4. Soul Calibur II
Namco | Namco | 2003
What could make the most entertaining series in 3D fighting better? How about a cameo from Link?
What made it so great?
The original Soul Calibur for the Dreamcast showed us just how beautiful and addictive a 3D fighter could be. Taking the formula to the next level seemed like a challenge, but Namco made it look effortless with this totally engrossing sequel. With a single-player mode worth the time investment and a bevy of new characters to clash blades with, it oozed polish and playability from every pore.
Better, though, was Namco's clever gimmick of including a special character in each console's version of the game. PS2 got Tekken's Heihachi; the American console, Xbox, got comic hero Spawn. But neither could hope to compete with Zelda hero, Link. The developers did a beautiful job of implementing him as well: the most detailed version of the character we'd seen at that point, with beautifully choreographed swordplay and many of the special abilities he had in his adventures (watch out for those bombs!) In short, it elevated the GameCube edition above the other two - though the Xbox edition was arguably better - and briefly brought a serious edge to the GameCube's lineup.
Get ready to play
This is a serious fighting game, but it's also one of the most accessible and newbie-friendly, so it's a perfect game to pick up if all you've played before is Smash Bros. With beautiful graphics and outstanding gameplay, you'll be sucked in before you know it.
Been there, done that?
Bloody Roar: Primal Fury's army of mutant animal-people gives fighting a feral twist, and the series' fast-paced action reached its peak with this installment. While not as polished as the big boys, it packs a certain rough charm... and a kick-ass tiger dude.