Four years ago, Nintendo turned the video-game world upside-down with its motion-controlled Wii console. The big headline from 2010 is that Nintendo's primary competitors have finally followed suit: Microsoft with Kinect, Sony with the PlayStation Move. At first glance, it looks like a bad year for gamers who'd rather sit than flail about like dervishes.
But the game industry is driven by software, not hardware, and the best games of 2010 are those you could play the old-fashioned way — working a controller from the comfort of your favorite chair. The Kinect and Move technology is impressive, but (with one exception) the games available for them don't reach the creative heights of the year's best.
1. "Red Dead Redemption" (Rockstar, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3): It's more than "Grand Theft Auto" on a horse, and it's all because of John Marston, the repentant former bandit at the heart of this Wild West drama. He's the first Rockstar protagonist with a heart, and his journey toward redemption is the most rewarding trip I took all year.
2. "Mass Effect 2" (Electronic Arts, for the Xbox 360): Engaging characters and an absorbing mystery help BioWare expand its sprawling intergalactic empire. It's as ambitious and thought-provoking as the best science fiction.
3. "Rock Band 3" (MTV Games, for the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii): New keyboard and "pro guitar" accessories bring fans of this exemplary franchise closer to the stage than ever.
4. "Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies" (Square Enix, for the Nintendo DS): This delightful role-playing game is a satisfying throwback to classic sword-and-sorcery.
5. "Enslaved: Odyssey to the West" (Namco Bandai, for the Xbox 360, PS3): This vision of a postapocalyptic America, featuring two of the year's more intriguing characters, deserves a wider audience that it has received.
6. "Nier" (Square Enix, for the Xbox 360, PS3): A man battles to save his daughter in this fascinating mashup of "Zelda," ''Zork" and a half-dozen other classics.
7. "Dance Central" (MTV Games, for the Xbox 360): The best of the Kinect launch titles, this full-body workout will help you release your inner Gaga.
8. "BioShock 2" (2K Games, for the Xbox 360, PS3): Communism rears its head in 2K's underwater dystopia, and while some of the wow factor is gone, tighter controls and a more coherent story make for a first-rate follow-up.
9. "Darksiders" (THQ, for the Xbox 360, PS3): Clever puzzles, vivid animation and an acerbic sense of humor lift this adventure above your standard "Zelda" clone.
10. "Fallout: New Vegas" (Bethesda Softworks, for the Xbox 360, PS3): Despite some glitches and a meandering plot, this sequel delivers a solid 80-plus hours of post-nuclear kicks.
— Runners-up: "Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood," ''Super Mario Galaxy 2," ''Professor Layton and the Unwound Future," ''God of War III," ''Battlefield: Bad Company 2," ''NBA 2K11," ''Picross 3D," ''Donkey Kong Country Returns," ''Call of Duty: Black Ops," ''Gran Turismo 5."
— Best downloadable games: "Limbo," ''Costume Quest," ''DeathSpank," ''Chime."
— Best movie-inspired games: "Toy Story 3," ''Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4."
— Best game-inspired movie: "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World."2 comments on this story
— That gum you like is going to come back in style: "Twin Peaks"-inspired games ("Alan Wake," ''Deadly Premonition," ''Nelson Tethers, Puzzle Agent").
— Best new hardware: Kinect and Move got a lot of attention late in the year, but neither made as big a splash as Apple's iPad, which is challenging Nintendo's long-held dominance of portable gaming.
— Best iPad/iPhone game: "Chaos Rings."
— Best proof that PC gaming isn't dead: "StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty," ''Civilization V."
— Worst game: "Kane & Lynch: Dog Days."