There are games that you love, and there are games that go beyond personal appreciation; through their sheer quality, these games manage to cross over into a universal level of appeal that means almost any gamer will absolutely love them, transcending genre, age and format. This generation has seen some remarkable games, and with so many high quality AAA games available, it feels like we’re in golden age of gaming. But above all others, these five games (in no particular order) showcase the best that his generation has to offer:
Batman: Arkham City
When Batman: Arkham Asylum was first released, gamers were surprised (and delighted) to learn that not only was Arkham Asylum one of the best licensed games ever made, but that it was one of the best games ever made. Graphically, it’s excellent, and the visuals set the tone perfectly. The storyline is also great, and just about everything else is great. However, what sets Arkham Asylum apart is the gameplay: it’s just incredibly fun to play. So after creating an almost perfect game, what did Rocksteady Studios do next? They opened it up from an asylum to an entire city, expanding the game in just about every way, and created Batman: Arkham City. Arkham City allows you to effectively free roam an entire city fillled with characters from the Batman comics, and gives you a plethora of gadgets to fight them with. There are side-missions galore, bonuses to collect, and massive new areas to explore at every turn. If none of that bothers you, you can just follow the fantastic story all the way through, with its many (and occasionally shocking) twists and turns. Batman: Arkham City is truly among the best that gaming has to offer.
Available on PS3
In many ways the complete opposite of a free-roaming, open game like Batman: Arkham City, Uncharted 2 is almost certainly the finest example of Hollywood production values within the gaming world. The gameplay is hugely fun, but this almost takes a back seat to the dazzling graphics and unparalleled (in gaming at least) acting quality. There are times in Uncharted 2 when you simple have to stop where you are and take a look around at the scenery. In particular, the Nepalese village level, high up in the Himalayas, is almost literally breathtaking. These graphics come at a price, as any notion of free-roam or open-world gameplay is sacrificed in order to focus on highly detailed, highly linear levels. However, instead of holding the game back, the linearity becomes an advantage; it allows the game to take you on a rollercoaster of a storyline, with a cast of highly vivid, memorable characters, brought to life by a witty, tightly written script that many Hollywood writers would be envious of. If you’ve ever wondered whether games could ever match movies as a storytelling medium, you only need to play Uncharted 2 to find out that they already do.
Every now and then a game comes along to remind you that big budgets, AAA development studios and fancy graphics can be blown out the water by simple innovation and creativity. Minecraft demonstrates this principle to a T. By taking a very simple premise – basically a computer game version of Lego – and building up a community of support, Markus Persson a.k.a. Notch created one of the biggest selling and most critically acclaimed games of all time. Sure, it’s not exactly 100% original, but by innovating and adding extra gameplay elements like monsters and levelling, Minecraft is elevated about being just a creative sandbox.
Like Uncharted 2’s linearity, Minecraft even turns its biggest flaw into a genuine asset – the blocky, old-school textures have become an instantly recognisable symbol of Minecraft, and a powerful reminder that fancy graphics are not necessary to make a fantastic game.
Another game that proves how big budgets and AAA development studios are nothing compared to solid gameplay and innovation is Demon’s Souls. First released in Japan in 2009, Demon’s Souls quickly began to send ripples through the gaming world and, thanks to PlayStation 3’s lack of region-lock, was soon being imported across the world by gamers eager to play this generation’s most exciting ‘old-school’ game. Due to popular demand, the game eventually received a western release, where sales and acclaim continued to pile in. Like Rocksteady Studios, developer From Software didn’t let the dust settle there however, and came back in 2011 with the massive, multiplatform sequel, Dark Souls. Set in a huge, terrifying open world, Dark Souls is arguably (but not definitively) the better of the two games, due to the expanded world, increased game length and even darker and more horrifying environments and enemies. OK, so we’re cheating a bit here, as Dark Souls isn’t actually the kind of game that any gamer will enjoy; but, if you’re brave enough to tackle the most punishingly difficult game this generation, you’ll find Dark Souls to be of the most exciting, rewarding and enjoyable games ever made.
Red Dead Redemption
As a computer game western, Red Dead Redemption is somewhat of an anomaly in gaming. There have been a number of decent western-themed games over the years, but very few ever reached significant mainstream success, so it was a welcome surprise when Rockstar Games announced that their next game would be a Grand Theft Auto style sandbox game set in the Old West. Right from the start, Red Dead Redemption has a lot going for it: massive open world gameplay, stunning vistas, an abundance of side-quests and mini games, a fantastic story, and brilliant voice acting. It’s hard to find any faults with Red Dead Redemption, and when you take into account the ‘Game of the Year’ edition that comes with all the DLC including the “Undead Nightmares” expansion, you’ll get a huge amount of playtime out of this. In a strange way, it’s hard to put an exact point on what makes Red Dead Redemption so brilliant, as everything about it is just so good – and that’s what gives it a place on this list. Red Dead Redemption has just about everything you’d want from a computer game and more, with massive replay value to boot.
Although these five games stand out above almost everything else released in this generation, the generation isn’t over yet. With The Last of Us, Grand Theft Auto 5 and many other high profile games yet to be released, we may well see some new additions to the best games of this generation. If anything does manage to topple these five, then gamers really are in for a treat.
What do you think? Have we missed off your favourite game of this generation?