Top Video Games of Children growing up in the early 2000s

by: Cam Wheeler

These are the top video games while growing up in the late 90s and early 2000s.  I’m not talking about the games you played in Jr High or High School. I’m talking about the games you would go to your friend’s house to play and strictly play against each other.  Or the games that you would spend hours playing during summer vacation, ones that you got for Christmas, ones that your older brother would demolish you in, or ones you would play on snow days when your mom wouldn’t let you go outside at night.  Get ready for a roller coaster of nostalgia.

Eligible Games (1990 – 2005)

15. NCAA Football 2004


Released: 2003

Developer/Publisher: EA Sports

Platform(s): PS2, XBOX, GameCube

This game was eye-opening to us young sports fans.  It was one of the first games that featured our favorite college athletes.  It also allowed you to create your own player and your own college team. This game was revolutionary to the college sports game.  RIP to them. But with the rumors of this coming back, people of all ages will flock to the game store to get a copy.

14. Crazy Taxi


Released: 1999

Developer/Publisher:  Sega

Platform(s): Dreamcast, PS2, GameCube, Arcade

This is one of the first games I remember my brother buying with his Sega Dreamcast.  It came with the wheel and everything. Driving around a “semi” open world delivering ungrateful customers to their destinations was hours of fun.  Little did we know, this was training for our generation to become Uber drivers when we came of age.

13. NFL Blitz


Released: 1997

Developer/Publisher: Midway Games, EA

Platform(s): Nintendo 64, PS, Game Boy, Dreamcast, PS2, XBOX

The most arcade style of football ever released.  Every player on the game just went through 27 rounds of steroids.  It was a quick game. And the hits were brutal. You could even jump on a player that was already down as the in-game players made funny remarks at them.  This and WWE is why there were some crazy kids growing up.

12. 007 GoldenEye


Released: 1997

Developer/Publisher: Rare/Nintendo

Platform(s): Nintendo 64

The FPS with one joystick, and boy was it fun as fuck.  I vividly remember my brother, two of our friends, and I playing this game for ours.  I was the dickhead who played as Oddjob and was impossible to shoot. But you could play any type of game style from the default to rockets, to proximity mines, to grenades.  Paved the way for future FPS game. And James Bond was Pierce Brosnan so that was cool.

11. Backyard Sports Collection


Released: 1997-

Developer/Publisher: Humongous Entertainment

Platform(s): Windows PC, GameBoy

This is where my love for video games initially began.  I had all the games from Baseball, Football, Basketball, Hockey, Soccer, Skateboarding.  Some of them were too advanced for my dinky Windows 98 computer but damn were these fun games.  I would play each game during its respected season. Soccer was probably my favorite. Pablo Sanchez is GOAT and no one will ever take that crown from him.

10. Mario Kart


Released: 1992 –

Developer/Publisher: Nintendo

Platform(s): Nintendo Platforms

One of, if not the most, classic video game of all time.  Mario Kart. Nintendo was incredibly good at taking their characters and putting them all into one game.  Mario Kart was one of the first and it was a doozy on Nintendo 64. Playing this as a kid, I would have never thought I was training to play Beerio Kart when I was older.  The easiest way to get drunk incredibly fast.

9. SSX 3


Released: 2003

Developer/Publisher: EA Sports BIG

Platform(s): XBOX, PS, GameCube

The snowboarding Tony Hawk game.  No other way of putting it. You get dropped at the top of a mountain and go down it racking up as many points as you can.  Dope outfits you could put on your character as you chilled in the lodge. This was a fantasy game for kids who couldn’t snowboard.  Very classic.

8. Spider-Man 2


Released: 2004

Developer/Publisher: Activision

Platform(s): PS, Xbox, GameCube

Based on the movie, this was the first superhero video game that I played.  It went right along with the storyline of the movie and was very cool swinging from building to building in New York City.  Its only downfall was that it was a single player game and you couldn’t play it with your friends. It was the game that you went to your friend’s house to play and he sat there and played it while you happily watched him play it.  But, when it was your turn to play, it was glorious.

7. Pokemon


When I say months of my childhood were dedicated to a certain type of video game, it was this one.  Pokemon Yellow, Red, Blue, Gold, Silver, Sapphire, Emerald, Ruby. All fantastic games. Each “set” came out with new pokemon and a whole new world to explore.  Connecting Gameboys and trading pokemon with friends was as fun as the first text message you sent your friend as a kid. My friend and I would always determine which of us would get which game. He would get Silver and I would get Gold because each had different pokemon to collect and would be able to achieve full “pokemon master” level. Simpler times.

Released: 1996 –

Developer/Publisher: Nintendo

Platform(s): GameBoy, Nintendo DS

6. Tony Hawk Series


Released: 1999 –

Developer/Publisher: Activision

Platform(s): PS, Xbox, GameCube, Nintendo 64, etc.

Everyone went through an “I want to learn how to skate” phase and it was because of these games.  Doing incredibly impossible tricks, racking up high score totals, collecting S-K-A-T-E, finding secret spots, and using all the popular skaters from Bam Margera to Bob Burnquist. When American Wasteland came out and it was the first video game ever to not have a loading screen, that was revolutionary.  And this game evolved from park to park, passing levels, to actual storylines. This game gave people who weren’t able to skate the ability to do near impossible things on a virtual scale.  When VR gets to where it needs to be, there has to be a Tony Hawk game.

5. NBA Street/NFL Street


Released: 2001

Developer/Publisher: EA Sports BIG

Platform(s): All

The reinvention of NFL Blitz.  You can hear it now, “E-A Sports BIIIIIIIIG.” 7 v 7 pick up football and 3 v 3 pick up basketball.  I can’t really choose which one was better.  I personally like basketball better so I guess I would say NBA Street, but it’s anyone’s call.  Gamebreakers, insane crossovers, running on the walls, goaltending, head crunching hits, playing with legends and current players, these games had everything and it’s a shame they don’t make them anymore.

4. Guitar Hero


Released: 2005

Developer/Publisher: Neversoft

Platform(s): Xbox, PS

What sensational games these were.  Buying the guitar and believing you were Slash, himself, was dope af.  They had all kind of music on there that inner-goth of me loved. We all went through a Linkin Park-type music phase, don’t lie. I am positive this game inspired a lot of kids to learn how to play guitar, I have a few that did, at least.  

3. GTA San Andreas





The game that all our parents hated.  Stealing cars, killing hookers, flying helicopters.  The OG of open-world gaming.  The storylines taught you an insane amount about the other side of living, although it was extremely exaggerated.  Hearing people saying cuss words would put your seven-year-old self in a giggle that was impossible to stop, and that shit didn’t get old. It has then blossomed into in my opinion the greatest game of all time GTA 5.  Thank you Rockstar.

2. Halo 2


Released: 2004

Developer/Publisher: Bungie, Microsoft

Platform(s): Xbox

Red v. Blue. This is the first game I can remember where online play came into the factor.  Cussing kids out while trying to kill them was everything we needed as 10-year-olds.  GoldenEye trained us for this game, but now we had 2 thumbsticks, thank the lord. Obviously, most of the kids who played this game went on to play the rest of the series.

1. Super Smash Bros: Melee


Released: 2001

Developer/Publisher: Nintendo

Platform(s): Nintendo

Holy shit.  This was THE coolest game as a kid. All your favorite Nintendo characters facing off in a deathmatch.  This was the ultimate button mashing game and it increased your ego so much if you were the victor of the match.  This game was so popular, it made kids buy the GameCube. I even played this game in college.  I specifically remember 4 of us playing this game for 8 hours, smoking weed, on the first day we moved into our new apartment.  Good times, both older and younger.

Honorable Mention/ Not Eligible:  Diddy Kong Racing, Donkey Kong 64, Metroid Prime, Oregon Trail, The Sims, Ratchet and Clank, Gears of War, Assassins Creed, Fallout, Battlefield, Need for Speed, LEGO Star Wars, Tiger Woods, Crash Bandicoot, Roller Coaster Tycoon, Celebrity Deathmatch, COD: Modern Warfare

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