every piece of DLC been free, but they offered a launch discount to their fans. This team clearly deserves this award.

John Laster, Editor-in-Chief

Runner Up: Uber Entertainment


Most Innovative: Limbo

With no colors, no soundtrack and no exposition, Limbo forces players to use their imaginations to fill in the blanks. Unlike so many other games that focus on narrative, pretty graphics and catchy music, Limbo holds back and brilliantly succeeds. While the style of Limbo’s gameplay isn’t innovative, it’s the way it does things, or chooses not to, that really breaks the mold.

The stark contrast of colors making the slightest details stand out, the haunting quiet magnifying the slightest sounds, and the complex puzzles testing the player’s abilities all add up to a one-of-a-kind cerebral experience unlike anything on the XBLA.

Tyler Cameron, Associate Editor

Runner-up: Hydrophobia


Best Multiplayer: Monday Night Combat

Monday Night Combat is not just a simple team-based third-person shooter; the game’s RPG elements differentiate it from the crowd, providing players with a leveling-up system and six different classes to choose from, each with four upgradable skills that can be purchased during a match. It also features its own style of tower defense when it comes to building up your base’s defenses. Players must choose between four upgradable turrets to build, each with its own particular unit it specializes in destroying. With two game modes, the attack-and-defend style Crossfire, and Blitz, a tower defense style of game versus the computer, MNC edges out all the competition for Best Multiplayer on XBLA for 2010.

While Lara Croft and The Guardian of Light does feature a cooperative-based campaign that you can be played locally or over Xbox Live, it lacks the competitiveness that is found in MNC. Congratulations to Uber Entertainment for serving up the best multiplayer game on XBLA for 2010, and congratulations to Crystal Dynamics for being this year’s runner-up.

– Lucas Fox, Contributing Reporter

Runner-up: Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light


Best HD Remake/Classic Update: Perfect Dark

Rare’s spiritual successor to Goldeneye 007 claimed a few hundred hours of my life after it was released in May, 2000. Perfect Dark was an FPS truly ahead of time, especially for consoles. It featured an epic campaign that could be played cooperatively, a combat simulator complete with bots and customizable AI, and enough multiplayer modes, maps, weapons and customizable options to keep players occupied for years.

Ten years later, Perfect Dark received an HD remake on the Xbox Live Arcade, and the result was everything fans could hope for. Everything about the original N64 version was left intact, except the blurry graphics and chugging framerate. Thanks to the visual upgrade, Perfect Dark played the way fans remembered it, but also featured one very important addition – online multiplayer. Now players could enjoy one of the best FPS in the last decade with gamers everywhere, which was only one small reason why Perfect Dark is the XBLA’s Best HD Remake for 2010.

Tyler Cameron, Associate Editor

Runner-up: Final Fight: Double Impact


Biggest Surprise:
Winner: Dead Rising Case 0
Early this year a debate raged on the internet on whether or not publishers should charge gamers for access to a demo of an upcoming game. Though many opposed the idea, Capcom’s Pre-LC Dead Rising: Case 0 became a runaway hit on XBLA. With a cheap price of 400 MSP and a story supplemental to the game it was meant to support, gamers on the whole were shocked how this so-called demo was pulled off and found it hard to resist this downloadable gem. Giving players a taste of Dead Rising 2 early, it went on to sell well over 500k copies resulting in Capcom calling it their “Most Dynamic Sales Weapon Ever.”

John Carson, Associate Editor

Runner-up: Super Meat Boy


Best Game Everyone Forgot About: Toy Soldiers

When Toy Soldiers debuted in March it made some big splashes. Billed as a mixture of Battlefield and real time strategy, but with a difficulty curve that makes it easily approachable. Acclaim was universal, praises for it’s controls, unique setting, music, and gameplay were abundant. But what happened? The title released so early in the year that by now, a mere 9 months later, it seems like the game came out an eternity ago. Even with the recent expansion pack, interest has dwindled to almost none. The game hasn’t changed however, and is still just as great as it was back in March.

– Cameron Titus, Contributing Reporter

Runner-up: Snoopy Flying Ace


Biggest Disappointment: Sonic Adventure

Dreamcast games on XBLA has been something many gamers have wanted for a while now. 2010 saw that wish finally granted, however, it unfortunately turned into a case of “be careful what you wish for.”

Upon its first release Sonic Adventure was an incredibly impressive game, with great visuals and a surprisingly good 3D translation of Sonic’s gameplay. That is no longer true and with almost nothing done to this port of the game (actually a port of the GameCube version of the game) the XBLA version of Sonic Adventure didn’t do anything to win new fans and served as nothing but bittersweet nostalgia.

– Ross Adams, Staff Writer

Runner-up: Shank


XBLA Game of the Year: Super Meat Boy

We have never failed so eagerly, never cursed so gleefully, never persisted so stubbornly, and never thrown our bodies into glinting sawblades so purposefully as we did during our torrid love affair with Super Meat Boy. 2010 was a great year for Xbox Live Arcade, but this Grade-A platformer ran, slid, hopped, and wall-jumped its way into our hearts—and to the top of our list.

More than any other game this year, Super Meat Boy is cause for admiration: we admire the elegance of its level design, we admire the dedication of its developers, and we admire the skill it takes for a single player to complete the game. We love the retro graphics and soundtrack. We love the charmingly simplistic characters and cut scenes. We cannot get enough of the endless, sadistic ways that Super Meat Boy meets his grisly and untimely death.

But what really made Super Meat Boy our game of the year is the game’s perfection. Super Meat Boy is perfect in many ways and, in turn, demands perfection from its players… Demands it, but also makes you hunger for it. You will try and fail and try again in a relentless attempt to finish just one more level, unlock just one more character, or make just one more leap for that collectible. Super Meat Boy is so well designed—not just because it demonstrates how great a game can be, but also because it demonstrates the greatness gamers can achieve. For both the game’s creators and the game’s players, Super Meat Boy is an examination in human patience, aptitude, and ingenuity. And it’s stupidly fun to play. What more can you ask for?

Kaitlyn Chantry, Associate Editor

Runner-up: Limbo