Bad news, everybody: 2008 is the new 2007. Those of us lucky enough to have survived last year's unyielding flood of exquisite games expected the new holiday to provide some respite -- perhaps an influx of blessedly mediocre games -- but alas, our wallets are once again tugged in every $60 direction.
But what's worse? The deafening din of desirable games, or that irresistible impulse to play and master every adventure the very second it becomes available? Provided you can defeat the latter reflex, we have a simple suggestion: Live in the past. It's cheaper!
We've dredged up our decisive, if ever-so-slightly controversial list of the ten best games of Oh Seven, hoping you'll find a fantastic experience you mistakenly overlooked. You'll find that the passage of time has taken a pleasing toll on the recommended price of admission. In fact, we've traveled forward in time to this very moment, hoping to pick up our 2007 nominees on the cheap. What do you think? Should we make Portal our Game of the Year?
What we said then: "A laborious inventory system and initially confusing combat certainly detract from the game's (forbidden) planet-hopping journey, but the cinematic ambition on display and tough choices to be made will linger in your memory for much, much longer. In a bountiful year which encouraged us to breathlessly rush from game to epic game, it's remarkable that Mass Effect could make us pause long enough to consider the consequences of our actions."
What we say now: "Mass Effect should still manage to sweep you off your feet and right into the depths of space. It remains a stellar, interstellar adventure rife with memorable characters and meaningful choices. And really slow elevators."
Current retail price: $29.99
God of War II
What we said then: "God of War II shows that the PS2 is still capable of producing wonderful gaming experiences. It highlights the true value of excellent design over pure technology, and offers so much of that all-important commodity we seek from games: fun."
What we say now: "We don't think there's any game that pushes the PS2 with more passion and ferocity than God of War II. If you like your games empowering, this is one you can't miss -- even though, like us, you might be growing tired of the QTE crutch."
Current retail price: $19.99
What we said then: "The instant accessibility is aided by excellent graphic and sound design -- pegs burst in explosions of color and sound, culminating in a level-clearing rendition of Beethoven's Ode to Joy that can't help but bring a smile to even the most cynical gamer's face."
What you said then: "What? Peggle beat Mass Effect? But it's not even a real game etc.!"
What we say now: "Still addictive, still cheap and still recommended."
Current online price: $19.99 (but Amazon has a hard copy for $9.99)
What we said then: "When you play as Altair -- really play as him, as an assassin -- and measure failure according to your own actions and not what a Fission Mailed screen tells you, the game's intricate world becomes inescapably engaging. Learn about your target, plan your attack and revel in the absolutely thrilling chase that follows your murderous deed. Though the game's overall structure may seem repetitive in the face of such a believable world, the true magic in Assassin's Creed lies not in what you do, but how you do it."
What we say now: "Go pester a guard, leap off a church spire and silence an annoying beggar... permanently. There's a whole game outside of those repetitive (and frequently optional!) missions, you know."
Current retail price: $29.99
What we said then: "Bungie's confidence in its subject has yielded an exceptionally fine-tuned product peppered with unique, community-building features. Considering the abundance of content – and the freedom to interact with the content in different ways – Halo 3 has a lasting potential that is unparalleled by this year's other releases."
What we say now: [Please insert a quote here when you're done playing Team SWAT. Which you've been playing for the last two hours. - Ed.]
Current retail price: $39.99 (check Amazon)