So another year has come to an end. That means it's lists galore. But this isn't just any old year. This is the year that the 8th gen kicked it into overdrive. Sometimes, it's just good to talk about video games. The 7th gen was a magical time in which everybody enjoyed great success. I've been gaming for a looooong time and I must say that some of my fondest video game memories come from the time I spent with my Wii, PS3, Xbox 360, DS, and PSP. The 8th gen is now upon us and I think it's safe to say that the best of the 7th gen is behind us. There will still be great games but the focus is clearly on the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, and 3DS. Let's take this time to remember the 7th gen and the games that made it special. Let's list our top 10 games that defined the generation. Maybe not the best games, but the games that made it great to be a gamer. Here's mine:
As we charge into gen 8, let's reflect on gen 7.
10. Heavy Rain (PS3): Just beating out the amazing Arkham Asylum for my top ten is Quantic Dream's ambitious title. Maybe the story wasn't perfect and maybe the acting was stilted and unrealistic. Maybe the choices weren't as story altering as I thought. None of this mattered. For the time it took to save my son from the Origami Killer, I was engrossed in the lives of the four main characters. The emotion was real. I can't remember the last time I was so invested in a video game character's life. Even little things like taking a shower seemed fascinating. Fans of twitch gameplay and those that skip the cutscenes will be bored out of their minds. For those looking for a movie-like experience, Heavy Rain sits atop the mountain. Only Telltale's The Walking Dead comes close.
9. Bayonetta (Xbox 360/PS3): I didn't want to like Bayonetta. When I first saw the trailer, I even created a thread saying that Bayonetta looked like garbage. I was baffled by the perfect scores the game was receiving left and right. With too much time and money on my hands, I picked up a copy. What I was treated to was the gen's best action game. I'd played God of War. I'd played Devil May Cry. What we had here was a different beast entirely. You can play the game as a button masher but when you take the time to learn the finer points of the gameplay, nothing else comes close. Bayonetta is the gold standard by which all others are measured. Not bad for a series debut.
8. Dance Central (Xbox 360): I can't dance. I'm embarrassed by my lack of coordination. In a club, I'm the guy leaning up against the wall trying to look cool. So, when a game makes ME feel like I'm Justin Timberlake, it's one hell of an accomplishment. The Kinect for Xbox 360 has its share of haters. It promised a lot and didn't really deliver on its potential. Doesn't matter. Dance Central stayed in my living room 360 for months. Everybody that visited made a fool of themselves dancing to the game and it will always be one of the fondest memories I have of the gen. The novelty wore off with the sequels but the original will always have a place in my heart.
7. Call of Duty 4 (Xbox 360/PS3): When I saw the trailers for Modern Warfare, I thought "Hmm...looks like an interesting game." Little did I know that, when I went into that Gamestop back in 2007, nothing would ever be the same. Call of Duty 4 was the first time I'd played video games online and what an introduction it was. Minutes turned into hours and hours turned into days. It captured that "One more game!" feeling that I hadn't experienced in years. The franchise gets a lot of flack these days for ruining gaming but, for me, COD set the bar for what online gaming on a console could be and it never looked back.
6. Uncharted 2 (PS3): I purchased my PS3 the day a little game called Metal Gear Solid 4 released. Despite its high praise, the game left me hungry for more. Even much touted graphics failed to live up to my personal expecations. I found myself looking for something more impressive to show off the power of my new console. Drake's Fortune was that game. It was a beautiful, but flawed experience. Fast forward to 2009 and those flaws were nowhere to be found. Like no game before it, Uncharted 2 captured that feeling of being in the middle of a huge Hollywood blockbuster. The set pieces, the characters, the dialog--it was a rollercoaster ride like no other. The franchise built off of mechanics found in Tomb Raider Legend but Nathan Drake took those aspects and made it his own. The novelty has worn off as lesser games like Enslaved, Remember Me, and even the Tomb Raider 2013 reboot borrow the game's seemless climbing mechanic. The Uncharted series sucked me in like no other and Uncharted 2 was the series pinnacle.
5. Super Street Fighter 4 (Xbox 360/PS3): When I first played Street Fighter II in arcades back in 1991, I was in love. The many games that followed failed to recapture that magic. The Alpha series, the Ex series, the Vs. series--none of them held my attention like the one that started the fighting game phenomenon. I had high hopes for Street Fighter 4 and, for the most part, it delivered. Then SUPER came along and blew the doors off. If I were on a desert island and could only bring one 7th gen game, a TV, a console, and some sort of internet connection made of coconuts, that game would be Super Street Fighter 4. Fighting game nirvana.
4. Wii Sports (Wii): I was curious about the motion control phase that video games were headed towards. In a way, I was excited. At the same time, I was skeptical. When I saw Wii Sports being shown at E3 in 2005, I thought it looked like crap. I had to see it first hand to appreciate it. Over years, the novelty has worn off and the illusion of 1:1 motion controls is no more. Doesn't matter. This engulfed my home like a tidal wave. Everybody wanted to give it a try and, despite the controls not working perfectly, everyone loved it. We had a blast. I probably more fun with Wii Sports than any other game listed on count down and that has to count for something. No HD graphics, motion captured animations, or orchestral music. Just simple fun....and isn't that why we play games in the first place?
3. Gears of War (Xbox 360): I didn't want an Xbox 360 or a PS3 or a Wii. I said I was going to quit gaming when the Gamecube and PS2 finally died out. I just didn't see any significant improvement in the (at the time) "Next Gen Consoles". Then, it happened. I saw Gears of War in person. I was blown away. This game was such a sight to behold back in 2006. Hell, it still looks good now. The next gen doesn't begin until Sony says so? Not for me. The next gen began when Gears of War hit the market. It was a quantum leap in graphcs. The game played as good as it looked, too. The cover mechanic was perfected in this game and refined in later iterations of the franchise. It may seem clunky to some now but I'd take Gears of War over 90% of the games released since. This is the franchise that defined the generation, for me.
2. Halo 3 (Xbox 360): I didn't want an Xbox. What did it have to offer? Halo and what else? I was happy with my PS2 and Gamecube. When Halo 3 released back in 2007, I decided to see what the big deal was. I'm glad I did. The game was so good that I went back and purchased the original versions of Halo and Halo 2. I was in line on day one for Halo Reach and Halo 4. I even enjoyed Halo ODST. Halo is more than just an FPS. It's an entire universe with its own lore. At the time, nothing could compare to the grand battles I had taken part with (with split screen, no less!). Fighting along side your fellow soldiers in vast battlefields as one person attacked with an air vehicle and another stormed in on foot before hopping into a ground vehicle--it's just something no other franchise I've played has perfected yet. I decided to see what the big deal was. Now, I'm a Halo fan for life.
1. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii): This could possibly be the greatest game I've ever played. I often worried that Nintendo had lost their touch. The makers of the great games of my childhood had passed away, moved on to different projects, retired, etc. I felt like Nintendo was just Nintendo in name, only. I was wrong. I wasn't even halfway throught the first stage when Mario was flying through the air, collecting star bits, and sounding like he was having the time of his life....and so was I. I wasn't a 30-something father/police officer anymore. I was an 8 year-old kid on a Saturday morning exploring a whole new universe. Every shortcoming that the Wii hardware had was forgotten. The purchase of the console instantly justified by this one amalgam of everything I loved about gaming. Some people don't get it. Some never will. There's something about a Triple-A Mario game that makes everything in the world just seem right. This is the game that defined the 7th gen for me. A new world of wonder and excitement with an old friend to guide me through it.
Batman Arkham City--Because I'm Batman! My choice for 2009 game of the year.
Mass Effect 2--For fulfilling the promise of the original with a living breathing universe. My 2010 game of the year.
Red Dead Redemption--Open World gaming done right
God of War 3--the graphics king of the 7th gen
And that's my list. What's yours?*edit* Other great memories come from: Portal (Innovative), Saints Row 2 (the heir to the throne), Valkyria Chronicles (Favorite PS3 game), Geometry Wars (My first downloadable), Lost Odyssey (best JRPG of the gen)