The judges of the Game Critics Awards are honored to announce the annual Game of the Year awards. Eligible games must have been commercially released in North America between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2008.
To arrive at the top ten games of 2008, the judges applied a points system. Each judge nominated 10 games and awarded a score between 5 and 30 points to their chosen games, with a total point allotment of exactly 100. The cumulative total for each nominated game was then calculated to generate the ten highest scoring games. More details are available in the rules section.
2008 Game Critics Awards: Game of
Fallout 3 (355 Points)
(Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks for PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
- Jeremy Dunham, IGN
2. Left 4 Dead
(Valve/Valve/EA Partners for PC, Xbox 360)
Oh, Valve. How do you do it? How do you take a recognized movie trope (the zombie), an established genre (survival horror) and conventional play mechanics (the first-person shooter) and turn it into something approaching magic? Fast-moving infected rather than the shambling hordes of old? Finding clever ways to require player co-operation that feel organic rather than artificially imposed? Check. Careful use of the HUD and various UI elements to greatly expand each player's situational awareness? Check. Chatter and graffiti that shrewdly focus on the human reaction to the outbreak rather than its cause? Check, check and check. In a year when Insomniac's Resistance 2 and Epic's Gears of War 2 also breathed new life into co-op shooters, Valve's Left 4 Dead is still a cut above. But don't take my word for it. Just ask Chicago Ted.
- N'Gai Croal, Newsweek
3. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
(Kojima Productions/Konami Digital Entertainment Inc for PlayStation 3)
With Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Kojima Productions proved that unprecedented visual quality and spectacular gameplay dynamics could be delivered in one epic package on PlayStation 3. The game is simply a revelation, showcasing an attention to detail that is truly awe-inspiring when you begin to realize the herculean effort it clearly required to polish every gameplay situation and every cut scene. For series fans, it’s the perfect sign off for legendary hero, Solid Snake. But crucially, newcomers are also treated to characters with focused consciences, objectives, and motivations. While they miss some of the memorable homages to Metal Gears past, the gameplay challenge mixing stealth combat and explosive action more than makes up for not being in on a sly joke. Whatever blood, sweat, and tears were shed during the course of development of this opus, gamers are the real winners, and we’re all truly thankful for the efforts.
- Rob Smith, Official PlayStation Magazine
4. Grand Theft Auto IV
(Rockstar North/Rockstar Games for PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
In a highly competitive year, Grand Theft Auto IV wound up atop many year-end lists. The game got there because Rockstar Games continued its tradition of setting new standards for the sandbox game. As players explored an expansive virtual New York, a finely crafted story about the American dream played out. Having finished the story, players for the first time could ransack Liberty City in multiplayer mode on consoles. Game developers no longer need defer to movies as a creative pinnacle. They can point to GTA IV.
- Mike Snider, USA Today
(Media Molecule/Sony Computer Entertainment for PlayStation 3)
While many great games came out in 2008, it would be hard to point to another title as ambitious as Media Molecule's LittleBigPlanet. Beneath the cute veneer of burlap-sack characters is an amazingly complex game platform that works on two fronts: As a play experience, and as a toolset for creative expression. On the video game level LittleBigPlanet breaks new ground with its co-op side-scrolling antics. But the real fun comes when you begin experimenting with the game's rich tools to create your own content. To judge the success of this mode you only need to look on the Internet and see thousands of diverse creations. Pulling off such a rich creative platform on a game console is an unheard-of feat.
- Geoff Keighley, Spike TV
6. Gears of War 2
(Epic Games/Microsoft Game Studios for Xbox 360)
Following up on the original Gears of War, which topped most video game awards lists in 2006, was no easy task – in fact, the only thing working against this sequel was the incredibly high expectations set by the original. Epic’s continuation was expected in that it did little new, but that it did everything bigger and better. That meant more variety and scale to its settings, more bad-ass weaponry, and even bigger bosses to fight. It also came out of the gate with far better co-op and multiplayer options, making it a stellar sequel all around. It’s not often you’ll hear critics praising more of the same, but when more of the same just happens to be so good, we can’t help but join the party.
- Sam Kennedy, 1UP
7. Fable II
(Lionhead/Microsoft Game Studios for Xbox 360)
Simply put, Fable II is a joy to play. From the Fairy-tale setting to the character interactions to the combat, Peter Molyneux and the team at Lionhead have taken familiar elements and recombined them to make for an experience that was one of the freshest and most rewarding of 2008. The benefits of exploring gameplay opportunities outside of the main storyline are rarely so enriching to the overall gaming experience, revealing of the depth of the social simulation integrated into the world of Albion. Beyond the mere potential for discovery inside of the game is the thoughtfulness of the design to allow players of varying skill levels to access the content. The Combat is immediately accessible yet expands to provide remarkable satisfying depth, the character interactions are simple to perform and can result in such satisfying results that they become and end in themselves rather than mere a means to success. And the world is so unique and realized that spending time with the game with no clear objective in mind is a remarkably enjoyable escape. Fable II is a testament to opening up a game to a wider audience without sacrificing the traditional elements of gameplay while moving all of gaming one step closer to a fully simulated alternate world that, at times, can be more desirable than our own.
- Adam Sessler, G4
8. Rock Band 2
(Harmonix/MTV Games/EAP for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii)
catalyzed the current craze for music games when it released Guitar Hero in
2005. Two years later, the developer upped the ante with Rock Band, adding a
full four-player band experience and catapulting the genre to become the
definitive party and family gaming experience. In 2008, Rock Band 2 solidified
its position by realizing that it wasn’t time to reinvent the wheel, but time
to make a better one.
With hundreds of songs available for download running the gamut from classic rock to country, metal, and more, Rock Band 2 is more than just a great game—it’s an evolving platform for experiencing music in a new way. The sequel takes the foundation laid by its predecessor and streamlines the experience, delivering elegant solutions to menu navigation, flexible game modes that incorporate recently downloaded songs, and even a No Fail feature that introduces new players to the experience at their own pace. A phenomenal on-disc track list completes the experience, delivering a thorough catalog of familiar standards and independent classics that have shaped the last 30-plus years of rock. With an improved set of instruments to seal the deal, Rock Band 2 hits all the right notes.
- Andy McNamara, Game Informer
9. Dead Space
(Valve/Valve for PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
After 12 years of genre domination, the Resident Evil series has finally met its match. On first glance, Dead Space looks to be an uninspired survival-horror exercise, complete with the requisite snarling monsters and high-tech firepower. And the premise is pure sci-fi hokum, as you creep and blast your way through an alien-infested space station. No matter: the visceral intensity and crushing suspense of the experience propels Dead Space into a league of its own. Like a crazed remix of Resident Evil 4, you must slay your attackers by painstakingly snipping off their thrashing limbs and tentacles. This is an inspired design choice that subverts player expectations (headshots often make things worse!) and encourages an improvisational approach to combat. Gameplay variety is also a high point, with enjoyable zero-gravity puzzles and memorable boss battles to break up the action. Dead Space isn’t particularly innovative, but it's an immensely enjoyable, primal experience that represents a new high point for the survival-horror genre.
- Sid Shuman, GamePro
(Number None Inc/Number None Inc for Xbox 360)
In 2008, many low-budget downloadable titles generated just as much buzz and critical attention as the blockbusters with multimillion-dollar marketing campaigns, and Braid was at the forefront of this trend. The game from indie designer Jonathan Blow makes no apologies for its artistic pretensions—It’s a sophisticated meditation on romance and memory from a man who has very strong opinions about art and the game medium and the game industry. But all of the high-flown coffee shop conversations that Braid has inspired shouldn’t distract from the fact that it’s beautifully designed, with evocative graphics and music, or the fact that it’s wonderfully fun. Working within the confines of a familiar genre (two-dimensional platformer) and familiar mechanics (jumping, solving puzzles, rewinding time), Blow creates something that continually surprises, and culminates in one of the most satisfying endings I’ve ever experienced. I wish I could rewind time and have the pleasure of playing Braid for the first time all over again.
- Chris Baker, Wired
Game of the Year breakdown by platform:
Xbox 360: 8 (+1 from 2007)
PlayStation 3: 6 (+1 from 2007)
PC: 3 (Same as 2007)
Wii: 1 (Same as 2007)