Oh geeze, another subjective "Best of 2008" list. The newspaper called Wall-E the best Pixar movie since Finding Nemo, which I didn't like nearly as much as The Incredibles. They also gave LittleBigPlanet and GTAIV honors over MGS4. To me, these are silly errors. Thus, I offer up my own "Best of 2008" list, in categories I give a crap about. Feel free to repeat this list, tinkered to your specific tastes, on your own blog(s).
Best Movie: The Dark Knight
It's good because it works on so damn many levels. Christopher Nolan has got to be my favorite director right now. The man can't make a bad film. The Dark Knight is especially good because it's not a "comic book" movie or a "superhero" movie. It's a crime drama, first and foremost, and Batman just happens to be one of the characters. Even The Batman himself becomes unhinged. The only thing I didn't like was the Badpod, which felt forced. But overall, one of my favorite movies of all time, and definately my movie of the year.
Best PS3 Game: Bioshock/MGS4
Bioshock would be a better candidate if it wasn't a year old. In fact, it recieved numerous Game of the Year awards last year, when it originally released on the Xbox 360. But PS3 owners like me only got to explore Rapture this year, and boy howdy is it a wonderful game. The narrative structure in particular is deeply engaging and, at times, unsettling. It features the best opening sequence I've ever seen in a video game. But if we're going for best "original" game, I'm going with Metal Gear Solid 4, which provides a fitting end to a wonderful storyline. The cutscenes might be a tad long at times (stop...talking about...nanomachines!) but the gameplay is extremely open-ended and more than makes up for it. More than any other MGS, Guns of the Patriots is just plain fun to play (when you're playing it). And there are so many jaw-dropping reveals and setpieces that you can't stop playing!
Best Wii Game: Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Got more playtime out of this follow-up than any other Wii game. There are more single-player modes than you can shake a baseball bat at, and when you've got four people in a room together, Brawl is the best possible choice. The "story" mode provides hours and hours of platforming enjoyment, and the new characters (Pitt, King Dedede, Solid Snake) are wonderful additions to the formula. I wish you could say such nice things about online play, though. As it is, the Friend Code system royally screws things up between players, joining games is more difficult than it should be, and when you finally DO succeed in versing from afar, the lag is often crippling. This is a problem Nintendo has failed to address or even admit to.
Best Wii Online Game: Mario Kart Wii
Why can't they all be this good? The single-player game is a tad...frustrating thanks to the numerous unbalanced items that are spammed by the game's AI (blue shells, bullet bills, POW blocks), but the online play is second to none on the Wii. It's extremely easy to join a race, the Friend Code system is still there but it's not as horrible as Brawl, you can see when your friends are online before starting the game, online play is virtually lag-free, and best of all, you have a mock "Gamerscore." If you use the Wii Wheel for races, you'll eventually earn a "Golden Wheel" next to your name, implying some degree of awesomeness.
Best Game You Probably Ignored on the Wii: Wario Land: Shake It!
And all this time I thought the 2D platformer was dead on consoles. Leave it to 3rd party developer Good Feel to put a shocked look on my face. Wario Land: Shake It! is a brilliant platformer with stunning animation and backgrounds, a jazzy soundtrack, and unique gameplay devices that keeps you coming back for more. It would be my Game of the Year were it not for some frustrating level goals, distinct lack of worthwhile unlockables, and brevity. Still, finding all the secret stages will take you awhile, and you won't believe how beautiful a 2D game can be until you play this one. I hope upon hope that Nintendo keeps this genre alive.
Best DS Game: Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia
Just when you thought the series was getting stale (I certainly did after the lukewarm Portrait of Ruin), Konami switches things up in Ecclesia and gives you a whole bunch of reasons to come back to the cursed castle. The level design, new weapon system, and brutal difficulty keep things fresh and challenging, and it's just a beautiful game in terms of graphics and musical score. The challenging bonus modes, which you unlock after completing the game, add significantly to the already-high difficulty. If you're a gaming masocist, this one's for you!
Best PSP Game: God of War: Chains of Olympus/Patapon
Didn't think they could stuff a PS2-calibur game onto those tiny little UMD's, did you? Well, they did, and Chains of Olympus is, in some ways, superior even to its existing console counterparts. It's really hard, though, especially on the higher difficulty levels, but worth every bloody step. As for Patapon, it charmed my pants off (that sounds wrong). Not a whole lot to do after you've forged all the Golden Weapons and destroyed the final boss, but while it lasted, Patapon, was pure Mytheerial.
Best Fiction Book: Necronomicon: The Best Wierd Tales of H.P. Lovecraft
Keep in mind I'm not a big reader, but I recently bought this massive collection of eldritch horror, and I'm impressed by both its girth and its contents. Lots of Lovecraft stories I'd never heard of are in there, like "The Hound" and "Re-Animator." Early Lovecraft to be sure, certainly not within the Cthulhu Mythos, but good nonetheless. Any fan of the genre or the author would do well to pick up a copy. I recommend the hardcover version, as the paperback one sags under the weight of the terror within.
Best Non-Fiction Book: Tyrannosaurus rex: The Tyrant King
I love technical volumes, and this one focuses on everyone's favorite giant Cretaceous carnivorous dinosaur. Its contents are important in many regards, not the least of which is Thomas Holtz' slaying of Horner's irritating obligate scavenger hypothesis. There's also a bundled CD which the animal's complete cranial osteology and some animations of the skeleton doing a variety of things. Wonderful book!
Best Dinosaur-Related Paleontology Discovery: Myrmecophageous alvarezsaurs!
Currie & Longrich described an extremely fragmentary theropod, Albertonykus borealis, but more importantly, showed that the bizarre theropods were specialized social-insectivores (myrmecophagy). Although paleo-artists had suspected this for a decade, it's good to see hard science backing it up.
Best New Dinosaur: Skorpiovenator bustingorryi
I love abelisaurs, and this one is reasonably complete, with a beautifully-preserved skull. Expect a full abelisaur post later, as soon as my scanner problems are dealt with!
Best Non-Dinosaur Related Paleontology Discovery: Odontochelys semitestacea
It's a turtle without a carpace! I recently blogged at length about the discovery and its implications, so I won't repeat that here. Suffice to say, it's always amazing when you get a really significant example of a transitional form in the fossil record, and Odontochelys is certainly that.
Best Moment of '08: SVP
Nothing like the first time, I imagine. Sweetened even moreso by meeting many of my fellow paleo-bloggers like Amanda, Matt, Julia, Paul, Jerry (get a blog, Jerry!), Neil, and Nick. I even met Thomas Holtz and Michael Skrepnick. Really, it's hard to describe how awesome SVP was. It's a shame I won't be going this year, though.