Was 1998 The Ultimate Year in Video Gaming?

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Total RecallTotal RecallTotal Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.

2011 was a hell of a year for big game releases. I remember at some point in the fall thinking, "Dude, we are approaching 2007 territory here."


2007 was a hell of a year for big game releases. Modern Warfare. Mass Effect. Bioshock. Portal. That year set the stage for the franchises that would dominate the current generation of gaming. But you know...

I remember remarking at one point on Twitter that "2007 was to gaming what 1959 was to jazz." 1959 being the year that Giant Steps, Kind of Blue, Mingus Ah Um and Brubeck's Time Out were released (and hey, as I type this, this cafe is playing "Strange Meadow Lark" from that very album). It was also the year that Ornette Coleman set things on their ear with the free jazz record The Shape of Jazz to Come.


This of course gave rise to all manner of debate. What was the 1959 of jazz... of gaming? You know what? Forget 2007. 1998 was a hell of a year for big game releases. In fact, there's a strong case to be made that 1998 was the ultimate year in video gaming.

Let's see: Fallout 2. StarCraft. Ocarina of Time. Xenogears. Suikoden II. Thief: The Dark Project. Grim Fandango. Metal Gear Solid. Mother-effin Half-Life. Mother-effin Baldur's Gate.

I put it to you, readers: Was 1998 the best year ever in gaming? There are arguments to make for other years? Could there possibly be any contenders to this amazingness? If we get enough alternatives together, maybe we'll do a DEFINITIVE KOTAKU POLL next week.

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I'm not sure how you can really compare 2007's year in gaming to 1959's year in jazz, considering that the latter was notable because it produced a large number of innovative, groundbreaking jazz records, and the former just produced a bunch of big-selling games that weren't really very innovative or groundbreaking (in any way other than profit) at all. Not sure how those two things are analogous, unless we're ready to lower our standards about what is "groundbreaking" to a simple summary of a video game's development balance sheet.

1980 could certainly be the one, though, if we're trying to work inside the "1959/jazz" paradigm. In that year, you had Centipede, Defender, Missile Command, Pac-Man, Rogue, and Zork I. After 1980, the industry just explodes, with the release of Donkey Kong, Frogger, etc, etc, etc.