The Top 20 Games of 2001-2005

Unsurprisingly, Game Boy Advance + GameCube = years of great games. But which is the best?

By Nintendojo Staff. Posted 05/03/2012 17:00 3 Comments     ShareThis

10. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (2005)

When a game establishes an internet meme and enduring catchphrase, you know you have a winner. Okay, “all your base are belong to us” doesn’t completely support that hypothesis, but Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is not only beloved for establishing the “Objection!” catchphrase, but also for the other, much weightier contributions to its quality: it had refreshing gameplay, a charming cast, an engrossing story and a lovely presentation. That the game took an entire handheld console generation to even be released outside of Japan (it was originally released in 2001 as a GBA game in Japan, but upgraded to a DS version for a 2005 international release) shows how wary Capcom was to fund and release what was, at heart, an old school adventure game to FPS-obsessed Western gamers. Fortunately, someone realized we weren’t all playing Halo, Call of Duty and Medal of Honor, and took a chance in green-lighting an international release. Thank goodness.

Why M. Noah Ward loves Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

As someone who grew up loving the Kings Quest and Gabriel Knight adventure games, I once felt that adventure games had died in the mid-’90s, a relic of PC gaming past. And the crime-and-legal-flavored niche of adventure games was something even more obscure that I felt I’d not see again after enjoyable hours with J.B. Harold Murder Club and In the 1st Degree. So maybe I was destined to love the unexpected Phoenix Wright from the start. Granted, I’m not sure how many real lawyers get to search crime scenes for clues that will inform their interrogations, courtroom cross examinations and accusations, but that combination of pixel hunting and dialogue puzzles was pure nirvana for me and, obviously, countless others. It wouldn’t have been, though, if the game’s cast and twisting storyline weren’t so over the top and likable as well.

The first Phoenix Wright game was so successful that its initial, modest printing sold out and more had to be produced. Thank you, Capcom, for taking a chance on one of the many games that makes the DS’s library so captivating and top-shelf, and thank you, fellow Ace Attorney fans for helping ensure we saw two more sequels, in addition to two spin-offs.

9. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (2005)

It probably isn’t a coincidence that so many people complained about the art style change of Dawn of Sorrow from Aria of Sorrow, and yet decided to buy the game anyway. Because with Dawn of Sorrow, that storied Castlevania game with the most souls since Django’s Gun de Sol (We’re shooting him at dawn. -Ed.), it rings even truer that it’s about gameplay, not graphics. Not to say that Dawn of Sorrow isn’t beautiful– it totally is– but it’s hard to pay attention to all that stuff when you’ve got a game that lets you equip a RPG to destroy a vampire. Heck, it even has multiple endings, to which we say, when was the last time you played a platformer with multiple endings? (Don’t answer that.) And post-game content? Sure, just play as Julius Belmont, Alucard, and and Yoko Belnades, pretending that you’re either playing the originl Castlevania (in a way bigger castle) or some kind of prototype for Portrait of Ruin. “But it’s all ANIME-y,” the critics said. “Eh, but we’ll play it anyway.” Good choice.

Why Andy Hoover loves Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow

After a slew of amazing titles on GBA, Castlevania came to DS with what would become one of the most celebrated entries in series’ long and celebrated history. Dawn of Sorrow continued the tried and true “Metroidvania” formula but made everything better. The visuals reaffirmed the potential of 2D sprites, the music amazing, and the gameplay was tight while still being highly customizable. Even though the system for collecting and equipping souls carried over from its GBA predecessor, the game amounted to so much more.

Beyond all the accolades is the fact that this was one of the first truly brilliant DS games. The numerous collectables were compelling and the extra modes added even more replay value, making an already great experience downright addictive. Later entries were plenty good in their own right, but they tweaked with the formula a bit too much, because none quite lived up to Dawn of Sorrow.

8. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem (2002)

At some point we should probably mention that, no, your memory card didn’t really get erased, that was just you going insane. What? No. You’re not talking. Are you talking? I can’t tel. Also, what’s that thing behind you? Is that a book? Read it. Wait, what do you mean you’re a centurion now? But that book’s not even finished! It’s. What? You need to go find other chapters of the book now? In this huge, dark and scary mansion? Er, okay. Oh, great, now you think you’re a bunch of other people. And now the walls are bleeding for some reason. Boy, I wish I knew what was going on here. I mean, the screen’s, like, shaking or somethig now. But I’m still sane, right? I’m not insane? This can’t be … happening? Oh. Oh, no. That is a lot of monsters.

Why Joshua Johnston loves Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem represents the best of gaming as storytelling. Although not without its faults– as an early GameCube it is a bit rough around the edges– no game on GameCube did better when it came to setting a grand stage and populating it with characters. The plot was quintessentially Lovecraftian, full of conspiracy and intrigue across thousands of years, while still lucid enough not to be overwhelming. Likewise, despite the ensemble cast of twelve playable characters, it was hard not to become deeply attached to each and every one of them, lamenting when some died (and they did, despite your best efforts) and cheering when some managed to survive. Factor in masterful voice acting and a sanity meter that broke the fourth wall (and played the player), and you’ve got a tale for the ages.

7. Tales of Symphonia (2004)

Adopting your typical save-the-world-from-impending-doom plot, Tales of Symphonia is a JRPG through and through, and one that was welcomed with open arms when it hit the RPG-starved GameCube back in 2004. Receiving high marks and praise from critics and fans alike, TOS was known for its enthralling real-time battle system, vibrant cel-shaded graphics, a solid soundtrack and hours upon hours of gameplay. What Tales of Symphonia will be remembered by, however, is its eclecticism. Meaning to say, it pulled from all sorts of genres, taking customization, puzzle solving, hack and slash, and standard RPG elements and rolling them into one expansive title. Heck, it even had a multiplayer component! While the game was far from perfect, take note of the super awkward voice acting, it had enough going for it to be among the top RPGs of its generation. And in a time when the PS2 was pumping out JRPGs, what seemed like, weekly, I’d say that’s no small feat.

Why Bradly Hale loves Tales of Symphonia

Tales of Symphonia is fantastic because it simply does a little bit of everything, and it does everything pretty darn well. I can remember spending half my high school summer break exploring dungeons and hacking away at baddies, and that’s what Tales is really all about in my eyes: the stellar battling system. Being able to have a buddy join in on the fun was just icing on the cake. Any RPG that allows for some co-op goodness, is okay in my book. Though I was never a huge fan of the cast, which is an extremely important aspect of any JRPG, I did enjoy the simplistic approach the writers took to each character. They had just enough personality to be likable without coming off as overbearing, unlike so many other JRPG characters. I may have not liked the overall plot very much, and in truth I thought it was pretty awful, but all the other areas of the game made up for the poorly conceived story. Plus, back in the day, I thought any RPG that shipped on more than one disc was so cool; you can blame Final Fantasy VII for that one.

6. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (2003)

Further exploring the Tactics world, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance was the side story series’ first foray into sequel territory as well as portable gaming. Though it had mighty large shoes to fill, what with having to piggyback off the success and accomplishments of the original FFT, it largely succeeded as a worthy follow-up thanks to its adorable graphics and characters, engrossing strategic turn-based system and absurdly addictive clan recruitment system. Oh, and did I mention the game seems to have an endless number of main story and side missions and supports head-to-head multiplayer via the GBA’s link cable? Yeah, well it does. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is such a full featured title, that it easily stands toe to toe with its console brethren.

Why Bradly Hale loves Final Fantasy Tactics Advance

For me, Tactics Advance destroyed an entire holiday break back in 2003. I was entranced by the game’s wonderful production values and the sheer amount of content it boasted. When I bought the game, I assumed it was going to be timeless. After all, this was the pinnacle of Square’s work, but I never expected to walk away feeling as if the game was nearly on-par with the original Tactics title. Sure, its story and premise were far more child-like than the original, and yet it was this story, that saw our main character, Marche, getting sucked into a book and having to fight his way out, that ultimately sold me on the entire experience. I mean, that’s stuff you dream about when you’re young. And here I was, at the fair age of 17, living out my boyhood dreams through this game. I’ll never forget that. Nevertheless, the clan system was also so awesome that I spent more hours than I care to admit building up my team so that I could crush my friends through the multiplayer. My fingers are crossed for a third installment. You hear me, Square; a third installment! Thankskbai.

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3 Responses to “The Top 20 Games of 2001-2005”

  • 21 points
    Dave Magliano says...

    Maybe the toughest list to compile, considering the sheer number of systems it spans. Also reminds me how many great games I never played. And since I must give my opinion, would have liked to see Rogue Squadron II included. Maybe an honorary #21. That game was ridiculously fun and immersive. One of the better translations from the star wars universe.

  • 1244 points
    lukas85 says...

    Guys until this list you where doing a fine job, but, METROID F&%#* PRIME!!! for gods sake,how can you missed this game, this was the best game of tne gamecune Generation, and you guys put some games that i didnt know their existence, Boktai, Lost Kingdoms? They are probably good games, but i really dont think they are better or more significant games that meteoid prime. This list is … Weird.

    My top 5

    1) .Metroid Prime
    2).The Wind Waker
    3).Metroid Prime Echoes
    4).Super Smash Bros Melee
    5).Roque Squadron II

    • 1 points
      Kevin Knezevic says...

      Some of the staff have pretty…eclectic tastes. :p

      My personal list would’ve looked more like yours, but to be fair, there were a lot of really great and unique games during this generation, so this was probably the hardest list to narrow down.

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