3. Gears of War 2
It says a lot about Gears of War 2 that we gave it a 9/10 but now worry that we under-rated it. True, it's just another fairly linear duck-and-cover shooter, but Gears of War 2 took the original game's formula and boosted it to not just epic but stratospheric proportions, delivering a string of outrageous set pieces that made the climactic moments of most shooters seem feeble by comparison. Meanwhile the storyline added some much needed character and more than a touch of melodrama to the slightly derivative, macho posturings of Gears.
This would be enough for a place on this year's podium, but Epic's modern classic improved on the online modes of the original then added a new one - Horde - that rivalled Left4Dead as a co-op experience. If you have an Xbox 360 but not Gears of War 2, then you're wasting the potential of your console. If the Games of the Year was a fully democratic institution, this might well be our pick of the bunch. As it is, it's the year's best shooter, bar none.
Read the full review of Gears of War 2.
Another controversial choice, but the more time we spend in LittleBigPlanet, the more we're convinced of its landmark status. We understand the complaints about the weird, slightly floaty controls, and would freely admit that - in this one respect - it's no Mario. Otherwise, however, it's a game that makes you grin, and grin, then grin some more. The introduction of real world physics revolutionises the old-school 2D platformer, and the art design - practically a tribute to the late, great Oliver Postgate - dips deep into childhood nostalgia while simultaneously looking cutting edge.
Despite a few painful difficulty spikes, it's one of the finest single-player games of the year. But then you throw in the fact that, having created some of the best 2D platform levels of the last decade, Media Molecule then gave you the tools to do the same and offered you the chance to share them with the world. Or just make something crazy, magical, stupid, pretentious, satirical, ambitious, political or just plain fun. It's not quite the YouTube of video games, but every week throws up another collection of user-generated LBP gems, and this isn't a community that's going to die out any time soon. In LBP and Sackboy, the PlayStation 3 has finally found an identity and a mascot. This is the start of something special.
Read the full review of LittleBigPlanet.