‘Fallout 3’ led action-packed year

By Lou Kesten

It’s been another spectacular year for video games, with more than enough compelling adventures to satisfy even the most demanding player. It’s been a particularly gratifying year for Xbox 360 owners, who have benefited from a consistent flow of first-rate software from Microsoft and other publishers.

Nintendo, on the other hand, has been a huge disappointment. While the low-priced Wii continues to outsell the competition, new releases for the console have been, for the most part, uninspired.

And while Sony’s pricey PlayStation 3 has been a tough sell in this economy, its library is improving, almost — but not quite — keeping pace with the Xbox. Here are my favorite games of 2008:

1.“Fallout 3” (Bethesda Softworks, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3): Set in Washington 200 years after a nuclear holocaust, this epic brings an eerie beauty to a bleak scenario. With its powerful story, memorable characters and morbid comedy, it’s a compelling journey that leaves you wanting more even after 100 hours of play.

2.“LittleBigPlanet” (Sony, for the PlayStation 3): As delightful as “ Fallout 3” is grim, “LBP” freshened up the 2D action game and unleashed an army of amateur designers with its innovative level-building kit.

3.“Rock Band 2” (Electronic Arts/MTV Games, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, PlayStation 2): By releasing new songs every week of 2008, “Rock Band” developer Harmonix refused to let its rhythm-game franchise get stale.

4.“Grand Theft Auto IV” (Rockstar, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3): The violence and profanity are still over the top, but protagonist Niko Bellic is a little more grounded than your typical “GTA” lead. He’s a thug you can care about.

5.“Braid” (Microsoft, for the Xbox 360): Independent developer Jonathan Blow’s time-warping, mind-bending puzzler turned a hackneyed plot — little guy rescues a princess — into a melancholy meditation on love and loss.

6.“Lost Odyssey” (Microsoft, for the Xbox 360): I love an old-fashioned role-playing game, and “Final Fantasy” veteran Hironobu Sakaguchi delivered a rich tale with real emotional impact.

7.“Fable II” (Microsoft, for the Xbox 360): I like newfangled RPGs too, and Peter Molyneux’s ambitious open-world epic is a satisfying blend of action, character building and laugh-out-loud humor.

8.“Dead Space” (Electronic Arts, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3): Sure, it cribs a lot from movies like “Aliens” and “Pitch Black,” but this exploration of a monster-infested spaceship was the year’s most nerve-racking game.

9.“Grid” (Codemasters, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3): This unusually challenging sleeper delivered white-knuckle auto racing with sublime controls and an superb variety of courses.

10.“Mirror’s Edge” (Electronic Arts, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3): Boy, it’s tough, but EA’s parkour-inspired thriller looks unlike any game we’ve seen before.

Honorable mentions

“Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots,” “Gears of War 2,” “Resistance 2,” “Prince of Persia,” “The World Ends With You,” “No More Heroes,” “Patapon,” “Ticket to Ride.”

2008, The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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