Welcome to the third instalment in Eurogamer's Top 50 Games of 2008! Make sure to check out 50-41 and 40-31 for additional opportunities to swear at us, and remember, we know X is not better than Y. Each travesty is best explained by the Editor's blog detailing the setup. If you want to a straight list of what's better than what, which makes sense, you're better off with the Eurogamer Readers' Top 50 Games of 2008, to which thousands contributed. Thanks!
30. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Konami / Kojima Productions / PS3
Rich Leadbetter: I like to play games, not watch them, and this game is the worst yet for making you sit down and watch an impenetrable and dare I say it tedious plot play out. The tech's brilliant, the gameplay can be superb - but surely there has to be a better way of combining gameplay and narrative? Bottom line: I skipped the cut-scenes, totally lost track of what was going on, and lost interest completely after Act 2.
Kieron Gillen: I spent days begging Tom to let me re-review this after the furore around Oli's review lead to that bulging 2000-posts thread. Because those people seemed to think that Oli's review was somehow negative. They were clearly confused, and I wanted to make it totally clear what a negative review actually looks like. Tom decided it probably wasn't wise. Much like forty-two hour cut-scenes. Remember: Just because it's carefully constructed art made by one of videogames' true auteurs, doesn't mean that it can't be full of s***.
Christian Donlan: My favourite moment was completing the entire film noir section wearing an oil drum. Had to take it off for the final boss, sadly.
Simon Parkin: Nobody's interested in the middle ground when it comes to polarising videogames. When it comes to MGS4 this is a shame because there is just as much of merit in this experience as there is to spoil it. In his fine, thoughtful review for Eurogamer, Oli nailed this tension with skill and eloquence. That so many readers were unable to parse his thoughts, to appreciate the nuance and contradictions in the experience suggests that Kojima's series primarily appeals to immature gamers. Perhaps that's natural for a game born of Hollywood bombast, one that requires you to swallow its spectacle wholesale before being allowed to investigate its systems. Still, long live the middle ground: this is a game that has much to teach and much to learn, and we're all the poorer if it manages neither.
Oli Welsh: Most awkward moment of 2008: realising that Hideo Kojima was stood behind me while I was taking advantage of one of MGS4's interminable cut-scenes to check emails on my phone. Now he, along with most of the rest of the world, thinks I hate Metal Gear Solid 4, but they're all wrong. I love it. Deranged, flawed, insanely ambitious, meticulously detailed, ridiculous, clever, sexy, self-aware: I'm profoundly glad that multi-million-dollar lunatic labours of love like this get made, for all that it occasionally drove me spare. There were many better games released this year, but for my money none of them, save Lich King, contain so many great moments.
29. Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney
Capcom / DS
Kristan Reed: OBJECTION! Actually, that's not true. I just wanted to be the only person obvious enough to throw that line in there. I love Ace Attorney games to bits. Everyone should play them.
Keza MacDonald: The speed with which Prosecutor Klavier Gavin replaced Edgeworth in my affections has me slightly concerned. Achtung, baby.
John Walker: I just want to type, "Oh happy day!" each time anyone asks me to write about an Ace Attorney game. Over and over. I was tentative about this one, concerned that it was going to that awkward place where it's the same idea with new characters. I never get past those. I care about the original cast! Fortunately, Apollo Justice was just a bluff. Despite playing as Justice, this is totally a Phoenix Wright game; the story is primarily about him. And it's just as great as the previous three. Sadly it's just as flawed as the previous three, with the same frustrations of illogical court puzzles. But it's incredibly hard to care about that when you're laughing so much. This is a game that contains the line, "My panties are in extra-dimensional space. Anything can fit in there." I loved it. It made me so happy. (But I'm still furious that it never mentions Maya or Pearly. Maya! Pearly! Are you okay?!)
28. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3
KOEI / Atlus / PS2
Simon Parkin: Atlus is at the forefront of JRPG innovation even though its inventiveness with the form is mainly characterised by the absorbing of elements from other genres. Persona 3 is, in many ways, a Japanese Bully, the structure of the school day providing the form and order into which the drama slots. The social sim elements of the game and Pokmon-esque collecting and breeding of the titular Personas add depth and complexity to its more traditional dungeon crawling. The only drawback to buying the game now is the presence of its sequel, released in America this month, which builds upon and perfects almost all of its innovations.
Rob Fahey: The best JRPG of the year, bar none. Fresh, innovative and stylish, it feels like a genuine departure from what we've played before in this genre - and it manages all of this on the humble PS2.
27. Chrono Trigger DS
Square Enix / DS
Rob Fahey: Yeah, okay - Chrono Trigger is technically the best JRPG of the year, not Persona 3. Assuming that the year in question is 1995, of course.
John Walker: Wow, I should really get around to playing this.
Simon Parkin: While nostalgia is part of the aesthetic, through both design and circumstance, you needn't have played the Super Nintendo original to be bowled over by Chrono Trigger's timeless genius. Playing the game afresh today is a mixture of wonder and tragedy. Wonder at the quality of the design, storyline and tragedy that so few games caught on to its solutions to many of the JRPG format's restrictions and problems.
Tom Bramwell: This came out at the peak of my teenage love with JRPGs, and marked the point at which baby Tom realised he was grown up enough for the scary-looking turn-based RPGs. What I didn't appreciate at the time was that it was peerless, and I'd never love another JRPG as much as I did this.
26. SingStar PS3
Sony / Sony London / PS3
Rob Purchese: I'm outraged that this isn't top. Everybody's eyes light up when SingStar comes out. A chance to show off and a chance to be ridiculous, and for that reason, SingStar, you are my most cherished game of Saturday nights. Sorry, 2008.
Rob Fahey: It's utterly disappointing in so many ways - no wireless mics (next year, we're told), no improvements to the scoring, and a steady flow of disc releases (on PS3 and PS2 alike) whose content, infuriatingly, doesn't appear in the online store. It's awful - and yet when Saturday night rolls round, bearing with it a bottle of JD and a box of silly wigs, it doesn't matter a damn how awful it is.
Kristan Reed: Now that Rock Band and Guitar Hero World Tour exist, my reasons for playing SingStar have diminished slightly - except when I feel the need to engage in sickening duets with Keza. True story: we killed a set of speakers singing two-player SEX BOMB.
Keza MacDonald: Ah yes, the game that broke my speakers, had two of my controllers and my EyeToy thrown across the room in moments of emotional excess and is the cause of at least six of the eight massive beer stains on my carpet. Since I figured out that my SingStar purchases are tax-deductible it's all gone downhill.
Oli Welsh: As social-gaming software goes, Sony's London studio can still show Nintendo and Harmonix a thing or two. On PS3, SingStar does a fair few things better than any other music game, notably the superb use of the camera. Helping put together Ellie's SingStar video was some of the best fun I've had in front of a games console this year. Now that's user-generated content.
Ellie Gibson: Only 26? This should have been in the top ten, surely. As should my performance of Total Eclipse of the Heart. Roll on next year's X-Factor and Christmas number one.
Alec Meer: My ex-girlfriend managed to spend a small fortune in the online store before leaving me. I remain convinced getting 20 quid of free karoake downloads was her devious six-year plan.
Kieron Gillen: I love that SingStar turns up every year in the Eurogamer Top 50. Because EG knows how to party.
Simon Parkin: SingStar has always been the best-looking game on the rhythm-action market, its white space and stylish understatement a refreshing antidote to Guitar Hero's unsightly clash of stage-light colour, sweat and lycra. Despite the pleasing neutrality of the menus and HUD, it's more of a game than Microsoft's rival Lips, which aims for a literal approximation of the Japanese karaoke experience. But SingStar's competitive elements never disrupt the flow of a party by alienating non-gamers. Visiting the SingStore while drunk - the only time most players will ever visit the SingStore - can be an expensive excursion.
Johnny Minkley: Familiarity didn't quite breed contempt with SingStar, but certainly complacency. It was only when I got my tonsils around the lacklustre and slightly chapped Lips that I realised why this remains a crooner sans pareil. I secretly prefer the Disney version, but that's a genetic defect.
25. Wii Fit
Nintendo / Wii
Rich Leadbetter: Nothing short of a work of genius in attracting newcomers to videogaming. My family wheels it out every time a visitor turns up at the house, and everyone leaves wanting it. Of course, the game itself becomes dull and repetitive to anyone who plays it within a matter of days - hours, even. It's a masterpiece of concept over content. Not that Nintendo cares as the money keeps rolling in regardless.
Oli Welsh: The mini-game with the penguin and the fish and the tilting block of ice is a work of minimalist genius. Seriously. It's just total arcade-game perfection, and the best thing Nintendo's in-house studios did all year.
Christian Donlan: I really liked this, mostly because Wiifity Island was such a lovely place to wander around of an afternoon. I'm still fat, however.
Keza MacDonald: Well, I lost weight playing it! I even had fun doing it, for about three weeks, and then a proper game came along. But Wii Fit is something special - if you'd have tried to tell me that a fitness game would sell millions five years ago (or, for that matter, a brain training game), I'd have slapped you in the face with a haddock until you'd come to your senses.
John Walker: If you took all the people in the world who'd spent 80 quid on this convinced it would help them trim down and get fit, and put them in a big pile, you'd have a big fat wobbly pile of big fat wobbly people. With me on top.
Simon Parkin: The Wii Fit experience mimics in small our wider experience of its host console. Initial wonder at the bright innovation of the concept turns to joy at first touch. Slick, utilitarian design guides you through the game's exercises and physical games with the very best Japanese elegance and thoughtful efficiency. Then, a week into the relationship, joy gives way to ennui as the repetitive tasks fail to offer much depth (or weight-loss) and finally, you sink into buyer's regret just as you slip the balance board into a cupboard and turn off the light, fat and a bit unhappy.
Kieron Gillen: When a peripheral provokes web-memes based around scantily-clad grinding hips, you have to suspect Nintendo is subtly kicking against its reputation. Fewer family games, more making-family games. The inevitable porn-based Miyamoto-designed game can only be a couple of years away. They've already got the plumber. They just need the slightly bored housewife, y'know?
Johnny Minkley: I would love to see some proper research done into how many of the 70,000 Brits still buying this every week keep playing after the first few weeks: it's the gaming equivalent of January gym membership. Or, at least it would be, had it not actually worked for me. Gathering dust my Balance Board may be, but the insufferably smug virtual trainer shamed me enough that I've been running three times a week since. Anything that allows me to eat as much KFC as I like without getting fat is all right by me.
Kristan Reed: Quad bikes with SSX tricks meet lovely game engine. Up there with GRID and Burnout as the must-have racing games of the year.
Christian Donlan: A lovely surprise, and the kind of game that's going to have a core group of very devoted fans for years to come, hopefully. Turned quads from an instrument of celebrity mishap into something a little more likable.
Kieron Gillen: I had no idea. It's good then?
Alec Meer: SSX with ATVs, and a solid giggle for it. The PC port was a joke, however - the main menu took longer to load than the levels themselves. Which is kind of like packet of crisps taking longer to open than to eat. Honestly publishers, if you can't be bothered to properly optimise console ports for PC, just don't bother - otherwise it'll sell badly, suffer low reviews and you'll knee-jerk proclaim the PC is a dying waste of time. Also, any children you have will be half-wits. Only you can save them, by not being a lazy miser.
Simon Parkin: ATV games are so often presented with the exclamation-point superlatives of the extreme sports vernacular, graphic design hype overcompensating for the underwhelming experience beneath the presentation. Pure is different. The lingering descents from mountaintops are two parts F-Zero, one part Pilotwings, those slow-motion moments spent soaring through blue, blue skies providing relief from the hot roar of engines that will resume as soon as you hit the ground below. The ATV-creation system, which could so easily have been over fussy and tiresome, is executed with thought and elegance and the racing that these elements dress is never short of spectacular.
Rich Leadbetter: While we wait for EA to resurrect SSX, Pure will do just fine. I mean, to all intents and purposes, it is SSX, just with quad bikes. It's also a technically superb game that's beautiful to look at. I've seen this available to buy online for 10 quid, officially making it the bargain of the year.
23. Race Driver: GRID
Simon Parkin: Codemasters' delightful antidote to the earnestness of Gran Turisma and Forza was, for me, a rediscovery of what racing games can best offer. Service to realism can only provide so much enjoyment, and only to a niche audience at that. GRID, by contrast, delights in its videogame-ness, offering, without apology, an exaggerated, accessible version of the sport. The reapplication of Prince of Persia's time-rewind function was clever, the races in which you compete with and against a team-mate ingenious but, most of all, GRID polishes the rough potential of Colin McRae's DiRT into a bright diamond.
Oli Welsh: Not the best year for driving games, but GRID stood tall. TOCA fans understandably felt let down by the simplified handling, but once you got over it there was plenty of fun to be had with its sticky, tyre-smoking bump and grind. Over and above that, the structure, graphics, presentation, AI aggression and sheer sense of trackside drama all broke new ground, which bodes well for Codemasters finally making a Formula One game the whole world can enjoy in 2009.
Kristan Reed: Codies never seems to get the credit it deserves for the Race Driver games, but GRID seemed to be a bit of a breakthrough release on that score. In an era when racing games are struggling to offer anything new, the rewind mechanic was an interesting and brave move.
Alec Meer: Would be my favourite racing game of the year, were it not for TrackMania: Hugely Confusing Subtitle #12. The sim crowd can't stand it, but it hit just the right middle ground for me. Tellingly, I've reached for a time-rewind button that isn't there in every racing game I've played since. It seems such an obvious inclusion that I remain stunned it's not been around forever.
22. Far Cry 2
Kristan Reed: Lovely game world, solid gameplay, soulless characters. Coming to this after Fallout 3 was a massive comedown, but I'm determined to come back to it.
Christian Donlan: Struggles to hide the fact that you're a heavily-armed errand boy, and makes the bizarre choice of regularly punishing you for exploring, but it's strangely classy nonetheless, and not just because it wants you to know it's read Heart of Darkness and underlined all the "deep" bits.
Jim Rossignol: Okay, so this received a bit of a mixed reception, but I'm happy to be an apologist. Out of my gamer friends, I'd say only about a third actually liked it. Which is a shame, because I think if you roll with it, and get past the deranged AI and world-of-ATTACK you find yourself faced with in outside towns, then there's a game with an entire ecosystem of atmospheric experiences, and scope for John Rambo levels of cartoon death-mongering. Charging into an enemy camp with a flamethrower, a shotgun, and no real plan, is always the best way to approach any situation. It's a genuine shame that the same can't be said of real life.
Kieron Gillen: My favourite first-person shooter of the year, I think, if only because it's the one which genuinely tried. Well, that's not true - that's just a pretty phrase. I respect it because it tried. I love it because of being dragged away from the frontline by a buddy, with a big piece of shrapnel through my chest, watching my battered car explode, igniting the grass-fields. It's the best shooter set-piece the year offered me, and it wasn't even a set-piece. It was just something that happened. Something awesome that happened.
Alec Meer: I feel a little alone in loathing this. The crazyhyperspeedacting is something that forbids my picky sensibilities from forming any sense of association with the world, and the Respawning Checkpoints Of Death make for a game that's so entirely mechanical that playing it feels futile. I know there's clever stuff in there, but whenever I try to play it I just hit this wall of artificiality that drives me away instantly.
John Walker: It's funny how everyone says the same thing about some good games. Like Mirror's Edge - wouldn't it have been great without the combat? It's mysterious to me how a development studio can spend years creating a game, and somehow not pick up on the one thing everyone's going to say about it when it's out. Such insular development is so maddeningly stupid. Why the constantly respawning guard posts? Just why?
Tom Bramwell: The modern Ubisoft averages one or two daring, fascinating games a year, and does them with blockbuster production values, and while it invariably gets stuff wrong, it's getting better at getting things right. Perhaps the highest praise for this is that it's an FPS sequel made by a different developer, but nobody even mentions that any more.
21. RedLynx Trials 2: Second Edition
RedLynx / PC
Johnny Minkley: I had to Google this, for God's sake.
Rob Purchese: RedLynx Trials 2 put our office in a state of competitive frenzy, so much so that we now have a flag on the wall. It's the only thing on the wall. I also recorded the fourth-fastest time for the tutorial level on the internet one evening and I was ever so proud. Even if I wasn't in the top 20 the next morning.
Kieron Gillen: As archetypal a videogame as that one with a square pixel rebounding between two extended rectangular arrays of pixels, updated to modern technology - proper physics, online scoreboards, auto-sharing and downloadable ghost modes, amusingly brutal ragdolls - and released into the wilds of the internet. It's the sort of game which makes me want to take anyone who says there's only strategy games and shooters on the PC, put them on a motorbike and force them to ride across a series of precariously constructed beams, barrels and general death-traps.
Alec Meer: I am so crap at this it's not even funny. I adore watching people play it, however.
Tom Bramwell: This saved my life. Having flown somewhere to meet friends, I found myself trapped in a boring hotel in a boring town for two days afterwards, but then Kieron put me on to Trials 2, and by the end I was gutted to have to leave at all. Then I almost missed my flight home playing it in the departure lounge, and turned two people onto it on the plane. And this was before I could hook it up to the net and beat my friends at it. I then spent the next few weeks probing ghost downloads and manipulating the physics to strip another fraction of a second away and top the office leaderboard. For long-time EG readers, this was 2008's Slitherlink.
And we'll be back tomorrow with 20-11. It's getting real.