Top 10 Best Video Games of All Time
Part 2: Games Released 2000 or Later
By John Andreula
Back in August I released the preeminent list of the best video games of all time from before the year 2000. It was a somewhat snarky look at the top games of the retro past.
There was a lot of clamor and hub-bub about the content of that list. Good. These are the things us nerds are supposed to debate.
Please remember what I said then because I’m going to say it again here. My lists of the best video games of all time are indisputable.
Today we fast forward to the more recent past.
I don’t much care for many of the video games from the past decade as they are all reiterations of time-told stories. All companies release nowadays are sequels, reboots, spin-offs, rip-offs and knock-offs of games that achieved any commercial success.
Some amazing video games get forgotten in the abundance of content we have gotten particularly spoiled by in the last ten years. Some of those more recent relics were awesome. Now their manufactures give those franchises minor graphical upgrades.¹ It is all rehashed versions of video games we have been playing since we were young.
That’s not the point of this list. The point is that this list showcases the games that wowed us when quality still mattered. This list of video games contains the greatest intellectual properties software designers produced in the year 2000 or later.
If you played video games and you didn’t play HALO, then I would guess you lived under a rock somewhere without a color television or the internet.
Halo was the next level of video games. It was like Goku achieving Super Saiyan in terms of setting the standard in home gaming.
First person shooters were generally ‘meh’ before HALO. Then we got our minds blown.
We put on our diapers and stocked up on Mountain Dew. We pulled the blinds tight and pulled all-nighters while we battled the flood on Legendary in co-op mode.
The story was deep and well-written. For being a space marine fighting aliens with laser weaponry, Master Chief was an accessible protagonist. We wanted him to win and we were going to help him do it.
HALO excellently showcased next generation home console hardware and its capabilities. We chose HALO over going out or getting laid because it was that good…and because we were that addicted to the game.
Much like HALO was the reason to own an XBOX (and stay indoors), DEADRISING was one of the main reasons to upgrade to an XBOX 360.
Holy cow! DEADRISING was fun!
It was the first game that allowed us to experience the zombie apocalypse in an open-world or “sandbox” style.
It was well done all around. The art was beautiful, the zombies were endless, as were the options of weapons and methods with which to dispatch them.
There was even a challenging, but compelling story which involved saving various people within the mall and battling a variety of psychos.
I must confess I never beat the story, but I did spend countless hours mowing down, driving over, chopping up, beating bloody, and walking on top of the heads of plenty zombies.
CALL OF DUTY: WORLD AT WAR (2008)
I spent over seven days playing the multiplayer of CALL OR DUTY: WORLD AT WAR with my nerdy gamer friends. We yelled into our headsets much to chagrin of our families and roommates. We would chase that next kill, which lead to that next level.
After achieving fifty levels players got to decide if they wanted to keep playing with all the weapons and perks they unlocked or they could “Prestige.” Prestige meant gamers got a new badge next to their call-sign in the pre-game lobby. Players friends and the rest of the trolls were so impressed and jealous of their obvious high level of skill.²
Choosing Prestige also meant players had to start the whole process from scratch. All unlocked kills and perks were erased. Gamers had to kill and level up and unlock everything they already unlocked. I was sucker for playing that long, let alone Prestiging even one time. I had comrades who did it several times.
Despite spending so much time playing the game I was usually the one who ran out and drew fire from the enemy. I died and my buds got to pick up the kills from the enemies that exposed themselves by killing me.
I had fun with the multiplayer, but that was not even the real reason to own and play the game.
I said earlier that DEADRISING was the reason to own an XBOX 360, but that was just a half-truth. The other half of the reason to get MICROSOFT’s second generation video game hardware was the bonus mode in CALL OF DUTY: WORLD AT WAR.
Contained within the game was a mode called Nazi Zombies. Up to four players were holed up in a run down house while wave after wave of zombie virus infected Nazis tore boards off the windows and entered the house in an attempt to eat brains.
In the early levels players could keep the Nazi zombies at bay through skilled head shots and continually boarding up the windows, but by the time they reached double digit levels the hordes became so intense that death was all but an inevitability just about to occur.
Nazi Zombies did not count toward levels or Prestige over on the main game modes, but it was by far the best part of the game.
I have never experienced such a scary and claustrophobic gaming experience as I had with Nazi Zombies from CALL OF DUTY: WORLD AT WAR. All I needed was a dark room and a big screen TV with the sound turned way up.
Once in a while gamers needed a break from zombie slaying. That’s usually when we got back in touch with our nerd roots. That’s when played adventure and role playing games. There was none better in either genre than FABLE.
Players could choose to simultaneously excel as a warrior, mage, and an archer. They battled everything from gnolls and trolls to (spoiler alert) your sister.
The story was rich and compelling and the graphics were beautiful. The game even offered enough replay value to make it worthy of at least one additional play-through.
As players determined how to proceed in-game, their responses to different choices and actions caused the main character to evolve.
If pure and good choices were made, the character would be met by cheers and gifts by the local townspeople. He would even get a halo and angel wings.
If evil and dark choices were made, like stealing and killing townspeople at random, then a cloud of blood would surround and follow the character and eventually he would grow devil horns from his forehead.
I still haven’t figured out if there was a purpose or secret to kicking the chickens, but it sure was funny when they all attacked me.
grand theft auto: San Andreas (2004)
I honestly could have named any grand theft auto game from gta III on, but grand theft auto: San Andreas was where ROCKSTAR GAMES stepped there gta game up.
First off, ROCKSTAR made the bold choice to have it’s main character be African American and from the hood. Before this iteration all the previous grand theft autos had basically the same middle-aged white Italian guy ripping people out of cars and running from the cops.
The story of Carl Johnson creating his gang from nothing and taking over the whole city through gang-banging drive-by’s may not be for every gamer. However, those who would purchase and play any grand theft auto game know you would not be leaving your house for quite some time.
More than likely gamers played so much that when they closed their eyes to go to sleep after a marathon session they would still see Carl pedaling his bike and jumping fences. It was burnt into theirr vision when they closed their eyes.
By the way, both biking and jumping fences were firsts in grand theft auto: San Andreas. They added yet another layer of playability and quality to an already vast open world created by its predecessors.
With unlimited choices of debauchery and mayhem for players of all types mental disturbances, this was a must-play video game.
Beautiful Katamari (2007)
Not all games needed to be violent to make this list, just most of them.
However, once in a while a video game comes along that blows even a hardened desensitized mind like mine. Beautiful Katamari is one of these games.
Beautiful Katamari is hard to describe. I remember when my step-sister had first told me about this game. I was like, “What the hell is she talking about?” So don’t be surprised if you are saying the same thing when I’m done.
Gamers control the prince. His dad is the king and he sends players out into the world with demands of building celestial formations such as planets, stars, and comets. To do this they must push around what appears to be a lopsided rubber bouncy ball and pick up objects.
When the prince first starts out he can only pick up small objects like match-sticks, origami, and poker chips. As his creation grows like the body of a snowman he can start to pick up people, cars, and large animals. Eventually his creation will be large enough to pick up buildings, cruise ships and entire islands.
Beautiful Katamari is an intense and difficult game due to time limits and other constraints that prevent the silliness from being too easy or juvenile.
It is one of the best games I’ve played in the past two decades and it is quite possibly the most original and unique video game I have ever played.
BIOSHOCK changed the dynamics of story-telling and game-play in the first person shooter genre.
As an FPS, or first person shooter, the trend at the time was all about multiplayer. BIOSHOCK’s creative team at 2K GAMES decided that it would not worry about a multiplayer experience. Instead they would put all their effort and energy into the single player campaign.
Their gamble payed off huge! The story and visual design of BIOSHOCK stands above the majority of games ever made.
The game takes place in an underwater dystopia. The protagonist ends up crash landing an airplane just outside of the surface entrance. When he enters the underwater pseudo-Atlantis he discovers freaky disfigured denizens that have gone insane trying to push their evolutionary limits. Their forced evolution is done through the discovery of Adam, which is some sort of bone marrow or stem cells that when injected unlocks powers like control over electricity, flames, and telekinesis.
As the story unfolds, the main character has to make moral choices in whom to save, as well as how far he will go to evolve himself. The more he does the easier the game becomes, but in pushing forward his own evolution how much of his humanity will he retain?
The baddies are awesome. The scenery and music made it one scary play-through. This is one that should not have been missed.
Wii Sports (2006)
Be honest. The only reason you bought a Wii was for Wii Sports.
And you immediately regretted it when you let go of your Wii-mote and it impaled your flat-screen.
Good thing Nintendo decided to include warnings at the beginning of their games. They even sent out those controller condoms to make sure we didn’t lose any more hardware.
Despite the costly expense of damaged televisions, stereos, and fine wall art, Wii Sports was freaking sweet!
The bowling, baseball, tennis and other games actually made users feel like they were playing the actual sports.
Alright, maybe not, but you definitely got a workout and broke a sweat while you were playing.
It was almost as fun watching others play as it was playing yourself. Young children to elderly adults all got in on this one, and it still plays.
NINJA GAIDEN (2004)
The final violent video game on the list may possibly be one of the most violent games of all time; NINJA GAIDEN.
The main character Ryu Hayabusa had some sort of story. Some people he loved got killed or kidnapped, I’m not sure. He gets really pissed off and grabs his Kitana and cuts the holy heck out of throngs of bad guys.
With each kill Ryu receives experience orbs that are multiplied by combinations and skilled-kills that allow players to unlock a variety of techniques and weapons to further the level of ultra-violence.
Like many Japanese games, you are given a grade at the end of each level based on the ease and techniques players used to best the level. This leads to more experience points and more unlocked skills and weapons.
It wasn’t about the experience points and grades at all though. It was about being a ninja.
The XBOX and PS2 versions of the game allowed players to do things that only a ninja could do in ways that had never been done so smoothly in video games before it.
Players could run up and across walls and drop down to decapitate an opponent. They could swing a Kusari-Gama, or sickle on a chain, and cut through a line of enemies like butter.
NINJA GAIDEN was extremely difficult, but immensely fun.
GUITAR HERO (2005)
Don’t act like you haven’t at least tried GUITAR HERO.
This is the game that truly let nerds like myself pretend for just a few songs that I was Slash or Eddie Van Halen.
GUITAR HERO made me feel like I was a rock star that could power slide across my living room and kick my TV.
The playlists were awesome and it was accessible to gamers of any generation or gender.
The varied difficulties allowed beginners to share screen and game time with those who mastered the game and could play DragonForce on expert.
Just writing this is giving me the urge to turn on my Wii and start strumming away.
When reading the descriptions of the games above it’s easy to see the similarities to games available today on home consoles, in the few remaining arcades, and even available as apps for tablets or cell phones.
Almost half of the games on the list are in fact sequels or spiritual successors to earlier games, but they too deserve mention for the groundbreaking features, stories, and gameplay that they offered.
I recommend going immediately to the local GAME FORCE or miscellaneous video game reseller and sell all the crappy games you own that were produced in the last ten years. Use your trade credit pick up the ten games on this list.
Don’t have a video game reseller near you? Still living under that rock, but at least now you have dial up internet? Try Ebay. All of these games are probably available for purchase there.
You probably will never need to buy another video game again.
I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane with me.
I look forward to the discourse we will inevitably receive about the games that are missing from this list as well as any details I undoubtedly got incorrect in my descriptions.
Remember this was an opinion piece that is one hundred percent correct.
Please feel free to comment with any glaring omissions to the best post-2000 video games of all time. We look forward to your correspondence.
¹See the entire catalog of games or demonstrations of the hardware on Xbox 1 and PS4.
²Prestige on CALL OF DUTY did not actually determine a players skill, only the amount of time they had squandered playing the game, much like the achievement score on XBOX 360.