10. Prof. Kawashima's Brain Training: How Old is Your Brain?
DS, Nintendo, Gamepage.
Simon: Sod the mind exercises - I've been playing Tetris for nearly twenty years Kawashima you noob. Where's Brawn Training for these wasted biceps?
Dave: My brain is 20 years old and my best time at 20 calculations is 13.11. Just FYI.
Luke: Nice idea and all but my Brain Age was 20 on day 2. Either its brokenly simple or I'm an actual genius. Kinda killed it for me either way.
Tom: I did this solidly for about two months, and that was without anyone else to play it with. Some of the tasks were rubbish, and the voice recognition was never quite right, but the other stuff was stupidly compulsive. The best "play it every day" game since Polarium Advance.
Alec: After a month of playing this, I still can't spell 'necessary' properly without looking it up. I want my money back.
John: Sorry everyone, but this really isn't that good. It's a collection of very few simplistic puzzles, with an arbitrary score at the end, and some context-sensitive comments from the cartoon man. It's very well made, and writing numbers onto the screen is deeply satisfying. But really it's a bunch of times tables and Kim's game. Can we all get some perspective?
Tom: Surely, given that John clearly doesn't do Brain Training, there's never been a better opportunity to respond thus: Idiot!
James: Kudos to Nintendo for strengthening their conviction that the DS is the only portable gaming tool to bring together the entire family. Apart from Chris Tarrant's, of course.
Kristan: Without doubt my most played handheld game of the year - or of any other year, come to that. At first, the series of arithmetic tests and simple observation/memory assessments seem little more than a novelty, but, sure enough, it suckers you in to daily play. Played with anyone even vaguely completive on the same DS (preferably a partner), it turns into a daily ritual and reminds you what it was like at school when being quick at times tables was a thing you could feel proud of. It's a shame Nintendo didn't cram more tests in there, or I'd probably still be playing it now, but for the month or so that it got its hooks into me, Nintendo deserves warrants huge applause for daring to do something different that, gasp, felt educational. And how many games can you apply that to?
Kieron: On my birthday, I found myself on a (immensely delayed) train journey with a guy who recognised me from my games writing in other places. Between drinking in station bars, I lobbed him my copy of Brain Training for him to have a crack on. I was horrified to see his decade-younger brain effortlessly manage tasks my withered cranium simply wouldn't have any truck with. This confirmed two facts. Firstly, Brain Training is a fascinating and unique game which Nintendo deserve enormous credit for developing. And secondly, I despise young people with their healthy cerebellum.
9. Wii Sports
Wii, Nintendo, Gamepage.
Dave: All the people slagging it off on internet forums for being too simple are wrong because that's why it's astonishingly awesome.
James: I was in Thailand last year where I had my first taste of jackfruit. It was amazing! I couldn't believe something so natural could taste so sweet and succulent. The next day I scoffed down a large bag and spent some considerable time afterwards rolling around in pain with stomach cramps. After that, it lost some of its appeal and it's all been in moderation since then. Now try attaching this misshapen metaphor to the Wii's novelty factor: the first taste is the sweetest, we'll over-indulge this Christmas, but this'll be long gone from our minds by next year. (Er, I'm not quite sure how to fit in the intense pain part, though. Um, Wii elbow, anyone?)
Luke: Why do I even bother? The Wii will spawn a generation of kids with arms like Popeye and that don't know which one is the X button. Which makes them even easier to beat at Pro Evo, so I guess it's not all bad. If this was out a few months ago, you'd all have forgotten about it already. Well, technically, it was. It was called EyeToy Play: Sports then, though.
Tom: I've still not played Zelda much. I'm sure it's wonderful, but I'm saving it for the Christmas week off. This, I couldn't help myself. The most significant game of 2006, I'd argue.
John: Everyone was dying to announce how this was crap. A free game? Let's tear it apart for not being Tiger Woods meets Virtua Tennis! Fortunately Tom has a great deal more sense than that, and in the face of mockery from people like Kotaku, proved about the only right-brained online reviewer on the planet. I've taken my Wii to Christmas gatherings, and the moment the Miis are made, Wii Sports has garnered queues for the Wiimotes, from both those desperate to declare the Wii a failure (yes, you Nick) and those who've never been interested in videogames at all. Certainly baseball is cack, but tennis, boxing, golf and especially bowling are all brilliantly fun, and ideally simplistic for encouraging all-comers to have a go. Not enough recognition has gone to the Training section, with its Virtua-style challenges, my favourite being the ever-increasingly large numbers of pins to knock down in bowling. This is exactly how party games should work, playable by everyone who walks past, unlike the ludicrously fussy Guitar Hero.
Kristan: Proof that the Wii remote isn't the complete waste of time that its detractors want it to be. I was as cynical as the next man about how well Wii Sports would turn out - and then I played it. And played it. And fell in love with it. If you have a partner, they will love it too. You'll play bowling in your living room and feel like there's actual skill involved. You'll play golf and have a relaxing time around the green. You'll want to hit each other over the head with your Wiimotes when the other wins. It's truly one of the only games that delivers on the promise of getting casual/lapsed/non gamers back into gaming, and delivers on EyeToy's social gaming promise in a far more satisfying, playable and, above all, enjoyable way. If this is just a hint of what the Wii is capable of, then it's destined to be every bit as successful as the DS.
Oli: Probably the most important game released this year.
Kieron: IQs appear to have dropped when discussing this baby. Put it like this: There's never been a bowling game which has managed to simulate the key aspects of the sport as much as Wii Sports manages. There's never been a Golf game which has managed to simulate the key aspects of the sport as much as Wii Sports manages. There's never been a Baseball game which has managed to simulate the key aspects of the sport as much as Wii Sports manages. There's never been, oh, you get it. Yes, it's because of the controller. So? Trying to discuss the game without reference to how the controller impacts the experience of playing is like going back to the early nineties and arguing, "Yeah, Doom is pretty good - but if it was a 2D top down game, it'd be nothing special." Technological leaps change everything. Accept it and accept this.
Alec: My girlfriend's better than me at Wii Sports. After five years of desperately hoping she'd start playing videogames, I've now changed my mind.
8. Viva Piñata
Xbox 360, Rare, Gamepage.
Kieron: I like the Romancing.
James: Rare? Are you listening? If you really are getting back in your stride, then heed these words: BLAST CORPS 2! BLAST CORPS 2! BLAST CORPS 2! Thank you.
Dan: These sort of life simulations flourish or die based on their ability to draw you into their virtual world, and keep you entertained once you're there. Sneaking in right at the arse end of the year, Viva Piñata wins on both counts, with the inclusion of (bright and colourful) sacrifice and slaughter making it a bit like Animal Crossing minus the unnerving Japanese furry fetish overtones. Plus, Horstachio. That's still funny.
John: Tom is so incredibly lovely that he bought me this for Christmas. Unfortunately it arrived at the same time as the Wii launched, and Zelda hasn't released me yet. I did play through the tutorial, and I'm wondering if it's ok that all I wanted to do was batter that stupid bleating woman to death with the shovel? However, my housemate jumped on board, and I've sat watching him "romancing" gorgeous creatures in the game's disturbingly incestuous breeding ground, for hours.
Tom: Not the best of the year, but definitely my favourite. Everything flows so beautifully and happily into everything else. The quest to win the interest of one piñata becomes the quest to breed another. This triggers the arrival of new animals. Then you realise you need to be a master breeder of those to get them. Then you realise the crocodile's grumpy so you buy him a hat. All the while you're trying to make the garden beautiful. It's a living thing, constantly in need of reinvention to match the circumstances. And so you toil, and sometimes it's a bit clunky, but throw yourself in and the sores on your thumbs are like calluses from leaning too long on the trowel, with beauty the prize. It's also home to probably the best music all year. It's amazing to find yourself lovingly humming along to stuff that you've been listening to, virtually on loop, for 40 or 50 hours.
It's the game, hopefully, that will stop people banging on about how much Rare cost in 2002. If only by distraction - I've never turned it on and been able to stop playing within three hours.
Simon: Capitalism never looked so freaking cute.
Tom: And I've got a dragon.
Luke: Yes, Rare actually made a good game. Yes, it's their first since Jet Force Gemini. Yes, it's full of funny-looking, colourful creatures, which means that I was guaranteed to love it even if it sucked. But it it didn't. Harvest Moon meets Pokémon meets Dungeon Keeper meets Tamagotchi in the most unique, original and charming 360 title to date.
Tom: And you know what? I like the TV show too. Fergy: best.
7. Gears of War
Xbox 360, Epic Games, Gamepage.
James: Namco? Are you listening? kill.switch 2! kill.switch 2! kill.switch 2! Nah. Doesn't quite work for this one, does it?
Alec: Gives me shoulder-envy. Also: there are far too many very small walls in this game.
Dave: Gears of War? Boring greys and browns of war, more like. I don't understand how people have convinced themselves that this is great. It's not, it's just another boringly gruff shooter that does all the same things that the last one did, except jumping behind cover every so often. Still, it's the most blatantly homoerotic game of all time, so at least it's striking a blow for equality.
Luke: I thought the release of Rainbow Six Vegas made everyone realise they were wrong about GOW in that it was just a bog standard shooter that looked nice. Guess not. WHERE'S THE VEGAS LOVE, PEOPLE?
John: Honestly, I'm the girliest man in the universe, and I'm secure enough in my masculinity not to need to play this. There's something very peculiar about seeing this running on a big widescreen hi-def TV: it's one of the ugliest games I've ever seen. It's technically extremely impressive, and I've not seen a console generate graphics like it before. But it just looks awful. A talented artist can create something beautiful using merely crushed petals and an animal hair brush. Take the new Zelda, clearly built for the GameCube, and yet so utterly breathtakingly beautiful. GoW may have the most impressive graphics of any console game ever, but the artists just didn't know what to do with it. Their attempt to create haunting ruins has failed woefully, resulting in a dull and bland world, a land without a soul. And to go back to my Project 8 point, once more any sense of playing the game has been replaced by hitting a button to initiate the next scripted animation. No thanks.
Dan: Just get over it, OK? It's an 8/10, through and through. It may be a gorgeous, visceral shooter that flirts with your eyeballs and hits all the right macho buttons, but the core "duck and shoot" gameplay is never going to be the stuff of legend. It is, however, an exhilarating blast to play - either alone or with friends - and that alone makes it one of the best of this year. How it holds up five years down the line, let's wait and see...
Keza: I'm sorry, but I don't get it. Gears of War is... trashy. It's gratuitous, brash, full of itself and overall a tad unsavoury, but more importantly it seems really, really simple for a game that's supposed to catapult us all into a Microsoft-branded Next Generation of gaming. It's fun, don't get me wrong, and unbelievably pretty, but I don't understand what the enormous furore is all about.
Tom: I actually rather like Gears. It's sort of like Wac-A-Mole, but with strafing.
Mathew: I'm not trying to be controversial, here, but when played solo Gears of War seems irritatingly flawed; with far too many difficulty spikes, instant deaths and frustrating memory tests. Yet somehow, after almost chewing my tongue off with rage while trying to finish off General Raam on Hardcore, the minute I did I instantly started an Insane difficulty campaign because I just wanted to keep playing. Most remarkably, though, the flaws of the game are erased when played in co-op mode. It truly demands you work as a team, much like the superb Xbox Live multiplayer. Online or off, Gears of War is hypnotically addictive.
Tom: (I love this entry in the top ten. What a wonderful example of everyone submitting their first run of comments separately and assuming they were in a minority.)
Kieron: I love it, but wasn't in my own Top 10. With all the macho-overkill, what actually impresses me most about Gears of War has been kind of overlooked. It's just the small details which generally improve the genre (the reloading, for example, which every-one will be ripping off for the next few years. Or its use of cover. Or how they manage to make "Run" mean something more than "Move twice as quick". Or how they manage to integrate a massive skill-set without burying the game alive in a hellish control system). Also, there's the sense that it may be the terminal point for that Wolfenstein derived school of shooters. In which case, it's a beautiful dinosaur wandering around, wondering what all these little furry things are up to.
Kristan: Like Kieron once said, some of his favourite games of the year are 8/10 games, and this - like a lot of my personal top 10 - is a classic example of how you can fall in love with a game while still being more than happy to admit its flaws. It's a like dating a gorgeous model with rancid breath - you can live with it for the good things it offers. Who could fail to be blown away by its cinematic intensity, beautiful visuals and simple, refined duck n' shoot premise? Even though the campaign mode is way shorter than an epic (no pun intended) game like this should be, it had enough inspired moments to make it a game that every serious gamer should play, if not own. Multiplayer gamers, in particular, can have enormous fun with this - though until it lets you set up clan matches it'll never realise its obvious potential. It's so macho it hurts, but I still love it. And it's still an 8.
6. Lego Star Wars 2
Multi, Traveller's Tales, Gamepage.
John: I would recommend a Lego Star Wars game to anyone. But the odd thing is, they're very temporary games. Playing through both you recognise the fantastic brains behind the design, every scene gleefully fun and silly. But once you're done, you're done. It's like a great cartoon you saw and loved, but you wouldn't buy on DVD. However, you would definitely buy it for your friends who haven't seen it. Oddly, this second game doesn't quite manage the depth of daftness the original offered. I guess this is a response to making a game based on films deserving at least some reverence, rather than those that deserve nothing but mockery. It was the irreverence that made LSW brilliant. It's the puzzles and cheerful recreation of classic scenes that makes LSW2 brilliant.
Alec: I thought I'd never manage any affection for Star Wars again after subjecting myself to the dreadful Revenge of the Sith, but LSW2 meant the healing could begin.
Kristan: Superb fun. Sure, pretty much the same as the original with more variety and better settings, but it just works. Travellers' Tales once again shows us what a quality developer it really is when it gets to work, and deserves massive credit for transforming a C-grade Lego licence into an A-title when other developers would have lovelessly churned out a trite platformer. Excellent in co-op, and so very very moreish. Oh, and hilarious at times too. Han Solo, what a hero.
Dan: An absolute breath of fresh air, the Lego Star Wars games have bucked the system by producing great games despite having two licensing masters to placate. Faithful where needed, cheekily irreverent where appropriate, this game was enough to remind a jaded soul such as myself why I used to love the galaxy far, far away. Charming, witty and stuffed full of fun unlockables, this is just as great as the first entry, but without the handicap of shitty prequel nonsense.
5. Dead Rising
Xbox 360, Capcom, Gamepage.
Luke: Punish zombies any which way you like for as long as you like. Capcom are legends in my eyes anyway and in Dead Rising, they've come out with the game I've always wanted to play. Stick Dawn Of The Dead and Dynasty Warriors in a microwave and this would be the result. Maybe
John: High point: Watching my housemate run over 2000 zombies in twenty minutes with a car.
Mathew: I hadn't thought about this game once before I tried it at E3, but the minute I killed my first zombie by hitting it with a pot plant I was sold. Sure, it's got its share of horrible, arrogant flaws (the tiny text, the save system) but it is the zombie game and the most gleeful example of the potential of the new generation of videogames. Keiji Inafune, I salute you, sir!
Tom: Dead Rising is a very funny game anyway, but particularly funny is that if you cut it all into bits (as is its wont, I suppose), you've basically got crap controls, crap bosses, crap missions, crap AI, crap script and a crap save system. The reason it works is, as much as anything, that urge to be in this situation. Secretly all right-thinking fat geek males want to be in a post-apocalyptic scenario full of slow-moving squidgy mutant-dead. It's because we fancy our chances. Holing up in a shopping centre, waiting for the cavalry, trying not to get shot in the face by the cavalry, trying to undo the Saved By The Bell plot machinations happening over by the popcorn stand. It's disappeared off beyond schlock and set up camp using a tent made of expired money-off vouchers. We wish we were there. Just as important, there's always something to do, find or laugh at, and for once it actually is a living city; if you miss something, you'll just have to play it again one day. Something that, whenever I let my mind slip back into thinking about it, I've a very real desire to just disappear off and do. GTA used to be the game where we all swapped anecdotes; this year it was this.
James: Capcom making our dream come true. The one about smashing the undead in the face with a frying pan, anyway. It doesn't matter that the save system was a little broken and the text hard to read on a SDTV, knowing Capcom's attitude to zombies, there'll be another along in a minute. And another. And another. Quick, hand me that shotgun.
Alec: Trashy and stupid with awful boss fights, but I love that the game Daily Mail readers believe all videogames to be like finally got made.
Kieron: It's hard to go wrong when you've decided to make a game about bludgeoning zombies to death with frying pans. Capcom didn't.
4. Final Fantasy XII
PS2, Square Enix, Gamepage.
Kieron: They're still making Final Fantasy games? How quaint.
Dave: This isn't fair. I've been holding out for the PAL version.
Kieron: No, seriously, what the hell is this doing here? I appear to have found myself in the midst of a nest of Final Fantasy fans. Message to command: Drop Napalm on my present position so I can wipe out this hive of villainy.
Simon: Reviewing videogames like Final Fantasy XII is empirically harder than reviewing film. Not only must you consider the cinematics, pacing, costume and set design, casting and acting, camera work and location choice of Square Enix's latest world - but also its interactivity and mechanisms for role-play. The game's brilliance casts bright, perspicacious light on the stagnating genre, illuminating and accusing the flaws of its so-called 'modern' peers and pointing to a future for RPGs that could scarcely have been imagined before its unveiling. Its building blocks are as old as videogame time but the orphan who made good was never such a magnificent or wonderful role to play as in this game.
Tom: Don't you basically just hit stuff and buy potions?
James: For many reasons, there's a lot of games on this list I'll admit to not having played this year. If I was going to, in an Amazon pre-order review-style, pick one of the best of those to rave about, it'd have to be FFXII. Any game that both revolutionises the genre and guarantees my obsessive exploration for hundreds of hours gets my vote.
Oli: The Japanese RPG redefined: endless, painless, supple, subtle, radical and traditional all at once, and proof, alongside Okami, that PS2 can still host the world's most beautiful games.
Luke: In essence an MMO with an actual story (and a decent one at that) for people that aren't quite ready for the seedy underworld of online gaming. The best Final Fantasy since VII in my opinion.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Wii/Cube, Nintendo, Gamepage.
Kieron: They're still making quaint Zelda games? How quaint.
Actually, a great game. But funnily - much like Gears of War - does seem a little bit of a dinosaur. Or maybe more a dying art. There's so much craft in every aspect of Twilight Princess, and realising that no-one else is doing - or, to be fair, is even capable of doing - similar work, makes you think you're living in some, well, some twilight. And when it's gone, we'll miss it terribly.
They're still making quaint Zelda games? How wonderful.
Kristan: What better reason to buy a Wii? What better reason to dust off the GameCube for one last hurrah? What better reason to get back into gaming? In a year when true classic games have been at a premium, Nintendo's long-awaited sequel reminds us why we love videogames, and why we keep coming back for more. After an admittedly slow start, the game offers such a relentlessly solid run of fantastically enjoyable sections that you don't mind the fact that the game is so huge. In fact, a couple of temples down the line you just want more and more. It's a bit like when I really got into San Andreas - another game with a shaky introduction that just kept getting better all the time and understood that progression should bring rewards. It's less progressive and ambitious than Oblivion, but has way more charm and provides a timely reminder why linearity doesn't have to be a dirty word.
John: Were it released a month earlier, I think this would have had a chance at number one. I've never engaged with Zelda before. I had fun on the GBA, but grew quickly tired of Wind Waker. And for my eternal sins, never gave the earlier games a chance. So I suppose I'm somewhat influenced by this being My First Zelda Love. While the early fishing is unforgivably dreadful, nothing else in the game has come close to being less than great. It's a masterpiece of design, beautiful and constantly expanding, reinventing itself with each new addition, and while I find bosses a tedious and disingenuous farce, here each has been fair and easily passed. Hooray for fairy boys!
James: Formulaic. That's formulaic in the sense that Zelda consistently builds on a traditionally successful underlying structure: get the item, solve the dungeon, defeat the boss, fill a heart container, ad infinitum. The satisfaction of constant reward happily married to the Wii's unique control scheme. Best launch title ever? Of course, the question you're inevitably asking: how much will I get for selling a mint Gamecube version on eBay. Pah! Get out of here. You disgust me. (A straight £25-30 quid for a couple of years then a gradual dip in price for some period before reclaiming its value is my guess.)
2. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
PC/Xbox 360, Bethesda Softworks, Gamepage.
Alec: A splendid hybrid of the depth of single-play RPGs and the confused wandering of MMOs. Shame about the pudding-faced characters, though.
Mathew: A game so good I've refused to play it more than a couple of hours, as I could feel the addiction I had to living a life that wasn't my own when I played Morrowind starting to take hold. I might book a holiday and install it again, though...
Kristan: Oblivion blew me away like no other game this year. I don't recall any other game giving me so many possibilities at once, and allowing me to forge my own path - all of which I wanted to do at the same time. I really couldn't give a flying fig about the perceived flaws with the level-up system, because - to be honest - I didn't even notice. I was too busy wandering around this vast, beautiful world, going off on one fascinating quest after another and shaping the game around what I wanted to do, rather than the other way around. So much of what this game offered was breathtakingly well executed, feeling more like a grand realisation of what an adventure game should be in 2006. People should get away from the tired notion of pigeon holing it in to the "rat punching" RPG category, because Oblivion is so much more than a game about slaying goblins and gaining XP. It's a game about freedom and possibilities, and one that offers so many hours of entertainment, it feels ungrateful to nitpick. The 360's finest hour so far, and the best reason to own the machine in my opinion.
Dan: Sure, the gameplay beneath the shiny shiny exterior may not be all that revolutionary, and the bulk of the dialogue soon begins to grate, but compared to the enormity of the experience and the enticing freedom to truly Choose Your Own Adventure, this is a game worth making the next gen leap for. It's nerdy as hell, often overwhelming in scale, but where else do you get to fight to the death alongside Sean Bean? Well, apart from a Sheffield pub car park, of course...
James: Confession time: I still haven't played this. Perhaps I shouldn't have promised I'd get round to completing Morrowind first.
Keza: Typically, I have a fifteen-hour limit on games, even ones I really like. Nothing holds my attention for very much longer. My game time clock in Oblivion currently stands at 104 hours and I STILL haven't finished it. If ever a game was worth fifty quid, this is it. I love it unreasonably. But if I start listing things I like about it then we'll be here until next Christmas, probably; I've been enthusing about it all year...
Kieron: The strangest thing about Oblivion is how quickly its critical standing in general gaming discourse dropped. For about one month it was being talked in Best-Game-Ever terms but then, well, a disenfranchisement set in. That it's "only" 2 in the chart speaks volumes. The disenfranchisement itself was strange - even from the very beginning, its primary flaws were obvious (botching its levelling so allowing you to accidentally break the game, mainly) and widely discussed. But the when its standing fell it wasn't actually a backlash. It was just it falling out of conversation. We stopped talking about it. But even if it wasn't quite what we wanted - that is, the best game ever - it was still a triumphant experience and absolutely top-five-of-the-year material. And, for the record, about twice the game Morrowind was.
1. Guitar Hero
PS2, Harmonix, Gamepage.
Tom: It's no Psychonauts, I'll tell you that.
John: I dunno. Really? I just don't get what's so special. It's got a great controller, and some non-shitty songs. It's a dance mat in your hands. It's fun to compete against friends. But what else? Why so great? Everyone bangs on about RAWKING OUT, but I was over Wayne's World a decade ago. Meh, I'm glad everyone's enjoying themselves, but I'm left sat in the corner staring in confusion.
Mathew: Described as a "rock star" simulator rather than a guitar simulator, it's as true as a description as possible, as it feels just as superb to blast through "Sharp Dressed Man" on easy as it does to struggle through it on expert. Plus! When you play it on easy, you've got more leeway to gyrate your hips and posture for "the ladies".
Simon: It's horrible, ugly, rock pastiche - as if The Darkness distilled their mock 'n roll USP into polygon and pixel and let you play as them; the rawk cliché weeps from every bottle of thrown piss and toilet-themed loading screen but, y'know, maybe parody's not such a bad frame of reference for a game that has you strap a plastic toy to your torso and pose idiotic for five minutes in front of your TV. Guitar Hero made 10-year old Japanese Bemani mechanics actually work on a Western audience at last and, for further widening the boundaries of what mainstream videogames can mean, who wouldn't be ever grateful?
James: Nothing more than a priapic totem to masculine fantasy. Just as it should be. The kind of game that causes spellcheckers to have a fit, because it needs you to spell rock with a capital 'AWWWWW'.
Kristan: Oh look, another 8/10, and another personal fave. It may well be a simple rhythm action game at its core, but, my god, what an inspired peripheral? Transforming what would have otherwise been a mild curiosity (like Harmonix's equally great and under-rated Amplitude and FreQuency) into a global phenomenon, the sight of goonish individuals gurning their way through More Than A Feeling will live long in the memory. The track listing, while not initially chock full of obvious favourites, has more than enough big hitters and hidden gems that have now entered gaming folklore. What was more surprising about Guitar Hero was its ability to appeal to the uber hardcore at the same time as attracting the non-gaming audience, but rather like Singstar, it won't really realise its true world-dominating potential until it becomes a product you can choose your own tracklisting online. But for now, with its low-budget cover version approach and charming simplicity, it definitely goes down as one of the most important games of the year - and unquestionably one of the most effortlessly enjoyable.
Alec: The only videogame I've ever played with my mother.
Kieron: Where to start?
The absolute sense of pure joy which consumed me upon plugging it in at the start of the year, and how a whole day was just consumed in a riff-frenzy? How "More Than A Feeling" is so good that I somehow talked The Escapist into letting me write 2500 words about it for them? How I suspect it managed to extend my relationship of the beginning of the year by a couple of months, as no matter how bad it got, we could always play Guitar Hero together and lighten the mood? How it was the only game she ever completed? How it was the only game which had friends turning up after closing time, banging on our door, demanding a go? How I found myself playing against a man in a Gorilla suit at a party, and losing? How it somehow marries the pure skill of something like Robotron to the social lubricant of Singstar to the faux-fantasy-fulfilment of Football Manager (except a better class of fantasy) to the atmospheric immersion of Looking Glass at their best (always remember: there's Thief alumni over at the Harmonix studio)?
Oh, don't start me talking. I could talk all night.
Keza: If you don't like Guitar Hero, you have NO SOUL.
For more end-of-year excitement, look out for our Readers' Top 50 voting form in the near future.