With this generation drawing to a close I thought it was time that I went though and discussed the games that had the biggest impact on my. These are games that I felt a special connection with, the games that in my mind were the best the the generation has to offer. Now I will put a disclaimer, while that there are some choices here that are pretty obvious, there are some here that are just personal. It's my list, so if you don't agree make your own...or just complain in the comments, that works too I suppose.
Adventure: Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword
What can I say? This is a game that I felt got way more flak than it deserved. If you can get over the initial hump of the motion controls you will find this is the most ambitious, well executed, and immersive experience that can be had.
I think what I really liked about the game was the pacing. Yes it starts out rather slow but I found that to be a breath of fresh air. In a generation riddled with shooters, action games, and twitch styled gameplay, it was refreshing to play a game that let me move at my own pace. I loved that I could (and often had to) to fully explore my environment, I never minded the backtracking as the level designs felt fleshed out. The puzzles were very clever and often forced me to think outside the box. Swordplay was fantastic, swinging the Wii remote with 1:1 motion gave me a satisfaction that could never be had just pressing the B button. The side quests worked well, if ever I was tired of puzzle solving or combat, I could chase down birds bugs or other rare items to upgrade my equipment, a vastly superior method to finding an arbitrary fairy fountain. Even the story was fantastic, the grande finale being the best final boss fight of the generation.
Normally I wouldn't give a game this flawed a perfect score, but any game that resonated with me this much, kept my attention this long, justified motion controls, and ended up being the most ambitious game on the system, I can let some things slide
Honorable mention: Tomb Raider, Metroid Other M, Metroid Prime Trilogy
Action: The Last of Us
This may not be an action game in the truest sense of the word but I had to put this game in here. Sony's first party games tend to be mediocre in my opinion, but Naughty Dog's games are the exception to that rule. Admittedly, TLOU sounds pretty lame on paper. A slowed down Uncharted turned into a giant escort mission involving zombies. I'm here to say that there is nothing lame about The Last of Us.
So yes, it does somewhat feel like a slower version of Uncharted at first glance. It has the same basic control setup, cover system and gunplay, but that's where the similarities end. Ammo is not something you will find around every corner, and even if you could it wouldn't be wise to run in guns blazing. I would almost classify the gameplay as survival horror. The game is all about surveying your environment, grabbing every supply you can get your hands on and being wise with what you do have. Just because you have a few shots to take out that zombie doesn't mean you should use it. Shivs are of great value. Certain zombies can't be killed just with your bare hands, you need a shiv to take them out, but at the same time they can be used to open locked doors potentially giving more supplies. Sometimes it's better not to fight at all. The tension and the mood the game offers is top notch.
What really won me over though was the story. I absolutely fell in love with the characters. Joel is not your typical lawful good character. He's been though a lot of shit, had to deal with some harsh losses including his own daughter, so building a bond with a spunky 14 year old girl doesn't come naturally to him. Just watching them evolve throughout the course of the game made it my favorite story in gaming this gen.
Honorable Mentions: Metal Gear Solid 4, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Alan Wake, Alan Wake's American Nightmare, Resident Evil 6
Platformer: Super Mario Galaxy
I'm a huge fan of platformers, and unlike the 6th generation, the 7th generation had them in spades. Of all the good ones I played Super Mario Galaxy came out on top.
Mario 64 to this day is my favorite game of all time. While I enjoyed Mario Sunshine quite a bit I always felt it didn't quite give me the ambition and feel that I wanted for the sequel. Mario Galaxy delivered. First off, the game is gorgeous, not just for a Wii game, gorgeous period. It shows that a lot of developers just didn't try to produce great production values on the Wii.
The next thing you'll notice is the controls. You control Mario much like you did in Mario 64 and Sunshine, run with the analog stick, jump with A, crouch with B, and so on. The real change is the Wii remote is used to collect star bits and interact with the world a new way. Perhaps one of the best examples of the Wii remote not being a gimmick but genuinely useful enhancement when implemented properly; using but not abusing the motion controls.
The real draw here are the worlds. If anyone was upset at the lack of diversity in Mario Sunshine, rest assured it isn't an issue here. You'll visit deserts, ghost houses, castles, water worlds, grassy plains, and volcanoes. There's almost too many worlds. The reason I put the original ahead of the sequel is that the original really nailed everything, the difficulty was better and honestly, the sequel feel like more of the same. That's not a bad thing by any means, I just liked the original better.
Honorable Mentions: Kirby Return to Dreamland, Mario Galaxy 2, Limbo, Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, Fez, New Super Mario Bros, Sonic Generations, Colors
Shooter: Gears of War 2
Now I'm sure this genre could be debated endlessly, as this was THE generation for shooters, but I feel GoW 2 stands above the rest. The original game was a fantastic first effort, it introduced us the world of Sera, the Cog, the Locust, and of course, the amazing cover based system. My problem is it's a bit rough around the edges.
Enter Gears 2. Gears 2 improves upon the original in ways that all sequels should. The graphics are much better, the story is a huge win (I almost never care about the story in a shooter) the mechanics just work and the awful kryll sections are gone.
The campaign just won me over. While the original held my attention, the sequel was just a thrill ride from beginning to end. I haven't played the game in some time but I can still remember the abandoned prison level, the riftworm level, the tank level, the brumak level, and the reaper level. Then I got into the horde mode. I spent hours and hours getting together with my friends taking down the locust. On multiple occasions I remember going into the late hours of the night playing online, only to look up and realize how much time was gone. I loved Gears 3 as well, as it was a refinement of 2 but I can't help but feel it was the best shooting experience I've ever had.
Honorable Mentions: Halo 3,4, ODST, Gears 1,3, Call of Duty MW1-2 Black Ops
RPG: Pokemon White
Now most people wouldn't pick this as the their favorite but it's the only RPG I finished this generation. I'm not really a huge fan of the genre, so take that with a grain of salt. Actually truth be told it's the only Pokemon game I've ever finished (that may change as I'm well on my way with Y). But what I've enjoyed about it was that it was a back to basics sequel. I just hated that whole dress up your pokemon, or other superfluous side missions that felt forced, Black and White took those way down.
I liked how it felt like a new direction for the series. The graphics received a much needed overhaul, the seasons helped change up the environments, the addition of a whole new set of pokemon was nice, even the story was pretty decent all things considered.
I enjoyed taking on the elite 4, and the mutiplayer was much easier than the old GBA with link cables. I guess that's not saying much, but I really enjoyed it for what it was.
Honorable Mention: Diablo III
Fighting: Virtua Fighter 5
This one was pretty hard call for me as Street Fighter IV was probably the better game. But the VF series has always had a special place with me. I've said for years the Virtua Fighter is THE deepest fighter on the market. In most fighting games you have a basic system in place, kicks and uppercuts are performed the same way, have the same impact and are the same basic speed with some variation based on the character. But in VF every character has their own system. The moves are different, the inputs are different, the speed at which they are imputed are different, everything changes when you change characters. So what ends up happening is you pick one character and try to master him/her.
The system at first seems clunky, button mashing is ineffective, you need to learn your character inside and out. That can be time consuming, but once you do there is a zen state you can get into with your character. You can pull off any one of your moves at the drop of a hat without thinking. Watching two skilled players go at it can be a thing of beauty, and no two people play the same character the same exact way.
I particularly loved the Quest mode in the original release. You went to different arcades and ranked up unlocking customizations for your character. When you are done your character is decked out and you have something to show for all your efforts, almost like a decorated solider.
Honorable Mentions: VF5: Final Showdown, Super Street Fighter IV, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter x Tekken, Super Street Fighter II HD, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom
Racing: Mario Kart Wii
I love racing games, but really only certain types of racing games. The whole racing sim genre puts me to sleep, street racing just feels meh, but give me an arcade or kart racer and then we can talk. Nobody does kart racing games like Nintendo because Mario Kart is THE kart racer to beat.
I may have loved the Gamecube but Mario Kart Double Dash left me wanting, even if the game engine was great. Mario Kart Wii fixed all the issues and feel like it was what Double Dash was meant to be (save for the "double" part).
The tracks were better, including the addition of classic tracks, the AI was a huge improvement, controls felt spot on (as long as you used a classic or Gamecube pad) the aesthetics were remarkably stellar, and the online was the best the Wii had to offer. I could spend hours on battle mode alone I loved the tournaments too, it was really special for me. The fact that all those skills transferred seamlessly to Mario Kart 7 and 8 is just the icing on the cake.
Honorable Mentions: Hydro Thunder Hurricane, Burnout Revenge, Paradise, Sonic All Stars Racing Transformed.
Sports: Trials HD
Yes, I know it's a bit of a stretch here, but cut me a break, I'm not a fan of sports games either. I bought Trials HD on a summer of arcade promotion in 2009. While I was eagerly anticipating the re release of Marvel vs. Capcom 2, I decided to look into Trials. I'm glad I did.
For those of you who don't know Trials is a 2D game where you race your bike though a gauntlet of sorts. At first it starts out really easy, run up and down hills, keep your bike level, that sort of thing. But as the game progresses it gets REALLY difficult. The game never gets complicated, right trigger is gas, left trigger is brake, use the analog to control the angle of your bike either left or right. The trick is to put just the right amount of gas with just the right angle at the right time. The check points are usually forgiving enough and you have as much time and retries as you need as long as you aren't going for medals, but even with that the game can be frustrating.
Along with the standard races there are quite a few mini games and a track editor. In many ways I consider it the Excitebike sequel that Nintendo should have made. Technically, the sequel improves upon the original in every way and for most people I would recommend you try Evolution first, but I just felt a connection with the original that didn't quite hit me the same way with the sequel.
Honorable Mentions: Trials Evolution, Wii Sports, Resort, Wii Fit, NBA Jam On Fire Edition
Puzzle: Uncharted 2
Okay this game, should be classified under Adventure, as there's quite a bit of gunplay and platforming, but at the same time there's quite of bit of emphasis on puzzle solving as well. That, and the game itself is downright stellar and I HAD to get it in here somehow.
Uncharted has been referred to as "Dude Raider" on more than one occasion but I would counter that with saying that Uncharted did Tomb Raider better than Tomb Raider did Tomb Raider.
So yeah, it's got a fantastic story, great action sequences, great platforming, and shooting, but I'm going to spend some time with the puzzles. There was one room where there was a light source and you had to use it to bounce around to light up 3 locations. I loved that it forced you to not only think about the reflection of light but also utilized your platforming skills as well. In fact that happened a lot, climbing to the top of a structure was a puzzle in it of itself. But there were other rooms that required you to utilize the information you had gotten earlier, or use your journal as a point of reference. The game did a great job of providing hints so it was challenging but never overly so. It helped immensely with the pace of the game and easily had the best puzzles of the trilogy.
Honorable Mention: Portal, Planet Puzzle League, Tetris DS
So there it is. Hope you enjoyed reading about my gaming experiences last gen. It's been a long cycle and there was a lot accomplished in the industry. Frankly, I found some of the pitfalls of the 7th generation frustrating. But that is somewhat to be expected as it was largely a transitional generation. 8th generation is looking promising and hopefully will have many more new and unique experiences to come.
You may notice that I've left off the genres of strategy and sim. To be honest I've never enjoyed either of those genres enough to finish a single game in them. I suppose if I had to say something for sim I would say that I enjoyed Animal Crossing, but I only got into the 3DS incarnation and even then there's no real end to the game. I suppose I just need more structure from my gaming experiences.
Strategy games are even less up my alley. I did enjoy a good bit of Fire Emblem Path of Radiance, but again, wrong generation and even then I didn't finish it. Just given my lack of any real understanding of those two genres I thought it best to leave them off.