20 Best Games of 2000

Y3K words on 2000s bangers.

Best Games of 2000
Best Games of 2000

The year 2000 was a great time to be alive. That’s certainly true where the video game industry was concerned. There’s no shortage of contenders for the best games of 2000, with video games well on their way to eclipsing the success the industry had experienced since the mid-80s.

The year 2000 was more than just an extraordinary time to be a video game fan. It was also a transitional point for many developers, publishers, and console manufacturers. Sony would continue their dominance in the first year of the new millennium, while Nintendo’s distant second Nintendo 64 arguably had its best creative year. On the Game Boy Color front, sales surged thanks to properties like Pokémon. Sega entered the 2000s strongly with the Dreamcast, but we all regrettably know how that worked out. How about Microsoft and the Xbox? Not quite yet.

2000 was a fascinating one for games and gaming. Let’s celebrate that with a look at the very best of the calendar year.

 

Best Games Of 2000

20. The Sims

The Sims 2000
The Sims 2000

Developer: Maxis Software
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: PC

It’s hard to believe The Sims has been around for well over 20 years at this point. One of the most influential games on this list, The Sims gave players what was at the time the deepest and most elaborate real-time life simulation ever created.

Choosing from pre-generated characters of building one of your own allowed players to establish and live out a lifespan in a relatively immersive world. Made all the more interesting by the fact that the game’s depiction of life was more often than not pretty weird, but millions of people just couldn’t get enough.

The Sims lead to several sequels and spinoffs, and the original retains some genuine fascination. It’s still fun to pick up for a bit, and the series has clearly come a very long way (and arguably not in all the right ways).

 

19. Metal Gear Solid

Metal Gear Solid GB
Metal Gear Solid GB

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Platforms: Game Boy Color

It would take a lot for a Game Boy Color game to crack a list of the best games of 2000. That’s where this GBC port of Metal Gear Solid becomes seriously impressive.

More than just a quick dumbing down of Konami’s massively successful PlayStation 1, Metal Gear Solid for the Game Boy Color (also known as Ghost Babel) used the system to its fullest potential, made every step of the way with a clear idea of how to make these concepts engaging on a much less powerful piece of hardware. The game has the tone and attitude of the PS1 game it draws from, but visually and gameplay wise harkens back to earlier entries in the series for the NES and elsewhere.

It may not be a technological achievement, but Metal Gear Solid for the Game Boy Color is still intensely fun to play. It also has a serial killer who can see like an owl and uses puppets to attack you, so that’s cool.

 

18. Space Channel 5

Space Channel 5
Space Channel 5

Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Platforms: Dreamcast

The late 90s started the substantial popularity behind music and rhythm games, with releases like Space Channel 5 for Sega’s anticipated Dreamcast reflecting a trend that was continuing to climb. The game made an immediate impression for its 60s retro space visuals that combined with an energy and atmosphere that somehow felt very specific to the new millennium.

The style and gameplay of Space Channel 5 can engage you immediately. What keeps you going is not just the aesthetics, but the game’s surreal sense of humor and increasing degree of difficulty. Few video games succeed in Space Channel 5’s endearingly weird blend of style and substance.

The game is even still remembered fondly to this day. Space Channel 5 even later received ports to the PlayStation 2 and the Game Boy Color, as well as a 2002 sequel and a recent 2020 VR remake.

 

17. Spyro: Year of the Dragon

Spyro 3
Spyro 3

Developer: Insomniac
Publisher: Sony
Platforms: PS1

The last Spyro game released for the original PlayStation is considered by some to be the last good Spyro the Dragon game ever made. Maybe that’s true, but regardless Spyro: Year of the Dragon is far and away the best of the entries released on the PS1.

It’s an enormously satisfying platformer with visual charm, great gameplay, and considerable depth for the time. The stages this time around were utterly massive, but never boring. Year of the Dragon gave you a huge world to play in, and then made sure that every inch of that world was covered in things to see and do.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon also let players tackle levels as characters other than Spyro, which only adds to the fun and expansiveness of everything. It’s been many years since we saw something brand new from Spyro, so let’s hope it’s his year again soon.

 

16. Jet Set Radio

Jet Set Radio
Jet Set Radio

Developer: Smilebit
Publisher: Sega
Platforms: Dreamcast

Offering a brilliant blend of style and sheer joy, Jet Set Radio (originally known as Jet Grind Radio) stood nicely on its own at the time of release. It was yet another visually sumptuous Dreamcast title that not only showcased the console’s power, but also emphasized the singular titles Sega was churning out for their last bid at the home system market. This was among the Dreamcast titles that made good use of those massive controllers, while also pretty much nailing the aesthetic and feel of the new millennium.

Nothing along the crowded lines of 2000 releases was quite like Jet Set Radio and its attention to story and characters, with platforming and skating elements that worked together quite beautifully. That’s without mentioning the gorgeous cel-shaded visuals, which still influence countless games ever today.

It’s always a treat to see innovation and entertainment work together so well and so consistently, and it does here for one of the best-designed games of the era.

 

15. Pokémon Gold & Silver

Pokemon Gold Silver
Pokemon Gold Silver

Developers: Nintendo, Game Freak
Publisher: Nintendo
Platforms: Game Boy Color

If you weren’t of an age to play Pokémon Gold & Silver when it was released in Japan in 1999 and the U.S. and Australia in 2000, it’s difficult to explain just how feverishly popular Pokémon had grown over just a couple of years. Fans were ready and willing to play just about anything, but luckily they got two games that for many still represents the best of the entire franchise.

The basics of Pokémon are still here in Gold and Silver, but the tweaks and improvements were noticeable, and the 100 new Pokémon to catch along with the original 150 made the Pokédex enormous. The game also visually looked stronger, thanks to the relatively more powerful Game Boy Color.

Innovations like the day and night system, as well as the surprisingly complex breeding system, also helped Pokémon Gold & Silver to not only become a instant classic, but remain one, as well.

 

14. Mega Man Legends 2

Mega Man Legends 2
Mega Man Legends 2

Developers: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Platforms: PS1

Ask a fan of the ridiculously amiable Mega Man Legends 2 when Mega Man Legends 3 is coming out. You just might get to see an aging adult cry.

An excellent sequel to a clever 3D reimagining of the iconic blue bomber, Mega Man Legends 2 improved on its predecessor nicely. Rather than a figure of justice in the battle against the maniacal Dr. Wily, Legends featured Mega Man and his partner Roll as treasure hunters in a bright, colorful world more at home with the best 3D platforming adventure games of the period than the relentless 2D action of the main series.

Mega Man Legends 2 makes good use of its large world and RPG mechanics to give you a fun, compulsory game that rarely fumbles, even with its most difficult platform elements.

 

13. Skies of Arcadia

Skies of Arcadia
Skies of Arcadia

Developers: Overworks
Publisher: Sega
Platform: Dreamcast

Mere months after the release of Skies of Arcadia in late 2000, the Dreamcast was no more. Officially discontinued in March of 2001, titles like this RPG masterwork gave fans of the system just cause to mourn its short lifespan.

Set in a fantastical, sprawling sky world consisting of several floating continents and some impassioned, layered worldbuilding, this is one of the most underrated JRPGs of the time. Even the 2002 GameCube port didn’t get much in the way of the love this game has always so richly deserved.

Placing its greatest emphasis on world exploration, Skies of Arcadia certainly gives you plenty to check out. The story and characters are appealing enough to get you playing, and these essential JRPG qualities only get better as the game goes on as you become one with the sky pirate life.

 

12. Paper Mario

Paper Mario
Paper Mario

Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo
Platforms: Nintendo 64

While maybe not quite what Super Mario RPG fans were hoping for with a follow-up to one of the most unique Mario titles of all time, Paper Mario is still an N64 highlight. Some of that shine might be from the appalling lack of RPGs the console offered, but it’s clear that as time has passed, the game’s status has endured as a classic Mario release.

Paper Mario makes good use of its RPG mechanics, with a straightforward, instantly playable approach that emphasizes fun over significantly deep strategy. Even so, Paper Mario has moments of surprising challenge beneath its utterly adorable design and atmosphere. It still has an unstoppable charm behind its aesthetics, arguably making it the game on this list that has aged the best.

Paper Mario is ultimately an excellent late-stage N64 title that’s every bit deserving of love as its predecessor.

 

11. Vagrant Story

Vagrant Story
Vagrant Story

Developer: Square
Publisher: Square
Platforms: PS1

Set in a world enveloped in a terrible civil war, Vagrant Story is one of many reminders that Square in the late 90s and early 2000s was a special place.

Their run of titles during this time was virtually unmatched for a developer or publisher, and it’s saying something that Vagrant Story, as perfect an RPG experience as it is, wasn’t even the best Square game of the year. Certainly, it wasn’t the most successful Square release for 2000, although it sold relatively well and garnered good reviews. It would quickly get lost in the shuffle, and today stands as a good example of a cult classic.

Vagrant Story wasn’t quite like anything else at the time, either. There are no NPC interactions, monetary system, or even a chance to seriously rest up between huge, dangerous, and often intensely complex dungeons. It’s just you and everything Vagrant Story can throw at you, which is a lot.

 

10. Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes

Marvel vs. Capcom Clash of Super Heroes
Marvel vs. Capcom 2

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Platforms: Dreamcast, Arcade

One of the best 2.5D fighters ever made, and that’s a tall list indeed, Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes is fast-paced, ingeniously designed, and feels as though you’re playing an actual breathing comic book.

The stunning combination of 2D sprite graphics with 3D backgrounds and visuals still makes this game fun to play, but the game’s mechanics are still remarkably deep and fulfilling to master. Packed with a massive cast of Marvel and Capcom characters, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 let players create and go to battle with some of the most exhilarating team-ups in both comics and video games.

This series from Capcom would continue on, but there’s something about this second entry that still keeps people coming back. Demand for MVC2 is so high, in fact, that it’s one of the most expensive Dreamcast games to own today, with MVC fans seeing it as the franchise high point.

 

9. Diablo II

Diablo II best dungeon crawler games
Diablo II

Developer: Blizzard
Publisher: Blizzard
Platforms: PC

A titanic action RPG achievement in the year 2000, a lot of fans will tell you Diablo II in any form is one of the very best action RPGs you can play, even today.

A dark, engaging story sets the stage for the sort of title that you can find yourself sinking dozens, if not hundreds, of hours into. The skill system for Diablo II alone is still pretty impressive, with so much room for experimentation that you will be throwing yourself at dungeon after dungeon to try out new builds.

Diablo II offers the kind of story and character development you can get lost in for ages. It’s such a massively popular action RPG title that it was still receiving limited support from the developer up until 2016. Slay demons and expand your riches beyond your wildest dreams — Diablo II never fails to enthrall.

 

8. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2

THPS 2
THPS 2

Developer: Neversoft
Publisher: Activision
Platforms: PC, Dreamcast, PS1

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 was a significant leap forward from the first game. So much so that for many, Pro Skater 2 was their favorite game of the year. It remains arguably the first choice for many fans of this series, although these titles have continued in the 20+ years since this came out, with varying degrees of success.

But regardless of where you play Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, you’re in for a really good time. An incredible degree of control and flexibility is afforded in pulling off some of the game’s most difficult high trick combos.

There’s a pick-up-and-play quality to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 that still shines in the present, with depth in the form of building your own skate park, editing and customizing your own unique trick combos, and much more.

 

7. Resident Evil – Code: Veronica

Code Veronica
Code Veronica

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Platforms: Dreamcast

It’s clear that 2000 was a good year for Dreamcast fans, judging by such releases as the then-exclusive Resident Evil – Code: Veronica. Unfortunately, 2000 would also be the last full year for a console which had debuted in North America in late 1999. Truly a whirlwind existence further emphasized by brilliant titles like this one.

Resident Evil – Code: Veronica, with its strong story, furious challenge, and gorgeous graphics, is in some opinions the true Resident Evil 3. Continuing the story of Claire and Chris Redfield, it’s still one of the most difficult and wonderfully strange entries in the franchise as the siblings end up on a remote prison island and uncover the mystery of the T-Veronica virus.

Code Veronica has a lot to offer fans of the series. This is particularly true if you’re playing through these chronologically and feel like you haven’t been challenged much yet —Resident Evil: Code Veronica is absolutely brutal, and not just because you have to put up with quite a bit of Steve Burnside.

 

6. Chrono Cross

Chrono Cross
Chrono Cross

Developer: Square
Publisher: Square
Platforms: PS1

Chrono Cross is likely to be one of the most engrossing RPG experiences you’ll ever have. Even its gimmick featuring dozens and dozens of unique characters who can be recruited into your party is handled with creativity and passion.

These qualities radiate from the large, vibrant world this game gives you to explore as young Serge, our protagonist. The adventure this game sets you on is a constant of new faces and destinations, with an exceptionally deep story that manages to feel like an actual continuation of Chrono Trigger.

With a unique attack system and one of the best soundtracks of the era, Chrono Cross is a moving example of this genre firing on every cylinder. Everything truly captures the notion that this is a story that spans the whole of space and time itself.

 

5. Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn

Baldur's Gate 2
Baldur’s Gate 2

Developer: BioWare
Publisher: Interplay
Platforms: PC

Winner of numerous awards and accolades, Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn continued what had rapidly become one of the most popular RPGs of the time. This series continues to be a hit with RPG fans, and for many, Shadows of Amn was where the magic began.

Utilizing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules as its foundation, the game offers a seemingly endless gameplay and strategy experience, with a story equally as absorbing to create another PC RPG that’s easy to sink dozens upon dozens of hours into.

A completionist run of all quests, dialog possibilities, and mini events for Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn will need you to set approximately 200 hours aside for the task. That’s a staggering number of gameplay hours, no matter which decade you’re in, and Shadows of Amn offers a nuanced, complex RPG epic that hasn’t lost its numerous talents.

 

4. Perfect Dark

Perfect Dark
Perfect Dark

Developer: Rare
Publisher: Nintendo
Platforms: Nintendo 64

A sequel to Rare’s monumental hit GoldenEye in everything except name and James Bond stuff, Perfect Dark is, well, a perfect game.

As close as anything can get to that concept anyway, as Perfect Dark boasts improvements and expansion to every aspect of GoldenEye’s formula. Even the cutscenes were a considerable leap forward for this loose series of games. Perfect Dark looked fantastic upon release in 2000 and is still regarded as of the best-looking N64 games ever. Visuals don’t count for everything though, as the gameplay, challenge, and various modes all work together to make Perfect Dark one of the best games of 2000.

An emphasis on stealth, no doubt buoyed by the rise of Metal Gear Solid two years prior, is where Perfect Dark really shines. Taking on the role of Joanna Dark, players are presented with expansive locations that demand a multifaceted approach to be successful. Perfect Dark can still punish all but the very best, and its mysterious reboot has some mighty big boots to still.

 

3. Deus Ex

Deus Ex
Deus Ex

Developer: Ion Storm
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Platforms: PC

Deus Ex has plenty of grimy cyberpunk charm to spare, although no one probably wants to be reminded that we’re about halfway to the game’s time period of 2050. The game’s story involves the U.S. Government controlling a scarce cure for a rampant disease, and it’s up to you as anti-terrorist agent JC Denton to make sense of the mounting conspiracy you find yourself immersed in.

Deus Ex has a phenomenal and prescient story to go with its first-person shooter/RPG hybrid backdrop. This is one of those games that everyone said got everything right after it was released, and it still holds up remarkably well even today, despite some rough visuals. The game creates a unique and steady twinge of tension that informs every careful decision you make, with the kind of player choice, role-playing, and sandbox interactivity that is so seldom seen in modern games.

This was the pitch-perfect start of a juggernaut series that’s not seen a new entry in years, but certainly deserves one.

 

2. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

Majora's Mask
Majora’s Mask

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Platforms: Nintendo 64

Following up the success of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time two years later would not be easy for the next entry in the Legend of Zelda series. Yet The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask managed to do exactly that.

Majora’s Mask presented a new and decidedly darker, more interesting story than anything to date, while tweaking and adding new elements to its already stellar gameplay. The result is nothing short of breathtaking, even decades after the fact.

Taking on the role of Link may have been the standard by 2000, but Majora’s Mask feels like nothing that came before. The mask mechanic and intensely foreboding time crunch are two of the game’s most memorable traits, along with a darker edge that was seldom been seen in Zelda games up until Tears of the Kingdom. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is also quite possibly the only entry to inspire a very scary ARG.

 

1. Final Fantasy IX

Final Fantasy 9
Final Fantasy 9

Developer: Square
Publisher: Square
Platforms: PlayStation

Final Fantasy IX returned the series to a more medieval fantasy route over the science fiction leanings of VII and VIII. Such a choice could have been nothing more than a dull, safe move, but Final Fantasy IX blew away expectations.

Final Fantasy IX begins with the thief Zidane and his gang’s efforts to kidnap the princess Garnett, but you’ll spend time with several other characters. Individual arcs build nicely and the heroes you end up with by the end are some of the most memorable of the franchise, including the now iconic Vivi and Steiner.

This accessible yet still deep JRPG is a blast to play, challenges you where it counts, and showcases the new console king PlayStation at its very best.

In every important regard, Final Fantasy IX charted its own path with a spectacular, bright, and intricate world and story, while also boasting some of the best visuals and music you will ever cram onto four discs.

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