Call of Duty: Black Ops, Red Dead Redemption, Fable III and Super Mario Galaxy 2 Lead Exclaim!'s Year in Gaming

<i>Call of Duty: Black Ops</i>, <i>Red Dead Redemption</i>, <i>Fable III</i> and <i>Super Mario Galaxy 2</i> Lead Exclaim!'s Year in Gaming
This year was another fantastically diverse one for gaming so rather than assemble a 2010 top ten, these were the games that stood out for various reasons over the past dozen months.

Best Art: Limbo / Kirby's Epic Yarn

Despite both being side-scrollers, these two games couldn't be further apart in style with the former trafficking in shadowy eeriness while the latter offered textile-based cuddliness, but both were equally mesmerizing and gorgeous in an era too often ruled by drab realism.

Best Shooter: Call of Duty: Black Ops

Treyarch, who last made CoD's middling World at War, has always been boy wonder to Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare-making Batman. But it had to step up after Infinity imploded last spring and made a huge impact with the 7th CoD instantly becoming the biggest-earning debut in entertainment history. More importantly, Treyarch proved how fertile the '60s Cold War could be after the franchise had completely used up WWII and was fast-making modern warfare feel played out. It could be incessantly tense as the torture room flashbacks skipped from battle to battle, but as a shooter, it hit the target. Also, Castro, JFK and Nixon fighting off zombies was an awesome special add-on.

Best Heroine: Bayonetta

This style-conscious action game was about as over the top as gaming gets -- and this design choice was led by its title character, a Sarah Palin lookalike with impossibly long legs, a costume made out of her own hair and an ever-present lollipop. Oh, and she kills angels.

Best Scare: Heavy Rain

Perhaps it's not a surprising choice considering French developer Quantic Dream's innovative thriller -- a spiritual sequel to their underrated Indigo Prophecy -- is essentially an interactive serial killer flick. But Heavy Rain's biggest scare comes not from the Origami Killer, or even one of the frightening crime scenes, but during the initially cheerful prologue where you lose track of your young son in a crowded mall after buying him a red balloon and try, increasingly frantically, to find him. The mundanity of your desperate search, and what happens when you find him, makes this scene all the more horrifying.