Finally! It's the Eurogamer Top 50 Games of 2008, with this instalment taking us from 50-41. Check out the Editor's blog to find out how it works, but in brief: we're wrong. Enjoy!
50. Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Nintendo / Sora / Wii
Keza MacDonald: This is probably my most-played game of 2008, and I'm not even very good at it. It's endlessly, inexhaustibly entertaining in multiplayer, and since moving to Japan earlier this year I've had a huge supply of willing competitors (even if two of them are Zelda-using cheating bastards). We never tire of experimenting with the variety and flexibility of the characters, working out a Kirby play-style and then being forced to adapt when someone figures their way around it with a projectile-heavy Link, or masters Snake's directional missiles. In many ways this is the Wii's best game.
Alec Meer: I really have no time for this. I once played it with the staff of a Nintendo magazine, who all seemed to be trapped in some sort of multi-orgasmic feedback loop for the entire duration, and I left like a visitor from another world. I slipped away quietly when no one was looking, fearful that clothes were about to be removed and ear-nibbling to commence.
Kieron Gillen: It's an enormous temptation to say something like "But isn't it just button-mashing?" as it always gets a rise from easily enraged Smash Bros. fans. I'm going to resist, manfully. Real opinion? Like most sequels-in-a-long-chain-of-sequels, this is about as far away from what I play videogames for as I can imagine.
Tom Bramwell: Man, that's worth exploring. Sid Meier once described games as "a series of meaningful choices". Some are, but others are more about what Robert Heinlein called "grokking" (and it's a good thing I have Raph Koster's book about fun handy to rip his summary out of): "It means that you understand something so thoroughly that you have become one with it and even love it." Smash Bros. is like a tireless communal fight to reach that point. You never will, but beyond a certain point you get the positive benefits of it, and after that you're those guys who are easily enraged. I love them for being there.
49. Mass Effect
EA / BioWare / PC
John Walker: I'm shocked to see this so low. PC bias! Rawr! Eh? Oh wait, it came out on 360 last year, didn't it? It was number eight then wasn't it? Well, I'm still angry anyway, for some reason, about something. A properly good time, this. And the combat wasn't nearly as bad as they're telling you. And it was better on PC!
Ellie Gibson: I was hoping this would be like some kind of videogame equivalent Babylon 5, but I was disappointed. Not nearly enough comedy hats.
Kristan Reed: I never did see the infamous kiss. Dammit.
Kieron Gillen: It's rare you see a game that enters two Eurogamer Top 50s in a row, and Mass Effect's twin versions are good enough to manage the trick. The PC version was a splendid conversion, and its galactic world-building has a level of class which frankly embarrasses pretty much everyone else. Actually, talking about world-building, this is a perfect time to hold Bramwell to task. When writing about Too Human, I was amazed to find him noting: "Okay, you're meant to be gods, but does this really mean the boss's office should be in a sort of whale ribcage construct with giant sparrow statues suspended over a mountain range accessible only by a magic floating platform?" Why, yes, Tom. It should because that sounds awesome. Mass Effect and Too Human are the two science-fiction games of recent years which make me think it'd actually be possible to write some reasonable fiction in their universes, for totally opposite reasons.
Tom Bramwell: Yeah, not my finest hour, that. Sorry!
Alec Meer: It's BioWare's best game since KOTOR, but there's this unavoidable sense of complacency to it - they've worked out how to do a specific thing that pleases specific people, and are so comfortable in that that they're not as compelled as they should be to tinker with their own formula. It's a fine universe with some characteristically fascinating quests, but next time they attempt this sort of game they really need to tear down some of the older foundations. I know it's the de rigueur nitpick, but really - the guy in the ship's basement who sells weapons to his own superior officer is endemic for how BioWare's narrative and world-building prowess is critically held back by this bizarre refusal to address the core mechanics of their chosen genre.
Simon Parkin: It's the sense that you can set down on any random passing planet in search of a side-quest that makes this universe feel, for once, like a universe: huge, intricate and bursting with mini-narratives. But in many ways it was this promise of adventure rather than its reality that made the journey compelling. Mass Effect is tension without much release. Beyond that, the technical creaks and groans bespeak either a game prematurely squeezed out for release or, worse still, one whose ambition outstripped its hardware's capabilities. Either way, it's a game that points to bright futures amongst BioWare's stars.
48. Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon
Nintendo / Intelligent Systems / DS
Tom Bramwell: I get the feeling I'm the only person who voted for this, and not just because I compiled the votes and therefore know I am. Some Japanese turn-based strategy games make war cuddly so they can smuggle you blindfold into strategy and lateral thinking; Fire Emblem does a bit of cuddly (Pegasus Knights are basically plush dolls), but really it's a fairytale. Shadow Dragon isn't the best at this (I preferred the GBA ones), but it still gets you there, and the actual game you arrive at is one of my favourite compositions. Intelligent Systems - ever a developer more aptly named? Oh, id.
47. Resistance 2
Sony / Insomniac / PS3
Dan Whitehead: Apparently I'm the only person in the world who thought this was a really good shooter. Old fashioned, yes, but I enjoyed it more than any other traditional FPS this year.
Rich Leadbetter: One of the best shooters of the year. While nowhere near to matching Gears 2's utter gorgeousness, this still has some moments of pure beauty - the Chimera warfleet bombing the San Francisco bay looks staggeringly good. A first-person shooter lives or dies by the quality of its weaponry and its online modes and once again, Resistance 2 doesn't disappoint. A lowly rating in the Top 50 but I really enjoyed it.
46. God of War: Chains of Olympus
Sony / Ready at Dawn / PSP
John Walker: Do they still make games for the PSP? How quaint.
Tom Bramwell: I don't think the PC boys get to do the "quaint" joke when we know they're all going to vote for a physics puzzle game later.
Kristan Reed: I love God of War probably more than anyone that writes for Eurogamer, but this was the worst God of War game by some margin. And yet, because it's such a good template to mimic, Ready at Dawn's cut-down cover version for PSP was still a pretty decent game, and, by default, easily one of the best games released on PSP this year. I really wish I had more reasons to dust off my PSP. Even Remote Play doesn't work properly for me. Sob.
Rob Purchese: The brutal and bloody gameplay is so fluid and unspoiled that it deserves a big shout. This should be on a home console, but you couldn't not play it.
45. Bangai-O Spirits
D3Publisher / Treasure / DS
Kieron Gillen: I'm sad to note I didn't actually play this. I finally got into Space Giraffe though when it hit the PC, so I'll claim some shooter cred for that. It'd probably have had it in my top ten if its release hadn't come after we'd all voted.
Rob Fahey: Seeing Treasure's lovely robot lunacy on a console that some people actually own is enough to provoke tears of joy. Now you've got no excuse for not buying a copy, since statistics prove that every human being on Earth owns at least three DS handhelds.
Simon Parkin: Bangai-O Spirits, like its maker, is slippery in the hands of genre. Across the gigantic spread of micro levels it slides unapologetically from puzzle game to shoot-'em-up to Brain Trainer. It's a tussle of delicious contradictions: you control a giant mecha robot rendered as a tiny, ten pixel-high sprite; you set off firework explosions of rocket nukes, up to a hundred at a time, before swinging at enemies with the unsophisticated bluntness of a baseball bat. Then, when the fire and violence clears, you dash around the screen collecting fruit. It takes a while to become accustomed to the structure-less metagame - you can play any level in any order - but soon enough stamping levels complete becomes a collect-'em-up endeavour, irresistible to the last.
44. Mercenaries 2: World in Flames
Rich Leadbetter: A great concept crying out for a decent engine.
Kristan Reed: I seriously wonder which other shooters my colleagues have been playing for this to feature in their top tens. I know I rated it lower than most, but my god some of this was shockingly awful. Blown up by a man pointing an RPG in your face? No worries, just run around the corner and recharge your health and bop him on the nose with a pencil.
John Walker: Wasn't this really, really average? Didn't this get 5 on Eurogamer? Did something go wrong?
Kieron Gillen: This year's Earth Defence Force 2019, basically. That is, loved by the good, and loathed by boring people who care about things like frame-rate and pop-up and probably are in the comments thread talking about whether Eurogamer is biased towards the 360 or the PS3 this week. Structurally novel, agreeably mental and I knew I was going to love it from the early mission where you have to ride a tiny pink moped while being insulted by random passers-by. Also, your character - clearly annoyed - barking out that he doesn't have an Irish guy who brings him stuff. He wishes he had an Irish guy who brought him stuff! I can empathise.
Dan Whitehead: I loved the original, but found this strangely uninvolving even though it's almost exactly the same. It doesn't help that it's plagued by technical hiccups, but I never thought demolition could be so dull.
Simon Parkin: GTA has taught us that openworld games must tick at the speed of reality, slow-burning stories, brooding descents into violence and trudging ascents toward wealth and conquest. Mercenaries 2, by contrast, plays like an exuberant arcade game, two-minute missions that leave you breathless and spent, its action rolling at double speed, its explosions all Schwarzenegger pyrotechnics. It's brash, twitchy fun and while I didn't finish the game, not even close, the time I spent in it was far more enjoyable than most reviewers led me to believe it would be.
43. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning
EA / Mythic / PC
Oli Welsh: WAR is its own worst enemy. The amount of fun you're having scales in direct relation to how many other people are doing what you're doing. As players flocked to WAR in their hundreds of thousands, it seemed incredibly dynamic and exciting; as they left in equal numbers - for Lich King, or just exhausted by the game's relentless and shallow focus - it became apparent that Mythic's world hadn't the substance to fill the vacuum they left behind. Still, it's easily the best player-versus-player MMO out there, surprisingly easy to get into, and a great option if you have a little less time to sink than your average massive multiplayer.
Kieron Gillen: While clearly still labouring under the long shadow of World of Warcraft, this is the first game which felt as if it really was a challenger. Not that it was - in fact, not that it could be. MMOs aren't games. MMOs are relationships, and the mass-dynamics of human beings alone will prevent anyone toppling WOW until... well, I think it may just be impossible to topple WOW as long as you're working within the strict boundaries of fantasy role-playing. I suspect even a game that wanders way from the DIKU-MUD tropes wouldn't be able to touch WOW as long as it stuck to a realm of orcs and goblins. And it saddens me a bit that when I start writing about Warhammer, I'm analysing why it hasn't sold fifteen million copies or whatever. I'll keep it simple - if you were going to start playing a fantasy RPG tomorrow, the first twenty levels of WAR walk all over the first twenty levels of WOW to an embarrassing degree (with an exception for the genuinely lovely Drenai starting area), and the people who argue the contrary haven't played that opening section for years. It's a brutal game and makes a few small-yet-significant steps forward in the genre. And frankly, I'd play it over WOW just because you don't have to sit down and eat some food to heal at a decent rate.
Alec Meer: A fortnight of love becomes a month of mild tedium. You've gotten the PvP more than right, Mythic - now please work on making the world itself more exciting and characterful. Fighting only for fighting's sake has a limited shelf life.
Rob Fahey: This is going to provoke howls of outrage, but it was never going to be any other way. MMORPGs suffer in lists like this anyway, because so few of us have time to devote to them - and while WAR is a better effort than most, we all know who ruled MMOs in 2008 (just like 2007, 2006 and 2005).
Metanet Software / Xbox Live Arcade
Kristan Reed: More games should feature in the Top 50 that look like they were made on a 16k Spectrum.
Kieron Gillen: Actually, if you do want to talk about the biases of the EG writers, you're going to have to look away from the console wars - which is, as always, just people in Eastern Europe in 1939 debating about whether it's best if they're going to be ruled by Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia - and look towards the PC. N came out in 2005, people, and was just as good then. God, I'm in an argumentative, disagreeable, trollish mood today.
Dan Whitehead: A triumph of function over form, and a game I still return to. That it didn't make my own top ten is more to do with the flurry of superlative software at the end of the year than any specific flaws in this little gem. Excellent DLC as well.
Tom Bramwell: This fizzled out for me. I loved it for an hour, then that was it. I think the Challenge Rooms in Bionic Commando Rearmed, which got much more play, delivered better on what I wanted, and thought I was getting, when I started out with this.
41. Mario Kart Wii
Nintendo / Wii
Oli Welsh: This might end up played by more people than any other Mario Kart, and you know what? That's not the end of the world. It doesn't toe the line between chaos and refinement with anything like the grace of Mario Kart DS (or even 64), but it's still exactly the kind of solidly-engineered, mechanically intricate, idiot-proof entertainment for absolutely everybody that Nintendo is said not to make any more.
Tom Bramwell: I think that's true, but I think this also captures Nintendo's shifting focus - whether conscious or not - as well as anything on the Wii or DS. I used to play Mario Kart, including the DS one, because being good at it - wielding it with authority - mattered to me, and other people, like my flatmate's girlfriend, had their own reasons that were just as valid. Now they're loving this, and I'm not.
John Walker: In last year's Top 50 there were a lot of people talking about how only Nintendo seems to know how to make games for the Wii. This was mostly included in people's ludicrous hyperbole for the flawed Super Mario Galaxy (aha! I get to say it and no one will come back!). It's odd how Mario Kart on the Wii demonstrates how sometimes Nintendo can't. Did anyone not immediately reject the wheel controls for sensible buttons and a joystick after their first race? Fantastic game, obviously, but a Wii-as-a-GameCube game.
Rob Fahey: I don't understand what happened to MK Wii. Everyone thought it was great for a week, and then everyone stopped playing. Previous MK games (even the DS one) were party-gaming staples for years, so why was this one such a flash in the pan (and practically forgotten by the end of year)?
Simon Parkin: The width of the tracks is not so much liberating as disorientating. Now you must plot racing lines within racing lines and as the pack scatters the experience is robbed of some of its traditional grasping competitiveness. That said, there's much to love, from the way that, when organising an online race, your competitors' Miis pop up from their real world locations on a globe, to the glorious ghost data challenges that you can send to bait your friends. But Mario Kart has always been a game that pits skill against luck, the premeditated against the random and in Mario Kart Wii fate wins too often over ability.
Join us tomorrow for the next instalment, taking us from 40-31. Or check out the Eurogamer Readers' Top 50 Games of 2008 for an alternative view!