Top 10 Video Games of 2006

Top 10 Video Games of 2006

2006 was a year full of innovation in video games. The Playstation 3 and Wii were both released to eager fans and entrepreneurs looking to turn them for a profit on eBay. Both consoles offer gamers a next generation experience, be it the PS3’s super-powerful processor and graphics hardware or the Wii’s immersive motion-control system. Nintendo’s Wii gives developers and gamers a new way to engineer and enjoy games, respectively, and a couple titles are already showing the systems’ strengths.

Despite the arrival of the next-gen consoles however, Sony’s aging Playstation 2 had a great year with several top-notch releases. The year’s best games were those that took an existing idea and improved on it or put a new spin on a tired genre. This year solidifies the success behind some of the industry’s oldest franchises, as well as some big franchises in the making.

oblivionb.jpg10. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Platform: Xbox 360/PC
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks/2k Games
Developer: Bethesda game Studios
Genre: First Person Role Playing

Oblivion is an enormous game and is meant for the truly hardcore role playing enthusiast. Oblivion gives you the tools to create your own completely custom character as well as an open-ended world in which you can do whatever you want, from walking through the woods to battling hordes of beasts and thieves. Even without a multiplayer mode, Oblivion manages to rival the likes of World of Warcraft in terms of scope and depth. Oblivion is whatever you want it to be and its highly addictive gameplay will steal away your social life if you let it.

madden07.jpg9. Madden NFL ’07
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Canada
Genre: Sports (Football)

Madden ’07 for the Wii takes the successful franchise in a new direction, making the game fun for even casual gamers and non-NFL fans. While lacking the polish of its PS3 and Xbox 360 counterparts, the Wii version makes great use of the console’s motion sensing controllers. To hike the ball you snap the controller back, to pass you simulate the same motion (without actually throwing your controller), and to stiff arm, you flick the controllers in the direction you want to block. The controls make for an immersive experience, and with features like the franchise mode, this Madden is no less solid than the rest and shows the Wii’s huge potential for life-like sports gaming.

metalgearsol.jpg8. Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops
Platform: Sony Playstation Portable
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Kojima Productions
Genre: Action

After two card-battle style games Snake is finally back in classic form. Portable Ops takes place after PS2’s Metal Gear Solid 3 and provides some insight into the series’ complicated story. Players resume the role of Naked Snake, aka Big Boss, who’s been stranded in a prison complex with no communication or backup. This time around, Snake must recruit enemy soldiers to assist in his missions, adding an entirely new feel to the trademark stealth-action gameplay. New recruits are created through your PSP’s WiFi connection as it translates hotspots’ signals into character data or through the soon-to-be-released GPS add-on for the PSP. The importance of enlisting troops and these innovative new features give gamers a reason to take Portable Ops on the go.

mario.jpg7. New Super Mario Bros.
Platform: Nintendo DS
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Genre: Action Platformer

New Super Mario Bros. marks Mario’s first original adventure since Super Mario Sunshine for Gamecube, and a welcome return to side-scrolling gameplay. This feels like the same-old Mario, but he’s got a few new tricks up his sleeve. This time around Mario has new Macro and Mega sizes, and is rendered in 3D for fluid animations and new moves. New Super Mario Bros. isn’t a great game because of the new features alone, but because it stays so true to its roots. The classic throwbacks, like sliding down flagpoles and breaking bricks, give this fresh title its nostalgic charm, and make it an evolution of, not a sequel to, the previous Super Mario titles.

locorocob.jpg6. LocoRoco
Platform: Sony Playstation Portable
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Sony Japan Studios
Genre: Action/Puzzle

Following in the cutesy, artistic tradition of the cult hit Katamari Damacy for PS2 and PSP, LocoRoco is a really simple game that’s also really fun to play. You play as a LocoRoco, a singing little blob that grows as you find its friends hidden throughout each level. LocoRoco owes much of its charm to its simplicity, as is evidenced by its few controls. Players maneuver LocoRoco by tilting the world with the PSP’s shoulder buttons, and pressing both makes it hop. The soundtrack is catchy, and the level designs are all brilliant puzzles loaded with cleverly hidden items and friends for you to discover. LocoRoco finally gives PSP owners some creative content amidst all the rehashed titles, and a sequel has just been announced.

guitarhero2b.jpg5. Guitar Hero II
Platform: Sony Playstation 2
Publisher: RedOctane
Developer: Harmonix
Genre: Rhythm/Music

After years of humiliation, air guitarists finally have a respectable way to showcase their talents. Guitar Hero II gives you all the tools you need: 1 wireless guitar controller modeled after the iconic Gibson SG and 40 classic guitar anthems to become a guitar god. Players work their way through easier songs like “Woman,” by Wolfmother up to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s legendary “Free Bird,” playing for bigger audiences and garnering fans and respect. Guitar Hero II improves over the previous game with an included practice mode, individual difficulties in multiplayer mode, and an overall higher difficulty.

okamib.jpg4. Okami
Platform: Sony Playstation 2
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Clover Studio
Genre: Action/adventure

Okami is a beautiful action/adventure game that has become sort of a cult hit after its release. This much-overlooked title has drawn favorable comparisons to Nintendo’s own Zelda franchise, and for good reason. Okami is steeped in Japanese mythology, and puts the player in control of Okami Amaterasu, the Japanese wolf-goddess of the Sun. Okami features an innovative new gameplay element in which players use Amaterasu’s “celestial brush” to draw different shapes on the screen in order to use a variety of godly abilities and interact with the environment.

gearsofwarb.jpg3. Gears of War
Platform: Xbox 360
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Epic Games
Genre: Third Person Shooter

Gears of War is the 360’s must-have game. Like many shooters, you take control of a soldier in the midst of an epic battle to save mankind. The story isn’t anything that hasn’t been done, but Gears of War looks and plays beautifully. Hands down the most attractive console game to date, Gears features huge, realistically detailed environments, terrifying enemies, and the overall visual polish that gamers have been waiting for amidst all this talk of the next generation. Couple that with addictive, chainsaw-wielding single and multiplayer action, a smoothly implemented “cover” system in which you must seek shelter behind objects, as opposed to running in guns ablaze, and you’ve got a game that does for the 360 what Halo did for the first Xbox.

finalfb.jpg2. Final Fantasy XII
Platform: Sony Playstation 2
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Genre: Role Playing

The Final Fantasy franchise has been a hit with RPG fans since its debut, and this latest incarnation is no exception. Amidst the current popularity of MMORPGs, Final Fantasy XII is a huge game with tons of optional missions and quests for the lone adventurer. Unlike previous Fantasies, there are no random encounters, so you can pick your battles, and the fights you choose to engage will be much faster and more exciting due to the new “Active Dimension Battle System.” This new system allows characters to move during battle and does away with turn-based fighting in favor of customizable AI settings called Gambits. The innovative new battle system, rich story, sharp graphics, and long play time make Final Fantasy XII one of the best games of the year.

zeldatpb.jpg1. The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Genre: Action/Adventure

After several delays and hype, Twilight Princess was one of the most anticipated games of 2006. Originally slated for the Gamecube, Twilight Princess is the must-have title at the Wii’s launch. Long-time fans can now climb into Link’s boots and swordfight with their Wii remotes. The new control scheme feels natural and makes for faster, more accurate gameplay than the Gamecube version. There’s one word to describe Link’s newest adventure: epic. The world presented in Twilight Princess is huge, and, while parts of it may be familiar to fans of the N64’s Ocarina of Time, it’s an entirely re-imagined experience that shows what can be expected of the Wii, and Nintendo’s most ambitious franchise, in the future.

Ken Groninger

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