6. Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2
Activision / Bizarre Creations / Xbox Live Arcade
Rich Leadbetter: The most fun I've had with a videogame in ages, ergo my pick as game of the year. Nigh-on perfect gameplay, plenty of variety, a genius-level multiplier system, best leaderboards ever, superb audio, wonderful 1080p visuals... I honestly can't find fault with this game whatsoever. 'Kudos' (groan) to Bizarre for making score attack games relevant again.
Dan Whitehead: It's quite exciting that I could probably have filled my top ten entirely with downloadable games this year. It may just be a delivery system, but there's something very liberating about removing boxed copies and physical distribution from the equation. Downloadable games have become simpler, more streamlined and more interesting than most of their physical cousins, and Geometry Wars 2 is the perfect example. In theory it could have been made on the Atari 2600, yet it's as thrilling and modern as anything else on this list. It also made me hate everyone on my Friends List for being better at it than me.
Oli Welsh: The only game that matches Mirror's Edge in the sensory-feedback stakes in 2008, and that's no surprise. But my favourite thing about it was the ever-present score in the top-right corner, effectively giving a structureless game human levels, taunting you into clawing your way up your leaderboard of friends. Framing your sister for murder can't match that for motivation.
Christian Donlan: One of the few games on this list I'll probably still be playing in ten years, barring getting hit by a bus. Good as it is - and it's pretty amazing - the really striking thing about Geometry Wars 2 is how much of the experience is down to the community and the leaderboards. Take Live away, and the game wouldn't be half as good.
Simon Parkin: The six modes shepherd you around the game in a cyclical way so that you never grow tired of the mechanics: each mode emphasises a different mechanical nuance, trains a different muscle and, like a balanced work-out, improvement in one area has benefits across the whole. The game's true genius though, the reason we all kept playing for well over a month (a long time in videogames, especially small ones), lies in the leaderboards. To have your closest rival friend's score on the play screen at all times, like it's the only thing that matters because it is the only thing that matters, gave me thumb fatigue.
Kieron Gillen: Seriously, you have no idea how good World of Goo is.
Tom Bramwell: Or Gears of War 2, apparently, you goo-humping monsters. As for Geometry Wars 2, it's eaten more of my time than anything else on Xbox Live Arcade this year, and continues to do so - largely thanks to Christian's ridiculous Pacifism score of 125,000,000, which I can barely type let alone attain. The six-chambered fun gun of modes is enough to sustain it for hours of peaks and troughs, too. Easily my favourite XBLA game since Pac-Man Championship Edition and, curiously enough, for similar reasons.
Jonathan Blow / Xbox Live Arcade
Tom Bramwell: I've been having a friendly argument with a pal about this. He maintains that every room is a mechanism with only one key, and turning it didn't make him feel clever or skilful, that there's no grace and style to any of the solutions, and that he finished it "largely because I wanted confirmation that J Blow was a self-obsessed [twit]". I was surprised, because while I can see all of his points, my experience was very different. I enjoyed deciphering the mixture of visual information and gameplay conditions to turn most of Braid's lonely keys, and knew I was going to finish it when I realised I had the tools to solve any puzzle in the game the first time I encountered it. The music's lovely, too, and rewarding players with jigsaw pieces for an actual puzzle was worth a smile, even if it was probably another layer of indulgent metaphor.
Kristan Reed: When people of a certain vintage go all misty-eyed about games from the 80s and early 90s, it's because they really don't make them like they used to. Except now they do, thanks to the marvels of cheap digital distribution and studios willing to take a chance on wistful 2D games with an ethereal atmosphere and cunning level design. Games like Braid, LBP, echochrome, N+ and LostWinds sate that retro desire that always burns away without having to be disappointed once the rose-tinted specs come off.
Kieron Gillen: Before Braid came out, I found myself talking to a developer friend late at night. We'd both got hold of the pre-release version of Braid, and we'd both had the same experience. We sat down and had a quick play and thought... actually, yes, this is clearly very good, but I'm going to have to come back when I can give it my full attention. Compared to most games - and most action games, especially - it's not one you can just have a little fiddle. Braid demands your full brain. And if you give yourself over to Braid, it will reward you. It's the game which provoked the most pretentious purple prose of the year. And the strangest thing about all those references which were thrown up - they were all true. Braid contained all those elements. It's rare that a game just as precious and pretentious as the writers who chart games appears. I'm even surprised it's not higher.
Simon Parkin: It's a game that can be played just once and then never played again till it's been forgotten. In this way it recalls LucasArts's best Adventures, games that could be ruined with a peek at a guidebook, whose wonder and thrill derives from the release of pent up infuriation at the moment you solve an irksome riddle for yourself. The puzzles are ingenious, even beautiful in their construction. The way the time travel idea is developed over the course of the game demonstrates a growth of ideas that games many times its length never manage. The writing that garnishes the experience, while florid and ambitious, has mostly been criticised because it is different. Naysayers be damned, this is an exemplary indie-game, created by two lovely men, and this fruit of their hard work and dedication offers cause célèbre more than any other release in 2008.
Alec Meer: One of far too many games I lost my saves for when some rotter broke into my house and made off with my consoles a little while ago. This means I'm yet to see the elements of it that people are most raving about, but I'm planning to sit down with it again for a bittersweet Boxing Day.
Dan Whitehead: I'm almost afraid to pontificate any further on this bite-sized masterpiece, lest more people call me pretentious and make me run home crying, philosophy texts ostentatiously tucked under my arm, my beret set at a disdainful angle. Such philistinery does nothing to take the shine off this absolutely great game, however. Braid works as a superb platform-puzzler. It works as a cunning twist on ages-old gameplay conventions. And it works as an example of how it's possible to use gameplay as more than just a hollow distraction, to inject ideas and thoughts and abstractions into the button-pressing. At a time when the bull-necked thugs of Gears of War and their hilarious marital woes are heralded as compelling examples of more adult storytelling, truly ambitious artistic projects like Braid are made even more rewarding.
John Walker: STILL WAITING FOR THE PC VERSION.
Rob Fahey: Probably the most overtly clever game I've ever played. We call lots of games "clever", but this one practically turns up at your door with horn-rimmed glasses, a PhD from Cambridge and a condescending attitude tinged with pity. If it wasn't also so damned lovely, you'd flick spitballs at the back of its bloody clever head.