The Top Five Years for Gaming

Putting this year’s E3 into perspective…before getting drunk and playing games all week.

Putting this year’s E3 into perspective…before getting drunk and playing games all week.

As the gaming industry throws down their plans for the next year and beyond, we look back at our favorite years of gaming to see how 2012 stacks up.

5. 1991

The SNES launched while Sega’s Genesis hit its stride.  The competition made for an excellent year of games with Nintendo getting tentpoles like Super Mario World,  Link to the Past, F-Zero and Final Fantasy II. Sega was no slouch pumping out their own mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog, as well as their handheld, Game Gear, that same year. Beyond consoles, PC Gamers got Sid Meier’s Civilization and arcades were graced with Street Fighter II, a game that would hit consoles a year later, causing playground debates over SNES vs Genesis domination by children who would grow up to necessitate the term “fanboy.”

Bonus: New York State sued Nintendo that year for monopolizing the Video Game Industry, a lawsuit we still don’t understand. But Ninty lost and gave out $5 rebates for Nintendo games prompting kids across the state to let out a collective “Ca-Ching.”

4. 1985

If you’d been born early enough to have any kind of consciousness by 1985 then you can proudly count yourself as part of the Nintendo generation. NES arrived in America this year, bringing a backlog of Japanese games to the States along with the legendary Super Mario Bros. and the Duck Hunt/Hogan’s Alley combo with the included Zapper. Most parents had even figured out how to hook up all of it by the end of the year.

Bonus: Two educational titles, Where in the World is Carmen San Diego and Oregon Trail, also debuted this year, marking the first time students could justifiably ignore their teachers in favor of a video game.

3. 1996

Hello 3D. Well, not the modern 3D getting touted today, but ‘96 was the year that many games added a full-fledged third dimension to gameplay. N64 launched and brought the stunning Super Mario 64, taking the most popular plumber on the planet and stuffing him into a game that blew our minds. Not to be forgotten is the original PlayStation’s sophomore year, bringing killer games; Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, Tekken 2 and Twisted Metal 2 all debuted as well as Crash Bandicoot, Sony’s mascot to rival Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog and the slew of beloved Nintendo flagship characters. PC Gamers might have cleaned up the biggest in 1996 with Quake, Diablo, Red Alert and Duke Nukem 3D becoming instant classics. Oh Duke, how we miss the days when you weren’t stuffed in the bottom of the bargain bin.

Bonus: Asia’s revenge for the opium trade, Tamagotchi, debuted this year and spurred a generation of casual gamers who didn’t know they were the pioneers of an entire genre…and we’ll never forgive them for it.

2. 2001

Most great gaming years (as you can see) are accompanied by console launches and 2001 got two; GameCube and the original Xbox. Where Gamecube contributed the excellent Wavebird wireless controllers and classic Nintendo titles like Super Smash Brothers Melee, Xbox was Microsoft’s first foray into the hardware ring and they made a splash thanks to a guy named Master Chief. Halo: Combat Evolved delivered the action that gamers had been waiting for since 1997’s Goldeneye, offering multiplayer killfests with up to eight people, thanks to Xbox’s integrated System-Link tech. 2001 also brought forth several phenomena of gaming: Max Payne’s Matrix-inspired bullet-time, Bejeweled’s absorbing timesuck, Metal Gear Solid: Sons of Liberty’s Raiden bait-and-switch and, of course, the chaos of GTA III’s expansive, impressive and totally addicting Liberty City. If you were in college in 2001, these games made it pretty much impossible to graduate in four years.

Bonus: 2001 brought with it the first Harry Potter video game, originating the longest-running franchise of absolute shit video games ever produced. Sorry, Quidditch World Cup, you’re the exception, not the rule.

1. 2007

In one of the few instances where a year was defined by the games we played and not the hardware on which we played them. Franchises we’re eager to hear about at this E3 made their debut with games like Assassin’s Creed, Modern Warfare, Bioshock, Mass Effect, Uncharted and Rockband priming gamers for what was in store for the next five years. Major upgrades to classics, like Halo 3 and Super Mario Galaxy, kept up 2007’s lofty standards and the killer compilation of The Orange Box, featuring the brilliance of Portal, became the high water mark for a value bundle. The high water mark for a value bundle before 2007? Your mom.

Bonus: Halo 3’s premiere set records for the highest-grossing opening day of a video game with $170 million. To add some perspective, the highest grossing opening day of a movie in 2007 was Spider-Man 3 at $59 million, proving once and for all that Master Chief > Kirsten Dunst doing musical theater. We were shocked too.