Every Christmas, Eurogamer gathers together around a roaring Internet and compiles its top 50 games of the year. Fiercely democratic, our voting system gives everyone who writes for us a chance to contribute, picking from games released throughout the year - and not necessarily just in Europe.
Last year famously saw Psychonauts crowned as game of the year, despite its absence from European shops until this February. Shadow of the Colossus also broke into the top ten, and took even longer to make the transition - so long, in fact, that everyone must have played it already, since it doesn't appear in our 2006 list.
Circumstance plays a big part. Games released early in the year won't necessarily endure in our critics' affections long enough to find a strong berth. But that doesn't necessarily mean the latest games do the best - with more than one of our panel complaining that he didn't feel comfortable voting for Zelda, for instance, because it came out so recently that he's barely had time to digest it.
That echoes a fact that Psychonauts' achievement demonstrated: our list tells the story not only of what we like, but what we first look for; what we prioritise when time is tight. Psychonauts won because most of our contributors chose to play it as soon as possible, and loved it.
There's no real need to disclaim beyond that. It goes without saying that any list that claims itself a definitive accolade is no more worthy of your time than a mid '90s film licence, and we're not that daft. Instead this is a very naked, very honest reflection of votes cast. It's our Top 50 Games of 2006. It may rankle in places, but the alternative is just making things up to please people - and surely that's the developers' job.
That said, some of the comments on the games genuinely are insane. Sorry about that.
50. Mercury Meltdown
PSP, Ignition Banbury, Gamepage.
Tom Bramwell: In Mercury Meltdown, you play as a blob of mercury, racing around mazes in the sky collecting stars, occasionally cutting yourself into bits so you can perform complex feats of puzzle-solving, and occasionally trying to avoid getting run over by evil cubes. (Don't you just love games that know they're games, and make no apologies for it?) Improvements over its predecessor, made by renowned industry mentalist Archer Maclean, are as broad as its sales were slight. It overcomes its problems through clever level design, rather than needless obfuscation, and it simplifies the concept until it's nothing but beautifully compulsive, streamlined puzzle genius. Really wonderful.
49. Scarface: The World Is Yours
Multi, Radical, Gamepage.
Kieron Gillen: In a year a crime-wave of GTA-clones reached stupid proportions, Scarface was, quite literally, the least rubbish. Actually, fashionable sarcasm apart, it was actually pretty entertaining. Clearly taking heavily from GTA - Vice City specifically - but since that had taken so heavily from the actual film of Scarface, it's hard to fault it on that point. If you can get past the first fifteen minutes - the introductory cut-scene of relentlessly juxtaposed blood, money and coke fades into a relentlessly sadistic and joyless first level - it's as fine a crime game as the year's gifted us.
Kristan Reed: By rights, this should have been shocking rubbish, but, cynical attitude to one side, it's probably the best GTA (Vice City) clone I've ever played. Superior in most respects to Saints Row (other than the side quests), far better designed than The Godfather, and a genuinely interesting use of the licence. For once, you could see that this was worth holding back for a year, and with a bit of next-gen polish could make for an interesting follow-up.
Dan Whitehead: Several classic crime sagas got stuffed into the woodchipper of games development this year - Godfather, Reservoir Dogs, The Sopranos - but only Scarface emerged as a title worthy of the effort. Hey, I was as surprised as anybody. GTA derivative though it may be, combat and driving were both greatly improved, while the graphics and dialogue perfectly captured the swaggering appeal of Pacino's original gangster and his "leetle fren". Choo fokken right 'bout dat.
James Lyon: Yet another GTA clone saved from relative obscurity by extracting the best OTT elements from its source material.
48. N3: Ninety-Nine Nights
Xbox 360, Phantagram/Q Entertainment, Gamepage.
James: Give it a few years and it'll be ninety-nine pence, more like.
John Walker: The series peaked with Forty-Seven Nights, in my opinion. But that was only released in Czechoslovakia, and you wouldn't have played it.
Dave McCarthy: I wish everyone would stop slagging off massive battlefield action games because they're amazing.
Tom: I'm not sure that's why they're slagging them off.
47. Guitar Hero 2
PS2, Harmonix, Gamepage.
Dave: Even in spite of the continuing absence of The Weddoes and The Mac.
Luke Albiges: So the true game of the year comes lower in the list than UNO? Have none of you played Sweet Child O' Mine on co-op mode? None of you taken on Freebird on Expert? None of you used the all-important practice mode to nail solos without having to play through the same five minutes section first only to lose AGAIN? Sigh...
Tom: Didn't get the chance to play this properly, but from what I've seen it will probably only appeal to me if I do play it properly. Or rather, beyond properly, into the realms of precognitive fingering. Which is fine, since that was why I liked FreQuency and Amplitude, but doesn't speak of as much of a pick-up classic as the first one. I see no More Than A Feeling among its ranks, however hard you wank over Guns 'N Roses. I'd hoped the sequel would stretch further both ways.
Simon Parkin: It's better than Guitar Hero in almost every single way save the subjectivity of song selection and the sad but unavoidable fact that it came second and so had none of it's predecessor's impact.
Oli Welsh: The bass intro to Sweet Child Of Mine. That's all.
Kieron: Disappointing, but only in comparison to the original. Guitar Hero 2 just about perfected the non-air guitar technology at the expense of some of its taste in music. Still - when you're summoning Sweet Child Of Mine from the ether, it's a game that only the terminally misanthropic could hate. John?
Tom: I think he's saving himself.
Alec Meer: Though the game I played the most in the twilight weeks of 2006, it wasn't quite the sequel I'd hoped for. Needs more ludicrous hair rock and less generic shouty American thrash sung by idiots for idiots. To be specific, it needs some Creedence, man.
46. Guild Wars: Nightfall
PC, ArenaNet, Gamepage.
John: Did they add a jump button yet? No? Carry on.
Alec: I admire Guild Wars' concept enormously, but in practice it feels awkward and about as characterful as a lobotomised cabbage. Talk of its storyline campaign being much improved with Nightfall turned out to be nonsense as far as I'm concerned - I'm still playing as an uninteresting, weirdly floaty man killing fields full of uninteresting, weirdly floaty things.
Kieron: It's been a quiet year for MMOs. (Guild Wars isn't an MMO, some forumite will now announce. Shush, you.) While the actual release schedule hasn't slowed down in any way, none really made any significant impact. And of course in terms of sales and its impact in shaping online conversation, World of Warcraft continues to dominate in a way no other game ever has. Next year will see the first of the true post-WoW games, and things will hopefully become interesting again. In the meantime, ArenaNet quietly release the best Guild Wars yet and I urge everyone to play it.
Xbox 360, Carbonated Games, Gamepage.
Tom: Ellie's got a lot to answer for here.
Ellie Gibson: I've spent hours playing this during 2006. It's nice and relaxing, providing you turn off the headset so you can't hear the racists or people going, 'I bet your Xbox 360 belongs to your boyfriend, doesn't it.'
Simon: You do realise you can get this game AND FORTY ONE BETTER OTHER ONES in the DS's 42 All Time Classics, right?
Dan: Slightly unconventional perhaps, but what else is a boy to do when he realises that he's poured as many gameplay hours into an online card game as he did into Oblivion? Like all the best games of its type, UNO is deceptively simple and fiendishly deep all at the same time. It's also one of the few games to justify owning the Live Vision camera, allowing you to express dismay at being slapped with yet another Take 4 card using the number of raised fingers of your choice. Just leave the corny novelty packs out of it, OK?
Kieron: What a funny name for a game.
PSP, Ready At Dawn, Gamepage.
Tom: Ellie's got a lot to answer for here.
Ellie: Definitely one of my favourite games of the year. It looks just as good and plays just as well as the Jak and Daxter games, which are some of my all-time favourites. Top marks to the blokes at Ready At Dawn for producing a handheld game that's as enjoyable to play as the console originals. Also I fancy one of them but don't put that in.
John: You get to play an awesome serial killer/blood spatter pathologist who has the hottest sister in the history of time? And goes out with Darla from Buffy? Oh wait, I misread. Sorry, as you were.
Kieron: I guessed John was going to do a Dexter joke. He is THAT predictable.
43. Steambot Chronicles
PS2, Irem, Gamepage.
James: I'm predicting a lot of people asking, how they hell did this get in here? Steambot Chronicles will now imbue the user with a smugness factor of +2 when reeling off a list of lesser-known Japanese RPGs they've played. See also: Shadow Hearts, Xenosaga, Arc the Lad and Suikoden.
Keza MacDonald: I LOVE this game. It is the first Japanese RPG I've played in, ooh, probably five years that hasn't filled me with abject terror at the thought of having to play it. There are no levels, no grinding, no random effing battles, no turn-based nonsense, none of the crap that you typically have to plough through to find the good bits. It's quite badly made, no question, but it doesn't matter that the framerate's a bit dodgy and the controls aren't exactly perfect when a game's brave enough to dispense with pretty much every RPG convention in the name of fun. It's like one continuous, inventive, lovable 'town' section with giant robot battles and musical recitals randomly inserted. And nothing this year has equalled the excellent dreadfulness of 'Music Revolution', your off-key, badly-mixed musical reward for an extremely long and difficult trading sequence resulting in the invention of the electric guitar. Steambot Chronicles is rough around the edges, but it's beguilingly unique, which cannot be said for much these days.
42. Harvest Moon: Magical Melody
Cube, Natsume, Gamepage.
Mathew Kumar: The pinnacle of the Harvest Moon series so far, what it's lost in terms of the characterisation of the townsfolk it's gained in scope and potential. Scraping out a living on the barren land of a mismanaged farm shouldn't be this much fun.
Keza: FINALLY, Natsume has realised that Harvest Moon is for girls and has given us the option to play as one without having to purchase an alternate version (and, crucially, provided us with an adequate selection of attractive bachelors to marry instead of a paltry choice of huge-headed and/or eyeless freaks). Best Harvest Moon ever, with the most adorable cows and the very best balance between farm work and socialising.
41. Fight Night Round 3
Xbox 360, EA, Gamepage.
Kieron: Graphicsability high!
Tom: Certainly the best game for harvesting easy gamerpoints since King Kong.
Kristan: The best boxing game bar none. Wonderful, albeit limited in single player career mode, but absolutely superb in multiplayer against a skilled foe. The visuals are properly next gen too, if you have the 360 version, anyway. EA doesn't get enough credit around these parts, and this was one of its finest achievements in many a moon.
Alec: The 360's impressive flesh-quaking effects do an incredible job of regularly making me think I've accidentally killed my opponent. This should serve to remind me that boxing is a brutal, horrible sport and I shouldn't endorse it in any way, but actually it just makes me want to play Fight Night more. (I'd rather still be playing Rocky, but bloody Microsoft won't get it working on 360.)
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