The turn of the millennium was a momentous occasion. Doomsday nuts thought the world would end and that computer equipment would suffer catastrophic failures. The year 2000 also brought us the strongest year in gaming since 1998.
How strong was the year 2000? All-time great game classics such as Vagrant Story, Chrono Cross, Skies of Arcadia, and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (my favorite game of the year) all missed this list. That statement will likely stir up some controversy, especially when games like SSX and Metal Gear Solid (Game Boy Color) made the list.
The year 2000 also marked the arrival of Sony’s PlayStation 2 (the greatest selling console of all time), but the appearance of just one of its games on the list serves as testament to the console’s ultra-weak launch lineup.
Music wise, it was a momentous year topped by the arrival (into the mainstream consciousness) of the immortal Linkin Park band.
Without further ado, here are the top ten best games according to GameRankings’ critics.
10. SSX (PlayStation 2) – 92.39
The PlayStation 2’s launch lineup remains one of the worst in the history of home consoles, and yet, there was a saving grace in the form of SSX. The extreme, if very exaggerated, snowboarding game was quite simply the best and most impressive offering on the early PlayStation 2 library.
Going down courses while performing physically impossible tricks was incredibly fun and very visually impressive 22 years ago. The game took advantage of the PlayStation 2 hardware, offering an early preview of technology not possible on the original PlayStation or even on the more powerful Nintendo 64 hardware.
Critics were pleased. The game would win many sport’s game of the year awards with critics praising the game’s visual effects and track design.
9. Final Fantasy IX (PlayStation) – 92.72
GameRankings wise, Final Fantasy IX did not fare as well as it did on Metacritic. However, it remained a well-received game with critics, as it was the most polished game of the PlayStation FF trilogy. Because Final Fantasy IX’s launch coincided with the PlayStation 2’s arrival, the game did not sell nearly as well as Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII, though it did sell 5.5 million units.
Final Fantasy IX ditched the series’ steam punk futuristic settings of the previous three entries in favor of a return to the series’ high fantasy roots. The game’s incredibly good translation and moving musical score helped to endear gamers everywhere to its gripping tale and beautiful world.
Critics of the era praised FFIX’s gameplay and combat system. The simplicity of the game’s systems was a nice change of pace from Final Fantasy VIII’s sometimes confusing Junction infused gameplay.
FFIX continues to do well in all time games lists even if the game isn’t as popular as a few of its predecessors.
8. Rayman 2: The Great Escape (Dreamcast) – 93.05
The year 2000 was the Dreamcast’s best year. Its sophomore software was way ahead of anything that launched with the PlayStation 2, and it had quite a few games that didn’t make this list that some would consider to be better than any listed here.
Rayman 2 was a big deal for the system. The game was a wonderful platformer on every system, though the Nintendo 64 version was the superior way to play (thanks to the N64’s relatively powerful hardware) within the 32-64-bit era. However, the show stopped for the title with its Dreamcast port.
The title was a 3-D platformer in the (linear) vein of Crash Bandicoot was well received by critics with IGN claiming that the Nintendo 64 version of the title was “the most impressive feat of game design and execution the platforming genre has ever seen.”
The game would win the aforementioned publication’s game of the year award for 2000.
7. Resident Evil: Code Veronica (Dreamcast) – 93.79
Resident Evil: Code Veronica was my Dreamcast showoff game to early PlayStation 2 adopters. Code Veronica did not have the number “3” on its title, but it felt like the proper Resident Evil 2 sequel that, perhaps, Nemesis should have been.
Code Veronica continued the story of Claire and Chris Redfield and marked the first time that the series went full 3-D. Capcom’s RE:CV was a Dreamcast technical showcase and further polished the established Resident Evil formula.
Critics of the era felt that the game was the greatest Resident Evil game of all time, and given the shock value of its incredible visuals, it was just that. The game was seen as a major improvement over the previous PS1 games in the series and the only complaint from critics came from Capcom’s refusal to ditch the traditional ‘tank’ controls.
6. Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn (PC) – 93.97
The PC platform only has one entry on this list, but it is a good one. Baldur’s Gate II is an isometric real-time role-playing game. For its time, it was one of the longest and deepest gaming experiences available with over 200 hours of gameplay for completists to immerse themselves in.
Baldur’s Gate offered dialog trees with choices that led to unexpected quests and other hidden material. The game’s world begged to be explored and offered more freedom than most contemporary role-playing games on home consoles.
Critics of the time considered Baldur’s Gate II to be unique and without peers. The game’s plot and writing were widely praised with some even comparing it to The Lord of the Rings.
Baldur’s Gate II continues to do well in all-time great game lists, and some praise it as the best computer roleplaying game ever created.
5. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (Dreamcast) – 94.00
The only skating board game better than Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater on the PlayStation 1 was THPS on the Sega Dreamcast.
The Dreamcast version did everything that the PlayStation version did, but better, especially when it came to graphical fidelity. Critics praised the Dreamcast version as being the best available version of the game.
The game was praised for its sand box play style and its amazingly tight controls. In an era filled with awesome extreme sports games, THPS was the king of the hill.
4. NFL 2K1 (Dreamcast) – 94.50
NFL 2K1, according to critics, was a better game than Madden 2001 was on the PlayStation 2. In fact, NFKL 2K1 would end up winning the coveted Electronic Gaming Monthly’s sports game of the year award over EA’s juggernaut.
The game featured online play, A.I, graphical improvements, and the best single-player and multiplayer experience available for American football fans. Given the prominence of Dreamcast titles on this list, and the fact that it had best in class games such as NFL 2K1, it is hard to conceive how the system failed so badly at retail.
Clearly, the system was carrying Sega’s 1990s baggage, because software wise, it was an excellent machine. If you were a football fan in the early 2000’s the Dreamcast was the place to be.
3. Perfect Dark (Nintendo 64) – 94.55
Was this game the Nintendo 64’s last hurray? Maybe, in terms of critical mainstream appeal, as I always found Majora’s Mask to be the better game. However, commercially Perfect Dark fell short of Majora’s Mask numbers.
Perfect Dark was the spiritual sequel to the impossibly great Golden Eye 007. Nintendo lost the Bond license, and Rare was forced to produce its own universe and cast of characters to continue their first-person shooting ‘saga.’
The company was successful in crafting a game that was in every way imaginable better than Golden Eye, but that arrived too late in the Nintendo 64’s lifespan to match Bond’s commercial splash.
Longer, more difficult, and prettier than Golden Eye, Perfect Dark was the perfect (no pun intended) game for Nintendo 64 owners that refused to jump on the Dreamcast bandwagon but wanted a formidable game to play on their own aging machine.
Critics loved the game for its A.I. improvements, wonderful visuals, and gigantic campaign. Many hailed it as the greatest first-person shooter of all time to that point. The game featured a plethora of multiplayer options that made it the perfect successor to Golden Eye, but perhaps it was too ambitious for its own good.
Perfect Dark suffered from some of the worst frame-rate issues on the Nintendo 64. Critics did notice these issues, but chose to overlook them. When played today on the Nintendo 64, the game is not quite as smooth as its Bond themed predecessor was.
2. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (PlayStation) – 94.75
THPS 2 was the same great game that its predecessor was, but with improved graphics and added gameplay elements such as cash rewards.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 was a refinement of the series’ original formula and is generally considered the critical peak of the series. The game remains one of the highest ranked Metacritic games and its reputation on GameRankings was nearly as stellar.
Critics universally loved the game with Eurogamer calling it, “the supreme champion of extreme sports gaming.” Many praised its graphics which were at the time squeezing every bit of power out of the old Sony console. The game’s controls were considered “perfect” at the time and it received the proper accolades awarding its greatness.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 would win multiple game of the year awards and rank, three years later, at #20 on IGN’s “Top 100 Games of All Time List”. The game continues to rank high to this day on retro-listings.
1. Metal Gear Solid (GBC) – 95.61
This one I had to double check before placing it down on the list. A Game Boy Color game? At the top of the list? Madness! And yet, Metal Gear Solid for the Game Boy Color managed to do what the superior Metal Gear Solid for PlayStation 1 could not: Top a GameRankings ‘best game of the year’ list!
For starters, Metal Gear Solid for the GBC is not a portable port of the PlayStation 1 game. Instead, it its own game with its own story set 7 years after the original NES game. The game plays a lot like the older 2-D Metal Gear games did, except that now diagonal movement was possible. At its core, Metal Gear Solid on the GBC remained a stealth game.
Critics would praise the game as one of the greatest Game Boy games of all time. I suspect the high score here is both a consequence of the game being that good and the fact that it was being compared to other portable titles rather than big console games.
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