40. Animal Crossing: Wild World
DS, Nintendo, Gamepage.
Kieron: What I don't understand about the DS games you're meant to play every day: well, how are you meant to do them all? It's a lot of work. I have trouble finding the time to call my girlfriend, let alone visit a magical land full of apples or whatever.
Alec: I'm a vegetarian, so collecting fruit is a necessary part of my day-to-day survival anyway. Paying Ł30 to pretend I'm doing it really isn't my idea of fun, even if I can then spend my mountain of apples on a new carpet. People who claim to love Animal Crossing are just trying to be clever - they're all actually hating every oppressively cute, vapid second of it. But of course they'll never admit it. Just look into their eyes though, then you'll see THE TRUTH. My own weird Nintendo non-game choice of the year was Electroplankton, but seems as though it's not kitsch enough to count.
Keza: Why isn't this further up the list? What's wrong with you people? This is possibly the best handheld game I have ever played in terms of its suitability to its platform and sheer inclusiveness. This is the DS' defining game for me. It's the very embodiment of what some people nauseatingly refer to as 'the Nintendo difference'.
Ellie: Not all girls like this game. I hate it, for example.
Tom: A poor man's Viva Pińata!
PS2, SEGA, Gamepage.
John: Ok, these names are just being made up now so there could be fifty in the list.
Dave: How is this game possibly at 39? Better than Samurai Warriors 2? And Ninety-Nine Nights? And Devil May Cry 3? I think the panel must have started at the sherry early. That's the only way they could possibly have forgotten the idiotic combat and equally stupid voice acting. Sigh.
Tom: I liked this. It was sort of likeably stunted and daft. The way you'd imagine SEGA would make something when they tried to be all serious and edgy. A bit like watching a serious play performed by the cast of long-lost British TV series Gladiators.
Mathew: God-awful localisation aside, Yakuza is one of the most truthfully mature titles that I've played yet (and it should be, written by famous Japanese crime novelist Hase Seishu) well, for a game in which you get into street fights every ten steps and often finish your opponents off by hitting them with bicycles, anyway. It feels like living in one of the best trashy Yakuza flicks from the '60s and '70s.
James: The closest we're going to get to a new Shenmue at this present time. Can't argue with that.
38. Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter
PC/Xbox 360, Ubisoft, Gamepage.
Simon: Strip away the greens and browns and grass and metal and peel back the polygons and you're pretty much left with Space Invaders: shoot that before it shoots you; take cover until it disintegrates: one life left. But GRAW multiplayer co-op was our game of the year. Drunk on comradeship and camaraderie we laughed and screamed and blew each other up because we didn't press the grenade button down long enough when lying in rows in tunnels. Each friend's role became so quickly defined and orchestrated in each map that, if anyone did anything different, the whole finely balanced plan fell to bitching disarray. It no longer looks the prettiest - what game ever does - but the memories birthed in the groves of the coffee plantation or high up the sunset soaked crane at the docks are still burned as if we lived them. We still have reunions a year later. It doesn't matter that we completed each map a long time ago - that was never the point and, sheesh, that line between getting a medal or a wreath in war is so freaking thin...
Kieron: It's rubbish on the PC, mind you.
Kristan: My favourite 7/10 of the year. Should have been a 9 all day long, but Ubi blotted its copybook with some diabolical checkpointing (not to mention the unfinished feel about it) which made several sections needlessly frustrating. But when it was good, GRAW was damned near the best tactical action game of the year, with excellent controls, great visuals and one tense set-piece after the other. With solid AI and a real next-gen feel to it, it's no wonder people went a bit bonkers over it when it arrived, and its popularity in multiplayer has been astonishing. The sequel could - and should - be amazing.
37. Company of Heroes
PC, Relic, Gamepage.
James: The only traditional RTS in the chart and a WWII one at that. The PC's mainstay genre promises big things next year with Supreme Commander et al. For now, let's be happy with a rubble-strewn, atmospheric foray into recaptured territory. What a (tank) rush.
Kieron: The choice was between a one word entry along the line of "BASTARDS!!?!?!" and an essay. I'm going to try and walk a line between them.
Put it like this: Only reason this isn't top five is because I'm the only guy who voted for the charts who actually played the bastard thing. This is as good as a RTS has got in the time I've been a full-time games journalist. In fact, in terms of a quiet re-imagining of what the mainstream RTS could be, the only comparison which comes to mind is something outside of the genre: Half-life. It's the Half-life of RTS. And like Half-Life, for the next year-and-a-half every game in the genre is going to be looking a little old and passé because it hasn't caught up intellectually with the leap that Relic managed with this. The only sad thing is that because it wasn't quite the sales success it clearly should have been - more than anything else, I suspect the relative antipathy around it outside of genre-hardcore is at least partially to blame for WW2 burn-out - means that maybe rather than opening a new chapter in what RTS games could be (like Half-Life did the FPS), it'll rather be sidelined and ignored. And we'll all be poorer for it.
To choose games that are clearly going to turn up higher in the list, it's better than Oblivion, it's more innovative than Zelda, it's more violent and beautiful than Gears of War and it's eight hundred times the game than Final Dicking Dipshit Fantasy XII is.
36. Rhythm Tengoku
GBA, J.P. Room, Gamepage.
Tom: Best Game Boy Advance game of the year, and surely this year's Ouendan. Except better.
John: I'm humiliated to see this on the list, and remember that I forgot to vote for it. I'm a bad person. Imagine it's higher up the list. A completely brilliant game that only idiots didn't get. Funnier than Wario Ware - which other game has you pluck the hairs from the chin of an anthropomorphised onion in time with the music?
James: This is my bile-spitting 'how dare they!' post. It only managed number 35 from the combined votes of my fellow writers? How dare they! Rhythm Tengoku is, in my eyes, on a par with - if not better than - that other celebrated Japanese rhythm action title, Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! Mini-games set to music, something the creators of WarioWare have perfected only too well. There's been talk of its brevity. Nonsense. It's easy to see everything in a day, sure, but its enduring simplicity, its catchy beats, and, above all, its grin-inducing Oriental weirdness always brings me back to tap through favourites one more time. Not for the challenge, but for fun, looping the best tunes like a favourite single. Pa-pa-pa-punch!
Kieron: I really want to play this, but haven't yet. I suck!
35. Lumines 2
PSP, Q Entertainment, Gamepage.
Dave: As far as I'm concerned, the only bad thing anyone could justifiably say about Lumines II is that the PSP battery life is rubbish.
Tom: That's interesting, because as far as I'm concerned the only good thing anyone could justifiably say about Lumines II is that it's got rid of the upper score limit.
Ellie: Just as good as the first one. I.e. not very.
34. Kingdom Hearts 2
PS2, Square Enix, Gamepage.
Luke: From the oh-my-God -stop-it-being -so-beautiful -before-I-die intro to the wonderful integration of Sora and pals into the familiar themed worlds, there's not an awful lot you can say to knock this second collaboration between gaming and animation giants. Most problems fixed, plenty of top cameos and oodles to do make this one of my must-haves for the year.
Simon: The first four hours are a hideous mess of videogame drivel only tolerable with the promise of the largely excellent Disney/Square Enix IP stuff from the first game kept close in mind. After that it gets better but the team still ruined a mostly successful formula by making everything USA-style bigger. Characters now don't sit alongside each other in coherent ways (Auron fighting Hades?), drives cost too much to bother with, the plot-line features idiotic play-school mechanisms such as amnesia (for everyone!) and returning dead characters and the QTE and mini-games grate incessantly. The incredible Steamboat Willy level and vastly improved Gummi Ship sections couldn't rescue one of my big disappointments of the year.
James: Let me say, I'm impressed by the tenacity of KH2 to require me to play the GBA version in order to appreciate the full story. You can't say that of many games, can you?
33. Tekken: Dark Resurrection
PSP, Namco, Gamepage.
Kieron: They're still making Tekken games? How quaint.
Luke: Mmmm... fighting. Best portable fighter, period. Reminds me why I got a PSP in the first place - proper home console quality games on the move. Splendid.
James: kuhi;rg;jisredkopsew'pew jorgv rekiop[re [reiopew \]e\f[# #lgk,rgop#'[#'#zfd;.[fc,, c mklr'Wf\e=- zv. (If mashing the buttons is good enough for Tekken, it's good enough for this comment.)
Martyn Carroll: Namco's brawler delivers a double-hit combo. It's not only the best Tekken game to date, but the best game on PSP. Nice one Namco - if it weren't for this and Ridge Racer 2, my PSP would be sitting pretty on my sideboard as a fancy-looking paperweight.
32. Neverwinter Nights 2
PC, Obsidian, Gamepage.
John: Obviously one of the best games of the year, idiotically placed this far down the list due to the wretched stupidity of these young modern writers. A masterful piece of storytelling, with a powerful ability to give you the impression that your decisions were hugely changing the world, whether they really were or not. Add in the superb characters, and their superb character development, and you had one of the best RPGs in absolutely ages. And there simply weren't any problems with the camera.
Kieron: I know I reviewed this, but it's the one score that's nagged at me ever since. I think I'd probably give it a 7 now. Except its camera was sorted out in the latest patch, so I'd probably give it an 8 again. And the tools really are pretty nifty. Yes, let's keep it at an 8. I'll be going now.
Cube, Nintendo, Gamepage.
Mathew: It's probably the most cruelly overlooked game of the year (released on the all but forgotten GameCube in early summer), but barring all but the almighty Katamari series this might be the most charming game ever created. And it's about doing the housework! (The Wii is backwards compatible with the GameCube, you know. This is the ideal title to test that out with.)
James: He's been charged. Charged with fun! But really electricity. Er...
Martyn: Twilight Princess aside, this is the last great game on GameCube. Despite some frustrating gameplay mechanics, it's absolutely endearing from start to finish. Chibi-Robo rules OK!