Top 20 Games of the Noughties
Sick of lists yet? Of course you’re not, you bloodly love them don’t you? Well, I do, and here is another one. I’ve not been able to play every game released over the past decade, though I like to think that I’ve tried. This represents the cream of the crop that I actually managed to get my fingers on. They’re organised by release date, not preference. Enjoy!
Resident Evil: Code Veronica – DC/PS2
That’s right, I’ve gone and skipped over RE4 in favour of an older game. Though RE4 is considered to be the best in the series, this is where things started to move beyond the fixed cameras and the pre-rendered backgrounds of the original two, creating something far more interesting.
Deus Ex – PC/PS2
Still ranked as one of the best PC games of all time despite being nearly 10 years old, Deus Ex is still one of the few titles that actually lets you choose your preferred method of getting through the levels. If you want to stealth your way through you’ll be at no more of a disadvantage than if you choose to bulk up your health and weapons capabilities and duke it out. The graphics look pretty shocking by today’s standards, but once you get involved it really doesn’t matter. There is a sequel, but it’s dumbed down and lifeless by comparison.
Jet Set Radio – DC
A game about graffiti and roller skating. But unlike other sporting franchises it’s all about the quirky world and the art style here. Difficult to define in terms of genre, Jet Set Radio had a big impact on me when it came out, and it continues to stand alone as a peculiar and in some ways profound interactive statement. A sequel for Xbox expanded upon the formula of the original.
Shenmue II – Dreamcast/Xbox
Don’t bother with the Xbox version of this game if you can help it, as the atrocious English voice overs spoil the seriousness of the plot. The Dreamcast original pushed the hardware limitations of the console and messed up my sleep pattern for days. Addictive, cinematic and one of the first games to implements QTEs (Quick Time Events) as a major gameplay mechanic.
Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy – PS2
Platform games have never been Sony’s strong point, but the Naughty Dog team hit it big with this one. Funny as well as fun, it’s much better than the sequels which introduced guns and got all emo. It’s often ranked as one of the best PS2 titles as well, so it’s not just me.
Max Payne 2 – PC/Xbox/PS2
Though bullet time was brought to the gaming world with the original, it was the highly polished sequel that perfected the art. Diving through the air with two pistols blazing in slow motion is still awesome, and Max Payne 2 has lost little of its quality since its release. The noir sensibilities of the plot and the graphic novel style narrative also mixed things up.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – Xbox/PC
With all the tripe that has been produced under the Star Wars license, it’s quite surprising when something worthwhile comes around. Fanboys will love the attention paid to the source material and newcomers will love the storyline which could stand alone as a film in itself. It’s better than all of the movie prequels rolled into one, and you get to play as a Wookie if you want to.
Beyond Good & Evil -PC/Xbox
A game in which your main aim is to go around documenting various species of animal before the world is destroyed may sound a little boring, but there is so much more to Beyond Good & Evil than its basic premise. Irreverent, emotional and most of all fun, this is another game that has gained a cult following after poor initial sales.
Prince of Persia: Sands of Time – PS2/Xbox/GC/PC
The controls and the free running mechanics made this game feel like nothing before it. And the sneery, spoilt Prince is a delight to play along with. The icing on the cake is the progressive relationship with female companion Farah, which compared to relationships in most other games is complex and not stereotypical in the slightest. The combat was improved for the second and third instalments, but the ability to rewind death and backflip into voids over and over again and the lack of pretention in the first title allow it to float to the top of the pile.
Half Life 2 – PC/Xbox
A masterclass in pacing and immersion, HL2 has everything going for it. Each chapter offers something new, and the episodic semi-sequels have also been sublime. If you want to introduce a complete newcomer to gaming, I recommend you let them ease themselves in with Half Life 2.
God of War – PS2
If you want a quick lesson in the violent world of the Classics then play through God of War or its equally accomplished sequel. Greek mythology, brash machismo, crazy special moves and cinematic sensibilities make God of War arguably the best PS2 game ever created. Although that’s an argument you have to have whilst shouting in a manly voice. AREEEEES!
Psychonauts – GC/PS2/Xbox/PC
Funniest game of the decade? Check. Most intellectually stimulating? Check. Satirical tour de force? Check. Buy this game and play it now.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion – PC/Xbox 360/PS3
Its graphics blew everyone away when it was released, and though its ‘rich’ world was not entirely original, it was packed full of enough imaginative ideas and distracting side quests that it could keep you engrossed for hours on end.
Zelda: Twilight Princess – GC/Wii
Without a shadow of a doubt the best game in the extensive Zelda series. Every single element feels like it has been subjected to care and attention, and the design of the dungeons and the overworld is second to none. You’ll never care about a mute game hero more.
Peggle – PC
Casual gaming had to be represented somewhere in this list, and Peggle is the king of the casual. It will drain away the hours like they were minutes, and it revels in its pointlessness.
Portal – PC/Xbox 360
This is the gaming equivalent of a novella, but its length is an attribute, focusing the impact of its narrative-driven, physics puzzle-based gameplay. Embarrassingly clever at times, the Portal world has become the stuff of gaming legend.
Super Mario Galaxy – Wii
Another series reboot resulted in yet another triumph. Anyone who tells you that Super Mario 64 is better must have been living in a cave for a decade, or have completely numbed themselves to the truth with their nostalgia. I await Super Mario Deity with excitement, for where can Mario go next but to the gods?
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – PC/Xbox360/PS3
An intense and daring game with some breathtaking set pieces and subtle characterisation, the sequel to which is currently selling squillions. However, as a single player experience the original was the first to truly attempt social comment in a war game.
Grand Theft Auto IV – PC/Xbox 360/PS3
Praised by everyone, this is a fairly obvious choice. But it is the social satire and the storytelling that sets this above the other sandbox games of the Noughties.
Braid – Xbox 360/PC
This pseudo-Indie puzzle game is absolutely gorgeous and bursting with originality despite the occasionally pedestrian idea. Playing with time has been big throughout the last decade in gaming, but Braid puts a completely different spin on things. It also has the best ending section of any game I’ve played this decade.
Honourable mentions: Mirror’s Edge, Burnout 3, Counter Strike: Source, Team Fortress 2, Fallout 3 and tons more. Add your own!