5) Ash (iOS) – This was the year that my iPhone made my DS obsolete. I never in a million years would have expected that iOS games would get this good this quickly, but it is very tough to argue with not just the robustness of the iPhone as a gaming platform, but the price point of the games on offer. The value proposition on Ash is incredible – for $5 you're getting one of the best RPG stories of the year.
4) 100 Rogues (iOS) – This is by far the best interpretation of Rogue to hit the iPhone, but more than that it is right now my favorite roguelike around. There are some bugs in this one that keep it from being even higher on my list, but gameplay-wise Rogue has always been a hard model to beat simply because the choices in the game are always so compelling. Gameplay is always my #1 rating criteria and 100 Rogues takes the classic rogue model, adds a very clean and attractive touch interface, boss fights, and some humor into a sublime package for Rogue fans. I have enjoyed several different versions of Rogue and Nethack on the iPhone, but 100 Rogues has them all beat and is one of the very best RPGs of the year.
3) Heavy Rain (PS3) – Certainly the finest "graphical adventure" of the year, I actually found the gameplay in this game, often considered the greatest weakness by other reviewers, extremely enjoyable. But whether you like the interface or not, it is very difficult to argue that there was a better story told through video games as a medium this year. Yes, there are some plot holes in some of the narrative paths, but when a game gets this much right it seems silly to nitpick. This was the only game on the list that had me actually turning away from the screen at times due to the difficulty of some of the choices on offer.
2) Mass Effect 2 (360 / PC) – I'm prepared to receive some flak for ranking Mass Effect 2 anywhere other than #1, and believe me, the decision was razor thin. But we'll get to why in a second – this game was just terrific. Once again, gameplay is the #1 criteria, and Mass Effect 2 delivers in spades, improving the model of the original in every way. It hasn't been this much fun to shoot things since Doom.
1) Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale (PC) – When it came time to make the decision between this game and Mass Effect 2, I gave Mass Effect 2 one measly point less for one major reason: I sank more time into this game than any other game on the list, and I did that precisely because Recettear was far and away the most fun game to play out of ANY RPG I played this year. And in the end I have to believe that is what the Game of the Year award should be about – which game was the most fun to play? Which game made you want to come back and play again day after day after day, even after you knew how the story ended? Recettear is that game for me.
Indie RPG of the Year: Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale (PC)
Game of the Year: Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale (PC)
POS of the Year: Spectral Force Genesis (DS)
Most Disappointing RPG of the Year: Dragon Age Origins: Awakening (360 / PS3 / PC)