I’ve never gone back and put together a list of my favorite games from 2000-2009. Until now. Here are my retrospective favorite games from 2003.
Great Games I Haven’t Played
Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
Dynasty Warriors 4
Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced
Final Fantasy X-2
10. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
While overall not as great as the Two Towers game, Return of the King allowed you to play as several characters from the films, rather than just Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn. It was really fun fighting your way through the movie’s story as Frodo, Faramir, Gandalf, and more — and you could even play through some missions co-op. The biggest bummer was that the game could only adapt things from the movies, as EA didn’t own the rights to games based on the books. Still, this was a much better conclusion to the game franchise than I had originally expected after playing the abysmal Fellowship of the Ring game.
9. Xenosaga: Episode 1
This game is a bit of a dark horse on this list, as I bet lots of people haven’t even heard of the Xenosaga series. Back in the day, I used to be way more into JRPGs than I am now, and I tried out Xenosaga on a whim. It turned out to be a smart decision, because the Xenosaga series would turn out to be one of my favorites on the PS2. It had traditional turn-based combat, but had the added wrinkle of super-sized mechs that each character could use. Characters also had boost gauges that allowed you to interrupt attacks and summon the mechs. The battles weren’t randomized, and you could sneak up on enemies for an advantage in combat. This game was great, and the story was suitably Japanese.
8. Silent Hill 3
I’m not really a horror game player. Things that scare me tend to make me feel like a wuss, and I always end up with a headache from holding so much tension in my shoulders. Silent Hill 3 was a rare exception in my “no scary games” policy. I think I gave this one a shot based on a recommendation from a friend, and I’m glad that I did. The game played similarly to the first two games, with heavy elements of exploration and puzzle solving with minimal combat. To be honest, I think one of the reasons my teenage self was interested in this game was the pretty, blonde protagonist.
7. Beyond Good and Evil
Beyond Good and Evil has become a cult favorite in recent years, with a sequel now (finally) officially in the works. The setup of the game was really fun, with the player controlling a reporter that gets caught up in a resistance movement to reveal a secret alien conspiracy. The game had you primarily solving puzzles and taking on enemies through stealth, and you could also take pictures throughout the game in exchange for currency.
6. Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire
While not as great as Red/Blue or Gold/Silver, Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire were still great additions to the Pokemon series. This third generation added such memorable pokemon as Blaziken, Gardevoir, Manectric, and Groudon. While the main theme of battling trainers and catching them all remained, the two games also added new gameplay elements like introducing double battles, where two of the player’s pokemon battled two pokemon from another trainer at the same time. They also introduced innate abilities, which were tied to a specific kind of pokemon. For example, a poison pokemon might have the innate ability to never be poisoned. The changes didn’t redefine the series, but it helped keep the games fresh.
5. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time
Sands of Time brought the Prince of Persia series onto modern consoles in modern 3D. Instead of the side-scrolling seen in the earlier games, Sands of Time was fully third-person 3D. Combat and puzzles were the primary gameplay mechanics, but the game also employed special powers that the prince used through gathering the sands of time from fallen enemies. Once stabbed with the dagger of time, the sands of time could be used to rewind or freeze time. The series has been through several iterations and reboots throughout the years, but Sands of Time remains one of the best entries.
4. Viewtiful Joe
If you want a game with style, look no further than Viewtiful Joe. The plot of the game follows an average guy that gets transported into a movie world and is given the powers of a superhero in order to rescue his girlfriend. The game was definitely Japanese in presentation, with bright colors and crazy acrobatics. Combat was side-scrolling beat ’em up in style, with everything taking place on a 2D plane. Killing enemies provided points used towards executing special moves like slowing down time, which only served to make the insane visuals even crazier.
3. Mario Kart Double Dash
I know there are plenty of people out there that didn’t like Double Dash, but it just might be my favorite Mario Kart game. I loved the ability to switch between drivers and hold more than one item at a time. It added a new gameplay change that was necessary to switch things up in the series. Plus, Double Dash had some of the best tracks in series history. There was just something inherently fun about combining different Nintendo characters and vehicles to find the perfect match for your racing style.
2. Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
There’s a lot of revisionist history surrounding Wind Waker. The game wasn’t received particularly well at the time, with plenty of people railing against it for its “kiddie” graphics and wide-open oceans. Some of those same people now count it amongst their favorite games. I personally have never been as obsessed with the Zelda series as most, but Wind Waker has always been one of my favorite Zelda games. I remember being a Zelda outsider and talking to friends about Wind Waker, only to have them say how it was the worst game in the series. Ah, how time changes all. Wind Waker was a gorgeous game both then and now, and it really opened up the series to a wider world to explore. There was definitely some tedium involved, but for a casual Zelda player like myself, Wind Waker made me appreciate the series in a wholly new way.
1. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Back in the day, I wasn’t the biggest Star Wars fan when it came to the video games. I loved the Star Wars movies, but I just never really got into the games for some reason. Knights of the Old Republic was an exception. I think the biggest thing I liked was that it was a full-on RPG where you could choose a class, explore new worlds, and level up your character into different specializations. It was also set in a time period not explored by the movies, so it stood apart in that way, too. Knights of the Old Republic reigns as quite possibly the best Star Wars game ever, and I’m kind of shocked that EA hasn’t announced another entry in the series now that they have exclusive Star Wars game rights.
And there you have it, my top 10 games from 2003! Be sure to leave your favorite in the comments, and check out my other video game rankings!