Flashback: Top Video Games of 2003

George W. Bush - Hulton Archive - Getty Images
When W. was prez in 2003, these were the top video games.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Here they are, the top ten video games of 2003. They made you laugh, they made you cry, they made you fail a midterm, but they were worth every moment. These are the top games we reviewed way back in 2003.

The Sims

What We Like
  • Excellent music and sound effects.

  • Engrossing gameplay.

  • Fun furniture and gadgets.

What We Don't Like
  • Outdated graphics.

  • Gibberish character dialogue.

  • Too easy for Sims to die.

The Sims was one of the first games to come out in 2003, and arguably one of the best. Finally, 3D Sims, two-player action, and endless console fun. The Sims is possibly the most addictive game of all time. ESRB: Teen

Madden NFL 2004

What We Like
  • Very realistic football simulator.

  • Strategic gameplay.

  • Effective camera system.

What We Don't Like
  • Business strategy can be difficult.

  • Generic graphics.

  • Somewhat of a learning curve.

Sure, Madden has pretty much dominated the football scene, but this year EA was not going to rest on past successes. The totally overhauled dynasty mode turned one of video game's best selling franchises into a work of digital art. You play, coach, and now, manage the team. You are the team, baby! ESRB: Everyone

Phantasy Star Online Episodes I & II

What We Like
  • Many hours of gameplay.

  • Intriguing storyline.

  • Don't lose items when you die.

What We Don't Like
  • Offline play lacks competition.

  • Lose all of your money when you die.

  • Somewhat of a learning curve.

Hard as it may be to believe, this was originally a Dreamcast game. Hip, fun, addictive, but that's not why it's on the list. This game pretty much laid the foundations of Xbox live. Phantasy star was what brought Xboxers online in droves. Oh, and it is an amazing game - save for all the cheaters. ESRB: Teen

The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

What We Like
  • Impressive graphics.

  • Remarkable battle scenes.

  • Holds true to the movie.

What We Don't Like
  • Better if you've seen the movie.

  • Combat system can be awkward.

  • Can be extremely difficult to play.

Licensed games traditionally were nothing to write home about. 2003 flipped everything around with tons of great licensed games. Leading the charge was The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Awesome visuals, an improved fighting engine, and heaps of DVD quality extras made this a must have a title. ESRB: Teen

True Crime Streets of LA

What We Like
  • Feels like an interactive movie.

  • Multiple endings possible.

  • Entertaining missions.

What We Don't Like
  • No camera control.

  • Game can be buggy at times.

  • Feels unpolished.

With no new Grand Theft Auto titles, the market was wide open, and Nick Kang took advantage of the gap in True Crime Streets of LA. Sure you could take cars and kick-butt. But the real twist was the Star Wars-esque Karma meter... would you land on the light or dark side of the law? LA was so well recreated in this title, one was left only to wonder where the traffic jams were. ESRB: Mature

Alter Echo

What We Like
  • Spend points on new upgrades.

  • Realistic sound effects.

  • Well-done voice acting.

What We Don't Like
  • Game is shorter than most.

  • Boss battles get repetitive.

  • Controls have some learning curve.

Alter Echo was the sleeper hit of the year. It's a real shame, as this was one of the most original, psychedelic games put out for a while. Nevin, the main character, can organically morph into three distinctly different configurations. The big surprise? It actually improves the gameplay. The ability to control time and space via a mini-game was a fun surprise as well. This one can now be had pretty cheap, take advantage of it. ESRB: Teen

DDRMAX 2: Dance Dance Revolution

What We Like
  • Very addictive.

  • Get a great workout.

  • Fun visuals and music.

What We Don't Like
  • Very simplistic concept.

  • No real improvement over the last version.

  • Can get repetitive and tedious.

Better music, better visuals, the return of the dancers... this is Dance Dance Revolution heaven. DDRMAX 2 got me invited to more parties than even I cared to attend. It's fun, easy to pick up, and wildly humorous. Dancing and Video Games tend not to be grouped together, but DDRMAX 2 does it and does it well. Buy the pad, it's just not the same without it. ESRB: Everyone

Tenchu Wrath of Heaven

What We Like
  • Thrilling gameplay.

  • Fun stealth tactics.

  • Excellent graphics.

What We Don't Like
  • Awkward camera controls.

  • Combat has video clipping issues.

  • Predictable enemy artificial intelligence.

With Shinobi being a letdown, it was looking like a bad year for ninjas. Fortunately, from out of the shadows, Tenchu sprung into the fray. OK, so the enemy AI was about as smart as a chinchilla, but that didn't make them any less fun to, er, dispatch. Loads of sweet moves and weapons made Tenchu one of the best stealth games of the year. ESRB: Mature

Brute Force

What We Like
  • Detailed graphics.

  • Realistic physics engine.

  • Large selection of weapons.

What We Don't Like
  • Very few tactical options.

  • Battles can get repetitive.

  • Consumes system resources.

Brute force was supposed to hold us over until Halo 2. Well, Halo 2 still ain't here, but that doesn't diminish the appeal of Brute Force. Sure the single player game was a bit linear. It was still a hoot, and the squad-based death matches are second to none. Brute Force was a beautiful, highly polished game. Now you can have it for $20 as part of the Xbox Platinum Hits series. ESRB: Mature

Magic The Gathering: Battlegrounds

What We Like
  • Lots of realtime action.

  • Strategic battles.

  • Many hours of gameplay.

What We Don't Like
  • Mediocre graphics.

  • Very different than other Magic games.

  • No game mode selection.

Magic The Gathering: Battlegrounds did something few games could, it took an extremely popular customizable card game... OK the most popular one, ever... and translated it into a strategic arcade game. The bizarre part is, it works! Magic is challenging, and a tactician's dream come true. The real fun is online, where you can battle other Magic addicts. ESRB: Teen