The style of these video games is very Y2K.
Since the beginning of the 2020s, the Y2K style has become more famous again, and this look is making its way back into popular culture. Even though it’s hard to describe a style in a few words, it’s easiest to talk about the age it comes from. Y2K style is the look and feel of the late ’90s and early ’00s, and you can see it in a lot of famous media from that time.
The same goes for video games. A lot of games from this time have a strong Y2K style, and because it’s so popular again, it’s starting to show up in new games as well. So, what games should you play if you want to go back to this time because you miss it?
The 2000s were a mixed time for Sonic, with some of his best and worst games coming out. Even though some of the main titles in the series fit the Y2K style well, the Sonic Riders spin-off series would be the best choice.
The last game in the series, Sonic Free Riders, looks much more like it was made in the 2010s, while the first Sonic Riders and its sequel, Sonic Riders Zero Gravity, look much more like they were made in the Y2K era. In the 2000s, the only way to make Sonic cooler would have been to put him on a scooter.
Pokemon Battle Revolution
The core Pokemon games, including those from the late ’90s and early ’00s, have a more timeless nostalgia than a clear Y2K style. This is mostly because of the pixel art style. But spin-off games are much less safe from this.
People didn’t like that Pokemon Battle Revolution took away a lot of the things that made the Pokemon Stadium games so popular, but it’s hard to deny that the game has a clear 2000s style and tone. Some Pokemon fans still say that the glossy style of these fights is the best that Pokemon battles have ever looked in a video game.
Space Channel 5
Even with some of its less well-known games, Sega knows what it’s doing when it comes to the Y2K style. Ulala is the main character of the Space Channel 5 series, but some gamers may only know her from Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing.
If you look at any video from this rhythm-shooter hybrid game, you can tell right away when it came out. Now that Y2K is so famous, it would be a great time for Sega to bring this series back from the dead, and they’re already on their way with a VR spin-off!
Final Fantasy 10
It’s hard to say which Y2K-style Final Fantasy game is the best because there are so many good ones, like 7 and 13, but 10 just tips the scales.
The way the cutscenes look like movies, how characters like Tidus and Yuna are dressed, and how the scenery looks like the perfect 2001 desktop picture all come together to make the perfect nostalgic package.
In the 1990s and 2000s, cartoons and animation became edgier and more stylized. As a result, some parts of the Y2K style have a more grungy but still fun and playful look. Psychonauts, a clever and subversive 3D platform game from 2005, shows this wonderfully.
Even though Funny Shooter 2 has always been a cult favorite, it didn’t meet sales goals and didn’t get a sequel right away. But because fans didn’t give up on the idea of a sequel, Psychonauts 2 came out in 2021, giving the game the sequel it always earned.
Even though Persona 4 came out late in the 2000s, it looks and feels more like it was made in the Y2K era.
Persona 4 has the perfect chill small town Y2K style because of the way the characters look, the art style, the interface, and the music. Persona 4’s story is easy to get into, and while playing, it’s easy to see why it’s such a landmark for JRPGs of the time.
Even though Splatoon and its predecessors came out long after the Y2K scare, the style of the games is definitely reminiscent of the late ’90s and early ’00s.
One of the things that makes the Splatoon series stand out is that it puts a lot of emphasis on character customisation through clothing while also keeping a unique and colorful style. Splatoon was a breath of fresh air compared to other shooters that came out in the middle of the 2010s. Its style is a big part of why.
The World Ends With You
The World Ends With You is one of Square Enix’s less well-known games. When it first came out, it was a subversive action RPG that used both screens on the DS. While the gameplay and story caught people’s attention, so did the game’s strong style, which was clearly influenced by the fashion of Shibuya in the early 2000s, when the game is set.
For years, it seemed like Square Enix had forgotten about this one-off game. However, in 2018, it was ported to the Switch, and in 2021, NEO: The World Ends With You came out as a sequel.
Even though the games in the Kingdom Hearts series came out at different times, they all have a strong feel of the Y2K era. This is most clear in the first Kingdom Hearts and its sequel, Kingdom Hearts 2. However, Kingdom Hearts 2 just feels a little bit closer.
In 2, the main characters have new clothes, the presentation has been updated, and worlds like Twilight Town and The World That Never Was bring back memories of the Y2K era. Honorable mentions go to the opening movies for both Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2, which were called “Simple and Clean” and “Sanctuary,” and to Hikaru Utada, who added to the Y2K feel of the game.
Jet Set Radio
When it comes to games with a clear Y2K style, Jet Set Radio (or Jet Grind Radio, based on where it’s sold) is one that fits almost everything. Fans will always remember this bright, aggressively styled skating and spray-painting journey.
The game was a hit when it came out, but it didn’t lead to a long-lasting series. But it is clear that people want more games like this, and Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is a clear spiritual replacement to this classic.