Aaaaaaaaaand #TWRMGOTY2006 is here! This is our 3rd Reader’s Choice Game of the Year event, a retrospective route through revisionist history after enough time has passed to make the call of all calls!
It all started with our GOTY 2018 event which placed the power in the hands of the players and together, the community voted for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as Game of the Year for 2018 at The Well-Red Mage. Then came the heated showdown with our GOTY 1997 event, which even needed a tie-breaker! In the end, Final Fantasy VII barely scraped a win together by a few votes ahead of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
Here comes a new challenger… the year 2006, completely unlike 2018 or 1997. Which game shall we crown TWRMGOTY2006?
Below is a list our nominees, followed by the arguments put forth by our writers as to why you should vote for their nominees, followed by the poll. You will have the opportunity to vote for a single game, and the polls will remain open all week and the winner will be announced on Friday (6/28/19), so if you want more votes for your pick to win, get out there and find some voters!
May the best game win…
Final Fantasy XII (Mar 16) –the Timely Mage
Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence (Mar 14, NA) –the Well-Red Mage
Elder Scrolls: Oblivion (Mar 20) –the Mail Order Ninja Mage
Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII (Mar 23, NA) –the Slipstream Mage
Kingdom Hearts II (Mar 28, NA) –the Sometimes Vaguely Philosophical Mage
Final Fantasy XI: Aht Urhgan (Apr 18) -@Evil Wizard, Esq, Warrior of Light
Okami (Apr 20) –the Wandering Mage
Mother 3 (Apr 20, JP) –the New Age Retro Mage
Hitman: Blood Money (May 26, EU) -@TriformTrinity, Warrior of Light
LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy (Sept 11, EU) –the Purple Prose Mage
Bully / Canis Canem Edit (Oct 17) –the Bizzaro Mage
Elite Beat Agents (Nov 6) –the Regional Exclusive Mage
Gears of War (Nov 7) –the Kingly Yellow Mage
Guitar Hero 2 (Nov 7, NA) –the One-Winged Mage
Wii Sports (Nov 19, NA) –the ABXY Mage
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Nov 19, NA) –the Hyperactive Coffee Mage
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin (Dec 5, NA) –the Teal Time Mage
POLL at the end of this article
Final Fantasy XII is one of the strongest entries in the series and certainly one of the best games released in 2006. From the gambit battle system to the rich world of Ivalice to the gorgeous art direction, FFXII is such a well-rounded masterpiece that definitely deserves all the perfect scores it earned.
+consistently gorgeous art direction
+deep world building
+fun and unique “gambit” game mechanic
-comparatively weaker storytelling
-grinding for loot drops
–the Timely Mage
Hailing from one of the great darling franchises on this list, visionary wacko Hideo Kojima, before devoting his arteestry to stomach-babies and floating umbilical cord ghosts, crafted the Metal Gear Solid series. This was a landmark for storytelling in games. In 2006, Subsistence came along to sweeten the pot with not one but two discs worth of content, not one but two revised versions of old games (Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake), and not one but two opportunities to feast on a tree frog in the jungle. Adding in an online mode, new camera controls, and international gimmicks like even more camouflage and facepaint, Subsistence is one heckuva re-release. And yes, re-releases count for this.
+smoother experience overall
+excellent storyline, performances, and presentation
-some individually superfluous features (some camo and facepaint)
-not the best game in the MGS series
-weird Kojima crap like the Pain doing that karate dance he does during his monologue
-that one ladder
-The Well-Red Mage
I had never gotten into the Elder Scrolls series before until they landed on consoles, but that all changed with Oblivion. We were on a new console generation, and nothing showed off that potential like Elder Scrolls Oblivion did. At the beginning there was a moment where you emerge from underground to a startling field of sweeping green and it was immediately apparent the immensity of the quest you were about to undertake. The developers did a much better job this go around easing the player into everything and then letting them loose on the world, and the options were so robust that you could really live however you chose. You could join up with the thieves guild and sneak through houses on official business, or you could become a mage with your own tower through DLC. It was a game, sure, but it was also truly Roleplaying for those of us who felt so inclined. It may have later gotten upstaged by its far more popular sequel, but this was the one that remains the most dear to my heart.
+freedom on a scale not seen before on consoles
+deep world with interesting, evolving characters
+being able to craft a unique personal with a setting that supported most decisions
+a startling amount of content with side quests that are both interesting and varied
-almost too much freedom that can be overwhelming, leaving a player lost
-Elder Scrolls feels like a generic fantasy world in general
-normal Bethesda jank with glitches
–the Mail Order Ninja Mage
Let’s be clear here – Blazing Angels is not going to win any contests for GotY here, 2006 or otherwise. But I’m here repping it because it’s a game I put many hours into, enjoyed, and maybe even loved a little. It’s also part of a video game genre that doesn’t get a lot of play in the last two decades, especially on consoles. That would be the arcade-flight sim genre. Sure we have our Ace Combat entrant every few years for the jet lovers, and the occasional WWII warbird one-off every few years like Damage Inc., Birds of Steel, or Flying Tigers over China, but how many of these games actually spawned a sequel?
The mix of flight-sim-lite controls and WWII setting didn’t exactly impress the reviewers back in 2007, but then, I suspect games like these too often get reviewed by folks who aren’t really into these kinds of games. Rare is the gamer who can tell a Supermarine Spitfire from a Hawker Hurricane, or even a Hellcat from a Corsair. Those people likely didn’t cut their teeth on Aces of the Pacific or Chuck Yeager’s Air Combat. But I did. And years later, it taught me to appreciate and enjoy that a game like Blazing Angels even gets released.
What makes this game any good or worth your time? Start with the fact that you get 46 different WWII planes to take for a spin, and they look quite good for the Xbox 360/PS3 era. The controls are can be customized to a degree to get a bit more simulation-style, or more arcade-like, whatever your preference, so you can pick up and play with minimal learning curve. Dogfighting is enjoyable and it better be, as you’ll be doing a lot of it. Ignore the nonsensical story about a squadron that somehow manages to put your squadron in most of the major aerial battles in every nearly every theatre of the war. Do that, and you’ll find yourself enjoying the fact that you get to experience shooting down aircraft piloted by Fascists, Communists, and Imperialists, all in one tidy, “historical realism be damned” package!
+terrific selection of authentic WWII warplanes
+impressive-looking and accurate models of planes
+controls are easy to pick up and learn (sim-lite)
-repetitive gameplay in missions that require extensive dogfighting
-ground textures muddy and ugly up close
-silly plot puts same pilots in every major battle in WWII
–the Slipstream Mage
Sure, I have an unusual attachment to the Kingdom Hearts series as a whole, and I probably forgive it for things that others might think are weird, or just bad, choices. I’ll accept that for most of the games in the franchise, there are things that could have been done better, but I will defend Kingdom Hearts 2 with my dying breath. It’s been thirteen years since it came out, and I still don’t think I’ve come across a game with such an incredibly in-depth, deceptively complex set of combat mechanics, phenomenal music, and spectacular bosses. It’s unbelievable to reflect on just how tight the developers were able to make the gameplay, and perhaps even more unbelievable that it still holds up as one of the most satisfying, enjoyable, downright fun games to play through to this day. Even without the astonishing wealth of additional content added by the later Final Mix (the edition you’ll be playing these days if you’ve got any of the rereleased versions), KH2 has a ludicrous abundance of content, and I still love to explore it and learn new things about it all these years later.
+unbelievably tight, fluid, satisfying combat
+a real good-looker of a spectacle given its age
+Mickey Mouse saying ‘they’ll pay for this’
-missing several incredible boss fights added in the later Final Mix version
-it, perhaps inevitably, has features which may have put people off the KH franchise as a whole such as Gummi ships, Disney characters trying to be melodramatic, and at the very least a mildly confusing storyline with more characters than are probably necessary
–the Sometimes Vaguely Philosophical Mage
I’ve always wanted to love MMORPGs. A party of actual players, each filling a different role, banding together in search of quests, battle, and treasure? It’s like they were specifically designed for me. I remember my excitement the first time I tried Everquest for the first time – and was quickly and repeatedly ganked. My hopes were dashed for a time – until I heard that one of my favorite RPG series, Final Fantasy, would be making their eleventh mainline installment a full MMO. Even better, they were designing it with not just PCs, but the PS2 in mind. I was eager once again to try my hand at online adventuring…but Final Fantasy XI’s ambitions upon release were slightly ahead of its abilities. While initially fairly welcoming to new players, the game absolutely forced partying up with a full group of six players in order to accomplish anything beyond roughly level ten or so. And without a questing system akin to its contemporary, World of Warcraft, experience was largely gained by grinding away in parties – provided you could even find a full party. Many nights were spent sitting idly for hours, searching for other players to actually do anything. And the game’s PS2 version was far too ambitious for Sony’s second console, requiring the addition of a network adapter that wasn’t even standard equipment for the PS2 and even then being a chore to play. But Square Enix didn’t give up.
By 2006, SE had listened to all of the critiques and feedback from their player base and decided to time the release of the third expansion to the game, Treasures of Aht Urhgan, to coincide with a port of the MMORPG to the Xbox 360 console. This was a huge victory for Microsoft, as it gave them their first Final Fantasy title, as well as their first fully-featured MMORPG on the console as well. The 360, unlike the PS2 before it, was a console designed from the ground up with online gameplay in mind, and it had the hardware to run FFXI as well as all but the highest-end gaming PCs. The expansion also added three new jobs – a first in North America, as the original release of the game in English had included the first expansion, Rise of the Zilart, and it’s accompanying jobs. It also allowed for players to engage in story missions ending in their promotion to Captain rank with their home city, something the player base had been requesting for some time. Another much-requested feature was larger-scale conflicts and battles than simple party-based combat – similar to end-game raid content in other MMORPGs – and Aht Urhgan answered this as well, introducing Assault and Besieged.
It wasn’t perfect – party play was still all but required – but it was with this release that SE demonstrated that they were all-in with their effort on FFXI. They were active and listening to their players and had continued to refine FFXI from a rough beginning to a more than solid MMORPG that is still being played today.
+Xbox 360 made the game as playable on console as it was on PC
+additions of new jobs, missions, Assault and Besieged demonstrated commitment to listening and responding to the game’s player base
+party play led to come of the most memorable moments I’ve ever had in any MMORPG
-still almost entirely party-centric – additions to make the game more solo-friendly (Trust system) still weren’t in place
-@Evil Wizard, Esq, Warrior of Light
One of the most endless arguments in gaming is a classic: are video games art? In 2006, Clover Studio’s Okami burst onto the scene to answer this age-old question with a definitive, “Yes, they can be.” It was beautiful in every element, especially it’s art style, reminiscent of Japanese paintings. Okami won hearts across the world with its charming characters, stunning locations, tasteful takes on Japanese mythology, and creative gameplay mechanics. Coming out just a few months before The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, with the cel-shading of Wind Waker and the wolf mechanics of Twilight Princess, comparisons to the classic series were unavoidable, but often in Okami’s favor. “Who’s going to buy the new Zelda when they have Okami already? They should have tried harder to get Twilight Princess out sooner,” was a common refrain in game stores. I should know, I worked in one then. Ultimately, it didn’t live up to the hype as “the Zelda Killer”, but with re-releases and upgrades on almost every console since the original PS2 release and awards from Game of the Year to BAFTAs under its belt for its music and artistic achievement, it’s inarguable that Okami has withstood the rest of time as an excellent game and arguably one of the best in the action-adventure genre.
+you are a good dog, you have a good cricket buddy
+chock full of silly and subtle references to other games and developers
+you will never play another game quite like Okami, its story, gameplay, and art style are unparalleled
-the original version’s greatest difficulty is fighting with the controls at times
-low boss variety… I was tired of fighting several of the bosses after the second time, and then I had to fight them again
-you will never play another game quite like Okami because Clover Studios closed within a year of its initial release, so the chance of a direct sequel is slim to none
–the Wandering Mage
I continue to lament the fact that Nintendo hasn’t, officially, released this wonderful RPG outside of Japan. Shigesato Itoi’s final chapter with its heart-wrenching story, great music, imaginative world and refined mechanics should never have been left only in Japan and keeping us EarthBound fans waiting since the first shots of “EarthBound 64”,to use other means to play it. Props to Clyde “Tomato” Mandelin and his team for the excellent job translating the game and allowing us non-Japanese speakers a chance to experience the game.
+great story with some truly heart-wrenching moments
+quirky and strange world that only someone like Shigesato Itoi could envision
+some great music
+refined gameplay with some unique quirks
-the story structure means you will do a bit of some meaningless grinding on characters that aren’t part of the official party before getting to the meat of the game
-Nintendo won’t let me give them my money for an official translation
-seriously Nintendo, I’ll give as much as you want
–the New Age Retro Mage
While it wasn’t a huge success to IO Interactive but through experimentation manages to make something of itself with Hitman: Blood Money that over the years which has paved the way to the success of future titles.
+a better, more easily understandable upgrade system, which makes a difference to your gameplay style
+accident System, innovative freedom in levels
+intense, gripping storytelling
-wonky, inaccurate controls
-AI not working correctly, often wooden and stiff in execution
-oblivious bystanders and guards
-@TriformTrinity, Warrior of Light
LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy combines the fun and humour of the LEGO games with the epic storytelling and scale of the original Star Wars film trilogy while also adding emotion to the characters. The narrative is gameplay-driven with endless mechanisms and secret areas to discover and a second player can drop in and out seamlessly. However, there can sometimes be an overabundance of puzzle-solving and things don’t always work the way they should the first time. But on the whole, it’s a joyful experience that doesn’t take itself too seriously and can appeal to everyone.
+Seamless second player drop-in/drop-out
+Narrative and gameplay perfectly combined
-A bit too much during certain levels
-Doesn’t flow quite as well as it’s intended to
–the Purple Prose Mage
By the time 2006 rolled around, I’d been out of high school for 5 glorious years. Being the kind of teenager that gamers are typically portrayed as, e.g. the archetypal nerd forever discussing video games on the school field whilst trying to avoid the “cool kids”, I was glad to be free of the education system and all of its trappings. That is until Rockstar, the powerhouse publisher behind the almighty Grand Theft Auto series, applied their game engine and storytelling skills to making a game set in a dysfunctional American high school. The game followed the adventures of Jimmy Hopkins, a ne’er-do-well kid with a secret heart of gold, as he thwarts the various cliques of Bullworth Academy, attends classes and takes part in all manner of activities, all whilst taking on the pretty evil Gary, played with aplomb by Sean William Scott. Between the pranks and the fights, there’s always plenty to do here.
+excellent story with fun characters
+decently sized map with plenty to do
+persecuted nerds can live out their power fantasies
-some of the classes are about as fun as the real deal
-some of the stereotypes are pretty merciless
–the Bizzaro Mage
Agents are… GO!! This is a niche choice, but I genuinely feel that it deserves recognition simply because of the amount of pure fun I had with it, and the way it took over my life for a month or so. Having heard of its Japan-only predecessor, Osu! Tatake! Ouendan!, but never having played it, I was intrigued to see what the fuss was about. I was not disappointed. The game is basically ‘Dance Dance Revolution’ but with you tapping with your stylus on icons appearing on the lower screen of the DS. You are graded on the timing of your taps and a storyline unfolds through each of the game’s nineteen songs where the titular Agents are tasked with solving everyday dilemmas… through the medium of dance! These levels range from a crazed movie director trying to film a perfect movie to the tune of Sum 41’s “Makes No Difference”; to a weather reporter trying to brighten up the skies by dancing to Earth Wind & Fire’s “September”. The soundtrack has a bit of something for everyone and I am sure that, thanks to this game, I will never again be able to listen to “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” without tapping-out a carefully memorised sequence on my thigh.
+easy for anyone to pick up and play
+varied difficulty settings for different levels of play
+superb soundtrack featuring a range of musical genres
-the songs used are cover-versions, not a deal-breaker but it is obvious
-repeatedly spinning the wheel at the end of each stage can leave your touch-screen a little scratched
–the Regional Exclusive Mage
The year was 2006 and the recent introduction of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 brought forth a new wave of gaming. Both systems pushed for an online service that allowed you to play with people all over the world and online multiplayer become a dream for all new releases. Microsoft decided to fully embrace this trend and paired with Epic Games to bring us Gears of War. Released in November of 2006, Gears of War is a cover-based third-person shooter that revolutionized the genre and pioneered the wave-based cooperative combat that we all know and love as Horde mode. Between the amazing campaign, all of which can be played with a friend in local or online co-op, the aforementioned Horde mode, and a competitive multiplayer, Gears of War brought the heat and didn’t disappoint.
+interesting, eerie environments with a sci-fi aesthetic
+awesome story filled with multiple highs and lows
-the Multiplayer had various balance issues, both with weapons and map design
–the Kingly Yellow Mage
Considered by many to be the ultimate party game (before Rock Band came out) Guitar Hero 2 was critically-acclaimed, receiving several perfect or near perfect scores. It became a phenomenon among homes and dorms helping it to become the third best-selling game of PlayStation 2 in 2006. Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rolling Stones, Nirvana, and Foo Fighters among several others created what many fans agree is arguably the greatest setlist in franchise history. Slap in new co-op modes and you got yourself one of the most gratifying gaming experiences of 2006.
+endless multiplayer fun
+4 difficulty settings so anyone can play
-wired plastic guitars
-no drums or microphone support
–the One-Winged Mage
Wii Sports is the best-selling single-platform game of all time. It is also the fourth best-selling game of all time, overall. In its first three months, it sold over a million copies, and has breached 81 million more since. Wii Sports proved gaming is truly for anyone and everyone by bringing kids and grandparents together in front a Nintendo for the first time (for many). Including five different sports and several mini-games, Wii Sports was good for ten minutes or an afternoon. It even brought couch multiplayer back to life for a brief time. Wii Sports is GOTY 2006.
-appealing to all ages
-variety of games and minigames
-first decent motion controls
-all sports games
-relies heavily on motion controls
–the ABXY Mage
I never imagined that there would be a Zelda game that could nearly stand shoulder to shoulder with Ocarina of Time until I played Twilight Princess for the Nintendo GameCube. Today, it’s a game I remember fondly for its gorgeous, expansive world along with the impressive sword combat options available. Some of the most breathtaking views came from standing on the Lanayru Bridge overlooking Lake Hylia far below, or standing atop a vista in the Gerudo Desert with the Arbiter’s Grounds looming in the distance. The most impressive of these was the fully realized, fully rendered and mostly intact version of Hyrule Castle – the first we’ve seen since A Link to the Past. It was massive, intricate and it likely served as the inspiration for Hyrule Castle in Breath of the Wild (my all-time favourite Zelda game). Twilight Princess did a fantastic job of showcasing the graphical power of the GameCube.
The game also improved the combat options by providing Link with a variety of sword moves, including the down-stab pioneered by Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and adapted as a finishing move. In addition, it also improved on horseback combat, allowing Link to use both a bow and his sword to cut down his opposition and engage in horseback duels. The game introduced Wolf Link, giving players the ability to experience Hyrule through the eyes and senses of a wolf. Finally, the story itself was one of the best and most powerful since Ocarina of Time, featuring the ever-popular Midna and a remorseful Zelda, who surrendered to Zant to prevent further casualties to her people. It was a more mature storyline that touched on the corrupting nature of power and the lengths those who want it would go to get it.
+beautiful graphical style, similar in style to Ocarina of Time but with smoother textures
+lots of beautiful landscapes to explore
+the most expansive version of Hyrule to date
+a variety of combat options available for Link to use
+horseback combat is awesome, especially the duels
+Adult Link makes a return
+running through Hyrule as a wolf has never felt so satisfying
+dungeons and boss fights are well thought out
+Imp Midna is a significant upgrade to Navi – funny, charming and able to fast travel you to various locations
+a good story with a heartbreaking conclusion
+Wolf Link is an absolute good doggo who can talk to other animals
-dungeons, while well thought out, also feel short and repetitive closer to the end
-no magic meter
-the tutorial section seemed to drag on after a while and can’t be skipped
-the Tears of Light fetch quests can be tedious at times
–the Hyperactive Coffee Mage
A thrilling new addition to the mobile Metroidvania subgenre of the beloved franchise, Portrait of Ruin is a sequel to Castlevania Bloodlines released on the Sega Genesis. You can play as Jonathon Morris and his familiar whip-wielding skills, or Charlotte Aulin and her literary spellcasting. With a new “Sub Quest” menu to gain new weapons and items as well as a robust “Combo” attack option, PoR is definitely a must play for fans past and present.
+the “Buddy Swap” and “Combo Attack” mechanics add new layers of combat customizability
+side quests, Gauntlet Mode, and a “Prequel” scenario gives this game plenty of replayability
+the nuanced story brings back plenty of fan-favorite characters from Castlevania Bloodlines
-the new audio is rarely utilized save for a few battle cries and small bits of dialogue.
-the Teal Time Mage
And those are our nominations! You may vote for just one game in the poll below. Choose wisely.
Best of luck to all nominees.
Did we miss your favorite game? This poll allows write-in candidates!
Pump up your favorite pick and share this post to earn more votes for the game of your choice.
Come back Friday to see the results!