2006 was a landmark year for games – it saw the Xbox 360 flourish, the shooter genre evolve beyond the usual first-person tropes and The Elder Scrolls series went from being comfortably geeky to showing mega-blockbuster potential. We also saw the dawn of entirely new genres that stealthily convinced parents and grandparents to buy handheld game systems. Here, a list of the games that not only celebrate their 10th anniversary this year, but their influence is still being felt today.
"Reloading guns" is an unlikely space to find room for innovation, but Gears of War managed it with the active reload system, which rewarded players for a well-timed second press of the reload button. It's surprising more games haven't copied it. Active reload gives players something to do while hunkered down behind cover, which is what Gears of War is mostly about. While blind-firing over walls had already been done in Kill Switch and The Getaway, it was Gears of War that popularized this style of third-person cover combat and made it the standard mode of action games for years.
The Elder Scrolls series went small-scale with 2002's Morrowind, crafting an exquisite fantasy RPG on a single island. By contrast, Oblivion seemed designed with the commandment to go big or go home. Its setting was the entire nation of Cyrodiil, every forest, city, and river. The memorable moment you leave the sewers and get your first, blinded-by-the-sun glimpse of that world would be copied by other open-world games like Fallout 3. Its fully voiced NPCs would also become standard, though thankfully the acting would improve. Oblivion wasn't the first open-world RPG, but it changed how they looked and sounded forever.
Twilight Princess looked back to look forwards, ignoring the two prior Zelda games to build on Ocarina of Time instead. The horseback-riding was now enhanced with horseback combat, something not even Oblivion pulled off, and travel between time periods was replaced by travel between worlds. The Twilight Realm was the home of Midna, an impish character who delighted in her role as bossy quest-giver. While the versions of Link and Zelda in Twilight Princess remained stuck in their roles, Midna was free to develop on her own through an arc that let her grow in ways the series' returning characters never could.