We're at the midway point of our Games of the Generation list, i.e. the games you need to play before trading in your PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. Part One and Part Two are also available for your reading pleasure. Again, this is a subjective list, compiled without a ranking system, because these are games worth celebrating rather than bashing for the order in which they appear. As always, you can let us know what your standout games of the generation have been in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter.
Gears of War (2006 / Xbox 360)
2006’s Gears of War was one of the first blockbuster titles to hit the Xbox 360. I [Mark] thought the action came thick-and-fast; the executions were brutal; the active reload mechanic was inspired, though we’re surprised that other games haven’t replicated it; and the multiplayer was a ferocious battleground.
Gears is a funny one. I’m (Jack) not all that enamoured with it. But it pioneered the Cover Shooter. No it wasn’t the first, but Gears put it on the map. It challenged previously unchallenged Titans like Halo. Basically, it influenced the past seven years of gaming in a major way. So… Kudos. Sorta.
Gears was undoubtedly an important series for the current gen but I [Daniel] never really got on board with its brown and grey locust murdering ways. Until this year’s Judgment. Giving you the chance to play as some interesting characters for a change, expanding the world and even throwing in some colour! But it’s the generosity of the package that’s most impressive – two campaigns and Survival mode, as well as a full suite of multiplayer offerings. A great revival for the Xbox 360 stalwart.
Mark, Daniel and Jack
[Our Review of Gears of War: Judgment]
Rayman Origins (2011 / PS3, Xbox 360)
The armless wonder is back, and my how he’s aged well.
Rayman was forced into the background when those Raving Rabbids appeared in 2006 but Origins put him, and his equally unusual friends, back to the fore for a slice of 2D platforming goodness.
If you haven’t played it, you’re missing out on one of the most fluid runner and jumpers of the generation, with near hand painted graphics, a great roster of playable characters and a gorgeous world to parkour yourself across. Absolutely unmissable, and just as good on Vita!
Castle Crashers (2008 / XBLA, PSN)
This 2D side-scrolling beat-‘em-up, from The Behemoth, lived up to the developer’s name; it was massive. With a range of quirky characters and enemies; an armoury full of weapons from traditional swords and axes to fantastical weapons such as light sabres and ninja claws; dozens of animals to collect to help you in your quest to save the princesses; and a large and diverse world, Castle Crashers is great value for money.
And it’s incredibly entertaining thanks to some surreal humour, precise combat mechanics, challenging enemies, and a rocking soundtrack. Grab three friends, gather round your TV, choose your knight and set off on a grand adventure!
State of Decay (2013/ XBLA)
State of Decay is a Sandbox driver, a Hack/Slash with WWE suplexes and a Third Person Shooter replete with bullet time. It’s a Survival Horror with variant enemy types and thrashing hordes. It’s a scrambling Scavenger Hunt with entire towns to pilfer. It’s a Tower Defence with bases to fortify. It’s a Resource Manager with medicine, wood, ammo and fuel in short supply. It’s a Community Simulator, with fragile psyches and hair-trigger tempers to keep soothed.
It might not be a looker. In fact, architecturally, the game is pretty aptly named... But it makes its Undead Triple A brethren look apathetic and derivative by comparison!
Heavy Rain (2010 / PS3)
Heavy Rain is better than Beyond: Two Souls.
Sure, the Ellen Page starring adventure is glossy, action-packed and has less creepy children in it but Heavy Rain is simply a more interesting game. It took chances with narrative, presenting fragile (and killable) characters and a seriously dark world to explore, as well as plenty of narrative diversions that make a real difference to the way the story unfolds. And the way it revels in the ordinary moments of life makes it one of the most unique experiences of the generation.
Tomb Raider (2013 / PS3, Xbox 360)
The 2013 release of Tomb Raider was the reboot that the classic series had been crying out for. We know the ass-kicking, tomb raiding side of Lara Croft all too well, but the reboot allowed Crystal Dynamics to explore the character more, show different sides of her, and showcase events that moulded her into one of the most iconic female video game characters of all time.
There’s a touch of Uncharted about the reboot, but you could emulate worse games. Tomb Raider has a compelling story, an interesting and well-rounded leading lady, and a harsh-but-beautiful environment.
Valkryia Chronicles (2008/ PS3)
This is a remarkably special game.
Yes, you will weep and laugh and gasp and sigh. But above all that, you will feel responsible for your actions. No other game manages this. Not truly.
In VC, the volunteers of your militia live or die by your actions, your tactics, your haste. Rest assured, when your negligence costs a lancer his life, and in his dying breath he finally admits his undying love for your resident mechanic, an admission he ever lacked the courage for in life, the guilt hits like a goddamn freight train!!!
I could have raced through VC in half the time, employing mercenary tactics to get the job done, the battle won. The fact an overriding sense of shame, of loyalty, of RESPONSIBILITY was able to fundamentally alter my playstyle is a feat NO GAME has matched before or since.
[VC was our Top JRPG for Gamers who Dislike JRPGs]
Prince of Persia (2008 / PS3, Xbox 360)
Back in 2008, Ubisoft did the unthinkable – they went all in with a fully-fledged reboot of their successful PoP series. And it was simply glorious.
The simply titled effort broke completely from the style of the recent games, bringing cell-shaded graphics into a gorgeously crafted world. And they also made it so you couldn’t die.
Some players were outraged but the result was a strangely calming experience, with navigation more focussed on timing (and marvelling at the beauty around you) than worrying about falling to your death. The combat was equally inventive with your companion Elika going down as one of the most engaging – and useful – NPC’s in gaming. Give us a sequel Ubi!
Rock Band (2007 / PS3, Xbox 360)
Not all of us are destined to be rock stars, but Rock Band allowed each and every one of us to channel our inner Jimi Hendrix, Freddie Mercury, Paul McCartney or Dave Grohl. One of the great things about Rock Band was that it was possible to get straight to the action and play just a couple of songs, or take on the mighty Solo Tour or Band World Tour modes if time allowed.
No, Rock Band did not teach people how to play guitar or refine existing skills, but it was great fun, which is a purpose that some people seem to overlook, and getting friends around to jam was always a blast.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011/ PS3, Xbox 360)
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Enlarge
The above picture tells you all you need to know about Bethesda’s dreadnought…
You can walk, ride, swim, fly or warp to any point you can see. You can smith, purchase, pinch, pilfer or barter for every strap of leather and thread of fabric on your person. You can carry a dozen other arrow types for a dozen other bows or choose from a dozen other weapon types. You can imbue your attire, your tools, your person and, naturally, your environment with myriad magical elements.
While Skyrim’s vastness has been surpassed, its generation, nay, INDUSTRY defining detail and interaction has not. With 244 unique missions and a systemic quest generator, the experience is literally infinite.Also, you scrap Dragons.