When people say the '90s was the golden age of gaming, they do so with good reason. Especially if you were playing plenty of games in 1998.
People's nostalgia always crops up whenever topics like this come up, since the greatest year ultimately depends on when you were born, what your living situation was like and how much money you had at the time. It's easy to like more games when you can afford all of them, for instance.
But there are some time periods that everyone can look back fondly on. 1998 is one of those: regardless of your platform of choice, there's a game in there that either started a franchise you still love today, or was just something that was really, really special.
Here's just a rundown of some of the crackers that are having their 20th anniversary this year, in no particular order:
Esports owes StarCraft an immense debt of gratitude, as does the entire RTS genre.
Thief: The Dark Project
Pokemon Red & Blue
Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Still waiting for that Switch release, Nintendo.
Not as great as the Quake campaigns when you look back on it, but it laid the foundation for Unreal Tournament 99, so all is well.
Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines
Metal Gear Solid
Almost took 20 years before you could play it again, too.
StarCraft: Brood War
Warcraft 3 is still my favourite arc as far as an RTS story campaign goes, but Brood War really made StarCraft into a more well-rounded, competitive gaming. Lurkers, man.
Got banned in South Korea for a time, I remember, too. Was also a great instance of what the modding community could do even from a very early stage, with the release of Falcon 4.0: Allied Force in 2005.
Star Wars: Rebellion
This game is screaming for a proper mobile remake or something. The board game is great, but it's huge and there are so many parts to fiddle with.
Only $US5 on Steam now if you want to see what a hybrid FPS/RTS looked like back in the day. This was a ton of stupid fun, but not great if you had a turd PC.
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six
Siege is great and Ubisoft has done amazing things with that game, but the original is still the best Rainbow Six.
Descent: Freespace — The Great War
It was Freespace 2 that would become the basis for so many amazing mods, but the Descent team laid the platform with The Great War first.
Resident Evil 2
Didn't come to non-PlayStation platforms until 1999, although PS1 users arguably had the better experience nonetheless.
Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus
Imagine trying to pitch a game with these kind of voiceovers to a publisher now.
Blood II: The Chosen
Absolutely nowhere near as good as the original Blood, but given the Quake 2-inspired direction people were going with their shooters, it was still a fun romp. And speaking of 1998 shooters...
I could go on for days just on the amazing Half-Life mods alone, not to mention the base game itself. Except for Ricochet. Let's not talk about that.
Best multiplayer game back in the day, if you were fortunate enough to have internet or go to LANs regularly. Hands down.
Championship Manager 97/98
This was released in 1998, instead of being released in 1997, like FIFA and NBA 2K does every year. Amazing for its time, although not quite the juggernaut the series has since become.
Links LS 98
I'm pretty sure some friends of my Dad still play this version.
Crash Bandicoot: Warped
I loved the original Heretic, don't get me wrong, but the way the sequel used magic and spells was some Jedi Knight-level stuff.
Japan got this in 1997, but the West didn't get it until the middle of 1998, so I'm counting this one.
Spyro the Dragon
Most kickarse dragon in games.
One of the first stealth games — the first 3D stealth game, if I'm not mistaken — and one that people would probably look a lot more favourably on today, in this post-Dark Souls world.
Like I said, an amazing collection. I'm sure I've missed several that meant something to you, but you can mention those in the comments.
What a year. (And in case anyone wants to pull me up on it, Baldur's Gate released just before Christmas in 1998, although a lot of Australians won't have gotten it until the following year.)