2015 is looking like it’s going to be a pretty good year, but I swear if I see a bunch of publications making “Is 2015 going to be the greatest year of gaming ever?” stories, I’m going to lose it. Every time these discussions come up I have to remind people that 1998 was and still is the greatest year ever in terms of software releases.
There have definitely been great years since, but something separates almost all of them from 1998. We’ll continue to have years seen as greater than most others, but I honestly don’t know if we’ll get another “1998” in the near future. It was a product of circumstances unique to that time I don’t see arising today.
If nothing get’s seriously delayed 2015 is at least going to give us The Witcher 3, Batman Arkham Knight, Bloodborne, Uncharted 4, a new Zelda game, Halo 5, No Man’s Sky, and more. I am legitimately excited for what’s coming this year, but I’m fine just calling it a good year. There have even been other great years: 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007 and especially 2001. Something however still puts 1998 above the rest.
1998 wasn’t just a great year in gaming, it was an influential year in gaming. The games that came out that year weren’t just outstanding, 98 was host to at least several genre-defining games. Multiple entire franchises that are huge today began in 98. In short, 98 wasn’t just a great year on its own, the influence of its releases continues to be felt today.
I guess Wikipedia has the best comprehensive list I could quickly find if what I’m about to write upsets you for overlooking your favorite 98 game. Just to ramble off a few things, in 98 we got StarCraft, the first Gran Turismo, the first Unreal (and the Unreal Engine itself), the original Rainbow Six, Pokémon Red and Blue, Half-Life, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and the first Baldur’s Gate. There you’ve got the popular start of the tactical shooter, the top-selling offline RPG of all time, the popular start of the console racing simulator, the birth of the most widely-used game engine over time, one of the most influential first person shooters, and a game that largely wrote user interface design for 3D games on consoles. No fewer than three of the most influential early stealth games came out in the same year: the first Tenchu, Metal Gear Solid, and Thief: The Dark Project.
Influential, groundbreaking games not your only metric? Okay, there was also Resident Evil 2, Tekken 3, Xenogears, Panzer Dragoon Saga, 1080° Snowboarding, Einhänder, Banjo-Kazooie, Fallout 2, and quite a bit more. Many of those are considered standout games within their respective franchises. Looking over that list also brings out another cool thing about 98 — it was a landmark year across basically all platforms. Landmark PC games came out that year, defining PlayStation games came out that year, one of the N64’s crown jewels and a few other of its great games came out that year, and handheld gaming was upended by a single title that year.
Other great years in video gaming don’t quite stack up because they were largely continuations of what was established in 1998 or earlier. 2001 might be a bit different. For the most part 2001 was the year a lot of the PlayStation’s great franchises made the upgrade to PS2 in rapid succession. 2001 was host to at least three highly influential games though: Halo Combat Evolved, Grand Theft Auto III, and the first Devil May Cry. The closest year to 98 in terms of influence however was probably 2007.
2007 kind of defined the previous console generation and will likely heavily influence the current PS4/Xbox One era. That was when we got the first Mass Effect, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, the first Assassin’s Creed, Portal, Team Fortress 2, Bioshock, Super Mario Galaxy, and the industry-steering Call of Duty 4. A lot of today’s big franchises and a lot of the popular game mechanics we see today became popular that year. Not to the level of 98, but still to a palpable degree. Two other 2007 games that represented a possible alternate path for action games were S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl and the first Crysis.
Even if we do get another 98 or 2007, bringing out several games that heavily impact how games are played and designed, I don’t think 2015 is gonna be it. This year we’re getting a ton of highly anticipated sequels. Except No Man’s Sky, just about everything I see for 2015 will play largely like the games we’ve been playing since 2007, but with a generational visual leap, kind of like the PS2’s 2001 lineup. If that next wave of genre-defining games is on the way, basically none of them have been announced yet.
- Very important issue on gaming and its history. http://t.co/mEg50m2GNV
- I’ve basically given up guessing what people will mod into Skyrim next. http://t.co/D3wiHVecUP
- I had no idea Under Night In-Birth was hitting North America this week.
- Anybody know if any PC games that actually make good use of surround sound systems?
- Thoughts on this? https://t.co/jcRJLrzIfh
- Another nice upcoming indie game for immersive sim fans. http://t.co/e22Jbf3avj
- Go ahead and get that Yakuza 0 demo with the Japanese PSN account we all know you have.
- Two new trailers for Liege. http://t.co/D01XLez9hc
- Likely capping off Black History Month 2015 on this blog: “Ain’t I A Woman” by Sojourner Truth — 1851. http://t.co/gmiBmthAbr