The Top 50 continues! Check out 50-41 from yesterday, and look out for the next three parts over the next three days.
40. Saints Row 2
Oli Welsh: I didn't play it, but I enjoyed the vitriolic, polarised debate around Saints Row 2 very much, especially when Grand Theft Auto IV was brought up - if only to hear Rockstar fans arguing for GTA's moral sophistication and character depth.
Kristan Reed: Top of the list of games I haven't got around to playing yet. I was one of the few to stand up for the hilariously depraved original, so I'm very much looking forward to giving this some airtime over Christmas, yo.
Alec Meer: I only came to this recently and well, wow. It's GTA IV with the brakes off - no delusions of grandeur, none of the pointless early-game restrictions and turgidly similar/over-difficult missions Rockstar won't fix, and the most laughing I've done in a GTA-like since Vice City. It's also astonishingly crass, occasionally genuinely offensive and such a shameless copycat that it's a wonder Rockstar hasn't had the entirety of THQ arrested. That it sails through all that is testament to how well it's realised. Essentially, it's the GTA freeform rampage spectacular you describe yourself doing to your friends, knowing you're exaggerating your fairly pedestrian cop-killing hugely as you tell it. Only with SR2, you're not exaggerating anything.
John Walker: Still waiting for the PC version. Waiting... Waiting.
Rob Fahey: I spent more time with this than with almost any other console game this year, music games excepted. It's like Volition was channelling whatever spirit made Vice City so good - a glorious combination of humour, variety and kitsch which made it into a joy to explore and play. It's got more rough edges than a cheese grater, but it didn't matter - compared with the perfectly honed but ultimately staid and serious GTA IV, I go for Saints Row's silliness any day.
Johnny Minkley: GTA IV is my clear game of the year, and I really wasn't expecting a great deal from this since it had lost its original USP of being the only 'next-gen' GTA-style game. Volition's take on the genre might not be anywhere near as slick as Rockstar's, but it's stupid in the best possible way, and co-op is just great fun. I expect Bertie loves it mainly for the cross-dressing.
Frontier Developments / Wii
Kristan Reed: I can only assume only a few of us got around to playing this, or else it'd be up there alongside Braid as another poster child for 2D platforming loveliness. Frontier really needs to turn this into a full game and turn it into some sort of 2D British Okami. It might actually give a lot of us a reason to switch the Wii on again.
Tom Bramwell: I don't love it as much as Kristan, but I still agree. I think the position for this says more about WiiWare's failings in its first year than the game's quality.
38. Lost Odyssey
Microsoft / Mistwalker / feelplus / Xbox 360
Rob Purchese: Lost Odyssey turns cheesy, drags on and loses focus. But when the mixture works, particularly during the morose dream sequences, the effect tugs at the heartstrings in a profound and mature way. Even the random battles can't mire that.
Rob Fahey: Along with the flawed but lovely Eternal Sonata, this is the best game which Microsoft's huge expenditure on JRPGs has produced so far - which is quite depressing, actually. It looks beautiful and it's by no means unpleasant to play, but it's let down by horrible character art, a dated battle system and a thoroughly predictable story.
Simon Parkin: Videogames' immaturity has ensured that we're used to questing for humanity's baser goals: wealth, power, immortality and Princess Peach. Lost Odyssey turns convention on its head (at least that of the narrative variety, this is a traditional JRPG elsewhere) by revealing an immortal protagonist who is fed up with life and wants out. Littered throughout the game are 31 tiny stories plucked from protagonist Kaim's 1000 years of existence. Penned by esteemed Japanese novelist Kiyoshi Shigematsu and translated by Jay Rubin, a Harvard professor best known for his translations of Haruki Murakami's work, they provide us with the year's best writing in a videogame, stuffed with sentiment but shy of sentimentality. While it's a shame that Shigematsu's pen didn't extend to the rest of the dialogue in the game, it's worth playing just for these moments. Elsewhere this is an orthodox but lovely JRPG that delights all the way to its conclusion, proof also, after the lacklustre Blue Dragon, that ex-Square founder Hironobu Sakaguchi really does know how to make a good videogame.
37. WipEout HD
Sony / Sony Liverpool / PlayStation Network
Kristan Reed: Better than Quantum Redshift? Pfffft!
Christian Donlan: A little unnerved that we think this is only three places better than Saints Row 2.
Simon Parkin: Despite the far-future aesthetic, the blemishless sci-fi visual design, and bonnets so clinical you could eat a meal off them, WipEout HD bristles with a weird sort of nostalgia for players of the PlayStation originals. It's a return to form, for sure, but also an extension of everything that made those first games so beguiling. And all for that price! Another game that's unfairly struggled to have its brilliance recognised from behind this host console's waning image.
Rich Leadbetter: Along with Geometry Wars 2, this is one of the best download games of the year. Excellent graphics (if not quite the true 1080p promised), great gameplay, astonishingly good value. I just wish that the later levels weren't locked out to all but the most ultra-skilled WipEout players - the unlock mechanic really could be a little more friendly.
Tom Bramwell: I got lost in this for days, refusing to leave any task until I had the Gold medal. It's my biggest racing obsession since PGR3, which I completely emptied. The visuals are amazingly crisp, and drag you into the screen, and the tracks are littered with clever sequences of corners that allow you to rip seconds out of your lap-times by experimenting. I couldn't believe they put it out for 12 quid - a price restored over the Christmas period to go with the belated demo.
36. Okami Wii
Capcom / Clover Studios / Wii
Kristan Reed: I'm not going to vote for games we've already voted for in previous years, but if I did, this would be in my top three. Absolutely outstanding game - easily the best game on Wii for my money. Buy it, fall in love, die happy.
Oli Welsh: I don't see any reason why this wasn't the best console adventure in the world this year as well.
Keza MacDonald: This is one of the best games of all time. It beats Zelda at its own game, and does so beautifully. Okami is rich and cultural and sumptuous and also a splendid, masterfully made videogame. And the Wii version is the one I prefer.
John Walker: I've watched the intro for this. Then I grew very old and died. I really want to play it, but it's hard now I'm a wizened corpse.
35. Pic Pic
505 Games / Success / DS
Keza MacDonald: Fourteeen out of ten. I've actually been looking for this since I got to Japan, and it doesn't exist anywhere. What are your secrets, Walker?
Kristan Reed: Oh look, it's a Japanese puzzle game. GIVE IT ELEVEN!
John Walker: I love the power of a review. As I said to Tom when I emailed him the copy, "Here's the 1700-word review of that eight-month-old, almost unavailable puzzle game you wanted!" I've completed all 400 'Picture' puzzles on this twice now, and that's just one third of the game. The only other game I think I've ploughed this much time into was Slitherlink. (I'm currently replaying Illust Color Logic to get perfect stars on all games, in case anyone needs something to play next - another 10/10 game without question). It's a wonder I have enough time for sitting around watching TV shows and complaining on the internet.
34. Siren: Blood Curse
Sony / PS3
Tom Bramwell: Oh look, it's a Japanese horror game. GIVE IT ELEVEN!
Kristan Reed: Even dumbing it down for us Western thickos couldn't stop it from being really good and, more importantly, scary as hell. Nowhere near as ambitious as previous Sirens, but the more defined and refined structure made it a ton more playable. Looks gorgeous too, and for the price it's a no-brainer - like the Shibito, in fact.
Rob Fahey: I thought I was going to be an insufferable bore about Blood Curse, and complain about replacing original Japanese characters with annoying Americans. In the end, it didn't matter a jot - it's a fantastic game, and the real stars have always been the hideous, tragi-comic Shibito, not the characters. Easily the best horror game of the generation so far.
33. King's Bounty: The Legend
1C Company / Katauri / PC
Kieron Gillen: This is a fascinating trend - ancient PC licences bought up and given to East European and Russian developers to play with. And while we wait to see what 1C: Ino-Co does with Majesty, the finest example so far is Katauri Interactive's King's Bounty: The Legend. Originally developed as Battle Lord before the licence arrived from heaven, it's an imaginative, deeply funny RPG/exploration/strategy game from some of the minds of the equally bizarre and glorious Space Rangers 2. But where Space Rangers 2 just swapped enthusiasm and insanity for polish, King's Bounty is as intricately designed and beautiful as anything that's come out this year. And still good-mental. Oh, you'll have to forgive the translation a little but compared to Space Rangers 2 it's Proust.
John Walker: You know what? I went to this game's website, interested in buying it because I'd seen so much enthusiasm and decided I was going to overcome my strategyphobia to play it, and there was not a single thing on the site to tell be where it could be bought. So I didn't.
Jim Rossignol: Mad, Russian, thoroughly entertaining. This was one of those PC games that stamps validity on the platform. Awesome.
Alec Meer: My favourite game of the year, and if I'd have managed to get my votes in on time it would have been a lot higher in this chart. I feel really, genuinely bad about that, as it's a game that's been under-promoted and mis-described all over the shop, and desperately needs to reach a wider audience. Mad as a grasshopper in a bowtie while simultaneously as layered as even the most sober strategy game, it's quintessentially PC in a way that leaves all the negative stereotypes behind. Also, I married (and later divorced) a zombie and fought a war inside my own belt. You don't get that in Fallout 3.
Tom Bramwell: Or character animation. Just throwing it out there. And yeah, if Alec's votes had been in on time, this would be in the top 20. Lesson here, 'bay.
32. Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer
SEGA / ChunSoft / DS
Kieron Gillen: What an awesome title.
John Walker: I think it might be the blue background for the text that puts me off JRPGs. Too much damage was done by trying to sit through more than ten minutes of a Final Fantasy, and the identical boxes in every damned game makes me reel in horror.
Simon Parkin: There's something extraordinary in the fact a tough old, cranky Roguelike could place so highly in a list of this sort. But perhaps this is the logical conclusion for a game that somehow managed to find a wider audience than beardy D&D players. The bright visuals, cute humour and slim, fast flow of play no doubt make Shiren slip down where its bloated cousins would stick in the throat. I think Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon, despite the super-saccharine tone, is the better game, but Shiren's portability makes it a more reasonable prospect for many players.
Dylan Fitterer / PC
Dan Whitehead: I felt a little grinchy giving this just 7/10, but I still feel that it's more proof of concept than a cohesive game in its own right.
Kieron Gillen: Yes, it's a simple idea. But so's oral sex, and that's still awesome. It's fascinating on many levels - at the moment I like thinking of it as a device that allows you to re-imagine your music collection as the biggest game universe in history. When you play an MP3, as long as you've got a little variety in your collections, it's likely that the level you visit will never have been seen by anyone else before. As "Ooh - I wonder what's over that hill" is to an MMO, "Oooh - I wonder what that Young Marble Giant B-side collection would play like" is to Audiosurf. But that's only how I currently think of it - previously it's been everything from a device to amplify the experience of music to just a really neat little arcade game. It's the only game which made me give back a fiver to someone who didn't like it. It's the only game that's made me cry this year. It's the only game that's exactly like Audiosurf, and for that I adore it totally. There's a saying that music is the artform which all other art aspires to - that is, it moves people without meaning. Some noises which provoke emotion directly rather than through what they signify. Which makes music a beautiful thing. And if that's true, Audiosurf is videogames' love poem to music. I wish I'd written it.
Alec Meer: Anyone who moans "but it's just a crappy match-3 game" clearly only listens to The Coldplays and The Keanes. If they actually enjoyed music, they would love Audiosurf.
John Walker: File me under "Don't Get It". I almost get it. But I don't understand how anyone can play this without thinking, "Wow, this would have been a really good game if only he'd [insert any of about three hundred different ideas here]." It's the template for a fun time without the fun time added yet.
Phew! Getting there! Join us again tomorrow for 30-21.