10a. (TIE) Stubbs the Zombie in "Rebel Without a
Pulse" (PC, Mac, Xbox)
These 2 games tie for the bottom of the list, as games that are too new to really be hidden gems, but seem destined
for that category. Based on the Halo engine (and developed by
many of the same people who worked on Halo),
Stubbs is the story of a zombie as he seeks out his next meal of
human brains. Armed with only his body, Stubbs can use his detachable hand to control his enemies (and whatever weapons
they may have equipped). The game has everything that makes the original Halo
fun (even vehicles) and adds humor to the title.
Stubbs the Zombie
also has a great soundtrack, featuring such artists as The Flaming Lips, Death
Cab for Cutie, and Cake performing classic tracks ("Strangers in
the Night," for example). Even if you have no interest in this game (or video games in general), you might want to
picking up the soundtrack on CD.
Metacritic Average: 77 (out of 100)
Price: $50 new at GameStop (Xbox), $34 new at
Amazon (PC, Mac)
10b. (TIE) Indigo Prophecy
(PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox)
The adventure game-equivalent to 24, Fahrenheit: Indigo
Prophecy follows Lucas Kane as he tries to solve the mystery of why
he unwillingly killed a man in the diner. The game is called a reinvention of the adventure genre, as most everything
moves in constant time - even the dialogues are timed so that you have to be very quick to choose what you want to say.
As many reviews have stated, the game is nowhere near perfect, but very few adventure games have come out lately, so
this was indeed a breath of fresh air.
Metacritic Average: 83 (out of 100)
Price: $40 at GameStop
Best described as a sensual acid trip, Rez is a rail shooter
known for its visceral wireframe visuals and lush techno soundtrack. The game is not too hard - choose a direction
every so often, point and shoot - but its presentation is so unique that you could not help but stare at the screen in
awe. Tetsuya Mizuguchi, who would later wow the world with Lumines
and Meteos, designed this
game as a sort of synaesthesia, or mixing of the senses (seeing
sounds, hearing colors, etc.). It is a trip of a gem.
did not become a mega-seller, but no one could have expected a game like this to
appeal to mainstream audiences. Rez has received some rather
"interesting" news for its limited packaging (Japan only) of a trance vibrator. Game Girl Advance has a very famous
article on the various
uses for the device.
Metacritic Average: 78 (out of 100)
Price: You can find it on
eBay for highly inflated prices - we can only pray for a re-release (or an even crazier successor next
8. Killer 7
(GameCube, PlayStation 2)
Say what you will about the game, but there is nothing quite like Killer 7.
The game drips originality and audacity. It is ultra-violent,
profane, and mature in every sense of the word. This is a
game that takes adult themes and gives them a reason. You play Harman Smith, a wheelchair-bound assassin who uses his 7
multiple personalities (which can actually manifest themselves into physical beings) to obliterate anyone in their path
(in this case, a group of suicide bombers known affectionately as the Heaven's Smile).
The game took quite a bit of
flak for its control scheme - it only allows you to run on
set paths, switching to first person only to shoot. It takes some getting used to, but this control scheme allows for
the developers (Grasshopper, now working on
for the Nintendo DS) to use cinematic camera angles. The game is first and
foremost a storyteller, but once you learn to handle the railway controls (which takes little more than an
understanding of cardinal directions), you will thoroughly enjoy the ride.
Average: 74 (out of 100)
Price: $30 new at
7. Alien Hominid
(GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox)
Alien Hominid is quite possibly the biggest success story of this
feature - it rose from online obscurity, created as a flash game by the guys who run Newgrounds, into a published
console title. Creators Tom Fulp and Dan Paladin have made a colorful throwback to shooting games like Metal
Games like these are very hard to come by on current generation consoles, especially considering this is a pure-2D
outing. This is a game, however, that proves technology is not everything.
Average: 78 (out of 100)
Price: $20 new at the Alien
Quite possibly the oldest game on the list, Ikaruga
(which translates as Spotted Dove in English) was originally
released as an Arcade game in 2000, then Dreamcast in 2002, and finally released on the GameCube in 2003. It is an
insanely challenging top-down shooter with one unique twist: at any point in the game you can press a button to change
the "polarity" of your ship (from black/red to white/blue). The polarity causes you to absorb enemy blasts of the same
color, which is essential to get through the game, as laser blasts fill up the screen pretty fast. People who can beat
this game are practically worshipped
As a genre, top-down shooters are not generally popular in
the United States. It is a shame, too, because this is a game everyone (even old-school gamers) can
Average: 85 (out of 100)
Price: $25 used at GameStop
5. Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem
Nintendo's response to Resident Evil, all but forgotten when
Resident Evil 4 completely reinvented the franchise, Silicon
Knights' Eternal Darkness was unique for its epic plot (which
starts in 26 BC and concludes in 2000 AD), clever story (just beat the game 3 times to see) and its ingenious sanity
meter. As monsters appeared the character's sanity slowly decreased, and only by slaying the monsters in a dramatic
pose could you retain your sanity. If the meter dropped too low, crazy effects happened to both the character and the
screen as well - false game resets, sound muting, random decapitations of main character (and recitations of
Hamlet once the head is picked up), etc.
The game sold horribly, probably due in large part to
Nintendo's "kiddy" image. Silicon Knights has gone from a 2nd-party Nintendo-exclusive partner to working on
an exclusive Nordic-inspired action trilogy for Microsoft's Xbox 360, entitled Too Human.
For $9.99, this game is a must-buy.
Average: 92 (out of 100)
Price: $10 used at GameStop
Created by Fumuto Ueda, Ico tells the story of a young horned boy (Ico) who must help a young princess escape
a castle overpopulated by creepy shadows and dangerous environmental traps. The game is a puzzler at heart, and has an
atmosphere like no other. Despite critical reviews, the game has only sold around 650,000 units - a marginal number by
Fortunately, there is justice in the world - Ueda's latest
epic, Shadow of the Colossus, has been a success, both critically
(we loved it) and financially. The game, while not
directly related to Ico, definitely shares in the same style, as
well as including many references and allusions to the world of Ico.
This February, Sony plans to
in Europe, as copies of the game are currently going for over $100 US on
Metacritic Average: 90 (out of 100)
Price: $20 used at GameStop
3. Disgaea: Hour of Darkness
There are so many great things to say about a game featuring a character named "Mid-Boss." Atlus, a company known for
its Tactics Ogre and Ogre Battle
franchises, decided to publish this game in limited supplies to North America.
Disgaea follows the young and ambitious demon prince Laharl as he
fights his way through competition to remain the baddest guy in the land. The game was a breath of fresh air for
tactical games, with its enjoyable combo system and hilarious dialogue. This is one of the few games where we always
looked forward to the between-battle cut scenes.
Disgaea's sales were not dismal, but the title was
hard to come by due to limited quantities. In fact, it was one of GameFly's top 10 rentals for September 2003. Atlus
decided to re-release the game on May 25, 2004. Developer
Nippon Ichi has since gone on to self-publish many of its own games, including Phantom Brave
and La Pucelle. Even
better, Nippon Ichi has announced a sequel for
Disgaea, set for release on February 23, 2006 in
Average: 84 (out of 100)
Price: $45 used at GameStop
2. Beyond Good & Evil
(GameCube, PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox)
An adventure game with social commentary, Michel Ancel's game was a solid statement against censorship. The story,
while short, was very polished and featured some fine voice acting - not to mention, you actually cared for the
characters and their well-being. The game was a true cult classic, as it commercially flopped.
The game must not have been that bad, though, as it
attracted gamers as high-profile as Peter Jackson. In fact, Jackson has been quoted quite a few times as saying he
personally chose Ancel to make the King
Kong video game because of his love for Beyond Good &
Metacritic Average: 87 (out of
Price: $10-$15 used at
GameStop; also available on GameTap
(PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox)
Tim Schafer has a long, celebrated history in computer gaming. Working with LucasArts for over a decade, Schafer is
responsible (at least in some small way) for Grim Fandango, Day of the Tentacle, Full
Throttle, and the Monkey Island
series - all stylized adventure games known for their humor.
Psychonauts was Schafer's first game after he left LucasArts to
form Double Fine production. The game was absolutely hilarious, with dozens of hours of hilarious dialogue and a very
solid adventure involving a cast of characters an ingenious as Nightmare Before
Christmas. In the game, you play as Raz, a novice
Psychonaut who must venture into various minds (each with its own
unique environment and gameplay style) to solve the mysteries and unfold a sinister plot.
Unfortunately, the game (published by Majesco after
Microsoft shied away) did not sell as well as hoped, and Majesco faced quite a few
financial woes after the dismal reception to both this
game and Advent Rising.
Average: 87 (out of 100)
Price: $45 used at GameStop (PS2, Xbox), $30 at
Conclusion: Where is my Katamari
This list is by no means perfect - some games did not make the cut simply because they had already garnered moderate
success and/or media exposure
Shadow of the
Colossus) or for other various reasons, but
we feel these are the 10 or so games that deserve your immediate attention. Did we miss anything? Let us know and we
will compile your picks for a reader's choice feature in the upcoming days.