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Ten years ago, the game industry was going through the launch of the seventh generation of console hardware with the debut of Microsoft’s Xbox 360. Nintendo received its first serious competitor on the handheld front with the release of Sony’s PlayStation Portable. Politicians teamed up with the mainstream media to, once again, warn the masses about the corrupting influence games presented — all over a little “Hot Coffee” leak in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

I won’t try to sell you that 2005 was a “grand year of change for the game industry.” If you’ve been here long enough, you’ll realize that’s every year when discussing an industry whose only constant is change. Yet it’s still good to take a moment and reflect on where we’ve been while we’re busy trying to predict where we’re going.

Sure, the politics and wankery of the business are interesting to explore. And 2005 was full of a lot more interesting news bits than I’ve mentioned. But the games — those things we make, that stuff we’re playing — are the true indicators of where we’ve been, what we’ve learned, and how we’ve shaped ourselves in the present.

Last year we took a look at the tremendous offerings of 2004, reflecting on what made them noteworthy and memorable titles, and where those designers, franchises, and ideas have been taken. Today, the GamesBeat staff turns its attention toward 20 important games of 2005.

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Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4 crazy

Developer: Capcom Production Studio 4
Publisher: Capcom
System: GameCube (January 11, 2005)


Franchise creator Shinji Mikami wound up in the director’s chair of Resident Evil IV after a troubled development process full of delays and direction changes. What everyone expected was another mediocre Resident Evil cash-in. What Mikami delivered is one of the most influential games of the 2000s.

Mikami’s sense of pacing here is masterful, luring the player into one stressful set piece after another, while never bringing attention to the experience’s linear progression. Helping to mask this, big confrontations were often laid out as miniature sandboxes, allowing conflict resolution to feel organic.

Other more superficial influences include Resident Evil 4’s retooling of the third-person camera, placing the viewpoint at a more intimate angle just above the shoulder and then tightening the focus when aiming.

Mikami also played with the narrative psychology of the lone stranger in a foreign land. This may seem common, if a bit problematic, in today’s games. But in 2005, this gutsy toying of our xenophobic fear of isolation among racially and culturally different (albeit hostile) strangers was shocking and effective.

Where are they now?

Shinji Mikami is a member of Tango Gameworks, a studio under the Bethesda Softworks umbrella. In 2014 he directed The Evil Within, which Mikami has stated will be his final game as director. As for the Resident Evil Series, Capcom keeps trucking it along with spinoffs and HD remakes, all of which are doomed to live in Resident Evil 4’s shadow.

Stephen Kleckner — writer


Nintendogs

Nintendogs

Developer: Nintendo EADG1
Publisher: Nintendo
System: Nintendo DS (April 21, 2005)


A not-quite-launch game for the Nintendo DS, Nintendogs really showed what the new handheld console could do. It was more than just a game; it was a dog-gone sim, and those puppies were cute, even if they weren’t always bright. (I spent half an hour of repeating, and then pleading, “Bubbles!” to an especially stupid lab.)

Capitalizing on the Japanese obsession with the dogs most residents didn’t have, combined with Americans’ obsession with the fur monsters shedding all over their houses, Nintendogs brought unbelievably adorable puppies to the double screen. It used the new microphone for voice commands, the new dual screen to let you scrub and scritch and watch over your charges, and the new wireless linkup to interact with your friends’ pets.

Nintendogs combined the best elements of Pokémon and the Puppy Bowl (which also debuted that year — coincidence? I think not) and wrapped them up into a furry little RPG.

Where are they now?

After scooping up a pile of awards, Nintendogs and its litters of offspring (the last release was Nintendogs + Cats in 2011) united to become a commercial juggernaut, racking up almost $24 million in sales.

Heather Newman — Writer


Battlefield 2

Battlefield 2 group

Developer: DICE
Publisher: Electronic Arts
System: PC (June 21, 2005)


How do you keep 60-plus strangers in a sandbox full of F-15 fighter jets and M1A2 Abrams battle tanks from going completely apeshit? DICE tackled this problem beautifully with Battlefield 2’s squad and rank system.

Players jumping into a game would have the choice to create their own squad or leap into one that’s currently active. It was in every squad members’ best interest to work together as an organic unit, providing support however possible and sticking to classes that were needed (so, no, it wasn’t a good idea to run with a squad where everyone was Assault).

Those that decided to run the battlefield alone, refusing to work together, often suffered the most casualties.

To keep all of the varying squads working toward a common goal, one player from each team would be promoted to commander, who could overlook the battlefield from a top-down view and give orders to squad leaders. Squad leaders could then pass those orders down the chain of command to fellow players in their group. When no one deviated from this command structure, Battlefield 2 worked beautifully as a piece of massively orchestrated fun. It was an experience that was revolutionary for 2005.

Where are they now?

DICE is still pumping out Battlefield games, with the latest being Battlefield: Hardline, which like its competition has switched its focus from war zone conquest to militarized police conflict. The developer is also working on Star Wars: Battlefront and Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst. As for the idea of intimate squads among a large group of players, it is now a fairly average feature for a lot of big multiplayer games. It may seem inconsequential for some, but a design idea that is still an obligatory feature 10 years later means it’s doing something very right.

Stephen Kleckner — Writer


Psychonauts

Psychonauts up close

Developer: Double Fine Productions
Publisher: Majesco Entertainment
System: Xbox (April 19, 2005)


Psychonauts is a weird game, but that’s probably why so many fans want a sequel.

It’s an adventure/comedy/action/platformer about kids at a summer camp for psychically gifted youth who uncover a conspiracy to steal brains, and it was one of those games that everybody loved but nobody bought.

The writing from director Tim Schafer (Grim Fandango) and Eric Wolpaw (the Portal series) is sharp and clever, and the level design is consistently interesting even though we can probably all agree that the timed and fiddly platforming section in the Meat Circus was the low point. But still, it’s a circus made of meat, and even though I didn’t like playing the level, it was a concept I’d never seen before.

Where are they now?

Psychonauts was developer Double Fine’s first release, and the company has stayed busy since then making history on crowdfunding site Kickstarter and creating games in just about every other genre. Psychonauts 2 isn’t necessarily out of the question, but we haven’t heard anything about it since 2013 when Minecraft creator Markus Persson offered to fund it before realizing how much money that was going to require.

Evan Killham — Writer


Advance Wars: Dual Strike

Advance Wars Dual Strike up close

Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo
System: Nintendo DS (September 9, 2005)


Advance Wars: Dual Strike had everything a strategy fan could want. It featured a pretty hefty single-player campaign, more than two dozen commanding officers with different traits and super moves, several bonus modes and campaigns, a map editor, and for the first time in the series, online play.

It wasn’t the most balanced strategy game out there, with a few of its COs having incredibly overpowered abilities (Grit in particular was pain to deal with online), but the central axis of land, sea, and air units held up under scrutiny, making sure that no matter how many hours you put into it, you’d find some sort of new trick to abuse — and something to stop it.

Where are they now?

We haven’t seen a new Advance Wars game since 2008’s Days of Ruin. Meanwhile, developer Intelligent System plugs along on new Fire Emblem and Pushmo games.

Suriel Vazquez — Writer


God of War

God of War Hydra Fight

Developer: SCE Santa Monica Studio
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
System: PlayStation 2 (March 22, 2005)


I have a lot of nostalgia for God of War, and not just because it was a great game that I sat down and played in one sitting as soon as I brought it home. No, I also love the first entry of developer Santa Monica Studios’ saga of mythical ultraviolence because it was the last time that I could really side with its hero, Kratos.

He was actually relatable back then; I understood his motives, his anger at the gods was justified, and his identification as the victim was true. In later games, the Ghost of Sparta descends into epic assholery, his increasingly graphic killing spree less an expression of righteous anger than the testosterone-drenched rampage of a man who speaks two languages: melodramatic angst and murder.

But I was with him all the way in the first one, and that’s why it’s my favorite.

Where are they now?

We have yet to hear from Kratos on the PlayStation 4, but Santa Monica Studios has had its hand in a variety of projects including music-platformer Sound Shapes and this year’s high-budget flop The Order: 1886.

Evan Killham — Writer


Call of Duty 2

Call of Duty 2 yelling guy

Developer: Infinity Ward
Publisher: Activision
System: PC (Oct. 25, 2005)


Call of Duty 2 wasn’t first game to use the tight scripting tricks we see in many today’s first-person shooter. It didn’t revolutionize the console FPS. It was far from the first game about World War II. But it was one of the tightest, most intense, and most well-executed shooters up to that point, and it came at exactly the right time, solidifying the Xbox 360’s launch lineup as one of the best in the game industry’s history.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare may have been the shooter that revolutionized the FPS, but you could see the seeds of that game’s inception in Call of Duty 2. And for my money, Call of Duty 2’s campaign is still the best in the series.

Where are they now?

Call of Duty has made Infinity Ward one of the biggest names in gaming, though many of its employees now work at Respawn Entertainment, the developer of last year’s mech-based shooter, Titanfall.

Suriel Vazquez — Writer


Killer7

Killer7 gun point

Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Publisher: Capcom
System: GameCube (July 7, 2005)


Assassinations don’t get much more stylish than they were in Killer7. Designer Goichi Suda, better known as Suda51, produced an on-rails shooter-adventure on the GameCube and PlayStation 2 that was just as bizarre to play as it was to watch. Suda and Grasshopper Manufacture spun a twisting, noir-style tale of government conspiracies and set it against one of the most unconventional control schemes in modern memory. Having players experience all that by embodying eight dramatically different personalities throughout was the cherry atop this insanity sundae.

KiIler7 split critics and audiences rather evenly. The debate over sex and violence in video games found a new home with Suda’s adventure, as did the argument on whether games were an art form. Killer7 may have been polarizing, but it was hardly forgettable.

Where are they now?

Killer7 was a one-time mission, but the unique style laid the foundation of a cult following for producer Suda51. It inspired remakes of his older works, becoming a design launchpad for future stylized adventures like No More Heroes.

Gavin Greene — Writer


DragonQuest VIII

Dragon Quest VIII characters

Developer: Level-5
Publisher: Square Enix
System: PlayStation 2 (November 15, 2005)


Ten years later, many Dragon Quest fans look back at Dragon Quest VIII as still one of the best-looking games in the franchise’s long history. Bringing the series into 3D for the first time, Dragon Quest VIII’s cel-shaded art brought the world of slime, drackys, and more to life in a manner it had never reached in its then 19 year history. It was also the first time it dropped the moniker it had previously used in the U.S., Dragon Warrior, for its proper name from Japan.

While the story wasn’t as engrossing as some of the previous tales in the series, its charm and memorable characters like Yangus helped it carve a place in 2005’s most memorable games.

Where are they now?

Publisher Square Enix has only released one mainline game in the series, 2009’s Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies for the DS, in the West since Dragon Quest VIII. Japan got the MMO-like Mezameshi Itsutsu no Shuzoku Online, but we haven’t. We’ve also received numerous spinoffs such as Dragon Quest Monsters.

Jason Wilson — Managing Editor


Trauma Center: Under the Knife

Trauma Center Under the Knife up close cover

Developer: Atlus
Publisher: Atlus
System: Nintendo DS (October 4, 2005)


We spend so much time sending NPCs to hospitals in our space battles or ninja duels and the like, but until 2005, we didn’t spend any time considering how much work we were creating for virtual doctors.

Atlus changed all that with its release of Trauma Center: Under the Knife, a surgical simulator that was initially exclusive for the Nintendo DS. The visual novel-esque story told the tale of greenhorn surgeon Derek Stiles, blessed with a healing touch during an operation on a car crash victim.

Trauma Center turns the DS stylus pen into a litany of medical equipment through an escalating series of hectic, timed operations. And unlike its awkward, comedic contemporaries, Trauma Center attempted a fair degree of medical accuracy to every stitch and incision. For the first time in many a player’s life, the task was to save, rather than slay, a stranger.

Where are they now?

Under the Knife later appeared on the Nintendo Wii in 2006 as a remake, Trauma Center: Second Opinion. It got a DS sequel in 2008, Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2,with two more Wii installments — Trauma Center: New Blood in 2007 and Trauma Center: Trauma Team in 2010.

Gavin Greene — Writer


Guitar Hero

RockBand PS2

Developer: Harmonix
Publisher: RedOctane
System: PlayStation 2 (November 8, 2005)


Considering the machine of DLC songs that the plastic-instrument genre eventually became, it’s important to remember the work of passion that the original Guitar Hero was.

Developer Harmonix recognized everyone’s desire to shred along to our favorite songs and condensed their complex cords into five-button patterns. Star power, a live audience, and even the flubs of missed notes immersed you into the gameplay and made you want to perfect each tune.

What made Guitar Hero work, however, was the set list. Rather than rely on the alternative bands that supplied most licensed music in the medium, Harmonix got the rights to some of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest hits — even if it had to settle for covers. “I Wanna Be Sedated.” “Killer Queen.” “Smoke on the Water.” It exposed a new generation to classic artists and made the music industry want to join in on the sequels.

Where are they now?

Activision bought the series, while Harmonix created Rock Band to expand the concept to a full ensemble. Both brands faded from popularity after years of competition, but they are now seeking a comeback with Guitar Hero Live and Rock Band 4.

Chris Hoadley — Writer and Community Moderator


Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Phoenix Wright objection screenshot

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
System: Nintendo DS (October 12, 2005)


Before the modern resurgence of the adventure game, the genre was in slump for a long time. Adventure games were still coming out in 2005, but they weren’t getting the spotlight.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney made pointing-and-clicking seem new again, taking (very, very loose) inspiration from the Japanese judicial system. The writing was smart, the characters endearing, and the localization surprisingly great, making sure this franchise would stick around long enough to see five more games in the U.S.

The way it bent the rules of law to make a case more dramatic could be a cheesy at times, but it was worth it to see some incredible turnabouts happen.

Where are they now?

The series took a five-year recess between Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney — Dual Destinies, but now it’s back with a new game set in Japan’s post-feudal Meiji Era.

Suriel Vazquez — Writer


Jade Empire

Jade Empire cover 02

Developer: BioWare
Publisher: Microsoft
System: Xbox (April 12, 2005)


In between sending players on one role-playing space adventure or another, BioWare introduced audiences to Imperial China and the Wuxia martial arts with Jade Empire. Fighting wasn’t just a direct method of real-time problem-solving but also an integral part of the narrative. We discover new martial arts styles, techniques, weapons, and even magical transformations for our Chi-infused characters throughout the campaign, with experience herded into either Mind, Body, or Spirit statistics.

We didn’t seem to notice how rife the RPG was with pulp science-fiction and medieval fantasy-inspired stories and worlds until someone took the risk of taking us somewhere else. The Jade Empire gamble didn’t pay off as well as it should have for BioWare’s finances, but the loving homage still retains a spot in many a gamer’s heart.

Where are they now?

Jade Empire got a special edition version for the PC in 2007. While a sequel has yet to materialize, developers at Bioware have kept hope alive in interviews as recent as this past March.

Gavin Greene — Writer


Devil May Cry 3

Devil May Cry 3 Dante

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
System: PlayStation 2 (February 17, 2005)


As games became easier in order to appeal to wider audience, Japanese developers were giving us some of the hardest games of all time. 2004 gave us Ninja Gaiden, and 2005 begot Devil May Cry 3, one of the few games that will still kick your ass on easy difficulty.

But Devil May Cry 3 was more than hard; its combo system was as intricate as it was adaptive, letting you switch between multiple weapons mid-swing in order to get those coveted “SSStylish!” combos. Devil May Cry 3 finally gave the franchise enough substance to match its style, and trust us, it had plenty of style.

Where are they now?

The franchise got a recent reboot with DmC: Devil May Cry, while director Hideaki Itsuno has gone on to work on the Dragon’s Dogma series.

Suriel Vazquez — Writer


Guild Wars

Guild Wars battle

Developer: ArenaNet
Publisher: NCSoft
System: PC (April 26, 2005)


Guild Wars rocked massively multiplayer online RPGs when it was released for one simple reason: Unlike most other such games on the Western market, it didn’t require a paid subscription beyond the game’s actual price, helping to launch the massive wave of free-to-play MMOs in this country.

The fantasy game also focused heavily on player-vs.-player (PvP) combat, much more so than games like EverQuest or World of Warcraft (which only launched the year before — and provided some of the developers that built Guild Wars). PvP combat took place in teams with a variety of modes, which added a heavily social aspect to a game that generally avoided traditional maximum-level raids. Players could even create a max-level character with terrific gear specifically for PvP.

Guild Wars also broke new ground in MMO graphics, creating some oh-so-pretty-for-the-time character designs. It never led MMOs in either East or West, but it scooped up a pile of awards and sold millions of copies.

Where are they now?

Guild Wars spun off a variety of expansion packs and three novels before a sequel, Guild Wars 2, came out on 2012. GW1 servers were automated in 2013, so gamers are still playing both.

Heather Newman — Writer


Lego Star Wars

Lego Star Wars 2005

Developer: Traveler’s Tales Games
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
System: PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Xbox (March 29, 2005)


Believe it or not, a time once existed in which we heard that someone was making a Lego-themed game based on a film franchise and thought, “Well, that’s weird.” Things were so simple back then.

Lego Star Wars came out and blew us all away with its clever puzzles, creative world, and cutscenes that presented a better version of the Star Wars prequel trilogy than the movies that they were re-creating (it must have been because they cut all of that crap dialogue). And the game was only four hours long, so it was also shorter than those films. It was just a better deal all around.

Plus, Lego. And Lego makes everything better.

Where are they now?

Where aren’t they now? Since this first game, developer Traveller’s Tales has been churning out more Lego games based on the Indiana Jones series, DC and Marvel superheroes, Harry Potter, and several other huge franchises. This fall, we’re getting Lego Dimensions, a crossover extravaganza that is TT’s answer to collectible-figure video games like Disney Infinity and Skylanders.

Not so bad for the company that made that crappy game based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula where you punch bats.

Evan Killham — Writer


Shadow of the Colossus

Shadow of the Colossus looking up

Developer: Team Ico
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
System: PlayStation 2 (October 18, 2005)


Whenever I think back on Shadow of the Colossus, only one word comes to mind: scale. I’d seen big monsters in other games before, but none of them captured that David vs. Goliath feeling quite like Shadow of the Colossus did. One fight in particular still stands out. I was fighting a flying serpent-like creature that would burrow into sand. I knew arrows could pop its air sacs and bring it near ground level, but I couldn’t figure out what to do next.

My “aha” moment came an hour or so later when I realized I had to jump off my horse and use the creature’s wings to climb on top of it. I hung onto its furry back while it tried to shake me off. That’s still the most badass thing I’ve ever done in a game.

Where are they now?
Sony Japan’s Team Ico studio has been busy dealing with its own stubborn colossus. Its next game, The Last Guardian, was supposed to come out for the PlayStation 3, but it disappeared from the spotlight after the initial reveal a few years ago. It resurfaced at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo tradeshow with a 2016 release date.

Giancarlo Valdes — Writer


Star Wars: Republic Commando

Star Wars Republic Commando guy

Developer: LucasArts
Publisher: LucasArts
System: Xbox (February 17, 2005)


A decade ago, diehard Star Wars fans were still holding on to the possibility that George Lucas was going to bring together his ill-fated prequel trilogy with Episode III: Revenge of the Sith that May.

Adding fuel to that fire was the excellent first-person squad shooter Republic Commando, which debuted two months earlier in March. It put players in control of a team of clone troopers who all had different skills and purposes.

It’s perhaps most notable for stepping away from a reliance on Jedi; you never play a character with Force powers, and that self-imposed limitation likely forced the LucasArts development team to get creative. The result was easily one of the most enjoyable adaptations of the galaxy far, far away of that era.

Where are they now?

LucasArts is dead, and Disney now owns Star Wars. But we’re once again getting our hopes up for a new set of films, and Star Wars: Battlefront — a multiplayer shooter from Battlefield developer DICE — is set to wow fans, like Republic Commando did, a few weeks before the next movie’s release.

Jeff Grubb — News Writer


Civilization IV

Civilization 4 wtf

Developer: Firaxis Games
Publisher: 2K Games
System: PC (October 25, 2005)


No game better encapsulates the idea of a “return to form” better than Civilization IV. The long-running turn-based strategy series had settled into a bit of a stale routine prior to 2005, when the 4X strategy of explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate found new virtual heights. Civilization IV was the most modification-enabled installment in the series at the time of the release, written in the highly-customizable Python programming language.

The game’s theme, “Baba Yetu,” also became the first video game tune to receive a Grammy nomination (and a win) when it was rereleased under composer Christopher Tin’s debut solo album, Calling All Dawns. But even beyond its musical accolades, Civilization IV retains its spot as a high-water mark in one of the most prestigious franchises in video gaming.

Where are they now?

Firaxis released two expansions to Civilization IV — Civilization IV: Warlords in 2006 and Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword in 2007 — and used its engine to re-create the 1994 turn-based strategy game Sid Meier’s Colonization, releasing it as a standalone game by the name of Civilization IV: Colonization in 2008. The Civilization franchise itself continued, Firaxis releasing Civilization V in 2010 and Civilization: Beyond Earth in 2014.

Gavin Greene — Writer


Mario Kart DS

Mario Kart DS cover up close

Developer: Nintendo EADG 1
Publisher: Nintendo
System: Nintendo DS (November 14, 2005)


This handheld racer represents the checkpoint between the original and modern entries in the Mario Kart series. The speed and handling are as tight as any home version, and the item selection is diverse without feeling bloated. Meanwhile, the venues make great use of Mushroom Kingdom locales like Super Mario 64’s Tick-Tock Clock and the airships from Super Mario Bros. 3.

No tricks. No gliders or anti-gravity zones. Just pure driving.

It’s also one of the first Nintendo games to feature online play, and you can blame it for the loss of old-school power slides. Pulling off repeated slides to get turbo boosts, or “snaking,” is necessary to win, so the developers limited the mechanic in later games to keep in line with the brand’s fun-for-all sensibilities.

Where are they now?

The series eschewed console-related naming conventions with its Wii U outing, Mario Kart 8. Thanks to DLC, players no longer have to wait a generation to get new tracks or racer. (And when did Link learn how to drive?)

Chris Hoadley — Writer and Community Moderator


BONUS ROUND


50 Cent: Bulletproof

50 Cent: Bulletproof eyes

Developer: Genuine Games/High Voltage Software
Publisher: Sierra Entertainment
System: Sony PSP (November 17, 2005)


Hey, if Shaquille O’Neal could get his own fighting game, then why couldn’t rapper 50 Cent get his own third-person shooter for PlayStation2 and Xbox? (We’re just as shocked as you that it didn’t come out on GameCube) Bulletproof is loosely based on the real-life event in 50 Cent’s life that left him with alive after eating nine bullets. Of course, in the video game world, Fiddy gets to exact violent revenge on those who tried to kill him. Bulletproof was really memorable largely as a butt of many jokes.

Where are they now?

Bulletproof was not good, and most remember it as one of the more bizarre licensed games ever made. Still, it somehow got a sequel, Blood in the Sand, in 2009. Even more bizarre, Blood in the Sand wasn’t half-bad. Sadly, that was the end of the epic 50 Cent video game universe.

Mike Minotti — Community Manager and Writer


 

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