Birch and I are alternating talking about our very subjective list of the greatest fifty games of the last console generation. He kicked it off with the bottom tier, and now I’m up for #40 through #31.
Just a note: Consider these more “tiers” than rankings. We put this list together based on the game we both played and that we both loved. And, of course, we don’t think we’re perfect; If you’ve got a dispute, let us know in the comments! And now, to the list!
Atlus’ puzzle game was undeniably a lot of fun, if in keeping with the company’s relentless compulsion for tooth-grinding difficulty. But it was really the story, about our “hero” and his struggle with growing up and becoming a father, that made the game; it marks one of a handful of games this generation that were surprisingly smart and mature in their storytelling.
Designed by the creator of the original Pac-Man Toru Iwatani, Pac-Man Championship Edition proved HD graphics could be used for something other than gritty, brown-and-grey action games. The extra clarity and screen-size of HD TVs, along with a few smart gameplay tweaks, made Pac-Man more fun than ever. Pac-Man Championship Edition was also one of the first download-only titles to really make a mark.
It looked like your standard third-person shooter. But as you played through, it quickly became apparent that Spec Ops: The Line was up to a lot more than just another shooter. Anchored by one of Nolan North’s best performances, this game may not have had the most advanced mechanics… but it’ll be one that’s hard to forget.
Okay, so maybe there wasn’t a lot of meat to Wii Sports, but that meat was perfectly prepared and seasoned. Wii Sports pretty much singlehandedly sold the concept of motion controls (not to mention tens-of-millions of Wiis) and 7-years-later still stands up as one of the most functional, entertaining motion controlled games ever. You may not like what Wii Sports did to the video game industry, but you can’t deny the fun of playing a few frames of bowling or a round of golf.
Over the past few years a lot of classic horror series (Resident Evil, Silent Hill) have struggled to find the right balance between action and horror. One of the few games to really nail it this generation was Alan Wake — the game was far more functional than your average survival horror title, and yet it managed to retain a fantastic creepy atmosphere and sense of dread. It’s influenced-by-Stephen King storyline was also as good or better than anything King himself has written in some time.
A franchise that met an undeserved end thanks to booby jokes and sequels that struggled to find an audience found a new, brutal lease on life this console generation. Turning the franchise into essentially a horror adventure was a bold choice, anchored by great gameplay and a beautiful design scheme built around decay and destruction.
A beloved PC franchise finally got its due after the…lackluster Invisible War. A game that let you play it the way you wanted to play it, and wove your choices into the story a bit more subtly than most games. Also, it’s never not fun to bust through a wall and break a mook’s neck.
“3D platformer” is not exactly a crowded field, these days, but Nintendo managed to push it to new places… again. This game made the list largely because it’s so fun, so dynamic, it’s hard to resist even well past the age you’re supposed to have outgrown Italian plumbers.
Some love this game, but hate what it turned publishers into. Others just hate it, period. But one way or the other, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was undeniably a game that defined much of the last console generation, both for publishers chasing its sales and for putting multiplayer at the forefront for major console releases.
Most FPS gamers weren’t ready for this game, a survival horror FPS based off a Russian SF novel. The unique system where your bullets are also your currency turned the game from a run-and-shoot in the subway tunnels to one that demanded strategy, forethought, and luck. It shamelessly ratcheted up the pressure, and we loved every minute of it.
So that’s the next ten. Tomorrow, Birch returns with #30-#21. Meanwhile, we’re sure you’ve got an opinion; tell us what you think in the comments!