06. FIFA 12
A few short years ago, FIFA appearing on a top-of-anything list is a ludicrous idea, but EA Sports have upped their game considerably. Full licenses, from international teams to English League Two do, of course, return, but there are bold new ideas here. Like the Player Impact Engine, which substitutes samey animation for organic clashes never the same twice. Personality Plus gives players like Aaron Lennon blinding speed, or Didier Drogba the strength of an ox, putting greater importance on squad selection.
Best of all, though, are the matches themselves. Players are responsive, magicians like Messi and Ronaldo loaded with cheeky skills, and goals can come from any angle and any distance. Multiplayer matches especially are battles of wits, almost like real-time games of chess, with tactical manoeuvring and smart play triumphing over ping-pong passing like in previous FIFA's. This is football as it's meant to be played.
Braid's gently whimsical aesthetic couldn't be more misleading. It's like cracking open a colouring book to discover working blueprints for a time machine. Ideas here are that complex, that ingenious, that the brain behind it can't possibly be normal. Designer Jonathan Blow has only released one game this generation, but it was enough to ensure industry-wide recognition. Not just a game with genius puzzles, but genius puzzles full-stop.
Take the rewind mechanic. It's used simply at first, like reversing time to drop the same chandelier on a boss, but soon it's subverted. There's a ring that stops time in the immediate space around it - put it near a turret to clear a path - and a unique mechanic that teams you with a past version of yourself. The ending is unforgettable: play it backwards and the princess is opening doors to for you. Forwards and she's slamming them in your face. Clever, Blow.
08. RED DEAD REDEMPTION
America's wild west hasn't been tapped into by games nearly as much as movies. Red Dead Redemption makes you wonder why the hell not. It nails the frontier iconography, from buffalo-filled plains to snowy forests to bone-dry dustbowls, and a sunset sight from a rocky plateau is one of gaming's best vistas. You can see for miles.
It's a western 'best of'. John Marston's a Last Action Hero in stetsons and the only world he knows is being assimilated by more civilised men. Meanwhile a conflicted lawman fights to protect his town, a snake oil salesman peddles false ailments, and Mexican trouble threatens to ignite a revolution. Before that, however, an entire untamed map is yours to explore. There's poker to cheat at, steam trains to chase, snakes, rabbits and bears to skin (37 species roam the land) and, with Rockstar's returning Euphoria engine, people to realistically drag behind horses. An exemplary Western.
09. STREET FIGHTER IV
Not long ago the fighting genre was missing, presumed dead. Street Fighter IV is single-handedly responsible for its meteoric resurgence, from living rooms to professional tournaments in Las Vegas. And it's easy to see why.
It's an absolutely perfect blend of old and new: close enough to Street Fighter 2 to welcome back old hands, but fresh enough to entice those without history. The close-up, hilariously exaggerated specials are an awesome addition, as are every one of the 39 finely balanced members of a roster which features new faces alongside classic competitors like Ryu and Sagat. And it's as perfect as Street Fighter's ever been, now with online tournaments and rankings, saveable replays and four-on-four battles. It's a slice from the 90's beat-em-up heyday, beefed up and modernized but as good now as it was then. For many, it's the best fighting game of all time. How can Capcom top this?
In 1889, Patent Commissioner Charles H. Duell reportedly said: "Everything that can be invented has been invented". Cue some 120 years of inventions later and Media Molecule made the same mistake, initially proclaiming LittleBigPlanet their first and last in the series of user-fuelled create-em-up's, a game so rich, so customisable, that there was no need for a sequel. Apparently.
How wrong they were. The sequel wasn't just a platform game, but a platform for games, allowing for the creation of racers, tower defence, lightsaber duels and even fully fledged first-person shooters. Every one of LBP's three million user levels were transferred over and could be edited and improved with sparkly new tools like a cutscene editor, music sequencer, customisable AI, grappling hook and a gun that can shoot cakes (or anything you can think of). Additionally, enhanced search options allow a growing community to search for levels with more ease and accuracy than ever.