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The Game of the Year 2003 is…

Game of the Year

Runner-up: Rise of Nations

Every once in a while, a game comes along that completely revolutionizes a genre of gaming. These games are few and far between, and often the most successful games of the day, and a foundation on which further games of the genre are built upon. Rise of Nations is this type of game. Just as Half-life revolutionized first-person shooters and Tomb Raider transformed action games, Rise of Nations marks the most elaborate leap in real-time strategy games since Star Craft. The great thing about it is though; Rise of Nations doesn’t do very much different than other strategy games. It simply takes the best ideas from a wide variety of games, like Civilization 2, Empire Earth, and Age of Empires, and combines it into one unique package that is sure to please anyone.

Quite simply put, this is the pinnacle of RTS excellence. I would be shocked and dismayed if any other RTS game released in the next two years, excluding a sequel to this one, was better than this. Seriously people, this is not only one of the best RTS games ever made, but quite possibly one of the best games ever made, period. Even if you aren’t a fan of the genre, at least check out the demo and give the game a shot.

Runner-up: Wario Ware

Do you have a short attention span? Do long, drawn-out adventures like Final Fantasy X hold your interest for a while and then gather dust on a lonely shelf with the rest of your unfinished games? Do you take pills because a talking head in a white coat brainwashed you and your parents into believing that your hyperactivity inhibits all normal interaction with society? If so, then you may not know it yet, but Wario Ware Inc.: Mega Microgames is screaming to you from the confines of its glass display case to procure it through any means necessary. Wario Ware was made for a purpose, and that is to bring pleasure to the gamer who dares not finish a game that requires more than a ten-hour investment. What it does is throw a slew of mini-games at you extremely fast in the hopes that your brain will shut down due to overloading while processing ungodly amounts of visual information. While most of its miniature treats are easily conquerable, they are no less entertaining for it, but even better, it finally gives citizens of the States a taste of that trademark Japanese quirkiness that is only hinted at in magazines and tame offerings that play with our minds just a little bit but cater more to our more realistic sensibilities.

3rd Place: Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3

The name Rainbow Six has always been synonymous with high quality, tactical shooting action, but R63 brings the series to an entirely new level of excellence with its greatly improved gameplay responsiveness and gorgeous graphics. If you are a current subscriber to Xbox Live, then consider this an absolute must have because it is one of the most entertaining online games to be released in recent memory. Next to Halo there is no better first person shooter currently available on the Xbox system.

2nd equal: Mario Kart Double Dash!!

Mario Kart: Double Dash!! doesnít offer massive polygon-intensive environments with photo realistic textures. Nor does it blow our minds with earth shattering gameplay innovations. But what it does do, better than any other game to be released this year (on any system) for that matter, is provide hours and hours of pure, unadulterated, multiplayer gaming bliss. Whether itís just you and a buddy looking to play through the Grand Prix mode cooperatively or 16 gamer friends of yours itching for some LAN action, Double Dash will provide all the out-of-control racing action youíll ever need. There were a handful of worthy GameCube titles all vying for our attention during the GOTY voting process, but in the end the insanely high fun factor and multiplayer appeal were the wild cards that won it for Nintendoís charismatic kart racer.

2nd equal: EyeToy: Play

It’s great to have a game that’s different from the rest and it’s even better when that game excels in what it does. Sony’s innovative EyeToy is just that, a shining light amongst all the unimaginative titles that fill the shop shelves. The EyeToy slices through social boundaries, the fun and accessible gameplay directed not through a controller, but your body’s movement.

The included USB camera is the game’s key. It sits on top of your TV, watching your every move. When baloons, ninjas or pointers appear onscreen, you simply move your arms, legs or whatever other limbs you have spare to control the game. The concept is so simple, yet so brilliant. Anyone can play it, from little Timmy to Grandma and Grandpa. Multiplayer is a unique and enthralling experience and one you’re not likely to forget.

Sony’s EyeToy: Play doesn’t deserve this award just because it’s a good game; it deserves it because it makes gaming so accessible and fun. Videogames has always had a ‘geeky’ stereotype and a few games have been gradually dismembering this preconception. The EyeToy does more though; it smashes it apart completely. Sony’s gem is a glimpse of the future, a great game that excels in everything it does. Buy it.

Overall Game of the Year 2003: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

The ingenious folks over at BioWare have created a truly remarkable role-playing game set in the Star Wars universe. Self-proclaimed Jedi gamers across the globe have been waiting patiently for a Star Wars RPG of this magnitude to be released, and this year their collective dreams finally came true. Knights is absolutely amazing in every way possible, but arguably its most extraordinary feature is an epic storyline that makes Lucasí own recent film efforts look pathetic in comparison. Not only is this Xbox Game of the Year, but it could also be legitimately considered Role-Playing Game of the Decade. Needless to say, owning an Xbox and not owning this game is out and out blasphemy.

The author of this fine article

is the Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in November 2000. Get in touch on Twitter @PhilipMorton.

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