Specials: Trust me, Sam Fisher did not have to sneak onto this list.
Year in, year out, the video game industry keeps on growing. Ever since Pong ushered in the video game industry in 1972, each year brings familiar faces in different places and new and wonderful worlds to explore.
But what if the gaming industry didn't keep churning out new titles for an ever more rabid audience? What if a crash of epic proportions forced us to make due with only the games that were released in the last year? What would we do then?
I'll tell you what we'd do then. We'd take the 52 best games released in 2005 (one for each week of this hypothetical new-gameless year) and gorge ourselves on all the gaming goodness that should be more than one person can handle in a year. So that's what we did. The staff of Gaming Target went back over the 2005 slate of games and picked out the games we'd keep playing for another year if we had to. Of course, we'll play all of these great games in 2006 anyway.
So what if the gaming industry stopped? This is what we would play in 2006...
The First Ten
The Second Ten
The Next Ten
The Last Ten
The Top 12
Psychonauts (PS2, Xbox, PC)
If you like weird, you'll love Psychonauts. As Raz, your job is to save your fellow 'psychics in training', who have all had their brains removed, by entering the minds of others to solve the clues surrounding the story. All the while, you have a piece of bacon which summons a voice in your head to help you out. I said it was weird. Psychonauts is by nature a platform game; but the inclusion of psychic abilities and the strange settings makes it a very, very unique title. It's way too heavy on collecting stuff, be it emotional baggage, figments of imagination, and the like, but it becomes tolerable as you guide Raz through increasingly strange places. Visit Lungfishopolis and you'll completely understand the insanity that is Psychonauts. - Adam Woolcott
Ridge Racer (PSP)
Sony consoles have always launched with a Ridge Racer release; it would almost seem wrong if a PlayStation system didn't come with a Ridge Racer game. However none of them are anywhere near as good as this PSP version, arguably the best launch title for the fledging handheld. Basically a greatest hits collection, with dozens of tracks taken from every past RR game, Namco has completely refined the drift racing action, with a multitude of cars with various strengths. In addition, Nitrous is introduced, giving you that extra boost if you powerslide with enough gusto. Like every Ridge Racer game other than Racing Evolution, RR PSP doesn't run out to break the mold, but instead, you know what to expect; crazy drift action, fantastic tracks, a goofy announcer, a fun soundtrack, and a huge career mode to last a good while...though that last one is something pretty new to the RR universe. - Adam Woolcott
Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves (PS2)
Sly Cooper comes back to the PlayStation 2 along with playable characters both new and old. In addition to the increasing cast of characters, Sucker Punch has also upped the number of players from one to two. The third installment includes a number of two-player missions where you settle the score on the ground in a deadly game of cops and robbers or up in the air in a dogfight. For what it's worth, you can also see some eye-popping 3D visuals if you have a pair of those cheap red and blue cellophane glasses, or as they're called in this game ?depth optimizer goggles.? While it isn't the longest or the hardest game in the world, it should be able to steal your time for a week (among other valueables if you're not careful). - Matt Swider
Star Wars: Battlefront II (PS2, Xbox, PC, PSP)
Star Wars: Battlefront II manages to do almost everything right when it comes to making a Star Wars game. The sights, the sounds, the constant hum of a Lightsaber, it's got it all. Forget ocean sounds, the hum of a Lightsaber is the most relaxing sound in the universe to me. But if you're playing Battlefront II it won't be relaxing for long as the battles are fierce... on land and in space. Wait, the hum of a Lightsaber and the whoosh of an X-Wing are the most relaxing sounds in the universe. Yes, space battles, Lightsaber fighting, Stormtroopers... Battlefront II is Star Wars perfection. - John Scalzo
The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (PS2, Xbox, GameCube)
Video games based on comic books don't always work out too well, but the developers of The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction made sure the game pleased gamers. By taking out the Bruce Banner levels that were a nuisance in the previous Hulk games, they turned Ultimate Destruction into an all-out Hulk smashfest. You are free to roam around two huge locales and smash everything and everybody in your path. Jump onto buildings, pull out street lamps, turn cars into steel fists, deflect missiles and smash tanks - these are but a few of the many moves in your powerful arsenal. Although Ultimate Destruction lacks a multi-player mode, the deep single player experience will keep you coming back for more and more. - Vadim Leonov
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (GBA)
No, this isn't the highly anticipated The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for the Nintendo GameCube. Nevertheless, Nintendo was kind enough to release an all-new Zelda adventure for his handheld consoles early in 2005. This game features six dungeons, collectibles galore, a fair share of puzzles, the ability to shrink Link down to the size of a few pixels, classic Zelda orchestrated pieces and much more. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap is a very captivating adventure that is a great installment to the treasured Zelda series that should keep us busy into 2007 as we wait for the Twilight Princess. - Vadim Leonov
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory (PS2, Xbox, GameCube, PC)
If there was ever an argument that the Xbox 360 was released too early, this is it. The third installment in the hit Splinter Cell series once again raises the graphical bar to stunning levels; just watch the rain run down the walls on the lighthouse level and you'll see what I mean. Most importantly, however, the game has improved as well. The stealthy high tech ninja Sam Fisher has some cool new moves in his arsenal, including grabbing enemies while hanging upside down and slicing them up with his trusty new knife. Stealth purists decried the heavier emphasis on shooter action but you don't have to play that way if you don't want too; besides, sneaking around in the dark and choking people is a hell of a lot more fun. The innovative multiplayer mode returns with several improvements, including an incredibly fun co-operative mode that expands on the single player story. With the future of the Thief series (which created and perfected the stealth genre) in question, Sam reigns as the current king of the shadows and among the very best in Ubisoft's considerably impressive catalog. - Troy Matsumiya
Ultimate Spider-Man (PS2, Xbox, GameCube, PC)
If you were expecting something completely original from the latest Spider-Man title, then that is exactly what you got. Ultimate Spider-Man not only allows you to control Spider-Man throughout the huge free-roaming environments, but you also get to experience the game through Venom. By using a cartoonish graphic style to mimic a comic book effect, Activision delivered an engaging and original title that appeals to fans of both the old-school comic books as well as fans of the recent movies. With hundreds of missions, side-missions, challenges and a wide array of moves, Ultimate Spider-Man is one of the best Spider-Man games to date. - Vadim Leonov
Wipeout Pure (PSP)
If anything, Wipeout Pure is on our list because of how cool it is to have constant downloadable content. Since it's release on launch day, Wipeout Pure has had 8 expansions released via download (for free), full of tracks, ships, themes, and music, which pretty much doubles the life of the game. More may or may not be on the way, but these monthly releases did a fine job of keeping Wipeout in the limelight and in the disc slot of numerous PSP systems around the world, which is the ultimate goal of such a concept. The gameplay is pure classic Wipeout; intense, violent races on tight tracks, with hordes of pickups to deal the carnage, which is a return to form after some significant alterations with the last game, 2002's Wipeout Fusion. - Adam Woolcott
Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Bose (PS2)
Picking up right where Episode I left off, Xenosaga II once again follows the sci-fi events of Shion Uzuki and company, as they continue their adventure. Almost everything has been changed for this sequel; different character designs, different battle and skill systems, and different voice actors. It's still very heavy on plot, and for a 2-disc game it's somewhat brief even with the huge Global Samaritan Campaign, but Xenosaga II is still a fine RPG that continues the epic story put in place with the original. The new battles are designed to move along faster than the plodding Xenosaga pace, as well as make it more Xenogears-like, and it works mostly pretty well, though it's somewhat complicated at first. It may be a startling difference, but it accomplishes the main goal; forward along the story as it nears its climax...even if now it will be reached in Episode III rather than VI as once planned. Just try viewing the ending and not get excited for what's possibly to come. - Adam Woolcott
While the forty games we've covered over the last few days could be enough to hold over most game players forever, if you really want your gaming goodness served on a gold platter you'll need to come back tomorrow for the Top 12.