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5) Mass Effect
The long-in-the-tooth Bioware RPG formula applied to a generic sci-fi universe, with bouncing buggy driving/shooting sequences standing in for the exploration of alien worlds.
4) Fallout 3
I didn't do this intentionally, but once I'd arranged my list I realized that my top four games of 2008 are all powerfully imagined and skillfully created open worlds, with rock-solid infrastructures of good gameplay and an unwavering emphasis on freedom. Here are almost unprecedented juxtapositions of developer creativity and player freedom (Grand Theft Auto IV would have belonged among this rare company if Rockstar had either written a better story or designed a better game). Fallout 3 is the most contrived of the four, proceeding apace along the usual RPG trappings like dialogue trees, fussy interface muckery, and occasionally clunky world building. But it's an unforgettably bleak and epic experience, brave enough to be barren and gray, but crammed with stories, vignettes, characters, and sights. Oblivion with guns? Oblivion should be so lucky.