The Top 100 Games of the 21st Century

100.
Ninja Gaiden
Tecmo
Platform: Xbox
Released: March ’04
Estimated Sales: 550,000
Revenues:  $27 million
Franchise Sales: 800,000
Game ranking: 91.8%
Other Franchise Hits: Ninja Gaiden Black

It was nigh on a decade since anyone had seen a Ninja Gaiden game in 2004, but most only remember the NES original – in fact, they remember it very fondly. So Itagaki’s revival of the series proper turned quite a few heads, but when he both upheld the classic’s immense difficulty and painted it in Dead Or Alive-quality graphics, the hardcore audience was hooked.

99.
NFL Fever 2002
Microsoft Game Studios
Platform: Xbox
Released: October ’01
Estimated Sales: 600,000
Revenues:  $26 million
Franchise Sales: 1.2 million
Game ranking: 81%
Other Franchise Hits: NFL Fever 2003-2004

The first-party NFL Fever series has always been a sub-par football experience, surviving in the 2002 iteration by virtue of being an Xbox launch title and then in the next couple years via a strong link to Xbox Live. The series did okay in this niche, but was promptly cancelled once EA swallowed its pride and put Madden on Microsoft’s online service.

98.
50 Cent: Bulletproof
VU Games / Genuine Games
Platform: PS2
Released: November ’05
Estimated Sales: 600,000
Revenues: $27 million
Franchise Sales: 850,000
Game ranking: 45.3%
Other Franchise Hits: Mercifully, none

50 Cent: Bulletproof was the shameless gaming arm of the shameless cash-in salvo that was the 2005 50 Cent media blitz. Released alongside a movie, an album, a book announcement and a clothing line, it caught the shirt-tails and rode them to profitability even while the critics ripped it to shreds. It’s hard to see games this bad do this well, but this kind of success is actually rare.

97.
Virtua Fighter 4
Sega / Sega AM2
Platform: PS2
Released: March ’02
Estimated Sales: 630,000
Revenues: $23 million
Franchise Sales: 1 million
Gameranking: 91%
Other Franchise Hits: Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution

Virtua Fighter will always have the added cachet that comes with founding a genre, but this game only added to the series with astounding graphics and a fighting engine that was miles deep, even by the standards of the series’ trademark complexity. Yet it was still accessible and had no competition that could match it in terms of pure quality at the time.

96.
Star Ocean: Till The End Of Time

Square Enix / Tri-Ace
Platform: PS2
Released: September ’04
Estimated Sales: 630,000
Revenues:  $23 million
Franchise Sales: 900,000
Gameranking: 81.4%
Other Franchise Hits: Second Story

It’s incredible that Star Ocean is on this list – after all, it is one of those opaque Japanese RPGs with a weird battle system and a brutally taxing game length, the typical fare that Tri-Ace doles out to its niche audience. The reviews were decent enough, but somebody in marketing had to be doing something right here.
 

95.
Dark Cloud
SCEA / Level 5
Platform: PS2
Released: May ’01
Estimated Sales: 670,000
Revenues:  $22 million
Franchise Sales: 1 million
Gameranking: 78.1%
Other Franchise Hits: Dark Cloud 2

Dark Cloud was the first PS2 RPG worth the disc it was printed on, and so helped alleviate an audience burned by launch window garbage like Evergrace. Of course, it did that at a cost of graphical quality and was generally rough around the edges (it being the freshman effort of Dragon Quest VIII creators Level 5), but it was the salve that made the wait for Final Fantasy X easier to bear.

94.
NBA Ballers
Midway Games
Platform: PS2
Released: April ’04
Estimated Sales: 670,000
Revenues:  $23 million
Franchise Sales: 1 million
Gameranking: 83.6%
Other Franchise Hits: NBA Ballers: Phenom

Ballers benefited from the sure-fire success that comes with the NBA logo, but it also provided for the popularity of gritty urban themes and promised the kind of Cinderella basketball story that youngsters spend hours dreaming about. Had it not followed NBA Street to market it may have come across as more necessary, but a subsection of that large audience still found plenty of uniqueness here.

93.
Fuzion Frenzy
Microsoft Game Studios / Blitz Games
Platform: Xbox
Released: October ’01
Estimated Sales: 680,000
Revenues:  $16 million
Franchise Sales: 680,000
Gameranking: 66%
Other Franchise Hits: None

If you wanted a family-friendly party game for the Xbox, Fuzion Frenzy was your only option at the system’s launch. So it sold just fine based on that alone, reaching Platinum Hits status, budget price, and moving on from there. Critics didn’t like it, but that was hardly a factor here.

 

92.
Pikmin
Nintendo / Nintendo EAD
Platform: GameCube
Released: December ’01
Estimated Sales: 680,000
Revenues: $27 million
Franchise Sales: 1.1 million
Game ranking: 86.5%
Other Franchise Hits: Pikmin 2

Pikmin moved some units because it was designed by Shigeru Miyamoto – the first new franchise for the legend in quite some time. But it was also one of those weird successes that, like Animal Crossing, found an audience that loved it for its quirk. Helpfully some of that audience was in the enthusiast press, which showered it in praise.

91.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Ubisoft / Ubisoft Montreal
Platform: PS2
Released: November ’03
Estimated Sales: 700,000
Revenues:  $24 million
Franchise Sales: 2.5 million
Gameranking: 91.6%
OFH: The Two Thrones; Warrior Within

Poor Prince of Persia. This ambitious, excellent title should be up in sales with the Gods of War and the Halos, but somehow couldn’t catch a break. When the massive heaps of critical praise, the blessing of the original series’ creator, and all-around generally being awesome can only get a game this far up the list, it’s hard to think what could have been done better.

90.
State Of Emergency
Rockstar / Vis Entertainment
Platform: PS2
Released: February ’02
Estimated Sales: 700,000
Revenues:  $28 million
Franchise Sales: 900,000
Game ranking: 70%
OFH:  None worth mentioning

The hype for State of Emergency was ridiculous to begin with, but it was puffed up even more with glowing previews and even heavily inflated review scores. The public was still high on GTAIII, and with the Rockstar logo emblazoned on the cover this one was a star for a while. But hindsight quickly set in, this “riot simulator” was revealed as a dog, and the franchise flubbed thereafter.

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