Games of 2003 - ranked by preference
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Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne - PlayStation 2
Release Date: February 20, 2003 (JP)
Persona 2 was my introduction to the Shin Megami Tensei universe, but Nocturne was the game that solidified the fact that the SMT games would become one of my favorite game franchises. From a gameplay standpoint, Nocturne really knocks everything out of the park...From the fun aspect of exploiting the weakness of your enemies in combat, to having conversations with demons in an attempt to get them to join you, to fusing your demon allies to create stronger demons to team with...It's all just done so well. The end result is a game that I played obsessively until I have obtained every demon and seen every inch of every aspect that this game has to offer...I love it that much.
Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution - PlayStation 2
Release Date: March 13, 2003 (JP)
Virtua Fighter 4 was a great fighting game in its own right...And they could have left it at that. However, Sega had different ideas. Instead of releasing a plain, ol' Greatest Hits title of Virtua Fighter 4, they decided to add to and improve upon the game and release that as the Greatest Hits version at $20. The end result was Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution, which was, without question, the greatest 3D fighting game ever made up to that point. The Quest mode alone, which has you going from arcade to arcade to challenge other players in order to increase your "rank," was the greatest mode in a fighting game, in my opinion, since Street Fighter Alpha 3's World Tour mode. It created replayability previously unheard of in a fighting game. The fighting itself, which was near perfect in the original VF4 was tweaked as well, making it about as close to perfection as one could hope for. Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution was a landmark title and still influences many fighting games being released today.
WWE SmackDown! Here Comes the Pain - PlayStation 2
Release Date: October 27, 2003 (NA)
Genre: Fighting - Wrestling
While I prefer Smackdown! 2 to Here Comes the Pain, it's only slightly so...and my preference aside, Here Comes the Pain is very much the better game. It was the last great game in the WWE franchise, in my opinion, and the only recent game that has come even close to matching it was WWE 13. It just gets everything right...And the Season mode, much like the one in Smackdown! 2, just keeps going. Taking Ultimo Dragon to the World title is also an added plus. You can also make John Cena humble like in the screenshot above, if you so desire. If you want a WWE game for your Playstation 2, this is the one to get by far.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City - PC Games
Release Date: May 12, 2003 (NA)
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar North
Vice City is just as fun to play on PC as it is on the consoles. And just like on consoles, it's a blast to cruise around and just look at the bright, pastel colors in Rockstar's parody of 1980's Miami. The only downside, for me anyway, of the PC version is the controls. I've always been a controller kinda fella, so the mouse and keyboard controls (the controller controls aren't very good on PC) take away a little for me...But not enough to make me think any less of my time playing this game. It's just a personal preference.
WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$! - Game Boy Advance
Release Date: March 21, 2003 (JP)
When I first played WarioWare, I was amazed. "They captured the inner workings of my brain and turned it into a video game," I remember thinking to myself. The concept of a bunch of minigames that take seconds to play thrown on top of each other doesn't sound like it would be something to keep you coming back for more...But WarioWare, Inc. is so charming, bizarre, and fun, that you're very likely to come back for more time and time again.
Mario Kart: Double Dash!! - GameCube
Release Date: November 7, 2003 (JP)
Genre: Racing - Kart
Mario Kart: Double Dash!! was a game me and my roommates were hooked on. We didn't have a second controller and didn't play multiplayer...Instead we honed our skills and constantly tried to beat each other's fastest times. That said, Double Dash has a special place in my heart for the competition it created. It's also a solid racing game with a unique gimmick of having two characters on the kart at a time, which also let you hold more power-ups at once, which led to some pretty chaotic (and fun) racing. When it comes to kart-style racing on the Gamecube, nothing comes close to this title.
Beyond Good & Evil - GameCube
Release Date: December 11, 2003 (NA)
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
So under-appreciated by the masses that it's ridiculous, Beyond Good & Evil was loved by critics and pretty much anyone who actually took the time to play the game through from beginning to end. Unfortunately, the number of folks that did that is very low...So low, that I recall this game in discount bins for $20 within a few months of its release. That's a shame, too, because Beyond Good & Evil is really, really good. In the twelve years since it released, some of the controls have aged a bit, but otherwise it's still just as fun as it was when it first came out. If you haven't played it yet, give it a try. Chances are you'll be glad that you did.
Release Date: December 5, 2003 (JP)
Developer: Monolith Soft
When I think of Baten Kaitos, I think of three things: beautiful graphics and soundtrack, interesting card-based battle system, and what may be the worst voice acting work I've ever heard in my life. Thankfully, there's an option to turn the voice acting off should it begin to annoy you...It bothered me, and I like cheesy, poor acting. Anyway, the battle system in Baten Kaitos (and other things like picking up items) revolves around cards, or Magnus. In order to fight, you need to acquire cards that attack, defend, and heal. It's an interesting system that results in battles that feel like a casino game of luck with a little bit of strategy tossed in for good measure. I loved it, and I'm sure if you give it an opportunity, you may grow to enjoy it, too.
The King of Fighters EX2: Howling Blood - Game Boy Advance
Release Date: January 1, 2003 (JP)
King of Fighters EX2 is my favorite fighting game on the GBA handheld. It just does everything really well. The battles in the story mode are usually 3-on-3 team battles, with the need to knock out all three opponents one after the other. However, later battles it'll be 3-on-1 with your team of three battling against the final bosses. The downside to the game is the difficulty, as it's easier than King of Fighters EX was, and in turn, you likely won't need all three fighters on your team to put away the final bosses - they're not quite difficult enough for that. But difficulty is a minor gripe. I'm a huge fan of this game, and I don't think I'll discover another fighter on the GBA that I enjoy more than this one.
Hungry Ghosts - PlayStation 2
Release Date: July 31, 2003 (JP)
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Deep Space
Genre: Adventure - Horror
I like this game. A lot. Hungry Ghosts is a first-person survival horror game - but not your typical one. You're equipped with a spear and a crossbow and make your way into the underworld to encounter ghastly creatures. Having a spear to stab oncoming enemies in the face is kind of fun. It's also fun using the spear to shatter any and all breakable objects in your path to see what you find inside. It's also interesting investigating things as you come across them, too. If you're into survival horror, then this is definitely a PS2 game worth importing from the Land of the Rising Sun.
Def Jam Vendetta - GameCube
Release Date: March 31, 2003 (NA)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Fighting - Wrestling
I'm not a fan of hip-hop in the slightest. So when I saw that there was a wrestling game coming out featuring rappers, I rolled my eyes. However, once I began to play it, I really started to enjoy it. The game feels like an arcadey-version of the N64 Aki wrestling titles and it works quite well. I honestly don't remember a whole lot about the story, but I do remember absolutely loving every minute that I spent playing this game. If you like wrestling titles, this is definitely a game that you shouldn't overlook.
F-Zero GX - GameCube
Release Date: July 25, 2003 (JP)
Developer: Amusement Vision
I like the F-Zero series. I loved the first F-Zero on the Super NES. I loved F-Zero X on the Nintendo 64. I like F-Zero GX, but I don't love it. F-Zero GX is a decent futuristic racing title and all, and it looks gorgeous, but it lacks something I can't quite put my finger on....But whatever it is, it's minimal in regards to the quality of this game. F-Zero GX is still a great racer with plenty of characters to unlock if you're willing to put the time into unlocking 'em. It also features a few extra modes to help ensure that you'll keep coming back for more. It may be my least favorite of the console F-Zero games, but it's still one of my favorite racing games that I've ever played.
TNM7: Second Edition - PC Games
Release Date: 2003 (NA)
Publisher: Oliver Copp
Developer: Oliver Copp
TNM7 is a unique game...It's much more of a simulation than a game that you "play." In TNM7, you create (or download) wrestlers, book the match, and then sit back and watch (well, read - it's a text-based game) the results. But, at the same time, you can unlock certain aspects of the game (like match types, new rules, etc.) by booking specific matches. Aside from unlocking those "easter eggs" there isn't a whole lot of strategy here, so folks looking for a game where you have to control finances and the like to keep a company afloat, this may not be your cup of tea. For folks like me who just like to book "dream matches" and see the match unfold, this is a game well worth owning - I've played it on a regular basis since 2001.
Ribbit King - PlayStation 2
Release Date: December 18, 2003 (JP)
Genre: Sports - Golf
Ribbit King is a unique take on golf involving mallets instead of golf clubs and frogs instead of balls...It's called frolf, for those keeping track at home. Known as Kero King in Japan, this is the first entry of the franchise in North America, and unfortunately, the only entry as well. It's good, comedic fun and the story mode has some nice gags in the cut scenes as well. If you like golf, but would enjoy a comedic, unique take on the sport, then Ribbit King is a great game to play. It's not perfect, but its still very good. I highly recommend it.
Voodoo Vince - Xbox
Release Date: September 23, 2003 (NA)
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Beep Industries
Voodoo Vince is a charming little platformer staring Vince, a voodoo doll. The neat concept of this game is to maim yourself in order to kill your enemies. There's still some hand-to-hand brawling going on, but there are larger foes that you can't kill by hand, so instead you lure them in by you and then proceed to harm yourself to harm them, usually in a puzzle fashion. It's a charming little game with that unique twist to help it stand out from other 3D platformers.
Mister Mosquito - PlayStation 2
Release Date: April 24, 2003 (JP)
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Mister Mosquito is a pleasant surprise to most folks that play it. Basically, you play as Mister Mosquito, seen in the box art, and you terrorize a Japanese family by making them all itchy from your bites. The goal is to be stealthy so that they don't know that you're around and when sucking blood, you want to be as discreet as possible to avoid attention and getting squished. Mister Mosquito isn't perfect. It's not even great. But it's good and for a game that came out in North America at a discounted price, good is much more than one might expect.
Release Date: January 22, 2003 (NA)
Developer: Team Ninja
Genre: Sports - Volleyball
The original Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball is definitely a game made for the perverted...But it's a good game made for the perverted. At first glance, it just seems like a volleyball game full of scantily-clad, full-chested lady folk...And a large portion of the game is that, but all the little extra things in the game to experience from exploring Zack's Island help make this a game that you might play out of curiosity, into one that you just spent a few hours playing without any intention of doing so. The game is definitely aimed at pervos, but there's enough good quality here to make it worth a look for people simply looking for a good game, too.
Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life - GameCube
Release Date: September 12, 2003 (JP)
I've always enjoyed how relaxing Harvest Moon games are. Wandering around, tilling the land, milking cows, hitting on the lady folk in an attempt to get wed - good stuff. I prefer Harvest Moon 64 to A Wonderful Life, but this is still one of the better Harvest Moon games ever made, in my opinion. The slow pacing of the game definitely isn't for everyone, but if you're looking for a nice, relaxing experience on your Gamecube, A Wonderful Life is a decent choice.
Donkey Konga - GameCube
Release Date: December 12, 2003 (JP)
While it's not overwhelmingly fun or even innovative, Donkey Konga is still a solid music game for Gamecube owners. The bongos are a fun peripheral to use and they help give the game a little bit of a unique, and simplistic experience. Unfortunately, while Donkey Konga is fun, there's not enough here to ensure that the fun lasts much longer than maybe an hour or two at most, which drags the experience down a little...But it's still fun while it lasts and well worth checking out if you're a fan of music games.
DreamMix TV World Fighters - GameCube
Release Date: December 18, 2003 (JP)
With the success and popularity of Super Smash Bros., Hudson jumped on the bandwagon with a fighting game of its own, teaming up with other publishers like Konami, Bandai, and Mattel. It allowed for match-ups like Master Higgins from Adventure Island against Optimus Prime from Transformers...And pummeling a robot in disguise with a stone hammer is a delight...to a degree. While this game is passable, and the match-ups and interesting, DreamMix TV still very much pales in comparison to Nintendo's fighting franchise. But, if you want something similar to Smash Bros. with some different scenery and characters, you could do much worse than playing this game.
Auto Modellista - GameCube
Release Date: July 3, 2003 (JP)
Auto Modellista is unique in the graphical sense, as it features real cars and realistic racing, but the art style is cel-shaded, which I've always found to be neat. The downside is that there's just not a whole lot of content here to make it much more than a novelty racing game. You can have a garage and do races and the like, but when the original Gran Turismo, released about six years prior, has a much, much deeper experience, it makes the game game feel very shallow in comparison. That's not to say that the game is bad, 'cause it's not by any means, but it almost feels like the developers thought that players would overlook its flaws due to the fancy coat of paint...Well, this player didn't. Decent racing game - not great.
WWE WrestleMania XIX - GameCube
Release Date: September 8, 2003 (NA)
Genre: Fighting - Wrestling
I really want to give Wrestlemania XIX a better score. The in-ring action greatly improved from that found in Wrestlemania X8...But in a head-scratching decision from THQ, there is no story mode/career mode/title mode or anything like that for you to play. In its place is the terrible "Revenge" mode, which if not for the solid action that takes place in the ring, would have totally ruined this game. Revenge mode is sometimes a brawler, sometimes a platformer, sometimes a wrestling game, and always a pain in the hiney. Thankfully, there are plenty of match types to choose from to give you at least a little bit of replayability. If you're just fine playing exhibition matches all day long, then WWE Wrestlemania XIX will be right up your alley. If you're looking for an engaging story or season mode, you'll be heavily disappointed.
The Simpsons: Hit & Run - PlayStation 2
Release Date: September 16, 2003 (NA)
Publisher: Vivendi Universal Games
Developer: Radical Entertainment
Like just about all Simpsons games at the time, Simpsons: Hit & Run was a rip-off of a popular game at the time. This one happened to be the Grand Theft Auto franchise. The game does an okay job with it, but like most games that imitate others, it doesn't come anywhere close to the quality of the original. Simpsons fans may find it fun to drive around in an open-world Springfield, but as someone who has never really been a fan of the show, I got bored after a while of doing not-so-entertaining missions and having the cops chase me every time I decided to run over enough civilians or destroy enough property. Overall, it's a decent attempt at a Grand Theft Auto clone, but as I said earlier, it's nowhere near the quality of games in Rockstar's money-making franchise.
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai - GameCube
Release Date: October 28, 2003 (NA)
I have never seen an entire episode of anything with both of the words Dragon and Ball in the same title. I have friends that love the show, but the five minutes I was shown of one show was more than enough for me. Not a fan. That said, I was still fairly amused by this game. I don't get or care about the story they tell here, but the gameplay was decent. So I assume that if I feel that way about this game, that someone who likes Dragon Ball Z will likely love it. If you're a fan of the television show or just a fan of fighting games in general, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai is not too shabby.
1080° Avalanche - GameCube
Release Date: November 28, 2003 (EU)
Genre: Sports - Extreme Sports - Snowboarding
1080° Avalanche isn't necessarily a bad game...It just doesn't live up to games that had already been released. EA's great SSX franchise was already going strong by the time this game released, and it made the game seem poor in comparison. Had this game been released 3 or 4 years earlier, it probably would have been a hit if the previous game in the 1080° series is any indication...But with its poor trick variety, lack of replay value, and short length, 1080° Avalanche ends up being just a barely passable experience.
Go! Go! Hypergrind - GameCube
Release Date: November 18, 2003 (NA)
Genre: Extreme Sports - Skateboarding
Go! Go! Hypergrind is a cel-shaded, cartoony take on the skateboarding game genre and the result is both good and bad. The game plays solidly enough - not quite controlling as tightly as the Tony Hawk games, but still solid just the same. Unlike most games, avoiding hazardous situations is frowned upon. See a giant buzzsaw? You should be skating into it and hitting the X button. Despite the wackiness, the gameplay does get a bit old after a while. And it should be said that the folks behind Ren & Stimpy handled the art style of the game, so if you're into that sense of humor, the comical aspects of Go! Go! Hypergrind will be right up your alley, and help you overlook some of the game's less desirable qualities.
Kirby Air Ride - GameCube
Release Date: September 11, 2003 (JP)
Developer: Hal Laboratories
Genre: Racing - Kart
Kirby Air Ride is a tough game to rank...On one hand, I appreciate the simplicity of it...On the other hand, I also feel like the simplicity hurts it a tad. Basically, you have no control over your accelerations - the star you ride accelerates on its own. You can slow down using the A button, which triggers a boost when you let go...But that's about it. The whole game is played with the analog stick and the A button. It's not a horrible game to play with friends, but it gets boring when playing by yourself for a while. I appreciate the minimalist attempt on the racing genre here...I'm just not sure it was the best move for this game.
Tao Feng: Fist of the Lotus - Xbox
Release Date: March 18, 2003 (NA)
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Studio Gigante
Tao Feng is one of those games where I'd like to score it higher than what I actually give it...But it won't let me. I like the limb damage concept, I even like the "Quest" mode in place of the traditional "Arcade" mode...But the fighting itself leaves something to be desired. The fighting system found in Tao Feng is like a very crude version of the modern Mortal Kombat games...Accompanied by an absurdly long wait time after someone gets knocked down. It's only about two seconds or so, but in a fight it feels like an eternity that you're waiting just for them to get to their feet. If you're a fighting game fanatic, you'll likely find something to like here, otherwise, you're better off staying away.
Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut - GameCube
Release Date: June 18, 2003 (NA)
Developer: Sonic Team
Sonic Adventure DX came out several years after it was initially released on the Dreamcast and about a year after Sonic Adventure 2 (a superior game) was re-released on the Gamecube. With that info in mind, one would expect improvements to be made on the game...Instead, Sonic Adventure DX is actually inferior to its Dreamcast release in several ways, which stinks. If this is the Director's Cut - the original vision of the creator of the game, then it's no wonder the 3D Sonic games have been such a mess since Sonic Adventure 2. If you haven't had access to a Dreamcast and this is your only opportunity to play Sonic Adventure, this is still passable...But very disappointing for anyone who had played the original on Sega's last console.
Cho Aniki: Seinaru Protein Densetsu - PlayStation 2
Release Date: October 30, 2003 (JP)
Publisher: Global A
Developer: Global A
Genre: Shooter - Third-Person
I'm a huge fan of the Cho Aniki games, but I think that this is the weakest of the games in the series that I've played so far. It's mildly fun, and there's still some strange imagery (some of which I didn't even notice until looking at screenshots I took), but it lacks the oddball charm of previous games in the series. If you're a diehard scrolling shooter fan, then you may find some enjoyment here...I don't think too many others will, though.
Simple 2000 Series Ultimate Vol. 6: Love * Upper!... - PlayStation 2
Release Date: February 27, 2003 (JP)
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Genre: Fighting - Boxing
This is an all-female boxing game that had potential to be something fun...and it has its moments, but ultimately falls short of being a passable game. The boxing is a joke for the beginning of the game - no need to do anything but hit a punch button in a steady pattern. You win. Then with nothing to segue to it, the difficulty hikes up and you suddenly find your character sprawled on the mat. The characters are also kind of an issue. The problem with trying to make all of your playable characters attractive females is that when they're all attractive, none stick out. The only character I remember is a girl in a cow costume because the cow top made me feel like I wanted to wash my eyes with soap. But anyway, there are much better boxing games out there than this. If you're just a pervert and want to look at women, there's better all-women games out there than this, too. Either way, this game is a lose-lose.
Motion Gravure Series: Kitagawa Tomomi - PlayStation 2
Release Date: April 24, 2003 (JP)
Publisher: Sony Music Entertainment
Developer: Sony Music Entertainment
In Motion Gravure Series: Kitagawa Tomomi, you watch model Tomomi Kitagawa in various scenes. You can fast forward, rewind, zoom in, zoom out, pause, etc. I'm assuming this was made so pre-pubescent boys could do what their mothers told them they'd go blind from doing. There is a mild aspect of gameplay in that pressing the triangle button at the right time unlocks "hidden shoots" so you have even more footage of Ms. Kitagawa to watch. In the videos, she does stuff like eat shrimp, inconsiderately lays down on a pool table when there may be others nearby that want to play a game, and pees in a pool to set off the chemical that changes urine color to make it visible, like you see in the screenshot above....Okay that last part was probably colored, underwater lighting, but peeing in the pool sounds like a better story.
Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis - GameCube
Release Date: July 30, 2003 (NA)
Publisher: TDK Mediactive
Developer: Lucky Chicken
Without saying too much, my opinion of this game is that had the game been about Aquaman's arm having an arm wrestling contest with a trident, like the box art leads me to believe (think of the movie 'Over the Top' - except Aquaman needs to win for the safety of all aquatic life rather than some snot-nosed brat) then this game would probably have been about twelve and a half times better than it actually is. The controls suck, the gameplay is boring, and there isn't a single moment of underwater arm wrestling to be found. After playing this game, I felt it would be more fun to pretend I was Aquaman in the bathtub while playing with a toaster that was plugged into an electrical outlet.
Presswurst II: Liquid Edition - PlayStation
Release Date: April 2003 (EU)
This homebrew game is the poops...Because it's a pooping simulator. Basically, you mash buttons until you fill the toilet with a brown mess. Meanwhile, you see a guy who looks like a hairy-chested poet, sans fedora, struggling to push out the turd and the fancy "anus cam" with a view of the poet's anus hole from below. It's all very bad and will very likely offend a decent number of folks that play it. The few who get a laugh out of it, probably won't be amused after playing the game a second time and realizing that there's nothing else to do in the game except mash buttons faster to get a higher score. This game concept should have been flushed down the john shortly after it was dreamed up.
Charlie's Angels - GameCube
Release Date: July 9, 2003 (NA)
Developer: Neko Entertainment
Genre: Action - Brawler
What a mess. The game starts out logically.....kind of. Well, at least in the sense that there's a bikini contest on a beach and thus, with you playing as a participant, control a bikini-clad woman as she attacks people that seemingly turn on her for no apparent reason. Then it gets less logical when you control the next lass who is in lingere in a construction area...Huh? Mix the illogical stuff in with extremely poor animations and boring combat that never seems to end, and you've got yourself one of the absolute worst brawlers that I have ever played in my life.
Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing - PC Games
Release Date: November 20, 2003 (NA)
Publisher: GameMill Publishing
Developer: Stellar Stone
I'm a little skeptical when I hear people talk about a game being "the worst game ever made." People tend to be cynical and are quick to point out flaws while ignoring positive aspects of a game....But in the case of Big Rigs, I'm having a hard time finding any positives. The graphics are basic and bland, the animation is choppy, there are no collisions (your truck just drives through everything like it's Casper the Friendly Ghost), your "opponents" don't move from the start line once the race begins, there's a glitch that sometimes says you're the winner immediately after the race starts, there's another glitch where the race never ends, the fifth level is unplayable until you patch the game...and when you patch it and get access, you find out that it's just a mirror of the first track....The complaints just go on and on and on and on. How this got published in the state that it's in, I'll never know. Big Rigs very well could be the worst game I've ever played...It certainly gives Hambo's Adventure in the NES version of Action 52 a run for its money.
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