1998 was a great year for video games. It saw the release of some of the best games in history as newbies Sony shook up the industry with the Playstation, Nintendo remained true to their primarily first-party approach and Sega began their descent towards the console business exit door.
Forgive me as I get nostalgic for a moment. I’ve recently taken a trip down memory lane and replayed many of the games that I loved in my youth (spoiler: Goldeneye holds up well today). As I’ve re-read weathered gaming magazines and scoured retro game collections, it struck me how many memorable games were released in 1998.
Despite not being from a wealthy household, me and my brothers somehow owned the Sony Playstation, Nintendo 64 and Sega Saturn at various points during the fifth console generation. As a result, I managed to experience many of the best games released in 1998 thanks to birthdays, Christmases, and frequent trade-ins at local game shops. Good times!
Regardless of which console you owned at the time or consider to be the greatest from the era, we’ve looked at all of the platforms to put together a list of the best games released in 1998 that you should definitely return to if you’re looking for a hit of nostalgia.
The Best Games Released in 1998
Metal Gear Solid – Playstation
A list of the best games released in 1998 wouldn’t be complete without Metal Gear Solid.
Metal Gear Solid was a landmark release for the video game industry. It was unlike anything we had played before and showed that video games could be much more than just games.
It told an elaborate story that wouldn’t have been out of place on the big screen, all through in-engine cinematic cutscenes which were masterfully intertwined with the stealth-focused gameplay. It was all delivered to a standard that had never been thought possible before.
Metal Gear Solid was an enormous leap forward for video games at the time and its legacy is still felt today. It is rightfully a regular fixture on lists of the best video games of all time and continues to be a point of comparison for cinematic games to this day.
Those of us in Europe had to wait until 1999 for this gem, but our friends in the USA and Japan got their hands on it in 1998 so it’s been included in this list of the best games released in 1998. Technicalities be damned.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Nintendo 64
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is undoubtedly one of the best games released in 1998 and one of the finest in the franchise. An enhanced port has since been released on the 3DS, but the original N64 version is still exceptional, even when compared to more modern releases.
Ocarina of Time was one of the most hotly anticipated games released in 1998 and sold around 2.5 million copies in just over a month before going on to become the fourth best-selling game on the N64.
It featured a rich open world, gorgeous graphics, an enjoyable combat system, and boasted replayability to boost the already impressive 25-30 hour play time.
If you are new to the Legend of Zelda franchise, you owe it to yourself to pick up the original Ocarina of Time on the N64 or the re-release on the 3DS.
Tomb Raider 3 – Playstation
Tomb Raider had already established itself as a leading video game franchise in 1998, thanks in part to the iconic Lara Croft, but Tomb Raider 3 eclipsed the first two instalments in every way. While it didn’t move the genre forward, it offered a more refined and complete experience than the previous releases and became the must-play Tomb Raider game of the time.
Tomb Raider 3 ambitious level designs, markedly improved enemy AI, and challenged (and at times frustrated) players which has made it a favourite of fans of the franchise.
Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped – Playstation
Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped was easily the best game in the series when it came out and was one of the best games released in 1998 despite it being a busy year for game releases.
Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped improved on every aspect of the previous games, introducing new moves, memorable bosses and even more enjoyable levels, accompanied by gorgeous graphics, a great soundtrack and entertaining gameplay.
Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped shows that great platformers remain fun even decades later. Fans of platformers should definitely dust off a copy.
Resident Evil 2 – Playstation
The original Resident Evil defined the horror genre on its release in 1996, giving birth to an untold number of clones in the process. While a few of the copycat titles were able to stand on their own two feet, no title surpassed Resident Evil until its sequel, Resident Evil 2, was released in 1998.
Resident Evil 2 didn’t look to change up the original’s formula. Instead, it provided a more polished experience and a better story which introduced series favourites Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield.
If you’ve played the excellent Resident Evil 2 remake and are interested in the Resident Evil franchise’s roots, the original Resident Evil 2 would be an excellent starting point. While the remake undoubtedly reflects a few decades of improvements, there are several things that the original Resident Evil 2 did better than the remake.
Panzer Dragoon Saga – Sega Saturn
It is a travesty that few gamers have experienced Panzer Dragoon Saga, the third entry in Sega’s Panzer Dragoon series. Panzer Dragoon and its much-improved successor, Panzer Dragoon 2 Zwei were both on-rails shooters, but Panzer Dragoon Saga was an RPG. And, what an RPG it was.
Panzer Dragoon Saga was a cinematic masterpiece spanning four discs and one of the Sega Saturn’s most ambitious titles. Unfortunately, it was released towards the end of the Sega Saturn’s life and wasn’t as much of a commercial success as many other titles on this list. As a result, original copies of the game are rare, regularly costing over a thousand dollars. Yes, a thousand dollars. If you can get your hands on a copy, it is definitely worth a play.
Banjo Kazooie – Nintendo 64
Released hot on the heels of Mario 64, many gamers who didn’t play Banjo Kazooie discounted it as a copycat of the Italian plumber’s classic 3D platformer. However, those who played it realised that it stood on its own two feet as one of the best games released in 1998 on the N64, and one of the best games released on the N64, period.
Banjo Kazooie had interesting levels packed with fun platforming sections which were a joy to traverse thanks to the finely-tuned controls. It still looks and plays great today and should be on the bucket list of any true platformer fan.
Spyro the Dragon – Playstation
Spyro was one of the Playstation’s key mascots and remains one of the most recognisable video game characters ever. Spyro made his debut in 1998 in Spyro the Dragon, a 3D platformer which utilised the titular character’s wings to glide around levels and cover long distances.
While many popular Playstation titles had more realistic or edgier aesthetics, Spyro the Dragon was full of colour, making the realms of the Dragon World a pleasure to explore while trying to defeat the dastardly Gnasty Gnorc.
Spyro the Dragon was remastered as a part of the Spyro Reignited Trilogy in 2018 for those who want to experience the delights of the original with a fresh coat of paint and some modern comforts. For those looking for the purest version, look no further than the original.
MediEvil – Playstation
MediEvil was markedly different from other games in the market when it released in 1998. The world had clear Gothic influences and meshed comedy with light horror to create a truly memorable title.
Set in 1280, MediEvil follows Sir Daniel, a knight who was famous for having defeated the evil Zarok and his undead army. In reality, Dan died in the first volley of arrows (taking one to the eye, hence, y’know, only having one eye), but is given the opportunity to redeem himself 100 years later when he is resurrected to face the returning Zarok once again.
MediEvil has developed something of a cult following since it was released and the 2019 remake failed to truly modernise the original. It may be nostalgia speaking, but the original version is the best in our eyes. Or, eye. Heh. Sorry.
Half-Life – PC
Half-Life needs no introduction. Forget the best games released in 1998, Half-Life is widely recognised as one of the best games ever made for any platform.
Half-Life was groundbreaking, simultaneously reinventing storytelling and universe building in games. It did away with cinematic cutaway scenes and instead put the emphasis on the world and the player, creating a more immersive experience in the process. It was the polar opposite of Metal Gear Solid (hence its placement at the opposite end of this list) but no less brilliant.
Half-Life deserves to be included on every gamer’s list of “must play” games. It defined a generation of first-person shooters and many of its innovations are now taken for granted as the industry standard. Storytelling in video games would be very different today had it never existed.
Have We Missed Any of the Best Games Released in 1998?
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: 1998 was a great year for video games. As a result, it is hard to put a list like this together without missing a few gems along the way. If there any games that you feel should have been included, let us know in the comments and we might make a few additions!