Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (PS2)
Raiden controversy aside, MGS2 was another epic game in a series that rarely missteps. Plot twists, humor, stealth, and memorable characters abounded. MGS2 solidified that when you get a Metal Gear title, you're going to get the highest quality game experience around. Oh, and offbeat humor. Lots of that, too.
Personal Highlight: Late in the game (and playing late at night), the Colonel starts acting… strangely, to put it mildly. Amidst his rants was a plea to, among other things, turn off your console and take a break. Few games can break the 4th wall like Metal Gear and pull you in.
Final Fantasy X (PS2)
Seriously, how many genre-defining games can 2001 have? I wanted to keep each year's featured titles down to three apiece, but 2001 already made that impossible. FFX was the long-awaited Final Fantasy follow up for the next generation PlayStation 2. Cutting edge graphics and all-new voice acting made FFX the biggest jump forward in the series since FFVII.
Personal Highlight: I'm a big fan of the Final Fantasy series, but the thing that I took the most joy from in FFX was quite simple: being able to switch party members in and out during battle. No longer would any of my party members be the next Cait Sith and permanently ride the bench.
Other Notable Releases in 2001: Max Payne (PC) gives a film noir meets Matrix take on gaming. Advance Wars (GBA) spawns a franchise of addictive, handheld turn-based strategy games. Civilization III (PC) continues to innovate the award winning series. Super Smash Bros. Melee (GC) brings the pain in another Nintendo IP mash-up.