5. Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction
I would have gone into a big long spiel about this game, but someone else on the net described it as "Grand Theft Auto: North Korea. That's all you need to know." I can't add anything to that. The sheer joy of tooling freely around a lovingly detailed and totally destroyable sandbox world with a remit from the world's governments to blow the crap out of everything you see cannot be described; it must be experienced. And so Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction is Game #5.
4. We Love Katamari
Who can forget when the miniscule Prince of All Cosmos first rolled up the hearts of a nation? Well, actually that was in 2004. This is the sequel. It's still great, though.
3. The Ur-Quan Masters
The Ur-Quan Masters is a modern open-source version of the classic early '90s game Star Control II. And the sad thing is, it kicks most "modern" games around the block with its vast, sprawling galaxy of hundreds of stars to explore, its elaborate storyline that reaches back to all the classics of written science fiction, its flexible and well-thought-out gameplay, and the grandly elegant way all the pieces come together at the last. Shame on you, modern gaming industry, for not being able to catch up to where you were in 1992. Anyway, if you have any sort of computer at all you can download The Ur-Quan Masters for free right here.
2. Ace Combat 5
One of my favoritest things to do in video games is operating an extremely expensive jet fighter in an irresponsible manner. It started with F/A-18 Interceptor on the Amiga and I've never been able to shake the habit, but that's okay, because here in the future we have Ace Combat 5. Building on AC4's amazing graphics and elegant mixture of arcade gameplay with flight-sim trappings, AC5 not only jazzes up the gameplay with startling set-piece encounters and the spiffy wingman control system but also adds what is just about the best storytelling I've ever seen in a video game, constantly upping the ante as the missions develop one after another until the whole world's fate is in your hands and, at the end of it all, you care what happens to it. AC5 is the real deal. That's all I can say.
1. Timesplitters: Future Perfect
What's this? A dark horse candidate charging in at #1? Well, yeah, it is weird. Timesplitters: Future Perfect wasn't even on this list when I first drafted it. But once I reviewed the games I'd played this year, I realized I couldn't forget Timesplitters. Not because the gameplay is innovative (though it's clean and polished) and not because the graphics are groundbreaking (though there are certainly no grounds for complaint) and not because it'll keep you busy for months (a few days is more like it) but simply because of the sheer joy in creation that shines through every part of the game. The dialogue is sharp and funny, the cutscenes are fall-on-the-floor hilarious, each stage has unique weapons and unique gameplay challenges, and there's a vast stack of challenge and multiplayer modes to try out with 150 (!) characters to unlock. Somebody had fun making this. (And, uh, if you're from Free Radical Design and are about to write in to tell me developing this game was in actuality an agonizing nightmare of nonstop crunch... well, er... let me keep my illusions just a little longer, okay?) For being what video games are all about, Timesplitters: Future Perfect is my #1 game of 2005.
So what are your top games of 2005? You don't have to draw pictures for them too, though you can if you want.