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This year’s biggest heroes in gameland didn’t wail on guitars or even spin turntables. They earned their laurels through blood and sweat — at least digitally speaking.

Despite the arrival of "Guitar Hero 5," "Band Hero," "DJ Hero" and "The Beatles Rock Band," music games seemed to take a back seat this year. Even the feisty Wii and its motion-sensing controllers couldn’t deliver the same sense of action, adventure and awe.

This year’s best games relied on intriguing stories and intense action to win fans and boost sales. Great graphics and innovations in game play didn’t hurt, either.

Following is an alphabetical list of the 10 games from 2009 that delivered the most enjoyment per pixel.

Assassin’s Creed II

The eternal conflict between the Templars and the Assassins moves to Renaissance Italy.

The climbing, leaping and fighting are just as fun as in the original "Assassin’s Creed," but new elements — such as upgradable weapons and armor and extra quests — make it feel much less repetitive. The action is enhanced by a solid story and top-notch graphics, especially the representations of Venice, Florence and San Gimignano.

Details: Ubisoft; Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

Batman Arkham Asylum

The Joker takes over Gotham City’s institution for the criminally insane, and it’s Batman’s job to end the madness.

The game delivers great stealth and fighting action, plenty of familiar supervillains and an excellent story. The gloomy graphics are terrific.

Details: Rocksteady/Eidos; Xbox 360, PS3

Borderlands

You’re a mercenary seeking to unlock the secrets held in a mysterious vault on the planet Pandora. There’s not much story beyond that, but the action is fast and furious.

The game is designed for cooperative play and quickly becomes addictive when you play with friends. There’s plenty of foes, oddball humor and loot — the idea mix for a shooter/role-playing combo platter. I also love its cool, graphic-novel style of art.

Details: Gearbox Software/2K Games; Xbox 360, PS3

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

You start as an American soldier who ends up joining Russian terrorists who shoot up an airport. Then you die. And that’s just the beginning of a weird and convoluted tale that bounces around Russia, Brazil, Washington, D.C., and Afghanistan.

Sure the campaign unfolds in an illogical, even offensive, story line, but the game play is absolutely stellar. Most of the missions are interesting and intense when removed from the story line. The online competition is the best currently available, and the two-player co-op mode is interesting and fun.

Details: Infinity Ward/Activision; Xbox 360, PS3

Dragon Age: Origins

As a member of the Grey Wardens, it’s your job to rally the free peoples against an invasion of the evil Darkspawn.

This fantasy role-playing game offers dozens of hours of gaming filled with intense fighting and interesting characters. The story is filled with intrigue and romance. The console version does an excellent job of translating the complex controls of PC role-playing games into a tight package.

Details: BioWare/Electronic Arts; Xbox 360, PS3

Halo 3: ODST

Orbital Drop Shock Troopers land in New Mombasa amid an invasion by Covenant forces. It’s your job to link up with your scattered comrades and turn back the alien tide.

The game is built around an interesting selection of daylight battle sequences and nighttime stealth missions. However, the real draw is the online play — which is standard "Halo" — and a terrific survival mode that you can play in cooperation with up to four friends.

Details: Bungee/Microsoft; Xbox 360

inFamous

A mysterious blast devastates Empire City but infuses Cole MacGrath with an array of superpowers.

The open-world format lets Cole roam around the city, taking a wide variety of missions that often involve climbing skyscrapers and electrocuting foes. A complex karma system let you decide whether to be the city’s savior or its chief villain. The graphics have the feel of a gritty graphic novel — perfect for this comic-book-style adventure.

Details: Sucker Punch/Sony; PS3

Left 4 Dead 2

Once again, four mismatched survivors need to fight their way through zombie-infested streets and buildings to reach a safe haven. But this time, they can use frying pans, chainsaws and cricket bats to whack their undead foes.

This sequel takes the original’s fun format and improves almost every element of game play and level design. Although the game can be played solo, it shines when played split screen or online with friends.

Details: Valve/Electronic Arts; Xbox 360

Resident Evil 5

Chris Redfield tackles another zombie infestation, this time in Africa.

This shooter offers interesting battles and challenges from start to finish. The game play is excellent and the graphics are vivid and detailed. Its excellent co-op mode encourages replay, and its survival mode is addictive.

Details: Capcom; Xbox 360, PS3

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Nathan Drake goes in search of Shambala, a mysterious city in the Himalayas.

There’s plenty of platforming, puzzle-solving and shooting, which keeps the game lively from beginning to end. The thrilling story unfolds in a cinematic presentation that merges cut scenes and action seamlessly. I sometimes felt like I was taking part in a Hollywood blockbuster rather than playing a gamer — and that was a lot of fun.

Details: Naughty Dog/Sony; PS3

Three for the WiiWhile Nintendo’s Wii boasted plenty of good games this year, none were truly great. However, I can’t ignore the world’s most popular console, so here’s a list of the best for the little white box.

• New Super Mario Bros. Wii — Four-player co-op makes this game an instant favorite for fans of the Italian plumber. The basic game play is very familiar, but I had a hard time pulling friends away from this platformer.

Details: Nintendo

• Wii Sports Resort — Nintendo increased the sensitivity of its motion-sensitive controller by adding a little attachment to the end. It worked quite well in conjunction with the archery, swordfighting, jetskiing and other fun activities in this game.

Details: Nintendo

• Lego Rock Band — Each of this year’s music games worked well on the Wii — with "The Beatles Rock Band" being especially fun for the older crowd and "DJ Hero" being popular with fans of dance and hip-hop. However, the game that delivered the most fun for the entire family was the one that featured the funny plastic people and plenty of pop hits.

Details: Harmonix/MTV Games; also available on Xbox 360 and PS3

— Brian Bowers


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