We don’t get to play every game that comes out every year. Heck, combined we probably hit 10% of the titles that came out this year. So we feel a little unqualified to declare a particular game the “Game of the Year.” It would be presumptuous and rude. So we’re going a little different route this year, naming the “Fun Games.” Games we had the most fun playing this year. They may not be the prettiest games or the deepest story lines, but they were the games we keep going back to, the games we can’t put down.
So without further ado, Nat and my picks for the Fun Games of the Year:
First Place (Nat) : Jeanne D’Arc [PSP] – If you would have asked me back in January 2007 what I would have picked for my handheld funGOTY I would have been vehement about it not being a game on a Sony system. I was dead set against Sony at the start of the year because of just who they were, what they had become, and how they seemed to think they had owned it all. I knew that later in the year my favorite console game of all time, Final Fantasy Tactics, was coming to their handheld, and I figured the dusty PSP would see some light of day. After entering my local gaming store to pre-order that classic, I noticed a budget-titled game on the shelf that claimed to be an SRPG (strategy-RPG). Without even knowing what the game was, I figured what the heck and took the plunge. Three weeks later I was still playing it daily. (I love finds like that.) The game is not innovative in any way, but it has this certain appeal that keeps compelling me to play. The more I followed the mythos on Jeanne (haha, history buffs), the more I wanted to see her win. Of all the SRPGs I’ve ever played, this was the easiest I ever gotten into. For a handheld it has impressive visuals, excellent cinematics and, surprisingly, a great story. I would even dare say that this one has passed Final Fantasy Tactics as my favorite SRPG. A quick look at many of the reputable forums on the ‘net and it appears that Jeanne D’Arc may very well be the sleeper hit of the year. It certainly brought the PSP back into the limelight with some players, including this one. Runner up: Puzzle Quest for the Nintendo DS.
Honorable mentions: Pokémon Pearl, Picross DS, Elite Beat Agents, Hotel Dusk Room 215, Dragon Quest Heroes Rocket Slime, and Contact.
First Place (Tony) : Pokemon Diamond [DS] – There’s nothing spectacular about Pokemon Diamond. It’s the same game since forever. Nintendo hasn’t sold millions of them because kids love cute little monsters. They sell millions because they’re addictive and they tap into the fun centers of your brain where repeated successes feel oh-so-good. The steady stream of rewards and moments of fun propel you onward and the next thing your know you’re 50 hours into the game. At times it can become mindless button mashing (or screen tapping, if you will) but there is so much depth and variety that if you’re getting bored, then maybe there’s something wrong with you. You can’t please everyone, I guess.
Pokemon Diamond gets the funGOTY nod from me. Runner up: Zelda Phantom Hourglass [DS]
Honorable mention: Contact
Runner-up (Nat) : Assassin’s Creed  – There have been only four games that I have ever played straight through without interruption meaning that I will play nothing else until it is finished. One is my funGOTY and another is Assassin’s Creed. Visuals? Outstanding. Oh, not just the main character, but the vistas, buildings, NPCs, horses, and just about any other item that graces the screen. The menus are even ingeniously used. Did I forget to mention that the game probably has some of the most lifelike character motions in a game to date? Oh, and it’s probably the most cinematic game to date as well. All you need to do is fight. After beating the game and going to the three major cities to play I still see new “kill” cinematics. A couple of minor lockup bugs at first put a small damper on the game but Ubisoft seemed to have fixed that with a patch. The only other minor gripe I have is that the game was a little too repetitive in some of the investigation missions. However, the excellent gameplay rose above it.
Honorable mentions: (oh boy, here goes!) The Orange Box (Portal!), Stuntman: Ignition, Forza 2, Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare, Halo 3, Geometry Wars Galaxies, Super Mario Galaxy, Super Paper Mario, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Zack & Wiki Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure, and MLB Power Pros.
Runner up (Tony): Portal  – I waffled here for a long time. It came down to the simple, pure joy I derived from Portal and the overwhelming behemoth Mass Effect. Both are fantastic games and I whole-heartedly recommend either of them to anyone. But Portal (again) touched those special parts in my brain that make me feel good. These fun-spots were repeatedly tickled beyond belief after I completed each puzzle and you couldn’t beat the smile of my face after I finished the last level. It’s not too short, it’s not too easy. It’s just awesomely pure awesomeness.
Honorable Mentions: Forza 2, Halo 3, Mass Effect
And now, we present the 2007 Fun Game of the Year:
First Place: Crackdown 
Nat’s take: I have a confession to make. First of all, 2007 was in my experience the best gaming year ever. Almost every system (almost) made strides in available AAA titles. I was fortunate enough to play most of the AAA titles and a few of the B-listers. However, and here’s the confesisson, I’m not a hardcore gamer. I pick up a game usually with the crowd and play it for a couple of days and then put it down and move on to the next “fad” game. I usually only do this once or twice a year. It’s been that way since I worked in retail in high school. Of course, at that time, I bought a game with every paycheck! Eventually, real life took over and my game playing was regulated to small spurts. I spent 2006 playing mostly Guild Wars and by December of that year it died off, or I went cold turkey. (You MMORPG gamers know what I mean.) All my systems laid pretty much dormant at that time. Why all this setup for my funGOTY? Well, I was reaching a low point in my job earlier in the year and I needed an escape, a literal escape. Nothing I tried was cutting it. In February, Microsoft provided it with Crackdown. While most were getting it for a certain (in my opinion) overrated game beta, I purchased it on word of mouth alone from a few close online friends. Playing Crackdown was…it was fantastic. Graphics? Check. Sounds? Rockin’ soundtracks and boombastic weapons. Check. Weapon selection? Vehicle selection? Character progress? Uh, yes, please. Story? Well…who cares—but there was a nice twist. After the family went to sleep I took to the task of cleaning up the criminal groups of Pacific City. In no time I was scaling tall buildings and fighting off thugs with ease. I was enthralled with my 360 for the first time ever. (I had owned the system for almost a year.) This game came as a welcome relief when I couldn’t find any good entertainment in my life. It made my job tolerable until a new one came along and spurred a huge interest for me to try more games via word of mouth more so than game reviews. This was my most expensive year in gaming, but also the most enjoyable. Because this game brought me back to the gaming experiences that I felt as a teenager and made me feel young again, I select it as my pick for funGOTY 2007.
Tony’s take: I’m basing my selection on one particular night of co-op Crackdown with my partner in crime-fighting, Bobster. We both had played Crackdown for a few nights on our own and decided to give co-op a try one night. For about three hours, we may have taken down one or two bosses. The other two and half hours were spent punching each other off sky scrapers, blowing each other up and wreaking havoc on Pacific City. At one point, I commandeered a big semi truck and Bobster hopped on top to come along for the ride. My agent had a one-star driver rating, meaning he was about as effective driving a semi as a newly licensed teenager. On crack. I couldn’t keep the thing on the road — I was going down the wrong side of the street, I was up on the side walk, plowing innocent bystanders over by the dozens. The whole time I’m yelling at people to stay off the sidewalks! I’m yelling at a video game. I had completely lost myself in the game and couldn’t be bothered to stop acting like a kid. After ten minutes of this, neither of us could breathe we were laughing so hard. It was the most enjoyment I had all year long.
I’ve since went back and finished Crackdown multiple times and I’m still looking for all the orbs. Easily the 2007 Fun Game of the Year
Those are our picks for 2007. What about you guys? What games brought the biggest smiles to your faces?