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Games of the generation: Pat’s picks ring the changes

Thursday, 7th November 2013 13:46 GMT By Patrick Garratt

PS4 releases next week in the US, ending a generation of where innovation fought traditions and, according to Patrick Garratt, one game above all managed to be new.

To look back on the software in the current generation is to review a significant period of one’s life. When I think of the launches of Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii, I’m forced to revisit places and people from many years ago, and to search my memories for the games which mattered both to myself and the people I matured alongside is sometimes painful. The five titles below are a mix of those I consider to be the most important releases on the current hardware both on a personal and industry level. They’re nebulous criteria, but I don’t care. There they are.

I played Heavy Rain the year we emigrated to France, sat on a pine bed in a subterranean room in Corréze, my wife, Fiona, perched alongside. Gears of War was a Christmas game when we still live in the UK; I remember killing General Raam on the hardest setting with Bertie from Eurogamer screaming in my ear. BioShock was one of the first action games Fiona took notice of thanks to its aesthetic. My daughter, Meredith, had just turned one. Were the games happening around my marriage and career or vice versa? I doubt it matters.

All of our lives have seen many changes since 2005, and our games have transformed alongside us. My top pick, Minecraft, is representative of the violent shifts in both my personal experience and the video gaming which will apparently track it forever more than any other. My past eight years are forever interwoven with some of the most powerful software ever made. I may not work in games for the rest of my life, but what’s done is done. I’m entering the middle years and I’ve been playing games since my age was a single digit. I have no intention of stopping. I have no regrets.

Here’s my top five.

5: Heavy Rain

Heavy Rain was, is, a game like no other. Whatever criticism you hurl at it merely bounces off its giant tower of ambition. I was transfixed by Cage’s grand experiment, and it still stands for me as PlayStation 3’s most important risk, one I suspect will be seen as so far head of its time its clock was spinning backwards. Heavy Rain defined Sony in the PS3 era as a company willing to back some French loony on his quest for “emotion” with many millions of euros, resulting in a hugely violent serial killer thriller in which you stood up and sat down in a baffling controller dance, shouted Jason in a shopping mall, and flirted with the risk of seeing what is assuredly the darkest ending of any video game. Like, ever. Fail everything and see what happens. Seriously, it’s fucking black. Unforgettable, and easily a stand-out game of the last generation for me.

4: BioShock

BioShock is a classic video game for many reasons, and indisputably one of the greatest achievements of the last generation (or any other, for that matter). Levine shrink-wrapped stylization over the steampunk dream, drank one too many plasmids and spent a dozen hours reeling across the screen, leaving many shooter fans confused and millions more in Rapture. The Big Daddy stands, in my opinion, as the most recognizable icon from the last hardware round, and both the tragic stomper and his baby sister are indelibly etched on video gaming’s history book. The final boss was like something someone in the basement knocked up over lunch, but who cares? BioShock’s my only FPS pick for this list. It was a toss-up between this and Far Cry 3, but ultimately there’s little contest. If you have a console you should have played this game.

3: Gears of War

The “right” choice for this pick would probably be Uncharted 2, but it never appealed to me in the same way as Epic’s stupid chunk. Gears of War was broken, and had a terrible end boss, but it’ll always be a special game to me. It reminds me of people I used to know better, of getting together on Live to giggle when Marcus said “shit”. It’s such a fantastic co-op game, and was one of the first to fully realize Microsoft’s Live dream.

Video games are stupid. Gears of War’s really stupid. The whole thing was this enormous bundle of stupidity, and I fell for it to the degree that I completed the entire trilogy. I’ve never done that with a series before or since. I played through the third one alone, and it was probably the worst episode for me specifically because of that, but the first game was endless co-op. I think I finished it three or four times with various people. The first Gears of War was special because it introduced playing with friends on Xbox to me and many others. It’s important because of that.

2: Grand Theft Auto 5

It may seem obvious; it’s really obvious, in fact, but I don’t see how it’s possible to compile this list without including GTA 5. I am not a GTA fan. I couldn’t stand the fourth one, what with its sailor controls and shocking checkpointing, but it was valuable as a lay-over towards GTA 5’s final destination. GTA 5 is exciting. It isn’t broken (offline, at least). Its technology is practically unbelievable. It has a story which makes you laugh out loud. It’s the most puerile, ridiculous game I’ve ever played, and is without question the greatest technical achievement of this hardware round. Not everyone can get off on using a crane to place containers on a truck, but you should at least be able to appreciate it.

1: Minecraft

I blithely ignored Minecraft as hipster bullshit until I shrugged, installed it “for work” and lost a month digging holes. It was the game indie had been waiting for, the explosive success which proved there was a large audience for cheap, self-published, boutique video games which never went near a disc (oh, the irony). It was new. People were buying an alpha!

Aside from Minecraft being a classic design in its own right, it symbolized the re-rise of a viable market for bedroom coding and the splintering of small-scale development from the mainstream. It was made, initially at least, by one man. Today’s PC scene is indebted to this game. Others tried with varying degrees of success to capture the notion of user-creation, but nothing, on any platform, has ever done so more successfully than Minecraft.

Few games can be called a “phenomenon,” but Minecraft’s escape from triple-A into lava caves and cobblestone gave rise to MineCon, multi-plat releases and all the Lego sets, vinyls and plushies anyone could stand. Angry Birds is probably the only other game in the last generation to tap into the public consciousness in the same way.

I can still remember my first castle (lost to a save bug) and I still build stone houses with my boys in “Magical World” on my 360. Minecraft certainly is the blue-sky nonsense I always knew it was, but its plot-aversion and block modeling found themselves in the right place at the right time and altered “game” forever. Minecraft defined this generation. Do any of you actually not own it?

Interested in which games Dave, Stephany, and Brenna picked? Hit up the links to find out. Sam’s Top 5 will be revealed tomorrow.

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50 Comments

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  1. ballz

    gears of war :)))))))))

    #1 8 months ago
  2. Patrick Garratt

    Awesome, innit.

    #2 8 months ago
  3. El_MUERkO

    Gears of War as a game never appealed to me, but it was the first game that I thought ‘looked next-gen’, it raised the bar for visual fidelity and, from a historical point of view, paved the way for Uncharted and numerous other cinematic spectaculars.

    #3 8 months ago
  4. Fin

    Gears of Wars’

    ;)

    #4 8 months ago
  5. Erthazus

    Pat’s is the most accurate compared to (Steph, Brenna or Dave’s list IMO) but I disagree about GTA V. I think it does what Sand Andreas did in the previous gen and Sand Andreas was still much better IMO.

    Yeah. Gears Of War indeed was The Most influential title in everything.

    #5 8 months ago
  6. TrickyAudio

    I don’t own Minecraft D:

    I can barely be arsed to dig stuff in the garden, let alone virtually.

    Heavy Rain and BioShock are good calls. GTA 5, im still working on.

    #6 8 months ago
  7. Junior

    Sad that no one so far mentioned The Last of Us. It is the one game that I have spent, as well as a large community, talking about the story and ending online.

    Uncharted got me back to playing games and the TLoU brought my faith in Sony back. I am at a point in my life that I want an emotional journey on my games and not how fast I can hit the trigger.

    #7 8 months ago
  8. TheBlackHole

    Heavy Rain – “Whatever criticism you hurl at it merely bounces off its giant tower of ambition.”

    Er… no. Ambition does not absolve you from criticism, nor does it make a ‘game’ entertaining. Fine that you liked it, but I thought it was a self-indulgent mess with little in the way of ‘gameplay’ to get drawn in by. To be fair, I’m not a fan of cage and his movie director wannabe experiences.

    Bioshock – “indisputably one of the greatest achievements of the last generation (or any other, for that matter)”

    Are you kidding? Amazing artwork, sure, but the gameplay was repetitive and shallow. This was highlighted even further in the similarly paced sequels (2 and infinite). MASSIVE style over substance IMO.

    Would agree that the other three were good, but only Gears would make my list from that selection.

    #8 8 months ago
  9. VibraniumSpork

    Re: Minecraft. I’ve kinda ignored it personally but can anecdotally attest to its appeal. My two nephews (10 & 13) love this game, and it’s effects on them have been massive. They play it across multiple platforms though mostly on iOS as both have Mini-iPads (the spoiled little shits). It’s the first game they’ve actively pursued for months at a time, the first they’ve sought out merchandise for, the first they’ve played online with friends. That’s all great stuff, and I wonder how much Minecraft has served as a gateway drug for the next generation of ‘Hardcore’ gamers?

    Plus, no hard-edged violence or misogyny in sight and an emphasis on creativity rather than destruction. It’s digital Lego. I might be bit too old to ‘get it’ but I can certainly appreciate it from afar.

    #9 8 months ago
  10. fihar

    Hey, at least you managed to embrace Gears of War both for it’s brilliance and sheer stupidity unlike IGN who called the trilogy “one of the most memorable and celebrated sagas in video games”.
    Ewwwww.

    Nice mention of BioShock’s final boss there, I forgot how ridiculous that one was. Even Levine can’t evade one of the most ridiculously overdone video gaming cliche of all time, the need for a final boss. I like to throw ME2′s final boss in there as well, totally unnecessary.

    And I confess, I never played Minecraft.

    #10 8 months ago
  11. Djoenz

    I cant believe no one picked Mass Effect or Dragon Age.
    Seriously lack of rpg love or something?

    Not to mention Witcher which I never played myself tbh.

    The Last Of Us top nomination for me personally. sigh. .

    #11 8 months ago
  12. Daniel_N7

    You can’t have a top 5 game list for this generation without:

    Red Dead Redemption
    The Last of Us
    Mass Effect 2
    The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
    Grand Theft Auto V
    Assassin’s Creed II
    Uncharted 2
    BioShock Infinite
    Fallout 3
    LA Noire

    Well, actually, one simply can’t have a “top 5″ games list for this generation…

    #12 8 months ago
  13. Lv01

    @7 +1

    #13 8 months ago
  14. Dave Cook

    @11 Brenna did :P

    #14 8 months ago
  15. Djoenz

    Thank you Dave :P

    #15 8 months ago
  16. Cobra951

    There we go. There’s a list worthy of that grandiose “Games of the Generation” title (GoW notwithstanding). Limiting you to 5 is brutal, though. 10 would be better.

    Nicely written too.

    #16 8 months ago
  17. wildBoar

    Please just do yourself a favor and google “heavy rain plotholes” and revel in the clusterfuck.

    The paper thin illusion of choice, the endless QTEs, the terrible voice acting done by europeans mimicking american accents BADLY, the game’s childlike understanding of criminal investigation and police work, incredibly poor characterization, lack of gameplay, and so on and on..

    How this game got on someone’s top 5 I can’t imagine, but it sure as hell doesn’t deserve to be.

    #17 8 months ago
  18. lexph3re

    ^ You are a real Debbie downer. Child like understanding of criminal investigations huh? I guess that make’s the Lethal Weapon movies complete garbage and not even mildly entertaining huh? Or the fact that depending on your choices in the game you can choose who lives, dies, succeed or fails in the story.

    You also telling someone they shouldn’t have a game in their top just because you don’t like it? Kinda asinine don’t you think?

    #18 8 months ago
  19. ninjanutta

    naughty dog games period are in the top 1 easily,,gears of war also was a great series but mine craft???????BEHAVE

    #19 8 months ago
  20. ps4fanboy

    this editor is one lazy guy. last post by him was weeks ago. making easy money

    #20 8 months ago
  21. noamlol2

    SHITTIEST PICKS EVERRRRRRRRR!

    where metro 2033? where’s the witcher 2? (the game who puts replayability into action) where oh fucking where is demon’s souls?

    and for the last fucking time, where is bad company 2?

    #21 8 months ago
  22. lexph3re

    @21 you know this is their personal favorites of the Gen. It means there is only games they truly enjoyed this gen and felt were influential to them.

    Personally out of my top 5 it appears to be not even close to any of the editors top 5. But, that’s fine it is their choices for a reason.

    #22 8 months ago
  23. Francis O

    One thing I know about the VG247 staff. They don’t like Nintendo at all. Not one editor has picked a first party Nintendo game.

    #23 8 months ago
  24. Hcw87

    @23
    The VG247 staff are all 20+ years aren’t they?

    Not everyone can be 16 and enjoy Nintendo like yourself.

    #24 8 months ago
  25. DSB

    Oh gawd.

    #25 8 months ago
  26. POOhead

    @23 not even 1 one wii game made any lists, talk about a site that always crys about innovated games

    #26 8 months ago
  27. Hcw87

    Can’t argue against Nintendo’s fanbase being either under 20 or over 40.

    Those over 40 being parents of those under 20.

    #27 8 months ago
  28. Gheritt White

    You have NO taste, Pat. None at all. I haven’t worked on a single one of those games!!

    #28 8 months ago
  29. Beta

    These are personal favourites. There’s no way anyone can bitch about what’s on the lists.

    That’s like telling people what and what not to like.

    In spite of it’s myriad flaws I still massively enjoyed Heavy Rain. More so than Beyond Two Souls actually..

    #29 8 months ago
  30. DSB

    @28 Do go on…. :>

    #30 8 months ago
  31. fearmonkey

    I don’t get all the love for Gears really. It was a good game, but I wouldnt say it was a great game series, and I have played though the Trilogy and played Judgement.

    #31 8 months ago
  32. bradk825

    Good list.

    I too spent many late nights playing Gears co-op with friends. It’s how I introduced several friends to what MS has to offer, with most of us having been Sony players previously. I played that game through many times, was a sucker for finding collectables, and I too finished out the series. I am hoping for a serious reboot in the next-gen. Maybe the Pendulum Wars?

    Bioshock was a serious break from the norm in its time. Gone were the soliders and all their professionalism, and in their place was a man dumped in a failed utopia surrounded by violent junkies with special powers. I don’t know why the main character didn’t turn into one of the crazy splicers and I don’t care. It was fantastic and different from beginning to end.

    And of course I have Minecraft. Everyone has Minecraft.

    #32 8 months ago
  33. Legendaryboss

    Great list, VG247 staff have good taste well close enough anyway ;)

    #33 8 months ago
  34. Stephany Nunneley

    @21 Again, I put Demon’s Souls on mine and, once again, I think the reason neither Witcher game was listed by anyone is because we all played the game’s on PC.

    @23 I have no issues with Nintendo! I love my DS, and want a 3DS (Professor Layton!). I still fire up my GameCube and play Wind Waker on occassion.

    I will admit, though, I have not played a Wii title since Twilight Princess came out. My console is still sitting in the box I put it in when I packed up and moved house five years ago. I feel awful about it, really, I do.

    #34 8 months ago
  35. polygem

    hey, i can handle this games of the gen thing with 3:

    demons souls
    mario galaxy
    halo reach

    #35 8 months ago
  36. Legendaryboss

    I see the “i forbid it” approach has now been extended to VG247 staff who didn’t include all of Francis’s oh holy thou Nintendo games. How pathetic.
    http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m6b27oUgm31rys4czo1_500.gif

    #36 8 months ago
  37. polygem

    @21: “and for the last fucking time, where is bad company 2?”

    i played that game so much i was dreaming about it. definitely one of the greatest gaming moments this gen for me. mp was so much fun. best bf game on consoles and awesome snow levels/maps!…but there was reach and seriously, for me, that game killed everything shooterwise everywhere, worldwide, galaxywide.

    #37 8 months ago
  38. Legendaryboss

    @37
    “galaxywide.”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ja0jS_toKxk

    #38 8 months ago
  39. Keivz

    A respectable list to be sure. I am finding many of these lists excluding Naughty Dog titles and truthfully, I agree. I played all 3 Uncharted games and TLoU, and while they were all very good games that were extremely polished and well produced, there’s something about them that’s lacking which I can’t put my finger on…

    #39 8 months ago
  40. lexph3re

    If I had to construct a list this gen it would be:

    Demon Souls for reminding me to slow down an think in a time where punishment was almost absent in the gen with regen health and cover based system.

    Metal Gear 4 for not only wrapping up the series of Solid Snake but having so much polish that even to the exit of this gen it’s hard for other games to top it’s presentation. And the options were top notch too.

    Uncharted 2 for taking a dynamic approach to it’s narrative and cinematics that had the players going… “OH SNAP!”. A thrill ride is just satisfying the first time through that whenever I went back I was just thinking “I’m full, don’t need to play again.” And it’s inspiration in other games like Dead Space and on is overly apparent.

    Lost Odyssesy even though I played it late in the gen. I felt it was a perfect encapsulation of what we loved so much about previous gen RPG’s. It had a lot of technical flaws with screen tearing and resolution issues but the core of the game was so solid I didn’t give a flying pig.

    Dead Space series for reminding us that games can indeed scare us. The first is the most intense of the series but the sequels hold their own in their own regard.

    I quit though I have to get back to work.lol

    #40 8 months ago
  41. sebastien rivas

    Pat you brought a singular question in your article that needs to be debated and is really important for us gamers as well as for AAA companies of any genre, kind, style.

    When we talk games over the last decade and of course much longer than that, we all or just about all said a great game is also composed of great graphics whereas visual matters to transcend the player to better immersion of some sort.
    Effectively along the road came in games that did not heavily ported on visual lifeness or lifelike graphics, and yet, for some, were games cherished by many. One of those is effectively Minecraft.

    But, does that mean graphics are NOT necessary or not a necessity to immerse a player to the game, be in the game, and ultimately love the game?

    To me, it depends. I know that above all, what immerses me in a game is it functionality, gameplay, and mechanics. Too few and a game as attractive can be just won’t last. A lot but also appearing all over the place or not educated to my eyes and the game becomes confusing/repelling.
    Although and to go back to graphics, graphics are an undeniable plus that pertain to the quality of a game overall that makes me wish for best of both worlds sometimes.
    Just a pure example to my eyes, Dragon Age 0-1 compared to DA2.
    DA 2 kills DA 0-1 in terms of animation and designs (cinematics are about as good for each). Although gameplay and mechanics are different for both, DA 0-1 kills DA2 because the complexity gameplay and mechanics are deepened in DA 0-1 but also are well educated gameplay and mechanics in comparison to DA2; hence a better immersion for me, yet, something inside me makes me wish DA2 fully used DA 0-1 gameplay and mechanics and only then Bioware would have surpassed DA 0-1. After all, the story and story telling in DA2 is rather as good as DA0-1.

    To end this, I would like to see that graphics are important to me in that sense it is a cherish on the cake. Something that is not ultimately necessary but since the “what if” is a condition of make belief and games (generally speaking) then graphics become a pertinent component for better immersion.

    I am playing Ishar and Stonekeep at the moment and while gameplay is rudimentary, it also becomes challenging too which surprisingly keeps me in the game.

    #41 8 months ago
  42. Djoenz

    Gears of War series was epic yeah, but seriously it wasnt mindblowing. There is actually a difference between fuck yeah shooting aliens and shit compared to story driven epic journeys.

    If there is one thing certain in games is that all humans think way too big of themselves. Hardly humble.

    #42 8 months ago
  43. Beta

    I’m sure I’ll think of different games later but..

    Mirror’s Edge. I found the gameplay refreshingly unique when you weren’t fighting back. And the soundtrack, brilliant.

    Uncharted 2. It was the game that made me fall back in love with ND. Superb acting, beautiful graphics for the time, and a thrill to play from start to finish.

    TES IV Oblivion. Yes I liked Skyrim, But I just enjoyed exploring Cyrodill more. I felt more engrossed in the world. My play time is well in to the hundreds.

    Red Dead Redemption. The first Ever Western related thing I’ve enjoyed. A beautiful world packed with life.

    Journey. The only online game I’ve ever loved ;) Gorgeous graphics, amazing soundtrack, dripping with atmosphere.

    Everytime I start a journey and meet a new companion my faith in humanity is restored a little bit.

    Which sounds very soppy, but I’ve actually bonded and communicated with someone through chirping.. Possibly my favourite game bar none. Not a single time I’ve felt bored of it.

    #43 8 months ago
  44. Clupula

    While I may not have enjoyed the final boss of Bioshock, I find myself disappointed when I play a game that doesn’t have one. Both The Last of Us and Bioshock Infinite’s lack of final bosses made their endings feel a little anticlimatic to me.

    #44 8 months ago
  45. Clupula

    @24 – In fairness, most 16 year olds have outgrown colorful characters bopping friendly looking creatures on the head in brightly colored worlds, designed to delight the whole family.

    #45 8 months ago
  46. TheWulf

    @24

    Look down on them as you might, as you oft do, those are simply people who merely don’t wish to partake of the mainstream homogeneity, diseased as it is with desaturation and forcibly mundane things.

    Not everyone does want that. In fact, I often find that many of the most genuinely interesting people I’ve met don’t want that. They’re eccentrics and dreamers, and not just slaves to the daily grind. And those wonderful people dream in technicolor.

    I don’t know what it’s like to lose that. I can only imagine that a degree of a person’s self awareness goes with it — in that they stop asking questions, they stop dreaming. And no, killing shit will never be the art of a dreamer, not unless you’re a psychopath (of course).

    The truth of this can be found with the indies. They want to dream.

    I can spin in my chair and cook up new and wonderfully alien places with ease, inspiring me to write about them, because if you could see that wouldn’t you want to do the same? I like actually keeping a journal of those places, myself, and that’s a hobby of mine. A blithe and oblivious wanderer whose only purpose is to stop and stare at these things, writing about them before moving on.

    Oh, and then there’s Adventure Time. And if you don’t like Adventure Time then I’m sorry but it’s my duty to inform you that you’re not alive. Not any more.

    #46 8 months ago
  47. TheWulf

    @34

    You should try the 3DS, Steph. It’s worth it. Honest.

    The new Pokemon game provides the best experience since Emerald, which is the only other Pokemon game I’ve truly enjoyed. It’s fantastic. And they’ve done so much to eliminate the grind and make it fun to play.

    Then there’s the new Phoenix Wright, which is true to the soul of the original three and simply wonderful. And it’s worth the entry price alone just to see Bobby Fullbright.

    I understand things are expensive, though, but I have to give my recommendations.

    #47 8 months ago
  48. Telepathic.Geometry

    Oh noes! Another Gears of War pick! ´д` ;

    I’ll forgive you though, because I too loved Heavy Rain, and am loving Beyond which seems to have gotten a frosty reception. Also, it’s nice to see you again Pat. It’s been too long…

    #48 8 months ago
  49. sb319

    Great list, all good choices.

    #49 8 months ago
  50. Clupula

    “And no, killing shit will never be the art of a dreamer.

    The truth of this can be found with the indies. They want to dream.”

    Hotline Miami says hi.

    #50 8 months ago