Mega Man 9 (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii)
Inti Creates / Capcom
The Climax of a beautiful series. This iteration not only single-handedly reimagined the classic formula, it added a plethora of new features and used its simple yet elegant plot as a criticism of the series' legacy, asking, "How long can it go on?"
Griff "Icebox" Rousseau

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (PS3)
Kojima Productions
I'm just about done with video games. Now that I'm out of school and working I don't have the time, money or inclination to play games. I've got mixed feelings about all the time I've spent on games, and Metal Gear Solid 4 was like an Irish Wake for the recently deceased gamer in me.
Andrew "blackboxme" Drinkwater
It's a game that's very dependent on the player's enjoyment of the past Metal Gear Solid games, which may sort of hamper its ability to be seen as one of the year's great games, but it evolved the Metal Gear Solid 3 gameplay into a more accessible stealth action game so well that I can endure Hideo Kojima's asininely long cutscenes.
Trent Polack

Mirror's Edge (Xbox 360, PS3)
There are many things to criticize about Mirror's Edge. The combat is horrible, for a start. The cutscenes' art style doesn't suit the style of the game. The frustrating "learn by death" nature of many of its areas wears thin. However, what is done right is done so well that the bad parts are almost forgivable and forgettable.

The in-game art is incredible -- its contrasts, oversaturation, colour hues, and themes. The effects used to convey speed, height, and death really help to make you feel a sense of urgency or panic. And the controls are so simple yet so incredibly complex at the speed run and time trial level that I honestly wonder how they pulled it off. I could go on for a good while about the control implementation, but unless you've done your own time trials and speed runs you can never really appreciate the nuances riddled throughout.

The game has its problems, but its style and refined interface won me over convincingly.
Marc "Mar" Bell
Electronic Arts went out on a limb with DICE's Mirror's Edge, a new paradigm in first-person gameplay. While the idea of platforming in first-person is nothing new (I'm looking at you, Half-Life), Mirror's Edge is probably the first game in that category to establish a sense of self, giving your character Faith an actual sense of existence in the world rather than being merely a turret on wheels.
Nick "grayscale" Selpa
It's difficult to say whether DICE is aware exactly what it has created. Mirror's Edge is an incredible piece of software. The studio has nailed each and every crucial element with such considerable equanimity and poise that it truly sticks out like a sore thumb among the reams of first person action games that rely so heavily on catering to the atavistic urges of young men and little else.

Ignore the dissenting voices. When you're sprinting desperately down a corridor--pulse racing, palms sweaty, ignoring the wailing sirens and the bullets shattering the scenery around you, gaze fixated on that one point fifty yards ahead--it hits you like a brick wall. This is nirvana, the pure gameplay moment that so many seek yet fail to achieve.

MMOs can deliver something comparable, but it's drip-fed, for the patient and the patient alone. Perhaps Mirror's Edge's most astounding trait is that it can, depending on skill of course, provide that thrill within a matter of hours.
Fraser McMillan
It's really unique, and the parkour element is done better than in any game before. You will fail a lot, especially with the time trials and some forced combat, but this is one awesome game.
Erkki Lindpere

Mother 3 (Fan Translation) (GBA/PC)
Nintendo SPD / HAL Laboratory / Brownie Brown / The Internet
There is a lot that can be said about Mother 3, but not nearly enough has been written about it being an incredibly good game.

In the year of disappointing, fairly bland next-gen JRPGs, this game quietly had its "unofficial" release and I honestly believe that, much like Earthbound, this is a game that, years from now, people will still recommend to regardless if they care about the narrow niche that JRPGs have become.

Earthbound was a great game, but it was distinctly based upon the games of its time and carried with it all the gameplay-mechanic baggage of other 16-bit JRPGs. Mother 3 is a phenomenal revision of what the genre can achieve when cut loose from that design template. It is Earthbound with all of the needless genre fat cut out of it, and its strength--the writing--pushed to the forefront as much as possible.

Remember how in Metal Gear Solid 3, if you were in a particular area at a particular time, you could catch some weird mythological Japanese snake? You realized that someone spent a lot of effort to put this weird, interesting little thing in a game, even though very few people would see it. Mother 3 feels like a whole game built around that feeling: every single piece of dialog or goofy examinable signpost or enemy description is a discovery of a tiny joke that someone wrote for so you can silently chuckle into your neckbeard.

There's something charming about knowing that with the limited resources they had for the sprite art in the game, they made sure to include not just a portrait of a goofy "yam" enemy, but also a portrait of a "baked yam" enemy for when the area is set on fire for a brief period of time.

And for all of its humor, I found the story genuinely affecting. Not in the perpetual manchild way of Final Fantasy VII's "a clone dressed in belts killed the girlfriend of another clone" way, but in that the central theme of the game is about the bond between family members, and thus wouldn't make you shut the door out of embarrassment if your mom walked by when you're supposed to feel a soft lump in your throat.
Brian Ellis

N+ (XBLA/Nintendo DS/PSP)
Metanet Software
The current generation of consoles Š contrary to popular belief Š hasnÕt treated the platformers as badly as people think. Gripshift, MirrorÕs Edge, Wario Land: The Shake Dimension, Braid, Crackdown in a sense, LittleBigPlanet and Lost Winds (among others) all offer a very different perspective to the genre, but thereÕs one game that the general gaming crowd seems to have overlooked.

ItÕs N+, the heavily expanded XBLA version of the freeware PC game. It strips platforming conventions down to its purest essentials (right down to its stylized presentation) and thatÕs the thing; its charm lies in its simplicity. Despite the fact that youÕre a ninja, you donÕt possess shurikens, katanaÕs or anything of the sort to aggressively fend off enemy threats, so you have to rely on the dexterity of your nimble character in order to avoid these. It may take a while to get used to the controls as physics and momentum are key gameplay components, but N+ becomes incredibly satisfying once you surpass that particular hurdle. ThereÕs nothing quite like being able to gracefully dodge homing missiles, heat-seaking lasers and security robots while feverishly collecting gold pieces (effectively extending the time limit along the way) throughout the often fiendishly difficult levels. But even when you die, the game does not cease to entertain: accidentally land on one of the many trip mines for example and the ninjaÕs dismembered limbs will humorously be catapulted in several directions.

Even though its predecessor was essentially free, N+ is still a bargain at 800 Microsoft Points as itÕs a fully-featured package. It contains over 750 levels divided amongst all the different modes once you include the downloadable content (200 of which are free), and you can always consult the leaderboard replays if youÕre ever stuck on a specific level. The game also comes with a very flexible level editor Š although Microsoft sadly forbids Metanet Software in letting users easily share their creations to anyone but their friends Š as well co-operative and competitive multiplayer. The only explicit flaw I can think of is that the netcode leaves much to be desired, but thankfully the multiplayer supports up to four players on a single Xbox 360 for those who prefer such offline affairs.

Either way: itÕs one of my favorite platformers of all-time, right up there with classics such as YoshiÕs Island, Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat and Super Mario Galaxy.
Michael Diderich