Looking back at 2006, we had quite the selection of games. And it seems like, with each passing year, it gets more and more difficult to choose nominees and winners for the selection of Game of the Year awards. From one of the more unique games to ever hit the gaming industry to the role-playing phenomenon that was the latest Final Fantasy installment, we had all kinds of quality titles to choose from. But we’ve done our best to select only the most worthy games to be in our 2006 Game of the Year awards, and we’re going through both the genre and platform awards.

So here we go: the best of the best in 2006, so says PSXE’s venerable staff.

Genre Awards

Best Action/Adventure Game

Nominees

Winner: Okami

It was a neck-and-neck race this year, but in the end, Clover’s innovative and colorful Okami ekes out a close victory. Being a God in the form of a wolf clearly has its advantages, and when it comes to bringing life and vibrancy back into that mystical world, it’s all about your magical paintbrush. It sounds almost as weird as Katamari Damacy , but really, it works amazingly well, and the stunning originality is what makes Okami a winner from front to back. Despite a great year for the Metal Gear Solid franchise, we just couldn’t resist this little game’s undeniable charm.

Best Shooter

Nominees

Winner: Resistance: Fall of Man

"Best Shooter" was certainly an easier category, considering the greatness of this PS3 launch title. Unfortunately, it’s possibly the only must-have title for said launch, but hey, it’s worth every second of game time and every word of our praise. There’s no doubt that Resistance: Fall of Man is a fantastic experience; loaded with large and immersive environments, awesome AI, diverse levels and weapons, and wholly entertaining multiplayer and online gameplay. Hell, it’s even got a halfway decent story. Yes indeed, there is no denying this one’s quality, and therefore, we couldn’t possibly deny it this award.

Best Fighting Game

Nominees

Winner: Tekken: Dark Resurrection

It didn’t take us long to recognize this one’s crazy fun-factor level. There were plenty of top-notch fighters for the PSP in 2006, including the return of great franchise names like Street Fighter and Power Stone , but Tekken: Dark Resurrection was a landslide winner. It captures the instantly recognizable polished fighting engine, complete with a revamped style and a few sweet additions. That’s the kind of thing we just can’t help but appreciate, especially when we have such a faithful handheld version the whole way ‘round. Tekken will be Tekken and that’s always a good thing.

Best Platforming Game

Nominees

Winner: Daxter

Oh no, a year without another Ratchet and Clank or Jak ! Whatever shall we do? Well, pick the game that at least uses one of those major characters! In all seriousness, though, we chose Daxter because of its wonderful sense of style and humor, not to mention that uber-addictive gameplay. The PSP will eventually come into its own when it comes to future platformers, and this is one hell of a good start. Let’s face it: Daxter pretty much carried Jak on his back, anyway, and so he deserved his own game, especially one that does so many things so well.

Best Racing Game

Nominees

Winner: Ridge Racer 7

Although we had a special write-in vote for Need for Speed: Carbon on the PS3 (*cough* Arnold *cough*), it was the other major PS3 racer that took the crown. Ridge Racer 7 is a great representation of the quintessential arcade racer, complete with crazy drifts, sweet graphics (and available in 1080p!), a bunch of cool cars and upgrades, and wickedly entertaining online play. It had its flaws, but the game was a solid addition to the PS3 launch lineup, and its smooth-as-silk gameplay would appeal to just about anyone. All in all, this one is accessible, competitive, flashy, and a downright blast to play. If you’ve scored a PS3 and haven’t yet played Ridge Racer 7 , you’re missing out.

Best Puzzle Game

Nominees

Winner: Lumines II

Puzzle games are starting to gravitate more and more towards the handhelds, so it’s no surprise the PSP scored four of the five nominations in 2006. We’re sure you recognize the likes of Bomberman and Lemmings , but when it came right down to it, we just couldn’t ignore the insanely addictive sequel to one of the simplest – and catchiest – puzzlers in recent memory. Building on a foundation that began nearly 20 years ago with Tetris , Lumines II proves that this style of gaming is timeless. Regardless of your gaming tastes, few can resist the allure of this tempting title, so ultimately, it’s a hands-down winner.

Best Rhythm/Music/Dance Game

Nominees

Winner: Guitar Hero II

We certainly appreciated the return of Gitaroo-Man, and SingStar Rocks! is a most original game. But in the end, we couldn’t possibly overlook the greatness of Guitar Hero II , which is easily one of the most entertaining games of the PS2 generation. Centering on that totally kick-ass wireless guitar controller and the wildly addictive rhythm-based gameplay, it could be the best party game in existence. It’s also great as a single-player experience, which is loaded with more songs than ever before and more than a few difficulty levels for all gamer types. Without any shadow of a doubt, Guitar Hero II is the best of the best in this category.

Best Role-Playing Game

Nominees

Winner: Final Fantasy XII

It was a great year for RPG fans, but even so, nothing could come close to touching the quality of Final Fantasy XII . Packed with more open-ended freedom and depth than any FF before, possibly the best voice acting in videogame history, and a completely revamped and restyled combat engine, this RPG had it all. Sporting the best visuals to ever be seen on the PS2 is a mere bonus to the overall experience, and RPG fans everywhere got one hell of a gift, courtesy of Square-Enix. We would like to add that three of the five nominees were from the same company; the Valkyrie Profiles offered the deepest battle mechanics out there, but couldn’t compete with Final Fantasy XII ’s polish and production value.

Best Sports Game

Nominees

Winner: Fight Night Round 3

It seems only fitting that in the year of Rocky Balboa’s return, a boxing game wins the Sports title. But it’s not about nostalgia, here, it’s about one of the most realistic and immersive boxing games ever; you will actually feel as if you’re in the ring, especially if you’re playing one of the next-gen versions. While the football games were excellent as always, and Pro Evolution Soccer 6 was yet another supreme soccer title for the PS2, we just had to reward the depth and physics prowess of the latest Fight Night game. It may not get as much attention, what with all the other big-name titles out there in 2006, but it deserves any praise it receives.

Platform Awards

PSP

Nominees

Winner: Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops

The PSP enjoyed a fantastic 2006, and therefore, we believe there are six games worthy of nomination. And while Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops fell to Okami in the Action/Adventure category, it easily secures the PSP Game of the Year award. Konami and Kojima never fail us, and it appears even the relative challenge of developing for a handheld can’t hold them back. Rather than giving us something like the somewhat watered-down Metal Gear experience we had with the Metal Gear Solid ACID s, we get the first faithful franchise installment on a handheld…and it shines with typical MGS excellence.

PS2

Nominees

Winner: Final Fantasy XII

We still love all these games, and we reserve a special place in our hearts for Okami , but when everything is said and done, Final Fantasy XII squeezes out a close victory. When we looked at the nominees and began tallying all the good in each title, we just kept going and going and going when counting the "good" in FF XII. In some ways, it reinvented the franchise, but in many others, it gave all the hardcore series fans everything they recognized. It felt like no other FF, it felt like no other RPG, but somehow, it still felt wonderfully familiar. This dichotomy is one of the major reasons why we love the game, and ultimately what put it over the top.

PS3

Nominees

Winner: Resistance: Fall of Man

The launch wasn’t overly impressive, and the system was only out for six weeks in 2006, but hey, the PS3 gave us one of the best games of the year. In a unanimous decision, Insomniac’s magnificent shooter, Resistance: Fall of Man , is the PS3’s Game of the Year. The fast-action mania, nearly flawless FPS engine, top-notch AI, and lengthy and satisfying single-player campaign are only highlights of the game; indeed, it has a ton going for it. Playing on the Network is a blast, and the two-player co-op mode is equally entertaining; all PS3 owners should have this game by now. How can you possibly own a PS3 without Resistance ?

And now, the big moment…

Game of the Year

And so we arrive at the prestigious Game of the Year award for 2006. We’ve given it a lot of thought, and while it was another tough decision, we believe the correct game came away with the coveted crown. We’d just like to take this opportunity to say we respect all the great games outlined in these awards, and we know 2007 will be even better. The next – or should we now say, current – generation is upon us, and we’re all just itching to know what’s around the corner!

Nominees

And the winner is…

Winner: Final Fantasy XII

We’ll begin with Arnold’s personal take on this soon-to-be-a-classic title-

Final Fantasy XII is the ultimate videogame experience for me. Not since Final Fantasy VII have I been this obsessed with an RPG. After 62 hours of game time, I completed the story – but before doing so, I also made a second save which I’ll be using for side-quests, leveling up, hunting, and finding the best pieces of equipment the game has to offer. When a game has a scope this limitless, and an execution that is this tight, nothing else seems to matter. I thought I’d never complete another RPG after Final Fantasy X, largely because they were so time consuming. But FFXII quickly changed that, as two-hour sessions became six, eight and even ten-hour sessions, at times. I’ve not only completed FFXII, but I intend to complete it many times over again, much like I did with FFVII. After nine years, Final Fantasy XII has unseated Final Fantasy VII as my favorite game of all time and I never thought that I’d see the day. In fact, I couldn’t even fathom the thought of another RPG ever rivaling VII. I was wrong and XII swept me off my feet. Final Fantasy XII is easily my game of the year, there’s simply no contest.

As for our Editor-in-Chief – the one sitting here writing this, ya dummies – he can’t quite place FF XII at the top of his "favorites" list, but he certainly agrees with the GoY decision. For the record, Resistance: Fall of Man was seriously considered for quite a while, but it all came down to one question: “which game in 2006 gave us the complete experience, and perhaps more importantly, which is the game that excelled in the most areas?” And when we asked that, the answer invariably came back, Final Fantasy XII . It’s always tough to choose only one game out of so many wondrous titles, but then again, only one can rightfully hold the title.

So there you have it- PSX Extreme’s 2006 Game of the Year.