Video games have been a large part of modern culture for many decades now. Some have experienced a huge transformation of the ever-advancing technology since the release of consoles like the original Atari in the 70s. More current titles offer players high-definition graphics alongside very realistic gameplay. Everyone has their own series of games that they grew up on, but it is arguably the kids from the 2000s that have some of the most nostalgia-wrenching titles. Sure, video game classics like Pac-Man and Galaga have some emotional ties, but a number of titles that were released around the millennial generation’s childhood provide intricate levels of storytelling. These games are packed with many emotional encounters and several action-packed sequences that can bring the child gamer out of anyone that has picked up a PS2, Xbox or Gamecube controller.
Video games used to be known as simple button-mashing titles in which players simply tried to beat one another’s high scores. Now, these games have evolved to contain ever-increasing story arcs, in-depth characters and even customization that leaves gameplay completely up to the player’s creativity. The titles that are listed below vary in genre, ranging from role-playing games to classic action platformers, but all have a common thread of an intriguing storyline with relatable characters. It is because of this that these games hold a great amount of replay value and the reason for revisiting players experiencing that oh-so-sweet sense of nostalgia.
10. Sly Cooper
This series was exclusive to the Sony PlayStation family and is considered to be a PS2 classic. The first title of the saga, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, was released in 2002. The story follows a trio of humanized animal characters: Sly Cooper the raccoon, Bentley the turtle and Murray the hippo. Sly takes on the role of a type of Robin Hood-esque thief with the help of his two comrades who serve as the brains and the brawn of his often dangerous escapades around the globe.
The Thievius Raccoonus introduced players to Sly’s heritage as the latest descendant of an ancient family of master thieves who placed all of their masterful secrets in one book known as the Thievius Raccoonus. The games introduced a new style of animation to PlayStation gamers as the Cooper series took much influence from classic film noir and comic books in its art direction. The intriguing storyline, gameplay and cast of characters has kept the series alive and well for over a decade as the latest installment of the saga, Thieves in Time, was released in 2013 and an animated feature film based on the first game is set to hit theaters in 2016.
9. Dr. Muto
This is a more unique title, as it was not a huge commercial success as some others released around its time in 2002, but it still proves rather memorable for the select few that did happen to play Dr. Muto. The game was released for all major gaming platforms at that time, which were PS2, Xbox and Nintendo GameCube.
The title followed the eccentric Dr. Muto as his home world has been blown to smithereens by his arch nemesis Dr. Burnital. Muto then plans to rebuild his planet by stealing organic matter such as isotopes and bits of terra from neighboring planets. The scientist uses one of his inventions, the Splizz Gun, to morph himself into a number of animal-like creatures including rats, gorillas and fish, in order to acquire the aforementioned matter. The art direction and overall tone of the game was whimsical, comedic and original, giving players a one-of-a-kind action platformer.
8. God of War
Here’s another PlayStation classic that takes gamers into the realm of ancient Greek mythology. This game may have been a young boy’s first exposure to virtual boobs as the God of War series most definitely did not shy away from making sex and violence a vital part of the saga’s storyline.
Players took control of Kratos, a vengeful Spartan who is instructed by the Goddess of Wisdom, Athena, to eradicate her brother, Ares, the God of War, for deceiving Kratos into murdering his own family. The Spartan must then embark on a quest to find the only item powerful enough to destroy the God of War, Pandora’s Box.
The original game garnered the title of one the best-selling PS2 games of all time, selling more than 4.6 million copies. Although some of the younger players may have passed this one up, the God of War saga will remain a loving piece of nostalgia for gamers whose mom let them play M-Rated games in 2005.
7. Tomb Raider: Legend
Now a few 90s gamers may claim Tomb Raider as their own since the series officially launched in 1996, but the franchise has seen a number of reboots that have spanned across the last few generations. Due to this, Lara Croft still remains a mascot for gamers of all ages.
Croft left her mark on the millenial crowd with the first reboot of the franchise, which included titles such as Legend, Anniversary and Underworld. Angel of Darkness was technically part of the first generation of Croft’s stories and was one of the first Tomb Raider titles released for the PS2, but it was the lack of the game’s success that kept developers from finishing out that particular storyline. Legend marked the first of the rebooted series and allowed players a more detailed look into Croft’s past. A much more maneuverable style of gameplay was introduced and the Tomb Raider saga gained a new audience with the launch of the reboot in 2006.
6. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Previously stated as not only one of the best Star Wars games, but also one of the best RPGs of the 2000s, Knights of the Old Republic undoubtedly holds a special place in the hearts of many gamers. KOTOR is set thousands of years before the events of any of the films produced by George Lucas and was one of the first mainstream titles to implement morality-based gameplay.
Players had many customizable choices in creating their main character ranging from gender and race to warrior class and wardrobe. Not only were physical adaptations up to the player, but various choices of dialogue throughout the game also shaped the path for the main character, leading them down the path of the light side with the Jedi or the path of the dark side with the Sith. The original Xbox title won the coveted title of “Game of the Year” in 2003 and also produced a sequel for the Xbox as well as a spinoff MMO game for the PC. An iOS and Android version of the original KOTOR is also available.
5. Jet Set Radio Future
This was one game that many certainly did not expect to fall in love with, but are very glad they did. Jet Set Radio Future most likely owes a lot of its success to Microsoft for including the game alongside Sega GT 2002 in many of the original Xbox’s bundle packages.
JSRF provides hours of fun by allowing gamers to play as a large cast of colorful characters whilst skating through the streets of Tokyo and giving the corporate world the finger by tagging one’s original graffiti art throughout the city. Every playable character was on skates and each had a very different personality, beautifully reflected in an anime/comic book-style of design. Many of the game’s bosses and other antagonists were available to unlock as secret playable characters, too. The title’s soundtrack alone was well worth the playtime as well.
4. Star Wars: Battlefront II
As this is the second Star Wars game mentioned on this list of nostalgia, it goes to show that the galaxy far, far away may very well have been made to be adapted into video games. This title was a very standard capture-the-flag-style shooter game in retrospect, but it is one that can bring out the utmost nerd in any Star Wars fan.
The first Battlefront game proved to be very successful as players could choose from all types of different soldier classes that have been featured throughout the entire Star Wars film saga. The sequel introduced the use of “heroes” into the game, a feature allowing players to occasionally take control of pivotal heroes and villains featured throughout the films. One could wield a double-bladed lightsaber as Darth Maul, slaughtering Clone Troopers in Jabba’s Palace or even replay the beginning of A New Hope as Princess Leia and instead of being captured, take down Darth Vader and the Empire.
3. Ratchet and Clank
These are two of Sony’s most iconic faces and one of the PlayStation console’s most successful franchises. Ratchet and Clank was most definitely being played on a ton of televisions in the early 2000s and is still going strong today. There are over a dozen installments of the series available on various Sony gaming systems and, like the Sly Cooper series, an animated feature film is being created, due for release in 2016.
The original game is said to have changed the way people play action-adventure platformer titles. Unforgettable characters were featured in the saga and the friendship between the two title characters was unbeatable. The introduction of purchasing weapons and other mediums necessary for furthering the story was made in this game. The tiny likes of the feline-esque Ratchet and his sentient little robot friend Clank are known for making use of intricate and over-the-top massive weapons, a trait that makes the series very original in its image.
2. Jak and Daxter
Yet another Sony classic, in league with the ongoing success that Ratchet and Clank and Sly Cooper also share. The Jak and Daxter saga had similar hack-and-slash action-adventure gameplay like the Ratchet and Clank and Sly Cooper games, although its characters featured a cast of humanoid elf-like creatures with some speaking hybrid animals, including Daxter himself who gets turned into an ottsel, an otter-weasel hybrid.
The first title was released for the PS2 and put players in a distant, steampunk-like world that centered around the use of a substance that controlled the elements called “eco”. The game’s sequels took Jak, Daxter and a select few of the original cast members far into the future, where the rest of the series takes place. It wasn’t until Jak II that the character Jak even spoke; the sequel also introduced the use of guns and stealing civilian’s vehicles a la Grand Theft Auto.
1. Kingdom Hearts
This is a massive fan-favorite series, and deservedly so. When first proposed, the idea of creating a game that meshes the storyline of Disney characters with those from the Final Fantasy titles sounded like a hot mess. It is not until players are swept away by the beautiful art direction, music and original storyline that audiences are completely drawn in to Kingdom Hearts.
So many people fell in love and identified with Sora, the main protagonist, and his journey as the key bearer. The adventure was a new way of playing RPG’s and proved to define a new generation of role-playing gamers. The inclusion of classic Disney characters like Peter Pan and Aladdin are what helped draw in a massive audience, but the in-depth storytelling and eventual love for the game’s original characters are what have kept the saga going strong for more than a decade. The latest sequel, Kingdom Hearts III, is still in development and is anticipated to be one of the best-selling installments of the saga yet.