A busy year in the world of gaming, so I thought I’d touch on my “big” and most favorite titles of the year.

Best Wii Game: Super Smash Bros. – This was an easy win for the Wii, as it’s a wish list of what people liked about Nintendo. From characters to stages to nods to even the most obscure of titles, this made for a great gaming experience, and easily the best game on the Wii this year. Boom Blox should also be noted for the Honorable Mention.

Best WiiWare Game: World of Goo – A quirky title that made great use of the Wii Remote, couple with graphics and music that wouldn’t seem out of place in a Tim Burton movie. On top of that, it had a playful sense of humor, a great sense of physics, and clever puzzles. One of the best offerings on Nintendo’s new service.

Best Xbox 360 Game: Grand Theft Auto IV – While I didn’t play it quite as much as the other GTA titles, the multiplayer was a blast to join a few buddies in play, and tear up the city. There was certainly enough to do, and the main protagonist, Niko, was easily the most likable character of the series thus far. Left 4 Dead is my Honorable Mention for the system.

Best XBLA Game: Braid – It’s a testament that 2D gaming still has a place in today’s gaming world, and that ideas still haven’t been tapped out in terms of what can be offered. The presentation is impressive, and the puzzles are mind-bustingly hard. But once you figure them out, the experience becomes so worth it. This was a hard choice to make, as part of me wanted to give this nod to Castle Crashers (another excellent title), but it took so long to patch the multiplayer issues that it gets an Honorable Mention at the very least.

Best Playstation 2 Game: Kingdom Hearts RE: Chain of Memories – This was an easy win, as the PS2 zombie still shambles along. It’s a 3D update of the Game Boy Advance title, but it still has the typical Square-Enix production values, and a nice looking title to boot.

Best DS Game: The World Ends With You – One of the best original titles from S-E in a while, the game offers an interesting story (somewhere between The Matrix [the good one] and Battle Royale. An innovative combat system, interesting mystery, great music and some nice touches for an RPG (earn pin experience even while the DS is off) made this my favorite of the year. The remake of Final Fantasy IV earns the Honorable Mention.

Best PSP Game: Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII – S-E once again takes another offer as no one else seems to do what they can on Sony’s portable. Great CG, excellent voice acting, an interesting story, and a tear-jerker ending make this the most poignant release for the PSP. God of War: Chains of Olympus and Patapon tie for Honorable Mention.

Best Retro Game Update: Space Invaders Extreme – Those little stomping aliens still have what it takes to put together the best retro game update since Tempest 2000 on the Jaguar (yes, I know). Classic sprites updated with colorful backgrounds, a soundtrack that reacts to how you play, and some cool combo opportunities make this title one of my most played DS games.

Best Gaming Compilation: Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection – Most video pinball sims are absolutely awful, but this one nails the ball physics, the feel, and enjoyment of the game perfectly. It’s uncommon to see a video pinball game that could actually be recommended, but this offers 10 spot on tables that are all fun to play, and feel genuine to their respective era. This is also a great example of how to use the Wii control set up properly.

Best Episodic Gaming Series: Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People – With one mini episode each month, a ton of humor, traditional point and click adventure gaming action, cheesy mini games that any retro gamer will shake their head at from those odd Atari 2600/NES years, the whole series was a five part enjoyable outing with each installment. I was sorry to see the series end, but the overall experience was a lot of fun. Penny Arcade Adventures gets an Honorable Mention nod, as both series feel like they were made by people who actually get what video games are about, and not what some marketing focus testing committee tries to tell people what “fun” is.

Best Story: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed – Between the emotive character faces, the strong dialogue delivery, and a story that puts all of the Prequel movies to shame, The Force Unleashed delivers and excellent story driven experience that brought back memories of the glory days of Star Wars when the original “Holy Trilogy” could do no wrong in the fans’ eyes. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the game itself, despite some little hiccups (that evil Star Destroyer scene), is a lot of fun to play.

Best Hardcore Game: Mega Man 9 – If you know the phrase “Nintendo Hard”, then you’ll understand the hair-pulling, nail-biting love/hate rage that goes with this new 8-Bit classic. The game takes great pride in forcing players to fall to their death, be attacked by swarms of enemies, make split-second decisions…. And as hard as it is, it feels familiar and comforting, like those old NES-era days where players would stay up all night and plow through this obstacle course of Hell, and love every minute of it.

Best Casual Game: Endless Ocean – Either you’ll “get it”, or you won’t. While a lot of “professional” magazines made jeering remarks towards the game, those who actually took the time to see what it was about found a world of exploration, knowledge, mystery and wonder. Of course, it’s not going to get your blood pumping or make your hands sweat on the controller, but if you like the ocean and want to explore it’s depths, this is a neat title to pass the time with.

Best Kid’s Game: LEGO Indiana Jones – If you’ve played LEGO Star Wars, you know what to expect here, just with a fedora and bullwhip. Despite minor changes to the overall formula, the concept still works, the film references are thorough, and the situations are still amusing. Honorable Mention goes to LEGO Batman because, if you liked the other licenses, you’ll find more of the same here, but it still works just as well without getting tiresome.

Most Surprising Game: Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe – When the game was first announced, I thought it was an April Fool’s joke. When I found it was real, I was afraid that it was going to use that awful 3D engine that killed the fun of the series since Mortal Kombat 3. And then a funny thing happened. The magazines were quite positive over it, so my interest was piqued. When I played the game, I found it to be the best playing and most accurate game in the series next to its 2D predecessors. It plays well. It looks good. They actually made the story make sense between scenarios such as Scorpion Vs. Superman battles. They managed a solid roster of characters on both sides (basically, all characters MK3 to present weren’t there) And The Joker’s manic performance steals the show. People may balk at the “T” rating, and the neutered Fatalities, but no one seemed to freak out over a PG-13 Mortal Kombat movie back in 1995….

Biggest Disappointment: Nintendo’s E3 2008 – I’ve covered this before, so I won’t get into again here, but Holy Crap, what were they thinking? The Fall showing seemed a little more promising, but the 2008 year was largely silent for the Wii, outside of a handful of notable releases that wouldn’t fill two hands. Honorable Mention goes to Mario Kart Wii for sucking the joy I found in the DS version out of the newest one. While the game has some interesting features and good tracks, the awful single-player AI killed it for me as it was commonplace to be demolished by a medley of incredibly strong power ups one after another to render a seconds away 1st place win into a dead last humiliation. That’s not challenging, Nintendo. That’s unbalanced difficulty, and incredibly cheap, and that’s an instance of needing more fine tuning if I ever saw one. Other Honorable Mentions o to Activision for turning completely evil, destroying the last of the Sierra brand name, cranking out Wii shovelware, and a billion franchise sequels a month, and nearly leaving games like Ghostbusters and Brutal Legend without a home.

But that was 2008 for gaming, and I can’t wait to see what the new year has in store for gaming.

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