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This was previously published in the George Mason University newspaper Broadside

Last year was a strong one for video games of all types, but 2008 looks to be even bigger. With record sales of console over the winter holidays, there will be a bigger audience than ever before. The industry looks like it will be ready to meet the call with some amazing properties. The number of games slated for release is enormous and there are likely to be a number of hits, a few of which (say Guitar Hero IV) almost no one knows about yet. However, cut the list down to 10 and there are a few gems that should light up every gamer’s new year.

10. Mario Kart Wii (Wii) – The Mario Kart franchise has long been a staple of Nintendo’s line-up, and the Wii is no exception. Updated graphics and online support mean that the Wii may have a hit. Mario Kart Wii will also be the platform to launch the Wii Wheel peripheral, which means that some serious work will have gone into this Kart’s development.

9. American McGee’s Grimm (PC) – Some may remember American McGee’s Alice, the dark and twisted interactive take on Alice in Wonderland. From the same mind comes American McGee’s Grimm, an episodic game released over the Gametap service (and, according to some rumors, Xbox Live) based off of the game designer’s signature distorted take on fairy tales. McGee’s dark imagination, narrative skills and literary tilt may give Gametap’s its big success.

8. Super Smash Brothers Brawl (Wii) – Brawl, despite the delays, is one of the most anticipated games of 2008. Even if it serves up little more than extra charters and maps, Brawl would be a console seller. However, what makes this game a guaranteed hit are improvements in the multiplayer, interface and a rumored excellent single player mode.

7. Dead Space (PS3, 360, PC) – Anyone who caught Game Informer’s preview of the game was pleasantly surprised to see EA using a non-standard process for the creation of Dead Space and its universe. The horror-sci-fi game’s released visuals and descriptions of gameplay (dismemberment is described as the game’s core mechanic) show that Dead Space has the potential to be one of the best horror games of 2008 and a unique title in EA’s stable.

6. Fable 2 (360) – The action role-playing game series of Fable has been a consistent success and the latest installment looks to continue the trend. All the media released from the game point to it being another deep, open-ended, adventure—with visuals and character design far superior then its predecessor. It appears that the strong narrative and integration of free will into the game will continue in Fable 2.

5. Starcraft 2 (PC) – Starcraft is a classic game, one of the most played and beloved games of all time and perhaps the best real time strategy game ever made. Starcraft 2 has been a long time coming and Activision Blizzard’s slow stream of images and animations leave the impression of excellence and superior gameplay. However, Blizzard has been through a lot in the past year, from World of Warcraft to their new merge with Activision and they have much to live up to.

4. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (PS3, 360, Wii, PS2, PSP, DS, N-Gage) – Looking to be the successor to the excellent Dark Forces series, The Force Unleashed is a promising game. The preview video alone, with the main character using the Force to pull a Star Destroyer out of the sky, is enough to make this game worth mention. For fans, the prequel status of the game (between episodes three and four) and the development team’s ability to use mainstream Star Wars characters and properties will be reason enough for a purchase. For the rest of us, the game’s use of force powers and narrative will provide a good excuse as well. However, George Lucas’s involvement could be trouble. Here’s hoping the main character’s requisite comedic sidekick is more C-3PO than Jar-Jar.

3. Grand Theft Auto IV (PS3, 360) – The graphics, gameplay and content all look unrelenting; the addition of online play mean that the sales will likely be unstoppable as well. Rockstar’s biggest property is set for a serious revamp and all the changes look like good ones. This open-world crime epic has a wide appeal and is definitely one to watch.

2. Alan Wake (360, PC) – Alan Wake, as a “psychological action thriller,” may not have garnered as much attention as the mindless frag-fests that dominate the gaming industry, however this game was one of the reasons I purchased a Xbox 360 to begin with. Finnish developers, Remedy, are known for the impeccable Max Payne, a video game of the highest quality. Alan Wake, with its insomnia-suffering protagonist and a game mechanic involving dark and light, has everything in place to make it a unique game as well. We can only wait for the horrors of the titular character’s imagination to come alive before we know if Wake lives up to expectations.

1. Fallout 3 (PS3, 360, PC) – It has been a long time since Interplay released the first and second Fallout games. Fans of the artistic, intriguing and often amusing game series have been waiting for this game ever since. Screenshots show excellent graphics and previews as well as the developer’s website showcase a return to one of the most remarkable universes in game history.

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