When we were putting together this massive list, I think all of us were surprised and fascinated by how many genuinely good games came out during the ’00s. Narrowing down the list week after week became an almost impossible task, as certain games that anyone would consider modern-day classics had to be cut in order to come up with a final list of fifty. While we are very happy with our final selections, there were a lot of undeniably stellar games that had to be left on the cutting room floor. The list of runner-ups (more than triple in length of this one!) is out of control.
But the fifty that made this list were chosen for a reason. They truly represent the best this last decade had to offer. If anything, the variety alone is proof that the last ten years of gaming has been, at the same time, both exceptionally inventive and wildly diverse. As gamers, we are incredibly lucky to be a part of this creative era.
But enough of this crazy talk! Let’s get to the next part of the list! That’s why you’re still reading, right? Hit the jump for Part Two (#40-31) of the Top 50 Videogames of the Decade.
On the one hand, you have a French fry that represents old Disney movies and characters -- tasty, comforting, and classic. On the other hand, you have a Frosty from fast-food chain Wendy’s that represents the Final Fantasy games -- satisfying, but prone to cause a headache if consumed too fast. Individually, both things are absolutely delicious, but, together -- gasp! -- how could they ever work?!
Well, Square braved the underappreciated French fry/Frosty combination and managed to create a surprisingly delicious treat: Disney and Final Fantasy characters, starring together in an epic action/RPG hybrid!
Looking past the obvious fan service, Kingdom Hearts is a highly polished game with some very addictive gameplay. But, let’s face it: it’s seeing classic Square characters fighting alongside Donald Duck and Goofy through increasingly exciting Disney-themed stages that’s the real selling point. And that’s okay. Because, seriously, it’s really, really awesome seeing these two vastly different worlds collide in such a beautiful way. It’s still hard to believe a game like this ever happened.
Out of the 17,000 music games that came out this past decade, Rock Band 2 is the best. Sure, Guitar Hero started a revolution in the videogame industry and the original Rock Band took things up a notch by adding more (expensive) plastic instruments and the ability to sing, but Rock Band 2 perfected the formula.
The music game genre may be starting to get a little stale (don’t kill me, Nick Chester!), but it doesn’t change the fact that Rock Band 2 and games like it truly changed videogames in the new millennium. Love ’em or loathe ’em, you can’t deny the drawing power those little plastic instruments have over random people walking through the Best Buy. Games like Rock Band 2 took the basic “follow the beat” gameplay established in things like Rhythm Tengoku and Elite Beat Agents (two incredible games in their own right!) and made it accessible to people of all ages and tastes, gamers and non-gamers alike. It’s a truly remarkable feat from a fascinating slice of videogame culture.
There are many reasons why Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is the most beloved 2D fighting game since Street Fighter II. Let’s see: 1) The game has an absurdly huge roster of playable characters featuring some of the best heroes and villains from the Marvel and Capcom worlds. 2) The easy-to-pick-up, tough-to-master controls translate perfectly from the arcade to the slick Dreamcast port. 3) The combos are out of control. 4) The artwork in the game is gorgeous and absolutely timeless. 5) It ... oh, heck, these are reasons enough!
I think we can all agree Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is a fighting classic. And, honestly, if the rabid fans of the game are any indication, it might even be a better overall package than reigning king Street Fighter II. You won’t get an argument here.
After the glorious era of the Super Nintendo and the PlayStation release of Final Fantasy VII, role-playing games started shifting away from their traditional Japanese roots of turn-based random battles and mystical settings, and slowly moved to more “Western” gameplay themes. While this shift was not a bad thing by any means (change is good!), there were many who missed the days of a good old-fashioned role-playing experience -- one that slowly started to become extinct over the last ten years.
At first glance, Mistwalker’s Lost Odyssey (from Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi!) seems almost too stuck in the past -- the battles and interface feel like they were taken directly from an RPG made in the early ’90s -- but once you get sucked into the exceptionally moving story about a band of heroes working together to save the world, you immediately start to realize the kind of classic role-playing experience you have been missing after all these years.
Lost Odyssey is a breath of fresh air and one of the best combinations of wonderfully nostalgic gameplay and modern visual flair.
It makes perfect sense that many developers are constantly trying their best to reboot older videogame franchises. There is already an established brand and it’s more than likely older fans will be the first in line to buy a brand new game in a series they love. It’s just smart business.
That’s what makes something like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time -- Ubisoft’s complete retooling of the Prince of Persia franchise -- such a nice surprise. Even if the game was originally intended to cash in on a familiar name, nothing in the final product should be that easily dismissed. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time combines everything that made the Prince of Persia series so memorable -- mainly, smooth animation and death-defying platforming -- with a pretty revolutionary time-reversing mechanic that lets you retry all those dumb jumping mistakes all gamers make from time to time. The result is a game that is impeccably designed and a blast to play.
Along with the birth of the “band” games, the early part of this last decade brought about a crazy obsession with skateboarding simulators. Leading the charge was the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series. A far cry from the fondly remembered, but ultimately sub-par, skateboard games from the NES and early arcade era (I am looking at you Town & Country Surf Designs!), Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 is a skateboarding game that is not only super addictive, it controls like a dream. Skating through multiple open world levels and stringing together fluid combos is an absolute joy to experience.
While the second game in the series is a near-perfect creation, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 polishes everything just enough to get our vote for the best the series has to offer. It's a shame the once-stellar series fell into an unfortunate rut in its later years ...
There is a point in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare’s breathtaking single-player campaign that instantly solidifies the game’s position as one of the greatest videogames of the last decade. For people that have played the game, the moment is obvious (two words: nuclear blast). For everyone else, I won’t dare continue in the fear of spoiling such a shocking piece of videogame storytelling.
As amazing as this particular sequence is, the reason Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is so fantastic is this high quality, unique presentation remains intact the entire game.
With the tired influx of World War II threatening to poison the first-person shooter genre, Infinity Ward made the brilliant move of setting the fourth game in the Call of Duty series during the present time. Although most of the locations are fictional, this brave, topical decision completely rejuvenated the entire genre. Even ignoring the deep and addictive multiplayer, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is a harrowing, staggering experience that should not be missed.
Transitioning from talking about Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare to BioShock makes perfect sense. Both games are first-person shooters. Both games came out the same year. And both games excel in telling engrossing stories completely through the eyes of their main characters. But what ranks BioShock a little bit higher on this list is its gorgeous, completely original undersea setting and dark, engrossing story.
Including a plot twist that is destined to be talked about just as much as the shocking loss of a particular character in Final Fantasy VII (the “[blank] is [blank]” quote is already legendary), BioShock establishes a creepy, haunting tone as you play through its superb single-player campaign. Regardless of how the game’s upcoming sequel turns out, the original BioShock -- with its iconic Big Daddies and Little Sisters -- will always be viewed as a modern day classic. It is easily one of the most memorable videogame experiences of the last ten years.
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When Katamari Damacy premiered at E3 2004, it was one of the strangest games the enormous crowd had ever seen. Because of this, its designated area at the show remained mostly empty. As the conference continued over the next few days, however, more and more people began to play it, and, much like the Katamari itself, the game’s buzz grew and grew until there were so many people gathered around the Namco booth it was almost impossible to even see the screen!
This reaction is the perfect way to explain Katamari Damacy. The first time you see the game, it freaks you out a little (WHY IS THE KING SO MEAN AND WHY IS SO MUCH RANDOM STUFF SCATTERED AROUND THIS PERSON’S HOUSE?!), but once you sit down with it, the odd, totally Japanese gameplay takes over your mind in a wonderful way. The game is endlessly addictive and the music -- my God, the music! -- is so good.
As complex and intimidating as they are, the Civilization games -- originally created by mastermind Sid Meier -- are surprisingly accessible. Once you get past the initial fear of trying to manage a deep and evolved empire simulator that follows the player from the start of recorded history to modern times, the Civilization games are some of the most playable, oh-my-gosh-I-can’t-believe-it’s-already-4-in-the-morning videogames ever created (trust me on this one from personal experience).
Civilization III is a highly balanced, impressively designed simulation game that is a must play for anyone with a PC and even the smallest interest in the very particular, sometimes overwhelming genre. Don’t let the educational subject matter fool you -- Civilization III is not Mavis Beacon Teaches History! It is a real testament when, even today, eight years since the game’s release, people are still falling in love with Civilization III.
What do you think? Do you like these games more or less than yesterday’s ten? It’s hard to debate any exclusions since we haven’t revealed the full list yet, but let us know what you think in the comments. Do you think this was an exceptional decade for videogames? What are some of your favorite games that came out in the “Aughts?”
Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for Part Three (#30-21) 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!
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
32. Katamari Damacy
31. Civilization III
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