5) Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road (DS) - It's always hard tackling a classic that is so near and dear to the hearts of many, but in my opinion Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road captured the magic of the Wizard of Oz wonderfully. Sure, the story could have been beefed up a bit, but where the game excelled was offering a different spin on something classic. Not only was there a twist on the typical Wizard of Oz plot, but also in the gameplay. Players traveled up various roads using the stylus as their guide, which added a strategic element to gameplay that I thoroughly enjoyed. And hey, turn based battles in the vein of Dragon Quest that went quickly was just icing on the cake - I'm not complaining.
4) Harvest Moon: Animal Parade (Wii) - I'll admit, I was in a bit of a slump when it came to the classic Harvest Moon games. However, that all changed when I picked up Animal Parade. The newest Harvest Moon's gameplay was not only addictive, but it gave me something I had long been hoping for from the series: a steady flow of story events. With random sub-events constantly popping up on top of story events that tied into the gameplay superbly, I was never bored in Animal Parade. The game was definitely a step up from the Tree of Tranquility, and the developer really went out of their way to provide a glut of tasks, discoveries, and accomplishments for you to work toward. Plus, it's always nice to see a variety of animals to befriend. I love pandas, monkeys, and penguins!
3) Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days (DS) - If you are anything like me, when you played Kingdom Hearts II you wanted to know more about Roxas. Although the whole time I was wondering about Sora, I started to get attached to Roxas when I spent the first few hours of the game with him. There had to be something more behind those deep blue eyes, and thankfully with the release of Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days, we are able to get some insight into the mind of Roxas. The game has graphics beyond what I've seen the DS capable of and all the addictive staples of the combat are still alive and kicking - and of course you still get to explore Disney worlds in the process. This may not be my favorite Kingdom Hearts game, but it's a better-than-solid handheld title. The game being split up into various short missions and days made it an easy pick up and go title, and yes, I still did get giddy over the Disney aspects all over again. At the end of the day, I had fun with Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and that's all I really ask for in a good handheld title.
2) Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (DS) - You really can never go wrong with the loveable mustache brothers. I knew this game would be fun, but as soon as I loaded it up in the DS, I became totally invested, and had a hard time putting the title down. It amazes how Nintendo never seems to fail in terms of innovation. They are always improving on the previous formula while still keeping intact what we love about our Mario Bros. games. I never knew Bowser's innards could make for such delightful dungeons, but here I am with all praise, no complaints. It's Mario gameplay at its absolute finest and with all the variety – Nintendo proves once again Mario will never get stale for gamers.
1) Rune Factory Frontier (Wii) - This game….THIS is what hardcore Rune Factory fans had been waiting for. With its debut on the Wii, Rune Factory Frontier is by far the most fun I had on my Wii this year. It's also a unique twist on the tried and true Harvest Moon formula that provides an engaging battle system, fantastic dialogue and characters, and heaps of things to do so that there's never a dull moment. I've never loved characters and a town quite like I did Trampoli - and in fact, if I could live there, I honestly think I would. Not to mention that raising monsters and being able to bring them into battle as if they were your party members was also a nice touch. And, yes, swinging a sword and unleashing a can of whoop ass on enemies galore just made the journey that much more fun. Rune Factory Frontier is a vast game that won't let players down, I've never played a better game from the Harvest Moon realm.
Best Rhythm Game: The Beatles: Rock Band - The Beatles are to music what Mario is to video games. This really was the game I was waiting for all year, and I can't even begin to put into words what a thrill it is to be able to rock out to Beatles songs. What makes me even happier is that younger generations will now be able to experience the magic of the Beatles, which, in my opinion, no person on earth should ever be without. Oh, and just try and challenge me to a sing off on I Am the Walrus, and I guarantee you'll lose. I can get a perfect on that, and I'm mighty proud of it, and it shall always be my favorite Beatles song!