Gears of War (Xbox 360)
What the hell just happened? Did we honestly pick Gears of War as the best game of 2006? No, that can't be. The plan was to throw juvenile tantrums and to violently thrash against the machine! To blind the world with an elitist badge and proclaim an innate resistance against games that are both popular and heavily marketed! It's a shooter, for Allard's sake. You shoot things. With guns.
The senseless violence is but one reason to look away from the screen in disgust. The other, as you may have concluded already, is the appalling state of the game's graphics. They make Pong look like an M.C. Escher painting being displayed in a room pumped full of hallucinogenic gas. If you can even discern your pixelated soldier from the flat environment, you'll note how you get repeatedly punished for running blindly into a hail of bullets and neglecting to take "cover." Not only is this completely unrealistic and contrary to modern warfare, it's a needless refinement to a bizarre, self-preservation concept in the genre. See, it's not even a very good shooter.
The complete lack of immersion and excitement carries over into the game's terrible online cooperative mode. Some idiot on your friends list can rudely jump into your game at any point and then proceed to get in your way at every available turn. Multiplayer deathmatch isn't any better, forcing you to work with 3 other buffoons (who can't even circle-strafe or jump) if you hope to succeed.
Add a forgettable MIDI soundtrack, poor pacing and a complete failure to emulate an action film to your considerations, and you become perfectly equipped to answer the pertinent question. Game of the year? Obviously not.
The runners-up are presented (in order) after the break.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii / Gamecube)
Oh please. Stripping you of automatic weapons and strapping you onto a single-horsepower vehicle, Twilight Princess is undoubtedly the most ill-conceived Grand Theft Auto clone released this year. Gone are the cityscapes and gangsters, unflaggingly replaced by fantasy groves and unnervingly polite elves. Indeed, what could have been a breath of fresh air in the sandbox genre turns out to be a garlic-laced belch. Some solace could have been found in the single dominatrix left in the game, had it not been for the giant hand growing out of her head.
Wii Sports (Wii, duh.)
People, these are supposed to be the games of the year, not the tech demos of the year. Ignoring the criminal exclusion of sports like Badminton, Polo and Cricket, it's hard to believe that any gamer would wish to engage in the non-stop flailing that passes for gameplay here. In fact, it's highly unlikely that Joystiq bloggers even managed to wrestle the controller away from grandpa and actually play this shallow mess.
Guitar Hero II (PS2)
No no no. Gimmicky controllers and role-playing games simply don't mix. That statement holds added weight in the face of derivative, on-rails gameplay and the most predictable storyline since Dance Dance Revolution. You're in a band, you play progressively better and you steadily rise to stardom? If you can block out the ancient rock tunes, you might even be able to hear the sound of Steve Tyler rapidly revolving in his grave.
New Super Mario Bros. (DS)
Wow. It uses two entire screens, but New Super Mario Bros. can't even manage proper 3D graphics. That's a full third of the dimensions missing! Further dishonesty can be found in the actual name -- Mario and Luigi are exactly the same characters they've always been. They run, they jump and they slam their heads into bricks. Does this sound like gameplay that would appeal to anybody?
Keep an eye on Joystiq for the rest of the day, as several bloggers will be posting their personal favorites that didn't make the cut. With any luck, their choices will be considerably less abysmal than the ones contained in this mockery of a list.
Sony PlayStation 2 1st-gen
Nintendo Wii console
Microsoft Xbox 360