Welcome to USgamer's Greatest Years in Gaming History feature. We've listed gaming's most important software, hardware and events from every year, and have also written in-depth articles about the five years we believe are the most significant. But which one is the greatest of all? We'd like you do decide that.
While you think about it, here's our smorgasbord of historical gaming info. Click on the links to read about each decade's most significant gaming events, as well as the articles on our favorite years.
The 1970's saw the birth of the video games industry. During this decade, the best gaming technology was found in arcades. At home, the first and second generation of gaming machines began to establish what would ultimately become a multibillion dollar entertainment industry. But not without a few ups and downs beforehand.
The 1980's were tumultuous times for the gaming industry. The decade started brightly enough with a steadily-expanding market. However, market saturation and poor quality control precipitated a games business crash of the likes never seen before or since. Aided by Nintendo's hugely successful NES the industry bounced back, and by the end of the 90's was on a rapid growth path once again.
The 1990's saw significant evolutionary improvements both in games and the technology used to play them. Two years in particular stand out as highly notable – 1991 and 1997. These were the years that represented the peak periods of change – and were witness to some of the most memorable games of the decade.
The first decade of the new millennium saw the industry shift dramatically as its products began to transition from physical media to direct digital distribution. Online gaming also became an increasingly important part of gaming. Independent publishing via digital distribution also began to disrupt gaming's traditional publishing structure. Finally, the rise of games-capable smartphone and tablet devices helped gaming become a truly mass-market entertainment business.
Although we're only halfway through this decade, we've already seen large-scale changes as digital content and social online gameplay become key facets of the industry. Livestreaming also becomes a significant part of gaming culture.
USGamer Staff Picks: The Five Greatest Years in Gaming History
Here are the individual USG team picks, with links to each of their in-depth articles about the year they believe is the greatest.
If not for the events of 1983, gaming as we know it would be a far different, and likely far lesser, creature. It was gaming's first truly great year, and the basis for every great year since.
Perhaps the most important period so far in video game history was the early 90's, and one year in particular stands out. That's 1991, a twelve month period that in many respects represents a temporal watershed between the early days of the games industry, and the true beginnings of the modern era.
It's one of the only years I can think of in which something truly interesting happened within the industry every single month. Whether it was Nintendo finally pulling the plug on NES production in January, the appearance of Windows 95 in August, or the dramatic rise of the real-time strategy and 3D fighter genres in the fall, there was always something to talk about.
In our modern age of gaming, it seems progress comes solely in baby steps. But you only have to peer back into the '90s to witness a time when each new technological advancement shot us light years forward into a brave, new frontier. In 1998, it still seemed as if gaming had an unlimited potential for surprise.
While the rest of my compatriots are choosing numbers prior to 2000 for their own personal greatest years in gaming, I'm drawn to a year within the last decade. My choice may not be as pivotal or historic as some of the previous choices, but a number of great games and franchises were launched during the halcyon days of 2007.