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Ten Games That Shaped the Previous Decade

  • Jun 28, 2010
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Love 'em or hate 'em there are some games that totally set the framework or show us something about gamers or the industry as a whole.  From 2000-2009 there are some games that are quite remarkable in their own right... and others that were totally put down for the sake of showing us something totally different... or that just became a phenomenon in their own right.  That's what this particular list is about.

I did a list talking about ten twists that changed the industry.  Although that was more about influence as well.  On their respective series and in some ways, the industry.  For the decade of 2001-2009 there are certain games that came around that were willing to do things to either further the industry or that made a particular system worth getting.  The games you'll find here are of the most loved (and hated) in the industry.  But it's not about love and hate.  It's not about how much you liked say... Halo.  Your big disdain for Halo might even be a bigger reason why it's on this list!  A strong reaction is always a good one (case in point E.T. on the Atari is an iconic game because it's still considered the worst video game ever made). 

This list mostly concerns consoles and not so much PC (although there's one PC game that just can't be ignored... no matter what).  You're not going to agree with everything on here... and if I wanted to expand the list I would... but I think I'd rather let you guys do that in the comments.  Just remember going in... you don't have to like these games, only to be smart enough to realize that yes, these were big deals upon their release and some of their influences are still being seen.
Grand Theft Auto (GTA) 3
We can't talk about the previous decade without talking about Grand Theft Auto.  Grand Theft Auto III, easily the most controversial game ever made (so far) is one game that pretty much invented the sandbox genre (or forwarded it, your choice).  With Grand Theft Auto III came this very big idea that gaming was supposed to have a pulse.  Instead of trumping down corriders or looking at pre-rendered backgrounds, you were in a world that you were free to roam.  Not only were you in a world that you were free to roam, but that world was a living breathing entity.  Denizens had their own unique lives and dialog.  You were able to steal cars and cruise around the city.  Even the radio had its own original script... and there were several different radio stations.  Very few games before Grand Theft Auto III were filled with so much freedom and such expansive and open worlds.  Nearly every game since has tried to make their worlds more living and breathing as a result.
World of Warcraft Logo
Love it or hate it, World of Warcraft just might be one of the most definitive games ever made.  It's one some of you are playing and one others of you know someone who plays.  The thing has become one of the biggest gaming phenomenon's ever.  From being a game that is the butt of several jokes (and even urban legends) to being one of the most played games of the past decade, World of Warcraft is easily one of the most played and bestselling games of the past decade.  A lot of influence?  That's debatable, but the number of users and the obsession it has caused that's stretched far beyond gaming says quite a bit.
Remember when I said sometimes you have a game that makes a system worth getting? For the XBOX that game was Halo. PC Gamers often dismiss Halo, but when it comes to consoles, Halo stood out at a time when many First Person Shooters did not. Before Halo the FPS that most gamers probably went on and on about until the end of time was Goldeneye on the N64 (it was certainly the one that sold the most to dent the thick shell of gaming before Halo). Halo came around, it had an amusing narrative, some gameplay that people could get into... but most of all it helped sell the XBOX. Coming out around the time when such games as Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Solid 2, Super Smash Brothers Melee and Final Fantasy X were burning up the charts, Halo managed to trump all of them. The game has also made console gamers embrace the FPS and the genre has remained one of the most popular for console gamers since.
Wii Sports
There are two things that always seem to excite gamers. The first is innovative gameplay mechanics... the second is technology. With Wii Sports gamers got that technology. When news stories that even Grandma was sitting up to play Wii sports surfaced (and that nursing homes were getting Wiis to also play Wii Sports) it was clear that Wii Sports was a phenomenon. Getting none gamers to play games has always been (whether Hardcore gamers care to believe it or not) something the industry has always been trying to do. It's why Sony marketed their PS3 as a Blu-Ray player and why Microsoft lets horribly designed, yet simple games slip through the cracks. Gaming has always been trying to grow and appeal to those who were never interested at first. This is what makes Wii Sports special in some ways... and terrible in others. It's a pack in game, sure, and as a result of what's happened now, the system has sold more consoles than any this generation. Thanks to being a pack in (at least in America and Europe) Wii Sports is now the bestselling game of all time. Who knew a simple pack-in tech demo would become so iconic and pop culturally significant?
See the full review, "A New Way to Play".
No game seemed to own the second half of the decade quite like Resident Evil 4.  After hearing from several of their fans that the gameplay needed a change, CAPCOM decided to make Resident Evil 4 into a different entity.  Shinji Mikami dared the risk of taking Resident Evil in new directions.  By doing more to keep players on their toes and pitting them against foes far more formidable than slow shuffling zombies.  It paid off, but not because of changing the zombies into parasitic creatures (Resident Evil has always been giving you more than just zombies, guys) but because of changing the design.  A camera that now followed you everywhere you went, with an over the shoulder aiming ability and quick time events that really kept you on your toes and paying attention.  It was a lengthy endeavor as well and gave you every reason to keep going.  It wasn't so bad on the replay value either.  The game was eventually ported to the PS2, PC and the Wii.  Even more came from Resident Evil 4 as it influenced a startling large number of third person shooters afterwards (albeit these games would implement a cover system) that would use the same kind of shooting mechanic that Resident Evil 4 used.  And while Quick Time Events eventually became far more annoying than something to keep up the tension, Resident Evil 4 can be content in the fact that in terms of design... it may be one of the greatest games ever made.  A generation later and third person shooting games (or even horror themed games) are STILL looking to Resident Evil 4 for guidance.

See the full review, "One of the Greatest Games You Could Experience".
Soon after Halo became a smash hit... Nintendo announced this little gem. Metroid Prime. And Metroid Fusion. While Fusion would go on to become one of the best GBA games ever made, Metroid Prime went on to become one of the best Gamecube games. Thanks in part to how Nintendo wanted to approach it. Metroid Prime wasn't referred to as a First Person Shooter. Rather Nintendo wanted to make it an adventure. And true enough, it is. You'll go down several passages and corridors where you may not encounter anything. And in spite of being in first person, Metroid Prime... still felt very much like a Metroid game. It's not a fast paced shooter, but it puts a lot of stock into exploration, finding abilities and expanding on them. It's more of testament to how you can bring a 2D side scrolling adventure into a 3D setting that makes Metroid Prime stand out. Because many other game series (Castlevania, Mega Man and Contra among them) have a hard time doing it still. And some of these franchises had practice! Metroid Prime proved that transitioning into 3D didn't have to be arduous and that it was okay for gaming companies to take risks with their franchises.
Call of Duty 4
We've talked a lot about Phenomenons on this list. If that's the case, ignoring Call of Duty: Modern Warfare would probably be sinful. If I have to tell you about the startling phenomenon here then you're not much of a gamer anyway (or you're living under a rock). Modern Warfare is one of the bestselling games of the generation. Modern Warfare 2 became a bigger success... selling over 18 million copies worldwide making it one of the bestselling games ever made (Modern Warfare sold around 14 million). This makes Call of Duty a bigger selling force than Halo and something that rivals Grand Theft Auto. The multiplayer is the big draw here. No game seems to have shown gamers how to do multiplayer right like Modern Warfare. Several different game modes, more intense action... it was just a bigger step up from the T Rated stuff you saw before it came around. Suddenly a gaming series that a few select million played, became a series and franchise that everyone knew of.
The 90's were a decade about Platforming, mostly. Devil May Cry started off the 2000's with style being the most important thing. As far as anyone is concerned, Devil May Cry changed the action genre by giving you more to do and making a more stylistic. It went on to inspire the God of War games (which are a beast in and of themselves) and has laid down the foundation for games like Bayonetta and Dante's Inferno. This is because Devil May Cry went beyond the simple, "Beat 'em up by button mashing," formula. What gamers got was a challenging game... that had a lot of style and attitude to it... not to mention dazzling special effects. But it did have a hand in changing how we viewed the action genre.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
It's a little hard to gauge Uncharted 2 right now, and it may be a little early to put it on this list considering it came out in 2009, but there was something about this game that was worthwhile to many a gamer.  If the games listed above were about making new innovations and expert design... then Uncharted 2 (more so than the first one) is an instruction manual for how to combine them all in the best way possible.  Uncharted 2 doesn't really do a whole of new and innovative things... but it's a game that uses the best with what it has to inspire it without looking as though it wants to be something it isn't.  It's no Resident Evil 4, Jak and Daxter, Metal Gear Solid, Gears of War etc. kind of clone (though it borrows from ALL of those games) but it makes sure only to use what it needs and use them properly.  Next, there are few sequels that are this definitive and blow their predecessors out of the water quite like Uncharted 2.  It plays very similarly to it's predecessor, but it fixes all the little nit-picks that players had and didn't go overboard on the number of features added.
See the full review, "A Monumental Achievement for the Playstation 3".
Super Mario Galaxy
And then there's Super Mario Galaxy.  The reason this game is here is because it usually takes a Mario game to get people to realize that platforming isn't dead.  Despite games like Rachet and Clank, there is this uniform opinion that the platformer is a dying breed.  Even games like Uncharted (which have platforming sections aplenty) have simplified platformers to the point where they don't feel like a genre anymore, just an element to an already bigger game.  For the most part it seems like gamers don't even like jumping anymore.  Most games have you doing several tasks that don't even require it.  Mix that in with the fact that most gamers nowadays are so concerned with whether or not a game is "realistic," that we kind of NEED games like Super Mario Galaxy to remind us that, well, Games don't need to be this ultra realistic, believable experience (you're playing a goddamn video game, for heaven's sake).  Sometimes epicness comes from the mere scope of the game.  Super Mario games serve that purpose, well, I think.  To remind us that sometimes good fun and creative design is all a video game needs to be remarkable.  We need games like Super Mario Galaxy to remind us why we pick up video games in the first place.  To be fun as well as engaging.  The other games on this list show the evolution of games and how they've changed... while Super Mario Galaxy serves as a throwback in a world where this type of game was the standard.  It's not "old school" it's here just for fun.  And what did Super Mario Galaxy remind us?  That we STILL like to play a game just for the fun of it. 
See the full review, "One of Mario's Best Adventures".

What did you think of this list?

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November 22, 2012
3 of these games came out near the end of 2001. Lucky year for videogames?
January 20, 2011
Very Nice list! I thought Mortal Kombat and Tekken also had a hand in revolutionizing fighting games if I was going to make a list before the 2000's. I need to play # 9! I am so out of the loop!
June 30, 2010
Whoa, I didn't realize that I was so out of the gaming loop! I've only played two of these. Where's Starcraft? ;P By the way, you should totally link to your ten twists list in your list description! Thanks for sharing this great list, Sean!
June 29, 2010
LMAO! You and I both know that I haven't played any of these, so we'll just pretend I'm hip and know all about them. ; )
June 28, 2010
Nice list. I dunno about Uncharted 2, but that's the only one I could quibble with in terms of impact (though I understand it's a wonderful game).

A few others, and as ever, I gotta rep the PC games...

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time - resurrected a classic series and helped, with Devil May Cry and GTA3, make 3rd-person action games the dominant form of the decade on consoles.

Bejeweled - not only arguably the best puzzle game of all time, but brought about a massive change in how "casual" games were marketed and sold.

Knights of the Old Republic - pushed Bioware into direct competition with Square-Enix as the biggest and best RPG designers for consoles. They seem to have won that competition with Dragon Age and Mass Effect. Also a pretty good game to boot.

Bioshock - to be honest, I'm not the biggest fan of Bioshock-as-game-changer. But I know I'm in a minority, so I wanted to toss it out there.
About the list creator
Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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