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 2006.
Great Games I Haven’t Played
Lego Star Wars 2
10. Xenosaga: Episode 3
I don’t have the same levels of nostalgia for Xenosaga: Episode 3 that I do for the first two entries, but it’s still a strong game. It wrapped up the story in a meaningful way (despite things getting a little over-complicated), and included a helpful codex for people new to the series. The series was originally supposed to span six games, but for some reason Monolith Software decided to truncate it down into just three, leaving the final game feeling a bit overpacked. The battle system became more strategic, and they finally got rid of the “zone break” system, which was a welcome change.
9. Wii Sports
If this was a list of the most influential video games ever, Wii Sports would be at or near the top spot. Nothing sold the concept of the Wii console better than trying out Wii Sports with friends and family. It was just a great time, even for non-gamers. There wasn’t much depth to any of the experiences, which is partially why most Wiis ended up collecting dust somewhere in the back of family room entertainment centers, but few things felt better in 2006 than scoring a perfect 300 in bowling or bashing your brother’s Mii face in while boxing.
8. Resistance: Fall of Man
Resistance was one of the few launch window games for the PS3, and it was surprisingly good. I for one was excited for it, and I don’t think I was alone. Insomniac — developers of the fantastic Ratchet and Clank series — were behind it, and it told an alternate history WWII story where aliens invaded Earth. It was just surprising because so many launch games end up being mediocre at best due to the hardware and development limitations. Sure, there was still some early console jank in there, but all in all, it was a great way to kick off the PS3 generation.
7. Dead Rising
At the time, Dead Rising was so fresh and new. Zombie games weren’t completely played out the way they are now, and the setting and tone of the game were highly unique. Even the sometimes frustrating ticking clock gave it a feel all its own. The biggest fun, though, was finding and using basically everything as a weapon to take down the zombie hordes. The boss enemies were all unique and required some different strategies, and you even got some altering enemy types later in the game.
6. Call of Duty 3
Before Modern Warfare redefined first-person shooters, there was Call of Duty 3. At the time, WWII shooters were still all the rage, and this was one of the best. I personally never got into the multiplayer, but the single-player campaign was well worth the price of admission. The game wasn’t particularly long, but it felt extremely tight and the actual feel of the shooting could not be matched. There was a sense of scale and drama unique to the Call of Duty series, and I honestly miss the more simple days of Activision’s linear WWII shooters.
5. Kingdom Hearts 2
If you read my Game of the Year post from 2002, you’ll know that the first Kingdom Hearts is one of my favorite games of all time. While the sequel is still solid, it doesn’t come anywhere near the original. There were some notable improvements, particularly in the combat. Kingdom Hearts never had especially difficult combat, but Kingdom Hearts 2 absolutely upped the customization and flash. There were also more enemy types on display, and plenty of great new worlds to explore. In my opinion, some of them varied in quality, but they were cool nonetheless. The least successful aspect was the story — things just got too complicated for my tastes.
Okami is unequivocally one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever played. Not only that, but it was one of the rare games that actually made great use of the Wii motion controllers. Later iterations obviously lost that aspect, but the game still represented a truly unique experience in gaming. The story wasn’t complex, exactly, but it was deep and mystical and didn’t show all of its cards on a surface level. The exploration aspect was also well done, and its comparisons to the Zelda series are apt.
3. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
When I first played Oblivion, I wasn’t super into it. I think there was just so much to do that I became frozen with indecision. But a few years later I went back to it with a new sense of purpose, and I fell in love with the game and its many quirks. Bethesda games all have a certain amount of jank to them, but it’s rarely game-breaking and usually hilarious and endearing. The character models were absolutely hideous by modern standards, but that’s part of the charm. I loved the magic and sword fighting combination, and gaming the level up system to reach insane amounts of power was part of the fun.
2. Final Fantasy XII
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Final Fantasy XII is the most underrated Final Fantasy game. Sure, Vaan is annoying as hell and the story gets a little up its own butt with the political intrigue, but I loved almost all of the other characters and the combat system was absolutely amazing. Being able to spec your characters however you wanted right from the get-go was completely new for a Final Fantasy game, and it really brought MMO style combat to consoles. I loved setting up the perfect gambits to where it felt like the game was playing itself; that to me was satisfying in the same way that strategy games are.
1. Gears of War
My heart wanted to give the top spot to Final Fantasy, but I just couldn’t ignore how amazing the first Gears of War was. Plenty of people find the second and third games to be better, but I think the original is the best. It established such a great world, which is something most first-person shooters are unable to do. The cover shooting system was completely revolutionary at the time, and its DNA can be seen in modern third-person shooters like Uncharted and Mass Effect. And while the hardcore bro-type characters felt a little cliche, the story managed to undercut those stereotypes in satisfying and surprising ways.
And there you have it, my top 10 games from 2006! Be sure to leave your favorite in the comments, and check out my other video game rankings!