We’re up to the top twenty in our top fifty retrospective of the greatest console games (Parts One, Two and Three are available, of course), which has, like all lists, triggered absolutely no argument or debate whatsoever. So what’s in the next tier? Glad you asked!
<!–pagetitle:#20) Grand Theft Auto V –>
After the dourness of GTA IV, Grand Theft Auto V came as a welcome, cheeky satire of itself. It helped, a lot, that this was the game that brought some of the goofiness that defines the open-world crime genre back to the franchise; can you imagine Niko hunting spaceship parts or talking about being scooter brothers?
<!–pagetitle: #19) XCOM: Enemy Unknown –>
“Real-time strategy games will never sell on consoles!” This was something publishers, critics, and even fans of the genre held as truth… until it turned out not to be. Firaxis proved that it’s hard work and good, hard, gameplay design, not formats, that sell games, and they revived a beloved franchise into the bargain.
<!–pagetitle:#18) Punch-Out!! –>
Punch-Out!!, for the NES, is a classic, and it seemed pointless to make a new version. But this, which could be played like the classic game, with motion controls, or with motion controls and the balance board for total overkill, showed that there was life in the franchise yet, and it managed to mix nostalgia while bringing engaging gameplay to the table… hard to pull off, even on the Wii.
Admittedly, the setting for this game is an acquired taste, and that’s putting it mildly; turning World War II into a semi-cuddly anime is undeniably weird even for Japan. What isn’t an acquired taste is the unique tactical role-playing this game brought to the table; there’s a reason it came out of nowhere to become a huge hit for Sega on the PS3.
<!–pagetitle:#16) Dead Rising 2–>
Everything annoying about the original Dead Rising was fixed with this game, and everything great was refined to brilliance. To this day, more open world games could stand to crib from the relentless countdown clock, and while not everybody liked having to find Zombrex for your adorable small child, there’s no denying that single dad/motocross racer Chuck was a lot more engaging than the original’s Frank.
<!–pagetitle:#15) Xenoblade Chronicles–>
Xenoblade Chronicles brought something new to both the Wii and to the action RPG genre, mostly with its simple-to-use “battle palette” structure and the fact that you didn’t have any healing potions handy, so you’d better learn some Healing Arts, pronto. The real-time action made the game a lot more fun for those of us with itchy trigger fingers, and brought a lot to Wii gamers looking for something hardcore.
<!–pagetitle:#14) Hotline Miami–>
A 2D, top-down, one-hit-kill action game sounds like a good time. But it was the mix of frantic gameplay and the gory, sleazy atmosphere that makes this game a classic. The story starts dark and rapidly gets nastier, and the clever fork in the road gives it a lot of replayability… if you can stop squirming.
<!–pagetitle:#13) The Walking Dead–>
There have been quite a few Walking Dead games already, and there are likely to be a lot more. But Telltale’s simple mix of hard moral decisions and harder time limits was a surprisingly tense game, combined with a sad, emotional story well-told that did right by the comics on which the game is based.
<!–pagetitle:#12) The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword–>
On some level, every Zelda game is the same, but Skyward Sword is possibly the most refined Zelda game ever released. The fact that the overworld, not just the dungeons, is filled with puzzles, and the addition of crafting gave the game even more depth and created a world you could lose yourself in for hours.
<!–pagetitle:#11) Silent Hill: Shattered Memories –>
The Silent Hill franchise has struggled, in recent years, to make sense of itself. This game brought the series back to its roots in many ways; it did away with combat entirely, rewrote the plot of the first game to great effect, and ratcheted up the tension in ways many players thought the franchise had forgotten about. The result was something compelling and unique that we hadn’t seen since the PSOne days.
Tomorrow brings the top ten! Any thoughts about what it might include? Let us know in the comments.