Winner: Mario Kart 7
You would think that by the seventh entry in the series, Mario Kart's formula would have been perfected already. But arguably, recent games have been getting worse. GameCube's Double Dash was good but gimmicky and Wii's entry… well, let's just say weapon spam was a serious issue. So what a relief to switch on Mario Kart 7 and see that it's a return to form – and anything that could be classed as a gimmick is brilliantly underplayed.
The brief moments of Pilotwings-esque flight are just long enough to be enjoyable without watering down the kart-racing action. The underwater bits? Well, the trick is to avoid them in truth, as they slow you down. But even they look amazing thanks to 3DS' 3D screen, which has never looked so good. Every other 3DS developer should take note – this is how you do 3D.
Add in the best online multiplayer Nintendo's offered to date (hardly difficult in honesty) and some of the most fan-pleasing trackside details and unlockable bonuses around and you've got a racer that feels like classic Nintendo, only dressed up in achingly hip modern technology. In all honestly, it's worth buying a 3DS just to play, especially with friends.
Runner-up: Star Wars: The Old Republic
We were shocked when BioWare revealed that The Old Republic would be making 2011. The game was in development for so long, with aspirations so high, that we couldn't believe that it was actually being released. Now, it has not only come out, but it's managing to live up to our lofty expectations, with not one, but eight fantastic, personal stories that truly live up to the Knights of the Old Republic name.
While it doesn't outright reinvent the genre as some had hoped, it does a good job at moving it forward, and providing an experience that should excite fans of MMOs without making newcomers feel overwhelmed. We're going to withhold our final judgment for our review next month, but even without hitting the level cap we're confident that it was one of the best games of December.
Mario Kart 7 review
Star Wars: The Old Republic review diary, level 1-15
We start our long, winding journey to the Dark Side