Jeez, what a year for gaming 2006 was. I'm not going to get into a big recap as anyone who is interested in this post already knows all of the gory details. Two consoles launched (3 if you consider the DS Lite), Sony stumbled, Nintendo soared, Microsoft stayed the course and a whole bunch of really, really good games were released.
As with the Year in Movies post, here's a list of every 2006 release I played. Well, bought and played is more like it, I'm not counting demos. Huzzah!
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - Put your best foot forward, I say, so this game is the first one listed as it was, hands down, the best game I played all year. How it did not get Game of the Year over Gears is beyond me, but I'm not a big, fancy pants game site editor. Oblivion is one of the finest RPG's I've ever played with a scope and level of character customization unparalleled in console gaming. Once you taste the joyous freedom this game gives you, you'll find it impossible to go back to a traditional game's linear structure. Sure there were some framerate issues, particularly when on horseback, and I had my game lock up once or twice, but the issues were worth it. I have 90 hours logged and I haven't even completed everything that shipped with the game, not to mention all of the extra content I've downloaded. It also kept me playing my 360 for the boring summer months of zero good content on the console, so Microsoft better make sure that Bethesda gets a nice "thanks for keeping our console relevant" bonus.
Gears of War - While it didn't seem possible for Gears of War to live up to the hype, it did with lots of action, gore and sky high production values to spare. If Oblivion is the reason for RPG fiends to buy a 360, Gears is the reason for shooter fans to do so. The game is amazingly beautiful, packs a powerful audio punch and keeps the adrenaline fueled pace up througout. Multiplayer is a blast, and co-op is tons of fun. I'd like to see a more flexible multiplayer experience, or a way to save your co-op progress for those of us who are Dom-curious, but these are minor quibbles in an otherwise spectacular shooter experience.
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter - Multiplayer was a hoot, especially the co-op maps. I got one level into the single player before Oblivion came and I never went back. I hear it's good. I'll never know as I traded it in months ago. It sure is pretty though.
Burnout Revenge - It's the same game that came out in 2005 for the other consoles, just with better explosions and a better crash junction mode, which is like saying it's like sex, only with better orgasms. The online mode had some problems, which is to be expected with an EA game, but once you got racing, it was a blast. Literally. Saying I'm excited for Burnout 5 is an understatement of mythical proportions.
Dead Rising - Great concept, great variety of weapons, great zombie mashing sounds, shitty, shitty, shitty save/mission system. Oblivion ruined this game for me which is a shame, but I'm a stickler for flexible save systems, so it's not all Oblivions's fault.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance - An excellent action-RPG with tons of cool Marvel heroes. The individual simulator missions helps to extend the game, and the cutscenes were some of the finest CGI productions I've seen in some time. I thoroughly enjoyed this game from start to finish.
Uno - The sleeper hit of the year! Easy to pick up and impossible to put down, Uno remains my go to game when I want to play something for only 5 minutes. Granted it never lasts only 5 minutes, but that's OK. It has also started Linda and I playing the real life version when we watch TV which is great except for the fact that I lose pretty much every game.
Texas Hold 'Em - It was free, which is pretty much all it has going for it. The Hold 'Em game I have on my phone is better, and I can play it at red lights.
Sneak King - As stealth action games go, it's pretty medicore, as a sign that the apocalypse is upon us in the form of a corporate mascot hiding in a garbage can, waiting to force hash brown nuggets down an innocent passerby's gullet, it's top notch.
Pocketbike Racer - A fun little Mario Kart-esque racer. Where else can you race as the Subservient Chicken? Where else would you want to?
Elite Beat Agents - This game really has to be played to be fully understood. As rhythm games go, it's a blast, and quickly ramps up in difficulty. It also has an incredible sense of humor and style. It's one of the few games I can think of that would be just as much fun to watch being played as playing it yourself. Agents are go!
Tetris DS - It's Tetris, in many, many forms, all with a unique Nintendo feel. If you like Tetris, you'll love it. If you don't like Tetris, what the hell is wrong with you? A great game to show off the DS's new screens too, as the colors in this game are delightful.
Metroid Prime: Hunters - A great Metroid game and a great shooter and it's the first and only Metroid game to have online multiplayer. The mission and save structure don't fit with the pick up and play for 10 minutes style of a handheld, but if you can get past that, you're in for a real treat. It also helps fill the Metroid void (hey I rhymed!) until Metroid Prime: Corruption.
Clubhouse Games - By far, the best gaming value out there. 42 card, board and "other" games all with different difficulty levels and game specific missions. If you wanted one game to keep in your DS so that you'd never be bored, this is the game. Where else can you play darts, then go bowling then play a game of Rummy?
Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day - Lots of fun for the various puzzles, but entirely worth the 20 buck price tag just for the Soduku. The handwriting recognition can be a bit dodgy, but that may be a result of my crippled chicken scratch.
Star Fox Command - A dissappointing mix of 3-d space shooting and turn based strategy. I wish they had just stuck with the flying as it was fun, what little of it there was. The game is incredibly short, despite the multiple endings, as it wasn't fun enough to go back and play for the various outcomes. I've heard the multiplayer is fun, but I can't attest to it.
Big Brain Academy - The puzzles in this game were more fun, and more colorful than in Brain Age, but there's no Soduku, so ultimately it's a wash.
Uno / Skip-Bo / Uno Freefall - The reign of Uno continues! I have no idea what those other modes are, as I haven't played any of them, but I've played a ton of Uno and it's just as good on the DS as it is on other platforms. And hey, I can actually win a game or two, unlike when playing Linda.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess - One of the best games I've ever played, and probably the best Zelda games ever, but I'd like to wait until I finish it before making that decision. As with all of the Zelda games, it's an absolute joy to play and the production values and art direction is top notch. The Wii control scheme makes the shooting much, much easier, and shaking the nunchuk to perform a spin move is tremendously fun.
Rayman Raving Rabbids - Lack of progressive scan is dissappointing because the Rabbids are so much fun to watch, you want to make sure you can see every detail. The sense of humor in this game is fantastic, and the mini games swing from extremely easy to extremely frustrating with plenty of middle ground. Highly recommended.
Wii Sports - The smartest thing Nintendo did with this launch is packing this game in with every system. I now use it as a workout disc of sorts for my Wii Sports Weight Loss plan and these minigames have gotten Linda back into gaming at a level not seen since the halcyon days of Super Monkey Ball and Tiger Woods.
Elebits - The game looks and plays great. The voice acting makes you long for the eternal silence of death. Thankfully you only have to endure it in the cut scenes. I haven't played it too long, so I can't speak to the fun factor over a long period of time, but any game built on the concept of enslaving sentient beings for our power needs is OK in my book.
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz - Controlling the single player game with the Wiimote is intuitive and lots of fun. Sadly, the same can't be said for all of the minigames. With 50+ minigames, some were sure to be stinkers, but so far we're averaging about half which is a bummer. Oh well, the half that are good, are a lot of fun, however I don't see Linda and I returning to this game with the same fervor as the original Super Monkey Ball.
Red Steel - Amazing only in it's medicority, this game shows that the Wii can be a viable platform for the FPS genre, as long as it's a competent team making the game. I'm still not sure why I put down the very powerful shotgun when someone comes at me with a sword, but I'm sure it has something to do with honor or some shit. Whatever. I'll keep playing it to see what happens, but I can't really recommend it. Not at 50 bucks anyways. At 20, sure but not at 50.
Okami - I haven't played this one yet, but I'm really looking forward to it. A Zelda-esque action adventure game steeped in Japanese lore? Yes please!
Black - For 50 bucks, this game was supposed to be a dissappointment. For 15 it looks like just the thing when I want to get my violence on. Yay for Costco.
For the PS2 I also have to finish Guitar Hero and Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando as well as start Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal, Kingdom Hearts and Transformers. I also have Killer 7 and Eternal Darkness for the Cube/Wii. Verily, lots of good gaming await me, and it's not even 2007, the year of Mass Effect, Bioshock, Too Human, Phoenix Wright: And Justice for All, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Metroid Prime: Corruption, Super Mario Galaxy, Alan Wake, Burnout 5 and Guitar Hero 2 for the 360.
On that last one, allow me to take this time to thank the Gods of Rock and their human conduits over at Red Octane for including not only Pearl Jam but My Chemical Romance at launch for GH2 on the 360. My prayers have been answered and I look forward to continuing to pray at the altar of rock in March. God of Rock be praised!