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First released in: 2004
Developed by: Bungie Studios
Published by: Microsoft Game Studios
It’s notable for: Bringing console-based multiplayer online, and making it stick. Multiplayer matchmaking on consoles still works roughly how it did in Halo 2.
It inspired: Every console game with online multiplayer – they all owe Halo 2 for its pioneering efforts.
Blah blah blah: “Halo 2 deserves to be on the list, purely because it, not invented, but really cemented online gaming on consoles, which had never managed to rival the depth or the sense of community that PC gamers had always enjoyed before then.” -Dave Meikleham, Content Editor (UK):
First released in: 2000
Developed by: Maxis
Published by: Electronic Arts
It’s notable for: Being the best-selling PC game of all time – that ought to say something. The Sims was the revolution that Spore wasn’t – it was a new kind of game, different even from Wright’s previous simulations, and was one of the first games since the likes of Myst and Mario to have such a wide-ranging impact on mainstream culture. Everyone played the Sims, even if they hated it.
It inspired: Oodles of Sims-style games, some which directly yank ideas from the series, and some which take its lead more subtly. While they were likely conceived alongside each other, The Sims was so influential that just about every review of Animal Crossing, which was released in the US in 2002, described it as “similar to The Sims.” The Sims didn’t raise the bar, it created it.
Blah blah blah: “The Sims is kind of the ultimate triumph of Will Wright and Maxis because it’s the first game to convincingly create artificial characters that feel like real people, to a degree…they’ve always kind of been caricatures of real people, but you control their every action, their lives.” -Mikel Reparaz, Senior Editor (US)
First released in: 2006
Developed by: Nintendo
Published by: Nintendo
It’s notable for: Well, it was a revolution, right? In a way, it was. Wii Sports wasn’t really anything new – we’d seen motion control before - but it did it well enough and at the right price that it blew up. And it was very fun, and anyone could play it. It didn’t matter if you had beaten every Mega Man game ever made, you weren’t going to be any better at Wii Sports than Grandma, who hadn’t seen a videogame since Pong.
It inspired: Oh, you know, along with the Wii itself, an entirely new direction for the entire gaming industry. Here we come, Natal Sports and Sony Ice Cream Cone Wand Fun Time.
Blah blah blah: “You can say what you want about Wii Sports, but the fact is that when it came into the office and we first had our hands-on, the amazing thing was that when you sat at your desk, all you could hear around you were the sounds of people having fun.” -Justin Towell, Content Editor (UK)
First released in: 2004
Developed by: Blizzard Entertainment
Published by: Blizzard Entertainment
It’s notable for: Being the only MMORPG that has really mattered for the past six years.
It inspired: Every MMORPG since – they’d be foolish not to take inspiration from the most successful game in the genre. And outside of gaming, WoW has, like The Sims and Wii Sports, become a cultural phenomenon. Even Mr. T couldn’t escape.
Blah blah blah: “I’ve been able to see the social aspect of how important WoW is as a game in the last ten years. I’ve seen people become boyfriend and girlfriend, to eventually become married. I’ve seen friendships break up, I’ve seen friendships form…the social aspect of the game is huge. They basically set the bar on what MMORPGs have to be to succeed.” -Cheryll Del Rosario, Web Designer (US)
First released in: 2001
Developed by: DMA Design (now Rockstar North)
Published by: Rockstar Games
It’s notable for: Being the first fully-realized free-roaming 3D game. GTA III changed everything – it did more than we knew games could, and somehow managed to do it all extremely well. It’s so often that a game will break new ground but be practically unplayable, because more effort was spent being impressively different than being actually good, but GTA III succeeded at being both mind-blowing (at the time) and hugely fun.
It inspired: A whole new genre of 3D open-world games which has lead to the likes of, more recently, inFamous, Prototype, Crackdown, and Saint’s Row, as well as open-world additions in previously linear games, as in Halo 3: ODST. And beyond that, its influences are countless. You might suggest that its arsenal of cheats influenced cheats in later games, or that its selection of music influenced future soundtracks, or that its “adultness” helped encourage other developers to shun political correctness – GTA III is truly the most important game of the 2000s.
Blah blah blah: “You simply can’t underestimate the importance of Grand Theft Auto III to the games of the last decade…I’ll never forget that sense of liberation I got the first time I played Grand Theft Auto III, driving around in this huge open-world city with its own pulse and rhythms...that and discovering you could have sex with prostitutes.” -George Walter, Editor-in-Chief (UK)
Jan 21, 2009
The top 20 most important games of the decade (video edition)
GR US and UK editors tell you what they think are the most important games of the noughties
The 10 most shocking game moments of the decade
A decade of game taboo breakers in one filthy list
The Top 7... Disappointing games of the decade
We expected so much. They delivered so little