So it’s been 20 years and to this day, some consider 1998 as the year that some of the finest games were released. Below are some games that highlight some of the quality releases that came out that year & my feelings on each :
Zelda – Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64)
Wow! An absolute classic to start us off. Zelda for the N64 was a phenomenal piece of work. A sprawling adventure with beautiful backdrops, interesting characters and a gripping storyline that left all players wanting more. The sheer amount of things you could do in this game pushed the N64 to the limit (a memory expansion pack was needed just to play it). Add to that, satisfying game mechanics, creative puzzles and wonderful weapons, tools and costumes to unlock and you’re on to a winner. The music was melancholy and sublime and the the art style was gorgeous. The story arc took every player on an amazing journey and the ending was both satisfying and artistic. A game that shouldn’t be missed…….a timeless classic
Before Half-Life came along, first person shooters were a totally different experience. The likes of Wolfenstein 3D, Rise of the Triads, Blood, Quake, Doom all had flat level designs made to look like 3d with a static weapon pointing forward at the bottom of the screen. They also usually relegated the storyline for their games to a text document or minimal lines of dialogue. Half-Life not only changes first person shooters but changed gaming itself. First the change of moving with the keyboard but aiming with the mouse was inspired. Now you could aim anywhere on the screen which jumped up the accuracy and made gamers feel more involved. Next came the story. Not content with text files, Valve told their story through ongoing character interactions and dialogue. You were drip fed the story as you played and when things start to go wrong in game, you feel responsible and a little bit helpless. The stakes felt real and the level of responsibility piled on to our hapless hero Gordon Freeman felt organic and made us want to play to the end. Quite simply, there was nothing remotely like Half-Life available before 1998 and it brought the gaming industry leaping into the future. Half-Life 2 also took bigger leaps in game design and graphics but that’s a story for another time!
Metal Gear Solid (Playstation 1)
Wow what a bold and refreshing title this was. It felt like it came from nowhere but was soon talked about and revered by everyone who played it. Practically inventing stealth mechanics that would forever be copied for generations to come. This was Kojima putting a bold artistic stamp on the gaming world. With fourth wall breaking, inventive boss battles and stylish graphics for it’s time, we all fell in love with this espionage adventure. Minor spoiler : Having an in game physic boss who could read the memory card plugged in and could read your every move as a stylish trick that was fresh and inventive and had never been done before. To defeat him, you had to plug your controller into the section port so he couldn’t read your moves. This was the western worlds first glance at the madness/genius of Hideo Kojima and we are forever grateful for the introduction. Taking storytelling and gameplay to new heights, this will forever be hailed a true classic and the beginning of a huge ‘snake’ legendary saga.
‘Tim Schaffer’ arguably at his best. I grew up on quirky graphic adventure games and this was one of the pinnacles of story telling. Set in a macabre undead world and featuring a very quotable lead character ‘Manny Calavera’, we are lead on a surreal stylish journey through a dark and humorous world. In typical ‘Schaffer’ fashion, some of the solutions to the puzzles were bizarre but it was ever enjoyable. The world itself was gorgeous to look at, the music and voice acting were on par and the story was unique and captivating until the very end. This game is a joy to play and having recently played through the remastered version, I can honestly say, it hasn’t lost any of it’s charm or wonder
Banjo Kazooie (Nintendo 64)
Mario 64 definitely broke the mold and created the first true 3d platformer. It is still considered the granddaddy of all 3d platformers however, many would argue that Rare’s venture into the 3d platforming surpassed Mario 64. The graphics were gorgeous, the rhyming lines delivered by all characters were charming and the brand new world and characters introduced were inventive and memorable. This was a brand new IP that became an instant classic. The controls were versatile and having the two characters combined (Kazooie was inside Banjo’s backpack & could pop out with different button presses) meant there were lots of button combinations and movements you could pull off making the adventure fresh. The collectibles and abilities unlocked meant progression felt satisfying and most importantly, the level designs and challenges on offer were super fun and very well designed. This game was massive in scope and fun for all the family
And that’s my list of favorites. Have I missed any you think deserve a mention? Is there another year in gaming that surpasses 1998? Would Half-Life 3 be a welcome addition 20 years later? (yes)