There's an old saying in the video game business: just because a game looks good doesn't mean it's fun to play.
We roamed the sprawling halls of this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles and found these standouts from the hundreds of new games being previewed. In most cases, it was the gameplay, not the graphics, that had us hooked.
1. Madden NFL 2006
Just like the National Football League itself, each season of gridiron is accompanied by a new football game from Electronic Arts. Now in its 16th year, this version promises more graphic tweaks to blur the visual line between watching a video game and a real television broadcast.
This one should be coming out for all current consoles, the PC, as well as the next-gen Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Revolution. No shipping date has been announced.
2. The Godfather: The Game
Electronic Arts is offering a game based on the 1972 crime-family classic from director Francis Ford Coppola for a generation who may not know what it means to "sleep with the fishes."
The game features voiceovers from James Caan, Robert Duvall and the late Marlon Brando in an open-ended design reminiscent of Grand Theft Auto, where you rise through the ranks of the Corleone family to become the Don.
In your way are the police and the Tattaglia, Cuneo, Sollozzo, Brazini and Stracci families.
Look for it on the PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC, PlayStation Portable and next-generation consoles. EA hasn't said when this one will hit store shelves.
3. Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure
There's finally a video game in the works for anyone who's ever wanted to be a graffiti artist extraordinaire. . . and it's coming from a fashion designer. Before you scoff, this game suggests Ecko knows what he's doing.
Slapping your tags and other spray-canned artwork in seemingly impossible spots is a fun challenge as you vie for reputation and honor in this competitive form of urban art. Credit publisher Atari for giving gamers something to wield besides a weapon in this PS2 title, due in September.
4. Destroy All Humans!
What's an invading alien to do in a country in the throes of 1950s McCarthyism? Kill everyone, apparently. As appalling as that sounds, the presentation is hilariously campy, very similar to those old laugh-out-loud bad sci-fi B-movies.
Your job as invading alien does have some meaning beyond mass chaos: you'll be gathering all those human brain stems to save yourself from extinction. Publisher THQ should be making this one available in June for the PS2 and Xbox.
It's hard to know what to call this PC-only game other than extremely original. And, in these days of sequels and movie tie-ins, that's quite an accomplishment. What we can tell you is this: Spore is the latest creation from Will Wright, the freeform mind behind The Sims and other simulations.
This time, Wright has truly stretched the meaning of simulated existence to new levels as you evolve a single-cell simpleton from a colony of germs into sentient beings capable of communication, war, and eventually -- interstellar exploration. Wright says it'll come out next year, nothing specific though.
This one for the Nintendo DS definitely earns the award for cutest game of E3. Nintendogs, already available in Japan, takes virtual pet ownership to frighteningly realistic levels. You'll train your pup to sit, roll over and do other tricks by barking orders into the microphone, then rubbing the touch screen to pet you dog.
And yes, it will make a mess of things if you don't take it outside. But at least it won't shed all over the house. Expect this one sometime in August.
7. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Another Nintendo game, this one for the GameCube, takes action hero Link in a significantly darker direction. Twilight Princess will let Link ride horseback and turn into a wolf as he strives to save the land of Hyrule from encroaching evil.
Speaking of dark, this version has a much more realistic visual design than the previous The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker, which had a simple but beautiful hand-painted look. This will be Nintendo's marquee title available for the Christmas holiday.
8. Tomb Raider: Legend
After a two-year hiatus, one of video gaming's biggest action heroines is getting a makeover. Tomb Raider: Legend will explore the origins of Lara Croft, the brainy, scantily clad archaeologist with a knack for finding danger along with hidden treasure.
The game, which is being published by Eidos Inc. for the PlayStation 2, Xbox and PC, features new gear including a magnetic grappling device, binoculars, frag grenades and communications equipment.
It's set for a November release for the current consoles, and while an Xbox 360 version is planned no release date has been announced.
9. We Love Katamari Damacy
The indescribably wacky world from one of last year's best games returns with an aptly named sequel. This edition of the blob-rolling, trash-collecting game includes missions where you have to roll over and glom onto specific objects, from cats and dogs to flowers.
There are additional levels, including underwater and snow missions (watch out for fires!). A new two-person cooperative mode will certainly test communication skills, as one person moves the ball up and down while the other moves side-to-side. This PlayStation 2 game should be available sometime later this year.
10. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Gaming may be going more mainstream, but the developers at Bethesda Softworks haven't forgotten about the hardcore faithful. Three years in the making, this new take on the classic dungeons and dragons genre has unprecedented graphics, with expansive forests, castles and lots of dungeons to explore.
What's really impressive is the simple yet powerful control system for fighting and casting spells. And the graphics can't be understated -- the reflective, intricate carvings in the swords alone are worth staring at for a while. This game will be available for PCs by Christmas, and versions for the new consoles are in the works.
An actor portraying a Webzen game character strikes a menacing pose -- or perhaps 'batter up' -- at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. AP Photo/Reed Saxon