It seems that each and every year is the best yet in gaming, but 2008 could see such a hyperbole come to fruition. It'll go down as a year where both new iterations of popular franchises and brand spanking new properties made a tsunami-sized splash, showering us all in a torrent of digitised brilliance. And unlike previous years, the standard has been sky high across the board, where any of our top ten choices could have easily been number one. November was the busiest month, with seven of our list released, and it'll probably take most people until late next year to fully get round to them. Digital Spy's
gaming team scaled each blockbuster release into a final aggregated summary, discussed the final placements, then polished them off for your pleasure. We give honourable mentions to Super Smash Bros Brawl
, Professor Layton And The Curious Village
, Mirror's Edge
, Wrath Of The Lich King
, Dead Space
and Left 4 Dead
- stunning games by any standard - but not quite good enough to make our final ten. Such was the year of 2008, where the bar resides somewhere in the stratosphere, laughing at our feeble thumbs.
10. 'Braid' (Xbox Live Arcade)
The only downloadable game on our list, Braid
was a breath of fresh air. Not only was it a brave, bold and beautiful artistic endeavour, it proved that there was more to downloadable titles than twin-stick shooters and card games. Using a different time mechanic on each world, our red-haired hero could manipulate the environment's platforms and enemies to reach ingeniously-placed puzzle pieces. The inventive mechanics are designed to perfection, giving you space to concentrate on solving the tasks rather than fighting them, with clever nods to Mario throughout its subtle water-painted landscape. Climaxing in a shocking finale that merges narrative and gameplay into one, this work of art is worth every Microsoft Point.
9. 'Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots' (PS3)
Having one of the most (subjectively) pretentious and convoluted plots in gaming history, the fourth and final edition in Solid Snake's story somehow managed to sew up its complicated story in the most straightforward way. Splicing together modern game mechanics from Western games with a strong dose of heart-melting nostalgia, Kojima welcomed everyone into a final climatic episode that pulled no punches. The poster boy for the PlayStation 3 also made use of the Blu-Ray format, creating a visceral audio-visual spectacular that Hollywood would be envious of. While it's far from perfect - certain chapters are infuriating, and the final area was severely underused - it gave fans the love letter they deserved after 13 long years of devotion.
8. 'Guitar Hero: World Tour' (PS3, 360, Wii, PS2)
Ignoring the fact that Guitar Hero
is a franchise out of control (appearing in no less than 14 SKUs in 2008) World Tour
is more than a competent sequel. Taking heed to the competition and adding a drum kit and microphone, it was an obvious retort to Rock Band
's party dominance that could have easily backfired. Instead, the superior drum kit and multi-faceted music creation feature won everyone over, making it more than capable to its rival. Although the career mode won't force you to party late into the night, and star power is as awkward as that first time you picked up a plastic instrument, Guitar Hero: World Tour
is the best music game to date. Eat that, Wii Music
7. 'Call Of Duty: World At War' (PS3, 360, PC)
Everyone recoiled in horror when they learned that Treyarch, developer of the "average" third iteration in the popular Call Of Duty
series, was returning to develop the follow up to 2007 behemoth Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
. But by sticking to the Modern Warfare
engine and moving the World War II backdrop to the underused Pacific theatre, World At War
impressed with how it breathed life into exhausted territories. While not as good as last year's effort, the absorbing multiplayer is still just as much as a time-sink, proving that the trading modern fixtures for panzer tanks, homing dogs and Bouncing Betties really paid off. Especially when victories reward you with a shouting Kiefer Sutherland.
6. 'Far Cry 2' (PS3, 360, PC)
The switch from a beautiful tropical paradise with Lost
-esque science fiction, to realistic guerilla warfare in Africa was one welcomed wholeheartedly from our reporters. Although it has an abundance of annoyances, such as long treks between objectives and frequent enemy encounters with rusty weapons, the step toward an open-world adventure is one that paid dividends. While it doesn't have a compulsive online multiplayer mode that other first-person shooters depend on, fighting through beautiful, harsh African vistas made Far Cry 2
a simply incredible experience, especially with a host of allies that lead missions to unexpected outcomes. Just don't forget the WD40 and malaria tablets!
5. 'Fallout 3' (PS3, 360, PC)
Adventuring through a world destroyed by nuclear war, complete with a cast of mutants and robotic adversaries to align, fight or pick-pocket grenade with, Fallout 3
separates itself from the open-world pack with gruesome efficiency. Merging together role-playing strategy with first-person shooting mechanics, you are free to tackle each oversized rodent in your own gratuitous way. Although the main quest is a little on the short side, there is an entire radiated realm to explore, with more on the way
. Taking hints of gameplay from the classic Elder Scrolls
series and the lore of previous iterations makes for a tasty post-apocalyptic concoction that'll make your doomsday.
4. 'Fable II' (360)
Everything in Fable II
is designed to make role-playing as easy as possible. The exploration is relaxed and streamlined, the combat simple yet utterly effective, and its residents dripping with British wit and charm. How many other games allow you to become a bigamist, dog trainer and literal demi-God all in one lifetime? And behind it is a classic adventure with all the trappings you expect from the genre, wrapped in a world as manipulative as play-dough, and a story that'll literally question your morals. No other game on this list quite does what Fable II
does so well, making for the best role-playing game of the year.
3. 'LittleBigPlanet' (PS3)
Along with Braid
at number 10, side-scrolling platformers have made a triumphant return to the gaming limelight. LittleBigPlanet
is the most ambitious project for years - a platformer where users can play and share levels together, and design stages with near limitless potential. As whimsical in presentation as it's approachable in design, exploring the thousands of creations with three friends is the year's most novel online experience. Although level moderations and connection issues plighted its launch window, a host of intricately designed single player levels full of hidden niches erased any online woes. With server kinks ironed out and sales picking up over the holiday period, 2009 could well see its online aspirations fulfilled.
2. 'Gears Of War 2' (360)
In an age of sequels, Gears Of War 2
is nigh-on perfect at delivering what players want from a follow up. Adding a generous amount of content, including a varied single player campaign, more assorted multiplayer options and the Priory-seeking Horde mode, it throws in everything except the chainsaw-destroyed kitchen sink. The cover mechanics are enhanced and polished, throwing you bayonet-deep in surprising and varied Locust skirmishes. It even manages to invigorate the substandard universe to the heights of Halo
lore, with a story that balances emotional set pieces and abrasive action sequences with ease. The most energetic cover-driven shooter to date, this is essential for any Xbox 360 owner.
1. 'Grand Theft Auto IV' (PS3, 360, PC)
After a whirlwind year of gaming gold, the story of Niko is one that unanimously captured our reporters. A marvel to explore from its murky subways, towering skyscrapers or a hailed cab, not only is Liberty City the definitive sandbox environment, but is the setting for an enthralling narrative that's as dynamic as the city itself. Replacing the unrealistic goals of previous games with a grounded sense of place, the bustling commuter laden streets not only makes the Big Apple a cornucopious playground, but a setting for a harrowing and enthralling story. Rockstar has created nothing short of a masterpiece in game design that'll stand out for years to come.