Best Games of 2006

My favorite games from 2006.

List items

  • No game from 2006 gave me more entertainment than Oblivion did. It's not just a quantity thing though, I didn't calculate this by hours of enjoyment. When it came out, I played the crap out of it, and I played the crap out of it again on two other occasions during the year. I still intend to go back and play the crap out of it some more, since there's plenty of quests I haven't finished. I haven't been a vampire, or even got that far in the main storyline. There's just so much to do and it's all so well realized. The melee combat is spotty in places but quite good for an RPG, the stealth is as good as you'd want, and the depth of the magic system is great. So much of the crap that you don't need is thrown out, but there if you want it. A lot of Morrowind fans preferred that game, and I won't argue against them because I didn't play it, but I can't imagine myself doing so, since Oblivion does so much in terms of the technology that it would probably feel ancient. It's not a big choice for favorite, but it's definitely mine.

  • I kind of wanted this to be my game of the year, though I must admit it isn't. It is a tremendous game though. Amazing art, excellent use of traditional Japanese music sty le and storytelling, great level and gameplay design. Like Zelda, it was too easy, but at least it seemed to be challenging in spots. The faster pace of combat and more clever use of brush techniques instead of a large inventory made it more satisfying, and the final boss at least seemed daunting, even if it really wasn't. It really is a shame games like this don't get played, but at least the will of its developers lives on in SEEDS.

  • A lot of things about Gears are imperfect besides the graphics, making it really hard for a shooter, already limited by its genre, to do much better than this, so it's quite a rousing success. I wanted to play Gears for a long time, and then I got the chance, enjoyed it while it lasted, and then moved on. I marveled at the presentation. I laughed at a lot of things, like the probably-too-frequent glitching, the throwaway taunting dialogue ("Eat shit and die!"), the bizarre moment where Marcus and his pal turn from grizzled war vets into Vaudeville characters slipping down a wet incline, and the ridiculous carnage of a chainsaw to the face. I wondered about the lack of good weapon selection - there are two assault rifles, one of which blows; a shotgun I never saw as valuable since being in close combat was so dangerous; and a few situation-specific weapons that didn't have enough available ammunition to really spend time playing with. I also wondered why they tried so hard to make a completely harmless enemy like the Grub seem scary. I did have a lot of fun running for cover and shooting ugly dudes in the face, though.

  • This is partly a feel-good choice, but I just really liked that Rockstar was able to put out a game this enjoyable, and you can't even kill anyone. Sure, you can beat the crap out of people and threaten them and hit them with bottle rockets, but no dying. Seriously, it's funny as hell, charming, and honestly a lot of fun to play.

  • Twilight Princess is a great game that still manages to be overrated. When I hear Jeremy Parish say things like (slightly paraphrasing) "It's like Ocarina of Time, but much better," I literally cringe. Yeah, TP improves on OoT in a number of ways, most notably in graphics and difficulty of block pushing puzzles. But Ocarina of Time was freaking revolutionary. You can easily bring up how much A Link to the Past influenced that one, and I won't argue with you because I didn't play it, but OoT still set the formula for what three-dimensional Zelda games are, and more importantly, how three-dimensional action adventures in general are basically supposed to work. TP doesn't surpass that just because it managed to set the franchise record for most elements and mechanics directly lifted from previous games in the series.

    I don't completely agree with Jeff Gerstmann's score, but he's totally right in his points that it's a well-designed, well-executed game that doesn't stray from a formula that's worked in the past but is maybe a little dated. And just because they haven't done voices in the past doesn't mean that's a defining Zelda characteristic. People said the same thing about Metal Gear Solid's camera until they realized the one in Subsistence was much better. I'm probably bashing my number three game too much, so I'll stop. Excellently crafted game, not the best.