Gran Turismo 5 - PS3
Gran Turismo 5, developed for nearly five years by Polyphony Digital, takes the lead in the racing genre despite stiff competition from Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. The sheer amount of care and polish that went into this game is absolutely nuts and will certainly keep simulation racing fans busy for years to come.
Runner-ups: Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, Blur, Split Second
Best First Person Shooter
Halo: Reach - Xbox 360
Bungie's last Halo game before becoming a multiplatform developer for Activision, Halo: Reach is a finely crafted first person shooter with a stellar campaign and fiercely competitive online multiplayer. It adds new elements to the Halo franchise like a class system that offers different power ups like a bubble shield or jet pack. Although it didn't get as much press as Call of Duty: Black Ops I personally feel it is a much better polished and overal greater product because of the worthwhile single player campaign alongside the addictive multiplayer.
Runner-ups: Call of Duty: Black Ops, Goldeneye 007
Bit.Trip Runner - Wiiware
Bit.Trip Runner may seem like an odd choice because it features no plastic musical instruments or dancing of any kind, but it clearly wins in my mind. Never before has music, presentation and rhythm come together so beautifully in a platformer. The items Commander Video picks up and the actions he performs to dodge obstacles all add to the stellar soundtrack , eventually culminating in a rainbow aura that trails behind him. A true audiovisual masterpiece.
Runner-ups: Just Dance 2, Rock Band 3, DJ Hero 2, Dance Central
Best Downloadable Game
Super Meat Boy - Xbox 360, PC
The year was filled with a ton of great downloadable games making this decision especially difficult. Super Meat Boy is a brutally difficult platformer that will really test your skills...and patience. But you will keep coming back and that is what is so great about the game. The balance of risk versus reward is near perfect, leading players to decide whether or not getting that just out of reach bandage is worth dying and starting the level over again. Get enough of those bandages and you will be treated to some excellent secret characters from other indie games that each feature their own special attributes. If you download Super Meat Boy off of Steam you will be able to get one of my personal favorites, the head crab from Half Life.
Runner-ups: Bit.Trip Runner, Mega Man 10, Limbo, Cave Story
Mass Effect 2 - Xbox 360
You know the Japanese gaming industry needs to pick it up a little when a Western developer makes the best RPG of the year. The long awaited Final Fantasy XIII came out and caused very little stir among the gaming community and even received a bit of backlash because of its linearity. That's what really sets Mass Effect 2 apart, the sheer amount of choices the player can make. Sure, morality choices are nothing new to gaming at this point but there is still nobody that does it better than Bioware.
Runner-ups: FFXIII, Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies, Fallout: New Vegas
Best Action Game
Red Dead Redemption - Xbox 360, PS3
This was a really tough choice due to the sheer number of great action titles released this year. Any of the games listed as runner ups are well worth your time, but Red Dead Redemption leads the pack. I have always been a fan of Westerns and Rockstar has done a great job of translating the wild west into an engrossing video game experience. You can add a friend to your posse and make stirring up trouble in town even more fun than before. There is also a worthwhile expansion, Undead Nightmare, to check out if you have exhausted everything this open world Western has to offer.
Runner-ups: Assassins Creed: Brotherhood, Vanquish, God of War 3, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, Bayonetta
There were a lot of great platformers this year, including long dormant Nintendo franchises like Donkey Kong and Kirby as well as excellent newcomers like Super Meat Boy. Despite the excellent competition Super Mario Galaxy clearly comes out on top. Excellent gravity infused platforming mixed with clever new power ups and the return of Yoshi make Mario's second trip to space even better than his last.
Runner-ups: Donkey Kong Country Returns, Super Meat Boy, Kirby's Epic Yarn
Best Xbox 360
Halo: Reach was clearly a labor of love for Bungie. It is bursting with features and combines the best elements of each Halo game as well as breaks some new ground for the franchise with by offering different abilities for players to master. It's campaign is probably the best in the franchise as well, maintaining a lot of what made the first game great while crafting a narrative all its own. The Halo franchise will continue on without Bungie, but it will likely never be the same.
Runner-ups: Mass Effect 2, Red Dead Redemption, Fable 3
Simulation racing fans have been waiting through muliple delays over the course of several years to play Gran Turismo 5 and thankfully it has delivered one of the finest racing experiences available. An insane amount of cars, tracks and customization await, making Gran Turismo 5 a game that will keep car enthusiasts going for years to come.
Runner-ups: God of War 3, Heavy Rain, Red Dead Redemption
Super Mario Galaxy 2
The Wii was home to some great exclusive titles this year, but one game clearly stood above the rest. Super Mario Galaxy 2 featured bright, beautiful and imaginative galaxies to traverse, accompanied by an excellent orchestrated score that made it an experience few will forget. This time Nintendo streamlined the experience by getting rid of the hub, making it much easier to get to the good stuff, the platforming. A major step up in challenge from the first Mario Galaxy, this sequel will keep series veterans on their toes. Don't worry, if you die too many times there is a super guide feature that will appear help you through the rough spots, making this a game just about anyone can enjoy.
Runner-ups: Donkey Kong Country Returns, Sin & Punishment 2: Star Successor, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom
Overall Game of the Year
Super Mario Galaxy 2 - Wii
I am having a tough time thinking of anything more to say about this game. If you haven't played it go out to the store and pick it up immediately. It offers some of the best enjoyment gaming has ever had to offer and is accessible to just about anyone from newbie to seasoned veteran. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is filler free and pure gaming bliss from beginning to end.