At long last, the editorial crew has compiled their thoughts of last year's best and worst of 2003. Next to E3, this is perhaps the most grueling annual project to compose. It was the best of times, and forget about the worst-looking back on the year of video games in 2003, it's impossible to suppress a gleeful grin. From beginning to end, this now past year has dealt us plenty of gaming treasures and left room for a glowing horizon just ahead.
Nintendo rocked the industry early. Within the first quarter of the year, the Big N released The Wind Waker to eager Zelda fans, a demographic that encompasses just about every breathing gamer. The Game Boy Advance SP launched in the same month, and there's no denying how quickly it became the greatest handheld system of all time. The year's lineup of Game Boy releases alone could have made an incredible year of gaming, with titles like Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga crashing the scene. For gamers on the go, 2003 marks a sweet era that'll be nigh impossible to top.
Of course, Nintendo wasn't the only hero of the year. In 2003, SNK began an awaited comeback under Playmore, promising the persistence of 2D gaming with a King of Fighters combo pack and the guarantee of Metal Slug releases on both Game Boy and PlayStation 2. And just about every PC gamer was stirred at the announcement of Half-Life 2.
Unfortunately, 2003 was also a year of disappointing delays. Half-Life 2 couldn't meet its lofty release goal, and two of Xbox's heaviest hitters got the old shove-back to 2004. Early in the year, Bungie dropped the ball on Halo 2, pushing back the release on perhaps the most anticipated game in this generation of hardware. Tecmo's next-gen rendition of Ninja Gaiden also missed its launch target. And while the Xbox lineup undoubtedly suffered these two losses, they've got the next year set up for some stellar gaming.
One other sore spot marked the year - Nokia launched their N-Gage gaming-slash-phone platform to a market that just didn't care. With a wallet-busting price for gamers, and an uncomfortable design for cell phone nuts, the N-Gage seemed to miss any market it was aiming for, though Nokia has continued to be optimistic. Safe to say, though: Nintendo isn't concerned about losing Game Boy market share to Nokia.
Sony did take a chance at E3 to start a rumble surrounding their potential Game Boy killer, the PSP. With promised power to match the PlayStation 2, the PSP could very well pose competition for Nintendo's long time unrivaled lordship over handheld gaming, though it'll be interesting to see if Sony aims for a different market next year.
The politics of gaming were also exciting this year. Sammy's recent buyout of Sega sparked a bit of concern in Sega loyalists, and all kinds of fanciful predictions from optimists (Sonic in the upcoming Sammy vs. Capcom?). And the industry as a whole took notice when lawyer Jack Thompson aided in the court case against Rockstar, citing Grand Theft Auto as the inspiration behind highway shooting that killed one person this year.
What ultimately made 2003 an awesome year were the games that defined it. From Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic to Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution, choosing this year's top games wasn't an easy task but we've shuffled through the lot and make our picks. And no matter what sort of games you like best, we're sure you'll agree with us on one thing: 2003 has been an excellent year for us gamers, and looking forward to next year we've got reason to be excited. Very excited.
This year we put together our Editor's Choice Awards a little differently than in the past. We still have our top game of the year, and the best game on each platform, but now every editor on TNL has voiced their opinion on what they felt was the best game according to genre, among other things. Each editor that works on TNL has vastly different tastes compared to the rest of the staff, so we felt it was only fitting that everyone's voice should be heard.
TNL Editor's Choice Awards 2003 Directory
· · · The Best of 2003