Let’s be honest. I don’t need to tell you that 2004 is the best year in gaming. The fact half the team at n3rdabl3 we’re fuming when I stole the year from under their noses just goes to show that 2004 is a year close to all of our hearts.

Here’s a run down of some of the many reasons 2004 was one of the best years in video games.

Halo 2

Halo 2 Screenshot

Halo 2. Need I say more? Oh, I do? Right ok. The game that put Major League Gaming (MLG) on the map. The game that saw Walshy sign a footballer level contract with Red Bull. Halo 2 is the game that got me into both Halo and First-Person Shooters as a genre, and to me epitomizes the competitive team shooter. Arguably Counter-Strike has gone on to have greater success as a franchise on the competitive scene, but those golden days of watching Final Boss walk through teams on the main stage will never be topped.

The game itself offers not only a great campaign mode giving Halo fans more of the story they fell in love with 3 years prior, but it also provides a multiplayer experience unlike any other. Introducing the battle Rifle, one of gaming’s most iconic weapons, to the already stacked lineup of weapons brought matchmaking to another level. Giving players an incredibly solid rifle that really sets the men from the boys. Button combos, while considered glitches, ended up adding another level of skill that really hasn’t been present in a console shooter since.

Halo 2 also featured some of the most iconic maps in the franchise, with Midship being so popular it was implemented into the next title, Halo 3, and even made its way into the franchises most recent release. Maps like Sanctuary and Ivory Tower made their way back into the franchise in Halo Reach, and how could we forget Beaver Creek? Arguably the map most synonymous with Halo 2’s multiplayer. Just go back and play Halo 2 for crying out loud, it’s incredible.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is a title that we all remember. The game that introduced many to the madness of the GTA Franchise, and is to some still the best GTA offering Rockstar has put together. The fact people still quote Big Smoke’s order today is a testament to the lasting impact of the characters created in a game where we spent most of our time entering cheats and destroying everything in sight.

Taking the role of CJ, the man who struggles to follow the damn train, San Andreas offers a compelling storyline that takes its inspiration from multiple real-life events in Los Angeles that took place in the 1980s and ’90s. Inspirations include the rivalry between the Bloods, Crips, and various Hispanic street gangs, the crack epidemic of the 1980s, and the LAPD Rampart scandal. Look them up, some of the similarities are uncanny.

San Andreas is one of those special titles that we look back in fond memory for the timeless destruction and quirky additions that we still miss in the franchises more recent entries (here’s looking at you, eating enough food to get obese in an hour) but when you go back, it’s the storyline that really shines through. Honestly, it’s hard not to recommend another playthrough, especially when the title is backward compatible on the Xbox One.

Need For Speed Underground 2

Need For Speed Underground 2 Screenshot

Ah, the game that offered so much customization it was like being in an episode of Pimp my Ride. The iconic soundtrack, the knackered old Corsa with a boot install and scissor doors. Need For Speed Underground 2 might well have created some cars with more rice factor than Uncle Ben’s. But what a game it was.

Underground 2 offered a level of car customization that really hasn’t been seen since. While it didn’t offer the branded body kits of its rivals, it made up for it by offering literally everything else. Big subwoofers in the boot? Check. Spinners? Check. More neon than Vegas? Check and double check. Throw in an open world to explore and cruise, alongside a variety of racing events that created the most varied title in the franchise, and you have a game that fans still compare the newest offerings too.

Richard Burns Rally

Richard Burns Rally Screenshot

OK, this is a bit of a personal entry for me. Richard Burns Rally is a title that, until the recent release of DiRT Rally 2.0 offered the best Rallying experience on any platform.

Out of the box, Richard Burns Rally offered 8 cars on 36 stages, simulating both classic and modern (for the time) Rallying. Like many games of the era, the title grew with the help of the modding community, and even today new mods are being created for the title. The game offered one of the best driving tutorials in any sim, which with the title’s heavy focus on realism, it’s definitely needed.

Star Wars Battlefront

Star Wars Battlefront Screenshot

A long time ago, in a time before EA drove the franchise into the ground, Pandemic Studios developed a title that offered Star Wars fans the chance to play through the conquest of the galaxy as any of their favorite factions. That game was Star Wars Battlefront.

Played primarily as a conquest game, Battlefront allowed players to fill the shoes of the empire or the rebels, or take their game to the prequels, playing as either the Confederacy or the Republic. Released before Episode 3, the campaign put players into battles based around the events of the 5 released movies, using snippets from the films to create the title’s cutscenes.

The mode most players remember fondly is Galactic Conquest. Completely missing from EA’s latest offerings, the mode allowed players to choose between the original trilogy or the prequels, with the goal of controlling all the planets in the galaxy. Players could choose to initiate bonuses for each battle, given by the planets they controlled, creating a timeless, strategic experience.

World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft Screenshot

Another title that really doesn’t need an explanation. But here’s one anyway. The game has grossed close to $10 BILLION in revenue. BILLION. Over 100 MILLION registered accounts. World of Warcraft is the undisputed king of MMO’s, and with everyone now hopping on the Battle Royale trend, it seems very, very unlikely that the crown will ever change hands.

Set four years after the events of Blizzard’s previous Warcraft release, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, World of Warcraft is set in Azeroth, and has since seen 7 major expansions come to the title. What’s better, WOW classic is set for release this summer, giving players the chance to go back and experience the title as it was at release, included within the standard subscription.

Half-Life 2

half-life 2 Screenshot

Last, but by no means least, the franchise we’ll never get a trilogy from. Half-Life 2 is the story-driven first-person shooter we all love. $10 say Aaron hasn’t played it…

Once again you fill the shoes of Gordon Freeman, arisen from stasis by the mysterious G-Man. Half-Life 2 sees you fighting the Combine, a technologically superior multidimensional empire who conquered Earth in seven hours. The rest, well. Go play it if you haven’t already. The game features a detailed physics system that really stands the test of time, and gives you multiple ways to solve problems and dispatch foes. We’re highly unlikely to see a third title, so just go enjoy this one, it’s still worth your time.

~

2004 was quite simply, an incredible year for video games. Some honorable mentions go out to Burnout 3: Takedown, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault, and of course, Disney’s Kim Possible 2: Drakken’s Demise. 2004. The year of classics.

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