Gamers smile on 2003's best

Critics: The enthusiastic father-and-son team picks 25 assorted favorite titles from last year's play.

January 01, 2004|By Chip Carter and Jonathan Carter | Chip Carter and Jonathan Carter,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Here's a little something to ring in the New Year: our 15th annual compilation of last year's best games. These are the top 25 titles that kept our thumbs twitching all year long.

Before you bombard us with e-mails complaining about our choices, remember a couple of things:

1. This list is completely subjective;

2. It's alphabetical, and

3. Yes, we are stupid.

Advance Wars 2, for Game Boy Advance: Despite the cartoony graphics and sometimes silly banter, this is deadly serious combat. It's fitting that the enemy is named Black Hole - that must be where all the untold hours we put into this one disappeared.

Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge, for Xbox: This is what America would have been like in the 1930s if the Wright Brothers and Henry Ford had hooked up. No one drives, everyone flies, pedestrians will be shot on sight.

Culdcept, for PlayStation 2: A Magic-style card game meets a Monopoly-style board game in a fantasy-fest that's simply addictive.

Eyetoy, for PS2: See me on TV! Sure, Eyetoy is a one-trick pony, putting you on screen in the middle of the action, but what a trick!

F-Zero GX, for GameCube: Speed, speed, speed and more speed made this one zing.

Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, for GBA: FF fans finally got a chance to show off their strategic chops.

Fire Emblem, for GBA: Like digital crack, this amazing strategy-meets-fantasy gem of a game hooked us hard.

Freedom Fighters, for various: The story of a Brooklyn plumber launching a rebellion against occupying Soviet forces in an alternate version of history.

The Legend of Zelda, The Wind Waker, for GC: How could a Zelda game not be on this list? Especially when it's possibly the best Zelda ever.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, for various: A dazzling retelling of an epic saga, with more than an hour of video and cinematics that do the story justice.

Madden NFL 2004, for various: Despite a strong challenge from NFL Fever, the king of video football is still the king. Long live the king! But guys, there are a couple of things we hope you'll fix next year. Call us.

Mario Kart Double Dash, for GC: This classic got a great makeover that's twice as much fun with the inclusion of two riders on every kart. Hey, the more the merrier, right?

Medal of Honor: Rising Sun, for various: The classic Medal of Honor World War II series moves to the Pacific, and it's never looked better.

Need for Speed Underground, for various: Pump it up! This edition of NFS lets you take your time to build the perfect beast.

NHL Rivals, for Xbox: Maybe the smoothest hockey game ever, with flawless physics and awesome handling. A free-agent pool that includes Maxim magazine's heroic Hiroki Tada and us doesn't hurt, either.

Phantasy Star Online 1 and 2, for GC: This astonishing RGP showed Cube owners what Dreamcast fans knew a few years ago: Phantasy Star Online is one of the all-time greats.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, for various: An old classic gets the most remarkable makeover in recent memory.

Project Gotham Racing 2, for various: Burn rubber, baby - there wasn't a better racer made this year.

Skies of Arcadia Legends, for GC: This massive role-playing game lets you take the battle to the bad guys over ground or through the air.

Soul Caliber II, for various: Easily the year's best fighting game, and one of the best ever.

SSX 3, for various: You'd think we'd be tired of snowboarding games by now, but this one shows how far you can take things without all that cold and messy snow.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, for various: Know how many times we've wished we could include a Star Wars game on this list? Thanks to George and his peeps for dropping this sweetheart on us.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004, for various: Tiger and Co. turn our previous cries of "Bore!" to cheers of "Fore!"

Top Spin Tennis, for Xbox: Never in a million years did we think a tennis game would wind up on our annual best-of list. Here it is. Surprised? Then you haven't played it yet.

Wario Ware, Inc.: Mega Microgames, for GBA: This collection of mini-games is Wario's finest hour - and one of Nintendo's as well.

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