2001 was the best year for video games
Everyone has their own ideas on the best year for video games, but it is clearly 2001. The game had a moment as it entered the new millennium, freeing itself from the largely frivolous 1990s and itself. asserting as an art form worthy of attention. To. Developers were becoming more confident; the players widened their minds; technology was improving at a rapid rate; and the big publishers were becoming less risk averse, in a way that they haven’t been since and probably never will be again. It was a time when blockbuster games could be interesting and push the genre forward, and concepts like DLC and season passes didn’t exist. But above all, it’s the sheer volume of all-time classics released in 2001, especially on the PS2, that makes it a standout year and cements its legacy as the greatest 365 days in video game history.
The PS2, released a year earlier, had a breathtaking ride in 2001. After a rather disappointing start, Sony’s console unleashed a flurry of games that made it truly indispensable. In October, Rockstar released Grand Theft Auto 3, a revolutionary industry-changing 3D open-world game whose impact on the game as a whole cannot be underestimated. Much of the open-world design developed here still influences the genre today. In September, Konami released Silent Hill 2, a masterful horror game that proved video games can be provocative, mature, and subtle, and tell difficult stories. November saw the arrival of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, a clever and weirdly premonitory hit action game that tackled big and heavy themes via giant robots.
In September, Sony released the hauntingly beautiful Ico, which was one of the first video games I can remember that seemed to transcend medium and appeal to a deeper artistic level than just pure gaming. In May, Volition took the PS2 to its limits with Red Faction’s magnificent destruction system. That same month, Neversoft perfectly captured the essence of skate culture at the turn of the millennium with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3. In August, Capcom’s Devil May Cry took the bones of Resident Evil and turned it into a game of exciting and elegant combat. Final Fantasy 10, released in July, saw Square Enix sharpen and refresh its flagship RPG series for a new era. You know what I mean? In quick succession, and all on a single console in a single year. The PS2 is the best-selling console of all time, and with a library of games like this, it’s not hard to see why.
In November, Microsoft launched the original Xbox, a console beast with awesome technology under the hood and a stellar launch game in Halo: Combat Evolved. Bungie’s FPS was a masterpiece of evocative world-building, furiously entertaining combat, and sensational multiplayer, secretly making PS2 die-hards jealous (I’m pretty comfortable with myself to admit it now) and selling 3 million copies worldwide in 2003. the hardware world, the Game Boy Advance was yet another great handheld from Nintendo, with a dazzlingly colored screen and a few titles solid launches, including Castlevania: Circle of the Moon and a surprisingly excellent scaled-down version of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. The PS2 and its library of S-level games may have defined the year, but it was also damn good for hardware launches.
And don’t forget the GameCube. Nintendo launched its cute little cube not quite in late 2001 in Japan and the United States, which brought Animal Crossing to the world, and ultimately gave Mario’s beleaguered brother a starring role in Luigi’s Mansion. With its bulky, portable design (more consoles need handles), decent power under the hood, and a range of brilliant exclusives, the GameCube would go on to become one of Nintendo’s best consoles, even if it wasn’t. the case. fully have an impact until 2002/3. Yet 2001 marked its first appearance in the wild. He couldn’t compete with the mighty Xbox and PS2, but he never really tried to, making his own way into the games industry in a very Nintendo way.
PC gaming also had a strong year in 2001. Riding the wave of excitement around The Matrix, Remedy released Max Payne in July, a playfully cinematic slow-motion shooter. Combining intense, gloriously choreographed action with Norse mythology and a dark, harsh atmosphere, this was one of the best games of 2001 and it is still immensely playable today. Epic launched Unreal Tournament in March, a technologically mind-boggling FPS whose underlying technology, the Unreal Engine, would become a major force in the gaming industry. We also have curiosities like Lionhead’s Black & White, a bizarre god game starring giant creatures with convincingly simulated personalities, and Anachronox, an original turn-based RPG from Deus Ex creator Ion Storm.
Other highlights of 2001 include the first appearance of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney on Game Boy Advance, the very first Pro Evolution Soccer, which would become the football game of choice for connoisseurs, and the strong debuts of Super Monkey Ball, Onimusha and Classic Dreamcast Phantasy Star Online, the very first console MMORPG. The year also saw the rise of the EA Sports BIG label, which made a name for itself with the frenzied snowboard game SSX Tricky. Capcom even created a few Zelda games for the Game Boy Color: Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages. Honestly, has there ever been a more exciting time to be a player? Just a constant stream of innovative and interesting games, running on killer hardware, and with very little of the desperate and lucrative stench that has started to fester in the triple-A space lately.
I didn’t even mention the likes of Advance Wars, Jak & Daxter, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, Shenmue 2, Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec or Zone of the Enders, but you see the picture. The evidence speaks for itself: 2001 was The Year of Video Games, and I don’t think we’ll ever see another like this. It was also a time of much less diminishing returns when it comes to hardware, when a new console could still amaze you with a leap in visual fidelity. Games look better than ever now, and titles like Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart on PS5 still have that next-gen wow factor. But the transition from the original PlayStation to the PS2 was like stepping into another galaxy, and in 2001 developers really started to figure out how to get the most out of this hardware. In terms of technology, art, and creativity, this was truly a legendary unique orbit around the sun.
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