From Part 1: [Beginning in 2005 with the launch of the Xbox 360 and continuing with the launch of the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii in 2006, the previous generation of the consoles was fraught with some of the most stellar titles of all time. With the release of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (and the WiiU being somewhere in between), this generation is winding down to a close.
What a ride this has been. We saw the rise of indie game development and more prominent digital distribution of video games. Wireless controllers have become the standard, as well as entertainment features that became a standard for all gaming devices (Netflix, YouTube, etc.). However, the real reflection needs to be on the games, as the quality has peaked yet again.
Disclaimer: I have not played everything, nothing on PC. As I will try to be objective, ultimately, this list will of course be comprised of my opinion. Because of the amount of games that this generation has had, I'm guaranteed to miss a couple of your favorites. That's what the comment section is for. Onward! Oh, and there may be some spoilers…]
3) Super Mario Galaxy 2, 2010
Mario is the king of platforming. Forever. Sure recent titles like Rayman Legends and Mirror’s Edge have taken the genre to different places, but nobody does it like the Mario series. The creativity in this game never ceases amaze. Taking the setting into space was simply a stroke of genius. This allowed for the player to visit various planets and environments. There are ice, fire, water, battleship, beehive, desert-themed levels, just to name a few. Taking place in space also allows for some interesting platforming puzzles and challenges by way of gravity. Going between planetoids keeps the gameplay fresh due to the varying gravitational strengths.
The game also features a brilliant orchestral soundtrack with stellar graphics and animation. Though the game is not in high-definition, the developers knew how to push the Wii to its limits to achieve an art direction that more than makes for the Wii’s technological shortcomings in comparison to its competition. This is the greatest Mario platformer, if not the greatest platformer of all-time.
2) The Last of Us, 2013
What else can be said about this game that hasn’t already been said? Nothing. Moving on…
Okay, fine, let’s see. The story in this game is amazing. Though it’s set in the ever popular post-apocalyptic world and is near analogous to The Road, the amazement is in how the story is told. State-of-the-art motion capture allowed every actors’ action to translate perfectly into the gameplay and cutscenes. This brings an unprecedented element of humanity to the game, in addition to the characters being written in a way of that grounds them in such reality.
Gameplay is also king here. The desperation of survival that permeates the narrative is interwoven into the gameplay. Items are limited and mistakes are punished hard. I have completed the main story four times and would love for the developers to revisit this universe.
1) Mass Effect 2, 2010
The greatest narrative saga in gaming is the Mass Effect trilogy. What makes it so great is the fact that it is the player’s story. Say what you will about the ending of Mass Effect 3, but you cannot deny the journey it takes you on. It is a journey based on your choices, meaning if you play through it again and make different ones, you can experience something different. It is an epic quest that spans the galaxy (and three games). You combat the imminent threat, those who refuse to acknowledge it, and others that mean to control it. Mass Effect 2 makes the list because it is when the series peaked (Mass Effect 1 and 3 alone wouldn’t be in my top 10).
The combat mechanics are extremely refined. The shooting and cover systems never annoy. Players experience no problems controlling their characters. Players can assign various ammunition augmentations to their guns, as well as super powers. Issuing squad commands (they have their own powers, weapons, and abilities) also keeps things interesting. In short, the combat is perfect.
What really takes this game into a higher tier than any other is its story and characters. The story is not overly complex: investigate the disappearance of humans from their colonies across the galaxy. Your companions are so varied. They are extremely fleshed out. They all have their own personalities and motivations. Their backstories are worth delving into by way of “Loyalty Missions,” which also net you greater abilities for that specific character to use in combat.
This generation, no game found a better balance between story, characters, immersion, gameplay, replayability, and essentially everything you look for in a video game than Mass Effect 2.