The Seventh Generation of Video Game Consoles is drawing to a close.
The Seventh Generation refers to the home consoles released by Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft that spanned 2005 to present day. For the sake of this article I’m also going to be including the portable consoles, the Nintendo DS and the Playstation Portable, which were released a year earlier.
It’s been a long and eventful eight years. Nintendo dramatically changed their fortunes from languishing with the GameCube to having the greatest market share with the Wii thanks to a savvy and bold move to target casual gamers. They were also helped by Wii Sports which could make a strong case for being one of the most beloved and influential launch games ever made.
Incredibly, the Wii went from dominating the sales charts to being absolutely dead as a doornail inside four years. It will still likely end up outpacing the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 but it lagged behind its competitors in month-on-month sales by 2010 and the availability of new software dried up dramatically.
Microsoft’s Xbox 360 made incredible inroads into establishing the company as a long term player in the video game market. They delivered the most cohesive and innovative online gaming experience that Nintendo and Sony are still yet to catch. The Xbox 360 also popularized Achievements, were first to the market with standardized wireless controllers and they were champions of bite-sized indy games and having an active and credible digital marketplace. It was just as well Microsoft delivered on these fronts as the launch consoles were notoriously unreliable with practically every launch unit eventually succumbing to the Red Ring of Death.
Sony started out hilariously badly with the Playstation 3. Arrogance and narrow mindedness saw them deliver an overpriced console that was last to market and bereft of a solid library of good games that took the better part of eighteen months to catch up with everyone else. But the strength of their first-party eventually came together and they have finished this generation by far the strongest. The Wii ran out of puff three years ago and Microsoft more or less phoned in their efforts with the 360 this year. By comparison, the PS3 is going strong and thanks to fantastic first party efforts like The Last Of Us, Sony is sending off the system in style.
Over these eight years, I’ve been an avid player of virtually every system in The Seventh Generation and I’d estimate that I probably played in the realm of 250+ games, big and small, spanning over 3,000 hours of play time. The Eighth Generation is already upon us with the Nintendo Wii U last year and the fast approaching Playstation4 and Xbox One arriving this month. Shelf space under the TV is precious and with the arrival of these last two systems, I’ll be packing away the 360 and PS3 and effectively saying goodbye to The Seventh Generation.
So as a part of saying farewell, I thought I’d list my favourite games of this generation. I’ve made a few rules for myself. I’ve tried to only include games that I’ve played through to completion. I’ve kept sports games to a single entry per franchise. I’ve opted not to include remakes (Chrono Trigger DS or Ico & Shadow of the Colossus HD) for the most part although I did include The Orange Box as it includes Portal. You’ll probably see a ton of critically and commercially popular games missing from the list. There is nothing from Bethesda (Elder Scrolls, Fallout) and there isn’t much from Activision (Call of Duty). This is because these games were predominantly played by someone else in the household or they’re not to my taste.
And on that note, here we go.
100. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter (Xbox 360, 2006)
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon was one of the first games I bought on the Xbox 360 alongside Kameo (which I returned the next day for Oblivion). It’s interesting to look back and see what an influential game this military shooter was. It has a campaign mode that has you moving from one action set piece to another and its complimented by a competitive multiplayer mode. Sound familiar? I have fond memories of engaging in online firefights in the back streets of Mexico with Mike and Munch. This was the first online shooter I ever played on a console.
99. Forza Motorsport 3 (Xbox 360, 2009)
Racing sim fans tend to be a divided bunch. Just like fans of Oasis and Blur or Rolling Stones and The Beatles, there is an unwritten rule in video games that you can only like one franchise and not the other. For me, the Forza Motorsport series gets the nod. It’s much more accessible to a casual racing fan like myself and I loved the easy of use of the custom decal mode. My Towelie-Mobile was my pride and joy in both career mode and online racing.
98. New Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo DS, 2006)
From reading my review seven years ago, its easy to see that I enjoyed New Super Mario Bros, the first new side-scrolling Mario game in thirteen years, but with a particular caveat: the game clearly was a modernization of the original Super Mario Bros. and although I appreciated the game, I was more hopeful of eventually getting a Super Mario 3 and Super Mario World update (which we eventually got). Looking back now and assessing the game on its own merits, New Super Mario Bros. is a solid entry in the Mario franchise. It’s kind of conservative with its graphics and power ups but revisiting the game today, its easy to appreciate the nuances in the level design that make conducive for speed-runs.
97. Lumines (Playstation Portable, 2005)
Lumines, Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s music/puzzle hybrid game is one of my favourite time-killing games of this generation and I’ve played a couple more iterations since the PSP version on the Playstation Vita and Playstation 3. Like Tetris, Puyo Puyo and Peggle, Lumines is a simple concept but you can draw hours of fun out of the game thanks to its presentation and gradual difficulty curve. For my money, the Vita version is now the definitive version of the game and has the best music selection.
96. Trauma Centre: Under the Knife (Nintendo DS, 2006)
When the Nintendo DS first really took off, I remember reading about all these weird esoteric genres and new settings that people were talking about on Something Awful and NeoGaf. There were games about training your brain, lawyers, dancing CIA agents and surgery. Trauma Centre feels like the spiritual cousin to the Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney games in that they incorporate an unusual game setting (in this case, an operating theatre at an emergency ward) and layer it with melodramatic anime characters. Trauma Centre is a fun game that makes great use of the DS’s touch screen interface but its a shame that the game is so ball-breakingly difficult. If they eased the difficulty curve on the game and ramped up the melodrama with more Grey’s Anatomy style drama, I think this game and franchise could’ve been even higher on the list.
95. Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock (Xbox 360, 2007)
Ah, the plastic instrument craze of 2006-2009, one of the defining fads of the Seventh Generation. For three years, these things sold by the tens of millions and boy did publishers Activision and EA go over the top milking these games dry until the demand plummeted leaving the genre a withered husk by 2010. In three years, the two companies released sixteen different iterations of Guitar Hero and Rock Band at a rate of one every three months. Guitar Hero 3, the first game in the franchise not to be developed by creators Harmonix still remains a sentimental favourite of mine. The DLC on this version is incredible. It was the first game to get Def Leppard and it also has some other great tracks including the Halo guitar theme, the Top Gun theme and some excellent Eighties hair metal.
94. Doctor Kawashima’s Brain Training (Nintendo DS, 2006)
The game that got my mother to buy her first ever video game system. This thing was crazy popular in 2006 and its hard not to downplay the importance of Brain Training in the Nintendo DS’s success in finding a casual market. It radically changed the notion of what a video game could be and better still, it was actually a lot of fun and subtly utilized video game conventions (high score leaderboards, beating your personal best) to keep you coming back. A quirky little game that contributed greatly to what made the Nintendo DS such a fun and surprising system.
93. Heavy Rain (Playstation 3, 2010)
David Cage’s biggest and best known interactive film experience is the strange crime-drama Heavy Rain. The game has clunky execution and the occasionally shoddy passage of dialogue (the notorious ‘Jason’ scene) but it also has ambition in spades and it is genuinely possible to compare your narrative journey in this game with a friend and find that you’ve both had completely different experiences.
I haven’t had a chance to play Cage’s latest, Beyond Two Souls, but I hear more or less the same level of praise and feedback. I feel like David Cage should be commended for attempting to popularize the interactive film concept and Quantic Dreams has built an excellent frame work to tell stories. I believe we now need a more competent writer and director with the next generation to take this concept to another level. With the right story and the right Hollywood actor, I believe interactive films could become the next big genre for gaming.
92. Hydro Thunder Hurricane (Xbox 360, 2010)
I didn’t notice Hydro Thunder Hurricane when it came out in July of 2010. To be fair, I think few people did. I ended up buying the game on a whim when it was discounted during an Xbox Live Christmas sale. Then I played and played and played and surprised myself by ignoring the latest versions of Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty in favour of this neat little XBLA title that was equal parts evocative of arcade racing games from the Nineties and Nintendo’s Wave Race series. The graphics are big, bold and colourful. The water physics add an extra dimension to the gameplay as you factor in the wake and the waves in charting your course. It’s an absolute steal at $5 bucks.
91. Ratchet and Clank: A Crack In Time (Playstation 3, 2010)
Although I never gave the Playstation 2 trilogy a second look, the Ratchet and Clank series on Playstation 3 has been one of my favourite franchises this generation. I refer to it in my 2010 review and to this day, I’m mystified how Insomniac’s games aren’t finding a bigger audience. The games look like Pixar animations brought to life, the characters look and talk like Saturday morning cartoons and the action in the game is fast and furious. Although the offshoot games Q-Force and All-4-One are of questionable quality, everyone should give the core quadraology of games (Tools of Destruction, Quest For Booty, A Crack In Time, Nexus) a go.
90. Call of Duty 4 (Playstation 3, 2007)
The Call of Duty franchise became an all conquering monster in this generation, dominating the November sales window so drastically that many other publishers simply delayed their games into next year so as not to compete against it. Each annual iteration makes literally billions of dollars in revenue in the opening weekend and the popularity of the game has surpassed that of any major Hollywood film in the last ten years. It’s also not really for me. I play the games occasionally but the whole fetishization of American military might does little for me. The one exception for me is Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. It has by far the most interesting campaign mode of the recent games which is varied in content and has some interesting, if not downright disturbing levels that actually explore the dehumanizing effect of modern military combat. Two years later they undid all their good will with Modern Warfare 2 which had the ludicrous and sensationalized No Russian level.
89. L.A Noire (Xbox 360, 2011)
If you strip out about 15 hours worth of repetitive content, there is a pretty good noir-themed detective game here. Team Bondi’s L.A Noire was a game that was ambitious to a fault. It created a massive L.A mid-fifties landscape for the player to explore but gave them almost nothing to do in it. They crammed in about twenty missions that touch on all sorts of famous and popular film noir genre tropes but in doing so made all the levels homogenized and boring. The game features some of the best acting and facial animation from this generation but doesn’t have an interesting story to tell. L.A Noire is a game that is frustrating, bloated and more than a little broken but deep down, there are fragments and moments of an absolutely awesome noir game to be had. I would love to see a sequel made next generation that is handled by a superior developer. Make it happen, Rock Star.
88. A Boy And His Blob (Wii, 2009)
A Boy and His Blob is a criminally overlooked modernization of the old NES game in which a boy and his shapeless blob companion navigate some pencil sketch worlds utilizing the blob’s shape-shifting ability to get from A to Z. It’s only ever moderately challenging but it fits the calm, feel good atmosphere of the game. This was one of the most charming and laid back experiences I had on the Wii…
87. Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii, 2010)
…and by comparison this was one of the most soul destroyingly difficult games I played on the Wii. Retro Studio’s much anticipated update to the Donkey Kong franchise is a lot of fun and finds a pretty good mix of honouring the game’s heritage while introducing new moves and mechanics. I was having an absolute ball with this game and I can’t say enough about the first six worlds. After that, the game becomes too difficult to the point that it took a lot of the fun out of the overall experience. I still persisted and finished the game but it became a war of attrition. Some of those barrel riding shooting levels and end level bosses were utter bastards. Still, the first two thirds of this game is a glorious and hedonistic revisiting of a Super NES classic.
86. Hakuna Matata (Playstation 3, 2007)
You work for the National Geographic and visit Africa, taking pictures of wild life and travel around in a Jeep. What’s not to like? This game is pretty quirky and is something of a rarity. I believe the only English translation of the game was the Hong Kong release (which I picked up mid-transit at a Duty Free).
85. Gears of War 2 (Xbox 360, 2008)
Epic’s Gears of War 2 served up more of the same bloody carnage from the original game, only with the scale and scope cranked up a couple of notches. Although the game has a degree of notoriety for a melodramatic and hammy cut scene, the campaign co-op experience for Gears 2 was one of my favourites of this generation. It was short, sweet and full of spectacle.
84. Pixel Junk Eden (Playstation 3, 2008)
One of the things that I admired about Sony in this current generation was their steadfast commitment to supporting the creation of these weird, abstract indy titles on the PSN that almost no one would enjoy except me and a handful of others. PixelJunk Eden is one such game in which you play as a tiny little guy, only a couple of pixels high, as he tarzan swings around an abstract environment, collecting pollen and jumping to his next mark. It’s as weird and ambiguous as it sounds. I loved it and hope for more of the same on the PS4.
83. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice For All (Nintendo DS, 2007)
Justice For All is widely regarded as the worst Ace Attorney game but the bar is pretty high, so its still fair to say that this game is better than most visual novel adventures. Although the game starts out slow with a couple of so-so murder mysteries, it really comes into its own with the fourth and final case. It’s one of the best cases in the series, as it features returning characters, a classic villain and a scenario that turns the Ace Attorney formula on its head. This game is absolutely worth tracking down but its worth playing the first game first.
82. Bioshock 2 (Xbox 360, 2010)
Bioshock 2 is obviously not nearly as well recognized nor influential as its predecessor but it still offers up some interesting ideas on its own right. This weird collaborative production of an Australian and Chinese develop studio revisits the underwater dystopia of Rapture and puts the player in the shoes of a Big Daddy, the memorable antagonist from the original. The combat in Bioshock 2 is more varied and refined than the original and the game actually creates some pretty haunting and disturbing imagery that stayed long in the memory after I completed the game.
81. Everyday Shooter (Playstation 3, 2006)
The first PSN game I bought and downloaded was Jonathan Mack’s musical twin stick shooter. The game features some creative, purposefully minimalistic imagery and compliments each stage with some unconventional musical choices. This creative and off-kilter shooter set the tone for the type of content we would come to expect on the PSN marketplace.
80. Katamari Forever (Xbox 360, 2009)
There’s a handful of games that I own where I enjoy periodically revisiting them to play the last level which isn’t necessarily challenging, but it showcases the game at its most creative and vibrant. Rez, Flower, Journey and Katamari Damacy are all games where I enjoy doing this. Katamari Damacy on the Playstation 2 was a game that was stuffed full of creativity and humour. The gameplay concept of a sticky ball that gradually gets bigger and consumes anything smaller than it is a brilliant one. In Katamari Forever, we get to see this idea in HD and played out to its fullest extent. In the final level, you start off rolling up tennis balls and shoes. By the end, you are consuming whole planets, solar systems and galaxies. Is there any greater transition in size and scope in any other video game?
79. Wipeout HD (Playstation 3, 2008)
One of the saddest traditions to be broken with the launch of Playstation 4 is that there won’t be a new Wipeout to accompany it as developer Psygnosis (who went on to become Studio Liverpool) shut their doors last year. At least they went out on a high note with their last two games, Wipeout HD and Wipeout 2047 being a pair of accessible, high velocity racers that are blazing fast and look absolutely stunning. History will look back on the original Wipeout very kindly as one of the franchises that gave the Playstation a mature appeal to teenagers and adults with its exceptional Designer’s Republic aesthetic.
78. Grand Theft Auto IV (Xbox 360, 2008)
The first Grand Theft Auto game on this generation brought with it the expected graphical overhaul but its ludo-narrative dissonance was jarring and the play mechanics became a little conservative for long time fans of the franchise. Although the game has been absolutely superceded in almost every way by its sequel GTA V, GTA IV still has its moments. The bank robbery mission is a clear blueprint for where the series would go in future and the downloadable expansions, The Lost and the Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony are both full of worthwhile content. I’d actually say I prefer the story in The Lost and the Damned to Nico’s adventures in the main game.
77. Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (Xbox 360, 2010)
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light was one of the unexpected gems of this generation. The game has the Tomb Raider license but its almost ill-fitting as the game primarily shines as a co-op experience, where you play Lara and some weird tribal dude who’s name I forget, as you traverse an isometric landscape, working together to hunt down enemies and work through puzzles. If the latest Tomb Raider game had one short-coming, it was an absence of actual tombs to explore. In this game, its all tombs, all the time. A great co-op downloadable game.
76. Assassin’s Creed II (Playstation 3, 2009)
Otherwise remembered as the only Assassin’s Creed game with an interesting protagonist. The Assassin’s Creed games have been a huge success for Ubisoft this generation. This is in spite of mostly luke warm reviews, some buggy releases and notoriously repetitive gameplay. I guess people really like parkour. Although I’m a little harsh on the series as a whole, there’s no knocking Ass Creed 2 which is set in Renaissance era Italy and features the brash, cocky Ezio Auditore, a wealthy nobleman who battles the Knights Templar. Ubisoft knew they struck gold with this guy as he was involved in two spin off games. They went back to making boring protagonists with Ass Creed 3 which had a dour Native American at the helm. Perhaps in recognition of how uninteresting he was, he was immediately shelved for a new guy in Ass 4. Ezio Auditore and this game remain the benchmark for the series.
75. New Super Mario Bros Wii (Nintendo Wii, 2009)
The Wii installment of the Mario sidescroller kinda gets overlooked on the system because its keeping company with Super Mario Galaxy 1+2 which are some of the greatest games of all time. That said, New Super Mario Bros Wii is nothing to sniff at. The first few levels are kinda vanilla but the game really comes into its own in the final couple of worlds. The multiplayer is also suitably chaotic and loaded with opportunities for griefing your friends.
74. House of the Dead: Overkill (Nintendo Wii, 2009)
I have no idea why this sweary, gory, over the top grindhouse shooter from Sega exists on the family-friendly Wii of all places but I’m glad it does. The light gun shooter genre all but evaporated this generation but if you want one last hurrah, you could definitely do worse than play this hilariously cheesy and bloody shooter. It’s dirty, silly and beautifully self aware. I’d love to see Agent G and Isaac Washington return for another installment on the Wii U.
73. The Unfinished Swan (Playstation 3, 2012)
A beautiful, eyecatching Playstation 3 downloadable exclusive which takes the form of a children’s storybook come to life. A restless and unhappy king who struggles to engage with the people in his kingdom are the backdrop for a game that blends about three or four different gameplay ideas and meshes them together into this playful and highly polished game.
72. Trials HD (Xbox 360, 2009)
Ah, this glorious trial-and-error motorbike-puzzle game was one of my favourite series this generation. The difficulty curve ramps up pretty quickly in this game which is all about achieving mastery over your bike as you navigate it through some crazy levels in the shortest time possible. They key to making this work is the brilliant checkpointing and instantaneous restarts. Sometimes, its not uncommon for me to restart 3 times in 10 seconds. But when its instantaneous and you never blame the controls, its all good.
71. Final Fantasy XIII (Playstation 3, 2010)
This game features some of the most awful characters and cutscenes of any video game I’ve ever known. Vanille will practically have you stabbing your eyes out with a fork by the end of the game with her irritating voice and manner. It’s a Final Fantasy game with little exploration, no overworld and a tutorial that basically runs for 20 hours. And yet, for those who perservered, there’s actually a proper, honest to God, Final Fantasy game at the end of the rainbow with an excellent combat system and some fun enemies to battle. This game has a terrible story, the sequel is even more convoluted, but the turn based mechanics have interesting ideas, plenty of depth and are fun to play.
70. Geometry Wars (Xbox 360, 2005)
The original Xbox Live Arcade game, the original modern-day twin stick shooter and the foundation for all that was to come with the Xbox Live experience as well spent those first few months challenging friends to beat new high scores on the online leaderboards. I absolutely suck at this game but like ten pin bowling, I still have a lot of fun trying.
69. Viva Pinata (Xbox 360, 2006)
Viva Pinata is Rare Studio’s shockingly good attempt at creating their own Pokemon game only with edible creatures that are a hybrid of animal and chocolate. This is a wonderful game, bursting at the seams with charm and playful creativity. It is an absolute crime that this game didn’t sell better and I’m crushed that we likely won’t ever see a next gen iteration. One of the Xbox 360’s finest exclusives. The weird thing is that I didn’t even buy the game at first. I just picked up a flat mates copy during a Christmas break and ended up sinking over 70 hours into it.
68. Professor Layton and the Curious Village (Nintendo DS, 2008)
I think we can all agree that they released too many of these games too quickly but the original Professor Layton is still one of the finest, most polished gaming experiences to be had on the Nintendo DS. It’s a curious blend of Japanese animation, a twee English art motif and hundreds of puzzles not unlike the kind you get at airport bookshops. It’s a weird mix but somehow it works.
67. Henry Hatsworth (Nintendo DS, 2009)
There was a brief spell at EA this generation where inexplicably they decided to finance a bunch of creative, niche game ideas that ultimately resulted in Mirror’s Edge, Dead Space and this weird little game on the DS. Henry Hatsworth is a cool little concept that mixes Mega Man style run-and-gun mechanics on the top screen with match-three Bejewelled style puzzle gameplay on the bottom screen. So crazy, so inventive! I have a hunch it will be a long time before we see EA finance this type of game again.
66. Costume Quest (Xbox 360, 2010)
There aren’t enough holiday themed games in the video gaming industry. Where is our classic Christmas adventure game or our go-to Easter puzzle game? At least Double Fine Studios have filled the niche now for Halloween. Costume Quest is an adorable, pint-sized RPG based around the adventures of two siblings who try and win back their candy from evil monsters on All Hallows Eve.
65. Halo 4 (Xbox 360, 2012)
The first Bungie-less Halo game doesn’t have the breadth of features that its forebearer had but its still a solid effort from 343 Industries. The game looks shockingly good for something running on seven year old hardware and is bold enough to significantly challenge and change the landscape of the Halo universe. Halo has always been my favourite online shooter and although this game doesn’t have the legs of Halo 3 or Halo Reach when it comes to multiplayer, it was still fun while it held my attention.
64. Alan Wake (Xbox 360, 2010)
The previews of this game in 2005 were what first drew my interest in the Xbox 360. A ton of delays and half a decade later, it finally came out. Alan Wake is a survival horror game about an author whose writing comes to life and kidnap his wife (!). It’s kind of silly and has slightly janky play mechanics but I don’t care. This is a big budget horror game that draws direct influence from Stephen King and thats a game for me! Any chance of sequel, Remedy?
63. Yakuza 4 (Playstation 3, 2011)
I love the Yakuza game series and the fourth installment mixes things up by giving us control over not one but four different protagonists. Basically this game did GTA V before GTA V did it. It’s cool, over the top and still has an unnecessary amount of selection and product detail when it comes to the whisky you can drink. A game after my own heart.
62. Mario Kart Wii (Nintendo Wii, 2008)
Mario Kart Wii is the most unashamedly casual of all the Mario Kart racing games with rubberband AI so ruthless that its pretty much a lottery who wins the race. And yet its manufactured chaos ensures that every race is full of implausible comebacks and last minute lead changes. If you’re playing with family, friends or casual gamers then this is the perfect recipe for fun. Don’t spoil the fun and just go with the flow, blue shell and all.
61. DJ Hero (Xbox 360, 2009)
One day we can tell our grandchildren that during the great Plastic Music Instrument Craze of 2009, the games were so popular that someone could plausibly release a DJ ‘simulator’ where you spin a plastic turntable in time to some coloured dials on the screen. It’s a ridiculous concept, a blatant cash-in and thanks to the fine selection of DJ Shadow’s mash ups of popular hip hop tunes, it’s a ton of fun.
60. Brutal Legend (Xbox 360, 2009)
I have no idea why Double Fine Studios decided to disguise the fact that this game is a Real Time Strategy game but so be it. It’s still a ridiculously fun adventure game in the vein of Heavy Metal. Jack Black voices the lead Eddie Riggs, a deceased roadie who awakens in a netherworld where he keeps company with rock legends like Ozzie Osbourne, Lemmy, some hot babes and horned demons.
59. Elite Beat Agents (Nintendo DS, 2007)
Rhythm genre games always have the same challenge set before them. Mechanically, they are more or less the same. What sets you apart is the strength of your setlist and the charm of the presentation. It’s what seperates the Parappa the Rappers of the world from the Umjammer Lammy’s. Elite Beat Agents on the Nintendo DS includes songs from The Rolling Stones, Deep Purple, Madonna, David Bowie and Avril Lavigne. It also features a group of secret agents traveling the world helping people with the power of dance. Best game.
58. Limbo (Xbox 360, 2010)
This creepy monochromatic platformers must rival Dead Space 2 for the highest number of appalling ways in which the protagonist can be killed. It’s eery, atmospheric and one of the best titles on XBLA.
57. Flower (Playstation 3, 2009)
This game is like an interactive Sony Bravia ad. The goal is to guide a drifting trail of flower petals to the end of the level but the draw card here is the pretty colours and breezy laid back atmosphere that this game exudes. The last level where you restore structure and colour to a derelict building is a favourite of mine.
56. Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Xbox 360, 2011)
I think the image above of Adam Jensen chillin’ with a cigarette and scotch tells you all you need to know about this super cool cyberpunk game from Eidos Montreal. Deus Ex is a versatile game that gives players multiple ways to develop their character and engage missions via stealth, computer hackery or brute force. Well, up to a certain point at least. Near the middle of the game you encounter some bosses that seem to be from another game entirely and can only be defeated via intense firepower. Oh well. Stealthin’ around Hong Kong and killin’ dudes was a ton of fun in this game.
55. Tomb Raider (Xbox 360, 2013)
There was a lot of wailing and nashing of teeth from long time Tomb Raider fans when Eidos declared their intention to update the franchise with a reboot that showed a new, more ‘vulnerable’ Lara. They needn’t have worried. Lara is a one-woman killing machine in this game and after her reluctance at killing a pirate in the opening act, she goes on to comfortably commit mass genocide, ruthlessly massacring about another 300 more indigenous people on the island. Thats the video game standard this generation and she’s just keeping up with the Nathan Drakes and Booker DeWitts of this world. Despite my protestations about the high kill count, this is otherwise a fantastic remake and the actual characterization and physical appearance of Lara Croft in this game compared to the 1996 shows that there is some progress being made in the portrayals of women in gaming.
54. Batman: Arkham City (Xbox 360, 2011)
One of the best surprises of this gen was the rise and rise of developer Rocksteady who made not one, but two excellent Batman games. Arkham City is the sequel to Arkham Asylum and features an expanded play area although it stops short of giving players full unfettered access to Gotham. The combat mechanics are refined from the original and the game retains its fine balance of stalking prey in detective mode and unleashing hell on hapless goons once they’re close enough for the Batman to strike.
53. Bioshock Infinite (Xbox 360, 2013)
Bioshock Infinite is a game with a wildly creative narrative and setting sandwiched into a rigidly formulaic arena shooter. Honestly, if this game had come out three years earlier, we probably wouldn’t all be completely exhausted with the current generation’s obsession with shooters and would have given the gameplay a free pass but as it stands, the combat in this game is ‘servicable’ and the real reason to be excited about this game are its ambitions in tackling all kinds of uncommon subject matter for video games including religion, institutional racism and classism.
52. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (Xbox 360, 2010)
This strange Western post-apocalyptic retelling of the Chinese fable Monkey is an excellent game with an uncommonly good script thanks to the contributions of screen writer Alex Garland. The relationship between Trip and Monkey really makes this game as they journey through an American wasteland. Shame this game got overlooked by most.
51. Little Big Planet (Playstation 3, 2007)
Little Big Planet, the world conquering platforming game where anyone could make, share and upload their own levels never quite reached the lofty heights that gamers originally hoped for. It’s partly because the jumping was fiddly and partly because the honest truth is that only a select few have the skill to make an interesting level. That said, at the height of this game’s popularity I remember scouring different message boards and having a blast trying out different user created levels. It was good while it lasted but sadly I think this franchises community is probably on the wane nowadays.
50. Peggle (Xbox 360, 2007)
You shoot pegs at a board full of tiles and try and clear them all out before you run of pegs. Thats why its Peggle, see? Also one of the most addictive games of any kind this generation. Like crack.
49. Pacman Championship Edition DX (Xbox 360, 2010)
There was a brief while there where Japanese developers were recreating these amazing psychadelic remakes of arcade classics from the Eighties. We got Space Invaders Extreme, Pac Man Championship Edition and Pac Man Championship Edition DX. Then they stopped. Why did they stop? These games were absolutely amazing.
48. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (Nintendo DS, 2005)
The original Ace Attorney game that would go on to spawn a whole seven-installment franchise (and hopefully more to come!). This game would set the tone for the series with its flamboyant characters, charmingly devious prosecutors and crazy plot twists. I always loved the deliberately low-key animation that accompanied the graphics to the series. It’s like watching Season One of South Park or watching an animated GIF. Phoenix Wright, Detective Gumshoe, Miles Edgeworth…they’re all some of my favourite characters of this gen.
47. Bayonetta (Xbox 360, 2010)
This crazy balls-to-the-wall action game features a spacewitch who looks sort of like Sarah Palin who has revolvers on the heels of her shoe and is completely nude except that her hair wraps around her like a body suit. She defends this little kid and fights giant, occasionally planetary sized creatures from hell in one of the most batshit crazy and exciting games I’ve ever come across. So, so crazy. So very Japanese.
46. Mass Effect (Xbox 360, 2007)
As a trilogy, Mass Effect can be admired and appreciated for giving us an ambitious space-rpg where we get to carry over the same character with the same choices across three games. But what we can specifically enjoy about the original Mass Effect that has been lost over the series is a very cool Seventies sci-fi motif that influenced the art design and soundtrack.
45. Critter Crunch (Playstation 3, 2008)
This charming bug-munching puzzle game was developed by Capybara who quietly went on to become one of my favourite developers this gen thanks to their work on Clash of Heroes and Swords and Sworcery. Critter Crunch is an underrated gem. A fun and simple game at first that gradually increases in complexity as it adds new creature types and abilities as the game progresses.
44. NBA 2K12 (Xbox 360, 2011)
After experiencing an NBA firsthand I wanted to have a quick go at a basketball game to relive some of the fun. I ended up playing a full 80+ game season mode of NBA 2K12 and becoming a full fledged fan of both the sport and this particular series. It’s fun, challenging and rewarding.
43. Yakuza 3 (Playstation 3, 2010)
Open world sandbox games featuring gangsters are a dime a dozen but how many of them detour to a beachside location to have a holiday and run an orphanage? Thats pretty much what you get with Yakuza 3 as the Dragon of Dojima dons a Hawaiian shirt and chills out in Okinawa for much of the game.
42. Uncharted 3: (Playstation 3, 2011)
It didn’t live up to the impossibly lofty standards of Uncharted 2 but this game is still no slouch. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is a fine bookend to the series trilogy on the PS3. The characters have plenty of history and this game fleshes out Drake’s background even further. The set pieces explore new concepts with the desert sequence and the sinking ship. And although the shooting sequences wear out their welcome towards the end of the game, they are complimented by some entertaining platforming and gorgeous graphics that really push the limits of the hardware.
41. Mario Kart DS (Nintendo DS, 2005)
If Mario Kart Wii is the definitive casual version of the franchise, then Mario Kart DS, until its 3DS successor came out two years ago, was the undisputed champ for core gamers. The game was absolutely stacked with content including a healthy mix of new tracks and old favourites. It was the first installment of the series to go online and the ability to snake (rapidly power sliding left-to-right in a continuous movement) meant that seasoned players could leave newbies in the dust. I put tens of hours into this iteration of the game. It remained a popular game on the DS and would be a feature in its Top Ten Sales lists for years.
40. Super Brothers: Sword and Sworcery EP (iOS, 2011)
Capybara’s Sword and Sworcery is a brilliant low fidelity adventure game featuring the music of Jim Guthrie. The game is visually and aurally very distinctive and incorporates some of the best use of the iOS touch interface that I’ve seen in a game of this genre. What makes Sword and Sworcery so good is how the minimalist art and play mechanics combine to become much greater than the sum of their parts. The world is interesting, the story is engaging and the mystery intriguing. Amongst the dodgy free-to-play wasteland on the iOS Games Marketplace, Sword and Sworcery is a beacon of quality.
39. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Nintendo Wii, 2011)
Skyward Sword is one of the most comprehensive and complete gaming experiences one can have with the Zelda franchise. It brings fresh ideas to the series, learns lessons from past installments and pushes forward with a fresh new control mechanic that implements the Wii Motion Plus controller. The game transformers the Zelda series’ traditional dungeons into something far more organic. The integration of weapons is also much improved from Twilight Princess. The game features one of the darkest villains the franchise has seen in some time and on a sweeter note, also has one of more romantic relationships between Link and Zelda. Beautiful art style, terrific play mechanics and a superb send off for the Nintendo Wii.
38. FIFA 10 (Xbox 360, 2009)
In this generation, the FIFA franchise emphatically passed the ailing Pro Evolution Soccer series in terms of quality and never looked back. I’ve picked FIFA 10 because I believe that was more or less the point of no return for football fans. It was clear that FIFA had nailed it. The game isn’t necessarily any closer to recreating a professional game of soccer but it finds the perfect balance between realism and fun. Hands down this is the multiplayer game that I played the most this gen.
37. Dead Rising (Xbox 360, 2006)
The first thing you want to do when you buy a new console is to find a game that delivers a moment that simply couldn’t be done on the preceding hardware. For some gamers, that was exiting the sewer in Oblivion and seeing an open world around you. For me, one of my favourite moments was simply booting up Dead Rising and exploring the mall. So many enemies on screen at once! Although the game had a quirky and annoying save system, it also had some kick ass bosses and a great sense of humour.
36. Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360, 2010)
Yeah, yeah. The ending is terrible. We know. It’s still worth noting that the rest of Mass Effect 3 is still a fantastic space opera where characters you’ve played across three games face life and death battles, make massive sacrifices and set the stakes as high as they can go in the battle to stop the Reapers. As for the ending, I think the DLC Citadel is actually a pretty great unofficial send off where you get to see the characters have a sweet house party, get drunks, do a few things they regret and say goodbye the way it should’ve done the first time.
35. Batman: Arkham Asylum (Xbox 360, 2009)
Arkham Asylum, the unexpected hit of 2009 put developers Rocksteady on the map. There’s still a good case to make that recognizes this as the best super hero video game ever made. They nailed the look and feel of the Batman series, got the best voice actors for the roles and put it all together in an atmospheric Metroidvania style game where the Dark Knight enters a den full of madmen to get to the Joker. Just brilliant.
34. Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit (Xbox 360, 2010)
The best and definitive of Criterion’s Burn Out franchise is actually Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit. In a moment of serendipity, all the pieces of the puzzle came together to make this game the near perfect arcade racer. The sensation of speed is unmatched, the AI of the competing racers and cops are challenging but unfair and the selection of tracks and modes is incredibly generous. Strangely, I haven’t really enjoyed any other Need For Speed game before or since then. Just this one. But its all I need.
33. Mark of the Ninja (Xbox 360, 2012)
Mark of the Ninja was an unexpected gem of a game from Klei Entertainment that arrived on XBLA with little fanfare but has since made a reputation for itself as one of the greatest 2D stealth games ever made. Every level in this game is created with an optimum level of flexibility and player creativity in mind. It’s possible to not only complete every level without killing a single guard, its also possible to do all that and not be seen. So the extra layers of challenges that the player wants to place on themselves greatly enhances the experience of the game. Even if you’re just taking it easy and killing half the guards you come across, the game also is one of the most enjoyable interactive representations of being a ninja that I can recall since Tenchu.
32. Dead Space 2 (Xbox 360, 2011)
The first game was good. The second was better. The third was awful. Dead Space 2 was the cream of the survival horror crop this gen. The game was chock full of gruesome creatures, creepy blacked out space stations and a few sprinkles of action set pieces to keep you on your toes. I let poor Isaac die a thousand deaths in this game. A great game full of atmosphere *and* challenging gameplay.
31. Halo: Reach (Xbox 360, 2010)
The send off Halo game from Bungie follows the fortunes of the original Spartans as Earth comes under attack. This game was the beginning of Halo‘s gradual evolution to win back fans who moved to Battlefield and Call of Duty. The multiplayer mode introduced perks and skill attributes which changed the gameplay more drastically than any prior installment. I have mixed feelings about the changes and ultimately preferred the simplicity of Halo 3 but I understand why the changes were made. No complaints however about a stellar campaign mode that tells a bitter sweet story. A fitting goodbye and a clear work of passion from the team at Bungie before they move onto bigger and better things.
30. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (Playstation 3, 2007)
Uncharted from Naughty Dog became one of the first killer apps for the PS3 with its heady mix of Indiana Jones style gameplay and highly polished graphics. The series has gone on to become monstrously popular thanks to a phenomenal sequel but the original game is still worthy of its own praise and recognition. Too many games today are poe faced and feature meathead protagonists. Having a lead character that talks like Nathan Fillion and behaves like someone straight out of Joss Whedon production is a good thing.
29. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (Playstation 3, 2013)
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is one of those dream projects that either sound too good to be true or you’d expect to hear about in Japan but doesn’t get a Western translation. And although it took long enough, here it is: a JRPG that looks and talks like a Studio Ghibli production. It’s exactly as awesome as you’d hope for. Underneath the hood is a classic (if not strictly conventional) JRPG game that features familiars, airships, turn based combat and overworld maps. Given the dearth of solid JRPGs this generation, this game was a Godsend.
28. Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction (Playstation 3, 2007)
The first PS3 I bought was actually from Japan in 2007. The system is region-free so it could play games from Australia no problems. I noticed a weird surprise when I booted up Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction however. The game identifies that its running on a Japanese system and modifies the game’s graphics to make them more ‘appealing’ to Japanese audiences. It does so by giving Ratchet different coloured pants and the these fantastic bushy eyebrows that John Howard and Martin Scorcese would be proud of. For that reason, it’s my 28th best game of this gen. Just kidding, the actual game is pretty great too.
27. Metal Gear Solid 4 (Playstation 3, 2008)
Creator Hideo Kojima threw the proverbial sink at MGS4. He seemingly made the game with the spirit that it could be his last or it could be the last of the series (its actually neither). Looking back now, the game has hilariously complicated controls. You need to press and hold down three buttons to shoot a gun while you have your back up against a wall. It also had the most gloriously over the top, absurd and lengthy cutscenes of any game. The ending cinematic is longer than most feature length films. The actual game itself heaped all sorts of awesome set pieces at the player. There was a noir level in Paris, a revisiting of an old stomping ground and a dramatic ending that was one for the ages. This game is complicated, bloated and a clear work of passion.
26. Wii Sports Resort (Nintendo Wii, 2009)
The sequel to the game-changing Wii Sports is a solidly entertaining multiplayer game in its own right. Table tennis, archery and that kendo thing where you knock each other into the water are all great fun. I will forever remember this game as the one that my non-game playing dad was able to instantaneously pick up and enjoy.
25. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Nintendo Wii, 2006)
Time flies. Twilight Princess is seven years old?! This launch game for the Wii was clearly overshadowed by Wii Sports which got all the praise and attention. A shame because this is a fantastic 3D Zelda game that was a long time in the making. It has fantastic aesthetics and some cracking level design in the dungeons. My only knock against the game is that the overworld is a bit sparse and the side quests are lacking but everything else is top shelf.
24. Bastion (Xbox 360, 2011)
Bastion is a wonderful isometric action adventure game from SuperGiant Games. The game features a stunning hand-painted art design, some classic dungeon-romping gameplay and has a cool design hook with the presence of a narrator who describes your movements in real time as though he were presenting a Western. The game is atmospheric, evokes nostalgia in the best way and offers plenty of depth in its weapon leveling system. Weirdly enough, its the one and only game that SuperGiant Games have ever made. If you’re only going to do one, may as well shoot for the stars I guess.
23. The Witcher 2 (Xbox 360, 2012)
A Polish RPG based on a novel from the same country. It features a mature storyline that weaves political intrigue, romance and a thriller involving an assassin that commits regicide and frames our hero Geralt. It’s quite different from your usual RPG fare and stands out as a breath of fresh air.
22. Gears of War (Xbox 360, 2006)
The game that leveled the playing field between Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 and effectively squashed the idea that the PS3 was exponentially more powerful than Microsoft’s console. Cliffy B’s game was visceral, featured jaw dropping graphics for its day and was promoted using a cool, unconventional tv ad campaign that incorporated that Mad World song. As a fan of Space Crusade and Fighting Fantasy in the Eighties, I absolutely loved the aesthetic of this game. I must have completed the campaign mode for this game in co-op with about three or four different people. It was an absolute blast.
21. Mass Effect 2 (Xbox 360, 2010)
Mass Effect 2 might have eschewed the cool Seventies design motif from the original game in the series but there’s no doubting that its the pick of the trilogy when it comes to introducing memorable new characters and perfecting the game’s control mechanics and mission design. Gone was the clunky Mako, gone was the pointless currency system and in its place was a decent squad shooter with lite RPG mechanics overlaid. Ultimately, Mass Effect is all about the story and characters of course and ME2 is a highlight. I have fond memories of traversing the galaxy in the Normandy with Mordin, Garrus, Grunt and Tali. The best crew of any game this gen.
20. Wii Sports (Nintendo Wii, 2006)
Probably the most influential game this gen. It effectively sold Nintendo 100,000,000 Wii units and turned the tide in their favour for hardware market share this gen. Even with the system software release grinding to a halt a full three years before the 360 and PS3, the Wii still ended up with more hardware sold. I remember being so excited for this game when I first got to try it out at a Nintendo tour in a shopping mall. It felt so radically new and different. After the game launched we had Wii parties where people would visit just to play this thing. It permeated offices as a leisure activity during lunch breaks. It was a cultural phenomenon.
19. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Nintendo Wii, 2010)
Super Mario Galaxy 2 isn’t more of a good thing. It’s more of a great thing. Of course it can’t recapture that initial thrill and sense of wonder that SMG1 brings with it and the musical score isn’t quite as catchy but in every other sense, this is Nintendo throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at the 3D platforming genre and going for broke with their imagination. It’s nice to have Yoshi added into the mix also. Surely we won’t go too long before getting HD remakes for this pair of titles?
18. Grand Theft Auto V (Xbox 360, 2013)
The most intricate, lively and complete open world game ever made. It was five long years before Rockstar released a successor to GTA IV but you felt like they were working their way up to it by mastering their storytelling (Red Dead Redemption), mastering their shooting mechanics (Max Payne 3) and stealing a few good ideas like multiple protagonists (Yakuza 4). Grand Theft Auto V is one of the best games in the franchise and although it might be up for debate whether it has the best protagonists, there’s no doubting that those heist missions are the best thing to happen to the game since switching to 3D graphics.
17. Bioshock (Xbox 360, 2007)
Few games this generation blew my impressionable little mind like the first half hour of Bioshock. You play the part of Jack, a passenger on a plane that crashes into the ocean at the start of the game. Jack swims to the safety of a mysterious lighthouse, only to discover a bathysphere inside which leads to a wondrous art deco undersea metropolis controlled by the billionaire Randist Andrew Ryan. Bioshock was a game bustling with style, interesting ideas and some of the most memorable fourth wall shattering gameplay since Metal Gear Solid read the contents of your memory card. The journey into Rapture was scary, thrilling, mysterious and memorable.
16. Portal 2 (Xbox 360, 2011)
Look throughout this hundred game list spanning eight years and you’ll probably find only a handful of games that deal with humour. That’s what made Portal 2 stand out from the pack. Sure it took the ideas of Portal and expanded them into a full fledged, big budget experience but crucially, it also retained its sense of levity and was never anything less than self-derisive, self-aware and very, very silly. Stephen Merchant makes an excellent companion throughout the game as the awkward, nerdy and eventually psychotic Wheatley. The game also has one of the most creative endings to any game this gen.
15. Fez (Xbox 360, 2012)
Of all the classic and critically acclaimed games to be released this gen, Fez may well be the one that ends up retaining the greatest amount of mystique and intrigue. The game’s enigmatic and hot tempered creator Phil Fish took a long time to complete the game from its initial unveiling at an indy game conference in 2008 to its eventual release four years later. In that time he fell out with the original co-creator, rebuilt the game from scratch twice and had his journey documented in the excellent game developer film Indy Game. After the game’s release, Fish fought with fans online and eventually some internet trolls successfully got under his skin. He dramatically declared that he had enough and was quitting the games business. Which is a shame because Fez, his one and now apparently only game, is an absolutely brilliant adventure game that is filled with nostalgic charm and inventive game design.
14. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations (2008)
The Ace Attorney games are all fantastic interactive graphic novels but there is a clear favourite amongst fans of the series and that game is Trials and Tribulations. Other games in the series have some great cases and some that are not so hot. Trials and Tribulations is the game where everything comes together perfectly. There isn’t a dud case in the whole game. It has a fantastic prosecutor in the form of the coffee-addicted Godot, the consolidation of some storylines that started from the original game and an absolutely classic final case that the series has yet to top. For new players, its still worth playing through the first two games though to fully appreciate and understand all the characters, their backgrounds and the events leading up to this amazing conclusion.
13. Halo 3 (Xbox 360, 2007)
Bungie’s first Halo game on the Xbox 360 did not disappoint. It was a game that was packed with an improbably large amount of content. The campaign was an absolute blast, offering four player split screen, online co-op and basically whatever combination of the two that you could want. The game had a rock solid, well balanced multiplayer mode that was a Top Ten fixture on Xbox Live for years after its release and it also gave players even more content in the form of theatre mode and Forge which allowed players to create their own content. It was just an absurdly generous amount of content and it was all polished and honed to the nth degree. This game was clearly the peak for the series and although subsequent entries have had their strengths and qualities, none have matched the all conquering success of Halo 3.
12. The Beatles: Rock Band (Xbox 360, 2009)
In 2009, the video game licensing gods smiled upon us and bestowed upon the gaming public The Beatles: Rock Band, a game that took advantage of an exceptionally rare instance where The Beatles allowed their music and likeness to be used for a third party entertainment product. Happily, Harmonix made the absolute best of the opportunity creating a wonderful interactive discography that explores the evolution of the band from their early days playing in Liverpool nightclubs to their big break on Ed Sullivan to playing to sold out concerts at Shea Stadium. The game features an exhaustive collection of practically all The Beatles’ greatest hits and includes plenty of extra content in the form of videos, rare audio content and photos. As a big fan of Rock Band and of The Beatles, this was pretty much a dream project come true.
11. Red Dead Redemption (Xbox 360, 2010)
I remember after the release of Grand Theft Auto 3, people liked to speculate what types of genres and locations people would like to see Rock Star apply their open world game design to. Although we never did get any GTA games set in other countries, we did see them dabble in a range of different settings. Bully gave us Rock Star at school. L.A Noire did a Rock Star detective caper. And Red Dead Redemption was the result of Rock Star goes Western. Although there’s more than a handful of things that people would like to see changed with the aforementioned games, there’s almost nothing you’d do different about Red Dead Redemption. It is an exhaustive, comprehensive and near perfect Western. The game features all the tropes and locales you could hope for in a Western and then tops it off with an unexpectedly great storyline. John Marsden ends up being a quite fantastic protagonist and his story is an interesting one. The game possibly runs a little long in the tooth when it journeys into Mexico but it finishes very, very strongly. The game also has the added bonus of having some fantastic DLC in the form of Undead Nightmare.
10. Viva Pinata: Trouble In Paradise (Xbox 360, 2008)
Viva Pinata was a fantastic first go for Rare in delivering a Pokemon rival on the Xbox 360 and Viva Pinata: Trouble In Paradise perfect it. The game smoothed out all the little kinks and quirks from the original game, introduced a swag of awesome new chocolate filled animals to collect and then added on an extra layer of content in the form of mini games and new locales. Its easy to see in hindsight that finding an audience for this type of game on the Xbox 360 was always going to be a challenge but its a crying shame because Viva Pinata: TIP is Rare in vintage form, delivering a game that is as charming as Little Big Planet, as addictive as Pokemon and unique enough to stand tall on its own merits.
9. Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes (Xbox 360, 2010)
A match-three puzzle game branded with an age-old PC fantasy license. It started on the DS before eventually finding a new lease of life on home consoles and eventually on iOS. It’s been a strange journey for Capybara getting this game to the masses and although I missed it the first time around on the DS, I’m glad I got a chance to discover it on the Xbox 360. This game is absolutely addictive and is probably my favourite puzzle game, besting my old standbys Super Puzzle Fighter and Puyo Puyo. The mechanics of the game are easy to learn but difficult to master and can lead to some fantastic back and forth contests against both NPCs and other players. I’ve never been particularly good at articulating just why this game works for me so much but dammit, it just does. Fun, challenging and offers plenty of depth.
8. Braid (Xbox 360, 2008)
Jonathan Blow’s time-warping four dimensional platformer basically cemented the credibility of Xbox Live Arcade games and changed the perception of what a small, downloadable title could hope to achieve both commercially and critically. First and foremost, what makes the game brilliant are the mind-bending, challenging puzzles that require the player to stop, start, pause and warp time to navigate their way through a beautiful painterly pastiche of Super Mario game worlds. Over and above that, the game also has a terrific twist ending whereby the time traveling mechanics are used to pull the rug out from beneath the player as they gradually realize with horror that the avatar they control is not the protagonist they thought him to be. Braid was the little game that could.
7. Journey (Playstation 3, 2011)
Jenova Chen’s silent, minimalist masterpiece. Control a mysterious, mute wanderer and lead him to a mountain peak to reach the pillar of light atop it. Simple in concept, memorable in execution. The game’s use of an invisible online lobby that pairs your journey with an online friend hugely accentuated the experience and I suspect this type of ‘organic’ online experience will become an enourmously popular feature in years to come.
6. Portal (Xbox 360, 2007)
The surprise package of The Orange Box from Valve. Kim Swift’s game came out of nowhere to wow gamers with its wonderfully creative design mechanic, its terrific sense of humour, that memorable song in the closing credits and a good sense of brevity to ensure the whole package is absolutely perfect and can’t get stale for even a second. This game generated more memes and pop culture references than just about any other game this gen.
5. The Walking Dead (Xbox 360, 2012)
Episodic gaming and Telltale Games came of age with their adaptation of The Walking Dead. The game was split into five short episodes each taking roughly a couple of hours to complete. Decisions that impacted who survived and what your relationship was like with fellow survivors carried over from Episode One to Episode Five. All of this is good and well but of course the heart and soul of the game that lifted it above its contemporaries was the beautifully written relationship between Lee Everett and Clementine. They go through hell and back together and its the touching sweetness of their relationship that makes this game a winner. Episodic gaming can work, it can be employed to tell interesting and thoughtful stories and one day, it can maybe even match the best that television has to offer.
4. Rock Band 3 (Xbox 360, 2010)
Rock Band 3 came out a full year after the plastic guitar party died but it is without a doubt the greatest game of the genre. It has the best and most diverse song selection, the best (most durable) instruments, the most efficient sorting options and comprehensive score tracking, the best presentation and the best…well everything. It’s simply the best. Better than all the rest.
3. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (Playstation 3, 2009)
The king of all action games. Uncharted 2 was one of those games where everything came together just perfect. The cast was terrific, the set pieces were exciting and inventive, the locations were gorgeous and exotic and the shooting…well, we hadn’t tired of the shooting just yet. It probably took Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception to come out for me to fully appreciate just how perfectly Uncharted 2 nailed its pacing and execution. Drake’s Deception simply tried to top Among Thieves by upping the volume and increasing the quantity of set pieces and it never quite captured the same magic. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is the bench mark that next generation blockbusters will have to topple in terms of spectacle and bombast. And when that day comes…holy moly will that be some kind of game.
2. The Last Of Us (Playstation 3, 2013)
It took another four years but Naughty Dog lifted the bar set by Uncharted 2 just that bit higher with The Last of Us. The game doesn’t try to top Uncharted in the action stakes but instead it offers something smarter, more cohesive and uncommonly mature by video game industry standards. Not maturity in terms of adult content but maturity in the form of quality writing, believable characters and meaningful relationships. The kind that this generation generally failed to deliver upon. There are still too many games that have insulting caricatures of minorities. Marginalized and objectified portrayals of women. Insultingly simplistic story lines. Needlessly convoluted and complicated story lines. Games like L.A Noire, Heavy Rain, Final Fantasy XIII, Grand Theft Auto IV and even Grand Theft Auto V make an appearance on this list because they either play great or have interesting ideas. But they all come with a caveat that says they still have dubious or questionable content. Major narrative failings. Don’t hold a candle to even your average film or television program. Not with The Last Of Us. The Last Of Us is smart. It’s funny. It has interesting ideas and intelligent social commentary. It came at the twilight of the Seventh Generation and is a shining light forward for narrative based games. Other publishers and developers will be dragged kicking and screaming along the way but Naughty Dog has shown that you can make a game with a middle aged man and a teenage girl as your leads and still sell a million copies and capture the public’s imagination.
1. Super Mario Galaxy (Nintendo Wii, 2007)
The Last Of Us is the best in class for storytelling in gaming and Super Mario Galaxy is the undisputed king when it comes to sheer playability. The game is six years old and nothing comes close to the creativity and playability of Nintendo EAD’s opus. Well, except maybe Super Mario Galaxy 2. This game is so full of amazing design concepts, memorable levels, colourful enemies, classic musical numbers and exciting sequences of gameplay that it seems almost selfish. Surely this level of sheer, unadulterated fun should be spread across two or three more games? Super Mario Galaxy is 3D gaming taken to glorious, abstract, unmatched, new heights. Games like The Last Of Us are exciting because they push the storytelling medium forward and inch it ever closer to the standards in literature, film and television. Super Mario Galaxy is exciting because it is all about championing video game ludology, the art of control, design and interactivity – qualities that don’t exist at all in books, television and film. Personally, I loveboth types of games equally and want to see the medium continues to explore and improve in storytelling and play mechanics. But if push came to shove, if posed with a desert island scenario and I could only have one, then Super Mario Galaxy it is. It is the greatest game of the Seventh Generation.
Seventh Generation By The Numbers
Top 100 Game Breakdown
A lot of these games are multi-platform but here’s a breakdown of where I played the games that appear on this list.
Xbox 360 (53)
Playstation 3 (27)
Nintendo Wii (9)
Nintendo DS (9)
Every single one of these consoles underwent a re-design or re-release. Sometimes to change the form factor, sometimes to add more memory. As a result, I ended up trading or changing systems a number of times in the past seven years.
Xbox 360 – three systems – Xbox 360 Pro, Xbox 360 Elite, Xbox 360 S
Playstation 3 – two systems – Playstation 3 fat, Playstation 3 slim
Nintendo Wii – one system – Nintendo Wii
Nintendo DS – four systems – Nintendo DS original, Nintendo DS Lite (three colours)
Playstation Portable – one system – PSP White 3000 model
Who produced the most unreliable system? No surprise, it was Microsoft with the woeful Xbox 360.
Xbox 360 – two systems – red ring of death (2)
Playstation Portable – one system – bricked when firmware updated without system being plugged to an A/C charger
Which systems I purchased on Day One and which came later.
Launch Date: February 2005
Purchase Date: Late 2005
Launch Date: September 2005
Purchase Date: Won in a sales competition at work, mid 2007
Launch Date: March 2006
Purchase Date: March 2006 DAY ONE
Playstation 3Launch Date: March 2007
Purchase Date: August 2007
Launch Date: December 2006
Purchase Date: December 2006 DAY ONE
The first game I played on each system.
Nintendo DS – Super Mario 64 DS
Playstation Portable – Loco Roco
Xbox 360 – Kameo
Playstation 3 – Virtua Fighter 5
Nintendo Wii – Wii Sports/The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess