Games of the Decade: 2004

The year of the PC

If there was ever a year to drop £1000 on a monster PC, this was it. Valve had been working on Half Life 2 since dinosaurs walked the Earth but it finally arrived and was well worth the wait. Then Blizzard dropped the nuke-sized bomb that was World of Warcraft - the biggest game in history. 'Nuff said.

The Contenders

MGS: Snake Eater
GTA: San Andreas
World of Warcraft
Halo 2
Half Life 2

The Runners-up
Okay Nintendo fans, there's nothing in there for you. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes was fantastic, but just missed the cut. Unreal Tournament 2004 and Ninja Gaiden were near-misses as well.

But our four runners up are in a league of their own. MGS3: Snake Eater was the best of the MGS series before the major refresh in MGS4, and GTA: San Andreas gave urban riot fans the freedom to wreak havoc in an almost unbelievably large world - far bigger and more varied than GTAIV's.

Halo 2 might not have had the single-player campaign we hoped for, but its legendary online multiplayer took the top spot on Xbox Live's most played list and didn't budge until well into the Xbox 360's lifespan, when Halo 3 launched.

Then there's Half Life 2 - widely disputed to be the best PC game of all time. But with millions of paying players and a continuously growing universe, there's only one genre-defining game that could have won this year...

The Winner: World of Warcraft


No games of the decade list worth its salt could go without mentioning the true titan of the noughties - arguably the most popular game of all-time - Blizzard's monster MMO, World of WarCraft.

At the time of writing WoW has amassed over 12 million subscribers and earned Blizzard enough cash to run Belgium for another ten years. Success was always inevitable thanks to Blizzard's religiously loyal fan base and history of quality releases, but no one could ever have seen its game becoming the true monster it has.

No other MMO before or since has managed to amass this level of exposure among the general populous. WoW has penetrated the mainstream through TV shows like South Park and advertised directly to the wider audience through telly ads starring Ozzy Osbourne and Mr. T.

And its popularity is shown in Activision Blizzard's earnings too - of which it makes up half - and the $1 billion gold farming industry it's helped build across the world. Oh, and it's quite a good game as well; thoughtfully designed, charmingly presented with constant player reward and a world that demands to be explored.

World of WarCraft, we salute you.