5. Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords has a truly unique concept and includes the ability to appeal to both role-playing and puzzle fans alike. The game has definitely created a potentially exciting new genre of entertainment, and the developers did an excellent job in portraying this new look and feel, while still focusing on a beautiful, well-written storyline.
4. Burnout Dominator
Burnout Dominator captures enough of the familiar formula to ensure a quality experience, especially if you're a fan of the arcade racing genre. The controls are tight and responsive, the visuals are outstanding, and the single-player campaign will keep you occupied for a good while.
3. Rogue Galaxy
Rogue Galaxy is easily one of the best RPGs available for the PlayStation 2, and certainly deserving of "classic" status from any console. This one's a keeper, folks — a game that ranks right up there with games such as Chrono Trigger, Phantasy Star IV, and many of the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest titles. It has its flaws, but many of the flaws — particularly the stilted AI and the predictable plot — are more like pitfalls of the Japanese RPG genre than problems inherent in the game itself. If you're an RPG fan, or if you loved Dark Cloud 2, don't pass up Rogue Galaxy. It may not be the perfect game, but it's easily one of the best Japanese-made RPGs you can find.
2. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3
Persona 3 does the franchise proud. Persona 3 really manages to sound bad on paper: repetitive dungeons with AI-controlled partners and a time limit. It makes me nervous just typing it, but Persona 3 shows that effort was put into making the concept work. It's clever, witty, heartbreaking and exciting, all at the same time; it's a fantastic addition to the PlayStation 2 RPG library and is possibly the last great PS2 RPG. All PS2 RPG fans should make it their priority to pick this up as soon as possible.
Luckily for all of the fans of the first title, God of War II is a worthy sequel. It adheres very strongly to the concept of, "If it isn't broken, don't fix it," perhaps to the point of excess. It is a well-designed game, with terrific level design and a smooth, excellent combat system, but it also doesn't particularly bring anything dramatically different to the field. This isn't a bad thing at all, but returning players will surely feel a serious case of déjà vu on Kratos' latest adventure. However, that's the worst one can say about this latest outing, and anyone who enjoyed the brutal action in the original God of War will be pleasantly surprised by God of War II.
5. Heavenly Sword
Save the terminal crash-landing, Heavenly Sword is a superb game that exceeds any and all expectations. The title is by far the best single-player experience yet on the PlayStation 3 and certainly one of the finest on any platform this year. To quote General Flying Fox, King Bohan's most wicked, self-absorbed henchman, as just a bit too late, he realizes his jig is up, "Style ... That had style."
4. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
For all intents and purposes, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is the best RPG experience currently available on the PS3. You're going to become so involved in building your character, solving every quest you come across and exploring every nook and cranny Tamriel has to offer. There's so much gaming potential, it's almost sick. You can join different factions and work your way to the top, such as in the Knights of the Nine addition to the PS3 version, where you can choose to walk down the path of justice or cruelty. Every time you think you've seen everything this game has to offer, you'll come across something new.
3. Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction
Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction looks undeniably fantastic and plays nearly as well. We're not looking at a significant shift away from what made the series a hit in the first place, but such a move would be entirely unnecessary. Among PlayStation 3 holiday exclusives, it's hard to think of a title that was more feverishly anticipated than Tools of Destruction, and the game delivers on its immense promise.
2. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is a great multiplayer game and a very, very good single-player campaign. It is first and foremost an experience, an experience of real combat presented with the cinematic qualities of top Hollywood films. Call of Duty 4 is one of the most important console games in the past decade, and it's certainly one of the finest, as well.
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is worth its price in a pleasurable, exciting game experience, one that harks back to classics yet does impress with current generation production values. In fact, it's easily one of the best single-player games on PlayStation 3, or any platform, this year, and is therefore highly recommended for anyone who will but momentarily consider playing a game absent of any multiplayer features.
5. Sonic and The Secret Rings
Sonic and the Secret Rings is a return to form for a hedgehog that's been trying to find his identity for over half a decade now. This is the best Sonic game since Sonic Adventure, and for once, I can applaud Sonic Team for placing Sonic back on the right track.
4. Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Zack and Wiki sets a high standard for other developers to follow. It's clever, stylish, challenging and fun. It is an example of the kind of game that the Wii should have, and one that Wii owners owe it to themselves to try. It retails at the budget price of $40, which is simply icing on the cake. Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure is one of the best games out for the Wii, and any gamers who own Nintendo's new system owe it to themselves to at least give this title a try, if not a buy.
3. Resident Evil 4 Wii Edition
This is, by and far, the definitive version of Resident Evil 4. Even if one end up disliking the new Wii controls, this is the whole package. With the top-notch graphics seen on the GameCube version, the tweaks and extras from the PlayStation 2 iteration, and the wide variety of control offered by the Wii, Resident Evil 4 has never been better. Both as a port and as a game, Resident Evil 4 Wii succeeds in almost every way, and the only disappointment is that Resident Evil 5 is still so far off.
2. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
Gamers eager for a new Wii title would do well to pick up Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. While it doesn't do much to change the overall formula of the Metroid Prime franchise, it manages to fix many of the flaws found in Metroid Prime 2. The proof-of-concept implemention of the Wii control scheme alone is worth trying out, and it should show eager gamers that the Wii really can do what Nintendo has promised. Metroid Prime 3 is certainly a must-play for Wii owners.
If you have a Wii, you owe it to yourself to get Super Mario Galaxy. It's the best Mario's been in years and perhaps his very best game ever. The combination of great level design, fantastic graphics, easy-to-learn controls, glorious soundtrack and just the overall wonderful presentation make Super Mario Galaxy a real winner. The only negatives are a sometimes-wonky camera and a fairly short length, but unlike other short games, Super Mario Galaxy offers enough to make you want to replay it again and again, and the addition of Luigi has a bonus playable character only sweetens the deal. If there is one game you have to own for the Wii, it's Super Mario Galaxy.
5. Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
Guitar Hero III is an obvious step forward in the Guitar Hero franchise. It's just as fun as it ever was, and the song selection is pretty great. Guitar Hero III is definitely a must-buy for any Guitar Hero fan, and it should be looked into by anyone who's looking for a great new PS2, Xbox 360, PS3 or Nintendo Wii game.
4. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare provided me with more pure intensity than either Halo 3 or Bioshock. While it lacks the storytelling or some of the features of those games, it's the only FPS where I felt physically spent after I was done with it. Make this a part of your collection.
3. Mass Effect
Mass Effect really doesn't have anything more to prove. It's one of the best hybrid RPGs I've played, as well as a serious game of the year candidate. It's the video game equivalent of "Battlestar Galactica" or "Babylon 5": a space epic that reaches for the stars and manages to hit most of them.
2. Halo 3
Halo 3, in short, deserves the amount of press and exposure it's getting. It's the product of a team that's on the top of its game and have been given the time they needed to make the game they wanted to make. If you've ever enjoyed an FPS, this is something you'll want to check out.
Bioshock is a must-buy title for the Xbox 360. The atmosphere is excellent, the plotline is intriguing, and the graphics and sound design are phenomenal. Simply put, if you're at all curious about the game and you're an Xbox 360 owner, Bioshock is for you. Halo 3 is going to have a hard time matching the fantastic single-player experience that Bioshock provides.
5. World in Conflict
While World in Conflict makes massive and sweeping changes to the tried-and-true formula of RTS titles, it does so in such a way that makes other genre offerings pale in comparison. Other titles have their own strengths in realism, renown or longevity, but World in Conflict's biggest strength is that it's a fresh take on a genre that has long been stagnant, and it gets top marks in nearly every category. If absolutely nothing else, World in Conflict is a gripping title set in an alternate reality that could have been, coupled with gameplay quality that makes the title a serious contender for the best real-time strategy game of the year.
Crysis is my most anticipated game of the year; few titles captured my attention pre-release the way Crysis had. The game mostly lives up to expectations, and the graphics are every bit as beautiful and I had hoped they would be. The gameplay is not as polished as that of some other marquee titles, but anyone with hardware robust enough to run Crysis should get the game without further delay.
3. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare extracts the best elements of the best multiplayer titles, improves upon them and combines them successfully in a compelling package that has something for everyone. I hesitate to call CoD4 "primarily" single-player or multiplayer because both modes are so good. It's a title you can really sink your teeth into and prepare for the long haul; you could be playing this for years.
With superb writing art direction, natural voice acting, a tense soundtrack and spectacular graphics. BioShock is a superb gaming experience and should not be missed. From the superb visual design to the enchanting audio soundtrack, this futuristic period piece is a delight to play.
The contents of The Orange Box span perhaps 10 years' worth of development, starting with 2004's Half-Life 2 and last year's continuation, HL2: Episode 1, then moving to the newer games in this package, HL2: Episode 2, quirky-but-brilliant puzzler Portal and stylized online fragfest Team Fortress 2. Sure, you can get the new games via Steam individually for about the same price as this package, and Half-Life 2 is still on store shelves for around $20 by itself, so whether you pick up five games for $50 or only the three newest is up to you. Are they worth it? The answer is yes, even more so if you're like me and hadn't gotten around to taking the HL2 plunge yet. The once-great are still very good, and the newer titles continue pushing the envelope in terms of quality, narrative and how much you can do within a given genre.