In the 70s, video games were finally starting to gain traction within the general community. Many families owned an Atari system, which is why Pong is such a beloved classic. In the 80s, arcades boomed and became a place for kids and teenagers to waste hours at. By the 90s, the entire industry exploded with several different companies competing for the #1 spot. By the 2000s, video games have become an integrated part of our culture.
Almost everyone plays video games. Some play on fully decked out computers for the best resolution, others stick to their beloved consoles that they grew up with, and others simply line up candy on their phone while waiting for a bus. Though there are some exceptional mobile games, this list focuses on video games that came out for consoles or PC. It also solely focuses on games that came out between 2000-2010. It was a difficult list to compile as the 2000s was an incredible decade that released a multitude of games that changed the name of the game.
- System: PC
- Publisher: Electronic Arts
- Developer: Valve Software
- Release Dates: Apr. 8, 2008
Portal came out in 2007 and became another piece in Valve’s growing prominence in the video game world. It gave the player control of a woman who had been caught in the Aperture Science Enrichment Center and is being forced to undergo a series of tests by the malicious AI computer GLaDOS.
Portal reminded everyone about the importance of puzzle games. It forced players to look at the world they were thrown into and utilize the environment in creative ways if you wanted to survive. Its unique gameplay, which used basic physics and little theoretical science all, displayed just how innovative and imaginative video games can be. It also proved that simple plots can succeed if the gameplay is unique enough. Overall, it was addictive and held a lot of in-game humor and secrets that allowed for a cult following to build around it.
- System: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
- Publisher: 2K Games
- Developer: Irrational Games
- Release Dates: Aug. 21, 2007
BioShock sends us into the underwater utopia of Rapture. Well, Rapture didn’t quite end up being a utopia as genetic material, known as ADAM, granted individuals with superhuman power. The discovery and implementation of such genetic material led Rapture into chaos and it shortly fell apart.
BioShock was a thrilling and terrifying first-person experience that set the stage for one of the greatest series in the video game industry. It allowed you a lot of freedom and that freedom came at a risk. You could easily play the game in such a way that made beating it extremely difficult. However, you could also power up your character in such a way that made him unstoppable. Setting this type of gameplay in a unique world full of nooks and crannies to explore, made BioShock an instant classic.
8. Shadow of the Colossus
- System: PS2, PS3, PS4
- Publisher: SCEA
- Developer: SCE Japan Studio
- Release Dates: Oct. 18, 2005
Shadow of the Colossus puts us in control of a sole wanderer who is trying to revive his loved one. With only a sword, bow, and his trusty horse; he journeys across a land where only a few ruins of human civilization remain. If he hopes to revive his lost love, then he will need to destroy the colossi that roam the different parts of this land.
Shadow of the Colossus is a game unlike any other. The only games that are close to it are ICO and The Last Guardian, which were both made by the same studio as Shadow of the Colossus. What this video game does so well is use silence and emptiness as narrative techniques. It’s through the quiet moments that the game not only lets us revel in the beauty of the environment, but also makes us question our mission. The world seems to deteriorate, our MC seems to fall apart, the more we pursue our goal. It’s powerful and the gameplay is no less unique as each colossus we take on is like an entire level in most video games. Each boss is a mixture of puzzle and action as we either scale the boss or the surrounding environment in order to expose certain weaknesses.
7. Dragon’s Age: Origins
- System: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
- Publisher: Electronic Arts
- Developer: Bioware
- Release Dates: Nov. 3, 2009
Though it was the first of the Dragon’s Age series, this video game is by far the most iconic and fun to play through. It follows the story of a character (whose backstory you get to personalize) as they become a Grey Warden and face the Blight with a motley team of powerful warriors.
Though Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect came out before Dragon’s Age: Origins, this game displayed Bioware’s ability to fine tune all the elements that were introduced in its earlier games. The way your choices impacted the story and the numerous threads of side narratives that helped earn KOTOR and Mass Effect so many fans were handled perfectly. It truly became iconic in providing gamers with an experience that held immeasurable replay value. It was also one of the first games to create supporting characters that held believable personalities and would hold to that personality for better or worse for your team. Characters who had been outsiders or vagabonds before joining your team are likely to leave you or stab you in the back if you didn’t tread carefully. On top of the story and characters, the world was quite large and the gameplay required quite a bit of strategy if you were playing on hard or wanted to get the best armor/weapons.
6. Metroid Prime
- System: GameCube
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Developer: Retro Studios
- Release Dates: Nov. 17, 2002
Metroid Prime has Samus returning to solve the mystery behind the ruined walls that are littered about Tallon IV. Rather than playing from a third-person perspective, we get to see from behind Samus’s green visor, which is one of the reasons why this game is so fantastic.
Being able to immerse yourself as our heroine in the series made the gameplay a lot more impactful. Every corridor you walked down and every platform you jumped felt like an accomplishment. Every battle was intense and forced you to act quickly in numerous situations. On top of it all, there were a great number of puzzles that made the maps particularly tricky and yet fun to explore.
5. Diablo 2
- System: PC
- Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
- Developer: Blizzard North
- Release Dates: Jun. 29, 2000
Diablo 2 forced us once more into a world that was decaying due to the forces of evil. Our MC from the first game has become the vessel of Diablo and is now trying to join up with the other prime evils of Baal and Mephisto in order to throw the world into chaos.
Diablo 2 is one of the best hack-n-slash/dungeon crawlers out there. It literally set the bar for the genre and few games can even compare to it. The gameplay was super addictive as you journeyed your way through labyrinths and earned yourself better armor and weapons. Half the fun came through hacking apart mobs of enemies and half came from properly itemizing your inventory so that you could deck your character out into a god.
4. Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
- System: Nintendo 64
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Developer: Nintendo
- Release Dates: Oct. 25, 2000
If you played Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, you probably were worried that the next LOZ game would not be able to compare. Ocarina of Time had set up such a massive world, with so many puzzles and side stories to explore and enjoy. It was hard to imagine a video game that could compare to it. However, Majora’s Mask proved that the developers had a lot of new ideas for gamers to experience.
Once more gamers played as Link in a world on the brink of destruction. However, rather than saving Princess Zelda and the kingdom of Hyrule from Ganondorf, we were saving the world from Skull Kid and a head-on collision from the moon. Though time travel held importance in Ocarina of Time, it was essential in Majora’s Mask as a way to progress through the story when all else failed. The amount of puzzles and ways to play this game definitely expanded on the gameplay of Ocarina of Time and made Majora’s Mask a masterpiece in its own right. This game required you to don the masks of different characters to receive new powers in order to traverse the world. This showed immense creativity on the developer’s part and forced the player to interact with the world in creative ways.
3. Halo: Combat Evolved
- System: Xbox, PC
- Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
- Developer: Gearbox Software
- Release Dates: Nov. 15, 2001
Halo put players in the shoes of Master Chief, a super warrior on humanity’s side during the interstellar war between humanity and The Convenant. With the AI of Cortana at your side, you travelled to different locations in the universe and fought off aliens with your superhuman abilities.
Halo was the game that put Xbox on everyone’s radar. It was the type of game to justify buying an entire console. When it first came out, it was one of the premiere 1st-person shooters around. It demonstrated just how innovative a 1st-person shooter can get with level layouts and enemies and story. No longer were such games dependent on historical re-enactments or reality. It freed up the genre to explore different settings and became inspirational for so many future games. All in all, the game was a monster and set the stage for numerous sci-fi/fantasy games.
2. World of Warcraft
- System: PC
- Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
- Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
- Release Dates: Nov. 23, 2004
World of Warcraft took us into a world that had been developing since 1994 with Warcraft: Orcs & Humans. It was a massive MMORPG that let players choose from a bunch of races and personalize their gaming experience.
The size of the world was one of the major factors that led to the success of the game. You could easily spend hours upon hours upon hours exploring all the areas of the game. The second factor that made World of Warcraft one of the best games between 2000 and 2010 was the social factor. Creating clans, joining raids, working as a merchant, and so much more helped define the overall experience. People were able to create a home away from home in a virtual world as they became close friends with clan members and people who could live across the world from them. It was a social phenomenon and showed just how much power video games could have in today’s society.
- System: PS2, PS3, PS4, Wii
- Publisher: Capcom
- Developer: Clover Studio
- Release Dates: Sep. 19, 2006
Okami is one of the best games out there and it is sorely underrated for some strange reason. The gameplay follows Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun in Shintoism, as she takes the form of a wolf to save the people of Japan. It is a sprawling and beautiful adventure with graphics that prove video games can be art.
Where to even begin with this glorious video game? Let’s start with the artwork. The art bleeds and shifts and explodes as you run across fields and engage in combat with various enemies. The powerful impact of this art comes from the fact that the developers cel-shaded everything in a way that mimics ink wash paintings. Thus, there is not only a traditional Japanese vibrancy to the game, but a visual experience that is unlike any other in video games. Now let’s talk about the gameplay. Exploring and fighting both require a mix of strategy and quick reflexes. Though there are many enemies you can easily run down, many will require you to use one of your abilities. Simply engaging with your abilities is another fun aspect of the game as you pause the gameplay and draw out various symbols to cause windstorms or set bombs.
There you have it, everyone. These were the top ten games of the 2000s. Each one is unique and stood out amongst hundreds if not thousands of other games. These video games demonstrated the narrative techniques and graphics that led video games into mainstream entertainment. If there are any video games that you believe should be on this list, please let us know below!