With some of the heavyweights a little quiet this year busy working on large projects for 2010, indie developers took full advantage and thus a few have sneaked their way into the top ten here. From the insanely addictive Plants vs. Zombies to the Facebook-aided wildfire of FarmVille, tower defence and strategy became the genre that really opened up casual gaming at home and (to the annoyance of managers everywhere) at work too. Europe didn't see a huge amount of RPGs this year (still waiting on Demon Souls) but those that did make it looked to be pretty special, with Ninty's plumber proving that he can jump over genre barriers as well as Goombas and Bioware showing that even while making Mass Effect 2 they still had time to finish off a 60+ hour-long game.
Check out the full list below, vote for your top game of 2009 and remember you can view a price comparison on any of the candidates by clicking on their thumbnails:
Dragon Age: Origins was hardly original, and the console ports were more hack'n'slash than tactical RPG, but no other game this year was quite as epic. With its memorable and richly drawn characters, not to mention some classic BioWare magic, Dragon Age proved to be one of the few games of the year where you could say you'd only played through 20 hours of the game.
The insanely good Total War series keeps on trucking its way through history and, okay, Empire wasn't quite as good as Medieval II (what is?!), but it was still an exceptionally entertaining and cerebral game. The striking visuals, impressive real-time combat, and most accomplished naval battle recreations to date all served to make a highly enjoyable game.
Over 72 million users can't all be wrong. FarmVille proved to be the nemesis of office supervisors and teachers everywhere, tapping into widespread desire for casual gaming on the fly and making the most of Facebook's vast global network. It proved controversial over its advertising options, but the world fell in love with virtual farming. You could tend to a garden and draw up a spreadsheet at the same time. Lectures would never be the same again.
Two team capture the flag needn't be as boring as it sounds. Swap out the flag for hungry royalty, add in class-based team gameplay for a strategic element, make the flag fat and hey presto you've got yourself a hugely original game. Chastised by some angry feminists for being mean to fat people, those of us who didn't really care about hurting some pixels' feelings had a blast with Fat Princess. The quirky style, original premise and fantastic teamwork-oriented gameplay provided one of the most fun little games of the year.
Never mind one Spartan, how about controlling a while host of them? Halo Wars gave us that chance. True it ripped off every RTS from Command and Conquer to Starcraft but it also pulled off the near-impossible by providing a console RTS experience that actually worked! For that minor miracle, and for making Bungie more money than God, it makes this list.
Arguably Mario's best RPG outing to date, Bowser's Inside Story absorbed the best from both Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi series and you got the opportunity to control the King Koopa at times too. Making the most of the DS's touchscreen and microphone, this little gem proved that you don't need HD graphics to make a great game, just a little bit of imagination, a strong plot and the ability to do the simple things right
God bless PopCap. What do you use to stop a host of lurching zombies from ransacking your house and eating your brains? Plants, that's what! By far the funniest tower defence game yet, and with an enormous wealth of extra content and numerous modes to keep us entertained, PopCap produced a casual gaming champion with boundless personality.
The quest to reproduce life's every little intricacy on a virtual scale goes on and with The Sims 3 you no longer had to live in remote isolation. The third instalment was all about community, you now had neighbours to steal your football and tell you to get off their lawn. Bigger and better, from watching your sim shower to pointing their way down the aisle, there was no better way to play god this year.
Eventually besting Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 to make this list, Torchlight was a wonderfully appeasing snack for fans eagerly awaiting Diablo 3. Despite having a story thinner than budget loo roll, Torchlight's heavily addictive combat-RPG gameplay, partly thanks to Diablo's co-designers Max and Erich Schaefer, proved to be a winning formula. The action-packed loot-hunting dungeon crawl was back, baby!
The game that finally let PC gamers start Achievement whoring, Dawn of War II was a revelation. Slightly different from its predecessor, it married RTS and RPG elements together, creating a hybrid that worked brilliantly. Fewer maps, yes; but the deep tactical combat and the shift from base building to a much faster-paced style of gameplay made it stand out from the crowd.