Since the birth of every entertainment medium, fans have argued over dating its heyday. Did we witness the pinnacle of film's artistic achievements during the silent era, the golden age, or in 2015? No doubt credible cases could be made for every year of the last hundred being the industry's peak, but another artistic medium offers far less choice.
Video games have only existed (in their current recognizable form) for the last 4 decades or so, meaning picking a year that stands out above the rest is a far less daunting task. At least, here's one convincing contender: 2004. When you see the wealth of video game goodness released in those short-but-oh-so-sweet 12 months you might just find it hard to disagree...
Building stars, destroying rings and wrestling with stealth mechanics
Four of these six games might be about shooting aliens in the face (a recurring theme), but one is about a prince rolling a ball through cities until he's stuck enough junk on it to turn it into a star, soooo... variety.
Folding plumbers, conquering empires and staring at Vin Diesel's perfectly bald head
Nintendo reinvented Mario -- a character as old as gaming -- by, well, making him 2D again (and adding a bunch of awesome RPG mechanics). Meanwhile, Sly Cooper continued to dominate the platforming space with his charming cell-shaded shenanigans and one of the greatest, most efficiently life-sucking strategy games ever arrived in the form of Rome Total War.
Kitchen fires, burning rubber and blazing deserts
One of Sony's biggest and most beautiful franchises, Killzone, started life with arguably its best installment. Naughty Dog reaffirmed their creative dominance by taking Jak to the sandy wasteland and The Sims 2 arrived, bringing with it a national epidemic of fake illnesses.
Barcodes, nano-machines and moral relativism
Peter Molyneux's delightful morality tale Fable dazzled critics, while Far Cry pushed the boundaries of player freedom in open world games. Not to mention Burnout 3, quite possibly the most satisfying crash simulator ever created. Hmm, that sounds just a touch sadistic...
Finding missile lock, making tough choices, blaming lag
After years of unbearable anticipation, Kojima released what many hold to be the best Metal Gear Solid game ever, Snake Eater. And if that wasn't enough, Valve unleashed their online competitive phenomenon in the form of Counter Strike, still played fervently today!
'World of Warcraft'
Blizzard's world-dominating MMO is the stuff of legend these days, but no one could have predicted the influence and impact it would come to have 11 years down the line. Today's 5 million + subscribers are testament to its genius and deviously addictive design.
'Star Wars: Battlefront'
This year's Battlefront reboot might very well blow the original out of the water, graphically speaking, but this absolute classic was where it all began and what a glorious origin it is.
'GTA: San Andreas'
The hugely anticipated follow up to Vice City finally arrived in October, introducing RPG elements, gang-fought territory wars and, lest we forget, jetpacks to the GTA formula.
Valve practically re-invented the first-person-shooter all over again with this physics-smart sci-fi adventure. We may still be waiting for the arrival of Half-life 3, but people would have lost interest in the wait years ago had this game not been so masterful.
The launch of the Nintendo DS
Yep, it's that blocky gray monstrosity you forgot all about as soon as the streamlined DS Lite arrived. it might not be beautiful, but it was the start of a dual screen phenomenon.
So, now we think about it, was 2004 really the greatest year in video game history?