It almost says more about how hotly contested this list was by acknowledging the games that almost made it. Prototype was just bested by the excellent inFamous on this occasion and Dead Space: Extraction narrowly lost out to the controversy-baiting MadWorld. Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 was in the running too, yet just fell short at the last hurdle. And so onto the list itself. Amongst others, there were several very exciting high profile returns, from Nathan Drake to Tim Schafer, Grand Theft Auto proved its sticking power with an exceptional development in the portable market and DLC so meaty that it warranted a boxed release, and Batman: Arkham Asylum crept out of the shadows to prove to the world that not only was it in fact possible to create a superhero game that didn't suck, but that such a game could be really freaking good too.
If you're yet to sample any of the contenders below, be sure to click on the thumbnail or game title to look at a price comparison for all available platforms:
Ubisoft set out to right all of the little wrongs in the first game and ended up succeeding incredible. Ezio's adventures were prettier and much more varied. The plot was even more nuts than before, but with an assortment of brand new weapons, collectables aplenty, an appearance from Leonardo da Vinci, and an opportunity to play Pimp My Villa, this was even more than we'd hoped for.
With its dark and brooding atmosphere, bone-crunching melee combat, and shadowy spectre-like stealthiness, Arkham Asylum gave fans of the Dark Knight a chance to revel in an incredibly realised grimy corner of Bruce Wayne's world. It wasn't just the delight of having Mark Hamill voicing The Joker, every bit of this game struck the right chord.
The gaming world welcomed Tim Schafer back with open arms as he unveiled his paean to all things metal. This fantastic fusion of sandbox action, RTS-style battles, and Jack Black was certainly one of the most creative games of the year. Schafer's stamp was all over this labour of love from the soundtrack to the characters, with Lemmy and Ozzy hopping on board to lend a hand to proceedings.
Rockstar ignored warnings that their criminal flagship couldn't really cut it on the portable handhelds by creating a new engine with an isometric camera and cramming all of the best bits about the GTA series into a very small space. From the very first game to the very latest, this was a game in which the GTA legacy all came together. It helped that it was an absolute stormer to play too.
Downloadable content has been a thorny subject of late, with accusations of developers and publishers withholding already created content to make a bigger buck, but there was no such outcry with the two GTA IV expansions. In fact, they were so comprehensive, they got a standalone boxed release. The characters and stroylines were brilliant, the gameplay top-notch as expected, but these succeeded ultimately because they weren't cheap cop outs, but wonderfully crafted additional episodes for fans who wanted to see even more of Liberty City.
An Amon Tobin soundtrack was just the icing on this fantastically action-packed cake. Cole McGrath's superpowers made Emperor Palpatine look like an amateur, and the game's well implemented karma system, the vast playground that was Empire City, and the well developed story helped make this one of the must-have games for the PS3.
Nintendo's little white box tried to expand its horizons early on in 2009 with this ridiculously violent number courtesy of SEGA. Everything from its gorgeous stylised artwork to its comically over-the-top brutality was designed to shake things up a little bit and remind the Western market that the Wii wasn't just for your or your grandma, offending a number of puritanical institutions in the process. But boy was it fun! And also really good for stress relief.
Despite opening an enormous can of worms by blundering into the race issue like a blind elephant, Resident Evil 5 turned out to be a fast-paced, frenetic, edge-of-your-seat zombie-fest. Stunning graphics, and with a chillingly atmospheric soundtrack, only the new control system let down what was otherwise a hugely impressive game.
A late contender, but an essential one, Spirit tracks was classic Zelda: Pretty. Darn. Awesome. Stuffed with quests, collectibles, train mounted cannons, and a dollop of nostalgia, Spirit Tracks also let you use the DS's microphone as a pan pipe, garnering many an odd look on the bus.
Nathan Drake returned this year to grudgingly go back to doing what he does best: beating Indy and Lara at their own game. With more twists than a spaghetti junction, a cracking multiplayer mode, some of the best graphics ever seen on the PS3, and all the pacing and set-piece action of several major motion pictures, Naughty Dog outdid themselves.