The Year Was 1998
However, while the 90s were a time of huge growth in gaming, it wasn’t until 1998 that things really took off. Games like StarCraft and Metal Gear Solid would go on to set the standard for what games can and can’t do, and how they keep trying to improve on that.
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There is a gallery here that the GameSpot staff will be looking back at the most popular games from 1998 that were released in the West. They will also look at how these games have changed us in the last 20 years. The list includes Xenogears, Resident Evil 2, and the original Half-Life. Our Game of the Year for 1998, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, is also on the list.
Here is a list of games that made 1998 a great year. They are in the order they were released. The biggest games that turned 10 this year, and last year, are in our separate lists for both.
Resident Evil 2 (January 21, 1998)
For me, Resident Evil 2 is one of the best survival horror games of all time. Even today, the way it builds tension and then bursts into action is very effective.
As a teenager, I was excited to see the horrors I saw in Resident Evil’s Spencer Mansion spread to a big city, and the game does that right from the start. Raccoon City’s streets were filled with groaning zombies after a disaster. As a rookie cop, Leon Kennedy, I had to fight through the streets of Raccoon City.
At some point during the process of learning how to play, I saw someone get eaten by a zombie and found myself in a small gun store that was mostly empty. As soon as you take control of Leon, things start to get very stressful. I’m not ashamed to say that I had to take a breather when I got to a safe place, but it was only for a few minutes. When the first Resident Evil game started out, it was a little more subdued. In the sequel, it started out with a high-octane start, and that sense that it would push me into the deep end without warning is something that gnawed at me the whole time.
RCPD made things much worse. The thing I really liked about Resident Evil 2 was that it took a place I thought was safe and secure, like a police station, and made it full of terrifying dangers. There was something very unnerving about that, just like the idea of a monster in a closet or under a bed would be to a child. If a safe place is broken into in a horror story, it can be very powerful. Resident Evil 2 used this well.
This game is one that I keep going back to. When I go back to the Licker, I want to remember the first time I saw it. Other times, I just want to walk around its echoing halls and feel the tense atmosphere. It was a game that really stuck with me in 1998, and it still occupies my thoughts today.
Final Fantasy Tactics (January 28, 1998)
It was in an issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly that I saw Final Fantasy Tactics for the first time. Before I played Final Fantasy VII, I was hungry for another PlayStation RPG, and the colourful presentation of Tactics caught my eye right off the bat. They were taken in a time when most games were made in 3D, but those screenshots made me want to go back to 16-bit sprites and Final Fantasy games with a little bit of mediaeval flair.
Before the game came out, I had never really played a turn-based tactical game. As for Ogre Battle, I did play and enjoy it on the Super Nintendo, but I didn’t like it. During my excitement for Final Fantasy Tactics, when I found out that the dream team behind that game were behind it, my excitement levels were off the charts. My friends thought I was crazy because there were so many games that looked more advanced than they were.
Sure enough, my expectations were correct. Final Fantasy Tactics had one of the most complicated and dramatic stories I’d ever seen in a game. The power balance of a kingdom was threatened by subterfuge, powerful religious artefacts, and leaders who went mad. To add to the mystery, the story was told as if it were a series of events that had been erased from history books by the winner in order to keep the truth from the next generation. How did they feel? Final Fantasy Tactics is very good at finding the answers.
As good as it was in 1998, Final Fantasy Tactics is still great today. There isn’t anything wrong with the story, but the job class system and tactical decisions are what keep me coming back for more and more each time I watch it. Many times I’ve played the game, I’ve spent a lot of time on it. All it takes is a new group a soldiers and a new mindset to make everything feel new again. For me, Final Fantasy Tactics is the best game I’ve ever played. It is also one of the few games I plan to play for the rest of my life.
Xenogears (February 11, 1998)
Xenogears isn’t as well-known as some of its JRPG counterparts, but it’s still a cult favourite that has had an impact on games for years to come. Many games today can’t match the weighty themes that it brings to the table, even though it looks like a typical anime mech setup at first.
When the game came out in 1998, these were risky things to talk about in a video game. But it was these choices that made the game stay with many people for so long. It’s also a great JRPG in its own right, using the Active Time Battle system found in games like Chrono Trigger as a base. But the Deathblow mechanic is what makes it stand out. Learning button combos, like how fighting game combos work, allows you to make special moves that look good when you do them. This is similar to how button combos work. A lot of people don’t like that the second disc in Xenogears isn’t finished. The story is told through cutscenes and narration, but there isn’t much gameplay. That might have made most games less fun, but Xenogears still stands out because its first disc is so compelling and memorable that it doesn’t matter.
No official sequel was made to Xenogears. The games in the Xenosaga and Xenoblade Chronicles series keep the game’s ideas and themes alive in their stories. If you’ve been a fan of JRPGs for a long time, Xenogears is a game you should know about. It has a weird history that you should know about.
Tenchu: Stealth Assassins (February 26, 1998)
We’ve always thought ninjas were cool, but now we know even more about them. There are a lot of things that happen to them. They kill people and fight all the time. That’s what they were doing most of the time in video games, and games like Strider and Ninja Gaiden show them doing that. But that isn’t true in the past! To play Tenchu Stealth Assassins, you had to act like a real ninja and work as a covert agent in feudal Japan. It was all about espionage, infiltrating, sneaking around, and killing people without being seen.
Thief and Metal Gear Solid came out in 1998, making it a big year for the stealth genre.
Memories of playing Tenchu with a friend are clear to me. We each took turns trying to get through levels, running across rooftops, killing people by slicing their arm or throat, and getting into sword fights when we were caught. We also got caught a lot. This was the first ever 3D stealth game, so our brains had to be rewired. There was a lot of desire to learn how to be real ninjas because fights were possible but clunky.
Then, who would forget the cool things? First, I learned to love grappling hooks in the game Tenchu. They’re a great way to get into places and get the upper hand on enemies. It’s not like we didn’t have shuriken. I remember having a good time the first few times we got a guard to walk on caltrops, or eat a poisoned rice ball we left on the ground.
Tenchu’s immediate follow-up was good, but the rest of the series got worse after that. In 2009, Tenchu: Fatal Shadows was the last we saw of the series. Some people say that the new From Software game is a Tenchu reboot, and I’d love for that to be true. It’s time for another Japanese game company to show us how they think about stealth systems, and what better vehicle to use than one of the best stealth games from 1998? Do better than Thief did.
StarCraft (March 31, 1998)
Real-time strategy games such as Warcraft and Warcraft 2 showed that Blizzard was on to something when they were made. At that point, none of the developer’s previous games had reached the level of Starcraft. This science-fiction twist on the RTS foundation brought more than just a new look. The way the three main factions (Zerg, Protoss, and Terran) worked together to make unique units led to a hugely popular competitive scene. A high-level match almost looked like a game of chess because there were so many strategies.
I used to run home from school so I could play games with my friends and spend hours messing around with the endless match customization and user mods. Because everyone was always trying to outdo each other, everyone became a better player. What would you do if your lightning-fast Zerg rush failed? Friends and I learned to deal with new situations in every game. This is how it worked:
In Starcraft, there was a lot more to the single-player story than you might think. This led to a lot of the fanfare and attachment to the three factions. A little backstory helped us understand how the Zerg, Protoss, and Terran all worked together to fight each other. To this day, StarCraft is the most popular game in the world. This is because people all over the world still play it. The Remastered version of StarCraft also keeps the spirit alive with gameplay that hasn’t changed, which is a sign of how great the original game was.
In this series, we’ve looked at the origins, innovations, and impact of each of 1998’s best-selling books. We haven’t really thought about the question that is at the heart of the whole thing: How did these books change the way people thought about books? It was the year 1998. It was a great year for gaming, but what made it possible for so many great games to happen?
Many famous people may have met in the same calendar year by accident, but there must have been a reason for it. It was 1998, and by then, the developers had spent a few years stumbling around in the third dimension. They knew what worked and what didn’t. In the beginning of the 3-D era, long-running series like The Legend of Zelda and 2-D developers like LucasArts were making their first forays into the form. Late enough that they didn’t have good examples of other good games to help them. studios knew how to get more power out of the N64, PS3, and Saturn hardware. At the same time, they learned how to play games on newer, more powerful consoles. Gamers were growing up and expecting more complex stories, and improvements in processing power made it possible to make bigger relative leaps in visual fidelity than we see now. In the midst of that growth, StarCraft, Starsiege: Tribes, and the Half-Life modding community opened up a whole new world.
Most of those trends can be found in Unreal. Epic’s game was a more interesting story than either of Id Software’s FPS games. Its Unreal Tournament games were a big part of the early esports scene. One thing that stands out most is how good the game’s graphics looked to anyone who had hardware that met the game’s strict requirements. Unreal’s atmospheric, flashy, and first-of-its-kind visual techniques, as well as its mod-friendly map editor, were all made possible by the Unreal Engine, which has had a huge impact on game development since it was first used in the game. It has been used in hundreds of games over the last two decades, and its fourth version is used in Epic’s game Fortnite, which became a huge hit in 2018. This quote is from a person who was named Ben Lindbergh:
Crash Bandicoot: Warped
There are a lot of good games in the series called Crash Bandicoot, but Warped is the best one. It’s both fun and beautiful, with just the right level of hard work. When the game started, it was all about going back in time to different parts of the world. This made the levels a lot more interesting and unique than the jungle scenes in the previous games. There is an Area 51 desert, an Atlantis-themed stage, and the Great Wall of China. All through the game, the visuals are new and interesting. The biggest problem with the earlier Crash games was that the settings stayed the same, which made them less fun to play. This time, Crash is riding a baby Tyrannosaurus rex and a Jet Ski. It was made by Mark Mothersbaugh, because Crash isn’t a normal bandicoot. He’s a cool bandicoot, and I love him, too. —Kate Knibbs says that.