When asked ‘What is the BEST year in gaming’, I stopped and listened to the years being thrown around, the arguments and reasons given and shook my head in dismay. “Variety is the spice of life,” I said to myself “but how can so many people be so wrong?”
What we have seen so far has highlighted some superb years for gaming, however, in the way of ‘The Highlander’, there can be only one ‘best’ year for video games, and I’m about to convince you why that year is the year 2000.
‘Timesplitters‘ took the first-person shooter action from games such as ‘GoldenEye 007‘ and ‘Perfect Dark‘, and packaged it all up in a stylized, tongue-in-cheek aesthetic. It featured a strong time-travel theme which allowed for fun expressions of various time periods and provided a flavorful cast of characters to help bring its levels to life. However, it truly shined in its multiplayer aspects, boasting a wide range of weapons (both antique and futuristic), and offering adjustable parameters across a wide spectrum for players to keep their sessions fresh each time. It embodied ‘fun’, not just in what it provided, but also in its representation.
Although technically a ‘Half-Life‘ mod created in 1999, the acquisition by Valve saw ‘Counter-Strike‘ given due credit in 2000. If you have any awareness for esports, chances are you have heard of and know about the Counter-Strike formula; one team taking on the role of Terrorists, whilst their opposition act as Counter-terrorists. Terrorists must plant bomb, CT team must stop them/diffuse said bomb.
Casually speaking it’s a large game in its own right, but within the ‘Professional’ scene, it is royalty. ‘Counter-Strike: Global Offensive‘, the latest iteration in the franchise, continually boasts prize pools above the $1 million mark, and is always at the forefront of discussion around professional gaming. It all started with this.
You can’t have a discussion about action role-playing games without acknowledging ‘Deus Ex‘. Not only is the series STILL going, but the original back in 2000 is still widely considered the best in the series.
Taking place in a future where human augmentation is all the rave among those with the means, ‘Deus Ex‘ asks questions of the player in the form of multiple approaches to missions and problems. A first-person shooter at heart, it combined stealth elements that allowed for a more passive approach (often resulting in alternative outcomes), giving the player a greater sense of character throughout each play-through.
This emphasis on player choice cemented ‘Deus Ex‘ as one of the best PC games of all time, with the game always floating in and around Top 10 lists consistently. Much of what makes a modern ARPG successful can be traced back to this game right here.
If ‘Deus Ex‘ is the bread to ARPG, then ‘Diablo 2‘ is the butter. Building on the success of its predecessor, ‘Diablo 2‘ took the lessons learnt and expanded in all directions. The class count was increased to a roster of five, the item system involved additional attributes than previously, and the story was split into five ‘Acts’.
The game received ‘Game of the Year’ nominations, and later placed on Time’s ‘The Best 50 Video Games of All Time’ list in 2016. The isometric template is still very much in use today, with games such as ‘Torchlight‘ and the popular ‘Path of Exile‘ drawing directly from the ‘Diablo 2‘ formula. The influence ‘Diablo 2‘ had on gaming, both in industry and consumer side, cannot be overstated.
The series with nearly 200 million copies sold worldwide. ‘The Sims‘ took sandbox simulation and put it directly in the players hands, allowing for the control and growth of virtual people (Sims), and orchestrating the life and struggles within your own walls. Managing moods and desires is the name of the game, however, the goals have always been up to the player. Do you simply want to build an awesome house? Do you want your sims to develop romances, or climb a corporate ladder?
The game allows for the time spent with it to be exactly what the player wants each time they sit down to play it. This is what has allowed the Sims franchise to grow outside of the more concentrated ‘gamer’ niche, as the challenge is always what you want it to be, usually without urgency. A series that will always have an audience, ‘The Sims‘ released in 2000 set us up with a franchise that everyone can enjoy, and one which continues to deliver.
Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2
Not much really needs to be said about this franchise (and by ‘franchise’, I mean the first four games…). Mixing a great soundtrack with addictive gameplay, ‘Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2‘ is one of the highest rated games of all time, and for good reason. The game kept progression relatively straight forward, allowing for gameplay to be accessible and immediate. The introduction of manualing allowed for much longer lines, and more creative ways of stringing a sequence of tricks into monstrous multipliers. This was the series hitting its stride, and undoubtedly inspired a generation through its skateboarding simulation and killer soundtracks.
The year 2000 saw some of the most significant series of games either birthed or finding their identities. The majority of these games shown aren’t just ‘good’, they are actually important. They are precursors to something bigger while also being outstanding themselves. They are model games in the truest sense, the molds that many games since have been founded in. 2000 is truly the best year for gaming.
Also, y’know, the PlayStation 2 came out this year…