October 2008: PS3 If you're a PlayStation 3 follower, then you already know about LittleBigPlanet, the online-centric, physics-based, side-scrolling platformer/puzzler that's taken PS3 fandom by storm. But do you really know what to expect? Here's a look at the subtler features in the game.
• 1. You can make your own stickers. Little Big Planet will allow players to pin up pictures of anything they like, whenever and wherever they want. You'll even be able to use photos taken with the Playstation Eye! We sense an impending influx of genitalia graffiti.
• 2. You can go emo. Using the directional pad, players can switch between four different emotions for their characters at any time: happy, sad, angry, or worried. It's a fascinating and consequence-free device that should give gamers a unique way to express themselves. But with a 3:1 ratio of negative to positive emotions, don't be surprised if your friends go emo.
• 3. You can slap your buddies. Another consequence-free device in Little Big Planet is the ability to slap your fellow players across the face on a whim (in-game, of course; what you do on your own time is your business). All it takes is a quick flick of the thumbstick, only the harder you flick, the harder the slap. Go ahead. You know they deserve it.
• 4. You can build limitless levels. We're probably most excited about Little Big Planet's built-in map editor, which enables you to quickly build levels as big (or as high) as you want. We're looking at it as a physics-driven gaming death machine. The tools and traps are there; all we need now are folks with sordid imaginations. Any gamers in the house?
#49: The Lord of the Rings: Conquest
Fall 2008: PS3, Xbox 360, DS, PC Like a hack-and-slash remix of Star Wars: Battlefront, Lord of the Rings: Conquest excels at epic team battles. In the campaign, you'll choose from several character classes - archers, wizards, warriors, and more - and complete team objectives, such as protecting Helms' Deep from Orc bombers. Once you finish the campaign, you can scour the Shire as Saruman's Orc army in a new, separate campaign.
But massive online battles are the real draw. You can play as legendary LOTR characters such as Aragorn, the Ring Wraiths, and even the man-stomping demon Sauron. The game's scale is impressive: battles include dozens of characters onscreen, and catapults rain fiery death on the teeming battlefield. A stampede of 150-foot Oliphants couldn't keep us away from this geeky gem.
Q1 2009: Wii In 10 words: Okami team makes an ultraviolent arcade brawler. Wii love fatalities!
#47: Mario Super Sluggers
OUT NOW ON Wii! Continuing the tradition of Mario-branded sports games, Nintendo is wrapping up its sequel to Mario Superstar Baseball. Like Wii Sports and Mario Strikers Charged, Super Mario Sluggers will make great use of the Wii Remote, but this time around there's an extra level of complexity. Batting, for instance, is still a matter of flailing the Wii Remote around, but now you'll be able to bunt a pitch or charge up your swing. You still wind up and "throw" a pitch with the Remote, but in Sluggers you can curve the ball, or use button combinations to hurl character-specific pitches like Mario's flame-wreathed fastball. You can even man the outfield or steal bases. If you've been waiting for Mario to storm a baseball diamond on the Wii, Sluggers should be a welcome addition to your collection.
#46: Mercenaries 2: World in Flames
OUT NOW ON PS3, Xbox 360, PC! Having built up a reputation for delivering ridiculous explosions and wanton devastation, Pandemic Studios is pushing the boundaries of sanity with World in Flames, their sequel to 2005's cult hit Mercenaries. Maps and level loads have been ditched in favor of a seamless, sprawling world covering the wide expanse of Venezuela. And in this world, you can level anything and everything with the press of a button. Forests will burn, bridges will crumble, and you'll drop tanker trucks onto oil rigs from the safety of your helicopter. Is anybody not ready for this?