It is absolutely bizarre to think back on this console generation, a generation that has lasted far longer than any before, and maybe any ever will. Since Microsoft released the Xbox 360 back in November of 2005 to now, there have been a tremendous amount of titles, both big and small, that have pushed their genre’s forward, that have pushed storytelling in exciting new directions, and that have pushed the boundaries of multiplayer gaming.
Sony’s PlayStation 3 brought the Blu Ray format into the house, Nintendo conquered the market by trying something bold and exciting, and Microsoft continued their dominance in the online space. Each of the powerhouses this generation excelled in many areas, while making a few mistakes along the way. But when it comes to the games, gamers worldwide had much to celebrate over these last eight years.
Below is a list compiling the best and most important console games of this lifecycle. Whether they were breaking new ground, setting new trends, blurring the line between films and games, keeping alive fading genre’s, or making players feel for the first time in years; the following list of thirty titles are the can’t miss games of this generation.
Come November gamers will embark on the next exciting step for video games, but with no backwards compatibility to look forward to, now is the perfect time to make sure you have experienced the best this generation has to offer. Now sit back and relax as we look back over the last eight years of gaming while also deciding where your money should be going over the next few months.
“Best Games of this Generation”
30.) Alan Wake
Remedy Entertainment’s long delayed suspense thriller Alan Wake seemed like it may never release. Originally an open world title that would allow gamers free roam over the small idyllic town of Bright Falls, Remedy would later scrap the entire project and start over from scratch. With the realization that a more linear story would truly be able to capture the tense dark tale they were trying to create, the team began work on the Alan Wake we know and love. The personal journey that writer Wake must take to save his missing wife is one filled with deep personal demons, a town haunted to its core, and a story usually found within a Stephen King novel. Lets hope Remedy’s next, Quantum Break, can deliver just as exciting and fresh an experience next generation.
29.) Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise
When Microsoft spent big money to acquire Rare ltd, gamers everywhere saw it as a big move, one taking an important player from Nintendo and delivering them to a rising giant. Fast forward to today and well…many have forgotten Rare even exists! Under the Microsoft label Rare has gone from one of the top developers in gaming to a studio that has been stuck working on Avatar’s and Kinect Sports. But gamers have missed one of the most original and fun titles of this generation, one created by the team at Rare and looked over due to its cute child like innocence. Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise delivers an entirely fresh, non violent, and in depth experience for both single players and co-operative fiends. Offering gamers a mix of Harvest Moon and Pokemon, Viva Pinata allows players to maintain a plot of land, customizing every aspect to attract the majestic wildlife and keep them happy. With hundreds of unique Pinata, each with their own likes and dislikes, and the ability to do it all with a friend; Trouble in Paradise is the perfect charming game to spend dozens of hours with.
28.) inFamous 2
With the first inFamous Sucker Punch brought a new superhero story to gamers, one that allowed them free reign over a large world and the ability to truly feel as if they were growing along with the title character. inFamous 2 improved on the original in almost every aspect. A larger more unique area to explore, more exciting abilities, and a story that, while still blatantly black and white, allowed for some more diversity. inFamous 2 stands tall as one of the best realized superhero sagas in gaming, and while it still has its flaws, mostly with the laughable climbing mechanic, it is still a title that most should experience and enjoy. Here’s hoping the third continues its upward swing.
27.) Dragon Age: Origins
With Origins Bioware gave gamers an RPG that had one foot in their past work such as Neverwinter Nights, and another firmly planted in the same area that spawned titles such as Mass Effect. With an emphasis on player choice as well as character development and orders in battle, Dragon Age was proved more hardcore than their more popular fare. Origins was long, engrossing, and mature; delivering one of Bioware’s best titles to date and offering gamers a fantasy title that pulled no punches.
26.) Borderlands 2
Gearbox Software put themselves on the map with the original Borderlands, a title that thrived on a great art style, endless loot, and the perfect choice to allow four players to take on the journey together. Borderlands 2 would double down on every aspect of the original game, upping the comedy, the intensity, the loot, and the options for players. The biggest and most crucial change however would be the inclusion of an actual story that felt important and gave weight to the adventures friends could have together. With one of the best co-operative experiences around, Borderlands 2 is definitely a title better played with friends.
25.) God of War 3
Santa Monica Studio’s first attempt on the PlayStation 3 was the explosive climactic closure that the God of War series deserved, and although it wouldn’t close out the series as it should have, God of War 3 still stands as one of the best action adventure titles around. The series huge moments got bigger, the boss encounters more fantastic, and the endless blood rage of Kratos never looked more disturbing and terrific. This is the series that most action games still strive to be, and none have quite figured out its perfect combat system, sense of speed, and massive sense of scale.
The staff at Thatgamecompany holds one of the most unique voices in gaming. With unparalleled vision and determination, the team has gone out and delivered one unique experience after another. Following their freshman title Flow, the team aimed larger for their sophomore effort. The game that would come from this larger push would be one of true beauty and of true power. Flower is one of the most unique games you can play this generation, and also one of the few games that actually used the sixaxis ability for motion control. While Flower will first stun you with its sheer beauty, it also features a subtle story that will move you. Players take control of the wind as they soar through the air, weave between blades of grass, and carry petals across the sky, in the hopes of bringing out the worlds natural beauty in a sea of metallic and concrete change.
23.) Assassins Creed: Brotherhood
Ubisoft Montreal continued the saga of Desmond Miles and Ezio Auditore with the third, and arguably best, entry in the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Offering players the chance to explore another massive location, hunt down even more Templars, and get a true sense of growth and development with the ability to begin and bolster your Assassins Guild. This would be the first time that multiplayer would also be featured in an Assassins title, and it would prove both unique and addicting. Brotherhood was the culmination of years of work and with a disappointing Assassins Creed 3, may be the high point in this now annual series.
22.) Race Driver: Grid
In 2008 the racing aficionados at Codemasters brought about their best entry yet in the overcrowded racing genre. Race Driver: Grid is one of the best racing games around, and undoubtedly the high point for the genre during the seventh generation. Grid featured an incredible variety of race types for gamers to conquer, from F1, to Destruction Derby, to Circuit, and open street; the amount of content found within this package was excellent. The cherry on top was the games commitment to the cockpit view. An important element of the gameplay and one of the first titles to truly make use of the realistic camera position, Grid’s racing felt natural and fun. Grid’s authenticity and impressive graphical prowess along with its huge assortment of gameplay variety makes it a hallmark for the genre, one its sequel couldn’t even exceed.
21.) Dead Space
Horror fans, at least on consoles, couldn’t quite catch a break this generation. With games such as Silent Hill and Resident Evil losing their muster, it was a nice break that EA and Visceral Games would bring about one of the best horror games of all time. The original Dead Space was true terror and intensity. One part Alien and another Event Horizon, Dead Space took gamers and dropped them scared and alone on a terrifying trip into insanity, battling undead alien nightmares aboard a broken starship. With objectives that mattered, graphics that impressed, and sound design that was out of this world, Dead Space gave horror fans a very bright spot in a very bleak setting.
20.) Battlefield: Bad Company 2
The Battlefield franchise has never quite had the best relationship with console gamers. While the series has always been terrific on the PC platform, consoles could never quite match the series strict hardware requirements. That all changed with the power of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. While the original Bad Company was a decent entry in the franchise, Bad Company 2 destroyed it in every regard. Featuring a great presentation, the best single player campaign the series has ever seen, and a level of destruction unlike any in gaming, Bad Company 2 was a complete package. Gamers found themselves sinking hundreds of hours into this ones online play, and the great Vietnam expansion only improved it further.
19.) Grand Theft Auto IV
A franchise known for its large sprawling cities and portrayal of both comic and intense violence, Rockstar turned the GTA vehicle around when they started development for the newer shinier hardware. The team at Rockstar took a risk when they made the decision to leave behind the comic mayhem of its predecessors and create a much more gritty and realistic crime drama, but the gamble paid off. At the time of release Grand Theft Auto IV was a new high water mark for a modern world realized. Featuring television programming, comedy clubs, stage shows, its own internet, and a story that spanned dozens of hours, GTA IV was the next evolution for the series. While many missed some of the series more out there features, the games DLC would later add them back, but in a manner more fitting the games new realistic identity.
18.) Dark Souls
Do you like a game that takes enjoyment from crushing your dreams? Do you like a title that looks at the past, at the times when games were far more difficult and required far more skill than they do today? Do you want a game that you can play for a dozen hours and still feel like you have barely scratched the surface of what it provides? Then the folks at From Software have just the game for you! A spiritual successor to Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls allows gamers to create their own adventurer and then fight tooth and nail to have them prevail on their quest. Featuring a deliberate pace, a fantastic world, and absolutely stunning creature designs and boss encounters; Dark Souls is one of the most intense role playing trips a gamer can take. Yes its brutal, and yes you will become frustrated, but if you keep at it and if you have patience, Dark Souls is one of the most rewarding titles you can play. A game where even a smidge of progress feels like a well deserved accomplishment.
17.) Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
While From Software has brought the action RPG back to its hardcore roots with Dark Souls, CDProjekt Red have brought the story focused RPG back to its hardcore roots with The Witcher series. With an emphasis on detail and intricate systems, as well as a player driven story, The Witcher 2 separates itself from the pack of role playing games that are striving to be simpler and more friendly to new players. Playing as the Witcher Geralt, you will struggle with your past as you strive to make it to your future. Through political agendas, assassinations, and monster slaying; Witcher 2 brings you into its world like few games can, and it doesn’t hurt that its one of the most beautiful worlds in gaming.
16.) Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords
In 2007 small studio Infinite Interactive broke new ground in the tired puzzle genre, bringing to gamers one of the most innovative and exciting experiences that could be found on the mobile and downloadable space. One part Bejeweled and one part RPG, Puzzle Quest allows you to build a hero that can one day conquer the entire playspace. From toppling giant demons to collecting taxes from your kingdoms. Crafting new powerful weapons of war to creating exciting new spells. Puzzle Quest offers a massive role playing experience in an exciting new way, all for a price that is a steal. While a sequel did release several years later, it would fail to capture the massive scope of its predecessor. Warlords is a game for everyone, one part color matching puzzler and one part epic dungeon crawl.
15.) Rock Band
Speaking of breaking new ground, that’s exactly what Harmonix did when they left their popular Guitar Hero franchise behind and created an entirely new experience with the Rock Band franchise. Moving from a simple guitar to an entire band, Rock Band was and still is unlike any other multiplayer title around. The perfect party game, Rock Band brought gamers and non gamers alike together for one awesome experience. Whether you were lead singer, bass, guitar, drums, or keyboard, you were most likely having a blast. With years worth of DLC, and a never ending career mode, Rock Band has stood the test of time for many music fans and gamers. While the instrument craze is now gone, no one can deny the innovation and fun that Harmonix created with this unique package.
14.) Xenoblade Chronicles
A game that almost never saw release outside of Japan finally did when enough people got Nintendo to realize their mistake. And what a mistake it would have been. Monolith Soft did what Square and many other studio’s have been unable to do for years; make a Japanese role playing title relevant again! Xenoblade is one of the best games on the Wii hardware, and a game that blends the best of Western and Eastern ideas of what an RPG should be. Featuring a massive world, interesting battle mechanics, and a long adventure, all come together to make Xenoblade a tale worth experiencing.
13.) Gears of War 3
With the original Gears of War Epic Games found a way to reinvent the third person shooter, much the same way Halo showed people that an FPS could work on console, Gears showed gamers and developers alike how a cover system, camera work, and pop and shoot mechanics should be handled. Now these systems are common place, but no game seems to nail the formula down quite like Gears does. With each sequel Epic continued to hone their work into a perfect piece, with the finale of the Marcus and Dom story being the kickass sendoff they deserved. Though Gears of War 3 featured a well done campaign, it was the terrific online options that provided the game the legs it needed. With a slew of competitive options and the amazing Horde mode, fans had a lot to enjoy with this one.
12.) Little Big Planet 2
Sony got handed an ace card when British studio Media Molecule decided to partner with the company on an exclusive new IP for the PlayStation 3. Little Big Planet would later release and be a beacon for all of the creative gamers in the world. A game with witty British humor, an amazing hand crafted art style, and a central core around the idea that gamers can create and make their own stages and features. Little Big Planet was a totally original and genuinely fun game, one with enough charm to make anyone smile. Little Big Planet 2 would later come and improve every single aspect of the original. From its presentation, size, and options; Little Big Planet 2 had seemingly no wall to run into, you could just keep going. Gamers everywhere flooded the market with first person shooters, top down adventures, and recreations of classic film scenes. With LBP your imagination is your only obstacle.
11.) Super Mario Galaxy 2
Keeping on the imagination track, a company that has loads of unique ideas (but often doesn’t show it) is Nintendo, one of the staples of gaming. In 2010 the folks under the red hat would create a sequel to one of the most fun titles of this generation, and in doing so, would blow it out of the water. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a wild and fun trip through the wacky minds of the developers. With unbelievable level design, callbacks to older Mario games, fun new costumes, and some of the best platforming ever seen; Super Mario Galaxy 2 truly stands out as one of the best gaming has to offer, and one of the most pure experiences you can have.
10.) Bioshock Infinite
In 2007 Irrational Games created a spiritual successor to System Shock that showed gamers what “next gen” gaming could be. Featuring a dark but beautiful world and a story that eventually showed its claws, the original Bioshock wowed many. In 2013 Irrational took the podium again and proved that they could end the “next gen” life cycle just as they started it, by wowing audiences once more. Bioshock Infinite did what its predecessor had done, only better. With a larger more exciting setting, a protagonist that had a voice, and a story that culminated in one of the best twists of any game ever; Bioshock Infinite showed what great storytelling and atmosphere could accomplish in gaming.
9.) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Bethesda’s flagship series returned in 2011 and is still being played by many today, often discovering new things! The Elder Scrolls series has been linked to massive worlds, great adventures, and player driven storytelling. By offering gamers the choice of a life to live and world to inhabit, the series has been the very definition of role playing. With the series, in my opinion, taking a misstep with Oblivion, Skyrim had a lot to prove, and boy did it prove itself. The Elder Scrolls V is beautiful, daunting, exciting, believable, and unbelievably fun. It is a time sink that you may never recover from. Why live in our world when Skyrim is just so damn impressive?
8.) Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
The Call of Duty series had always been an impressive first person shooter franchise, but once Modern Warfare came out, nothing would ever be the same. Infinity Ward crafted a single player campaign never before seen in the first person war genre. They built an entirely new and addictive multiplayer suite. They built the next big thing in gaming. Millions found themselves glued to their televisions, whether experiencing the intense story, or the fast and exciting online features, Call of Duty 4 changed the game. Now the series may be testing the public’s patience, but at one point it was the pinnacle of first person gaming. Hopefully Respawn can do it all over again with Titanfall next year.
7.) Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
The beginning of the Uncharted series was a solid action adventure title, the sequel however, that would be something entirely different. With Uncharted 2 Naughty Dog showed the world what they could really do. What that was is create a game that felt like you were watching a Hollywood blockbuster. From its soundtrack to its voice cast. The incredible graphics to the spectacle on display; the Uncharted franchise is unlike any other game available. This is the game that made Nolan North a household name. This is the game that had non gamers everywhere sitting down to watch an exciting Indiana Jones inspired thrill ride. This is the game that made the PlayStation 3 the system to own.
6.) Mass Effect 2
In 2007 Bioware and EA would deliver to gamers the first chapter of an exciting new franchise. A series that promised to make player choice a pivotal aspect. A series that gave gamers an entirely new and incredible sci-fi galaxy to explore. A series that would give gamers an intoxicating number of amazing characters to interact with. While the original Mass Effect had a great story, the series wouldn’t truly engulf gamers hearts until the second entry. Mass Effect 2, released in 2010, showed gamers what a digital family could be. With returning favorites and entirely new characters to meet and befriend, Mass Effect 2 was a truly memorable experience from start to finish. Carrying over important decisions from the first game allowed players to truly feel as if they owned this story, an idea that would actually come to bite both parties in the end.
5.) Red Dead Redemption
Impressive scope? Check. Impressive details? Check. Amazing voice acting? Yep. Long engrossing story? Ahuh. Unique and exotic setting? You betcha. Fun and creative multiplayer? Cherry on top. Rockstar Games, not content to sit on their achievements, continued to push the envelope of what open world games could be with 2010’s Red Dead Redemption. Taking place in the old west, an unfortunately underused period in gaming, John Marston is forced into service by the Bureau and promised freedom if he cooperates and brings his old gang buddies into custody. What follows is a story that shows all the beauty and darkness that inhabited the old times. With a massive amount of content, the best horses in gaming, fun action, terrific ragdoll, and an ingenious use of the “never ending” nature of sandbox games; Red Dead has it all. Now next next gen, please bring to us a sequel that is even better.
4.) The Last of Us
Completing the Uncharted franchise Naughty Dog needed something else to do as they waited for the new more powerful machines to come around, thus The Last of Us was created. Sony fans everywhere rejoiced. The Last of Us was a complete 180 for the studio. Gone were the witty one liners and bombastic adventures, replaced with unrelenting sorrow and nightmarish terrors. The Last of Us features the best of Naughty Dog’s incredible talent. Astounding presentation, incredible writing and voice work, terrific level design, and intense combat. But it is of course those beautiful moments of character development that steals the show. The number of games that have fully realized and believable characters can be counted on one hand, and the Last of Us stands tall among them. This is the perfect swan song for the PlayStation 3.
3.) Portal 2
Who would have guessed that hidden inside The Orange Box, right beside Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress 2, would be the real star of Valve this generation? Starting life as a small project at DigiPen, Valve quickly fell in love with the students work and gave them all jobs. Much like the students opportunity, the original Portal was a truly magical, unique, and offbeat adventure. Portal 2 would up the experience tenfold however. Featuring a much more ambitious story, lovable characters, and gameplay that was much more intricate; Portal 2 was the perfect sequel. However, even with these accomplishments, the true standout of creative expertise belongs to the absolutely incredible level design that the folks at Valve managed to craft. The puzzles found within Portal 2 are painstakingly created from the ground up to push your level of thinking far beyond what you had thought possible. Getting to the next area feels so natural, even without markers, that it must have taken the team thousands of hours and hundreds of hair pulls to get it just right. Luckily it was all worth it. Oh, and the game also features an awesome co-operative campaign and one of the best endings this generation.
When thatgamecompany finally released their long delayed indie title Journey, the world took notice. Winning numerous Game of the Year awards from sites such as IGN and Gamespot. Best PlayStation 3 and Indie title at the Spike TV Video Game Awards. Its musical score, composed by Austin Wintory, was nominated for a Grammy in the “Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media” a first for any videogame. The game would go on to garner more awards at the D.I.C.E. Awards, Game Developers Choice Awards, and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Oh, and it is also the fastest selling game on the PlayStation Network. All of this from a tiny studio that was almost pushed to bankruptcy during the development of Journey. This is a story of overcoming the odds and besting the powerful at their own game. Journey is a crowning achievement in the indie game space. An achievement that shows all other game studio’s that as long as you have heart, passion, and a vision, then you don’t need to conform to what the big publishers deem the market wants. Every gamer should experience this Journey named Journey.
1.) The Walking Dead
Gamers were stunned. Gamers were horrified. Gamers panicked. Gamers cried. Non gamers sat around the televisions watching it all happen, awestruck that they were watching a game, and not a film or show. Telltale Games, a small independent studio based out of California, best known for adventure games such as Sam and Max and Tales of Monkey Island, had taken a licensed game and made it something more, something unique. Released in an episodic manner, the folks at Telltale were able to improve and alter the game based around fan response, all leading up to an incredible finale for “Season One.” With player choice playing a pivotal role, much like Bioware’s Mass Effect series, the gamer was allowed to feel in control of not only the lead Lee Everett, but his group of fellow survivors as well. This aspect of give and take from Telltale allowed them to play with the emotions of the player, making you feel powerful in one moment and then utterly defeated the next. The writing was great, the voice acting top notch, and the presentation well done. And all of this with a license that is at the height of its popularity thanks to the AMC television show. A show that, in fact, Telltale easily topples. In a time where games seem to finally be understanding that writing and character are incredibly important, Telltale’s The Walking Dead has lead the charge. The relationship between Lee and Clem is one of the most important the interactive medium has ever seen. From its subtle interludes to its most violent crimes, The Walking Dead has paved the way for cinematic storytelling in gaming and has proven that even the B studios, in between the AAA giants and the indie darlings, can have a vastly important impact on the gaming culture.
Those are the best and most important games of this generation, though of course there are plenty more great titles to enjoy and discover. But if you want to see the ones that pushed gaming forward, these are the games that you simply must play. If you feel a title was unjustly left off this list, then leave a comment below letting your voice be heard!