I’ve never gone back and put together a list of my favorite games from 2000-2009. Until now. Here are my retrospective favorite games from 2004.
Great Games I Haven’t Played
Burnout 3: Takedown
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Prince of Persia: Warrior Within
10. Viewtiful Joe 2
Viewtiful Joe 2 was a direct continuation of the first game. While still pretty awesome, it didn’t quite reach the heights of the original, due in large part to the fact that it was a sequel. Part of what made Viewtiful Joe so amazing was that it felt so fresh and different, something that Viewtiful Joe 2 couldn’t stand up against. While most gameplay mechanics were similar to the first game, the sequel introduced the ability to play as Joe’s girlfriend, Silvia. She had the ability to record something three times, allowing the player to potentially do three times the damage to an enemy, but it added the danger of taking three times the damage. While cool, I mostly stayed as Joe during the game.
9. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
Another sequel to a superior game, Metroid Prime 2 switched things up more than Viewtiful Joe 2 did. To a degree, this version focused more on story and less on exploration — and felt a lot more difficult. This was a bit of a mixed bag, but I still really enjoyed the gameplay. Retro also introduced multiplayer in Echoes, and unfortunately, it was terrible. The floaty shooting controls worked fine in single player, but did not translate well to multiplayer. Still, first-person Metroid felt great, and Echoes was a worthy entry in the series.
8. Unreal Tournament 2004
Unreal Tournament 2004 was a weird game for me to like. I didn’t play a ton of PC games since I didn’t have a cool PC of my own, so everything was done over at friends’ houses. I also wasn’t great at first-person shooters on PC, since I felt way more comfortable with a controller in my hands. Despite all of this, I have great memories of Unreal 2004, particularly with the multiplayer. Not that I ever got into it, but the game also had awesome mod support, and was well supported after release. These were the early days of competitive multiplayer shooters for me, and even though I died way more often than I killed guys, I still had a blast with the game.
7. Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal
Up Your Arsenal is widely considered to be one of the best Ratchet and Clank games, and I certainly wouldn’t argue with that. It improved on the previous games in pretty much every way. Up Your Arsenal is actually only ranked one spot higher on this list than Ratchet and Clank was in its year, but that’s because 2004 was a much more competitive year for video games. And it’s much better than the merely average Going Commando. 2004 was also the year where multiplayer happened for me in a big way, and the multiplayer in Up Your Arsenal was actually pretty great. It had you playing on several different planets using weapons from the single player. The game also introduced Dr. Nefarious, who is undeniably the best Ratchet and Clank villain.
6. Katamari Damacy
Katamari was such a weird game, but a brilliant one. For the 1% of people that haven’t played it, you play a cosmic prince that’s forced by your insane father to gather up items from Earth by rolling a sticky ball over them. Depending on the level, you could be rolling over paperclips, cows, or entire buildings. In order to complete the level, your ball had to reach a specific size while staying within a time limit. The game had a very Japanese sense of humor, with a bright and colorful art style. The sequels get a bit blurred in my mind, but I remember the original being my favorite in the series.
5. Spider-Man 2
To date, Spider-Man 2 is still the best Spider-Man game. That’s pretty crazy, and kind of sad. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some decent games in recent years, but nothing can top that original feeling of soaring over NYC with Spidey’s web-shooters. The game had a huge open world (at the time) with dynamic side quests and challenges, and the graphics were crazy impressive. Plenty of Spider-Man’s fantastic villains made an appearance, as well, and they all offered different combat scenarios. Very few things in gaming have been as exciting as the feel of swinging over the city.
4. Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
Another year, another Grand Theft Auto game on my top 10 list. Everyone has their favorite in the series. Mine is probably Vice City, but I’ve heard many people make strong arguments for San Andreas. It was cool to play as a black lead character, something that was extremely rare at the time (and still too rare today). The gameplay felt pretty much the same as the previous few games, with third-person shooting and city traversal taking center stage. I don’t mean “more of the same” to sound derogatory, because the world was still phenomenally crafted and the characters were interesting.
3. Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords
Knights of the Old Republic 2 doesn’t quite hold up to the original, in my opinion — but it’s still a great game. I think the biggest thing that held it back was the tight development time frame. It’s pretty crazy that a sequel this big and intricate came out a mere year after the original. Granted, Bioware was a big studio and had outside help, but the development rush shows. There were several memorable characters in the sequel, I liked the bigger focus on the Sith, and the combat still felt great. But while menus were thankfully streamlined, it just didn’t feel like there were enough improvements to the gameplay mechanics. Still, The Sith Lords was a special game. I just wish they would have taken an additional year (or two) to perfect things and try new ideas.
2. Half-Life 2
I’m sure a lot of you are yelling at your computer screens right now. Half-Life 2 only the 2nd best game of 2004!? It’s the greatest game of all time! Well, sorry, but I don’t think it is. It’s an amazing game, don’t get me wrong, but I’m just not as high on it as most. I personally didn’t really enjoy the first game — and it’s really hard to go back to — but the sequel was fantastic. The gravity gun felt great to use, the physics of the game were groundbreaking at the time, and the story was surprisingly interesting. I also really liked how plenty of the backstory was left for the player to discover. The mod scene was and is still huge for Half-Life 2, which has helped it stand the test of time.
1. Star Wars Battlefront
Star Wars Battlefront was one of the first console games that I became addicted to. I seriously couldn’t stop playing it, despite doing a lot of the same stuff over and over. First, it was awesome just being in the Star Wars world, and graphics did a great job of selling that. The shooting also felt great, and the enemy AI was a lot more fun to fight against than real players. It scratched a similar itch as Dynasty Warriors, where you just mow down hundreds of droids in every match. It was awesome. It lacked a traditional single-player campaign, but I found the Conquest mode to be a worthy replacement. While the sequel would introduce the ability to play as hero characters, I preferred the simplicity of being a nameless soldier on the fields of a greater battle. Remembering how amazing Star Wars Battlefront was only makes me even more disappointed in the recent EA reboot. Ugh.
And there you have it, my top 10 games from 2004! Be sure to leave your favorite in the comments, and check out my other video game rankings!