Greatest Games of the Decade 2000-2009

 It is controversial enough when people choose the best games released in a given year, so to think it possible to create a definite list of the best games released over a ten year span may be maniacal, but I'll do my best to focus in on a small group of games which I feel defined the last ten years in video gaming. Fifty years from now, if people wanted to look back and see what we were playing, chances are good that these are the games that would be listed, or were the catalysts for creating the most popular games of our time. Some of the entries below are not the best example of their given genre or series, but their historical significance successfully overshadows this shortcoming.

In alphabetical order:

List items

  • Reason: Turned the world on its collective head.

    While the controversial nature of the series is certainly important, GTA was not the first or last game to push the envelope concerning what was acceptable video game content. GTA 3's lasting impact will be in how it ignited the development of sandbox games for a library of successors across all genres. The idea that you could do what you want when you wanted in a video game has now become a common demand by consumers, and for better and worse forever changed how developers approach their design process.

  • Reason: Creating rockstars in bedrooms around the world.

    Guitar Hero successfully captured one of the public's greatest desires, and as a result has become a mainstream sensation that has everyone playing around with flimsy plastic instruments. While the split between Guitar Hero and Rock Band has created what most believe to be a rhythm game overload in 2009, there is no denying the long-lasting appeal of music games as they continue to build closer ties to the music industry and offer a unique way to combine various forms of media.

  • Reason: Valve gave us physics.

    Okay, maybe Half-Life 2 was a bit more than just the gravity gun. The destitution of City 17, the believability exhibited by the cast of characters, decapitating zombies with saw blades, sending forth your army of ant lions, taking down a strider, Half-Life 2 delivered in every way. The addition of CS:S and forcing every buyer to sign up for Steam didn't hurt the title's vast importance either.

  • Reason: Was there any other reason to buy a Xbox?

    I could probably stop at the fact that without Halo the Xbox likely would have gone the way of the Dreamcast, but Bungie's effort was not only the system's killer app, it is a game which continues to influence every shooter that has come out since. GoldenEye brought first person shooters to the consoles, but Halo took it to the next level. Regenerating health, vehicle sections, the two weapon system, and melee combat are just a few of Halo's innovations that are now commonplace. Stellar multiplayer didn't hurt either, with few experiences in gaming being more fun than sixteen-player CTF in Blood Gulch.

  • Reason: This is why you're playing Modern Warfare 2 today.

    Medal of Honor may have debuted years prior on the Playstation, but those first two installments had more in common with GoldenEye than the epic parade of shooters we have today. The first time we set foot on Omaha Beach forever changed the scope of what shooters encompassed, and we finally felt like a small piece in a much bigger war.

  • Reason: Exhibit A of why you take risks.

    The wait for a new console installment of Metroid was an agonizing eight years, but what Retro Studios finally delivered us instantly made us forgive Nintendo for the layoff. Prime was a new breed of first person shooter, maintaining the exploration and acrobatics central to the other Metroid games but giving us so much more in what is still today a gorgeous and engrossing game. One could not help but be floored the first time they stepped foot into Phendrana Drifts or come face to face with a Space Pirate.

  • Reason: Have you honestly met someone who doesn't worship this game?

    Everything people loved about Resident Evil was present, everything people hated was discarded, and what was left was one of the most gripping experiences to ever appear in a video game. We can often point to liking games in spite of certain deficiencies, like enjoying the preceding Resident Evils in spite of the confusing camera angles and terrible dialogue, but RE4 was one of those games where you couldn't find something to be upset with. The shooting was sublime; the enemies were frightening, and the presentation dynamic. RE4 had it all.

  • Reason: Watching digital people eat has never been so addicting.

    The Sims has been nothing short of a phenomenon since release in 2000. Many male gamers had to go out and buy a second PC because their sisters and girlfriends spent too much time playing it, while at the same time these guys were secretly playing it themselves when no one was looking. While the series has now become the poster child for EA's annoying business practice of withholding content for expansions and DLC, there is no denying the unexplainable attraction in managing the lives of these digital people.

  • Reason: So easy your Grandma could play it.

    The greatest selling game of all time due to it being packed in with nearly every Wii sold; Wii Sports was a simple package that exemplified why the Wii would become a sensation. The intuitive motion controls that were accessible to just about anyone proved to be exactly the first step Nintendo needed for their console.

  • Reason: Destroyer of jobs, grades, and relationships for millions.

    Twelve millions players can't be wrong, right? Some people play games as a hobby, but for many MMO players their time in the game is a second life, and World of Warcraft took the MMO genre out of a dark corner and into the mainstream. Carrying a perfect combination of accessibility and depth, WoW offered something for anyone willing to journey into Azeroth and after more than five years only continues to grow. The only problem with WoW is since release it has prevented every other MMO from matching this level of success, because players haven't had a good enough reason to leave.