Special: Goodness, gracious, great games of 2006!
Last year we asked the question "What if the gaming industry stopped?
". And our answer was to highlight the 52 games (one for each week) of 2005 that we considered "the best", whether they were the most original or the most epic or games that were just plain fun. In other words, if the gaming industry stopped in 2005, those were the games we'd still be playing in 2006.
Naturally we thought, what would our list look like for 2006? So we did it again.
Now, this list isn't a true "Games of the Year" list. Instead, it is a list of games that the staff of Gaming Target believes stand apart from the pack in some way. They may not be the "Games of the Year" to some people, but they are games released this year that should
be played by as many people as possible. Because of this, the games are not ranked, they're listed alphabetically. However, we have chosen a handful of games as the cream of the crop, which we'll highlight on Friday.
So what if the gaming industry stopped? If we could pick up a different game every week, this is what we would play in 2007...
Nintendo's "musical toy" was a welcome surprise for the DS in 2006. It was the first game in Nintendo's yearlong wave of quirky titles for their hit handheld and it's combination of sound and visuals made people think twice about what a "video game" is actually supposed to be. Creating "new experiences" with music and what was essentially a light show was all the gameplay Electroplankton fans needed. Couple that with the game's rarity and I think, in a few years time, when people refer to Electroplankton, they'll be talking about it as the next great cult game. - John Scalzo
Elite Beat Agents (DS)
?Elite Beat Agents are? GO!? As soon as you hear those words you know you're playing something unlike anything you've ever seen before. Elite Beat Agents takes the sense of rhythm from DDR and combines it with the same Japanese humor as Gitaroo Man. The Elite Beat Agents (or EBA as they are frequently referred to) are a tactical squad of all-male cheerleaders who show up in times of crisis to lead hapless folks to do great things. These guys really get around, too. Watch as they help a cabbie transport a pregnant woman to a hospital, cheer on a weather woman as she parts the clouds and staves off a storm, and even lend Leonardo Da Vinci a hand as he attempts to gain the heart of fair Mona (Lisa that is). With a soundtrack that features covers of popular songs by Madonna, the Village People, and Avril Lavigne, just to name a few, you'll be tapping away at your DS for quite some time. - James Dauer
Fight Night Round 3 (Xbox 360, PS3)
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Chicago/EA Canada
Let's keep this fight clean! This game isn't ?Punch-out!!? but if you're like me and haven't played a good boxing game since then, what are you waiting for? Go pick up Fight Night Round 3 for the Xbox 360 or PS3 right now! Featuring a cool punching system that maps the boxer's fists to the control sticks, players swing punches with as much accuracy as one could possibly get without motion sensitive controls. If you've ever played Robot Alchemical Drive on the PS2, you'll know exactly what to expect. The game also features a handful of new punching techniques that, if they hit, will put your opponent to the mat much faster than normal, but if they miss, you better pray your opponent doesn't counter, or you'll be out like a light. The PS3 version even expands on the Xbox 360 version by adding a special first person mode that puts players directly in the driver's seat of their boxer. Watch those cuts and bruises, because if you get too many, you won't be able to see, and you'll have that much more of a difficult time defending yourself and your title! - James Dauer
The Godfather (PC, PS2, Xbox, Xbox 360)
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: EA Redwood Shores
Using The Godfather, a family drama with some mafia stuff thrown in to bring in the male side of the population, as a backdrop for EA's Grand Theft Auto homage might not seem like the brightest idea, but it works. As a young nobody rising the Corleone ranks, the game represents the 'dirty' side to being in the mob; earning protection money, robbing banks, buying your way into various rackets, running your rival families out of town, and of course, scouring New York and New Jersey for film reels. The plot places you in the position of being involved in every major story point, from rushing the Don to the hospital after his assassination attempt, placing the horse head into Jack Woltz's bed, and whacking all 4 rival Dons while Michael Corleone (not played by Al Pacino) is off getting his nephew baptized ? even if it takes some liberties from both the book and the movie. A lot of movie based games suck... The Godfather doesn't. - Adam Woolcott
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (PSP)
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar Leeds
Like it's parallel of 2002, Vice City Stories doesn't have the same impact as Liberty City Stories did last year, but it goes a long way to keep the series relevant. The epic soundtrack, the return to the city of sin, the wacky characters, and of course, Empire building, which breathes some new life into the franchise as it ages and grows a bit long in the tooth. That's GTA's quandry these days ? staying relevant and not wearing people out too quickly ? big franchises like MGS and Final Fantasy survive because a new game isn't shoved out every year like GTA. That said, VCS is a worthy successor, and a great portable game, and clearly one of the top games of 2006. - Adam Woolcott
Hitman: Blood Money (PC, PS2, Xbox, Xbox 360)
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: IO Interactive
In Blood Money, Agent 47 returns to cunningly off his targets. Leave gouts of blood and dead bodies on the floor, or take a safer approach by cleaning up after your tracks--the choice is yours. While Blood Money isn't the most visually appealing game, the inventive objectives and seamless gameplay are enough to properly emulate the whole undercover assassin gig. Not to mention, what's better than being able to smite a utility worker, change into his garb, and hide your pistol inside his toolbox. Or, if you need to create a diversion, you can chuck a coin to distract any neighboring security threats. To top it off, the game's driven with a clever storyline and formidable voice acting. The Hitman series has blossomed exceptionally when looking back at 2000's mediocre Hitman: Codename 47 for the PC, and the latest edition offers up a bloody good time. - Joe Communale
Kingdom Hearts II (PS2)
"Kingdom Hearts II comes through with more than 30 hours of the same addictive gameplay that made the first game successful. Granted, a lot of that is just watching the cutscenes and not actually sitting down with immersive gameplay. Nevertheless, if you're looking for Disney nostalgia and very linear action-RPG gameplay, it's simply a joy to see, hear and interact with all of your Disney favorites." - Matt Swider
Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy (PS2, GC, Xbox, Xbox 360, PC)
Developer: Travellers Tales
Han shoots first! "I'm Luke Skywalker. I'm here to rescue you." The Battle of Hoth. Luke and Vader duel. "Luke, I am your father." Leia in the gold slave girl outfit. Emperor Palpatine's entrance. "I am a Jedi. Like my father before me." Yub Yub!
The only quote you won't find in that thirty second retelling of the original Star Wars trilogy is "I have a bad feeling about this" because no one has a bad feeling about Lego Star Wars II. Travellers Tales has taken the original and turned it up a notch with bigger levels, a tougher challenge, more secrets and no Jar Jar. This may be the last Lego Star Wars game, but it certainly improved on the original in every way and I can't wait to see what gets the Lego treatment next. ? John Scalzo
Madden NFL 07 (PS2, GC, Xbox, PC)
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Tiburon
No year-end games list is complete without the NFL, by far the most prolific sport in America. Madden and NFL have become synonymous in the gaming world over the years, and Madden NFL 07 expands the series with a newly added Superstar mode, where the focus could be on the receiver, cornerback, tailback--any position you so choose. Also new is the lead blocking feature, letting players control an offensive lineman or fullback to open up gaping holes in the defense. The addicting minigames have become a staple in the series, especially rushing attack, and if you grow tired of the feature modes, the ability to play over Xbox Live invariably bolsters the game's replay value. This editor, in particular, is still upset that gang tackling is a feature exclusive to the PS3 version, but we'll bear no malice toward EA Tiburon as long as they make it a cross-platform inclusion next year. - Joe Communale
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (Xbox 360, PS3, Xbox, PS2, PC)
Developer: Raven Software
Ultimate Alliance proves that developers can still do justice to the Marvel license. It isn't a full-fledged RPG, nor is it a pure action game, but it contains a satisfying mixture of elements from both genres. And what's not to love about a game that features nearly every notable comic book hero outside of Batman and Robin? This beat-'em-up reminisces on the good ole' days with games like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Double Dragon. Skeptics may be overwhelmed with the high demand for button mashing. But the ability to continually upgrade your heroes, learn new powers, and explore contrasting locales help prevent the roughly 30-hour game from becoming too monotonous. And the user-friendly multiplayer mode lets human players jump into and out of the game on command. With a fitting name, Ultimate Alliance truly is just that
: the ultimate alliance. - Joe Communale
Thus ends part 2 of our look at the greatest games of 2006. Check back with us tomorrow for another ten titles in part 3.
See the whole list:
Part 2 (You Are Here)