The 2000s was a massive decade for the video game business. Over that span video games overtook movies as an entertainment medium, with some of the most powerful game franchises earning hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. That ten year span saw PC software giant Microsoft throw their hat in the video game ring with the successful launch of their Xbox and Xbox 360 consoles. Nintendo faded in the early part of the decade, but came back stronger than ever following the reason of their handheld touch-screen DS and DSi, and their massively popular, ground-breaking Wii console. The decade also saw the release of many of the best video games of all time, and many of those games will be long remembered in video game history for their innovative gameplay. Trying to pick the greatest of these games was a daunting challenge, and I’m sure the fanboys will be out in full force to defend their consoles of choice. Here are my picks for the best video games of the 2000s:
40 – Diablo 2 – Blizzard has been a huge player in the PC gaming industry for better than 15 years. With Diablo 2 they all but perfected the loot-grabbing hack and slash RPG genre, building upon everything that made Diablo so addictive, and adding a replay value so good that many players still play the game religiously, nearly a decade after its release.
39 – Final Fantasy X – One of the biggest video game franchises of all time, the Final Fantasy series by developer Square Enix was a large reason why Sony’s PS2 sold more than 100 million units worldwide. Each chapter in the franchise is incredibly polished, and the eagerly awaited 10th chapter was no exception. The last Final Fantasy game produced by Hironobu Sakaguchi and competes against Final Fantasy II and Final Fantasy VII for the title of the best game in the series.
38 – Max Payne – Though the “bullet time” feature has since been beaten to death in games, back in 2001 it was a very cool, ground-breaking feature that really set this 3rd person shooter apart from so many others in the genre. A huge success on the PC, the game would go on to be ported to the Xbox, PS2 and even the Gameboy Advance. The action is relentless, and the voice acting and plot is so good at times it resembled a movie.
37 – Shadow of the Colussus – One of the best PS2 games of all time, this is one video game that never really got the kudos it deserved. A spiritual successor to the cult hit Ico, the game built upon everything that made Ico great, taking it to the next level. Though billed as an action-adventure game this unique genre-breaking game is really a puzzler at heart. If you enjoy a good brain test definitely pick this one up in the local bargain bin.
36 – Metroid Fusion – Video game fans will no doubt notice a lack of handheld games on this list of the best video games of the Noughties. With the limited horsepower of handhelds I just don’t feel they can measure up to their console big brothers. However, I couldn’t ignore the greatness that is Metroid Fusion. The Metroid series has been one of the best video game franchises for more than a decade, and Fusion for the Gameboy Advance is so polished and fun to play it can easily compete with the full-budget PC and console games on this list.
35 – Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec – One of the best racing games of all time, Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec really showcased the power of the Emotion Engine underlying the PS2 console. With a ridiculous amount of customization options, and incredible true to life physics, gear heads will be in their glory playing this game. The sweet graphics are so good you’ll swear you are playing a PS3 game.
34 – Shenmue II – Another incredibly underrated game, Shenmue II and its predecessor Shenmue were among the best games released for the Sega Dreamcast console. Unfortunately for North American Dreamcast owners no English dub of the sequel was ever produced, but the game can be found on the original Xbox console. With a riveting storyline this is one of the best adventure games ever made, and well worth picking up if you’re still hanging on to your old Xbox.
33 – Madden 10 – I had to include a Madden game somewhere on this list. This EA Sports juggernaut has been a perennial best-seller since the early 90s. Though fans often criticize it for making only minor upgrades from year to year, Madden 10 finally got everything right for the next generation consoles. The graphics, gameplay, physics and accuracy make the game arguably the best in the series.
32 – Wii Sports – Though some might argue this is more of a tech demo than a full blown game, I felt compelled to include it on the list. Sure, it could have been more fully fleshed out, but what is there is undeniably fun, addictive and had everyone from toddlers to grandparents waving their arms around trying to bowl, hit a tennis ball, and punch one another out. Perhaps no other title in video game history has had such a cultural impact across such a wide demographic.
31 – The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion – I’ve been playing The Elder Scrolls, since the original game, Arena was released back in the 90s. I am always blown away by just how much exploration there is to be done in this open-ended RPG franchise. With Oblivion, Bethesda Software brought the immersion factor to the next level, taking advantage of the horsepower of this generation of consoles to produce one of the most graphic-stunning games to date. With literally hundreds of hours of gameplay, and production value rivaling a Hollywood blockbuster this game is one of the greatest values you’ll find on this list.
30 – Super Mario Galaxy – You knew Nintendo’s mustachioed plumber was going to make an appearance on this top 40 list. Mario is back, and this time he is out of this world on the Wii. As fun as classics like Super Mario Bros, and Mario 64 were, this Mario game, which uses Nintendo’s innovative motion controller, is arguably the most fun yet. If you own a Wii, you need to own this game.
29 – Deus Ex – In a genre absolutely bursting to the seams with copycat imitators, Deus Ex managed to set itself apart from the crowd of FPS clones. One of the best PC games of all time, Deus Ex combines first person play with role-playing elements. In the years since its release it has captured numerous awards, and enjoyed well-deserved international critical acclaim.
28 – Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory – The original Splinter Cell was one of the most ground-breaking games for the original Xbox console. However, with the release of Chaos Theory, developer Ubisoft finally perfected the stealth video game genre recipe, making this an easy choice for a spot on this list of the greatest games of the 00s. Controlling protagonist Sam Fisher is incredibly fun and addictive and every mission has unlimited replayability depending on how to employ your stealth and combat skills.
27 – Metal Gear III: Solid Snake – I thought it appropriate that this title should be back to back with Splinter Cell. Hideo Kojima’s Solid Snake is a video game icon, and because the game employs the same style of stealth combat Snake and Fisher are often compared. I believe this game gets a (slight) nod, simply because of Kojima’s incredible creativity. His obvious passion for video games shines through with this game, and it is not only one of the best games of the noughties, but of all time.
26 – Fallout 3 – Bethesda Studios makes another appearance on the list with this post-apocalyptic RPG. Similar in scope to Oblivion, Fallout 3 has the same incredible open-ended gameplay that gives this title a replayability of literally years. If you’ve got a few hundred hours to kill definitely pick this title up. With an incredible array of skills and weaponry to arm your character you’ll find yourself playing just one more hour to try and improve your character. There is an over-arcing plot, of course, but the genius of the game is in the incredible amount to do in between completing the main quest.
25 – Super Smash Bros. Melee – One of the best aspects of video gaming is sitting on the couch with a few buddies and trash-talking while you battle head to head. Sports games like Madden, or driving games like Super Mario Kart are good for this, but nothing beats literally laying a beating on your opponent, and that is what Super Smash Bros. delivers. If you have a Gamecube and you don’t own this game, shame on you! Pick it up immediately and start layin’ a whuppin’ on your friends!
24 – Counter-Strike – Originally released as a mod for the massively popular first person shooter Half-Life, this cult favorite grew so popular it was finally commercially packaged. Incredibly addictive, the mod pits teams of terrorists vs. counter-terrorists. Legions of PC gamers played this mod religiously, and it is arguably the main reason why the Half-Life franchise has enjoyed such massive success over the years.
23 – Bioshock – This is another game on the list that I would deem underrated. Another FPS that sets itself apart from the rest of the genre, Bioshock is set in an alternate history, and features several RPG elements that give it an incredible depth. The storyline is also extremely well-written and players will find themselves completely immersed in the role of Jack as they fight off mutants and drones in the underwater city of Rapture.
22 – Perfect Dark – One of the best N64 games of all time, Perfect Dark is developer Rare’s follow-up to their smash hit GoldenEye 007. Though it might not be quite as good as that game, there is still plenty to like about Perfect Dark. Though most popular FPS games feature a large multiplayer element Perfect Dark has none. However, even without multiplayer this game is awesome, and you’ll appreciate the incredible detail that was put into the single player game as you guide Joanna Dark through the 17 included missions.
21 – Metroid Prime – No surprise to see this game on the list of the best video games of the 2000s. This Gamecube game took the popular Metroid series into the world of 3D for the first time. Ironically the move to 3D was met with criticism from fans, however, time has proven Nintendo right as the first person adventure has since gone on to much critical acclaim in the decade since its release.
20 – World of Warcraft – With MMORPGs making such a huge impact on the video game industry ever since the release of pioneer games like Ultima Online and Everquest, I figured it was only right to include at least one game from the genre on the list. Really, there is no other choice than this one. WoW has been absolutely massive in the years since its release, building a subscriber base of Azeroth explorers well in excess of 10 million. With expansion packs continually in development there continues to be plenty for MMO addicts to sink their teeth into.
19 – Mass Effect – If I had to recommend one game that every Xbox 360 console owner should buy it would be Mass Effect. Developer Bioware is known for the incredible polish and production value of their games, and that has been readily apparent in such popular titles as Star Wars: Knights of the OldRepublic, Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights. Mass Effect is no exception, and you’ll find yourself marveling at the incredible attention to detail of the game, particularly in the complex conversation system, as you control Commander Shepard in this futuristic RPG.
18 – Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time – You know a video game franchise has hit the big time when a major motion picture is made out of it. A huge computer game series back from the days of MS-Dos, the Prince of Persia really hit the mainstream consciousness with the 2003 release of The Sands of Time. An addictive action platformer, the game is a perfect balance of difficulty and fun.
17 – Gears of War – Back in the early days of the PS3 Sony fanboys were trumpeting its graphical superiority over the Xbox 360. With the release of Gears of War that argument was laid firmly to rest. This game is absolutely gorgeous. With jaw-dropping visuals, non-stop action and a robust multiplayer system this Epic Games’ masterpiece earns a deserving spot on this list.
16 – Little Big Planet – Who says creativity in video games is dead? If anyone believes that they need simply to pick up this cool PS3 game. Gorgeously styled, this unique puzzle platformer provides endless hours of entertainment in both single and multiplayer modes. However, the best part of the game is the ability of players to generate their own modifications for the game. Endlessly customizable, Little Big Planet has virtually unlimited replayability, and the ability to download mods online with ensure this game is played for many years to come.
15 – Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – Bioware shows up again on their list, this time boasting the Stars Wars license. In my opinion, this is their masterpiece game, and really changed the way RPGs are played today. Don’t worry. You don’t have to be a Star Wars nut to enjoy this game. With its cinematic storyline, detailed conversation system, and its revolutionary combat system the game will appeal to anyone who likes a good RPG.
14 – Guitar Hero – Speaking of revolutionary games, few titles have impacted the video game industry than this music title from Harmonix and Red Octane. Though the gameplay is relatively simple, being able to pretend to rock out on a guitar was wickedly fun, and ord of mouth spread quickly following the game’s release. Within a few months Guitar Hero quickly became the must have party game for kids and adults alike. The original has spawned several sequels, and the franchise has expanded to include an entire band.
13 – Resident Evil 4 – Though the Gamecube wasn’t a big commercial success for Nintendo it did have a few great titles. The best of these was Capcom’s horror survival game Resident Evil 4. Though it has since been ported to other consoles, including Nintendo’s Wii, I will always consider it a Gamecube game. It, more than any other title, showed the graphical prowess the little cube was capable of. However, RE4 wasn’t just about eye-candy. The gameplay was creepy and intense, and the storyline remarkably gripping. Even though it is several years old now this game is still worth checking out if you’ve never tried it before.
12 – Grand Theft Auto III – Though this series enjoyed a cult following with its first two chapters, it wasn’t until it made the leap to 3D in the third installment that it gained a massive following. When I say massive I mean MASSIVE! GTA III became a huge cash cow for Rockstar Games. With its open-ended gameplay mechanics, its Hollywood quality voice acting, and the ability for players to engage it just about any criminal endeavor they chose, the game was both immensely popular and a target for groups decrying its glorification of a criminal lifestyle. It has gone on to spawn several sub-chapters, and another sequel and you know Rockstar isn’t going to stop cranking out chapters of this money-making franchise anytime soon.
11 – Halo 2 – With Halo: Combat Evolved Bungie Studios created what many people considered the perfect console FPS. That is, until Halo 2 arrived. With a more powerful graphics engine, a proper online multiplayer component (without the need for tunneling software) and an even meatier plot this game literally flew off the shelves. It wound up selling more than 8 million copies, making it the best selling Xbox game of all time.
10 – God of War – Here we are into the top 10 video games of the 2000s, and this PS2 classic is a fitting choice to mark the entry. In my opinion this was the best game to launch on the Playstation 2 console, a heady achievement considering how many titles were released for the system. The game has gone on to spawn a pair of sequels, and protagonist Kratos has since become of the most recognizable characters in video game lore.
9 – Super Smash Bros. Brawl – As you can tell, I am a big fan of Nintendo’s couch multiplayer fighting game. Brawl returns with more of the same goodness that Melee gave us, only this time on the Wii. With 35 recognizable characters like Link, Samus, Wario, Solid Snake and even Sonic the Hedgehog, all with unique fighting styles, there are plenty of different ways to choose from to lay the boots to your buddies. Oh, there is a single player adventure mode, but I couldn’t tell you if it is any good. This game is all about the multiplayer for me.
8 – Rock Band – As revolutionary as Guitar Hero was, I have to give this title the nod when it comes to best music game of all time. Rock Band built upon the success of Guitar Hero and snatched away the title of best party game by allowing groups of friends to play guitar, bass, drums, and sing, making it a more cooperative and interactive experience. With hundreds of great downloadable tracks to choose from the replayability of this game is through the roof, and I have friends that still play this game a couple of hours a day religiously.
7 – Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – For years the Call of Duty series has set the standard as the best war simulation game out there. However, up until the release of Modern Warfare there were always contenders for the title. That competition has now been swept aside. Hail to the king! If you don’t like war simulations then this game isn’t for you. If you do, then I am preaching to the choir, because you are already playing this brilliant, nearly perfect game.
6 – Metal Gear Solid IV: Guns of the Patriots – Speaking of nearly perfect games, this offering by Hideo Kojima fits the bill. Solid Snake is back for one final adventure in this swan song title. All the stealth action that made this franchise such a success is back, this time accompanied by a jaw-dropping graphics engine made possible by the horsepower of the PS3. Whether you are a veteran of the series, or this is the first installment you’ve tried I guarantee you won’t be able to put the controller down.
5 – The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess – You knew you were going to see Link show up as more than a playable character in Super Smash Bros. One of the most critically franchises in video game history The Legend of Zelda was a no brainer choice to launch aside Nintendo’s Wii console. The transition to the new console and control scheme was seamless, and though many still hold up Ocarina of Time as the best game in the series to date Twilight Princess certainly gives it a run for its money.
4 – Half Life 2 – In my opinion this game is the best PC first person shooter ever created. It built upon the enormous popularity of the original, and sales for the title were staggering, with over 6 million units flying off the shelves. The single player mode is incredibly engaging as you take on the role of scientist Gordon Freeman, however, like all FPS games it is the multiplayer that really makes or breaks it. Half-Life 2’s multiplayer system doesn’t disappoint in this regard and at any given times servers were overloaded with tens of thousands of addicted gamers playing world-wide.
3 – Halo: Combat Evolved – Though Halo 2 was arguably the better game, the original Halo earns a higher spot due to its innovative control scheme, and the fact that in my opinion this game single-handedly saved the Xbox console from being unceremoniously relegated to the dustbin of video game history. Halo: Combat Evolved was the only compelling reason to own an Xbox console for at least a year following its initial release, and it sold enough systems to lure more developers into creating quality games for the console. However, this list is about the games themselves, and Halo really deserves its high spot. Ridiculously fun to play in both single player and cooperative and head to head multiplayer mode the game gives Goldeneye 007 a run for its money for the title of best console FPS of all time.
2 – Grand Theft Auto IV – As good as GTA III and sub-sequels like Vice City and San Andreas were the pinnacle of this legendary video game series came with its introduction on the PS3 console. Finally Rockstar Games had the horsepower to create the game they’d always envisioned. GTA IV’s incredible graphics immerse the player even further into the open-ended gameplay, and the introduction of a multiplayer component gave this already incredible series even more replay value.
1 – Uncharted 2: Among Thieves – Though throughout my list of the top 40 best video games of the 2000s I’ve described games as having the look and feel of a movie, when compared to Uncharted 2 they were like low budget college film school projects compared to an Oscar-winning, James Cameron directed Hollywood blockbuster. Uncharted 2 is so well written with such great voice acting that if you closed your eyes you would literally believe you were listening to a movie. The sequel improves upon everything that made the first game so great, and most importantly, adds much sought after cooperative and competitive multiplayer modes. All in all this is a marvelously fun game to play, with a robust single player campaign that is the envy of every other game on this list. In my opinion it is the best PS3 game to date and is an easy pick as the greatest video game of the decade.