From December to January, Gamezebo writers played, reviewed, analyzed and picked apart hundreds of games, so it takes something pretty special to stand out from the crowd. The following list contains our picks for the most memorable games of 2008. Some are simply best-of-breed, while others just stuck out in our minds for being particularly fun or unique.


Zynga Live Poker (Facebook and iPhone)
This is the only game that I played this year that I play almost every single day, while I am waiting in line at a grocery store, to catch a bus, movie to start, anything. I love Poker. And, the fact that I can jump in and out and play against thousands of players anytime with no lag time, it’s brilliant. Who cares if I can’t gamble with money, probably a good thing in this economy.

Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst
One of the coolest benefits of being the self-titled Chief Gamezebo is that I sometimes get previews of the most anticipated games a month or two before they come out. This was the only game in 2008 that I got a live preview that literally blew me away. The hidden object/adventure hybrid is well designed and those little twin girls as every bit as creepy the little girl ghosts from the classic movie The Shining.

Mortimer Beckett and the Time Paradox
In a day and age where sequels are rushed out to make a quick buck, it’s great to see a sequel that was as good or better than the original. And, the graphics are amazing.

World of Goo
Finally, an independent casual game that is both innovative and fun. And, I think the developer actually did make money on this one (Hoosah!)

Build-a-lot 3: Passport to Europe
Hipsoft keeps improving this series, the European theme is a nice twist. What’s next – China? My vote is South America. . .

The latest free Web game I played, it’s a chaotic multiplayer version of Bomberman. So simple…yet so much fun. I just can’t stop!


Ranch Rush
Among other things, 2008 saw a mini-explosion of farming-themed time management games. Many of them were quite good, but to me Ranch Rush is the cream of the crop. Not only could players customize the layout of their farms by moving buildings and resources whever they wished, but the farm’s condition carried over to the next level – whether good or bad. In other words, Ranch Rush encouraged thinking and strategizing over mindlessly clicking ahead to the next task.

Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst
Return to Ravenhearst was actually a major departure for Big Fish Games as the company morphed its most beloved hidden object franchise into a full-fledged point-and-click adventure game. The result? BFG once again raised the bar for its peers in terms of what a casual game is capable of delivering to its audience.

Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble!
Every so often a game comes along that is so out of left field and creative that it defies all comparison. DHSGiT! is one such game. The tale of a gang of sassy and defiant 1920s high school girls investigating a series of bizarre accidents in their humdrum small town might not easily conform to any particular marketing demographics, but those with an appreciation for the eclectic and offbeat will get a big kick out of the game.

Nancy Drew Dossier: Lights, Camera, Curses!
Her Interactive dipped its toes into the download waters with its new Nancy Drew Dossier series (previously, its Nancy Drew adventure games had been released at retail first, then later as downloads through various portals), and it was nice to see that the company hasn’t compromised any of its trademark propduction values or entertaining mystery story writing with Lights, Camera, Curses!

Released towards the beginning of 2008, DragonStone was a truly delightful blend of good old-fashioned marble-popper gameplay (think Breakout) and role-playing elements like monster encounters, equipment upgrades, side quests, and a charming "rescue the princess" storyline.

Build-a-Lot 2: Town of the Year
The sequel to Build-a-lot did everything right as far as sequels go. Namely, it gave people more of what they loved about the original building sim while incorporating new features that spiced up the gameplay without disrupting the original flow. Build-a-lot 3: Passport to Europe is further proof that the series is still going strong.


Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst
Well it’s no secret that I am a huge hidden object fan and a huge Big Fish Games fan but I have to say that they outdid themselves with Return to Ravenhearst or as some of us call it RTR. I was amazed by the wonderful production values of this game, you could tell that they paid a lot of attention to details, I felt like I was part of a movie. The best thing about this sequel is that the puzzles stayed true to form with the original game.

Mortimer Beckett and The Time Paradox
What can I say about this game, except it’s an exceptionally well crafted game. The sceneries were rich and vibrant, the game had just the right amount of difficulty, enough to keep some of the best players stumped here and there. I have to give kudos to Paprikari for having one of the few hidden object games that actually has great replay value. They made sure that the solutions to the puzzles were not the same for everyone. A brilliant game all the way around!!

Ranch Rush

I don’t remember the last time I had so much fun playing a time management Game. Running back and forth trying to get all the supplies that I needed, making ketchup, bread and all kinds of fun recipes. One of the things that I liked best is that you really had to think about how to set up your farm if you wanted to maximize your space. I can’t wait for the sequel of this game!

Mushroom Age

This game is superb, I loved the mini games in between each level. Mushroom Age had the right mix of hidden objects and puzzles. I have to give credit to the developers for coming out with a game that kept me entertained and made want more when it ended.

Ancient Quest of Saqqarah
This is what all the other match 3 games should aspire to be.This game has a whopping 504 level, enough to keep you entertained for a long period of time. Khufu, the main character, quickly became everyone’s best friend, he would be quick to praise you when you did well and would point it out when you didn’t. Some of the puzzles were quite complex and it required a lot of skill and planning on your part to beat it.This is one of the few games in which I never turned the volume off because I wanted to take in every sound that the game threw at me.


Women’s Murder Club: Death in Scarlet
What with examining victims’ bodies and sea rching forblood with a black light, it’s not for the squimish. Talk about realism — it’s all there (minus heavy gore, thankfully). You even get to intimidate suspects and bend the law. The graphics are striking, especially the character art.


A fish raising sim that actually teaches you something about fish — now that’s an idea! You really get the chance to form a strategy, trying to keep the male bettas from fighting, the Cichlids from eating their young, and everything in your tanks clean and healthy.

Hot Dish
and Hot Dish 2
If you’re crazy about Cooking Mama on Wii, this is a great. Using the mouse for all kinds of cooking techniques was a clever adaption. The recipes are yummy, too.

Fatal Hearts

With multiple endings, branching storylines, and new puzzles that emerge when you take different paths, this is a game you can play for a very long while before completing. Every time you play, you can expect to find new puzzles, and new angles to the story that you didn’t reveal before. There’s a great deal of depth to the narrative, so you only see the full picture after playing many, many times.

Build in Time

You build your way through six decades of styles and trends from 1950 to 2009. Each decade has it’s own music. It’s not as involved as Build-a-Lot, but it’s fun and fast paced, with lots of frantic clicking.


Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst
This attractive, story-driven hidden-object game with many adventure game elements stood out for its terrific atmosphere, head-scratching puzzles and exceptional music. Once you start playing it’s very hard to stop.

Dracula: Origins
Based on Bram Stoker’s 112 year-old novel, this gorgeous n’ gothic adventure game offers tough puzzles, romance and mystery, as players take on the role of the famous Professor Van Helsing, bent on destroying the Dark Prince.

FATE Undiscovered Realms
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better downloadable role-playing game (RPG) than this gripping sequel packed with many dozens of hours of game-play. Roam fantasy worlds — including dungeons, snow-capped mountains and lush forests — while mastering might and magic.

Yumsters! 2
This silly sequel is one of those rare puzzle games that’s super easy to pick but virtually impossible to put down. The colorful and smoothly animated game offers many challenging levels, power-ups, modes and mini-games — and with have you chuckle the entire time.

Tradewinds Caravans
This fresh strategy game is part business simulation and part role-playing game, as you trade exotic goods and battle baddies along an ancient trade route stretching from China to the Mediterranean Sea. Choose from six different characters and tackle dozens of quests.


Build-a-Lot 2: Town of the Year
I had a blast playing Build-A-Lot and couldn’t believe it when I heard another was on its way. The game even hooked my “rarely plays games” husband. The game was innovative and original. So how do you make a great game better? It’s possible as Build-A-Lot 2: Town of the Year proves it. The real estate development game not only gets rid of one of my least favorite features in the original (taxes), but also adds enough new features to enhance the game rather than make it more of the same.

Farm Frenzy 2

Its fun, colorful, and cartoon-style graphics easily catches my youngest child’s attention. For me, the game keeps me up late as I’m keen on earning at least a silver star in every spot as I work my way around town. Of course, I love the graphics style, too.

Go-Go Gourmet

Sure, it has a little Cooking Mama in it, but Go-Go Gourmet goes goes beyond the goals of cooking up goodies and fast. Cooking in Go-Go Gourmet almost makes me want to return to cooking real meals for the family. That’s almost — something about actually chopping and shopping for fresh ingredients doesn’t have the appeal of doing it virtually.

Ranch Rush

Forget everything you’ve seen and heard about farm-style time management games. Sure, the time management genre has seen enough of this theme, but Ranch Rush will change your mind. You just feel like yippee-yi-oing while you work feeding the cows and sheep, making cheese and ketchup, collecting honey, and gathering up corn, tomaters ‘n other crops.

4 Elements

An enchanting experience awaits match three fans in 4 Elements. The game’s stunning visuals, airy music, and twist on match three create a beautiful package. The story begins with the corruption of the magic of the four elements that kept a kingdom running for centuries.

Women’s Murder Club: Death In Scarlet
The TV show based on the book of the same name didn’t win raves, so I wasn’t optimistic about the computer version. Good thing my “judging the book by the cover” didn’t stop me as Women’s Murder Club: Death in Scarlet proved creativity is still possible in hidden object games. With hidden object games coming out daily — sometimes more than once a day — casual gamers wonder if any originality remains. “YES!” The evidence is in this game. I’ve seen all the TV episodes and the game doesn’t copy any of them or the books.


Ancient Quest of Saqqarah
Great puzzle play, great visuals, and great variety–Codeminion’s Ancient Quest of Saqqarah gave us a perfect example of how to make the familiar into the fantastic.

Farm Craft

Sure, superficially it looks like just another in the existing flock of farm titles. But like Build-a-Lot, there’s much more to Farm Craft than you’ll see at first glance. Put together dozens of strategy options, surprise mid-level goals to keep you on your toes, a superb balance of money and production tasks, and a tracking timer that lets you choose between playing for trophies or just playing for fun, and the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. From Nevosoft and Positive Games.

Age of Mushroom

Quirky humour, psychedelic visuals, depth, breadth, and imagination: Nevosoft’s Age of Mushrooms didn’t set a new standard for Hidden Object/Adventure games only because it’s impossible to imagine that anyone else could copy it and get it right. Fun from beginning to end.

Tradewinds Caravans

A weak tutorial left many gamers uncertain how to get started in this complex game, and quite a few passed it over. Probably the best game you didn’t play this year, Tradewinds Caravans from Sandlot Games offers 3 separate types of gameplay: trading, battle, and exploring. The balance all depends on which character you choose. The game includes humour, drama, romance, and great strategy options.

Penguin’s Journey

And now for something completely different…Innovative, fun, challenging, and cute as can be, IT Territory’s Penguin’s Journey is one of those games that makes the difficult task of game design look so simple that’s it’s easy to take it for granted. From the distinctive character walk to the gradual introduction of new challenges, everything feels so natural it seems like there must have been only one way to do it. Yet each detail of the game represents dozens of painstaking decisions, from artwork to programming. An instant classic.


Ancient Quest of Saqqarah
Stunning production values, addictive play and the seamless fusion of multiple game types combine to offer a wealth of replay value and instant appeal. Less a single mindbender than multiple outings united under a single banner, it offers an immense range of scenarios and challenges to noodle through. Expect to get your money’s worth and then some – including a glimpse of how much untapped potential still remains in the puzzle genre.

Westward III: Gold Rush

Raises the bar for real-time strategy games, offering a story-driven adventure flush with quests and characters that’ll test your wits and ability to think under pressure. The incorporation of life simulation elements also adds instant appeal, as you build frontier settlements, attract pioneers and keep the peace as townships begin to bustle and thrive. That it’s all framed by the kind of stunning audiovisual window dressing typically reserved for full-priced outings is just a bonus, and one players of all ages will enjoy.

Forgotten Lands: First Colony

Another real-time strategic challenge, albeit one that shines for simplicity: Virtually anyone can pick up the title and jump right in. Translating complex concepts – economic interrelations, resource management, juggling limited space, researching new technology, etc. – into a more intuitive game setup, the title’s streamlined approach to colonization and empire building makes the perfect starting point for casual players looking to test their tactical might. Cute miniaturized visuals and a wealth of new concepts introduced throughout also help keep interest levels high throughout the entire episode.


Nancy Drew Dossier: Lights! Camera! Curses!
I’ve always been impressed with Her Interactive’s Nancy Drew series. It’s so refreshing to see a game with a target audience that doesn’t compromise, pander or just plain stink. The new Dossier series changes the aesthetic and gameplay of the ol’ girl gumshoe, but shares a lot of the things that made the original series so great. Listen, if a 28-year old married man can rave about this game, you don’t have an excuse not to check this one out!

World of Goo

Hands-down, one of the best gameplay experiences you’ll have this year. Period. Even though it’s quite the brain-twister, you WILL love this game. Made by only two people, World of Goo combines great graphics and sound with compelling gameplay and enough tongue-in-cheek humor to keep you playing, if only to see what hints The Sign Painter left for you. Whatever excuse you had to ignore this game, it’s just not good enough. Why are you still reading this? Go download it. Now.


Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble!
Unfortunately this brilliant game did not become as successful as it deserved to. The innovative mixture of board game, adventure elements, unique mini-games and a capturing story is more than just a breath of fresh air in the casual games market. In at least 15 hours of exciting gameplay you help a group of girls solving all the mysteries hidden in the city of Brigiton.

Forgotten Lands – First Colony

This strategy game can be compared to Build-A-Lot, but instead of simply cloning the addictive gameplay of this successful series, Forgotten Lands just uses the core mechanics and evolves into a rather complex game with its very own charm. The task to lead settlers who are searching for a new home is extremely challenging and motivating at the same time.

World of Goo

World of Goo is like a David Lynch movie turned into a pc game. The basic game play, to build structures with different species of goos, which look more or less like colored gum balls, sounds not in the slightest as spectacular and entertaining as it turns out to be. The wonderful artwork and the best music I’ve ever experienced in a pc game complete the overall superb impression.