Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without an array of list features to argue with and shout at. So here's our contribution to the great festive debate. Over the next four days we'll present the Guardian review team's twenty favourite games of 2010. They are, quite simply, the titles we played the most, and that gave us the most pleasure.
Feel free to heckle, contradict and mock – that's the fun of it. Some of the more quirky favourites from the team have been ejected as part of the democratic process, but we'll list a selection of those on Christmas Eve.
For now, prepare your indignation – or agreement – for the first five games...
20. Fable III
(Lionhead, Xbox 360, PC)
Once again Peter Molyneux promised the Earth and delivered... well, at least a continent. The third title in Lionhead's RPG adventure series takes place 50 years after Fable II and demands that you rescue an ailing kingdom then learn to govern it effectively. Our team loved the fusion of game styles, the engrossing plot and the sense of your actions and interactions having a profound effect on the world around you. Certainly though, it was let down by some technical issues and the rather uninspired environment design, while some gamers criticised the simplified structure. However, most of us agreed that Fable III represents an enthralling and often witty take on an over-subscribed genre. It also boasts a voice acting cast that stuffs in more stars than most Hollywood blockbusters. Not bad going for a British development.
19. Halo: Reach
(Bungie, Xbox 360)
This is a game about last stands – it is the Spartans' final and ultimately doomed attempt to save Reach from the encroaching Covenant forces, and it is Bungie's closing Halo game before moving on to other projects. No wonder the story of valour and sacrifice is so epically drawn – and no wonder some felt it failed to hit the stratospheric emotional heights it aimed at. It's difficult to pull off tragedy with giant guns and wisecracking uber men. Whatever its narrative failures however, Halo Reach does everything fans of the series wanted and more, providing a compelling range of weapons and vehicles, and an intelligent foe to aim them at. And with its multiplayer engine still firing on all cylinders, Reach, ultimately, is a Triumphalist 'best of', a cocksure culmination of the whole Halo experience, as envisioned by its departing creator. Halo – and by logical extension, the Xbox 360 – will never be the same again.
18. Final Fantasy XIII
(Square Enix, PS3, Xbox 360)
Another Final Fantasy adventure, another band of plucky young super models out to save their world from an invading evil. As with every title since the epoch shattering seventh incarnation, it has split critical opinion with a mighty battle-axe. The Guardian referred to this mammoth cinematic odyssey as 'grandly and unapologetically linear'. Hardcore game site Destructoid preferred to label it, 'a pompous and masturbatory affair'. Most gamers will swivel between both viewpoints as they trek through the 50-hour campaign, often marvelling at the almost ridiculous beauty of the landscapes and set pieces. Indeed, wherever you stand on the whole 'adventure-game-as-travel-documentary' debate, and whatever you think of the smoothed down active battle system, only a churl would wish an end to this idiosyncratic series – the Gran Turismo of RPGs.
17. Alan Wake
(Remedy, Xbox 360)
Very specifically billed as a 'psychological action thriller', Alan Wake, was always a fascinating project – an obsessive labour of love, teased out over several years by Remedy's comparatively tiny development team. The central concept, a horror author travelling to a remote town to combat writer's block – only to end up combating an all-pervasive evil – is the familiar stuff of a hundred survival horror yarns. But the intense plotting, interesting light-as-a-weapon mechanic, and endlessly self-doubting hero make this much more of a 'think piece'. It is never quite the revelation it thinks it is however, and following the much weirder Heavy Rain, it looked positively conventional at times. Alan Wake is a paradox then. Time Magazine called it the game of the year – even the game's sternest detractors will understand why some love it so ardently.
16. Call of Duty: Black Ops
(Treyach, PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
It was too conventional, too representative of the big money gaming mainstream, for some to stomach. But Black Ops is superlative blockbuster entertainment. The single-player campaign skilfully pickpockets twenty years of Cold War history, generating a conspiracy thriller that's as plausible as anything the movie biz could have chucked at us. And within it, there are marvellous set-pieces and well-tuned cultural references. The sequence where you start off on a murderous cruise down a Vietnamese river with Sympathy for the Devil kicking in over the speakers is approaching genius. Then you have the exhaustive multiplayer functionality, the zombies, the retro arcade game… There have been troubling problems with the PS3 version – these need to be addressed. And as I wrote in my review, the game stretches the whole CoD premise to snapping point. One more over-blown, globetrotting, shoot-fest could bring the whole edifice crashing down.