Best games of 2007; Wii rain checks for Christmas |

Best games of 2007; Wii rain checks for Christmas

Associated Press Writer

News from the virtual world:

– BEST OF 2007: It has been a terrific year for video games, and boiling it down to a top 10 list was difficult. But here are the games I enjoyed the most in 2007.

1. “BioShock”: My AP colleague Matt Slagle called it the game of the year, and I have no argument. Ken Levine’s undersea epic combines a thought-provoking story, compelling gameplay, dazzling visuals and a lush soundtrack to create one of gaming’s true masterpieces.

2. “Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction”: Everyone’s favorite lombax-robot team returns in this delightful space-faring romp. The animation is movie-quality; the action, whether you’re swinging between platforms or blowing up aliens, is consistently satisfying.

3. “Super Mario Galaxy”: Just about every planet Mario visits in his latest adventure provides a new kind of challenge, giving “SMG” more “how’d-they-think-of-that?” moments than a dozen of its competitors ” combined.

4. “Mass Effect”: BioWare’s latest role-playing game lets you explore one of the most elaborate science-fiction universes ever created, in a fascinating galactic chase that requires you to make some real moral choices.

5. “Rock Band”: Add drums and a microphone to the “Guitar Hero” formula and you have the best multiplayer game of the year. Huge props to developer Harmonix for landing songs from an excellent cross-section of real-life rockers, from Metallica to The Clash.

6. “Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3″: I’m a sucker for old-school, turn-based role-playing games, and this was the year’s best, adding a disturbing story and ” of all things ” a dating simulator.

7. “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare”: The venerable combat series leaves World War II behind and moves into the 21st century ” but still sets the standard for first-person shooters.

8. “Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords”: Mixing a puzzle game with a role-playing fantasy sounds like a terrible idea until it’s 4 a.m. and all you want to do is just fight one more ogre.

9. “Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure”: Don’t let the cute characters fool you: This throwback to the graphic adventures of the ’80s and ’90s offers some of the toughest brainteasers around.

10. “The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass”: Nintendo showed everyone else how to make a great DS game with another brilliant chapter in its “Zelda” cycle.

– THE REST OF THE BEST: A few other games that didn’t make it into my top 10 deserve some mention:

Best game that almost seems like an afterthought: “Portal,” the innovative puzzle game that rounded out Electronic Arts’ “Half-Life 2” omnibus, “The Orange Box.”

Best Xbox Live Arcade game: “Catan,” Big Huge Games’ slick adaptation of the classic board game “Settlers of Catan.”

Best TV-based game: “The Simpsons Game.”

Best game-based TV: “South Park,” for its tributes to “World of Warcraft” and “Guitar Hero.”

Best new character: “Eternal Sonata” protagonist Frederic Chopin ” yes, the legendary Polish composer.

Best trend: Games go mainstream, thanks largely to Nintendo’s Wii and DS. Even your grandma has joined a Wii bowling league.

– THANKS, SANTA: Of course, a lot of Christmas shoppers are still having trouble finding the Wii. So Nintendo is offering the next best thing: a rain check that will ensure buyers that they get the hot console before Jan. 29. GameStop, the nation’s largest chain of video-game stores, will be selling the rain checks at the regular Wii system price, $249.99, this Thursday and Friday.

GameStop has also opened its first “tournament store,” a 4,000-square-foot facility in San Jose, Calif. GameStop said the store, which features 24 networked gaming stations connected to plasma televisions, will host tournaments most weekends. It opened with a “Madden NFL 08” competition, with the winner receiving a $1,000 GameStop shopping spree.

– NEW IN STORES: The last major game of the holiday season is “Nights: Journey of Dreams” (Sega, for the Wii), the long-awaited sequel to the cult favorite “Nights Into Dreams.” … Electronic Arts and MTV Games’ “Rock Band” comes to the PlayStation 2. Now where’s the Wii version? … And THQ delivers the latest edition of its off-road racing series, “MX vs. ATV Untamed” (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PS2, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS). No sleigh-driving option, alas.