2005 was quite possibly the best year of the console generation. It saw the release of a slew of highly praised and influential titles, but more importantly, it saw the release of some very artistic and captivating games that took an original take on a tried and true genre formula.

Radiata Stories is a very unique RPG. While at first glance it's your typical JRPG filled to the brim with cliches, it quickly expands into an almost Sims-like experience, with over 170 recruitable characters meandering about in regular daily schedules. Just about any character you see can be recruited, and to do so you need to follow them on their routines and see if they need help with something. And as per usual with Tri-Ace games, the battle system is quite fun.

Dawn of Sorrow is yet another Castlevania utilizing the "Metroidvania" (which is an infinitely more aesthetically pleasing term than "Castleroid", so please stop using that) formula inducted by the eternal classic, Symphony of the Night. And when I say, "formula", I mean it. By this point in the series' history, the formula was getting a little old. Nevertheless, Dawn of Sorrow is still a pretty fun game, but despite an extreme makeover, it doesn't even live up to the quality standards set by its GBA predecessors.

Tekken has almost always been a reliable source of fighting game amusement, but with Tekken 5, Namco has completely pulled out the stops and created one of the best recent games in the genre. Throwing in a few interesting new characters, bringing a horde of old ones out of retirement, and vastly improving some of the less impressive characters from Tekken 4, Tekken 5 is a complete package that no fighting enthusiast should go without.

Soul Calibur III is a real love-it or hate-it title. If you look at it as an overall package, with its throwaway psuedo-strategy mini game and its really ridgid character customization engine, one could say that it's a step down from its predecessors. But one must remember, Soul Calibur III is a fighting game. The fighting engine is all that matters, and everything else is just extra baggage. As a fighting game, Soul Calibur III is the most solid and well-balanced entry in the series so far with the exception of Soul Calibur on Dreamcast. A console version of the bug-fixed Arcade Edition would be nice, Namco.

Battlefront II improves on the overall mechanics of Battlefront in almost every way imaginable. But some more linear stage design and far too unreasonable enemy AI eliminate some of chaotic fun that came with Battlefront. Depending on how serious of a player you are, Battlefront II will either be better or worse than the original. One improvement we can all agree on, however, is the addition of Jedi, Sith, and other hero characters from the films, which adds a whole new dimension of play.

In an industry so polluted with formulaic and uninspired first person shooters that they seem to ooze out of its every pore like toxic sludge, Stranger's Wrath offers one of the most original and refreshing experiences to be had in the genre. As a simple FPS, its level design and mechanics are more than enough to make it a paramount shooter, but it goes into so much more depth with some elements of stealth, strategy, and excellent platforming. The only shooter on XBox that even comes close to Stranger's Wrath is Chronicles of Riddick.

Tim Schafer is without a doubt one of the most brilliant minds in the gaming industry. After years of success with Lucsarts, imagining such timeless classics as Monkey Island and Grim Fandango, Schafer went out on his own to create what is quite possibly the greatest platformer of the generation, if not ever. A bold statement indeed, but one Psychonauts has no trouble living up to. Anybody who considers themselves a true gamer and doesn't own this title loses some major points.

While only released in the US recently, Rogue Galaxy has been around for well over a year in Japan, thus qualifies as a 2005 title. Level 5, already showing their gusto with games like Dark Cloud 2 and Dragon Quest VIII, have created yet another beautiful and mesmerizing RPG. The intense action of the fast-paced but strategic combat system, the level of depth and detail in the game's locales, and some of the best storytelling outside of Final Fantasy make Rogue Galaxy THE RPG of this generation.

MGS3 was already a stellar title, but there were a few flaws holding it back from perfection. Answering the prayers of his fans, Kojima unleashed Subsistence, which fixes the glaring problems in the original release, such as the no longer functional bird's eye view, and adding an extremely well executed online multiplayer mode. To top it all off are a horde of extras the likes of which not even Working Designs has given us, including a bunch of hilarious videos, a motion-picture assortment of cutscenes, and the original MSX versions of Metal Gear and Solid Snake, available in glorious English for the very first time. This is the ultimate Metal Gear package.

I had always had a gut feeling that Shadow of the Colossus would be something special. Part of it was because of its creator; Ueda was already well known for one of the finest works of the generation, Ico. Another part of it was the design of the game. I'd never seen anything so visually inspired and breathtaking in all my life. But still, I held a bit of skeptism. I wasn't sure how a game with litterally nothing but a succession of boss fights would work. Therefore, I was completely shocked to find that it was quite simply perfect, a true masterpiece of modern gaming with every facet of its design overflowing with pure brilliance. Almost every aspect of Shadow of the Colossus represents the greatest level of quality that aspect has ever seen in the history of games, from its powerful, profound imagery and cinematics, to its epic, sweeping, and mesmerizing soundtrack, and most of all to its unforgettable encounters that make the game what it is. Shadow of the Colossus is a masterpiece, and that's all there is to it.

And that was 2005. An unforgettable year for gaming with so many brilliant titles that it's almost cruel for me to have to decide between them. Before you send me e-mail, please note that I am well aware God of War and Resident Evil 4 are not in this list. I didn't forget about them. Thank you.

List by GaIcian (02/15/2007)

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