Tuesday Top Ten: Video Games Published in 2001


It’s that time again, friends—time for another Tuesday Top Ten!  Every week, we go through the top ten something-or-anothers related to our hobby, and this week is no different.  This time around, we’re counting down the top ten video games published in Two Thousand.

I’ve said countless times that the ‘Nineties were good to gamers, and much of what made them good could be found at the start of the last decade.  There were plenty of good games, “good” both in terms of having solid game play as well as offering interesting innovation, in some cases the likes of which hadn’t been seen before.

Now for the usual disclaimer: Where possible, I’ve included links to Let’s Plays, play-throughs, game-play videos, and so on.  Some, many, most, or all might well be utterly infused with profanity and vulgarity.  Keep that in mind as that clicking-finger itches.

With that out of the way, let’s go!

10. Aliens Versus Predator 2
There have been numerous games in the Aliens versus Predator line, and when it’s based on two strong film/novel/comic franchises, it’s almost surprising that there aren’t more.

When the first Aliens versus Predator first-person shooter game came out, it was generally well-received, though one major complaint was that you could only save at the end of a level.  Considering how difficult most of the levels were, even on easier difficulty settings—yeah.  Another complaint was the general lack of real story.  Well, Aliens versus Predator 2 answered both of those, as well as complaints no one really had, all to make a fantastic game.

You could save anywhere, and the plot was deeper, more coherent, and wove together through the three single-player campaigns.  You played as a Predator, Alien, or Marine, each with their own distinctive “feel”, and each with their own stories.

The game play differs wildly between the three races—as the Marine, it’s closer to the stereotypical first-person shooter fare, as you pick up ammunition, weapons, and health, and try to pump bullets into anything that looks even remotely dangerous.  As the near-strict melee Alien, you have to hunt in the shadows, choosing the right moment to strike.  As the Predator, perhaps fittingly, he exists somewhere between the two—sneaking invisibly to his enemy, then “de-cloaking” to ram his wrist-blades down someone’s throat.

It’s a game with surprising depth—the plot is interesting, the game play superb, and there are plenty of small details that make it incredibly fun to play.

A blind Let’s Play can be found here.

09. Super Smash Bros.: Melee
To say that Nintendo’s first—and as yet only—fighting franchise is popular would be a severe understatement.  Though somewhat bare-bones when compared to its successors, the first game was undeniably fun.  It offered fast-paced action with recognizable characters from Nintendo’s library of games, each with their own moves.

The best way to describe the Super Smash Bros.: Melee would be “more”.  More of everything—levels, game modes, characters.  Everything.

Speaking of the game modes—you had the “adventure” mode, which saw you traipse through a series of two-dimensional side-scrolling levels homaging various popular Nintendo titles; the first level is inspired by the first Super Mario Bros., right down to the goombas.  The “Event” mode is a series of special matches, with altered rules or special set-ups, such as fighting a huge opponent or a dozen miniature opponents.

Naturally, it’s the multi-player where the game really shone.  It was easy to get into, accessible to the young and the new to fighters alike, but each character had a definite technique to them, and once learned no character was really “weak” or too “over-powered” when compared to the others.  The game as a whole was surprisingly deep, designed to be playable by almost anyone.

An informational Let’s Play can be found here.

08. Armagetron Advanced
TRON had quite an effect on a generation.  It looked like nothing else; it felt like being transported into the world of computers—helped by the fact that, in ‘Eighty-Two, few people really understood what a “computer” was in the first place.  One of the more memorable pieces from that film was the Light Cycle sequence.  Though the entire sequence clocks in at just over two minutes in length, it was enough to incite the imaginations of gamers.

Like these, only even more awesome.

Now, there have been plenty of Light Cycle racers over the years, but one thing that makes Armagetron Advanced stand out from the crowd is the attention to detail.  The Cycles themselves look like they came right out of the TRON universe, somewhere between the “first generation” in the first film, and the fifth generation of TRON: Legacy.

The game play itself is deceptively simple—you pilot a Light Cycle against friends or computer-controlled opponents.  Thanks to the hard work of the numerous developers and coders, the bots handle with definite learning—they actually learn how to play against you as you play, making them tough opponents indeed.

It does have somewhat of a steep learning curve, but most of that is from the menu layout being a bit complex.  Still, though—not only is it free to download and play locally, not only is it free to play on a server with friends, not only is there plenty of help, and not only are there servers still active—but it’s free for every operating system.  No matter what operating system you have, you can get this game.

Game play footage can be found here.

07. Max Payne
The first thing to be said about Max Payne is one of the concepts it popularized—Bullet Time.  That is to say, the ability to slow time down without slowing down yourself quite as much.  This has been seen in countless movies and television shows, though it was named by Max’s first outing here, and was the first to use it as a game play mechanic.

The second thing to mention is the plot.  On the face of it, it seems to be nothing more than the tried-and-true near-cliché of “man loses his wife and goes bonkers, taking everyone who ever even looked at his wife funny down in a hail of bullets”.  It works here, though, partly because of the voice acting, and partly because it’s told through still images, both giving a decidedly noir feel to it all.

The game also looked rather beautiful for the time, though it hasn’t really held up well; there are more polygons on Mario’s left foot these days than in Max’s entire body—but it still fits.  Everything looked surprisingly good for the time, leading to an over all experience that was fun and deserving of the praise it had earned.

An informational Let’s Play can be found here.

06. Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro
When the first three-dimensional Spider-Man game debuted, it took gamers by storm, so a sequel was a foregone conclusion.  When it was learned that Neversoft, the developers of the first game, wouldn’t be returning and it would in fact be Vicarious Visions—well, even younger gamers were somewhat more cautious.  They were known, even then, primarily for ports and not-so-good remakes and sequels.  While Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro did have a few shortcomings, the new things it offered mostly made up for them.

To get the bad out of the way, most of the game was obviously—blatantly—recycled from the first game.  Certain levels and enemies, for examples, were given barely a face-lift before being planted into this game.  Plus, there are a few unusual difficulty spikes at random points in the game, making it frustrating to work one’s tuchus off only to have a few “cake” levels thereafter.

On the plus side, it did something interesting with the costumes.  In the first game, unlocking different costumes gave different abilities—the black suit gave unlimited webbing, the Spider-Man 2099 suit let you deal additional damage, and so on, right on up to invincibility.  What Enter Electro did was let you mix and match powers and suits.  You still unlocked a suit that came with an ability, but the interesting part was being able to assign any unlocked ability to any unlocked costume, up to three abilities on a costume.  If you wanted the power that this costume gave but liked that costume better, now you could have your cake and eat it, too.

It was a surprisingly good follow-up to one of the best Spidey-related titles.

An informational Let’s Play can be found here.

05. Dead or Alive 3
The developers who would later be known as Team Ninja hit gold with the first Dead or Alive.  As is quite astutely pointed out by the folks at Hardcore Gaming 101, males like breasts.  Males also like watching people beat the ever-loving crap out of each other.  Combine the two, and have a popular fighter franchise.  As they also point out, the game play is actually good, even with the various fun-bits being shoved in the camera every two seconds.

CREEPY...

The franchise has never stopped innovating, either, nor has it really shied away from trying things that would be generally outside of the “comfort zone” of other developers.  For example, take Christie, an interesting addition to the series, who made her debut right here in Dead or Alive 3.  Coming from a country where symbolism is the norm (consider “anime eyes”, where their usually larger size makes it easier to show expressions as well as give information to the viewer; the shorthand for the latter can be bigger means more innocent, but don’t do it in real life—it’s just creepy), she’s rather surprising.

From her spiky hair, a style normally reserved for males, to her “get the eff out of my way”, to her using her sexuality just to get close enough to shank someone in the ribs, she wasn’t the normal video game vixen.  She’s not what you’d expect, which could be said for the series as a whole, and it was here where you really started to see Team Ninja really start to branch out and see what other interesting and unexpected things they could come up with (Xtreme Beach Volleyball notwithstanding…).

A play through of the game can be found here.

04. Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies
The series had always been fun, as piloting real-life aircraft in a sim-ish environment can be.  What Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies did was take story-telling to a level heretofore not seen in the series, a direction which would remain with the series until only recently.

It told its story through the eyes of a man reflecting on his youth.  He recounts tales of sadness and grief, happiness and joy, of watching himself become a part of war in a way that would change him forever.  Interestingly, while the player’s avatar is nameless save for his code name of Mobius One, the player gets to know all about this young man, as well as a few other characters.

Aside from the story, the game once more brings back real-world aircraft and hands them to the player.  They all moved realistically, as well, seamlessly fitting the game’s more arcade-like physics.  It was, on the whole, a rather good entry on a series that was still building up steam and only getting better.

An informational Let’s Play on the hardest difficulty can be found here.

03. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3
When Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 came out, it was everything that the first two had been and more.  Everything that had made the first two fun was kept, and added upon.  For one thing, where the manual—basically balancing on the front or rear two wheels—revolutionized Pro Skater 2, the “revert” does the same for Pro Skater 3 (basically you spin just as you land on a ramp, allowing you to continue the trick “line”).

You could also change between tricks in a “style” (like grind tricks, or lip tricks) just by pushing a button.  Before, you’d have to jump in the air, for example, to do different grind tricks, but now you move between them seamlessly.  The levels were even larger here than in previous titles, some of which were based on real locations, such as Rhode Island’s Skater Island.

It was, in short, everything you could ask for in a game with Tony Hawk on the cover, and more.

A sort-of Let’s Play, more a one-hundred-percent-completion run, can be found here.

02. Uplink
The real-life hackers on this list would certainly approve of Uplink (also known as Uplink: Hacker Elite), where you take the role of a hacker, e-breaking into banks, academic institutions—even the government.  Players take the role of a hacker newly recruited to Uplink Corp, a group providing hackers with jobs—and “jobs” are anything people are willing to pay for.

The beauty of the game lies in its simplicity—it simulates a computer screen, so you aren’t controlling an avatar; you are the hacker.  You are the one narrowly avoiding being found out by system administrators (or other Uplink “agents” hired to find you, interestingly enough).  It adds a depth to the game, giving it a decidedly “R.P.G.”-like feel.  Plus, you can get better gateways (basically computers that you connect to, to connect to the rest of the world), upgraded software, and so on, which adds something like a form of a “leveling” system.

Another great part about it is that it’s cheap—around twenty dollars, U.S., and its equivalent.  You don’t have to break the bank to pay for a game you will play over and over and over again.  Further, there are numerous mods and such out there, with the most comprehensive being Modlink, which has all the mods you’ll ever want, on top of a huge, everything-including-the-kitchen-sink guide.

Through good-sounding ersatz “hacking programs”, you sneak into the databases of corporations, to steal data—or sometimes wipe everything and leave the company in ruins.  Then you have things like sending people to jail, or freeing them from jail, altering bank records to shuffle money around, and much more—and those are just the screw-around missions.  There is a loose plot, one which you get to decide which side you’re on, and afterwards you can continue to just have fun.  Not bad for such a small amount of money.

A humorous Let’s Play can be found here.

01. Grand Theft Auto III
Everyone knows the Grand Theft Auto series.  Race around, kill everyone in sight, steal every car you can, kill everyone you didn’t kill the first time, maybe do some plot-furthering missions if you get tired of the mindless carnage (and judging from the general sales of the series, you won’t).Grand Theft Auto III lived up to all of that and more.

Dad-cred just got raised fifty points.

The one thing that Grand Theft Auto III did for gaming in general, perhaps the most important thing, was popularize the concept of a sandbox as a viable setting for a game.  It popularized it so well, sandbox games afterward were called “G.T.A.III clones” whether it was applicable or not.  Heck, Spider-Man 2 for the PlayStation 2 and X-Box was called just that, though offering a “sandbox” was about the only thing it had in common with this game.

As for the story, it was pretty much what gamers had by then come to expect—you played a mute protagonist, working his way through the “criminal underworld” by doing missions for this person or that, many of which involved acts of hilarious wanton destruction and carnage that might even give the Joker pause.

The story wasn’t why people played the game—it was good, sure, but gamers played for the thrill of committing the most heinous of acts and fleeing through the streets with the cops—or, eventually, tanks—behind them.  Gamers played it for the delight watching explosions fill the skies.  Gamers played it because it was fun.

A Let’s Play where the player goes for one hundred percent completion can be found here.

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