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Five years of Games of the Year...

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Games of The Year: Revisited!

It’s a Christmas tradition: Every year, whilst we’re busy wrapping our presents and buying a tree, the KN Top 20 Games of the Year list is being readied, so that we can get up to 11, then give up on the concept for three weeks and just unveil the top 5 come next January, while we wait until July for the User Awards Results.


Often, our choices for Game of the Year are controversial- Even within our own offices. (Blood still boils when our final choice for 2008 comes up) Only one game has ever walked away with a unanimous verdict from our staff,  while many choices have faced stern resistance at the time.


So, now, four and a half years on from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess being crowned our first-ever Game of the Year, we’ve decided, as part of our fifth-birthday celebrations, we’d look back on our 4 past award seasons and see whther our choices still stand…


WINNER: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Nobody strongly opposed this choice at the time, although Gibbon (Remember him?) did state that Okami was slightly better in his opinion. However, we soon dismissed his opinion as wrong as the then-fresh epic settle into our brains and we handed over the first-ever award to the Hero of Time himself, Link. Is there anybody more fitting?

zelda_tp_manualpage Ears of war

RUNNERS UP: Okami, Wii Sports, Gears of War, New Super Mario Bros, Animal Crossing: Wild World

Animal Crossings’ incredible staying power gave it a well-deserved nomination, while we still hadn’t quite got over the novelty of Wii Sports. That said, we still haven’t and shall not stop playing until we’re finally a pro at golf. New Super Mario Bros, however, was a bit of a novelty and did wear off after a year. The underwhelming Wii sequel probably helped, although it was a nice little platformer in its own right. Okami was a huge, sweeping quest that earnt a bit more respect on Wii, its more natural home, although the PS2 version shall never be forgotten as how the world was introduced to Ammeritsu, Goddess of the Sun. Gears of War? Eh… Gibbon liked it. However, when the games most adamant hater, TR, is also on the panel, it only got the nomination because Gibbon pleaded that ‘Everyone else has nom’ed it!’


WINNER: Super Mario Galaxy

Mario Avartar

Were we right?

Yes. Yes, we think we were. Playing Twilight Princess again reminded us all of what a lovely, self-contained adventure it is as well as the epic, open-world tale we remember it as. A very fine game and up there with the very best Zeldas, thanks to brilliant dungeons and the ever-lovable Epona.

This was the unanimous decision we mentioned in the intro. Super Mario Galaxy was, and still is, a game of such vibrance, colour, creativity and simply genius touches that all came together into the finest platformer released at the time, and arguably since, depending on how you stand on the sequel. An absolute masterpiece.

RUNNERS UP: Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Halo 3, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Pokémon Diamond/Pearl, Bioshock


An overwhelmingly Nintendo year, especially when you factor in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, which 50/50 with Halo 3 for inclusion, although the stunning visuals and fantastic set-pieces helped Master Chiefs’ final bow over the finish line. Phantom Hourglass was a class above all DS games when released, and still remains one of the top titles in the systems’ amazing back catalogue, just above a certain game featuring some sort of small, collectable creatures. Yes, Pokemon Diamond and Pearl also blew us away, then regathered us and made us play them for litteraly hundreds of hours. Rounding off a top-notch list is the best Call of Duty title we’ve ever seen and the one that started all the hype surrounding the franchise of today. A modern classic, so to speak, just like Bioshock, a game that beat Metroid at its own game. A brilliantly atmospheric shooter, it may have won in a different year.

Were we right?

Again, there was little discussion on this one. Super Mario Galaxy shall be riding high on our list of the top 5 games released since KN’s inception next week, we can assure you that. A brilliant year for games,  (As we said on Bioshock, any of the nominated games may have won it a year or two later) but none better than the plumbers’ intergalactic quest.


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WINNER: Super Smash Bros Brawl

This is the infamous undecided one we eventually gave to Smash Bros because we’d played it the most, although it had been out the longest of all the games on the list. At the time we pretty much had a different person routing for a different game every time, but in the end Brawls’ chaotic nonsense translated into the kind of chaotic multi-player fun we needed a year otherwise pretty single-player dominated.

Super Smash Bros Brawl

RUNNERS UP: The World Ends With You, Grand Theft Auto IV, Fallout 3, Uncharted: Drakes Fortune, Mario Kart Wii


TWEWY is the very definition of ‘Sleeper Hit’. Absolutely nobody saw it coming, yet from the moment it was released, we were hooked. It earned itself the highest score we’ve ever given to a handheld game, a whopping 96%, and our affections with it. A year of wooping and blogging over it on the newly-relaunched site followed. Meanwhile, there was the small matter of Grand Theft Auto IV, the biggest-grossing media launch in history at the time. Rockstar had made such a huge world that we felt somewhat overawed by the whole experience, while *cough* another member of our team just didn’t like it. (None of us found the driving controls very satisfying, if we’re honest.) Fallout 3 blew everything away come the fall, if you’ll pardon the two puns. A sprawling western RPG that still couldn’t quite cope with the smaller JRPG of TWEWY. Uncharted arrived right at the end, however, launching Sony’s grand climb back onto its horse that it seemed to slip off shortly after the PS3’s launch. A fine game.

Were we right?

We really have no idea. Perhaps not. Perhaps we were. We’re still as indecisive as we were back in 2008. Brawl has had the greatest staying power, TWEWY had the biggest impact on much of the team, while Uncharted and Fallout 3 remain excellent games. The real competition, however, comes from Mario Kart Wii, a game scarcely mentioned above, yet it’s still our multi-player game of choice, regardless of console. Brawl may just hold it down to the sheer ferocity of Grancko’s defence of the Subspace Emissary, though. Seriously, he seemed to love it. Bizarre. Readers: Just give the award to your favourite game and be happy with it.


WINNER: Batman: Arkham Asylum

A very fine game, this. A terrifying experience of true insanity is woven in with the rather nice Bat-gameplay and fantastic combat system to create one of the best action games of the past few years. Even darker than Christopher Nolans’ efforts, but it still managed to be fun in a strange sort of way. We’ve got high hopes for the sequel this year...


RUNNERS UP: Uncharted 2: Amongst Thieves, Assassins’ Creed 2, Little Kings’ Story, Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

An impossibly tight year. We would have flipped a coin as to whether Batman, Uncharted or Assassins’ Creed got the accolade, but they don’t make three-sided coins, so we had to fight it out to the death in the end. While Arkham Asylum edged it, Assassins’ and Uncharted both remain brilliant adventure games that retain their class today, despite the sequels. Little Kings’ Story is a brilliant RTS that avoids the usual stereotypes and provided generally brilliant entertainment for all. Spirit Tracks, however, was the weakest Zelda in a while, but that means it was merely ‘one of the best games of the year’ rather than ‘the best game of the year’.



WINNER: Super Mario Galaxy 2

Were we right?

Maybe. Batman arguably stands up slightly better today than Assassins’ Creed 2, which has had another fantastic follow-up already, although Uncharted 2 is increasingly looking like it’s the top game from 2009. A very tough call, but we’re going to give Nathan Drake the benefit of the doubt. We’ll admit it: We were wrong! For once. And even then, not by much.


Let’s be honest, it’d pretty much won it at E3 2009. The moment we had the chance to praise the original Mario Galaxy again, we were gonna do it. But this also happened to be the best game of the year anyway- the game of the generation was some how improved, with even more ideas, pace and creativity bleeding through every single level. Editor TR figured out, a few weeks after the game came out, that he’d written over 30,000 words on the subject of the game, so there’s little else that can be said. Even then, there was the small matter of last years’ GOTY awards, so you’ll have to settle on the fact that it’s brilliant. End of.

RUNNERS UP: Mass Effect 2, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Dragon Quest IX, Red Dead Redemption

Some crackers, there. No Mario Galaxys, but some crackers nonetheless. Mass Effect 2 must be the eight gazillionth RPG on our list, offering big-budget thrills and epic space fights, however the way it squeezed the Xbox 360 and PS3 was nothing compared to how Dragon Quest IX’s way with the DS. The game looked and played beautifully and had literally hundreds of hours worth of stuff to do. Red Dead was an obvious choice, Rockstars’ western sandbox title was a huge game with plenty of character, again, done on an epic scale. Something slightly more self-contained, however, rounds off the list in the shape of Donkey Kong Country Returns, a game so difficult it can take hours on end to finish one fairly linear level, yet so fair you won’t smash any Wii Remotes during those hours. Just further proof of why Retro Studios are one of the finest developers in the modern world.


Were we right?

Oh, undoubtedly. Mass Effect 2 is a huge, huge game as is Red Dead Redeption, but neither of them congaed up the feelings of fun and excitement you get from bounding around the universe with Mario once more. The fact that the sequel was infinitely difficult than the somewhat simple original added a real sense of achievement to getting every star, rather than just the 242-strong set. Such playfulness, such creativity... Miyamoto really needs a new prefix, ‘Super’ no longer will no longer suffice.