When looking back the catalogue of video games that were released from a year to year basis, one year in particular, stands out. The impact of a year is usually dictated by the launch of major milestones in the medium, or what have since become classics. Just like how the year 1958 brought the world arguably the VERY FIRST video game in the form of “Tennis for Two”, the year 1998 was a monumental year for video games. The sheer volume of quality produced during this year is mind boggling, and to my knowledge no other year can match 1998 in terms of the multitude of video games that stick out in memory. I thought it might serve as an interesting way to reminisce about the great classics from that year and appreciate what they accomplished for the industry as a whole.
We’ll go through this list in chronological order, and try to cover as many notable releases as we can, however because I wouldn’t want to make this article impossible to load with 20+ images, I’ll keep things text-based this time around, sorry! It’s a big list, so without further adieu, let’s begin!
Video Game Releases of 1998
1. Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Heroes
Ah yes, the crossover fighting game to end all crossover fighting games (except maybe Super Smash Bros., that’s kinda hard to beat). Featuring various characters from the multitude of fighters produced by both Marvel and Capcom, including the X-men and Street Fighter cast. It was also the start of highly prestigious line of competitive fighting games culminating in today’s still-played, Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
2. Biohazard 2/Resident Evil 2
Arguably the best classic Resident Evil game, introducing the now well-known Leon F. Kennedy and Claire Redfield. If you know anything about the survivor-action genre, you know how important this monumental game is. Moving the player from the large enclosed mansion from the first game, into the streets of Raccoon City, with marked improvements in all aspects, this horror classic still holds up to this day as one of the finest examples of the genre.
3. Final Fantasy Tactics
One of the most fondly-remembered tactical role-playing games of it’s time. It was a pioneer of the isometric-grid based system that has become a mainstay of most games in the genre today, including other well-known titles like Tactics Ogre: Let’s Cling Together. A great spin-off from the main series of JRPGs, and the game that single-handedly coined the sub-genre: “Tactics”.
One of SquareSoft’s (that’s Square Enix now to you young-ings) many excellent JRPGs, aside from their major franchises Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. This game is remembered for it’s extremely unique exploration of the philosophies and principles of the works of nihilist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, and psychologists Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Hell, I’m not kidding, the game goes all out, and it utterly odd for doing so, but I suppose that gives it it’s charm.
5. Starcraft + Satcraft: Brood War
I don’t need to explain this one do I? Starcraft was Blizzard Entertainment’s sister franchise to Warcraft, and was responsible for making e-sports a stadium-selling affair in South Korea. One of the greatest Real-Time Strategies ever made, and pushing the boundaries of the genre with 3 uniquely designed factions with asymmetrical gameplay.
6. Gran Turismo
The very first game to create a compelling racing game, complete with career simulation. With an incredible 140 cars and 11 race tracks for it’s time, it was every racing game fan’s wet dream come true. The franchise has gone strong ever since, and more modern renditions have tried to perfect the formula, but there’s nothing wrong with going back to basics with this seminal classic racer.
The other half of the ‘competitive arena shooter’ coin, alongside it’s fellow innovator Quake. Unreal‘s would later go on to be adjusted with a competitive multiplayer focus instead of a single-player one in the now legendary Unreal: Tournament. Still an excellent shooter in its own right, this game ran on what became one of the most used and well-known engines in video gaming history: The Unreal Engine.
Studio Rare’s classic 3D-platformer collectathon, featuring it’s colorful titular characters, a bear and a bird in the bear’s backpack. Well, Rare had a weird sense of humour, a mean most enemies in the game even had big googly-eyes, so there’s that. Often praised as a classic of the sub-genre on the Nintendo 64, along with its competitor Nintendo’s Super Mario 64, there’s a lot to love about this charming little game.
9. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six
The tactical first-person shooter based on the similarly titled: Rainbow Six novel by Tom Clancy, realism was the name of the game. Slowly making your way through a terrorist scenario with tensions sky-high as every shot counted, few other games could ever replicate the gameplay of this fantastic shooter.
10. Metal Gear Solid
Hideo Kojima is a household name for many gamers today, and his celebrity status can be attributed to his reboot of the Metal Gear series. The first in the series of ever-confounding and twisted plotlines and spy escapades, Metal Gear Solid stunned games and critics alike with its incredible visuals and cinematography as well it’s industry-defining level of voice-acting talent. Truly something special.
11. Spyro the Dragon
One of the poster-children for Sony’s PlayStation 1 alongside Naughty Dogs’ Crash Bandicoot, Imnomniac Games’ Spyro the Dragon was a big hit on the PS1. Spyro‘s gameplay was an interesting mixture of 3D-platforming collectathon goodness along with some highly entertaining and varied mini-game sequences. Nowadays unfortunately, Spyro has been absorbed into the Skylanders franchise much to the dismay of many fans of the original games.
12. Fallout 2
The followup to the post-apocalyptic gem that was Fallout, this sequel was no slouch. Improving on the role-playing options available, and with a much larger scope than the original’s, this classic franchise was eventually bought and headed by Bethesda Studios, which have since produced Fallout 3 and Fallout 4.
13. Pokémon Red and Blue
Ah yes, the very first Pokémon games. While many take the mega-franchise for granted nowadays, especially considering the worldwide phenomenon of Pokémon Go!, as well as its never-ending list of video games, card games, shows, movies, merchandise, and so much more. Game Freak’s magnum opus money-maker for Nintendo had to start somewhere.
14. Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped
The 3rd and final main series game in the Crash Bandicoot series before the franchise was sold off to another developer, third time’s the charm indeed. 3rd time’s the charm indeed, the most polished and refined of the original Crash games, it was a favourite of many on the PS1.
15. Grim Fandango
Just when point-and-click adventures were getting stale, here comes Grim Fandango,the brainchild of legendary game designer Tim Schafer of LucasArts fame. Combining elements of the Aztec belief of the afterlife with the style of the film noir genre. This game is pretty damn unique, and while it’s puzzles were confusing and kinda pants, this game simply breathed character.
Alright, dear reader, if you read my articles and don’t know what Half-Life is, first of all, shame on you. Valve Corporation’s very first production, headed by the esteemed Gabe Newell, Half-Life is single-handedly responsible for pioneering many of the storytelling techniques found in first-person perspective games since 1998.
17. Dance Dance Revolution
One of the Granddaddies of the rhythm-game genre, we have the game that invented the scrolling note bars that we now see rampant in nearly every other rhythm game of its type. It was long before the real life Dance Dance ‘Revolution’ actually happened, and the arcades were filled with people pulling off sick moves.
18. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Last week I talked about The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, and about it’s struggle to try and overcame the shadow of it’s mighty predecessor. Enter Ocarina of Time, one of the most highly-acclaimed video games EVER.
19. Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft
While not an amazingly innovative title, Tomb Raider III did provide more of the same, and for the many fans of the series whose protagonists’ breasts were the pointy-est in all of gaming, why fix what isn’t broken I suppose.
20. Thief: The Dark Project
Another granddaddy of a genre, Thief showed everyone else in the industry how stealth in 3D was done. Considered a masterpiece by many stealth game purists, this game was all about getting the dough at the end of the day (or night I suppose in Thief‘s case), with intricate level design and an abundance of arrow types, no lock can keep out master thief Garrett.
21. Baldur’s Gate
The very first of the famous Dungeons and Dragons RPG video game series using the Infinity Engine, set in the DnD in-universe’s Baldur’s Gate of the Forgotten Realms high-fantasy campaign setting. While few modern reimagining’s have showed that the Baldur’s Gate formula for gameplay still holds strong in modern times, sometimes it’s worth looking back at the origins to see how they did it first.
22. Starsiege: Tribes
A relatively unknown title for many, but nevertheless an important one. A multiplayer-only first-person shooter, with systems not unlike the previously mentioned Quake and Unreal, Tribes stood out as one of the then newly-developing sub-genres within the first-person shooter scene: that of the ‘class-based’ first-person shooter. A underappreciated progenitor, standing aside it’s more well-known competitor, Team Fortress.
23. Mario Party
The oldest amongst the growing repertiore of ‘friendship ruiner-simulators’, the very first Mario Party was released all the way back in 1998 and ushered in a new age of party games designed to make sure that everyone hated each other. A marvel of social engineering.
1998 is awesome. I doubt any other year will ever compare, but then again, video gaming has over recent years become a mainstream thing and is no longer frowned-upon by regular society as something reserved for social outcasts. Perhaps in time there will come another year to rival the mighty 1998, but that remains to be seen.
Wanted see all the titles that came out in 1998 that I may have missed, check here!:
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“ArcticLyrae is a 3rd-year Monash University Malaysia undergraduate with great enthusiasm for all things related to gaming and its many forms. He is the Game Master of Monash Gaming Society and writes articles for Radio Monash Malaysia covering various gaming-related discussions in his weekly section, The HotSeat.”