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Reader Top 50 of 2005: 20-11

Cars, death, and even a touch of music.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

20 Project Gotham Racing 3

Xbox 360 / Microsoft / Bizarre Creations

Dean Choudhuri-Bennett: "The cars they be sexy oh yes. They make the good noise, and I can smell the calfskin interior aaah baby, as I gaze down in the dashboard view. The racing it be sublime and the Xbox livage is teh gr8 indeed."

Leo Tan: "Race what you want, where you want, when you want. A totally free structure that does away with the work and lets the gamer choose how they want to play. Also the best handling of any driving game ever (though not by any means the most realistic). If only all games were this friendly."

Zomoniac: "What's not to love? So essentially it's an Xbox game with graphics and sound to die for, but why is that a bad thing? When you've got the best playing racer in the world that most people think is pretty much perfect in terms of feel and control, why would you change it? Take a great formula, make it visually and sonically out of this world, put in great new online features and you can't go wrong. The single-player structure might be a bit off-putting and basic to some, but once you're on the track and on the astonishing in-car view with the sound turned up, the rest is really quite irrelevant."

What we said: "PGR3 is an excellent, well-refined racing game. Cone Challenges, Drift Challenges, Street Races, Hot Laps, Eliminators, Time vs Kudos (where you stop the ticking down of the clock by playing up to the Kudos system - an excellent idea) - all are good, most are ridiculously compulsive thanks to the superb balancing of the medal targets, so much so that you'll happily pause and restart them every time you spin off and the chap ahead quickly builds up an unassailable lead. And while the range of challenges will probably feel a bit narrow to people who have stuck with the series since its birth on the Dreamcast, the temptation to try and scale those greater heights will appeal to the arcade mentality that still lurks within a lot of players."

19 Killer 7

PS2, Cube / Capcom / Capcom

Jesper Marksell: "I love the way this game gets your mind going. Never once does it pat you on the back or tell you things clearly. Sure, the gameplay is a bit flawed, but a game that oozes of atmosphere, intelligence and throws about a dozen of layered stories and subtitles at the player is worthy of a GOTY. One of the few games around that actually leaves an impression on the player instead of making you feel empty once you've finished it."

Florian Dhesse: "This game has balls. A very unique universe by its graphics, sounds and story. For once, something that tries to go beyond the industry templates."

What we said: "It's a concept game, an arthouse game, a simple game, an often beautiful game, but most certainly never an everyman's game. For some people Killer 7 will be deemed awful, shallow, impenetrable, undesirable. It's a game that's sure to polarise opinion, but this reviewer swung from loving it to hating it and eventually to admiring it despite its obvious flaws. You just wish Capcom had gone all the way and done something truly mesmerising with gaming, so you could say yours truly is personally disappointed that it's ended up merely being a stylised shooter. But taken on its own merits, it's a damned fine effort and it's earned itself a fan here - certainly in the context of any future drunken rant on the subject. Just try it."

18 Trackmania Sunrise

PC / Digital Jesters / Nadeo

32: "It is without a doubt the most fun and challenging driving game there is. Top that with a FANTASTIC track editor that allows some crazy designs. And the best and most supportive and active community I have ever been part of!"

Andrew Meggs: "Being able to spray 'pwned you' on the back of my car, beeping my horn as I pass my 'less skilled' online opponents before turbo-boosting into the side of an apartment block and plummeting into the water below, but trying again and again to win, not always against others but a victory against the fiendish tracks themselves - a true 'infinitely replayable' title of the 21st century."

Mike: "Endless supply of new tracks, developer listens to community hence regular free updates/improvements, great online community, visually excellent, customisable, runs on naff PCs, inspires creativity, competitive and challenging, never boring."

Gareth Qually: "Pure arcade fun. Looks stunning and has that hard to define 'sandbox' sense of fun. And my daughter likes painting cars in it."

What we said: "Compared to its predecessor, it looks better, moves faster, throws you further and loves you more. The track design is more extraordinary than ever and full of flourishes that I can barely begin to emulate with my own creations, the new gameplay modes fit right in, and indeed Platform is arguably more addictive than anything in the first game all by itself. There is more of the same in here, but it's more of the same with 900mph flying bells on, and the result is a must-buy game. An exquisite synthesis of the racing and puzzle genres."

17 Advance Wars: Dual Strike

DS / Nintendo / Intelligent Systems

Chris Jones: "One tiny cartridge, hundreds of hours of enjoyment. This portable game has had me totally hooked, on aeroplanes, on trains, during fire drills - and at home, taking precedence over my bigger consoles too."

Scott: "This game has eaten my brain. Easy to pick up and play for a quick game, but usually ending up with a bleary 3am finish and a disgruntled girlfriend... oops."

What we said: "It's certainly true enough that Dual Strike doesn't appear to offer much more than the previous versions on the surface, but dig a little deeper and it's obvious there's so much more to it. As long-term fans might expect, Intelligent Systems' uncanny knack of being able to come up with fresh ideas and more challenging maps and missions is the reason we keep coming back. Whether you've played it before or you're a newcomer wondering what the fuss is about, it stands out as one of the finest handheld games ever. Resistance is futile. Buy it, play it, love it."

16 Psychonauts

PS2, Cube, Xbox, PC / Majesco / Double Fine

Gyruss: "If you'd played Psychonauts, it was fairly obvious why it was game of the year. But let me elaborate with two words. Milkman. Conspiracy."

James Coombe: "Psychonauts was one of a tiny handful of games this past few years that actually made me smile deep inside while playing (along with laughing out loud), It's smart, ingenious and of course rather unique - a trademark of everything Tim Schafer. It appears that not many people are playing it. What a shame."

What we said: "Whether you get on with its sense of humour is crucial, obviously, to getting past the few flaws that are inherent, but ultimately Psychonauts is perhaps most deserving of praise because even though it's been, we'd imagine, deliberately engineered to smooth out a platform game experience so it's suitable for all comers - never too hard, never obtuse, rarely even confusing, optionally kleptomaniacal - it knows gamers well enough to wink at them from anywhere you might expect to look for a mistake."

15 F.E.A.R.

PC / Vivendi-Universal / Monolith

Gary: "I loved the feeling of something new in a FPS. The Matrix-esque style and the horror theme. Half-Life 2 was a disappointment for me but this exceeded all my expectations and then some. Just a pure thrill ride from start to finish."

Richard Bailey: "The Ending! It's like a movie. I've never played a game that has such a good ending. Although it can be pretty easy - it's by far the most enjoyable game I've played this year."

Timo Karp: "FEAR featured not much innovation or creativity for sure, but it's the same fluid, smooth gameplay and polished presentation of something completed, something that - like a good movie - can simply stand on its own, which made Half-Life 2 and Riddick so good last year."

What we said: "Slow motion gun battles tied to an engine that articulates carnage with the furious eloquence of a caffeinated linguist, bound together by people who've seen a lot of Asian horror, uniting to spread memorable moments over a bed of visceral excitement. Were it not for its time manipulation though, it would suffer - and certainly can't compare to Half-Life 2's timelessness on that basis. Buy it because it's a glorious novelty that won't wear off for its duration, but do expect things to move past it in the coming years. For now, it's worth celebrating because it's put the fun back into FPS punctuation."

14 Lumines

PSP / Ubisoft / Q Entertainment

Alan Harding: "This amazing combination of hypnotic Rez-like sight and sound with mesmerising Tetris-like gameplay obliterated my long held belief that advances in technology could do nothing to improve the basic falling block puzzler. With my Tetris DX habit finally supplanted by this potent Class A mix, I sank a worryingly large percentage of my waking hours during 2005 into this bloody game. Luckily I eventually managed to hit the 999,999-point ceiling which thankfully gave me a reason to stop playing the damn thing."

Elliot Rayson: "When I first saw Lumines, I instantly dismissed it as a boring clone of Tetris, I thought my money was better spent on something with a bit of length, like Liberty City Stories. I was very wrong. After a lot of deliberation I finally took the plunge and bought Lumines, and it is by far the best game to be released in 2005. The amazing audio, crisp graphics and the way you slowly get better without even realising turns it into a masterpiece."

Jonathan Burroughs: "For my mind a title with unique replayability (to disgracefully use tired GamesMaster review terminology) of an almost addiction-inducing quality. A truly beautiful symbiosis of the visual and the aural - a frantic LASER light show of colour and music fused with intuitive and simple puzzle joy, which is taken to a new level when the experience is shared during wireless multiplayer. I\'ll quote like some video games hermit in saying so, but it has without question provided me with some of the most intensely enjoyable experiences of the year, on the move or in my toasty warm armchair. Glorious hyperbole!"

What we said: "This is a genre that demands brilliance of concept and execution, variation in play conditions, subtlety of design and careful management of the endgame, and while most of the best-rated puzzle games come close in a few areas, Lumines sweeps across the lot."

13 Call of Duty 2

PC, Xbox 360 / Activision / Infinity Ward

Bart Breij: "This wasn't a good year at all and this was the game I liked to play most of all. On Xbox 360 that is. It should have patches for its only matchmaking-system NOW. But it's a nice playing game all the way. And therefore this is my number one."

Mike Sheppard: "Relentless pacing, realistic interpretation of harsh war, amazing graphics and AI. A rare example of a game that makes you feel like your accomplishing something with every move you make."

What we said: "Infinity Ward's latest effort unquestionably refines the cinematic World War II shooter genre to new giddy heights of bombastic brilliance. Taken in isolation, it's a thrilling demonstration of how far the genre has come in delivering compelling combat and wrapping that in the most cinematic and immersive fashion we've seen. If only Infinity Ward wasn't so content to trip on the bootlaces of its own lack of gameplay ambition we'd be more excited."

12 Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

PS2, Xbox, PC / Rockstar / Rockstar North

Ben Mayo: "For me, this was the complete game. The storyline was utterly flawless and the level design was fantastic. The sheer scale of the map was amazing and there was just so much you could do. Genius."

Davo: "Coming out on Xbox in 2005, it was simply the most engaging and fun title of the year (I have yet to be able to play Psychonauts). Just driving around the massive islands, the missions with the psychotic woman from the back woods - the optional challenge of getting a boat over to one of the other islands before they are unlocked and seeing how long you can survive as the entire states military force attempts to gun you down... There's just so much fun to be had in the game and so much effort involved in its creation, it has to be my choice no. 1. Hot Coffee be damned."

What we said: "As it stands now, it's far from perfect. But, divisive though its hip-hop ideology may be, and under-furnished some areas may feel, it still edges close enough often enough to be worthy of one of our highest marks. To put it another way, when I sit down of an evening and can't think of what to play, nine times out of ten I'm likely to settle for a Grand Theft Auto game. This one's no different. Low-rides over the 8/9 threshold. Now let's bounce."

11 Civilization 4

PC / 2K Games / Firaxis

Peter O'Mara: "The only game this year to keep me awake until the early hours of the morning. With four kids in the house any game that can make me miss sleep must be good."

Ian: "One... More... Turn..."

Mathias Ernst: "Like all iterations of Civ, this is the best game ever made. It's simply a more refined Civ experience. It's also an anomaly in the theory of general relativity since it obviously distorts time in much the same way as a black hole, but without the gravitational field."

Simon Casey: "After 2/3 years of waiting for the next instalment, anything would have sufficed. And then It came - and it blew the rest of the series out of my ass! Gone was the grot and frustration of Civilization III to be replaced by a better, nay, near-perfect way to ruin your social life. It is the most bladder-crippling, starvation-inducing, friend-losing, wife-annoying, sickie-pulling game ever to grace the PC. Sleep is for console owners - I'm getting back to world-domination!"

What we said: "Reviewing Civ often feels like trying to review a world. Notice the number of times the phrase 'for example' has turned in this piece. All we're doing is grabbing something, pointing it at you and saying 'Hey - this bit's neat. There is lots more stuff like that.' So - this bit's neat. There's a lot more stuff like that."

Come back tomorrow for your top ten. OHMIGODWHATSNUMBERONEIMUSTKNOW!!????

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