10 Top Games for the past 10 years

1. Half-Life (1998)

When it was first released in 1998, gamers knew that Half-Life was going to be a great game. At the time, however, we had no idea that it would change the first-person shooter genre forever. In an era when the world of shooters was dominated by online titles such as Quake II, Half-Life offered gamers an amazing story-based experience. Playing as Gordon Freeman, Half-Life felt more like taking the lead role in a well-written action movie. If not for Half-Life, one could say that we wouldn’t have had other great story-based shooters, such as Medal of Honor and Call of Duty.

2. Starcraft (1998)

Often compared to the various Warcraft and Command and Conquer titles that preceded it, Starcraft had some pretty large anticipatory shoes to fill. While the debate raged as to whether Starcraft was the best real-time strategy (RTS) title up to that time, the fact remained that with Starcraft, Blizzard did a great job of sticking to the RTS formula that was heralded in by Warcraft and Command and Conquer. With a great multiplayer mode, Starcraft’s single player (or campaign) mode was both long and compelling. Players could choose from one of three races: the insectlike Zerg, the interstellar “everymen” Terrans, and the high-tech Protoss. The gameplay itself was so addictive that players often played the game through three times just to experience it from the perspective of all three races.

3. The Sims (2000)

Released in 2000, The Sims, created by Maxis, took the gaming world by storm. Having experienced success with the various Sim City titles, The Sims was unique: rather than managing cities, players got to manage the lives of their onscreen counterparts–everything from bathroom breaks to waking up and going to work. While this sounds like torture to many of us, the game was extremely successful. Popular among women gamers, The Sims spawned a veritable deluge of offshoots.

4. Quake (1996)

One of the best-looking games ever to be released, Quake introduced us to true 3D gaming. In conjunction with the ascendance of graphics chip maker 3Dfx, with Quake, games became not only three-dimensional, their textures were also greatly improved. Gone were the days of hideous pixelated graphics and simple aim-and-shoot gameplay. In Quake, perspectives looked correct, nails from nail guns whizzed by your head, and the gameplay gave birth to the vaunted keyboard-and-mouse gaming combination that was needed to aim up, down, left, and right, all while moving your character forward and backward as well as strafing left or right. And let’s not forget that with a soundtrack created specifically for the game by Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails, Quake also introduced us to the idea of mainstream artists making music for video games.

5. Madden NFL Football (immemorial)

Now, in its 17th year, the Madden NFL Football series is the king of all sports games. Not so much a game as a lifestyle, I don’t think there’s a man alive who hasn’t played Madden. While each year has seen significant changes to the game, some years have been better than others. For instance, many critics seem to think that Madden 2005 is better than the recently released Madden 2006. That said, there’s no doubt that Electronic Arts will experience success with Madden 2006. Additionally, the game’s reach is so deep, before every Super Bowl, players are chosen from each team to compete in a game of Madden. Up until recently, the team whose player won the Madden game won the big game, too.

6. EverQuest (1999)

When you think of massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG), EverQuest shines as the king of the genre. Often referred to as “EverCrack,” the game’s addictive gameplay and extensive online community has led to people making a real-world living selling in-game artifacts on eBay and meeting on EverQuest servers and getting married in the real world.

7. Halo (2001)

Released in 2001, Halo had to be a lot of things. Not only did it have to be a good game (the Halo-hype machine was immense), it was also the flagship launch title for the recently released Xbox. In other words, Halo had to be compelling enough to get people to shell out $300 for an as-yet-unproven console. Fortunately for Microsoft, Halo was a success. Not only was it a genuinely fun game to play, fighting to save the world as the Master Chief, Halo did a great job of showing off the Xbox’s technological capabilities.

8. Metal Gear Solid (1998)

At a time when all shooters were of the “grab a big gun and shoot the hell out of everything and everyone in the room” variety, Metal Gear Solid was a breath of fresh air. As the venerable Solid Snake, in Metal Gear Solid, players were required to use stealth to save the world from a group of terrorists that had gotten their hands on…uh…some weapons of mass destruction. Like many of the games in this list, leaks about the game were rampant and hype was through the roof. Fortunately, the game was so enjoyable that once the game was released, no one minded all the hype.

9. Grand Theft Auto III (2001)

When it first came out, Grand Theft Auto III (GTAIII) took the gaming world by storm. With open-ended environments that gave players a ton of freedom, you could enjoy the game without diving into its more shady aspects. But where’s the fun in that? Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you already know that GTAIII is about stealing cars, killing people, sleeping with hookers, and many other things that make the Mature rating seem appropriate. While it’s easy to get distracted by GTAIII’s over-the-top sleaziness, the fact remains that the actual gameplay is actually fun.

10.The Legend of Zelda, Ocarina of Time (1998)

Originally released for the Nintendo 64 (N64), The Legend of Zelda, Ocarina of Time represents what a platformer is capable of being. With a ton of side missions, minigames, and compelling puzzle levels, Zelda has spawned a ton of sequels and a gang of copycats.

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