From Mario to Aloy, what a year it's been
The first thing that strikes you about Cuphead is its gorgeous and distinctive 1930s-style artwork. The second thing is its utter mercilessness. Consisting largely of a series of one-screen boss fights, Cuphead laughs in your face at your best efforts.
But what appears impossible - even after dozens of attempts - often reveals itself as a matter of patience and timing while you learn to identify the boss patterns. It never becomes easy and you feel an enormous sense of satisfaction when you crack another tough nut after hours of trying.
Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)
Even better than we'd dare hope. Breath of the Wild stands as another action-adventure masterpiece, the pinnacle of a 30-year-old franchise. As beautiful as it is broad, BotW riffs on familiar Zelda game mechanics but adds in a boatload of twists.
The open world is available almost from the off and there's a giddying sense of freedom knowing that if you can see a landmark in the distance, you can go there straight away.
Intoxicating and compelling, Breath of the Wild has no equal.
Playerunknown's Battlegrounds (PC)
Created by Kildare man Brendan Greene, PUBG (as it's affectionately known to its 20 million devotees) is this year's runaway success. It's an amazing feat for a studio with little track record and a last-man-standing game that was somewhat ramshackle at first.
But clearly Greene's latest interpretation of the Battle Royale genre he invented has caught gamers' imagination to the point that it is one of the most played PC titles in the world, just nine months after its release. It's a shooter that's more about tactics than lightning reflexes, something for those weary of the blazing pace of Call of Duty style games.
Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)
No apologies for including a second title for Nintendo's hybrid console. The hyperactive platforming plumber has been jumping and rolling and wahoo-ing for more than 35 years but Odyssey demonstrates he's never been in better form. Bursting with imagination, swarming with surprises and overflowing with smiles, SMO showcases Nintendo's abundant flair for ideas. One minute Mario's a T-rex, the next a tank, the next an Easter Island statue.
If Mario could be prescribed as an anti-depressant, he'd put drug companies out of business.
Horizon Zero Dawn (PS4)
PlayStation had a fantastic year but HZD counts as the high point, a gloriously rich sci-fi world populated by robot dinosaurs and hostile human tribes. Our heroine Aloy makes for a feisty lead and the visual artistry on show ably demonstrates the power of the PS4 Pro.
There's far more at play here than just blasting mechanised velociraptors, thanks to an intricate scavenging and crafting system that provides a deep and engaging long game. Dodgy dialogue aside, Aloy's adventure delivers a wild ride that's not easily forgotten.