The gaming industry has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years, from small sprites on screen to blockbuster games with hyper-realistic visuals; but with so many milestone years under its belt, which one stands heads and shoulders above the rest?
To find that out, a new study has taken a somewhat nostalgic look at the last quarter of a century to see which year delivered the best games. Using Metacritic data, the study analysed the highest-rated releases to form an averaged score across the various platforms to find the most impactful year from a game-quality perspective.
Looking at the 1,000 highest rated games of the last 25 years, here are some of the notable outcomes:
- According to the data, 2010 was the strongest year, with 40 games making the top 1,000, including Super Mario Galaxy 2 with a score of 97.
- While many consider 2004 to be the benchmark for innovation and quality, only 24 games cracked the top 1,000, with the highest rated being the inimitable GTA: San Andreas.
- Despite the much loved Nintendo 64 launching in 96-97, these 2 years only produced 5 and 8 of the top 1,000 titles which puts them last on the list
- GTA: V’s busy re-release schedule was enough to make it the only game to feature as the best reviewed game twice, across 2 years and 2 generations.
Overall, how do PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo compare? The Xbox 360 takes the crown for having the highest number of games which made the top 1,000. 95 games made the cut, with Grand Theft Auto IV at the top, rated 98 out of 100. The Xbox One has less than half the titles in the top 1,000 games that the PS4 has. The Wii U scores the worst of all the home consoles, with just 12 games making it into the league table.
Highest-rated games on each platform
In terms of the highest-rated games on each console over the past 25 years, Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 (scoring 98) is the Playstation platform’s shining light, while Grand Theft Auto IV is the Xbox platform’s best release (scoring 98 too), and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (score of 99) is Nintendo’s greatest release.
Best Games of Each Year?
- 1996 – Wipeout XL
- 1997 – Goldeneye
- 1998 – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
- 1999 – SoulCalibur
- 2000 – Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2
- 2001 – Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3
- 2002 – Metroid Prime
- 2003 – The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
- 2004 – Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
- 2005 – Resident Evil 4
- 2006 – The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
- 2007 – Super Mario Galaxy
- 2008 – Grand Theft Auto V
- 2009 – Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
- 2010 – Super Mario Galaxy 2
- 2011 – Batman: Arkham City
- 2012 – Mass Effect 3
- 2013 – Grand Theft Auto V
- 2014 – Grand Theft Auto V
- 2015 – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
- 2016 – Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
- 2017 – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- 2018 – Red Dead Redemption 2
- 2019 – Divinity: Original Sin 2 – Definitive Edition
- 2020 – Persona 5 Royal
However, with nostalgia fuelling much of our early experience with games, players who grew up with these consoles no doubt have their own views about which year takes the crown.
If you have any of the above titles, they undoubtedly come with a fair bit of sentimental value, not to mention the physical editions being highly sought after, especially the old-school N64 and original Playstation games. If you own them, and looking to make some extra scratch, auctioning them off on eBay, or checking out a variety of online casinos with a $5 minimum deposit, can help put a few extra bucks in your pocket to help with the cost of the new generation of consoles, the Xbox Series X and Series S, along with the PS5. Check out our Xbox Series X vs. PS5 buyer’s guide to help your purchasing decision!
Which gaming year is a standout for you? Let us know in the comments section below!