It’s hard to believe the new generation is just on the horizon. With fewer than three weeks to go before we’re assaulted with brand spankin’ new technology, we thought it necessary to count down the absolute best games of this generation. From 2005 to the glorious 2013, over the next three days we celebrate the greatest games through this time period. Through detailed explanation and a recorded audio stream, come share with us the games most deserving of our praise and undeniable love.
Over the next three days we’ll be revealing the top 15 games of this generation. That’s five, five and you guessed it, five more. Now, before we begin there’s some ground rules we need to explain before the inevitable fits of rage from the internet begin. We decided that to identify the generation better, the games selected on the top 15 would be from consoles only. That’s right, no PC. Why? For the purposes of this series of articles omission of the PC allows for a more focused approach. The PC has been around for millions of years and, besides, we’re using the console timeline for this list! Important as titles like Minecraft are to the video game world, it’s impact was made on the PC and therefore will not have a place on this list. There is one exception to this rule, but we won’t reveal it here.
Saying that, these choices were made through the gnashing of angry teeth, violent roundhouse kicks and heated debates (of which we recorded one for your listening pleasure). Know that every title you see somehow affected the industry in a life-changing way; their impact cannot be denied. That’s more than enough for the prelude, now let’s get going!
- Console only (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii)
- Must have released between the years of 2005 and 2013
Full-length Feature Podcast
If you’re feeling anxious and want to hear Andrew and Aaron sit back, chop down the list and talk up their sides of this generation’s best games, here’s the WHOLE conversation!
9) Mortal Kombat
Mortal Kombat needs no introduction. As infamous as it is famous, Ed Boon’s baby had never quite evolved the way fighting genre enthusiasts hoped. With the fighter scene growing more and more niche as time pressed on, all of a sudden a revitalized Mortal Kombat (AKA MK9) crashed onto the scene, ripped the faces of doubters off and punched the rest of the onlookers in their surprised crotches. Ridiculous as it sounds, the new Mortal Kombat took fighters to a level that gamers didn’t think plausible and allowed everyone to appreciate the fighter again.
Why’d it make the list?: Most people looking at a ‘best of’ list like this would expect to see Street Fighter IV instead of the ‘lowly’ Mortal Kombat. As mechanically involved as Street Fighter is, it’s a game only a handful of fanatical devotees can really look to and exclaim it the reason fighters are relevant again. While the latter half may be true, it’s accessibility may as well be a 10,000 foot steel wall of porpoise carcasses. We cover it in our audio portion of the debates, but Mortal Kombat made gamers of all kinds appreciate the fighter again due to its ease of access and water-cooler moments. The game still allows you to go as deep as you want to, yet also provides addictive unlockables and the world’s greatest fighting game storyline; no joke. If anything, Mortal Kombat has shown the industry that a good story can work in a fighter and, to some, may even be the sole reason to go through it at least once.
Back in the day when I was playing games like Diablo, The Secret of Mana and Final Fantasy VI, I devoured games like Bastion as if it was my job. Composed of industry veterans, Supergiant Games came together to craft one of the best RPGs I’ve played in well over a decade. While it might look a bit dated to some, the design aesthetic, tense narrative and absolutely heartwarming musical score propel Bastion into one of our top spots of the generation.
Why’d it make the list?: Bastion is an easy game, but at the same time it provides an old-school challenge only the most devoted players will overcome. It serves as a startling reminder that games were made very differently in what feels like millennia ago. This isn’t to say the games of the past will always be better than anything contemporary, but quite the opposite. Games like Bastion that adopt modern developmental assets while implementing vintage design elements come together as something entirely surreal and not often found in this, or maybe even the next generation of gaming. Supergiant’s first strike is charming, musically robust and simply needs to be experienced. Bastion is a necessary, anachronistic masterpiece that reminds gamers of all ages how a great game is created – through imagination and passion.
7) Dark Souls
On a personal list, Dark Souls would more than likely take the top honors. It’s not because it’s brutally hard for no reason, or that the fighting system is ahead of most current games, it’s more about the mystery of not knowing what’s next or what you’re supposed to be doing. Dark Souls is about exploring, reading the signs the game and other people tell you, it’s a game where a friend on lunch calls you and tells you about Ash Lake to which your response is flooring it home so you can see what in the hell he’s talking about. Without question, Dark Souls is one of the most original games to ever release.
Why’d it make the list?: Much of what I said above makes sense here; there just isn’t any kind of game like this. Sharing your experiences with others is an honor lost in the evolution of the industry, but Dark Souls keeps it fresh. From Blight Town to the Tomb of the Giants, each section of Dark Souls resonates with you differently yet remains vividly memorable. Environments are masterfully created and the music is completely nonexistent, with the exception of boss fights, adding to the ominous presence that always seems to follow you. Demon’s Souls also played a huge part in the debates, but in the end we felt some of the decisions FromSoftware made in Dark Souls impacted the series in a better way. Dark Souls is a treasure, a mystery that the community surprisingly embraced and now we wait… Dark Souls II can’t come soon enough.
6) Rock Band
You’ve already played Rock Band, so using this section to talk about how these music games single-handedly broke the ice for millions of casual and non-gamers is pointless. Though Guitar Hero started the craze, Harmonix took Rock Band and sealed the formula with a pitch-laced laser lock. Parties, family events, blowing off steam, dueling your buddy to see who has to go pick up the pizza, Rock Band transformed the world.
Why’d it make the list?: Rock Band was, ahem, instrumental in the overnight success of music games. Guitar Hero introduced the idea, but Rock Band gave that idea drums, a mic and the master tracks of songs you actually would like to play. Couple that with a library that follows you from game to game and now you have less of a reason to feel nickle and dimed than ever before. Simply put, Harmonix knew what they were doing, made the whole experience a blast and changed the way we perceive the genre for all time. It’s too bad Guitar Hero poisoned the well on this one, but here’s to the future!
Here’s our exception we spoke about in our opening statements! Portal debuted on the PC to universal critical praise. Actually, the game was so good Valve went ahead and made an Orange Box so the people on consoles could also enjoy the genius of the game. We scrapped Left 4 Dead 2 because it played noticeably worse on consoles, but the same cannot be said of Portal. It most certainly looks a whole lot better on the PC, but as a puzzler, Portal’s elegance isn’t obstructed by console controls or a terrible porting job. Welcome, noble creatures, to one of the most important games of our time.
Why’d it make the list?: Besides helping engineer a whole movement of indies, puzzle-platformers and the casual gaming market? What about the re-emergence of cerebral gameplay, Still Alive (which made an appearance in Rock Band) and the incredible Portal 2? Yeah, I guess nothing. Nothing at all.