12 | Xenoblade Chronicles | Wii
Normally, we wouldn't review a game that most of the staff doesn't have the chance to play, much less promote it so high in our "best of" list. But the fervent passion of those few who have gotten their hands on it is enough to convince the rest. You can play the game in English, but there's currently no American version planned or announced. While that's great for importers who want to avoid having to play a lengthy, text-heavy game in Japanese...it also means you have to have a European Wii to play it.
But what makes this Japanese RPG stand out from the rest? For one, it gives you a massive world to adventure and explore in. No invisible walls or loading screens to hold you back -- if you can see it, you can walk there. It's not that it does many things differently, it just does everything incredibly well; it's the ultimate refinement of what many people complain is a genre that's gone stale and lifeless.
Whether you're a Final Fantasy fan, or you've never ventured past the Western RPGs of Oblivion and Fallout, it's almost impossible not to fall in love with Xenoblade Chronicles. We don't think it's hyperbole to quote our reviewer when he says, "It's not just the best RPG of this generation, but one of the best games I've ever played." The only reason it's not higher on the list is because not enough people have played it yet.
11 | Pokémon Black & Pokémon White | DS
Pokémon Black & White, meant to be a fresh start for the series, isn't a game where you can simply pack up your last game's team and steamroll the hapless world of trainers in the new Unova region. Instead, you have to start from the bottom, with over 150 new Pokémon waiting in the wings for battling, capturing, and trading. And the scenery isn't the only new thing, as this series revamp has better graphics, new features, and tons of after-game content that makes this RPG a major investment.
Surprisingly, Pokémon Black & White is more mature in several ways, most of all, the main story. While you're still playing the role of a bright-eyed adventurer out to become a Pokémon Master, the journey is complemented with the intriguing story of Team Plasma, a Pokémon rights group that insists humankind unfairly enslaves and subjugates the titular creatures. Once the main campaign is wrapped up, though, there's still whole other worlds to explore inside and outside this DS game. Now, Pokémon Black & White supports infrared communication, letting players trade and battle without an Internet connect. And with the Internet, players can expand their game in the Pokémon Dream World, developer Game Freak's online portal where players can meet and capture Pokémon with special abilities and other surprises.
10 | The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion | PC, PS3, Xbox 360
The fourth installment in Bethesda's fantastic series of open-world RPGs, Oblivion is all about freedom of choice. You can travel through the huge world on foot, on horseback, or through "fast travel" that sends you from one location to another, and adventure lurks behind practically every hill, in every forest, and in every city or village. You can forge down the main story or take as much time as you want pursuing smaller quests, and while Oblivion has numerous character classes, you can mix-and-match many abilities, like swords and sorcery. The game is all about choice, and with two expansions (Knights of the Nine and Shivering Isles, and both can be found in the Game of the Year edition) and mods for the PC, you can spend hundreds of hours with this game.