I’ve kept this chart separate from the Android top ten, since while the Xperia Play technically runs Google's mobile OS, its physical controls mean that titles that are excellent / rubbish on a touchscreen often play very differently on the Play.
Take Modern Combat 2, for instance, which is significantly worse on the Play than touchscreen. On the other hand, Dead Space handles like a dream (an horrific and scary dream) when you include the Play's magic slide-out game controller in the equation.
So, here’s our list of the top ten Xperia Play games this year. Remember: if you feel that you’ve been wronged or slighted by our selection, by all means add a comment to the bottom of the article.
They Need To Be Fed
By YoYo Games, buy on Xperia Play
Let’s start this round-up with one of the most unusual and brain-melting games of the year: They Need To Be Fed.
A 2D platform game at heart, They Need To Be Fed is unique in that each surface creates its own gravity, meaning jumps are as much about working out where your character is going to end up as they are about simple timing.
The game was already something special on the touchscreen phones, but the Xperia Play’s extra (read: incredibly tricky) levels and tighter controls mean this is the definitive version of the unusual and supremely polished game.
Minecraft - Pocket Edition
By Mojang, buy on Xperia Play
Originally exclusive to the Xperia Play, before getting an (inferior) touchscreen version for other smartphones, Minecraft - Pocket Edition is an excellent creative springboard for constructing elaborate structures on the go.
A smaller - though just as deep - version of the PC original’s Creative mode, Minecraft - Pocket Edition isn’t so much a sandbox game as simply a sandbox. You’re given a wide selection of blocks, popped into a random world (made up of blocks), and invited to do whatever you please (as long as it features blocks).
You can even jump into a friend’s world and start removing his carefully sculptured fortress that he spent literally hours building if you like. Block by block.
With Survival mode - which throws crafting and the vicious Creepers into the mix - due for release at some point in the future, Minecraft: Pocket Edition is likely to remain on our Play for some time to come.
By CatfishBlues Games, buy on Xperia Play
It was a toss-up between Hyperlight and PewPew 2 for our pick as the best modern shooter on the Xperia Play, but in the end, we went with the former’s more original technique and approach to the genre.
In fact, calling it a ’shooter’ is a bit misleading. Rather than firing off lashings of laser ordnance into neon foes, Hyperlight tasks you with dodging and weaving just long enough to activate the titular mode, whereupon you score points by hurtling headlong into your enemies.
It’s that clever balance between hunter and hunted, combined with the lush graphics and excellent controls, that makes Hyperlight worth exploring.
By Natural Motion, buy on Xperia Play
Backbreaker 2: Vengeancer may be the better known of NaturalMotion's US sports sims, but Icebreaker Hockey adds a few crucial elements to the formula that makes it well worth checking out on your Xperia Play.
As with its NFL-based cousin, Icebreaker isn't concerned with the boring parts of ice hockey like periods or icing, but instead centres on tearing down the ice as quickly as possible, and dodging defenders to stroke the puck into the net.
The animations are crunchingly realistic, thanks to the game's powerful physics engine, while the very act of smacking the puck in the goal at the end has a certain satisfaction that showboating for the touchdown can’t quite match.
By EA Mobile
EA Mobile really hit the back of the net with its latest mobile iteration of the beautiful game, bringing a wealth of features and eye-catching graphics to this popular sports genre.
The Xperia Play controls aren’t quite the perfect pass that we were hoping for, but there’s still a lot of enjoyment to be had playing as one of hundreds of authentically recreated teams in a bid for league and cup glory.
It will be interesting to see if its old rival PES will step up its game on the system next season, but for now, FIFA 12 rules the footballing roost.
By SilverTree Media, buy on Xperia Play
SilverTree Media is fast turning into one of those developers that gets us excited every time it announces a game.
Having already made its mark with debut title Cordy earlier in the year (available on Xperia Play), the team then went completely leftfield to produce ace arcade-shooter / flying game Sleepy Jack. Not exactly the most obvious move, but one that has paid off handsomely.
Playing like a cross between Space Harrier and a surreal dreamscape, you have to hurtle as quickly as possible past obstacles, shooting down monsters and hitting ‘z’s in sequence.
Sleepy Jack’s strength lies in its ability to surprise and challenge from level to level, with a range of different stage types and some of the toughest three-star challenges you’re going to see this side of Angry Birds.
By EA Mobile
While it looks eerily similar to its home console brother in screenshots, and plays a lot like it, thanks to the Xperia Play’s controls, Dead Space isn’t a retread of existing ground. Rather, it’s a complete single-player story that sits alongside the events of Dead Space 2 on consoles.
Yes, it may have lost a few weapons and skills along the way (and gained some, too), but the scary action-horror gameplay survives the journey across platforms intact.
As Vandal, a recent convert to the ‘it’s nothing to do with Scientology’ church of Unitology, you’re unwittingly responsible for setting in motion events on the Sprawl - a vast floating space station.
To atone for your crime, you now have to fight through hundreds of hideously deformed Necromorphs that stand in the way of redemption (and survival), all the while trying to avoid yelping in panic on the bus at the scary sounds and set pieces.
By OrangePixel, buy on Xperia Play
If there’s one genre that the Xperia Play does well, it’s the humble platformer. No, scratch that. If there’s one genre the Xperia Play does well, it’s the retro-themed platformer with the unrelenting difficulty and sadistic streak.
Stardash, from the master of the retro platformer OrangePixel, looks and plays a lot like an old Game Boy release, with limited colour palette and upbeat chiptunes. It’s also incredibly hard.
But its difficulty firmly falls into the ‘harsh yet fair’ category when played with hardware buttons.
Each jump ‘feels’ right (if that makes sense), and while it may have been a struggle on touchscreens, the Xperia Play breathes new life into this excellent retro-themed joy.
By DotEmu, buy on Xperia Play
We’re not going to beat around the bush here: R-Type is hardcore in a way that makes modern so-called ‘hardcore’ games look like they were made for children (which, let’s be honest here, most are).
It’s one of the most iconic arcade-shooters from the ‘80s for good reason, with imaginative boss battles, clever level design, and an excellent risk/reward system that’s easy to use and hard to master.
Frankly, while DotEmu has done a great job putting in modern features like level select and alternative difficulty levels, R-Type is still too hard to be played on a touchscreen. Good job, then, that the Xperia Play version is handled via the PlayStation buttons.
Grand Theft Auto 3
By Rockstar Games, buy on Xperia Play
Rockstar has made you an offer you can’t refuse - one of the best PS2 games of all time for your PlayStation-certified phone. Honestly, why are you still reading this?
On the off-chance that you’re still here, Grand Theft Auto 3 is an updated version of the first 3D entry in the ground-breaking, controversy-generating sandbox series. You play as the voicless criminal betrayed by his girlfriend in a bank heist, who has to work his way back up the underworld ladder.
The plot rockets along at some pace, with great voice acting and sharp dialogue, but it’s the world of Grand Theft Auto itself that’s the main draw.
Everything feels so alive in this open-world epic - busy streets lined with pedestrians, roads packed with traffic, and radio stations filled with hilarious DJs and top tunes. Get it. Now.