As the current generation of consoles ends, I was reflecting on how many fantastic games came out during this lifecycle. There were so many memorable moments and characters over the past 7 years that I wanted to honor and recommend them by making a list of my top 20 games of this generation.
20) Burnout Paradise – This was my favorite racer of the generation. I loved how you could pull up to any stoplight and a new race would start. The city was so much fun to drive around and it looked gorgeous.
19) Heavy Rain – I give David Cage, the game director, a lot of credit for trying something new. In an era that is dominated by the first person shooter, he created a game not around guns, but story and interacting. With branching storylines that depended on choices you make, it felt like the story that unfolds was your own.
18) Tearaway - No game made me feel like I was interacting with a game world as much as this one. It uses the Playstation Vita's front facing camera to literally put you in the game as well as the touch screen to create items that are used throughout the game. By the end, your journey through your creations is both charming and heartwarming.
17) Braid – Braid was one of the first downloadable games of the generation and it manages to still resonate with me today. It's a puzzle game that allows the player to rewind time to solve puzzles while also telling a unique story that leaves you thinking afterwards.
16) Persona 4 Golden - This was the game that got me back into Japanese RPGs again. I loved managing my connections to my schoolmates and the fun turn-based combat system.
15) The Walking Dead – Telltale Games returned the point and click adventure games of the past to prominence with this game. Another game that tells a great story with characters that you truly care about. The relationship between Lee and Clementine is one I’ll never forget.
14) Grand Theft Auto IV – The one thing I remember about GTA 4 is starting the game thinking, “I don’t know how Rockstar did this!”. I couldn’t believe the size and scope of the city and the variety of things to do. You could spend hours just driving around do races or going to comedy clubs and watch standup comedians or even going to strip clubs without ever doing a story mission.
13) Call of Duty IV: Modern Warfare – An argument can be made that this is the game that had the biggest impact of the generation. Jaw-dropping visuals and smooth frame rate gave it a look all its own that many have tried to duplicate. The multiplayer was a game changer that all first person shooters have copied. It also had one the best stories in any Call of Duty game.
12) Little Big Planet 2 – I dare you to try playing this game without a smile on your face. This game took what was a very good platforming game in the first Little Big Planet and refined it as well as gave the community the tools to create their own levels. It has thousands of levels to play that were made by the community and it has you play as a character called Sackboy that is one of the most adorable characters ever.
11) Bioshock – One of the best openings to a game ever and one of the most memorable characters in Big Daddies. The art deco style of Rapture was so memorable and the story, told through audio logs you find, gave a sense of discovery as it unfolded.
10) Gears of War – This game was the one that made my jaw drop the first time I saw it. It also created one of the most iconic weapons of the generation, the Lancer, a gun with a chainsaw attached to the bottom. This was so fun to play with friends and few actions were more satisfying than chainsawing a friend in half.
9) Assassin’s Creed 2 – I really enjoyed the traversal of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. It was so fun running across rooftops and climbing up buildings and then diving off them. This edition had the best setting, taking place during the Italian renaissance and the best story of the series.
8) Bioshock Infinite – Another great opening to a game as well as one of the best endings. In Columbia, Irrational Games created such a well realized world that I wish I could visit. Few games I played this generation had as many memorable moments and characters as Bioshock Infinite. Booker and Elizabeth's relationship is one I’ll never forget.
7) Rock Band – I spent more time playing Rock Band than any other game this generation. It was so much fun having four people combine to make the best fantasy band. I got to live out all my musical dreams playing this game.
6) Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – What a world Bethesda created! I played this game for about 50 hours and I barely scratched the surface. I spent 10 hours going to school to learn alchemy. I got chills the first time I saw a dragon circle above and land right beside me. Few other games made me feel like I was in a living, breathing world like this one.
5) Mass Effect – This is the Star Wars game I’ve always wanted. Flying from planet to planet, picking up new members of my crew, getting to know them, fighting alongside them, and really care for them. Over the trilogy, it was a great space odyssey that was not just about what you did but the people you did it with. My crew was like my family and I would do anything for them.
4) Batman: Arkham City – Finally, the Batman game I always wanted. It brought the entire rogues gallery into Gotham and you must defeat each one while gliding around the open city. The combat is second to none and the voice acting is some of the best ever in the Batman universe.
3) Uncharted – This trilogy is my favorite combination of set piece moments, story, and characters of the generation. Drake is one of my favorite characters These games made me feel like I was in a Indiana Jones movie. Climbing walls, solving puzzles, and cracking jokes with Sully was so much fun. I can’t wait to play the next one.
2) Journey – This was the game that affected me the most emotionally this generation. There is no shooting or words said, yet there is an emotional connection with your robed character. You interact with other robed characters along your journey without saying a word, instinctually helping each other along the way. Even though the game is only 3 hours long; by the end I was in tears, completely moved by the experience.
1) The Last of Us – Simply the best story ever told in video games and one of the best told across any media. I will never forget some of the moments that happened and I felt like I knew Joel and Ellie as well as I know characters from any other medium. This is the game that all others will have to measures against going forward.
While compiling this list I realized that this is the first generation I can say I had more memorable moments than the movies I watch during the same period. I believe we are just in infancy mode of gaming and look forward to the stories to come in the next generation. With that, I raise a glass to the many game developers that spent years of their lives creating these characters and worlds to explore. Well done all, well done.