15. Professor Layton and the Curious Village
Nintendo / Level-5 / DS
Keza MacDonald: This game made me feel so clever, feeding me easy puzzles for a while before hitting me with something absolutely fiendish and leaving me unable to sleep until I'd figured it out. And it was lovely to play a game with a notebook and pen sitting beside me. I'm also one of the people who found the story and art style endearing rather than contrived. Despite Layton's mildly troubling tendency to collect children.
Kieron Gillen: Another awesome title!
Tom Bramwell: You and your themes. Every year.
Simon Parkin: Professor Layton takes the Sunday newspaper supplement brainteaser and nestles it into a Ghiblian narrative, proving that mini-game compilations, when placed in the right metagame, can be more intriguing and compelling than the grandest long-form epic. The watercolour aesthetic and eastern European soundtrack take videogames into fresh, welcome territory. This is the kind of village encountered in dream, the two-dimensional layout of half-memory, filled with curious, often senseless inhabitants. Then the game ends with a climactic twist that impresses upon your mind more than any of the constituent puzzles that led to its revelation. Spellbinding.
John Walker: Okay, no matter what drivel gets voted higher than this, that enough people voted for Prof. Layton to get him to 15 makes me love my colleagues. What a completely charming and wholly entertaining thing it is. A collection of brainteasers, riddles and puzzles, held together by a bonkers story about murders and missing cats. It's still a bit weird that Layton felt the need to bring a young boy with him, without the game explaining how they were related, or indeed ever having a reason for the kid being in the game. But let's gloss over that. Oh, and here's how to spot a stupid, lazy review (or internet cartoon) of this game. They reviewer writes, "You know, it's a bit hard to take it seriously when everyone you meet just randomly makes you solve a puzzle before telling you anything!!! I mean, imagine if you asked someone for directions, and they replied by asking you to work out the number of cubes in a diagram!!!!!" That the game fully explains this with the ending is not the bigger deal, oddly enough. It's that the game constantly makes mocking references to this throughout! It's like people who say they hate Starship Troopers because it's so pro-war and fascist.
14. Rez HD
Q Entertainment / Xbox Live Arcade
Christian Donlan: If you can't afford your own brain haemorrhage, this is still probably the next best option.
Rob Fahey: I'm not sure if it's the HD update, or simply the fact that I own a bigger telly and better speakers now, but Tetsuya Mizugichi's trippy mixture of Tron, Panzer Dragoon and trance really did seem even better the second time around. By far the game I'm most likely to fire up on Live Arcade when I've got ten minutes to kill.
Kristan Reed: Still one of my favourite games ever.
Dan Whitehead: One of the best arguments for downloadable gaming is that it means truly great classics can find a new audience through impulse purchases. Having games like Rez, N+ and Puzzle Fighter tucked away on my 360 hard drive gives me the warm fuzzies.
Kieron Gillen: You can take the writers out of Edge magazine, but you can't take Edge magazine out of the writers.
Simon Parkin: When I asked Kieron to offer some feedback on my review of the game, he took a long look, a deep breath and offered: "Yeah. The commission screwed you. It's Rez, for f***'s sake." Rez communicates so much of what makes videogames brilliant: the awesome spectacle, the otherworldly, esoteric visuals, the interactive soundtrack and the high-score chasing compulsion of repeat play. So to articulate what makes Rez a triumph is to try to encapsulate in words the very medium's potential. Perhaps I failed in that aim, but this game, on this system, at this point in time, articulates all that is wonderful about videogames better than almost any other.
13. World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King
Blizzard / PC, Mac
Oli Welsh: So it's just an expansion pack. For those who don't play MMOs and don't grasp the orders of magnitude involved, let's be clear: Wrath of the Lich King has more stuff in it, made to a higher standard, than any other videogame release this year. It also improves on its source material more dramatically than any of the year's blockbuster sequels. From the compact boss-rush dungeons to the hilariously potent class design to the incredible world, soaked in spectacle and atmosphere and compelling quest arcs and storylines, Lich King surprised and delighted for months on end. Blizzard made the rest of the MMO industry (and much of the rest of the games industry) look stupid this year. A marvel.
Kieron Gillen: World of Warcraft expansions make me a little sad. They come out, Alec raves about them and I know I'll never get to play them without putting the hundreds of hours to even qualify for the experience. There are many great games that I know I won't play. Wrath of the Lich King is, I suspect, one of the one's I literally can't.
Alec Meer: To bust through my overwhelming ennui for WOW, after years of playing and eventual disillusionment, really takes some doing. Lich King may have had to rip a worrying amount of the multi out of multiplayer to achieve its feats of world-building and inventiveness, but nonetheless it dragged me back and had me raving about this quest or that set-piece with an enthusiasm I'd honestly never believed I'd have for WOW again.
Rob Fahey: You can talk about the great dungeon design, the still-lovely visual style, the steady steps towards bosses that demand more skill than gear - or you could complain that it's all too easy and that Blizzard doesn't care for people who play 22 hours a day and urinate in bottles. For me, though, the crowning achievement of Lich King is that it's actually incredibly good fun as an RPG experience - with varied quests, lovely progression and a rich, textured world filled with stories you actually want to explore. Whatever else it may be, it's the pinnacle of Blizzard's already legendary world design and storytelling, which easily makes it one of the finest games of the year.