10. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl
THQ / GSC / PC
Alec Meer: Pretty much the exact opposite of Call of Duty 4, and yet those are the two games vying for my favourite single-player FPS of the year. I love Stalker for how its unique brokenness entirely suits its unparalled atmosphere of stoic, miserable men, weirdness and horror. It's an FPS that actually offers something like a world, rather than just tunnels and disconnected levels.
Kristan Reed: Port it to PS3 or 360 for gawd's sake!
Jim Rossignol: Broken and brilliant. Stalker provides an idea of where shooters could go next: mixing scripted action with ecosystem AI to create genuinely interesting worlds. If BioShock had taken on the same kind of wide-open-yet-linear structure it would have been a much more interesting game.
Kieron Gillen: I wonder how many other people commenting on this one will use words like "Atmosphere". I'll bet all of them, or at least the ones who aren't making gags. As far as Post-soviet post-apocalypse survival-horror hyphen-heavy first-person shooters based around experimental arthouse sci-films set in nuclear disasters go, it's in a league of its own. And whatever takes Stalker's ideas and runs with them will, I'm sure, be a future Best Game of whatever year it comes out in.
John Walker: This game, as fantastic as it is, reveals a condition in me I was only faintly aware afflicted me. Gaming agoraphobia. Presented with too many directions to go in, and too many options for what to do, and I panic and stand still, wishing for a corridor to run down. This proves that I'm a moron, and nothing else.
9. Team Fortress 2
Kristan Reed: The best online shooter ever. End of story. Brilliant in every single way, from the simple maps, to the visual style and the wry humour. Well worth the wait.
Kieron Gillen: The online shooter, completely rebooted. Going from this to anything else makes everything else just look like identikit macho nonsense. Characters who have characters: who'd have thought it could make such a difference? It's the class-based shooter with real class.
Dan Whitehead: spieslol.
Alec Meer: Most of my time in multiplayer FPSes is spent swearing and slamming my keyboard against my desk. Most of my time in this one was spent laughing. What's really smart about TF2 is that the deathmatch hardcore are generally just as happy in it as talentless schmucks like I am. Truly, this is the game of The People.
Jim Rossignol: Awesome. I'm still stunned by how good it actually is. It'll be interesting to see how many people are playing it in two years time, however.
John Walker: Hurrah! It's the online FPS that made me care about online FPS! I'm a solitary gamer. I like to stalk the streets of shooters alone, a loner with nothing to prove. Other people spoil games by introducing all the properties of other people. I really hate other people. For me, online FPS needs to be everyone against everyone to be interesting. But somehow TF2 eradicates all their worst features, and lets me have an enormous amount of fun despite their presence. Avoiding playing as a Medic or Heavy, I also find that I don't have to work alongside anyone else, and can just get on with supporting my team on my own. I also found, to my delight, that I am often quite good at it, and get to see my name somewhere other than the bottom of the list. And for these reasons I really rather like TF2.
Tom Bramwell: Given the reaction to this, there's probably a confidence boost somewhere in there for 3D Realms - as well as the best multiplayer game of the year. The fact I sit at my PC or console viewing every multiplayer action game in terms of which things from TF2 it ought to include but doesn't is pretty representative of just how much skin we should be shearing from Valve's back with the inevitable pat.
Rob Fahey: I love the look and feel of TF2, but I just haven't had time to get into it (not helped by not having broadband due to a house move in November). Definitely really looking forward to getting my teeth into it in January.
8. Mass Effect
Microsoft / Bioware / Xbox 360
John Walker: Dear Bioware. You know I love you. I mean, how many times can I tell you how much I love you? And you know I'd never want to do anything to hurt you. But Bioware, if our relationship is to survive, you've got to learn to accept change. I really love the game you keep making - it really is lots of fun. But is there any chance at all that maybe, one day, you could make another game? I don't mean other than an RPG - I'm not stupid. But maybe one with a different plot. Please, for us? Love, John.
Kieron Gillen: My character is a butch dyke character ala her out of The Wire and I think she's awesome. Mechanistically, I'm not entirely convinced, but as a modern-incarnation of the Bioware model, it's a welcome addition to the gaming lexicon. And my butch-dyke really is awesome.
Kristan Reed: A brilliant adventure game, no question, with some of the best narrative committed to a mere videogame. BUT. Far too much not-quite-brilliant combat, and some technical glitches take the shine off this absorbing space quest. If you've got the time to pick through Bioware's near-masterpiece, then you'll experience some of the 360's most interesting moments, as it's far more accessible than it initially appears.
Jim Rossignol: Patchy but enthralling nonetheless. I struggled not to scream at the combat on occasion, but otherwise this is exactly the kind of game I wanted to playing in 2007.
Dan Whitehead: With fewer graphical hiccups, a more consistently populated universe and more varied side quests, this would have been my game of the year. No question. As it is, too much of it feels like repetitive padding, while the story missions are short but sweet. It does, at least, have the distinction of finishing strongly, in a year when most of the competition fizzled across the finish line. The final push against Saren managed to be both cinematic in scope and ferociously exciting to play.
Keza MacDonald: I really love this actually. The combat doesn't grate on me at all - in fact, I really enjoy it, except the vehicular sections (but then, I'm rubbish at them). I'd be torn between this and Oblivion for my favourite Western RPG evaaar - but then, Fallout 3's coming out next year and that will immediately render all other games ever pointless and rubbish.
Alec Meer: I'm two hours into this so far, and I still haven't seen any lesbian sex scenes. GOD. In seriousness, Mass Effect is how I plan to spend Christmas. Spending a couple of days losing myself in a sprawling, well-written RPG with spaceguns instead of elves is going to wondrous, geeky bliss. Hopefully.
7. Halo 3
Microsoft / Bungie / Xbox 360
Kieron Gillen: Prediction: This will be this year's equivalent to last year's Gears of War entry. My take? Yeah, it's just Halo. But that's in no way a bad thing. For a single-player game, I'd lean towards Crysis. For a multiplayer game, I'd go for TF2. For a narrative experience I'll go for... well, anything. Peggle would beat it. But for an all-round thoroughbred shooter, even in this all-time-best year for the genre, Halo's as good as it gets.
Tom Bramwell: Ooh! While we're on the subject of Gears of War, I hadn't played it much by the time it came to do last year's Top 50 (they beat us in the last three months of the year, you know - "do more reviews! Stop sleeping!"), so I actually did most of my Gearsing in 2007. And I did a lot of it. I completed it on Xbox 360 about five times with various people using Xbox Live. Playing it co-operatively is like watching Garth Marenghi's Darkplace with a friend while making a particularly messy cake. The combat mechanics are so perfectly honed that each encounter is a delight to perfect; the brutality's simultaneously incredibly comic and tactile in a way that really pumps you up. I know I should be writing about Halo 3 here, but I'd rather give Gears some more space. The PC port was terrific, you know.
Kristan Reed: 7? Really? A serious disappointment to me, personally (in single-player terms at least). I don't know which game other people played, but the one in my 360 had a) two exceptionally boring opening chapters, b) seriously underwhelming visuals for some of the levels, and c) gameplay so similar to the previous two that it felt like a join the dots exercise for the most part. It felt like a game that Bungie wasn't allowed to take risks on, and while this made for a very solid game, it wasn't, by and large, very exciting to play. There were a couple of absolutely glorious sections in the middle, and the penultimate level was also good, but apart from that it was the same "30 seconds of fun over and over" formula stretched out, shooting the same old monsters time and again. If all you wanted was more of the same, then I guess you won't be remotely unhappy, but for me it felt (mostly) like the 2001 original with slightly better visuals - hardly the next-gen opus many of us were expecting.
Jim Rossignol: Well, Halo 3 was better than Halo 2. That must mean it was the best game ever, right?
Alec Meer: Played this through in four-man co-op mode on Legendary in a one-day sitting. It was possibly the most miserable gaming experience I had all year. Halo 3: a bit like being repeatedly kicked in the kidney by a woman you once loved, as she shouts that she only ever wanted you for your money anyway. Much as with Halo 2, except then I secretly thought it was just a temporary falling-out.
John Walker: Oh bloody hell. It's one thing to hate every reader on the planet, but now I have to hate my colleagues too? What is this mediocre tosspile doing in the top bloody ten? Seriously. Ep Two and Metroid Prime 3 languish far below, and this most boring and unremarkable of shooters gets 7th? Good grief. I endured with it for hour after hour, excitedly waiting for the remarkable joys I'd been promised, but instead being met with the most familiar and routine shooting imaginable. "We know!" thought Bungie, "Let's have John run down this shitty corridor a second time, because that will make the game last longer!" "I know!" thought John, "Let's despair at what's apparently good enough."
Dan Whitehead: As someone who values single-player narrative over multiplayer mayhem, I can't help wishing that Bungie's storytelling was as gripping as its ability to stage action set-pieces. Tsavo Highway is a fantastic piece of game design but, like the previous Halo games, superb tactical levels are sandwiched between plodding run-and-gun sections, while the story is as incoherent and pompous as ever. Special mention must go to what is certainly the most horribly misconceived final level of any game this year. Master Chief vs Marble Madness Kart Racer? I mean, really?
Rich Leadbetter: Probably my biggest disappointment of the year in that it's essentially a re-run of Halo 2: sublime online multiplayer, but a short, mostly unsatisfying single-player experience. I'm surprised it made the top ten to be honest.
Simon Parkin: Am I the only one who bloody hates it when PC-centric game journalists kick-off on the Halo series like it's shorthand for how shallow and vacuous console games and owners really are? Master Chief has a weight and solidity to his control that Gordon Freeman has never found. The guns have a kickback and recoil that feels just right and each is different enough from the others to warrant application in distinct situations. Sure the narrative has devolved into a blancmange of impenetrable sci-fi claptrap but that 30 seconds of repeated wonder gaming hasn't dulled since the trilogy's debut. And that first opening line, where Cortana says: "You know they let me pick? Did I ever tell you that? Choose whichever Spartan I wanted," while pretty much the only good line in the whole game, is also pretty much best line in any FPS.
Oli Welsh: In retrospect it's surprising that Halo 3, such a momentous event of a game, was over so quickly. But I guess it shouldn't be: by definition, an event is a finite moment in time, after all. Whatever. It was one hell of a fortnight. It's a great game by any yardstick, but what makes Halo 3 special is the completeness, integration and polish of the whole package, especially stuff like the theatre mode, and the astonishing bungie.net. It's an incredibly full-featured software and services suite, the Microsoft Office of gaming. You wonder if Bungie will be able to repeat it out there in the cold hard world, without the teat of the world's richest technology company to suckle at. For me personally though, it was about co-op. I've always loved co-operative gaming and it's so often left out or treated as a poor cousin; outside of MMOs, no game has ever respected it like Halo 3 has. Playing through the phenomenal Ark and Covenant levels - the first on Heroic with one friend, the second on Legendary with three - was quite simply the most fun two hours I've ever had playing games.
Rob Fahey: With the exception of World of Warcraft, probably my biggest time sink this year. I've played through the wonderfully balanced single-player repeatedly, both on my own and co-op; and the multiplayer remains, for me, the absolute pinnacle of pure FPS gaming. The sheer level of polish that's evident in the balance of weapons, vehicles and map layouts is stunning. It may not be the most visually impressive or innovative game of the year, but Halo 3 has just the right pinch of magic to ensure that people will still be playing and enjoying it for years to come.
Keza MacDonald: Isn't Halo passť now? Please! For God's sake, when will it be passť? I think Halo 3 might be a metaphor for Things I Don't Like About Games. It's a big-budget wank-fest for stupid people and exactly the sort of thing we don't want defining the industry. That said, Bungie has done an absolutely incredible job in giving its fan-base what it wants - the finesse and attention to detail in the online multiplayer, the Forge and the movie editor beggar belief, and I am compelled to give it tremendous respect for that. Halo 3 is very well designed, with superb audio and visual set-pieces and unparalleled online integration, and it's definitely a step forward for its particular genre. It's just a shame that I don't actually like it at all.
Matt Martin: Only played it cos I got it free.
6. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Kieron Gillen: No one was expecting this to amount to much, but that every single person who's mentioned it has raved about it has secured it a position at the top of my special "Games To Play When There's No Work Around in January" list. I mean, I hear it's the sixth-best game of 2007 and everything.
Jim Rossignol: Probably my surprise game of the year, since I was expecting nothing from it. Certainly more dramatic than any other shooter in 2007, and with some neat, inventive sequences - the C-130 air support section suddenly made a rail-shooter interesting again. If that isn't a major achievement then, well, meh.
Simon Parkin: Anyone who's finished the game on Veteran difficulty will have seen behind the curtain and realised just how held together by rubber bands, sticky-back plastic and invisible trigger points the game is. But even knowing that, even having almost punched through my house at some points thanks to the ridiculous unfairness of the AI and spawning code, this is still one of my games of the year. The set-pieces are awesome and awful (in the classic meaning of the words) for how accurately they replicate contemporary war footage. And beyond all of that it's the first FPS to beautifully implement levelling and a rewards structure in its online multiplayer, the effects of which will be felt forever.
Kristan Reed: After years of doing exciting but predictable remakes of Allied Assault, Infinity Ward finally shook off the shackles of WW2 and brought the whole cinematic shooter concept bang up to date. Like a complete mentalist, I played (and reviewed) the whole thing on Veteran, culminating in a torturous eight-hour obsession session on the brutal penultimate level. There are so many highlights in this game it's incredible - easily a GoTY contender.
Tom Bramwell: You did what to a goat?
Alec Meer: The best straight shooter of the year, and joyous proof that games don't need to resort to icky quick-time events if they need a way for the player to engage with a cutscene. There's nothing wrong with being on rails so long as you're allowed to lean out the window from time to time. Also, I've got a bit of a man-crush on Captain Price.
Matt Martin: Online game of the year for me, but also a great single-player experience with great set-pieces. The combat feels brutal and blunt, as it should, from the tinkle-and-panic of a grenade dropped in a tight space to standing behind a wall-mounted machine gun spraying clumsy death. And there's nothing more satisfying that battling gung-ho Americans online and shouting "Allah u Akbar" after you've shot them in the face. That winds them right up.
Oli Welsh: An amazing ride. Like one of its own flashbangs, Call of Duty 4 leaves you reeling and thunderstruck. The graphical execution, atmosphere and set-piece set-ups are flawless, and in levels like Death From Above it takes the creepy, militarist propaganda of war games to places so dark you have to think it's intentional, so big props for that. Shame it's all built on some fundamentally lazy and cheating game design, but since you can't think for all the noise, I don't suppose it matters. Right?
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.
Matt Martin: I won't mention the end song because I'm sure everyone is already tossing off over it. Pretty much everything about Portal was perfect for me - the fact that it was only 2/3 hours long wasn't even an issue. The sense of propelling yourself through portals to reach heights and distances was exhilarating. Easily the funniest game of the year too, with real character and style. And a second play through with developer commentary was a genius idea, I'd love to see more devs do that.
Kristan Reed: Definitely by far the most refreshing, original and coolest game on this list, but number one? Hmm. In my Bah Humbug role, I'd personally kick it a few places down the list by virtue of its length, but it seems I've been massively outvoted. Either way, it's a game everyone should play if they get the chance, and is proof that Valve still has that uncanny ability to champion amazing ideas.
Alec Meer: Three hours that quietly altered what videogaming can be. The divine madness that Portal quickly inflicted on the world is astonishing - creepy fan art of cubes, grown men tearily singing lyrics about broken hearts together, and quote after quote after quote. I can't think of anything that managed such a stranglehold on Zeitgeist quite as this did. And, of course, it entirely deserved it - aside from the ingenuity of the concept, what makes Portal so great is it having a narrative that's entirely videogame. It's never guilty of awkwardly resorting to movie sensibilities or a glaringly artificial mechanism like collecting audio diaries. The plot's completely tied to the player's actions - story points, background detail and top-notch gags given out in direct response to your progress, and never snatching control away from you in the process. All hail Portal. While it won't save us from the retrograde narrative misery of Final Fantasies or Metal Gear Solidses or Assassin's Creedses, at least we now know how how incredible game storytelling can be.
Dan Whitehead: While I'm sure some eyebrows will rise over such an accolade being bestowed upon what amounts to a bite-sized freebie bonus, it's hard to argue that Portal didn't provide the year's most inventive and charming game experience, regardless of size. A game clearly based on Eddie Izzard's immortal choice between cake or death? A fantastically clever puzzle game that turns into a smartly scripted FPS thriller right before the end? If only all games could be this witty and fresh. I actually find myself dreading the surely inevitable full-length sequel, lest the wonderful purity of the concept gets diluted beyond recognition.
Jim Rossignol: Thank God for Portal. A genuine Game Of The Year and proof that short games can be perfect.
Tom Bramwell: By the way, no 2008 freelance for the first person who submits a comment pointing out that this was a triumph.
John Walker: Yippee! For all my whinging in these comments this year, I couldn't be more delighted about this. I've exhausted myself writing why it's so wonderful elsewhere rock paper shotgun dot com and you've all already played it and know for yourself. 2007 is the year of GLaDOS, the year of portal guns, the year of comedy in games. I think Valve knew very well that Portal would be a massive hit in the Orange Box, and I don't think it's a "surprise hit" at all, as many are describing it. If it were any less than as brilliant as it is, Valve would never have included it. What I am left with is hope. Hope that other developers will have the courage to learn from Portal. It's awkward, and Valve would have struggled to give Portal a decent release without something like The Orange Box to justify its brief length, but others must see that games can be short and still incredibly good, and more importantly, incredibly popular. If Portal can have one legacy, I wish it to be to remind people that games are a wonderful vehicle for comedy. But you need a wonderful comedy writer to achieve it. Eric Wolpaw was an ingenious hiring by Valve, and other developers should sit up in excitement. You want funny in your game? Hire funny people, rather than trying to do it yourself. Congratulations Portal - you truly were the game of 2007, and that you are three hours long only makes it more of an achievement.
Tom Bramwell: When I played through Portal the first time, I was utterly alone, completely unaware of what anyone else thought of it as a whole, and unaware of the ending. So I was still in the perfect position to be mesmerized by it, but it still didn't feel like Game of the Year to me. For some time I even considered giving it an eight. I think the reason is that I wanted different things from it: I loved the puzzling so much, I just wanted to puzzle some more. The Advanced levels and challenges weren't enough. I wanted to see that concept built upon and used to astonish me over 40, 50, 100 levels. At its most intricate, I felt like I would have if I had been inside a Slitherlink, running around. The desire for more of that intimate puzzling got in the way of my enjoying the fact that it's one of the most wonderfully rounded stories in a year of very ambitious narrative-driven games, and that it's also probably the best ending in a videogame for some years. Not just the song - the whole confrontation. Weird that that happened to me, eh? I look back on it with satisfaction and respect, but I'm quite cold toward it in my head; I wanted it to be more of the other thing it was, too.
Kieron Gillen: The game that launched a thousand web-memes. Everyone expected it to be good. Nobody expected it to be this good. Shall we count its miracles? It managed to make an obscurist physics-warping puzzle game completely mainstream. It managed to make a simple crate into the year's most beloved new videogame character. It managed to be three hours long... but no-one cared about that, because they were too busy caring about the game. It managed make ending on a song be as logical necessity as Dr Spock while being a fun as Mr T. It managed to make anyone with a heart fall in love. As our new favourite mentalist CPU sweetheart put it, this was a triumph.
Tom Bramwell: Right. You had fair warning.
Rich Leadbetter: Brilliantly designed, innovative, witty and wonderfully devious, Portal is the surprise highlight of the Orange Box, and must surely be spun out into its own 'full' game. However, try as I might, I just can't quite comprehend why this sits atop of a chart packed with far more worthy 'game of the year' candidates, including the best Super Mario game in 17 years.
Simon Parkin: We're so used to playing the gun-toting hero that, when a game arrives that offers the chance to play as a weak, helpless and abused lab rat whose only chance of salvation is not in bullets and muscles but in resilience and the canny turning of others' violence back at them, it feels like something from another world. Of course, with dialogue this witty and a premise that interesting, it virtually is from another world to most videogames.
Oli Welsh: I expected Portal to be a fantastic design, and of course it was; intricate, creative, teasing and cruel, like the best Zelda dungeon you've ever played. It stopped some way short of realising the immense potential of Aperture Science's invention, though, so although you won't catch me complaining about the game's length, I was left mildly disappointed by its depth. What I didn't expect - what more than made up for any criticism - was that such an apparently sterile and lonely game could be the funniest, most human, most adult and artful piece of storytelling in gaming this year, streets ahead of the likes of BioShock or Mass Effect. It may just be the monologue of a mad computer, but the script is one of the finest pieces of writing ever to grace a game, and it's matched with Valve's peerless ability to tell stories through locations. And the ending, the song; just perfect. The icing on the cake, and no lie.
Keza MacDonald: Longevity is hugely overrated. Portal is the gaming equivalent of a clever modernist short story in a bookshop that sells almost nothing but six-hundred-page fantasy novels with names like Sword of Strethbywyth Saga: The Dragonventricle Chronicles Vol III. It is gifted with both a fantastic, completely unique, inspired premise and the sense not to overuse it. It's different, incredibly funny and desperately clever and just like everybody else, I'm completely in love with it. It's also probably the only game in history that will be finished by every single person who plays it. Forget game of the year, this might well be my game of the decade.
Rob Fahey: Short and sweet, like a small slice of very delicious cake, Portal was as funny as it was clever. It came up with a great concept, built on it, and then left with a bang before it had outstayed its welcome - leaving players with a massive grin from ear to ear, and a tune in their heads that simply wouldn't go away for weeks. If for nothing else, who can help falling in love with a game that plays with perception and convention wildly enough to make an inanimate crate into the best- loved character in years? This was a triumph - I'm making a note here, HUGE SUCCESS.
Tom Bramwell: Right, that's it for you too.
Tom Bramwell: And you. The end.