The time has finally come – the top ten games of this generation. We are expecting your bile and vitriol; not everyone will agree with us, but it’s important to remember that this list was based on what made us all happy to be gamers this generation. Not based on sales, scores, fancy metrics or algorithms, we fought it out to make this list, and we hope it just goes to show how many fantastic games we had in this generation.
10 – XCOM: Enemy Unknown (PC, Mac, Xbox 360, PS3)
Taking an old, but very loved classic franchise and trying to give it a modern overhaul is not an easy task. And yet, Firaxis managed to do just that, and do it with aplomb. Last year’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown reboot managed to capture the very essence of what made the original games so great.
The war between humans and Sectoids has never looked, or played so well, and Firaxis even managed to make a predominantly “PC” game feel at home on a console. It reignited gamers’ passion for “smart” games, where every single turn brings with it heightened tension, and the threat of permanently losing soldiers you’ve built up over hours of stressful gameplay.
You want to keep everyone one of your soliders alive, which means carefully – so very, very carefully – planning every single move, like a very shooty game of chess. And yet, in spite of its difficulty, learning curve and heart-wrenching frustration, it’s immediately accessible. That in itself is incredible.
9 – Pokemon X and Y (Nintendo 3DS)
As much fun as Pokemon games are, they were beginning to stagnate. Pokemon Diamond and Pearl is a fine example of this, followed by Black and White which succeeded in halting that rot, before an unnecessary sequel infected the franchise all over again.
The various lands of the Pokemon world needed a fresh start. Something more colourful and more befitting the underrated Nintendo 3DS. And by concentrating on the visual and social side of the franchise, developer Game Freak breathed new life into the series.
Graphics don’t make a game, but they certainly helped augment a new era for Pokemon.
8 – Rayman Origins (PC, Mac, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PS Vita, Nintendo 3DS)
Rayman himself, as a character, had been relegated to the background in recent years as his Rabbid spin-off characters hogged the limelight. That all changed this generation when he went back to his roots, in a 2D platformer in one of the most beautiful fluid, and fun games made this generation; Rayman Origins.
Though it maintains an external aesthetic that paints it as game for kids, Rayman Origins is soul-crushingly difficult platformer, wrapped up in a package of irresistible goofy charm. Throw in four player co-op and this old-school, retro platformer shines.
Few games have elicited such a feeling of intense player reward, especially factored against its impeccable level design – which makes it feel like everything is just out of reach. And yet, you’ll still try and go for it; every lum, every teensie and every electoon.
7 – Portal (PC, Mac, Xbox 360, PS3)
A game with such an immortal reputation like Portal almost needs no introduction. Who would’ve thought that a game that started out as a Digipen school project and thrown into the Orange Box as a last minute extra would be the crowd favourite of the whole collection? Portal is just that good.
Portal is a first person platformer. You play as silent protagonist Chell, a test subject in the Aperture Laboratories headed by the very likable robotic villan GLaDOS. You use a device called the handheld portal device to make a linked tunnel on any white surface in order to traverse rooms filled with obstacles and adorable automated turrets. During testing the story unravels slowly as you find out what you’re doing and GLaDOS’s true intentions.
The game is short, about 3 to 4 hours, but it’s a great time. The gameplay mechanics don’t overstay their welcome and the story and black humour is beautifully paced. It gave weight to the premise that a simple mechanic could be the core of your game, and that simplicity in design doesn’t mean simplicity in depth and storytelling. It truly is one of those ‘must play’ games that everyone talks about. The hype is real, Portal is one of the best games ever made.
6 – Braid (PC, Mac, Xbox 360, PS3)
Jonathan Blow became an instant celebrity with the release of his arcade puzzle, time control, emotionally engrossing title Braid. At first glance the game appears to be a blatant copy of the Mario bros platforming experience with an entirely new, and disturbing graphical style.
However the more you play the more you realise the genius behind the time control abilities in the game making it one of the most entertaining and frustratingly difficult games of the generation. But it is still just a decent platformer and nothing else.
Those who haven’t finished Braid are probably wondering how we could rate this the 6th most important game of this generation, but those of you who have realise that this game’s story and plot twists are truly inspirational and something that all games should try and aspire to.
5 – Borderlands 2 (PC, Mac, Xbox 360, PS3, PS Vita)
When you look at game sequels, the formula is pretty simple. More of the same, but with fewer bugs and more improvements. Borderlands 2 took this idea to heart, creating a world that was still filled with more guns than common sense, but by adding so much more to Pandora and ending up with a game that was better in multiple ways.
Guns felt better, had character and were unique extensions of the fictional brands found in the Borderlands universe. New character classes were introduced with branching skill tress that catered to any gameplay taste. The game got a proper story and a villain who was far better than the space-vagina from the end of the first game.
Borderlands 2 is what a sequel should be. Bigger, better and bolder.
4 – The Last of Us (PS3)
In a generation dominated by zombie games, most were jaded on the genre by the time The Last of Us was released. However, The Last of Us is so much more than a mere zombie survival game, stretching the PS3 to its full potential for graphics, while pushing players to their emotional potential through magnificent story-telling and character development.
At its core, The Last of Us is a story about Joel and Ellie’s journey across America, years after the “infected” outbreak has destroyed what we knew as civilization. Along the way, they must fight infected/zombies as well as healthy humans who have simply lost their humanity. The Last of Us looks at what would happen to us in the event of an apocalypse, and how our sense of right and wrong might shift accordingly.
Allowing players to choose their gameplay style, The Last of Us sets itself apart from the usual violence in games, showing Ellie’s revulsion towards killing and fear in the moments of stealth. These small details lend the game a heightened degree of realism and immersion. The Last of Us is a fantastic experience in gaming as a whole, let alone on the PS3.
3 – Red Dead Redemption (Xbox 360, PS3)
The Wild West has fascinated people for generations – just look at the masses of spaghetti Westerns. Red Dead Redemption takes players back to those bad old days, when bandits waiting around every corner, horses needed to be caught and tamed and the law didn’t have quite the long arms it’s known for.
As expected from Rockstar, Red Dead Redemption was a revelation in gaming when they released it. The open-world sandbox genre is their forte, and this time they unleashed their attention to detail on an exquisite environment, complete with wild life, herbs and deranged old men with shotguns. Red Dead Redemption gave players the opportunity to take the law into their own hands, or become an outlaw themselves, or just spend hours hunting various birds and animals.
Red Dead Redemption offered players a rich storyline and gritty characters against a realistic and living environment. With plenty of options for all different types of game play activities, Red Dead Redemption took sandbox gameplay to a whole new level. Really, it just let us feel like we were walking around in cowboy boots with spurs on, and that made us all far too happy.
2 – GTA V (Xbox 360, PS3)
GTA IV was a well received game that ticked many boxes but that also seemed to lose some of the enjoyment out of gaming and being the good bad guy in the story.
GTA V however recouped that in spades and broke the sandbox mold by not only making an incredibly huge open world game that allowed you to play multiple different games within a game with interweaving story lines and immersive gameplay. But it also brought in the ability to play as 3 different characters in one story. We were worried about whether or not Rockstar could pull this off and make it enjoyable and somehow they managed.
Not only was the story incredible but the characters were insanely entertaining and then you tack on a huge, if slightly flawed, multiplayer portion and you start to understand the scope of this game and what Rockstar were able to accomplish bringing such a polished and massive game to the market.
It’s still but a puppy of this generation but it has already become the sandbox title that all future titles will be measured against.
1 – Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
And finally, we’re at our top game of the generation. This choice may prove controversial to many – but only those who haven’t actually played Super Mario Galaxy and its equally gravity-defying sequel. Taking the beloved plumber out in to space may seem like a strange design choice, but it’s one that’s been perfectly executed.
Pulling of the sort of visuals you’d never imagine the Wii would be capable of, it still stands as one of the most aesthetically beautiful games of the generation, even if it is in SD. Even if it looked awful (which, to re-iterate, it doesn’t) it would be a masterpiece.. For starters, it’s insanely, wildly creative. Yes, it features a character who’s been in more games than any reasonable person could count, but with each new area the game brings with it a handful of incredible, inventive ideas, keeping it fresh and exciting through the entire game.
Very few games can even aspire to perfection, and fewer still come close to that impossible ideal. If there’s one game that’s very nearly done that this generation though, it’s Super Mario Galaxy.
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