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Chris Leigh
16 Jan, 2007

2006 Staff Game of the Year awards - The Winners

PALGN Feature | The year that was, through our eyes.
A fortnight ago, we got our readers to vote for what they deemed to be the finest video game of 2006. Top rosette in the Overall Game of the Year category, you may recall, went to Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, while other winners included the likes of Guitar Hero II, New Super Mario Bros., Gears of War, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Halo 3.

We could have left it at that, but, because we're vain narcissists who value our own opinions above all else, we wanted to have our own say on what we would have chosen, before we slam the door shut once and for all on 2006. Scroll down for our magic ten, peeps.
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10 Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter
Xbox 360, PC

Launched alongside the Xbox 360 in PAL regions earlier this year, GRAW represents the pinnacle of Ubisoft's Ghost Recon series to date. Its single player campaign may have been lean by some standards - it came in at around the ten-hour mark - yet the quality of the experience was indisputable, with top-notch visuals and audio upheld by riveting, sweaty-palmed gameplay. A wonderful multiplayer mode completed the package, with imaginative maps, a vast degree of customisability and a flawless online experience all contributing to the finest pre-Gears of War multiplayer game on the Xbox 360.

It can be an acquired taste, admittedly; with its hulking HUD and initially overwhelming list of button commands, it's not the kind of game that will make friends easily. For those who persevere however, there's a suspenseful and brainy tactical shooter waiting to be enjoyed. [Full review]


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9 Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas
Xbox 360, PC

Ubisoft, it's fair to say, is rather good at this tactical shooter lark. We could reasonably have placed Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter in our top ten and given Rainbow Six: Vegas an honourable mention, yet in our hearts we couldn't omit Ubi's other outstanding game of the year.

Vegas is good, then. Very good, infact, and certainly one of the most compelling reasons we know to invest in an Xbox 360. It's a game that effortlessly ticks all the right boxes, with an inspired setting, buckets of captivating atmosphere, (almost) peerless online play, and almost certainly the best freebie we saw given away with any game this year. We can't think of a better title to occupy ninth spot. [Full review]


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8 The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Xbox 360, PC

If any game signposted the way for next-gen gaming as emphatically as Oblivion did in 2006, we must have missed it. This Bethesda-developed epic is just that: one sprawling, massively open-ended, colossal adventure. It boasts a sterling storyline, impressive customisability, play-at-your-own-pace gameplay, apparently limitless side-quests, an organic levelling system that must be amongst the most intelligent we've ever encountered, and is rightly heralded in many quarters as something of a landmark in its own right.

Even the few irksome parts in the game (the cumbersome combat, a stuttering frame-rate and some looong load times) can't subtract from a game of such vision and scale. Roll on the sequel, say we. [Full review]


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7 Wii Sports
Wii

With its Fisher Price avatars and stripped-down modes, there's a delicious irony in the fact that, a decade from now, Wii Sports could be referenced as one of the most important games ever made. Indeed, if Nintendo needed to get any game absolutely right in 2006, it wasn't Zelda, but Wii Sports. Packaged with every Wii console sold, it needed to convert doubters from the get-go, to demonstrate that Nintendo's concrete faith in its own innovation was deserved, and to capture the eye of those who would previously have found a DualShock overwhelming.

Going by what we've heard, in both the PALGN forums and elsewhere, it seems to have succeeded in this respect. And although it may not eat up the hours in the same way that a good Zelda marathon can, the likes of Wii Bowling and Wii Tennis hold a strong allure, not to mention considerable depth. We won't dwell on the Boxing. [Full review]


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6 Viva Piñata
Xbox 360

"Nothing can dampen the spirits of Piñata Island!" proclaimed Phil in his review of the game that saw Rare return to form in 2006. Yes, he'd probably been drinking again, but the boy Larsen had a point, and indeed nothing could dampen our enthusiasm for Viva Piñata, an infectious and joyous package that melded the best bits of Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon and The Sims to fantastic effect.

Not only was it just what Microsoft needed (a top-quality kids brand for its new console, and finally something worthwhile to show for that enormous wad of lucre it handed over for Rare), but it was also heart-warming to see that the company behind GoldenEye and Banjo-Kazooie still has what it takes. Absorbing, beautiful and totally rewarding. Bravo, Rare. [Full review]


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5 Guitar Hero II
PlayStation 2

Forget Buzz! and SingStar: when it comes to peripheral games, Harmonix's plastic axe-wielding extravaganza truly rules all. Its appeal is fundamentally simple - after all, who doesn't want to imagine themselves as a virtuoso guitarist, rocking out on a stage lit like a pinball table in front of thousands of adoring fans? OK, in reality you were rocking out in front of the cat, but the illusion was well and truly cast for anyone who spent time with either of the Guitar Hero games. A colleague of mine called it the "ultimate man game", but that's not quite right - the appeal of the peripheral, a two-thirds sized Gibson guitar complete with whammy bar, spans both genders and many generations.

Both Guitar Hero titles were massively sociable and clever games, though the more fleshed-out modes in the second game (the co-op, especially) clearly won us over. With that said, neither game would look out of place in this list, and the Xbox 360 version of GH II, due this year, is high on our list for 2007. [Full review]


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4 New Super Mario Bros.
Nintendo DS

It could be seen as slightly unfair that only one handheld title made this group of ten, but the quality of portable gaming's sole representative can't be easily dismissed. Even if it didn't quite hit the dizzying heights of Mario's greatest ever 2D adventures, New Super Mario Bros. was still jam-packed with ingenius moments.

It was a game that struck a perfect balance between maintaining what made the original Mario platformers great, while adding ideas of its own which never remotely felt like souring one of gaming's most magical recipes. Quite possibly the best 2D platformer of the Noughties, this is pretty damn essential. [Full review]

  

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3 Gears of War
Xbox 360

More curmudgeonly gamers and the anti-Microsoft brigade may well try and construct an argument that Gears of War isn't deserving of the many accolades that have swept towards the game since its release at the tail-end of 2006. They may point to it as a case of beauty over brains, and sniffily dismiss it as just another game about space marine jocks with cornrows. But any serious gamer would be wrong to dismiss Gears on such grounds. For a start, Epic's shooter has plenty of its own ideas, from the sure-to-be-imitated reload feature to the context-sensitive, multi-purpose A-button.

And besides, who says looks are over-rated? Having spent the last two months in Gears' bewildering and stunning world, certainly not us. The breathlessly good visuals are matched by smashing sound effects and arguably the finest voice-acting of all the games released in 2006. An opulent single player campaign and a superlative online mode are the final pieces to a glittering showcase, and the most killer of apps for Microsoft's next-gen box. Lack of originality? In this case, we couldn't give a stuff. [Full review]


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2 Shadow of the Colossus
PlayStation 2

Not many games polarised opinion as much as Shadow of the Colossus in 2006, with many arguing that the spiritual sequel to Ico was too often undone by technical failings. What everybody did agree on however was that the game contained a premise that was almost unmatched in terms of ambition and imagination. Essentially a chain of boss-fights featuring some of the biggest freakin' enemies ever seen in a game, the title triumphs as both a puzzle game and an adventure.

Indeed, actually identifying what was required to dispatch one of Shadow's vast beasts and then clambering up its mammoth frame to administer the final blow was one of the most memorable thrills in gaming over the last year. The Colossi themselves were the stars of the show, mind: strangely docile and non-threatening in some cases (killing some of them felt almost wrong), yet always breathtaking to behold. [Full review]


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1 The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Wii, GameCube

What a swansong for the GameCube, and what a debut for the Wii. After more than three years in development, Twilight Princess emerged, in our eyes, as the finest piece of software money could buy during 2006, as a game that truly had everything: size, quality, great design. At forty to fifty hours long, there was always the possibility that it would drag in places, so it's a testament to the skill and experience of Nintendo's team of developers that no such dips occurred.

Is it the greatest Zelda ever? It's not an outrageous suggestion by any means, though the fact that this was more a gentle step forward from the N64 Zelda titles (rather than the brilliant leap made by Ocarina of Time into 3D) weighs against that claim. Taken in isolation however, it's adventure gaming of an extremely high standard, and a game that everybody should check out sooner rather than later. [Full review]


Related Content

Wii hits three US milestones
25 Aug, 2007 Outperforms the DS and more.
Manufacturing costs for Xbox 360 falling...
02 Nov, 2006 ...but don't expect a price cut anytime soon.
E3 2006: Activision announces E3 lineup
09 May, 2006 Tony Hawk to appear twice this year, as well as a sneak peak at Spider-man 3.
53 Comments
7 years ago
Twilight Princess number 1? Didnt see that coming icon_razz.gif Probably deserved it though..
7 years ago
Zelda FTW, I guess. icon_smile.gif Nintendo should pat themselves on the back. Beating Gears of War was no easy feat.
7 years ago
Wii Sports? icon_eh.gif
7 years ago
Good choice in games guys.

oh BTW wii sports FTW.
7 years ago
Yeah, the tennis is addictive. icon_smile.gif
7 years ago
pretty much what i expected to be in the list, though some of the positions surprised me a little - namely Oblivion, which i expected to be higher.

good list though, any of those titles deserves top spot, though it's no surprise that Zelda got it.
7 years ago
If It was me, I would rank Wii Sports higher then Zelda. I was a little dissapointed with TP.
7 years ago
joejoe wrote
If It was me, I would rank Wii Sports higher then Zelda. I was a little dissapointed with TP.
You wouldent wanna know what i think. icon_razz.gif

but yes i would have thought Wii sports should have ranked higher.
7 years ago
The top 3 entries on your list match my thoughts exactly.

Gears, Shadow, and Zelda are the 3 best games of 2006.

Bravo, PALGN, and BOO to any of you who haven't tried out these games yet!
7 years ago
I guess I was just severely underwhelmed by Wii sports. I mean I think it's a great free title, but I didn't think it was that great.

Hopefully this will shut up those who keep suggesting the 360 has no great games. Half of this list belongs to the 360, kthxbi.
7 years ago
I will never understand the hype on Gears of War, personally I think Rainbow Six Vegas deserved more accolades than that, but my oppinion.

I am dissapointed that We Love Katamari is not on the list, that was my fave PS2 game period
7 years ago
Spanca wrote
I guess I was just severely underwhelmed by Wii sports. I mean I think it's a great free title, but I didn't think it was that great.
I've played Wii Sports, and it did not make me want to go and get a Wii the next day like I thought it would. Many better games, but again, opinion.
7 years ago
renegadesx wrote
I am dissapointed that We Love Katamari is not on the list, that was my fave PS2 game period
tbh, i was a little surprised that it wasn't on the list too.
7 years ago
I was happy to see that KH2 did fairly well in the user nominations, but it didn't make the staff list. icon_sad.gif
7 years ago
Yay for Zelda, but I'm also sad that We <3 Katamari wasn't on the list and to a lesser extent Phoenix Wright.

Wii Sports is a fun game, but I'm with Spanca in that it probably wouldn't make my top 10 list for 2006. However, I can understand it being on there in terms of signifigance. As the article says, in 10 years it will be looked back upon as a very important piece of software.
7 years ago
My top 10 would have to include in no particular order:

Twilight princess
Shadow of the Colossus
New Super Mario Bros
Madden 07 (wii)
Guitar Hero II
Guitar Hero I
We <3 katamari
Trauna Centre Under the knife
Gitaroo man psp
killzone liberation

Thats off the top of my head, there may be some others I like more that i cant remember for now
7 years ago
Damn, i wish i had a 360 icon_sad.gif

Glad to see SotC getting some love there, it's so deserving.

oh, and isn't that zelda screen from the super-early preview? I don't remember the final game looking quite like that ^^;
7 years ago
Spanca wrote
Hopefully this will shut up those who keep suggesting the 360 has no great games. Half of this list belongs to the 360, kthxbi.
Yes, just had a quick look at the list again and there are 6 360 games in it.

6 games over a 10 month period (it came out in March right?) = 0.6 per month. The Wii has a ratio of 2 per month of release (and it wasn't even a full month). I like those odds! Also, Spanca, I'm just poking fun, please don't take this serious. I'm dying to finally own a 360.
7 years ago
Wii sports better than Oblivion ? GTFO my friends. icon_naughty.gif
7 years ago
^ Yeah its kind of disturbing too see Wii Sports higher up than Oblivion... Actually I thought Oblivion would be in the top 5 easily. But obviously its not about the work that goes into the games these days but more the fun of simplicity.. Dosent seem fair to compare but meh.
7 years ago
Looks like I need to pick Rainbow 6 then (since I'm finally reading the book I've owned for years icon_razz.gif ). Good to see Viva Piñata got high placed.
7 years ago
Qbert wrote
to a lesser extent Phoenix Wright.
well, still not out in Australia, so even if all the UK writers placed it on their list, averages mean it would probably miss out since its ineligible to 10 of the 13 staff members.
GroovySamurai wrote
^ Yeah its kind of disturbing too see Wii Sports higher up than Oblivion... Actually I thought Oblivion would be in the top 5 easily. But obviously its not about the work that goes into the games these days but more the fun of simplicity.. Dosent seem fair to compare but meh.
while i was surprised by Oblivion's overall placing, i don't think see why the simplicity factor is anything to be sneered at. just because a game is simple, doesn't mean it's not a competent game, if anything, making a simple game that's also fun is quite an achievement.

and unlike Oblivion, it doesn't contain game-breaking errors and bugs.

i was surprised by WiiSports inclusion initially, but the more i think about it, the more it makes sense. it is a game that does exactly what it set out to do. the goals weren't particularly high - emulate real-world sports - but imo it achieved them, and it's fun.

would i personally have voted for it? probably not, but i can see the merit of it being there.
---
at the end of the day though, it's just an opinion. i'm sure none of the staff agree 100% with that list, and no one is saying everyone else has to either, that's what the forums are for, to discuss that opinion.
7 years ago
Wii Sports is underrated by most, I think. Great game.
7 years ago
ObsoletE wrote
Qbert wrote
to a lesser extent Phoenix Wright.
well, still not out in Australia, so even if all the UK writers placed it on their list, averages mean it would probably miss out since its ineligible to 10 of the 13 staff members.
Which absolutely sucks since Phoenix Wright is awesome. icon_smile.gif I saw an import copy on the shelf at e2 games though. I got my copy through Ebay.
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