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Reader Results > Staff Results

Finally, we get to the best of the best, the games that, regardless of platform, proved to be the cream of the crop, overshadowing their peers and stealing their way into our hearts. It was a tough choice, to be sure, the votes keeping neck and neck the entire time, with various staff arguing day and night which games truly deserved the prize of best of the year. In the end, someone had to win and that was Shadow Hearts: Covenant.

Best Overall 2004 Winner
Shadow Hearts: Covenant

Shadow Hearts: Covenant had the style, poise, and overall gumption to steal the crown spot. Outdoing even the original, Covenant brought a sheer charisma to the experience that just could not be denied. Improving on the style and action of its previous incarnation, Covenant's overall appeal not only grew--it exploded.

Covenant shook off the rough start of its predecessor, working hard to provide players an easy way to get into their story and delivering to those who tried it a stellar performance, a cleverly worked dark alternate history RPG mixed with plenty of good comedy, excellent character designs, and a very solid core gameplay experience. Providing a well rounded experience with the improvements that we expect from the industry's best, Shadow Hearts: Covenant well earned its spot as RPGamer's staff Best Overall RPG.

Second Place - Tales of Symphonia

It didn't win it by far though, because traveling right behind it was the GameCube's titan of the year, Tales of Symphonia by Namco. Performing a graceful leap to the third dimension, this cel-shaded wonder offered a superb battle experience with energetic real-time action and effective AI support. The adventuring party lead by the pleasant and cheerful Lloyd traveled through two worlds and outer space in an enjoyable storyline unlike most others. For that, Tales of Symphonia earned it's second place spot in spades.

Third Place - Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

Ending the set is a game whose designers deserve every chunk of credit that can be given to them. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door by Intelligent Systems boasted a powerful story-book theme that was delivered with smoothly moving child's pop-up book graphics over what easily is one of the best game designs to come forth this year. Proving once again that you can't go wrong with Mario, this blend of platforming, clever paper-puzzles, and RPG goodness beat out it's competitors to come to a deserving finish at third.

by Philip Bloom

Honorable Mention - Phantom Brave

Honorable Mention - Baten Kaitos

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