Best New IP
Winner: Mass Effect
Mass Effect achieved everything BioWare originally wanted it to. After developing Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic BioWare had already set their sights on creating their own sci-fi universe, and Mass Effect was the culmination of their efforts. Contrary to popular belief the universe BioWare created wasn't original in the slightest. In essence it was a rip off on Star Trek and Star Wars, with a lot of Star Control thrown in. But despite its unoriginality the universe absorbed you. The Mass Effect games are the type of experiences you never want to end. They are the sort of game you will sit down for an hour to play, but then realise 5 hours have passed. Questions have been raised multiple times as to whether or not the games actually do qualify as being RPGs, but the games are so goddamn good it really shouldn't matter. Mass Effect is easily the best new IP of the seventh generation.
Best New Developer
Winner: Platinum Games
Platinum Games' titles aren't phenomenal, but they are hugely enjoyable. MadWorld was ridiculously gruesome and hilariously fun; Vanquish was about as Japanese as a shooter game can be; Bayonetta is one of the best modern beat 'em ups. And their take on Metal Gear was also enjoyable, despite lacking in comparison to previous efforts. No new developer outside the Indie scene has enthralled me as much as Platinum over the course of the generation.
Nominations: BioWare, Irrational Games, Level 5, Nintendo EAD and Valve
Winner: Level 5
Nintendo EAD have made more good games over the last 7 years than Level 5, but their quantity to quality ration isn't as high as that of Level 5. Whereas EAD made poor games like Wii Play and Wii Music, the worst we got from Level 5 was White Knight Chronicles, which was at least still playable. From Dragon Quest IX and Ni no Kuni to Professor Layton and Inazuma Eleven, the fun that can be had with Level 5 titles is incredible. The Professor Layton games themselves have proven to be some of the best puzzle games in years, while Ni no Kuni and Dragon Quest IX have cemented Level 5's reputation as the greatest JRPG developer in the world. Many have stated that the seventh generation marked the decline and fall of Japanese developers, but Level 5 have bucked the trend. They have been the most consistently brilliant developer for years.
Best Xbox 360 Game
Nominations: BioShock, Fallout 3, Limbo, Mass Effect 2 and Super Meat Boy
Winner: Mass Effect 2
Because of the quality of their past efforts, expectation were high for BioWare to deliver on all fronts with Mass Effect 2. Luckily they did just that. Mass Effect 2 isn't my favourite BioWare game, but it certainly improved upon the original in pretty much every way, which was an achievement in and of itself. The game play was streamlined to near-perfection, and the overall experience was heightened. You could argue that the original was a purer RPG, a point I would have to agree with, but Mass Effect 2 was such a strong experience that BioWare need applauding for their achievement. Without question, Mass Effect 2 is the finest time you will ever spend playing on your Xbox 360.
Best Wii Game
Nominations: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Rayman Origins, Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Xenoblade Chronicles
Winner: Super Mario Galaxy 2
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the result you get when a company spends 25 years perfectly honing their skills developing platformers. Nobody does the genre as well as Nintendo, and Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the ultimate example of this. To call it one of the best games Nintendo has ever developed wouldn't quite do it justice. No other 3D Mario game has had as much variety in level design, and none of them compare in precision of game play. This is what gaming is all about. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the epitome of the medium. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is essential gaming for anyone who even remotely considers them self a gamer.
Best PlayStation 3 Game
Nominations: Dragon Age: Origins, Journey, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Winner: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
Ni no Kuni was a great game on many levels, but the one reason above all I loved it was because it harkened back to the glory days of the JRPG genre. The game feels a lot like the classics of the genre we had the honour of playing for the SNES and PlayStation, and that is a claim I haven't laid at a JRPG in a long time. While Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii took JRPGs in to new realms, Ni no Kuni was the perfect refinement of what came before it. Level 5 are wonderful RPG makers, and Ni no Kuni certainly borrows off their past efforts. Aesthetically it feels a lot like Dragon Quest VIII, but the artwork, by the fantastic Studio Ghibli, really gives it a feel of its own. Its action-based combat system was also very enjoyable, and seen as though combat is a huge aspect of the genre that is only a good thing. And the game has a charm to it that pretty much no other game this generation has matched, a sort of charm that makes masterpieces such as Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI so enjoyable. I can't praise Ni no Kuni highly enough without sounding like a raving JRPG fanboy.
Best Nintendo DS Game
Nominations: Animal Crossing: Wild World, Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, Mario Kart DS and Professor Layton and the Curious Village
Winner: Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies
Many argue that Japanese RPGs are held back by their traditions, but in regards to Dragon Quest IX the traditions are what made is so utterly enjoyable. Unlike other JRPG contemporaries, such as Final Fantasy, Phantasy Star and Tales, Dragon Quest doesn't alter much in between each new numbered instalment. Instead it makes precise tweaks, constantly refining upon what came before. Hell, until 2006 the series still had random battles. Dragon Quest IX could be argued as being antiquated, but to fans it was everything we could have asked for. Some were annoyed that the game would make its debut on the DS, instead of a home console like all the main series games before it, but the swap to the DS was a positive. If you've played any Dragon Quest game before you'll know what to expect here, but Level 5 did change things up a bit. Gone are the random battles, for the first time in the history of the main series, and in comes a system in which you can see enemies on screen, much like EarthBound or Chrono Trigger. Also, the game approaches playable characters in a similar manner to that of Dragon Quest III (the series most widely acclaimed title). Instead of recruiting new characters as the story progresses you get to fully create your own squad, from looks, class, design and even name. Some would find this approach a weakness, as none of the characters other than the main avatar have any involvement in the story, but it allowed you to stamp your own authority on the game. Oh yeah, and the game also has great multiplayer capabilities too. Dragon Quest IX isn't my favourite game in the series, but it may possibly be the most complete entry to date.
Best PlayStation Portable Game
Nominations: Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, Daxter, God of War: Chains of Olympus, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and Metal Gear Solid: Peacewalker
The appeal of Daxter, as far as I'm concerned, all came down to my love of Jak & Daxter in general. You could make a serious argument against Daxter being the best game on PSP, but there's no other game on the console that I have utterly enjoyed playing as much. And isn't enjoyment the main aspect of any game? And unlike Clank, the spin-off Ratchet & Clank title for PSP, Daxter is just a damn good platform game in its own right. It would be difficult not to recommend this game.
Best PC Game
Nominations: Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Portal, Portal 2, To the Moon and The Walking Dead: A Telltale Games Series
Winner: Portal 2
Portal 2 is the sort of game that, in an era of over-exaggerated war shooters and over the top violence, really gave me an experience I was in serious need of. Nobody does first-person action games as good as Valve, and Portal 2 showcased their mastery of the genre at its finest. And dare I say that, in many ways, Portal 2 was just as good as the hallowed Half-Life 2? From puzzles to action, from humour to emotion, Portal 2 is a master class in game design.
Best Indie Game
Nominations: Fez, Journey, Limbo, Super Meat Boy and To the Moon
Journey is a special game, the sort of which you'll never forget playing. As far as Indie games go, nothing this generation can match it, purely because it gave us such a visual, surreal adventure that was enjoyable from start to finish. You could make an argument that it was a rather short game - only 2 hours or so. But for what it was Journey delivered on all fronts, and in the process became one of the best games in general for some years.
Best New IP