7 Best Games of the 7th Generation: The Honourable Mentions

Having given you my list of the seven best games of the last generation of consoles, I thought that I should give you a brief look at some of the games that were on the shortlist but didn’t quite make the cut.

Over the course of eight years and thousands of games, cutting a list of the best of the best down to only seven game leaves many deserving games on the sidelines. So to close out our series looking at the best games of the last generation of consoles, here’s a look at some of the games that were under serious consideration for the list.

BioShock

bioshock-screenshot-01No gods of kings. Only man. You know, I still remember that banner from the start of the game. I’ve never been quite as captivated by the opening of any game as I was by the opening half-hour of BioShock. From the visuals, to the general helplessness and hopelessness of the situation to the lore of Rapture, it was absolutely fantastic and this is the one game that I truly regret not putting on my list.

The true strength of BioShock was in its narrative. The story was really a sort of meta-analysis of players taking directions in games and never really questioning it. The narrative was deeper than that but I always found that the heart of the game was really the game making you question how games worked at their core. I’ve certainly never played a game that made me question gaming in quite the same way BioShock did.

Beyond that, BioShock’s unique world was absolutely amazing in every possible way. I don’t just mean the gorgeous environment design that was also another highlight of the game. The lore of Rapture was absolutely enthralling. Exploring the underwater dystopia, learning about its history and downfall and examining the relationship between the various power players were all just absolutely fantastic parts of the game. As someone who values story over gameplay, this game gave me what I wanted in droves.

While it wasn’t new for Ken Levine to emphasize story in a first-person shooter, considering where the genre has gone during the last generation, I was hoping for BioShock to be a trend setter. It was but only in its own franchise. If only there were more games like BioShock.

The Last of Us

the-last-of-us-screenshot-01Well, I sort of painted myself into a corner with The Last of Us. When I called Uncharted 2 the best exclusive on the PlayStation 3, I meant it. I didn’t think that it would be fair to name two Naughty Dog exclusives to a list that was only seven games long. I picked Uncharted 2 as Naughty Dog’s representative. If the list had been a top ten, The Last of Us certainly would have made it.

While it was another spectacular outing from Naughty Dog, it was almost the polar opposite of the Uncharted franchise. While Uncharted was more like a big summer blockbuster action movie in video game form, The Last of Us was a much more intimate affair driven by a story that a mix of perfect pacing, amazing characters and a fantastic plot.

While some people had issues with the gameplay, I found it quite refreshing, perhaps as close to real as a game of this sort has ever come. Joel was definitely not Nathan Drake. He wasn’t as agile as Drake. He wasn’t as good a shot as Drake. He couldn’t take as much punishment as Drake. He was more an everyman than Nathan Drake. Combining that with the story made The Last of Us more of an immersive and emotionally compelling experience than Uncharted for me.

Like BioShock, this is one of those games that proves that story can make a game great. Maybe it will set the tone going forward for gaming. Time will tell. For now, we can be certain that The Last of us an absolutely fantastic game and deserves consideration among the best games of this console generation.

Minecraft

If I was to give you a list of BioShock, The Last of Us and Minecraft, one of those things would quickly jump out as not being like the others. But just because Minecraft isn’t a story-driven, triple-A shooter doesn’t mean that it’s not a good game. In fact, it might be the most popular game considered for the 7 Best Games list.

minecraft-screenshot-01You probably know all about by now. The game might have a survival mode which relies in mining and crafting (oddly enough) to survive in the game. However, Minecraft is most famous for the creativity that it inspires and allows from the players. You can find all sorts of things recreated in Minecraft with a quick search on Google or YouTube. The game is also famous for the graphics. While blocky, they’re certainly instantly recognizable.

Beyond the reported sales of over 33 millions units across all platforms, the number of games now trying to incorporate elements from Minecraft, be it the graphics or the crafting, just goes to show how massive Minecraft has become. It also popularized “alpha funding” which saw the game funded by people buying into the game while it’s in an early stage of development so that the devs have money to finish the game. You know that now as Early Access on Steam.

From a technical standpoint, it may not stand up to the likes of BioShock and The Last of Us but the importance and influence of Minecraft earned it consideration for this list.

Journey

When people talk about experimental games like The Stanley Parable and Gone Home, I think that Journey should be considered as the best of the bunch.

journey-screenshot-01Journey has a narrative and lore that you learn as  you progress through the game. However, the game uses nothing but music and visuals to tell the tale of the red-robed person as he goes on a pilgrimage and learns of his/her people. There are no words, spoken or written, in the game outside of the credits. You occasionally meet an unnamed companion along the way, controlled by another player on the PSN, but can only communicate through musical notes. It also generates a sort of companionship as you can only help, but not hinder, other players.

The strength of the game is in the graphics and audio. The soundtrack composed by Austin Wintory is an absolute master stroke of genius. Wintory’s soundtrack not only conveyed the mood of the game but drove the narrative. The music told the story just as much as any of the visuals.

And those visuals were absolutely fantastic. The art design of this game is easily the best of any game on the PS3 and I would go so far to say that this is easily the most beautiful game released on the PS3. Sure, the Naughty Dog games have sharp graphics but for my money, nothing beats Journey. It’s certainly the best looking game released during the last console generation. I don’t believe that words can properly describe how amazing Journey looks.

Perhaps beyond describing Journey as experimental in design, I would say that this is the game that I would choose to represent gaming as art. Eschewing the conventional approaches to gaming, this game is beautiful and conveys emotion and story in a way that few games with words can. While I called Uncharted 2 the best PS3 exclusive, Journey was my favourite PS3 exclusive.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

batman-arkham-asylum-screenshot-01Like many kids growing up in the 90s, my first exposure to Batman was reruns of the classic 1960s Adam West TV series. After that was the classic Batman: The Animated Series. While the Arkham series of games don’t tie into the animated series, it sure conjured up some nostalgia thanks to the return of Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Arleen Sorkin reprising their Animated Series roles of Batman, The Joker and Harley Quinn, respectively. Though not as visible as the voice actors (so to speak), Animated Series (and later DC comics writer) writer/producer Paul Dini was drafted in to pen the game’s story. It wasn’t the Animated Series video game though, it was certainly a dark story more in line with the comics.

What Arkham Asylum did was create a proper Batman experience. It combined elements of stealth gameplay, gadget wizardry and a brawling fighting that many games have tried to emulate since Asylum was released to varying degrees of success. That opened up all sorts of options when approaching the gameplay. You could observe enemies from a distance a silently pick them off, use gadgets to handle one group of enemies or take them on in a full-frontal assault. The freedom to play like Batman and be Batman was the best parts of this game.

The danger of a license property is that so much money is spent on obtaining the license that the publisher only has about $20 left to actually make a game. Where many other games fail with licensed properties, Rocksteady provided the definitive Batman experience. Now, when can we get the definitive Superman experience?

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

While I’m sure that the inclusion of a Call of Duty game on any best of lists would be met by eye rolling, not all Call of Duty games are just incremental improvements on the last one. When Infinity Ward came out with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, it was actually revolutionary for the modern military shooter genre.

call-of-duty-4-modern-warfare-screenshot-01In many ways, CoD4:MW set the tone for military shooters going forward. First, most military shooters prior to this game were based in historic wars, often World War II. CoD4 was set in 2011 (it was made in 2007) and dealt with a fictional modern war with modern weapons and gadgets at the player’s disposal. Second, this CoD game introduced the shortened story campaign with increased emphasis on multiplayer offerings. If you don’t like where the genre has gone over the last six years, it all comes back to the critical acclaim and massive sales that CoD4 had.

What may surprise many people who are newer to the Call of Duty series is that Modern Warfare was praised as having an excellent single-player campaign. While it was short, it was often considered to be action-packed and well written with gameplay variety changed up between shoot first, ask questions later and stealth, and characters who aren’t all jingoistic stereotypes. This was supplemented by great visuals for the time on the then-new IW 3.0 engine which had fantastic lighting and particle effects, dynamic shadows, bullet penetration and it all ran at 60 FPS on console.

Most critics consider Modern Warfare to be the high-water mark for the Call of Duty franchise. Whether you agree with that or not, the impact it had on the military shooter genre certainly earns it consideration for being listed among the best that this generation had to offer.

Dark Souls

Remember how games used to be hard? Though I don’t think that could come up with any objective evidence to prove the hypothesis that games have gotten easier over time, the general consensus is that games are now easier than when we first started playing.

dark-souls-screenshot-01While Dark Souls may not have been the prettiest game on the market and the PC port was dreadful, the game brought gaming back to its roots. The gameplay was difficult, unforgiving and necessitated a trial-and-error approach to every situation. And just like games of old, it had a specific tone (in this case, very dark) but damned if you can remember the story.

While it didn’t sell like hot cakes, the game received near universal praise and grew a cult following. It goes to show how we’ve been longing for a game that was designed to challenge us rather than hold our hands. For being so different from the standard fare, I can’t begrudge anyone from naming Dark Souls to their best of the last generation lists. I just wasn’t masochistic enough to keep at this one. Maybe I’ve been a bit too coddled by modern games.

Cross-posted from et geekera. For more from et geekera, follow us on FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr and RSS.

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