We all have our favorite years when it comes to gaming. Whether it’s the year that our favorite console was released or the year that saw the release of our favorite games, there’s always a special place in our hearts for certain years in gaming history.
But what is the best year for gaming overall? That question has been debated for years and is difficult to answer definitively. However, a new study by online gaming site Spades Challenge may have found the answer – at least according to gamers.
The study analyzed the top 2,000 video game titles on Metacritic based on user scores to see which year has produced the most fan favorites.
2003 for the Win
The study found that 2003 was the best year for gaming, with 199, or 9.95% of the 2,000 titles studied released in 2003. The highest-rated games included Fire Emblem, Gothic II, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and Day of Defeat.
2003’s most dominant consoles were the PS2, Xbox, and GameCube, and the year also saw Valve officially launch the Steam service.
The Fire Emblem series is an important part of Nintendo’s heritage. It debuted in Japan only in 1990, providing the first Nintendo consoles with a fun fantasy RPG-strategy game to play. The Fire Emblem series debuted in North America with 2003’s Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade. Since then, it has been a mainstay on every Nintendo platform.
Grand Theft Auto Returned in 2004
2004 comes second in the study, with 168, or 8.4% of the total titles studied released that year. 2004 saw the release of games like Half-Life 2, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, and Burnout 3: Takedown. Handheld consoles like the Nintendo DS and PSP were also released in the same year.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas balances a blend of 90s motifs with a genuine and era-defining scenario. The game is set in the fictional state of San Andreas and takes inspiration from events in Los Angeles in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It follows the tale of a gang war, police misconduct, and the crack epidemic.
Tom Clancy in 2005
In third place is 2005, with 141, or 7.9% of the total games studied, released that year. The highest-rated titles from this year were Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening, Resident Evil 4, Shadow of the Colossus, and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. Late 2005 also saw the release of the Xbox 360.
After much speculation in recent years, the long-awaited Resident Evil 4 remake has been officially announced with a trailer during the Sony State of Play. On March 24, 2023, Resident Evil 2 will be released for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S|X, and PC on Steam.
The Legend of Zelda
With 141 or 7.05% of total games in the study being released in 2002, it takes fourth place in the list. The highest-rated titles to be released that year include Mafia, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Metroid Fusion, and Shenmue II.
The Super Nintendo version of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was the first and only Zelda game released on the console. It was brought to Game Boy Advance in 2002, which is still available. Some players feel that it is the greatest Zelda game ever made.
Kingdom Hearts Ii
2006 takes fifth place, with 129, 6.45% of the 2,000 titles studied being released this year. Among those titles are God Hand, Okami, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and Kingdom Hearts II.
A sequel is rarely better than the original, but it’s conceivable. That’s exactly what Kingdom Hearts 2 does. Despite its opening hours being a little shaky with introducing new characters, whatever happens is significant and will lead to greater things.
Even now, the game maintains a high difficulty level, making it a great challenge for veterans. The player also fights against some challenging bosses, including Sephiroth from Final Fantasy 7 – perhaps one of the most difficult boss fights in video gaming.
1998 only had 25 entries in the top 2,000, yet it had the highest-rated selection of games out of any year, with an average user score of 8.9 out of 10. That year, titles that were released included The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Resident Evil 2, Fallout 2, Metal Gear Solid, and Half-Life.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Despite the uncertain circumstances surrounding the past couple of years, the year 2021 finished 12th on the list, with over 61 top titles being released last year. These titles included It Takes Two, Monster Hunter Rise, and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.
Commenting on the findings, a spokesperson from Spades Challenge said: “These findings make one thing clear, the 2000s were a very memorable decade for the gaming industry.
Additionally, with 2021 and 2020 still pumping out top titles, respectively, it shows the resilience of the gaming industry in times when no one knew what to expect. With 2022 already producing 28 high-rated titles in the study, it only provides hope for the future of gaming.”