E3 is here, new consoles are here, and another era of gaming has come to a close. So, we’re sending off this part of history with some personal lists of what we will remember from this console generation. You may be surprised what you see on this list, and if you don’t, there is still time to see for yourself.
Craig Cirillo’s Top 5
Gears of War
The original Gears of War marked the first BIG title for me in this generation of consoles. It also was the most fun I have had playing multiplayer over Xbox Live and still is to this day. The awesome graphics which still hold up today and the countless hours spent playing multiplayer with mates means this game was one of my favourites for this generation.
The trailers leading up to the release of Alan Wake had me interested but not expecting a lot. But when I played this game, I was instantly hooked. Never had I experienced a game with such atmosphere. I loved the story, loved the way the game unfolded and loved being given a fright when I didn’t expect something shoot out of the dark at you. Just brilliant.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Having obtained a PS3 later in the generation than I did an Xbox meant I missed out on the release of the original Uncharted game. However hearing amazing things about Uncharted 2 I just couldn’t wait to play it. And when I did I could not put it down. One of the most breathtaking games to look at this generation, coupled with great gameplay and a great story, Uncharted 2 is one game every gamer should experience.
Whilst not a genre defining game or by any means one of the best games to be released this generation, Halo 3 makes my list as it sticks out in my mind when I think about this generation due to the huge anticipation that it created prior to its release. It was the first Halo of this generation, the last in the initial Halo trilogy and was to be a defining moment for the Xbox 360. I personally loved the campaign and the send off it gave the Master Chief in the first trilogy.
Gran Turismo 5
Although not a massive racing game fan and one that probably prefers the Forza series over the Gran Turismo series, Gran Turismo 5 made my list of games that defined this generation as if ever there was a game that was the most anticipated game ever to grace a console, it was GT5 on the PS3. Whilst it took AGES to release, the final product was great and a definite defining moment for the PS3. Let’s just hope that Gran Turismo 6 doesn’t take as long to grace our consoles.
Charlotte Grace’s Top 5
Skyrim falls into one of my favourite genres of all. Many follow behind but Skyrim made it to the top of my list purely for the amount of gameplay that can be put into it. In-depth customization of your character and even the skills you choose on how to play. The options seem endless, riding around on a horse slashing at your enemies and even building your own home and adopting children to look after. Even choose to be a werewolf or vampire. Skyrim topped my list of all due to the amount of time I can put into it and still be entertained by the endless options to do.
Borderlands made my list as it is one of the most entertaining and unique games to play with friends. Giving you tons of loot and laughs, you and your friends will always want to go back and play it. I still find myself on the hunt to finish things I didn’t the first time round. With cartoon style graphics and style Borderlands will always be one of my favorites.
Whether it’s good or evil who wouldn’t want to be a conquerer? Rule your kingdom with the command of minions who follow you everywhere telling you how awesome you are even when you cause havoc and destroy everything in your path. Design your tower and rule the world. Overlord had me laughing and enjoying every action I took.
One of the best Sandbox games I have ever played for hours on end. Minecraft has kept me entertained with endless things to do and create. Furthermore, I can play with up to 8 friends and using that combined imagination you can create endless wonders in your world. Minecraft reminds me of the hours I spent as a child building my worlds with LEGO and brings joy of those childhood memories.
Little Big Planet 2
I spent hours and hours playing Little Big Planet sculpting my world and myself to how I see fit. Not only can you customize your personal “Sackboy” in many ways, you can also sculpt the levels you play on. You can create your very own world to play on. Even sculpt the level itself into any size, shape or form. Play solo or with friends. Share the wonders of your creations with the world and let anyone have a crack at them. Who wouldn’t want to create their own land?
Paul Barbara’s Top 5
Heavy Rain is a game that, upon first glance, didn’t really impress me that much. You begin as Ethan Mars, a young architect living in a beautiful house, couple of kids etc when disaster strikes. Ethan’s life is turned upside down when his son is kidnapped by a serial killer and he has to track him down. However, Heavy Rain plays more like an interactive movie than a typical game. You interact with your environment in many ways by touching icons on the screen for example. Everything from opening a door to firing a weapon, require a series of commands. At first the game was slow, however, once you spend a good hour understanding the mechanics, Heavy Rain opens up and immensely at that.
Heavy Rain feels like a giant Quick-Time event yet its perfectly executed. You really feel like you’re watching a movie with choices you make having different impacts and outcomes. Heavy Rain was a game this generation that changed the way you played from the traditional mould and broke free so to speak. Heavy Rain will be remembered as one of those very niche titles that mixed things up with exceedingly good results. A game that shaped this generation indeed.
Gears Of War
Gears of War was defined as this generation’s “Bro Shooter,” but to me Gears of War gave birth to a new style of third person shooter. Set on the planet Sera, life was good till Emergence Day, the day where the Locust horde burst through the surface and fought with mankind. A simple story yes, and one filled with many holes to boot, however, the gameplay and design comes together flawlessly and captured a massive new audience. Gears brought back fun to the shooter genre which was at the time becoming quite stale with an oversaturation of World War 2 shooters.
Gears of War brought to the forefront of gamers minds the idea of the cover system. Sure its been used in other games, but never so effectively and with so much ease. Gears of War made you play differently as running and gunning would see you punished hard. Epic also set the bar for the best visuals seen on an Xbox 360 game with the power of the Unreal Engine. Gears of War was a new IP, new way of playing what was a traditional shooter. Gears went on to spawn two sequels and a prequel and is one of the reasons to own an Xbox 360 this generation.
Nathan Drake, explorer, archaeologist, treasure hunter… enough said. The Uncharted series was very quick to be known as the reason to buy a Playstation 3. I know, because that’s the whole reason why I bought my PS3 and I am glad I did. Uncharted pushed the Sony Playstation to graphical superiority with its release and quickly became the benchmark for the best water effects on a console. However, there was more to Uncharted than just jaw dropping visuals, it was the narrative and explorative story that had gamers hooked. The chance for adventure, hidden treasure and more is an inherently entertaining prospect, and in that way the series takes me back to the movie “The Goonies”. Uncharted was a game that gave PS3 owners a fantastic adventure game which proudly spawned two sequels and a PS Vita version to boot. If you own a PS3, you owe it to yourself to see what the fuss is all about with Uncharted.
Super Mario Galaxy
If there is one thing Nintendo knows how to make, it’s a Mario game. However, how does Mario continue to evolve and yet still push the boundaries of the franchise whilst still remaining true to form? Well, Nintendo has done that and Super Mario Galaxy is one of the titles that has set the bar for the Nintendo Wii this generation. Mario Galaxy consists of just that, a galaxy filled with many planets that you can traverse between. However, each planet is its own unique world offering some very mind-blowing physics and gravity effects. The ability to run around, jump, or slide whether you’re upside down or not, really pushes you into a new 3D realm. Mario Galaxy is true to the Nintendo franchise, yet the traditional gameplay was mixed up with Galaxy and for the better. The game is gorgeous and there is plenty to see and do, and it’s a true testament to the Nintendo Wii’s ability to churn out genre defining games whilst still the underdog in terms of hardware performance.
Love it or hate it, Wii Sports changed the face of gaming this generation. Nintendo launched the Wii to a massive amount of media hate who cited that the Wii wouldn’t last a year. All of our professional journalists and experts were wrong. The Nintendo Wii rocketed to the hottest item on the planet, and everyone including your grandma wanted one. Selling over 100 million units and the leader of this generation in terms of Sales, the Wii did bring some genre defining games, the biggest was Wii Sports. Wii Sports was strategically shipped with the system and was a series of mini games such as bowling, baseball, tennis etc. The simplicity and accuracy of the motion control system made Wii Sports an instant hit and opened the way forward for motion controlled gaming. Sony took a few years to introduce “The Move” and Microsoft also similar time frames to release “Kinect”. Each major competitor realized Motion Gaming was too good of a cash cow to not cash in on.
Wii Sports this generation changed physically how we gamed. Whether you’re still a fan or not is no longer important. Wii Sports was simple and fun, lacked high end graphics, but was immensely playable and helped introduce more people to video games. The fact that the gaming space was changed so dramatically is a testament to Nintendo’s creativity and constant desire to innovate. That’s why Wii Sports gets my vote for one of the best games to define this generation.
Tyler Chancey’s Top 5
Having played video games for as long as I could hold a controller, there has always been one thing that I always seek: a sense of challenge. A game that doesn’t hold back or assume I need my hand held at all times for fear that I’ll get bored and do something constructive. It couldn’t just crank up raw numbers and steamroll me though, it had to be fair, reward creativity and encourage thinking outside the box. If Dark Souls was just that, it would have been enough. A bona fide godsend for veteran gamers worried the “Casual Revolution” brought in by the Wii would mean the death of truly challenging experiences. Yet, Dark Souls was also a master-class act in terms of ambient storytelling. On the surface, there really appears to be no story, but with a little bit of digging, some thought when examining the world, and some collaboration with the community one can find stories of tragedy, bigotry, horrible things done for good intentions, and a conspiracy among the world’s Gods. A game that treats its audience aggressively yet respectfully with its gameplay and narrative is one thing, but the community along whom you fight (or kill) is just icing on the cake.
The Mass Effect Trilogy
Technically these are three games but they’re all part of a large grand whole. Ever since Knights of the Old Republic, I have been a fan of Bioware’s RPGs, and when they were finally given a blank canvas to tell their own piece of science fiction, it was one of the most compelling reasons I could find to buy an Xbox 360. It didn’t disappoint. Mass Effect became a great sci-fi action RPG with a rich spanning history, exotic alien beings, and arguably the most inflammatory ending for a game trilogy that has been seen in years. The very fact that you could import your version of Commander Shepard across all three games, maintain relationships that you have, be they platonic or romantic, and feel the constant escalation of stakes really does make the whole experience feel more involving than some games attempt over a single game. Bioware really know how to write characters, and the likes of Tali Zorah, Garrus Vakarian, Urdnot Wrex, and Liara T’Soni will be sticking with me for years to come.
The Walking Dead: A Series by Telltale Games
Last year, the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences had two nominees for Game of the Year 2012. Both were not big-budget AAA projects. Both didn’t spend millions of dollars in assets for photo-realism or other goals that requires lots of manpower, processing power and financial power. Both were modestly budgeted indie studio projects that were mostly known for niche appeal. Telltale Games, mostly known as “that studio that still makes point-and-click adventure games” was one of those nominees with The Walking Dead.
Being in North America when this game launched was completely unlike anything I could have imagined in terms of a Game of the Year nominee getting popular. It wasn’t because of millions of dollars in advertising, nor was it console exclusive. It simply launched, and people began to spread the word. It wasn’t a game being released, it was an event. Playstation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, PC, smartphones and tablets, The Walking Dead could be played by anyone on anything they wanted and didn’t exclude anyone who wanted to play it. A completely uncompromised zombie apocalypse story full of sacrifice, hard to make decisions that people will remember, and some of the best writing the medium has seen, it was a blockbuster in a way that many never saw coming.
Spec Ops: The Line
Why exactly is a repetitive third-person modern military shooter doing on this list? Why not something more polished and impactful as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare? A military shooter that completely took the world by storm, made the series a household name, and started off a bizarre arms race by many developers to attempt to emulate the formula in an attempt to make lightning strike twice seems a lot more impactful than an imitator, right? Well, that’s the joke that slipped by a lot of people when this unsung masterpiece hit shelves. I’ve mentioned before several times at length and in-depth as to why Spec Ops is such a bitter pill to swallow, but it bears repeating. Spec Ops was a game made specifically as a counter-point to the popularity of Call of Duty games. While the mainstream audience and Call of Duty fans enjoyed the glorified, Hollywood-esque military fiction where the protagonists succeed and the terrorists die, Spec Ops went for something more mature. It was a game that dealt with the all too real issue of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and its entire campaign was designed as a brutally harsh condemnation of the blindsighted, war-hero fantasies being trumpeted elsewhere. It is an emotionally draining, sobering campaign that I have cleared three times and will forever haunt my memory whenever the newest CoD or Battlefield comes out purely on its last ten minutes alone. In a gameplay sense, yes it was an unremarkable third-person shooter, but anyone who tells you real war is full of explosions, near escapes, snowmobile chases and bullet-time assisted door breaches needs to go back to their home planet.
Mortal Kombat (2011)
This console generation has had one thing in spades: remakes and reboots. Halo got a 10th Anniversary re-release on the Xbox 360, every single major piece of IP from the Playstation 2 got a revival in the form of HD Collections, and developers started going back to the well with reboots and revivals. This console generation got a reboot of Wolfenstein, Twisted Metal, Tomb Raider, XCOM, Bionic Commando, Devil May Cry, Goldeneye, a psuedo revival of Golden Axe that was dead on arrival, another Aliens vs. Predator that fell flat, the list goes on.Without fail, every single one of these reinterpretations of famous brands and franchises were either chasing trends of realism, dark and serious grit, or stuck to what made them so great in the first place and just shaved off some edges and touched itself up. It worked for some, but none of ever been as impressive as Mortal Kombat triumphant return.
I remember back when the original Mortal Kombat was a thing of controversy over its realistic (at the time) depiction of violence and gore in a videogame, and yet managed to be both bloody as well as dopey and silly (Friendship!). When Ed Boon and what was left of Midway became Netherrealm Studios and announced a reboot of Mortal Kombat, fans, myself included, were worried. The series went through a pretty hard to watch identity crisis, trying to reconcile its sillier elements with over-the-top blood splatter and so-bad-it’s-good story, and the idea of a “gritty” reboot just didn’t seem right. What happened when the reboot of Mortal Kombat came out? Rebirth. The fighting engine was brutal and unique from the conventions of Street Fighter, characters from previous games were woven into the new retelling of the story, and the game nailed its cheesy tone and B-movie subplots all while delivering on deliciously fun to watch fatalities. As a fan of the series, I am glad this console generation didn’t forget about the past with these revivals. I almost forgot the joy of hearing “FINISH HIM!” being bellowed after beating down a reptilian ninja with an undead hellfire spectre, and now I won’t have to.