Saying the year “2010” out loud is bizarre, especially since we still don’t ride around in flying cars. But where science has failed us, video games have not. The past decade has been gaming’s greatest: ten solid years filled with spectacular technological feats, record-setting sales and, of course, awesome, awesome games. Some, however, are more awesome than others. Taking quality, influence, sales and general greatness into account, here are our picks for the top ten titles released between 2000 and 2009.
10. Super Mario Galaxy
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Release Date: 2007
Think the Wii can’t crank out great graphics? Then you haven’t played Super Mario Galaxy. Mario’s best game since the influential Super Mario 64, this interstellar adventure remains far and away the top-rated title for Nintendo’s hit console. It’s the perfect marriage of form and function, a gorgeous, gravity-defying whirlwind that offers a fresh take on classic platforming in a cozy, well-worn package. A sequel is due out next year.
Did you know?
Galaxy’s spherical gameplay got its start as a tech demo for the Nintendo GameCube called Super Mario 128.
9. Half-Life 2
Platform: PC / Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Release Date: 2004 / 2007
Considered by many to be the greatest first-person shooter of all time, 2004’s stunning Half-Life 2 raised the bar in terms of storytelling, graphical fidelity and sheer immersion. But it turned out that was just the beginning. By continuing the tale with two top notch episodes, it became one of the first major single-player games to truly embrace expandable content. Even more impressively, it took to the consoles in the decade’s greatest deal, The Orange Box, which included a riveting multiplayer game along with the award-winning first-person puzzler, Portal.
Did you know?
Silent franchise hero Gordon Freeman was named after acclaimed physicist Freeman Dyson.
Release Date: 2001
Prior to Master Chief’s debut effort, first-person shooters were considered PC-only affairs. Halo’s groundbreaking controls, stellar graphics and amazing scripting changed that thinking in a heartbeat. It was an instant classic, but more importantly, it paved the way for all-decade greats like Modern Warfare, BioShock, Left 4 Dead and of course its own very own sequels. We’ll see another one of those next year in Halo: Reach.
Did you know?
When it was first shown to press at the E3 game convention in 1999, Halo was a third-person game built for the Mac and PC.
2. World of Warcraft
Release Date: 2004
It’s hard to believe there was life before World of Warcraft. And to many, there actually wasn’t. Blizzard’s massively-multiplayer game has been a pop culture staple since its release, turning otherwise pleasant people into sleep-deprived lunatics itching for just one more raid. Other games have tried to steal them away, but in six years, none have come remotely close to snagging more than a handful of WoW players. Currently there are about 12 million out there, making Warcraft roughly the size of Greece. Not bad for a video game.
Did you know?
It’s even won an Emmy. Or at least deserves one for inspiring the award-winning South Park episode, ‘Make Love, Not Warcraft.’
1. Grand Theft Auto III
Platform: Playstation 2Release Date: 2001 Some have called the past decade “chaotic,” while others have called it a “technological breakthrough.” Either version serves as an apt description of Rockstar’s career-defining Grand Theft Auto III, the greatest game of the past ten years. The dirty, unforgiving nature of Liberty City forever altered the gaming landscape, introducing gamers to the concept of ‘open-world’ design while permanently raising the bar for mature storytelling. That also made it a magnet for controversy, inciting the kind of stunned outrage that was once reserved for rock and roll. San Andreas might have sold more copies and GTA IV might have enjoyed a bigger launch week, but no game can hold a candle to this revolutionary rebel.Did you know?Though they never tell you during play, it’s revealed in later games that GTA III’s silent protagonist is named “Claude.” For the complete list, click here.