My obsession with video games began when I was an afro-puffed, Limited Too-obsessed child. During those early years, I played some of the best games I’ve ever played in my entire life. Those key experiences are some of the many reasons why I ended up becoming a lifelong gamer. Today, we’re going to take a deep dive into some of my favorite games from the 2000s and why they’re still relevant today.
In no particular order:
1. Animal Crossing
Simply described as a “social simulation” game, Animal Crossing was beautifully peculiar in the most intriguing way possible. Originally released in 2002, Animal Crossing’s peculiarity is one of the main reasons that seventeen years later this series is still going strong as an undeniable fan-favorite.
The story that surrounds your character is one that you have a hand in co-writing. At the beginning of the game, you move to a brand new town inhabited by anthropomorphic animals. Tom Nook, the game’s resident scammer entrepreneur/socialite, shows you to your brand new, albeit small home in a residential section of town. To “pay off” your home, Nook gives you a job at his humble shop, Nook’s Cranny. After you accomplish a couple of odd jobs around the town, he finally sets you free to explore the town on your own! (Only after, finessing you into a payment plan for yet another upgrade on your home.)
That’s all the story that you get. After that, you’re left to do whatever your little low-poly heart desires.
Want to put all your might into selling everything in sight and paying off all the upgrades that are possible on your home? Go Mr. Moneybags on this crazy town.
Want to become an impromptu historian and put your laser-focus onto filling the museum with fish and bugs? Be that guy or girl.
Want to become the most popular person in the city and make friends with every villager around? Put your socialite skills to work and make Paris Hilton faint in jealousy.
The beauty of Animal Crossing is in its endless opportunities. Even though Tom Nook holds a payment over your head, he doesn’t give you a due date. You can live in that extremely small home for as long as you’d like, just like real life.
Also, especially in the Gamecube version, there are so many Easter eggs and unintentionally hilarious moments that make Animal Crossing a game that anybody and everyone should play at least once if only to hear the smooth sounds of the game’s traveling musician K.K. Slider.
2. Kingdom Hearts 2
If you mashed the emotionally-driven plot of a Final Fantasy game, with the lovable characters of your favorite Disney movie, and the overflowing tea of an early Love and Hip Hop episode, you get the wonderful world of Kingdom Hearts.
At 24, I’m in amazement that at 10-years-old I was able to beat Kingdom Hearts 2 in just a couple of days. In terms of complexity, it’s the antithesis of Animal Crossing. There are so many twists and turns lying within the plot of Kingdom Hearts 2. I spent endless hours as a child scrolling through Kingdom Hearts forums filled an endless terrain of theories and speculation on the future of the series. Fourteen years later I still don’t fully understand the Kingdom Hearts plot. But then again, who does?
In the Kingdom Hearts series, there is so much heart within the characters (pun intended). The deep connections between each of the characters are key (yet another pun intended) in the reasoning behind the series’ wild popularity. These characters are what get fans invested in the story for the long term.
The sequel, in particular, expands what made the first game great in many ways. The controls are much smoother, the worlds are larger and more interactive, and the abilities of the main character Sora have grown ten-fold since the first game.
I replay Kingdom Hearts 2 about once a year, and I think I’ll continue to do that through marriage, children, and my eventual retirement to a far off island on the coast of Jamaica.
3. Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut
The Sonic series is a touchy subject for me, and often for many other fans of the series. There are both highs and lows throughout the series’ near 30-year reign on the video game industry. The “Adventure” series is definitely a high. Sonic 06’, for example, is a low. The initial design of Sonic for the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog movie is a low. Charmy Bee is a low.
But the first Sonic Adventure, released in 1998 on the Dreamcast, is one of the first video games that I remember loving as a child. But once the game was rereleased onto the Gamecube, the game got ten times better. It looked incredible, there were tons of new missions and collectibles, and they added Metal Sonic! METAL SONIC!
I spent tons of time exploring the hub worlds within the game and enjoyed the sheer size and unique design of them.
Casinopolis, for example, was once of my favorites. I distinctly remember exploring the level during Sonic’s level and having so much fun climbing on the pirate boat and getting strangely scared of the lion sculpture on the second level of Casinopolis.
The learning curve in Sonic Adventure DX was low so I could easily play it as a child without getting frustrated or stuck.
As for the Chao World? Incredible. I could easily write another piece on how the Chao Worlds within Sonic Adventure DX and Sonic Adventure 2 have easily taken up at least 2 percent of my entire life. (And, I probably will.)
Just like Kingdom Hearts 2, this game is on my replay list. And I swear, whenever I hear the game’s main song Open Your Heart, my soul is happy.
The aforementioned games are just a small fraction of my childhood obsession. But, these three, in particular, played a large part in molding me into the gamer, and in turn, the person that I’d soon become. Even though I don’t have as much time to play now as I did when I was living off of mega pack Lunchables and wild cherry Capri Suns, I recommend the games just as much now as I did way back when.
What were your favorite video games as a child? Were you a Halo fiend or dying to get in some Ratchet and Clank sessions after you got home from school? Let me know what you played in the comments section below.