Top 21 Best Video Games of Each Year (2000 - 2020)



Top 21 Best Video Games of Each Year (2000 - 2020)

VOICE OVER: Peter DeGiglio WRITTEN BY: Caitlin Johnson
These are the very best games that came out since the turn of the century! For this list, we're looking at the most outstanding title to release every year from 2000 to 2020. Our countdown includes Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Resident Evil 4, BioShock, Bloodborne, God of War and more!
Script written by Caitlin Johnson

Top 21 Best Video Games of Each Year

Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 21 Best Video Games of Each Year.

For this list, we’re looking at the most outstanding title to release every year from 2000 to 2020.

Let us know in the comments what your favorite game of the 21st century is.

2000: “Diablo II”

The action RPG that defined the genre, “Diablo II” is one of many exceptional offerings from Blizzard over the years. The story is outstanding and the visuals more than hold up today, but the best part of the game is, by far, the gameplay. You’ll quickly get addicted to the randomly generated loot system, desperately searching for superior gear to progress through the story. Online, there’s even more fun to be had if you team up with friends and build a specific party, and decades later there’s still a healthy community leveling up characters and playing together. Few, if any, action RPGs that came after “Diablo II” have been able to match it.

2001: “Halo: Combat Evolved”

First-person shooters had already dominated the 90s with giant franchises like “Doom” and “Wolfenstein,” but in 2001 Bungie made a name for themselves by launching one of the most iconic shooters of all time. “Halo” was a launch title for the brand-new Xbox after Microsoft bought the studio, and it was certainly a system seller. The game pioneered what competitive shooters should be in the 21st century, and years later, many triple-A titles are still living in “Halo’s” shadow, aiming for its lofty heights. It remains one of the best launch titles for any new console and subsequent releases are still major fixtures in the esports scene.

2002: “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City”

After the roaring success of “GTA III,” people already had high expectations for the second 3D “Grand Theft Auto” – and Rockstar didn’t disappoint. In 2002, we traveled to Vice City in the 1980s, a fictionalized version of Miami, for a “Scarface” inspired story about narcotics and the mafia. “Vice City” set the standard for sprawling, open worlds, beautiful graphics, and biting satire, as we followed the life and times of Tommy Vercetti. Ever since, people have been baying for Rockstar to return to Vice City as a setting, just like we’ve had grand returns for Liberty City and San Andreas, thanks to how beloved this defining game is. While we did get “Vice City Stories,” it’s about time the setting got the HD treatment.

2003: “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic”

The year was 2003: the prequel trilogy was still unfolding, LucasArts was still making video games, and BioWare was looking for a new IP. The result was “Knights of the Old Republic,” a “Star Wars” RPG that let players decide whether they wanted to pledge themselves to the light or succumb to the dark. Though it has stiff competition, plenty of people consider “KOTOR” the greatest “Star Wars” game of all time. This is because it understands the source material and has a lot of respect for it while blending in the tried-and-true RPG mechanics BioWare is known for. There’s no limit to how many times you can defeat Darth Malak and still enjoy yourself.

2004: “World of Warcraft”

Few games have had a cultural impact felt as far and wide as the one “World of Warcraft” created upon release. The MMO all other MMOs strive to be, “WoW” is going strong to this day, with Blizzard still releasing updates and enormous expansion packs to keep the story going. It permeated pop culture at the time of its release, with “WoW” addiction even getting lampooned by “South Park” in one of the show’s best episodes. And if you want to know exactly how it felt to boot up the game for the first time in 2004, Blizzard released “World of Warcraft Classic” in 2019.

2005: “Resident Evil 4”

By 2005, the “Resident Evil” series was already beginning to stagnate thanks to a huge number of releases over the previous nine years. To keep it fresh, Capcom needed to do something bold, and that thing was transforming the tank controls and fixed camera angles into an over-the-shoulder shooter. It turned out to be the best decision they ever made, and “Resident Evil 4” was born. Following Leon Kennedy as he fights against a zombie outbreak in rural Spain, it may be more action-packed than its predecessors, but it kept the scares coming. It’s since been ported to a dozen platforms and rumor has it a big-budget remake is in the works.

2006: “Gears of War”

“Halo” may have defined the first-person shooter on Xbox, but “Gears of War” defined third-person action games. One of the best games to come to the 360, the first “Gears” title introduced us to the conflict between the humans and the Locust, as well as that famous gameplay that has given the series its impressive longevity. With the best graphics of the day, it’s said that the reason the 360 got a boost in RAM was to push “Gears of War” to its full potential, a gamble that certainly paid off. To this day, it’s one of the most-played games on Xbox Live, and “Gears” continues to be a flagship franchise for Microsoft.

2007: “BioShock”

It’s impossible to understate the impact of “BioShock.” Nobody knew what they were in for when they first descended to the underwater city of Rapture, which was as nightmarish as it was beautiful. Players explored not only Rapture’s submerged streets but also the corrupt ideologies of its leaders, from the deranged surgeon Steinman to the city’s megalomaniac founder, Andrew Ryan. To survive, you needed to upgrade your weapons and your own body, injecting yourself with plasmids to get an edge on the marauding Splicers. And if all that wasn’t good enough, “BioShock” executed one of the most famous plot twists in gaming, and has since become a prime example of why video games are art.

2008: “Grand Theft Auto IV”

The fourth numbered “GTA” has a slightly darker tone to its wackier siblings, as we returned to Liberty City this time in the shoes of Niko Bellic, an immigrant on his way to the U.S. to start a new life – and get revenge on some faces from his past. The satire “GTA” is known for was even less forgiving – and for once in the series, crime doesn’t pay. Though it proved a little divisive among Rockstar fans for its difference in tone, the game is definitely stronger for tackling the myth of the American Dream so seriously. And of course, Liberty City is as fun as it is grimy.

2009: “Minecraft”

Since its initial release, “Minecraft” has taken over the world, a fixture in the line-ups of gaming streamers and YouTubers alike. “Minecraft” is a game that anybody can play and fall in love with, from kids just getting into video games to the most hardcore players who want something with endless potential and deep gameplay systems. It is primarily about freedom, and it gives players far more agency than plenty of other titles. Whether you’re playing alone or with friends, with a specific goal in mind or just to kill some time, it’s impossible to go wrong jumping into “Minecraft” whenever you get the urge.

2010: “Mass Effect 2”

The “Mass Effect” trilogy is widely considered to be one of the best stories in gaming – provided you ignore that ending. And the crème de la crème of BioWare’s sci-fi RPGs is “Mass Effect 2.” Recently resurrected by the Illusive Man and his sinister company Cerberus, Shepard is tasked with taking down Harbinger, a particularly nasty Reaper. With faster, tighter combat and opportunities for split-second narrative choices, “Mass Effect 2” took everything the first game did well and rolled with it. Now, BioWare knew what they wanted “Mass Effect” to be, and they delivered an outstanding game.

2011: “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim”

If you haven’t yet played “Skyrim,” it’s presumably because you haven’t owned a game console for over a decade and you don’t have a computer, because it’s available on pretty much everything. Full of long, arcing questlines, a wide variety of factions to ally with or vilify, and plenty of different playstyles to try, it’s easy to see why “Skyrim” has been a must-play from its release through to the present. And if you’re tired of the base game after all this time, it’s got one of the largest modding communities out there - so go wild!

2012: “Borderlands 2”

Where off-the-wall, chaotic looter shooters are concerned, “Borderlands 2” wrote the book, and remains a cornerstone of the genre. Upon release, it took everything the first game did and made it ten times better, with superior gameplay, a deeper class system, a better story, and more of those iconic, cel-shaded graphics. The game’s got so much variety you could play it ten times through and never feel bored – which plenty of people surely have since 2012. But just as memorable as the gunplay is the humor. “Borderlands 2” has pop culture references in droves, and you can’t help but feel satisfied every time you get one.

2013: “The Last of Us”

Naughty Dog has always been on the cutting edge, and that was never truer than when they released “The Last of Us” back at the close of the PS3 era. Pushing the console’s capabilities to a breaking point, it was easily the most beautiful game in that generation, and it had a story to match. Players controlled Joel, a survivor hardened by 20 years in a zombie apocalypse, as he needs to escort teenager Ellie across the U.S. Players bond with Ellie in real-time just like Joel, and by the game’s incredible finale, you’ll be left wondering who the true villain is – after you wipe the tears from your eyes.

2014: “Dragon Age: Inquisition”

BioWare struck gold once again when “Inquisition” released, the sequel to “Dragon Age: Origins” we deserved. “Inquisition” stuck close to the plot and themes of the previous two games, miraculously remaining welcoming to players who were new to the series this time around while not disrespecting the most hardcore fans. With a large map spanning both Ferelden and Orlais, there were gorgeous biomes wherever you looked; from the unforgiving Western Approach to the green and lush Emerald Graves. Its rich world was unmatched, and all your actions felt like they were important in determining Thedas’ fate and saving the world.

2015: “Bloodborne”

It was time for FromSoftware to do something different. So in 2015, they forwent another high fantasy release and went for a totally different aesthetic: Victorian Gothic, with a twist halfway through that revealed the true inspiration as H. P. Lovecraft. But where “Bloodborne” succeeded most was in its bold choice to remove a key element of every FromSoft game up until then: the shield. Now, you had to get up close and personal with your enemies or meet your end. You’ve got to strike fast, dodge, parry, and keep going even when you get hurt to rally lost health. But what’s waiting behind mastering those mechanics is one of the best video games ever made.

2016: “Overwatch”

Blizzard once again showed why they’re one of the best developers in the industry when they released the wildly popular hero shooter “Overwatch” in 2016. Since its launch, “Overwatch” has grown to have an enormous roster of colorful and diverse characters, all with unique playstyles and gimmicks, assuring us that there really is something for everyone. It exploded onto the e-sports scene immediately and thanks to Blizzard’s focus on eliminating toxicity, it’s definitely one of the more welcoming competitive shooters you can jump into. “Overwatch 2” may be on the horizon, but the original is surely going to be around for a long time regardless.

2017: “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild”

At launch, it wasn’t clear what type of console the Nintendo Switch would be. Would it be a return to form or another misstep? One of the first games released proved that the Switch was here to stay. In the few, short years since it came out, “Breath of the Wild” has changed the way people play and make games. With stunning visuals and a minimalist story, “Breath of the Wild” provides players with ultimate freedom of when to do something and how to do something – and if you so desire, you can even go fight the final boss right away. It was this razor-sharp focus on exploration that gave “Breath of the Wild” its edge, setting a new industry standard.

2018: “God of War”

There were a lot of heavy hitters in 2018, but “God of War” was an incredible and refreshing reboot of a franchise that seemed to have disappeared. Kratos returned with a vengeance, now transplanted from Ancient Greece to Midgard, fighting gods and monsters from the lesser-represented Norse pantheon. Though you’ll certainly never forget the moment you come face to face with Jörmungandr, the World Serpent, where “God of War” really excels is the growing father/son relationship of Kratos and Atreus, who learn to trust each other and work together throughout the story. And it’s got arguably the best graphics seen on the PlayStation 4.

2019: “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice”

FromSoftware’s most recent offering yet again switched up the game, just as soon as you thought you had them pinned down. “Sekiro” had a slightly more prominent story than other “Souls” titles, but even more challenging gameplay. You now had to constantly attack to weaken your enemy’s posture, and only then could you start to damage them. Set deep in the heart of feudal Japan, “Sekiro” has the best graphics of a FromSoft game to date and a more varied array of bosses than even “Dark Souls”. In “Sekiro,” it’s just you, your sword, and your prosthetic arm, and mastering them to beat the game is a thrill like no other.

2020: “Cyberpunk 2077”

It’s taken over eight years and a numerous amount of delays but 2020 was finally the year we got our hands on CD Projekt Red’s most hotly anticipated game. Despite a good number of glitches contained in the launch version, “Cyberpunk 2077” has no doubt wowed us with its excellent gameplay and story, all of which takes place in the incredibly immersive Night City. Seriously, the amount of detail that has gone into this game is absolutely staggering and the huge variety of things to do means you won’t be putting this game down for a long time. Plus, Keanu Reeves starring as Johnny Silverhand is that nice little cherry on top that we didn’t know we needed!
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