20. TIE – Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas (X360) and Tomb Raider: Legend (Xbox)
If you love online multiplayer and FPS without the slobbering monsters, then Rainbow Six: Vegas is a must-buy. It is an exceptionally well-made title from combat engine to graphics, and even the weak offline single-player is excusable in light of the stellar co-op options online. This is the kind of game that can make you a deathmatch addict even if you've never liked multiplayer previously, and can make you crave online competition if you've previously preferred your gaming solo. If you own an Xbox 360, this is one of the games that needs to be in your system library.
Tomb Raider: Legend is really enjoyable for the short time you have with it. It's been a long time since I enjoyed playing a Tomb Raider game, and although there were some failings, they can be easily improved upon in the next rendition. Legend is definitely worth a look for everyone, from action/adventure gamers to people who want to see how a troubled franchise finally souped up its old jalopy.
19. Locoroco (PSP)
LocoRoco is a stunning achievement in modern gaming. It is entirely in 2D and uses only three buttons, but it is one of the best games available on the PSP. Most shocking of all is the fact that it came from Sony, the same company that shunned 2D games on their console systems. Granted, the silly visuals and joyous songs would all be for naught if the gameplay didn't match up; such is not the case, luckily. Eighteen months after its launch, the PSP finally has a fantastic original franchise not named Lumines. Pick it up, sing along, and enjoy the first great game of the fall.
18. Civilization IV: Warlords (PC)
As with many of the Civilization expansions before, Warlords centers around unique forays into variants of the classic game in the form of scenarios. If you like playing games exactly as they are out of the box, Warlords still offers you plenty of variety to the title, but it might be skippable. However, if you like scenarios that switch up the gameplay at basic levels, love to play by wiping your foes off the map, or want to give the Barbarians a little love, then Warlords can easily be considered a must-get.
17. Daxter (PSP)
For fans of long-running series, every new installment arrives with some fear that perhaps the time has finally come when a favorite character's career will hit the skids. With such deep variety of familiar but accomplished gameplay, and visuals that are always immersive and frequently arresting, Daxter easily leaps ahead of the PSP platformer pack to put such concerns to rest. It's an often-thrilling example of what careful attention to level design, world creation and a mostly respectable treatment of your protagonist can do for the most well-worn of genres.
16. Burnout: Revenge (X360)
The visuals in Burnout Revenge don't merely look like an overhaul, the sound is as amazing as ever, and it definitely makes good use of high definition and Xbox Live. While it is technically a port, BR is also a significant improvement on an already amazing game. If you like racing games – even if you're a PGR 3 realism junkie – you need to play this title, especially online. For those of you wondering if the X360 is worth the purchase, BR is one more reason to make the move.
15. Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime (NDS)
Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime is an extremely enjoyable, funny, and lengthy outing that is suitable for everyone. It might be a bit easy for seasoned gamers, but if you're a fan of fun, you shouldn't pass this one up. The dialogue and humor and love that were obviously injected into this title should be experienced by everyone. If you have any friends who own a DS, convince them to get this game, and you'll have a blast with the multiplayer tank battles.
14. Bully (PS2)
Bully is an open-world, story-driven, high-schooling experience unlike any you have played before. Though it may not be Rockstar's crowning achievement, it certainly comes close and is among the better PlayStation 2 exclusives released in 2006. Pray that Bully: Vice High is next on the horizon.
13. Trauma Center: Second Opinion (Wii)
I was a big fan of Trauma Center for the DS and was absolutely ecstatic when I heard that a Wii version was being released. The overall gameplay is solid and different enough from the DS counterpart to be worth playing. Veterans may find things a bit too easy once they adjust to the controls, but those who found the DS version too frustrating should feel right at home, especially with the new Easy mode. While the game isn't particularly long, there is a lot of fun to be had in trying to go back and get a better ranking on the various missions, or simply just replaying a favorite moment during some free time. Those looking for something to test out their new Wii controller should try out their skills on Trauma Center.
12. TIE – Galactic Civilizations 2: Dread Lords (PC) and Neverwinter Nights 2 (PC)
The bottom line here is that Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords is just a fantastic strategy game that no fan of the genre should pass up. It is refreshing to see a title that can challenge your mind while entertaining you to no end. Many games claim to let you play however you want, but very few can deliver on that promise like GC2.
I can't recommend Neverwinter Nights 2 enough to RPG fans and those who follow the table-top gaming systems. Many other players will want to wait patiently for the mod scene to develop, but unless you're a complete no-RPG kind of guy or still enamored of your MMORPG of the week, you'll want to snag NWN2 eventually.
11. Half-Life 2: Episode One (PC)
It's hard to fault such an immersive and well thought-out game which expertly melds frenetic twitch-factor action with a variety of logic puzzles. Although the main plot isn't explained to any satisfactory extent, there is some great character development which should help create a degree of empathy for future releases. It's a short but sweet experience that easily has enough new material, substance and improvements to justify its release, and $19.99 price tag. If you have been even vaguely following the Half-Life series this far, you have no excuse good enough to avoid playing Episode One.