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The Top 50 Videogames of the Decade (#20-11)

4:00 PM on 12.03.2009 // Chad Concelmo

In a few weeks, it will be the end of the first decade of the 21st century. To celebrate this milestone, we here at Destructoid picked the best fifty games of the last ten years (the best of the ’00s!). The only rule of this week-long series -- other than making sure each game was released between 2000 and today -- is that only one game from each series could make the final cut.

We are heading into the final stretch of the Top 50 Videogames of the Decade. *theme music to Jurassic Park playing in the background* Welcome ... to Part Four (#20-11). (You can check out the previous three parts here, here, and here.)

Think about how much stuff has changed in your life in the last ten years. Think about the places you have lived in, the different jobs you have had. Think about the amount of people you have met. Now think about all of these life events in relation to the videogames you have played. If you are like me, a lot of major moments in your life bring back memories of the videogame you were playing at the time.

I will never forget the videogames I was playing when I first moved to Los Angeles. I will always remember the game that was in my PlayStation 2 when my mother called me to tell me my wonderful grandmother died (I love you, grandma!). Videogames, and the emotions they bring with them, can be directly tied to fond (and sometimes not-so-fond) recollections of major life events.

This epic list is much more than just a countdown of the best fifty games of the decade. You can also look at it as a time capsule of all the stuff that has happened in your life in the last ten years! Ten years! That’s a really long time! As you read through the rest of our countdown, think back and remember what your life was like when each game came out. Where were you? What stuff was happening in your life? A tree trunk has its rings; gamers have used videogame boxes gathering dust on a shelf.

Or ... maybe I am just being super overdramatic. Maybe this is just a simple, debate-starting list of the best games of the ’00s. Whatever works for you. Just ignore me and hit the jump for Part Four (#20-11) of the Top 50 Videogames of the Decade.

Each new Final Fantasy game brings with it an inordinate amount of hype. And rightfully so, since Square has both the money and the time to create role-playing games of such high quality that it is only natural to expect each new installment in the long-running Final Fantasy series to be more fantastic than the last.

Of all the Final Fantasy games released in the last ten years, we here at Destructoid love Final Fantasy IX the most. We also adore Final Fantasy X -- it was a close race! -- but feel that IX encompasses everything that originally made the Final Fantasy games so great: a fantasy world full of fantastical creatures, powerful crystals, and soaring airships. Most importantly, though, Final Fantasy IX marked the end of a role-playing era -- the last “classic” game in a series that changed the videogame industry forever.

Oh, it also stars Vivi. Seriously, no one can deny the power of Vivi.

If this were a list of the most significant videogames of the last decade, World of Warcraft would have little competition for the #1 spot. Can you think of any other game in the last ten years that has inspired such a following and single-handedly changed the way we all play videogames? It’s hard to deny how much World of Warcraft has affected the videogame industry.

But this is not a list of the most “significant” games of the decade (although that is an important factor) -- it’s a list of the “best.” Even with that being said, World of Warcraft still easily places in the Top 20. Thinking about the game’s overall quality is more difficult now, five years after the game’s release, since, well, the PC juggernaut is starting to lose a little of its initial appeal. But if you are one of the millions of fans out there, think about World of Warcraft in its heyday. There was nothing else like it. Fighting in a PvP or banding together with a clan to take on a powerful beast, World of Warcraft offers one of the most incredibly social, entertaining gaming experiences ever, let alone of the last ten years.

Thank heavens Persona 4 was not based on my real-life high school experience. If that were the case, clever weapons and items would be replaced with Trapper Keepers, the slick costumes in the game would be nothing but cuffed jeans and Ocean Pacific t-shirts, and everyone’s controversial Personas would be the uncanny, but ultimately useless, power to decorate your entire car with Disney movie decals.

But enough about me! Persona 4, with its surprisingly seamless combination of dungeon-crawling RPG and social-based simulator, is one of the most intriguing and absolutely amazingly well-crafted role-playing games of the last generation. Who knew dating and social interaction could actually be fun?! Persona 4 fixes what little was wrong with Persona 3 and, by including a strong story and memorable characters, manages to surpass its beloved predecessor in almost every way.

Talk about an amazing sequel! The original Pikmin -- the adorable result of what happens when genius Shigeru Miyamoto makes a videogame based on his time working in his garden -- is a clever, innovative, wonderfully addictive little gem that was released early in the GameCube’s life cycle. While loved by almost everyone, there were little things in the game that people felt could have been fixed. Lucky for everyone, Pikmin 2 fixed every issue -- no matter how small -- and turned the final, improved product into a near-perfect game. Actually, no, make that a perfect game, dammit!

The originality on display alone in Pikmin 2 is enough to secure its place on this list. Controlling Olimar, players are tasked with finding hidden treasures around an alien planet (that looks very much like Earth) by leading an army of little flowery creatures called Pikmin. The game is a little bit real-time strategy and a little bit third-person action/adventure, but all amazing.

Get back in the garden and grow us some Pikmin 3 soon, Miyamoto! Do I have to beg?

I would bet most of you reading this list right now are not instantly familiar with Deus Ex -- the cyberpunk role-playing PC game was kind of a revolution when it was released nine years ago. You may have heard of it, but chances are you may have not played it. To be honest, that naïve assumption is based on a completely unscientific study I did by asking a few gamers if they had played it over lunch, but still ... the game has tragically fallen off people’s radars over the years. That much is definitely true.

If you have not played it, now is the perfect time to go out and find it! Deus Ex tells an incredible narrative through a first-person interface years before that started becoming cool. It features a variety of different mechanics that make the game refreshingly unique -- from amazing weapon selection to frustrating, but clever, lock picking. The game may not have aged that well graphically, but at the time it contained some of the most impressive storytelling techniques ever seen in a videogame. It’s an awesome game that really deserves a return to the spotlight.

When asked what their favorite survival horror videogame of all time is, many gamers quickly answer Silent Hill 2 for the PlayStation 2. And, really, it’s hard to disagree with that choice. Aside from being a marked improvement on the original foggy scare-fest, Silent Hill 2 contains one of the most disturbing, chill-inducing stories ever featured in a videogame.

Taking place in the titular town of Silent Hill, the moody sequel follows around main character Jack as he searches for answers on his wife’s death. What starts as a normal third-person journey through a twisted videogame world turns into a thing of nightmares. The detailed game mechanics are as creepy as they are brilliant, but Silent Hill 2 is most memorable for its introduction of iconic videogame character Pyramid Head. Just try to go to a videogame cosplay event and not see at least one person dressed up as the instantly recognizable monstrosity.

Most survival horror games throw numerous parlor tricks at you to appear scary (and usually fail miserably). Silent Hill 2 is the real, traumatizing deal.

Finding inspiration from an older videogame’s key mechanics can result in a positive reaction from the public or a decidedly negative one. On the one hand, you already have a well-established formula, guaranteeing the gameplay will, at the very least, be familiar to gamers. But on the other hand, you risk people criticizing the game for lacking any originality.

For Clover Studios, this risk carried with it some enormous stakes. With Okami -- their jaw-droppingly gorgeous Japanese folklore action/adventure game -- the developer decided to pull inspiration from one of the most critically-acclaimed, universally adored videogame series of all time: The Legend of Zelda. How could a game molded in the gameplay style of Zelda be even half as exceptional?

Maybe it was Clover’s stellar track record. Maybe it was Okami’s undeniably beautiful look or unique painting mechanic that let players actually “draw” main character Amaterasu’s powers on the screen. Whatever the reason, Okami turned out to not only be an absolute masterpiece that imbues enough originality to only feel like a Zelda-clone in basic presentation alone, it even manages to top the series that it so lovingly drew inspiration from in the first place -- a mystical feat only a Japanese wolf goddess could accomplish.

Super Metroid for the Super Nintendo is arguably the greatest 2D videogame ever created. Because of its perfection, many people -- including most of us here at Destructoid -- felt the Metroid series would only work well as just that, a 2D game. Years ago, when word broke that a new Metroid game was going to come out on the GameCube (the first new Metroid game on a Nintendo home console since the SNES!), people got excited! When these same people found out the classic formula would be shifted to the first-person perspective, they freaked out (and that’s putting it mildly)!

Retro Studios managed to accomplish the impossible. Metroid Prime, in every way, shape, and form, feels like a Metroid game, but one brilliantly presented through the helmet of classic heroine Samus Aran. For all the naysayers out there, try imagining what Super Metroid would look like if you could see the entire game through Samus’ eyes. Think of every enemy, every design choice. Think of every power-up item, every section of the environment. Think of the feeling of isolation. A first-person Super Metroid is Metroid Prime.

That’s what makes the game so impressive. Can you imagine any other 2D game (from any other development studio) that could make such an extreme shift to first-person and feel just as effortless? Metroid Prime is an ingeniously designed, timeless classic that will be remembered and replayed for years to come.

It was almost impossible for us to choose between Metal Gear Solid 3 and Metal Gear Solid 4 as to which is the better game. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots has its fair share of incredible moments and one of the most satisfying conclusions to any videogame. So does Metal Gear Solid 3. Both are, without question, masterpieces. To be honest, Guns of Patriots might have taken the cake had it not been for Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence.

When Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was originally released in 2004, it was an incredible addition to the stellar, if somewhat convoluted Metal Gear Solid series, but was plagued by an old-school overhead camera that made navigating the game’s lush jungle environments almost unplayable at times. In a brilliant, unheard-of move, Konami re-released the game in 2006 with the new subtitle “Subsistence” and a completely revamped camera that moved to a behind-the-back, more traditional 3D action/adventure perspective. The adjustment vastly improved the quality of the already awesome game.

Aside from the normal stealth gameplay that the Metal Gear Solid series perfected, Subsistence offers some of the most memorable videogame moments of all time and some highly detailed flourishes that only a genius like Kojima could design. Just try not to be endlessly impressed by the classic sniper face-off with The End ... or the epic confrontation with The Shagohod ... or The Sorrow’s walk of death ... or the tragically beautiful final meeting with The Boss.

The list of jaw-dropping moments goes on and on ...

Choosing between Metal Gear Solid 3 and 4 may have been tough, but the internal debate between which is better, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask or The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, proved just as difficult. To be fair, there were many Zelda games that came out this last decade that are fantastic (Four Swords, Minish Cap, and Phantom Hourglass come to mind), but as for the two best, Majora’s Mask and Wind Waker topped our list of personal favorites.

So, why did we choose The Wind Waker to represent the Zelda series on this list? Well, while graphics are usually not nearly as important as original gameplay, in this rare case, Wind Waker is so beautiful, so absolutely stunning to look at, that it stands out as arguably the most visually striking game to come out in a very long time. Sailing the open seas in Link’s ship is a treat for the eyes and one of the most breathtakingly soothing (if there is such a thing) time-eaters in videogame history. Of course, none of these visuals would matter if the game still didn’t play just as perfectly as past Zelda games (to make it official: it does!).

If the game had a few more dungeons -- a favorite of most Zelda fans -- Wind Waker would have easily made it into the Top 10. As it stands, the game is still one of the best the last ten years had to offer. It is a triumph in visual artistry.


What do you think? Have some of your favorite games of the last decade made the list? Let us know how you feel in the comments! With only ten more games left, do you have any guesses as to what modern day classics will show up on tomorrow’s final list (THE TOP 10!)?

Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for Part Five (#10-1) of our countdown of the Top 50 Videogames of the Decade!


Part One - #50-41
50. Metal Slug 3
49. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
48. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
47. Vagrant Story
46. Super Smash Bros. Melee
45. Team Fortress 2
44. WarioWare: Twisted!
43. Banjo-Tooie
42. Psychonauts
41. Braid

Part Two - #40-31
40. Kingdom Hearts
39. Rock Band 2
38. Marvel vs. Capcom 2
37. Lost Odyssey
36. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
35. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3
34. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
33. BioShock
32. Katamari Damacy
31. Civilization III

Part Three - #30-21
30. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
29. Shenmue II
28. Left 4 Dead
27. Skies of Arcadia
26. Paper Mario
25. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
24. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King
23. Cave Story
22. Ico
21. Ikaruga

Part Four - #20-11
20. Final Fantasy IX
19. World of Warcraft
18. Persona 4
17. Pikmin 2
16. Deus Ex
15. Silent Hill 2
14. Okami
13. Metroid Prime
12. Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence
11. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Chad Concelmo,
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