Last, but not least
To commemorate the launch of new consoles, we've taken to retrospective pieces to remember some of the best titles on each system. We did it with the Wii last year, and we've done it with the PS3 and Xbox 360 over the last two weeks. But, that doesn't really paint a complete picture of the past eight years of gaming.
Undoubtedly, third-party published games were just as important to the growth and prosperity of the last generation of consoles as first-party titles were. It wouldn't be right to deny them their time in the limelight just because they could be found on multiple systems. These were the Destructoid Staff's favorite multi-platform titles:
If I try to think of any one series that defined this past generation for me, it would have to be Rock Band. Though the first entry was originally released in 2007 and iterated upon until Rock Band 3 in 2010, the band simulator franchise still sees playtime in my house to this day. It is by far the most long-lived franchise of the generation for me, and it's easy to see why.
The arcade-style, high-score-driven, pick-up-and-play nature of it means that one can never be truly be finished playing. The constant stream of downloadable content was on a level never seen before. But those are just icing on the cake of the series' true strength: its ability to bring people together, gamers and non-gamers alike, to have an awesome experience unlike any other. When four (or more) people get on their fake plastic instruments and a song comes together well, it is incredibly easy to lose oneself in the fantasy and to feel for a few fleeting moments like an actual rock star performing in front of a crowd of millions. While other games have told some great stories and provided some great entertainment, no game other than Rock Band has transported my mind to another place.
When you look at the games which dominate the landscape today, the very idea of Catherine seems improbable. It pairs two completely separate and niche game types, relationship simulator and block pushing. Its lead character is a twenty-something nobody whose fear of commitment is manifesting in horrible ways. Were it not for the willingness to market the game on the curvaceous design of the titular character, it probably would have vanished into the ether.
Catherine may have sold itself on sex appeal, but the game which came in the box wound up surprisingly sober, featuring complex characters and tense intrigue. It wasn't perfect, but damned memorable, and the arcade-style block climbing sequences provided a remarkably good challenge. There's nothing else like it.
Rayman Origins released in November 2011, but I didn't play it until almost a full year later. I only mention that because I feel criminally guilty about the fact. Despite seeing it given near-perfect and perfect review scores from the outlets I trusted most, it came out during the busiest part of the year and I just couldn't be bothered to make time for it.
Fast forward ten months and upon the incessant insistence of a friend, I reluctantly relented and gave Rayman Origins a shot. What I found was one of the most satisfying platformers I had ever experienced. Everything about the game popped. There wasn't a single facet of Rayman Origins that didn't impress -- from the stunning visuals, to the tight controls, to the downright marvelous music. A giant cherry on top came in the form of some of the best local cooperative play in recent memory.
I may have been late to the party, but I'm ecstatic that I got there eventually. I cherished every minute that I played Rayman Origins. By the time I finally beat it, I was genuinely sad that it was over. I can't remember the last game that had that effect on me, and that's why I'm not forgetting Rayman Origins anytime soon.
Castle Crashers is the reason I bought an Xbox 360. While we take them for granted now, beautiful two-dimensional, hand-drawn multiplayer beat-'em-ups were nearly impossible to find on consoles before Castle Crashers revitalized the genre.
The Behemoth took a big chance on investing huge amounts of time, money, and creative energy into the game, and it shows. It was the perfect antidote to the sea of testosterone-soaked, serious-faced, overcompensating "hardcore" games that were choking the Xbox 360 market at the time. Castle Crashers is one of the most influential games of the past ten years, and I'm thankful for it.
Remember when it used to be fun to shoot guns in games? Like, when you powered up your BFG in DOOM to lay waste to a room full of Imps, and you grinned like you had just eaten an entire shit sandwich? Don't you miss that? I know I do, which is why Bulletstorm was such a breath of fresh air.
With its emphasis on blasting baddies in unique and often humorous ways, Bulletstorm was the antithesis of the modern-day shooter. Instead of using your weapons as simply a means for getting from points A to BORING, you were encouraged -- hell, almost required -- to experiment with different varieties of weapon abilities to maximize the amount of experience points earned from every enemy.
Each weapon was fun to fire, and the fantastic Leash managed to combine some of the best Plasmids from BioShock into one all-encompassing device that never grew tiring to use. Not only that, but the story was fun and funny, and the characters were genuinely engaging and full of personality. In a shooter!
Bulletstorm is one of my favorite games from any generation, and its lack of a sequel is a goddamn crime.
After Demon's Souls rocked the foundation of action games everywhere, Dark Souls really stepped up and kept the good times rolling. Although I'm hesitant to call it the superior Souls game, there were a number of advancements that suited by new and old players, along with a new set of areas and bosses to conquer.
Instead of taking a level-based hub world approach, Dark Souls was more open, instead encouraging the player to get lost in a giant world. It was an incredible feeling, walking around with very little indication of where to go next, simply surviving from one hellish arena to the next.
Thanks to the warm reception of Dark Souls, it looks like there's going to be a sequel coming in 2014, and I sincerely hope there's more after that. The industry needs games like the Souls series, to remind designers that not everything has to be spoiled before we've even picked up the controller.
This one is a no-brainer. Red Dead Redemption was masterful. It's one of the only games where I'd just stand and look at everything around me -- absorbing my surroundings and transporting me to another world. It took the Old West concept (which had always seemed to let everyone down, besides Sunset Riders), and made it into one of the few titles that everyone still talks about.
When I heard Rockstar was making a wild west game, I remember calling my brother and telling him the news like I had just won Miss America. I grew up watching old westerns like Bonanza and Roy Rogers re-runs with my grandfather, so to see this game come together was very exciting. People brag about how many hours they spent in World of Warcraft, Skyrim, and Battlefield, but Red Dead Redemption was my game that I can honestly say I put months worth of time into. Exploring every nook, cranny, and glitch, I can happily say I am the master of Horse Stacking -- stacking 88 horses on a barn, before the server imploded from the awesome feat.
Now, there were no Cowboys from Moo Mesa in it, but John Marston is one of those iconic videogame characters that we all wanted to be. I can't say the same for his son Jack, but I think we all felt justified after completing the game. The multiplayer was such an added bonus. Running around with a gigantic somberro, tossing people off horses, and stealing wagons may sound primitive, but it's some of the best fun I've had in an online game. I was even nice enough to give Chad Kroeger of Nickelback a buffalo on a community playdate, even though I pushed him down for 30 minutes in Pikes Basin before I realized who it was. With a story that was so well-written and one of the best DLC expansions I've ever played in a game, Red Dead Redemption is one of those titles that I'll tell my kids about one day because Mortal Kombat on the Sega Genesis is not the greatest game of all time.
While I love emotional games, I also enjoy my fair share of games that offer pure violence and terror like Dead Space 2. It improved every mechanic from the original while also upping the scare factor to 11. Dead Space 2 also features my favorite moment from a game ever thanks to the eye-surgery scene. A moment, by the way, that has made me totally reconsider Lasik.
That I'm a Deus Ex fanboy should be fairly common knowledge by now, so to say that I was excited by Eidos Montreal's attempt at rebooting the franchise was an understatement. No other game has come close to offering the freedom of approach that parallels the original Deus Ex, so I was worried that Human Revolution would follow the more modern trend of creating a directed experience.
Not a bit of it; Deus Ex: Human Revolution offers the same amount of options that you'd expect -- stealth, hacking, and combat are all available for you to choose. Yes, the boss fights were a let down, but the recently released Director's Cut fixes those and a number of other small bugbears. Honestly, it's gotten me really excited to see what a true next-gen Deus Ex game can offer.
I recall absolutely loathing Far Cry 2 the first time I laid hands on it. Ubisoft Montreal's open-world shooter did not leave a good first impression. Not in the slightest. But like something out of a romantic comedy, it grew on me. Despite all the faults and rough edges, I came to love it. And now Far Cry 2 is one of my favorite titles ever.
The way the game design supports player agency is impressive and a large part of why I still find myself returning to Far Cry 2 several years after release. Unlike most games, it fosters creativity. Levels aren't tailored to communicate a specific idea, they're arranged in such a fashion that players are left to design their own experience and express themselves through the game's mechanics.
Snipe from a far off mountaintop. Set the savanna grass ablaze and slowly constrict a ring of fire around your enemies. Get in and out without being seen. Or just bomb into the middle of an enemy encampment with a jeep and run in guns blazing. Do whatever you want whenever you want to do it.
This isn't just another vapid sandbox game that asks one to participate in a scripted thrill ride with wide open spaces to wreak mayhem between contrived missions, it's one that actively encourages players to come up with their own rules and blaze their own trails.
From the moment I first took the backside of an acid-spewing sniper rifle to a psycho midget, punting him half way across the screen, I was in love. Borderlands came out of nowhere, but was easily many gamers' "sleeper hit" of 2009. Part first-person shooter, part Diablo-esque loot fest, Gearbox Software's breakthrough title resulted in many sleepless nights for me.
My best friend Kevin and I were so consumed with tackling every mission and finding the next greatest weapon that Borderlands became our lives. If we weren't playing online, we were making do with the horrible user interface the game had when split-screen play was going on. It didn't matter though, and in actuality it gave us a easier way of using the map when driving cross country on a vehicle!
Borderlands was also the first title to consume me in achievement hunting. I'm a whore when it comes to achievements, but I typically only get what I can the first time through. That wasn't the case here by a longshot. We did it all, and when the expansions came out, we did it some more. I even went as far as having my friend's future wife sign him online and boot up the game so I could get the 250 brains collected achievement for him in the The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned expansion while he was at work.
Yeah, we had problems... but that's something a great game tends to cause.
Although Fallout: New Vegas is the superior game in many respects, Fallout 3 arrived at the right time for me. The perfect time. I had always adored the lore of Fallout, but couldn't for the life of me get into the classic Interplay titles in attempts to do so years and years after their original releases. In 2008, I finally had a way into the series courtesy of Bethesda.
Leaving Vault 101 for the first time -- being blinded by direct sunlight, and slowly realizing how vast the surrounding landscape was, and how badly I wanted to explore its every last inch -- that's where open-world games like this excel. Knowing that some of the most fascinating encounters weren't experienced in the same way by friends, and sharing those stories was a true treat, one which Fallout 3 generously provided time and time again. You simply can't handle the situation at Tenpenny Tower and not want to tell everyone about it.
For all of the game's bugs and overall lack of polish, it consumed me. I bought into this world, its inhabitants, and its magnificent music. There was rarely a moment during the many months I was actively playing Fallout 3 when the Capital Wasteland wasn't on my mind. And now the memories are rushing back. I can still hear Three Dog spouting off those same tired lines.