5. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
Nintendo / DS
Kieron Gillen: Will a Zelda game ever get beneath the Eurogamer Top 10? I suspect not.
Kristan Reed: I've got to finish Twilight Princess first, dammit!
John Walker: It seems I'm Mr Miserygrumps for the top 10, but I don't get this one. I came late to the Zelda party, but really enjoyed Link's previous GBA outings, and utterly adored last year's Wii beauty. But this one never clicked. And oddly enough, in the same way that Wind Waker never clicked. It felt routine, going through the Zelda motions, and worst of all, going through that same incredibly dull dungeon four hundred and seventy-two times. Someone tell me what I'm missing so I can love this one too.
Keza MacDonald: Like most Zelda games, this made me grin like an idiot every few minutes, but for different reasons than before. I've always wanted a game that makes me yell at giant rabbits. There are so many inspired moments in this that make even a game as practiced and refined as Zelda feel like it's redefining itself - shouting for attention, or copying things onto your map, or closing the DS lid to make a stamp, or painstakingly drawing symbols and calculations to find a piece of hidden treasure. It's magic.
Tom Bramwell: There are a couple of games in this year's top ten that I always seem to have bouncing around somewhere in my head, replaying bits of them mentally, and Phantom Hourglass is definitely one. The controls, the map system, the graphical style, the silly characters - it's such a lovable game, so effortlessly at home on the DS, and actually so much more full of extras and secrets than even I realised. I'd finished it over a respectable number of days, content that I'd seen much of what it had to offer, and was almost aghast at just how much other stuff the likes of our designer, Mark, and Dan who puts the screenshots up uncovered when they subsequently tucked into it. It all made me want to start it again. Most of the other games on this list - Portal and BioShock excepted - I knew I would prefer to wait for a while before tackling a second time, but Zelda I could have rebooted and re-entered from scratch within minutes of closing the DS' lid. With the Christmas break sending me home to dreary Chesham in frosty Buckinghamshire, I'll finally get the chance.
Oli Welsh: Hey, I've finally played Twilight Princess, now. This is loads better. Until Phantom Hourglass there was no single game that made sense of every aspect of the DS hardware design. It just feels so effortless, so right, so complete; the total, pleasurable sense of command you get from the controls is up there with early 2D Mario. And what a cracking little multiplayer mode, too - but I still want that DS Four Swords, Nintendo. Don't think I've forgotten.
Matt Martin: I only play first-party games (and Puzzle Quest) on the DS. Phantom Hourglass is a great adventure. The stylus controls just seem right, especially when using the boomerang. Those Nintendo cats no how to make bloody good games don't they?
Microsoft / Real Time Worlds / Xbox 360
Alec Meer: The hardest I laughed this year was when I roundhouse-kicked the deputy editor of PC Gamer magazine off the edge of a suspension bridge and into the ocean. AND IN THE GAME.
Keza MacDonald: Nope, sorry. I love my free-roaming, but all there is to actually do in Crackdown is shoot at men, and shoot at men in cars. It's hardly Oblivion, is it?
Tom Bramwell: Uh-oh readers! It's the wrongface alarm! Keza, you have been cited for ignoring that you can tempt Kristan up buildings in it and then kick him off them.
Simon Parkin: Grand Theft Auto is city-based gaming on a purely horizontal axis. Sure, you take to the skies from time to time but these sub-missions feel self-contained and set apart from the main experience. In Crackdown, by contrast, the vertical axis is everything. Why out-drive pursuers around tight corners and through dense traffic when you can disappear up a skyscraper in a single bound. And once you've reached the summit? This year gaming had no thrill greater than swan-diving from the agency tower ten thousand feet into a speck of water. Although, all that said, Crackdown be damned for introducing the collectable-tokens-in-difficult-to-reach-places-for-auticstic-collect 'em up gamers - a crutch that has since infiltrated everything from The Simpsons and Transformers to Assassin's Creed.
Tom Bramwell: A bit like BioShock, the lack of a context within which people could be contented seemed to fuel a bizarre backlash to Crackdown. I thought it was brilliantly silly and over the top, and in many ways it's the most playful game of the year, even in a list that contains Portal. Play it for a weekend and remember it fondly. And for heaven's sake get someone to play it with you over Xbox Live: fully beefed up, it's a superhero play-set for a pair of idiots.
Jim Rossignol: Let's say this: all games should be Crackdown.
Oli Welsh: Few games have ever done the steady, inexorable accumulation of power so well. You start it as a serious badass and end it as rampaging superhero, the unstoppable force and the immovable object rolled into one. Also, running and jumping on rooftops is one of my personal favourite videogame wish-fulfillments, and Crackdown cracked it perfectly. Bad luck, Assassin's Creed.
Dan Whitehead: A holiday romance kind of game. I fell deeply in love with it for a week, explored every inch of its delicious body, and then barely gave it a second thought for the rest of the year. It's fun, just not "4th Best Game of the Year" fun. I'll save the plaudits for a sequel with more to do.
Kieron Gillen: What I love about Crackdown is how ballsy the game is. Where something like Assassin's Creed messes around with an hour of standing up and lying down and cut-scenes before dropping you in a city, Crackdown... drops you in a City.
Rich Leadbetter: By far and away the best sandbox game of the year, Realtime Worlds deserve plaudits not just for a staggeringly good game, but also for what must surely be the greatest playable demo of all-time.
Kristan Reed: Starts off slowly (dare I say, it's bloody boring initially), but within a few hours builds into something monumentally special. Lacks the narrative hook that made Rockstar's efforts so moreish, but more than made up for it with superb online co-op play and the kind of environmental freedom that made exploring every last nook and cranny a mission in itself. Climbing the agency tower was probably my most memorable gaming moment of the year. I sodding well tripped while jumping off, too.
Matt Martin: The game I've spent the most time playing this year. I'd been completely bored with open-world games since the overkill of San Andreas, True Crime and Mercenaries so I was as cynical as the next man before Crackdown arrived. The demo got me pumped, the game was just a riot of messing around, killing, crashing, throwing and going apeshit anyway I pleased. The sense of scale was superb and jumping from one skyscraper to the next was a real thrill. And the downloadable content seemed perfectly priced and pitched.
Rob Fahey: I'm really happy to see this being placed so highly. It's a superb game, one which makes no apologies for just being fun rather than being deep or meaningful. Leaping across rooftops and kicking trucks into miscreants' faces will never get old - hell, I like it so much that I'll even forgive it for causing my second Red Ring of Death incident.
Alec Meer: There's no way I'd score BioShock a 10, and, with all due respect to my EG overlords and Comrade Gillen, if a game needs 4000 words of zealotry three months after the event to defend it, something significant really is wrong with it in my book, But it's an easy, easy 9. Rapture's a wonderfully atmospheric place to be, and arranges some truly unforgettable moments amongst its often workmanlike corridor-pounding. And I don't mean the more obvious plot-based ones. The sinister, looming Andrew Ryan statue in Rapture's entrance hall, the palpable terror of the first Little Sister you're asked to choose the fate of, the monstrous ballet of clubbing Splicers to death in time to The Nutcracker Suite - brief moments of intense artistry. Yeah, I'm disappointed by the punches it pulled, but it proved that a more thoughtful action game can be sold to a wide audience, and because of that there's a good chance we'll get more of 'em. Deus Ex 3 wouldn't be happening if BioShock hadn't been the success it has, I'll bet.
Simon Parkin: Kieron probably won't bother commenting on this one will he?
Rob Fahey: I don't think BioShock is a bad game - it's a cracking few hours of entertainment - but I do find myself in the "somewhat disappointed" camp. The atmosphere, the art direction and the use of music are superb, head and shoulders above anything else released this year, but the narrative falters badly in the final act - and the game itself promises a great deal with the introduction of the various genetic enhancements, but then fails completely to capitalise on the potential of the system. The result is a slightly unsatisfying first-person shooter, raised above the rabble by stunning presentation. It's intelligent and it's enjoyable, but it could have been so much more. I probably wouldn't say any of this to Kieron's face, though.
Dan Whitehead: Most of my favourite gaming moments of the year, both action and story, can be found in BioShock. Whether it's the eerie sense of being in a real place, with history and character, or the grand baroque black comedy of Fort Frolic, or the masterful reveal, BioShock is a stunning creation. So much so that I can use the phrase "grand baroque black comedy" and only feel a little bit like a twat. It's just a shame it all builds up to such a generic boss fight. But maybe that's the point...
John Walker: I have to make a conscious and concerted effort to keep reminding myself how much I enjoyed playing BioShock while I was playing it. Because if there was ever a game that suffered in hindsight, it's this one. Certainly a great deal of this is because the game lets everyone down so badly, no matter how deep Kieron's denial. It makes a series of promises over a number of hours, and then fails to keep them. The promises were tantalising, and it was their potential, and the excitement of their fulfilment, that made the experience quite so enjoyable. To reach the end and find out that it was all hot air, and that a game that presented itself as a critique of the linearity in shooters, as well as the lack of imagination in people's ambitions, in fact was a starkly linear shooter with a horrible lack of imagination and ambition for its climax... well, that's disappointing. But that doesn't change quite how much I enjoyed playing it. Seen as a game that doesn't promise that it will revolutionise your world, it stands out as one of the games of the year. Take notice of its internal potential, and it stings like a punch to the ear. But it's vital that it's remembered for the astonishing things it did do, above the dreadful ending and unfulfilled promises that tar it.
Jim Rossignol: Exquisitely disappointing. A masterpiece and a missed opportunity. I love it and loathe it - no wonder it divided opinions.
Kristan Reed: Ah yes, this one wins the Oblivion award for being the game it's trendy to knock down a peg or two. My personal Game of the Year, and possibly of any other year by virtue of its ability to wrap me up in a story like no game has ever managed. Crafted narrative, amazing visuals, the best audio ever and never less than engaging gameplay. If you don't at least give it a try, I suggest getting another hobby. Like witchcraft.
Tom Bramwell: I think that if you're sympathetic to twists, sub-text and ambition, BioShock sits well in hindsight. But then these are silly things to be sympathetic to when the goal is entertainment, so perhaps it doesn't. What I know is that I played it once, and then immediately played it again. The most fun the first time was simply clearing out the stupid monsters then picking over the environment, putting all the threads of the scattered stories back together, and then glorying in the whole; the second fun was in putting my ear properly to the world, spying on the splicers, listening to the little sisters. I, like Jim (and I like Jim, too), wish it had been open, or that it had used the marvellous twist to break out of what it had been doing, but I'm still comfortable with it as one of my favourite games of the year, and with Christmas coming up I realise I now have a difficult decision to make: play Zelda again, or take the 360 home and play BioShock again on the top difficulty.
Matt Martin: For me, BioShock is all about the atmosphere and the creation of a believable and convincing world. It was so successfully styled from posters to architecture to weapon to characters, I didn't tire of exploring the place one bit. The battles against Big Daddies and the Splicers always felt like a challenging back and forth struggle and the combination of weapons and Plasmids meant it was never a chore. Plus, I like the fact that I was probably responsible for the end of the world after harvesting all those Little Sisters.
Kieron Gillen: I may have run out of things to say about this one. Nah, only joking. One thing I come back to - Kristan, in the original comments thread, said he suspected there would be a book (a real book) written about this one. I still think he could be right. In short, it's an interesting game in a dozen ways, and - with any luck - will help open a door to a more interesting future. Even if you don't like BioShock, I suspect you're going to end up enormously grateful to it. Wait and see. The future's nearly here and think there's going to be something neat for everyone there. Also: Best soundtrack of the year.
2. Super Mario Galaxy
Nintendo / Wii
Kristan Reed: Even a couple of hours with this confirms that Miyamoto is indeed back to his best. I'll be enjoying this over Christmas. Think of me, dear reader.
Oli Welsh: It's mad. That's all I wanted. And the right kind of mad, too. It's not schizophrenic mad, like Sunshine was: an unstable, deluded, mood-swinging, multiple personality disorder kind of mad. No, Mario Galaxy is mad like children, or crazy inventors, or people on drugs; it's a permanent, ecstatic, surreal sugar-high, a loop-de-loopy fountain of colours and ideas and happiness and nonsense. It's mad in a way only videogames can be, and in a way Mario has always done best. It's the reason I play these damn things in the first place.
Rich Leadbetter: I still believe that Super Mario World is the pinnacle of the series, but Galaxy is the first game to truly convince me that the antics of gaming's most celebrated superstar can work in three dimensions. More than that, the combination of sheer raw playability and a wonderful imagination - classic, signature Mario - is back. I'm probably stirring up a hornet's nest by saying this, but my only regret about an otherwise perfect game is that it's not in HD.
Kieron Gillen: Probably as good as a traditional videogame can be, and another awe-inspiring summit in the mountain range of Nintendo classics.
Dan Whitehead: This was both my favourite game of the year, and the most depressing. It's my favourite because it's just so beautifully designed, with care and attention to detail in every nook and cranny, and it's the most depressing because it made me realise that the only company that really knows how to develop for the Wii is apparently Nintendo itself.
Jim Rossignol: Cute, smart, perfectly formed... And I still got bored of it in a couple of hours. I think I'm too old and tired of the Nintendo formula.
John Walker: I've played up to about 60 stars, and will keep going (leaving my Wii on the whole time so I don't lose my 90 lives thanks to its moronic decision to reset lives to 5 each time you reload. Find me the review that criticised it for that), but I can't think of a game I've shouted at as angrily this year. I think where I'm going wrong is not being swept up with excitement that you can walk upside down. I can never think of examples, but I'm sure I've experienced this dynamic before. It certainly doesn't grab me with originality. And it certainly doesn't enamour me by having those platforms that can be walked on upside down indistinguishable from those than can't, and killing me for having the audacity to try on the wrong one. I'm also not warmed by the utterly abysmal swimming - the worst since Tomb Raider (again, why isn't this appearing in reviews?). And the camera? Why the hell does it keep refusing to let me control it? Every time my view is blocked, or it angles itself so I can't see the gap I'm jumping, apparently that's when the engine can't bear to let me swivel it slightly. Why?! It's a great platform game. It's an 8 or a 9. Good lord, the atrocious ball-walking levels alone knock it down from a 10. I should balance this out by discussing what I love, especially the storybook, but everyone else will do that and no one will mention all that's wrong with it, as apparently Nintendo have some Demon Headmaster powers to which only I'm immune. I am best. Listen only to me.
Keza MacDonald: I take back what I said at number 34 - actually it turns out that John Walker smells and is wrong about everything.
Alec Meer: Actually I like this less the more I play it. Once the initial clapping for sheer joy at its colour and charm wore off, I couldn't muster enough enthusiasm for a few more hours of jumping and spinning. It's cute, without a doubt. But it's too much of a holding pattern for game of the year material for me. It is worth noting that I have no soul, though.
Rob Fahey: There are moments when Nintendo is still the best games company on the planet, and Mario Galaxy is one of those moments. It's at once accessible and challenging, familiar and innovative, simple and beautiful. Every stage is filled with jaw-droppingly clever morsels of game design, and the path to each of the game's stars is wonderfully streamlined and polished. It's the epitome of "just one more" gaming - an unparalleled joy from start to finish, and as damn near perfect as a game has ever been.
Simon Parkin: It's like stream of consciousness, capsule game design where every single idea is perfect, self-contained, never repeated and there are ten brazillion of them laid out in a line. Idiots will look at the candy-coloured palette, cutesy character designs and Mario dicking about in a bee costume and dismiss it as a game for children and nostalgic man-children. But in terms of the orthodox definition of what a videogame is and should be, this is actually the best videogame ever made.