And that’s that. After eight years, the seventh generation is now at an end. Well, there is Dark Souls 2 and other cross-gen games, but those will likely be coming to PC. Otherwise, it’s now officially at an end for me as of today.
The PS3 and Xbox 360 have been packed away and the games that used to sit on the shelves have joined the remaining other games from this generation in a container box as it sits in wait for the next generation as I mentioned back earlier this year (well, no, they haven’t, I’m slightly being dramatic a bit – watch the stream and see).
That said, I’m still going to break either one out now and then. Maybe for nostalgia, maybe to play the Grand Theft Auto V DLC that’ll eventually drop, maybe to do both parts of Burial at Sea for BioShock Infinite and maybe to do the story DLC of The Last of Us.
But now, PS4 has taken its places (with Xbox One to follow soon), while the shelves will start to fill up once again to the brim with each system’s respective games over the next year or so.
With that, before I leave it for good, I’ve picked a list containing 76 games that I’ve enjoyed that I consider to the best of the generation, with ten of them being the best examples – in my eyes – that games aren’t some little niche past-time anymore. That they show that games are not just a true form of entertainment, but also some of which can be considered fantastic examples of art.
I made two rules to this, at least for the top ten. Multiple games are allowed from one studio, of course. But the kicker is they can’t be from the same IP. So this means picking only one game if a series has seen more than one release this generation.
And one last thing I should point out: these are the ten games I’ve personally enjoyed most over the generation, not the ten games that are mostly defined as the best from this cycle (Though with that said, there are some games on this that can certainly feature that tag).
So here we go. My ten favourite games of the generation. Its been a hell of a ride.
10 – The Beatles: Rock Band (Placing in GOTY list: third, 2009)
“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make,” McCartney says in that final song of the game. Anything Harmonix does is done with care and respect to music. After all, music is in its DNA and it’s something they truly care about, you can see it in their games – past, present and future. But The Beatles: Rock Band was a lovingly crafted love letter from the developer, not just to The Beatles, but to music as a whole. Outstanding.
Highlight: Playing the Abbey Road melody once the entire album was bought.
9 – Portal 2 (Placing in GOTY list: N/A, 2011)
We may go on waiting another six years for a resolution to Dr Freeman’s story, but in the case of Portal 2, it was Valve’s finest hour since that Red Letter Day nearly ten years ago.
Highlight: Anything with Wheatley. Seriously, just anything with him is golden.
8 – Heavy Rain (Placing in GOTY list: second, 2010)
Heavy Rain is a game that told an engrossing story, one of the best of the generation, and asked the player serious questions about morality in the process. Beyond may not have lived up to the high standards of what came from the studio before it, but personally speaking, if Heavy Rain – and to a lesser extent tech demo Kara – showed what’s still possible from Quantic Dream, then Beyond was merely a blip.
Sign me up for what comes next.
Highlight: The final third of the game.
7 – Mass Effect 2 (Placing in GOTY list: first, 2010)
Mass Effect 2, more or less, feels like the Shepard trilogy’s version of The Empire Strikes Back. Again, no dramatics, just an awesome AAA blockbuster that was incredible to sink your teeth into for the 30-40 hours or so that the game has you for.
Highlight: Omega [“DONT. FUCK. WITH. ARIA.“]
6 – Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (Placing in GOTY list: first, 2008)
Metal Gear Solid 4 has the hallmarks of Hideo Kojima within: ridiculously long cut-scenes, weird Kojima-like moments and the Hollywood inspiration that bears on the game like a hawk. And this won’t make sense if you’ve not been following the series since MGS1 (or at least, like me, since MGS2), but Kojima always makes sure you’re in for a massively wild ride.
If you got in just for MGS4, chances are you just won’t get it. But for the fan who’s been in since MGS1/2, who’s had to put up with breaking the fourth wall, La-Le-Lu-Li-Lo and nanomachines but also some fantastic messaging on anti-nuke, riveting characters, censorship and current & future technology, MGS4 is still another enjoyable Hideo Kojima ride.
And I quite like it.
Highlight: The reveal of The Patriots’ origins and the breakdown in the relationship between Big Boss and Zero
5 – BioShock Infinite (Placing in GOTY list: third, 2013)
BioShock Infinite is a shooter that tries to break the norms of a traditional shooter and tries something different within a genre that is filled with so many space marine/military shooters as of these past few years. A fascinating, incredibly made world to explore – both before its downfall and whilst in the midst of its ruins – its themes of racism, politics and religion with a fascinating set of characters to boot and brilliant setpieces.
Highlight: That scene in [REDACTED]
4 – Grand Theft Auto V (Placing in GOTY list: second, 2013)
If GTA IV represented a cold and depressed Rockstar North that eventually perked up with the released of its DLC, Grand Theft Auto V represented the Edinburgh-based studio’s finest work in not just the series’ sixteen year history, but one of Rockstar’s finest in its now fifteen year history.
Highlight: Getting up to hijinx with friends on Grand Theft Auto Online
3 – Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (Placing in GOTY list: first, 2009)
Uncharted 2 was an action spectacle like no other. A story with some brilliant wit but also maturity around it and a superb cast, all with incredible setpiece sequences and outstanding scenery surrounding it. It advanced storytelling in games to whole new heights that, until then, not been seen for a long time. It confirmed Naughty Dog as the flagship studio within Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios and if they weren’t already, they were now among gaming’s development elite.
Highlight: The hotel in Tibet
2 – Journey (Placing in GOTY list: first, 2012)
Journey was already something incredible, in my eyes. But having now seen it in an entirely new way after this, it’s something more, something higher. And that in itself is truly the biggest praise I can heap upon Journey and Thatgamecompany.
Highlight: Heading through to the other side with someone alongside me – an emotional moment that signifies that games are now finally, if not already, a legitimate art form and not just a niche form of entertainment.
1 – The Last of Us (Placing in GOTY list: first, 2013)
The Last of Us is special. Game of the Year doesn’t even come close to how I feel about it. Game of the Generation gets it partly there. But it overtaking Metal Gear Solid 3, the first game I truly fell in love with and the one game to make me realise that all I want to do was write about games, as my favourite game ever is probably the biggest honour I can bestow upon it.
Highlight: The final few minutes of Winter – those final few minutes between Joel and Ellie perfectly encapsulated the entire relationship the game had been building up to by that point.
Special mentions: Grand Theft Auto IV, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Tomb Raider, Mirror’s Edge, Alan Wake, BioShock, Mass Effect 1 & 3, Forza Horizon, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Bayonetta, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Batman: Arkham City, Fable II, Assassin Creed 1 & II, LA Noire, LittleBigPlanet, Valkyria Chronicles, Killzone 2, The Walking Dead (Telltale), Team Fortress 2, Portal, Project Gotham Racing 4, Crackdown, Halo 3, Rayman Origins, Burnout Paradise, Metal Gear Online, Gears of War 1 & 2.
Honorable mentions: Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, Forza Motorsport 3, Call of Duty: Black Ops 1 & 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum, LittleBigPlanet 2, Uncharted 1 & 3, Resistance 2, Rock Band 3, DmC: Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Rising, Dishonored, DJ Hero 1, Sleeping Dogs, Far Cry 3, Spec Ops: The Line, Trials HD and Evolution, Halo Reach, Max Payne 3, SSX, Saints Row: The Third and Saints Row IV, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, NBA Street: Homecourt, Splinter Cell: Conviction, Split/Second, Sound Shapes, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Flower, Motorstorm and Motorstorm Apocalypse, PixelJunk Eden, Super Mario Galaxy, Madworld and Red Dead Redemption.
(There are no collections or packs as a whole in here due to either being HD re-releases or released as actual collections (though special mentions in this regard for Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, Zone of the Enders HD Collection and the Team Ico Collection), but if they counted, The Orange Box would be in the top two because it’s literally the best fucking thing this generation that isn’t The Last of Us.)