2006 was a transitional year for gaming that saw the last generation of consoles bowing out with a bang thanks to the likes of Okami, Black and Yakuza. Meanwhile, the next generation was pointing towards gaming's potential with fresh ideas as seen in Wii Sports, Dead Rising and Rainbow Six Vegas. What's amazing is that none of those games even made our top five. So the question is - what games did?
Picking the best games of 2006 initially seemed like a tough job but these following games had that little extra to help them stand out from the crowd.
Guitar Hero II was arguably the game that kicked the rhythm-action genre into the mainstream while Gears of War dazzled us with its spectacle and made coverfire arguably the biggest gaming trend this generation. Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess was simply stunning, combining Nintendo's trademark development nuances with a brave new control system, while Final Fantasy XII wore its MMORPG influences on its sleeve and emerged as one of the most distinctive entries in the series to date.
The Winner: Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
After all is said and done, one game stands out as the best... and that game is Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Bethesda's RPG was a colossus, marrying towering ambition with almost pitch-perfect execution, as it drew in crowds from all across the gaming spectrum - hardcore FPS players, Japanese RPG aficianados, MMORPG fans...
And yet it's strange that such a stunning game starts so terribly. Make no mistake, the opening hour of the game is awkward, annoying and thoroughly awful. You trudge around a brown sewer killing rats while Patrick Stewart gibbers on about the jaws of Oblivion, emperors, gods and other incoherent babble you'd expect from the local park's tramp.
Then you hit the sewer exit and suddenly, Oblivion opens up before you. Go anywhere. Do anything. Sleep in the woods. Conjure demonic spiders to fight with you. Kill deer prancing about. Explore forts. Start fights with bears and have them chase you back into town where they can cause carnage. Turn invisible and start fights. Commit crimes, go to jail, break out of jail. It would be impossible to list all the things you could do.
It was the possibilities combined with the sheer depth that made Oblivion such a hit. By refusing to dumb itself down for consoles, Bethesda found players were willing to put the time in to learn the nuances and explore the world. Oblivion kept on giving as you put more and more time in, which was enhanced by excellent DLC support at a time when most publishers were wary of this strange, new method of delivering content.