Games of the generation: Stephany waxes poetic on her five favorites

By Stephany Nunneley
5 November 2013 12:49 GMT

What were the games of the current generation? VG247′s staff pick their highlights of the past 8 years ahead of the PS4 and Xbox One launch. In this entry, Stephany becomes a bit misty-eyed over the sunsetting of one of her favorites.

We’re dedicating this week to VG247′s personal games of the generation. We’ll post a different team member’s list each day, so stay tuned to see what we all thought. Here’s Dave’s top five from yesterday.

I don’t like lists. I never have, and I especially don’t like lists in which one thing is rated best over another. This is because I am of the opinion something is automatically “the best” if you enjoyed it.

It’s like with any entertainment medium, really: how can Exile on Main St. by The Rolling Stones be any better than Led Zeppelin 4? Why is Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan considered a classic on many so called “best of lists” yet Young Frankenstein isn’t? How can Oscar Wilde be one of the most quoted authors in history, yet I never hear anyone quote David Sedaris?

Favoritism is subjective, after all. What a person enjoys is based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions; therefore, an opinion on something is not “wrong” whether you agree with it or not.

Still, I am loathe to suggest that one thing is better than the other, because the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum. What might be right for you, may not be right for some.

Now that I have my qualms about creating such a list out of the way, I will give you a rundown of the five games that “meant” the most to me this console generation. Just remember: you’ll have yours, and I’ll have mine – and together we’ll be fine.

5. Red Dead Redemption

Second time was a charm for Rockstar Games with Red Dead Redemption. Sure it had a few issues: donkey ladies, flying deer, cougar men, weird things happening whenever a train was involved. None of that mattered despite how hilarious or frustrating some of the issues were. It was one of the most fun open-world games of the console generation, from my point of view.

As someone who played Red Dead Revolver and found it lacking in many respects, I was hesitant to don the cowboy hat and spurs once again to go kill desperados, chat with saloon girls, and help a few ranchers sort their personal problems. However, I relented, and I’m damn happy I did.

No other game out there thrusts you smack-dab into a Sergio Leone film like Red Dead Redemption; no other game out there allows you to live vicariously through the actions of a Clint Eastwood-type as he rides the range, skinning critters and taming wild horses. It was a gem of a game.

Sure, some thought it became boring after a while, but I relished the times I put off completing a quest just to explore the game world on my Kentucky Saddler; bask in sunsets; feel the tinge of dread when spotted by a mountain lion.

Pure bliss it was, and I sincerely hope Rockstar plans on giving the franchise another go sooner rather than later, now that John Marston’s story has concluded.

4. Demon’s Souls

If CD Projekt RED set a precedent for RPGs on PC with The Witcher, one could argue that From Software did the same for consoles with Demon’s Souls.

Sadistic, frustrating, enraging, and utterly brilliant, Demon’s Souls was the dark fantasy action-RPG to play in 2009. Not only was the game overtly challenging, the gloom and doom permeating Boletaria and its surrounding landmarks was rather gorgeous – even with the evil fog squatting over it.

The demons one had to fight weren’t in any way cookie cutter; sure you could button mash but unless you wanted to die for the umpteenth time a bit of strategy paid-off (roll you fool, roll!).

Considered a game for the rather hardcore at the time, Demon’s Souls’ brutality gave those who played it the reputation of being masochists. Maybe so, but there was no greater feeling of accomplishment than when, finally, you killed both of the those goddamned Maneaters. Too bad I didn’t think to watch YouTube videos showing me how to best the beasts: it would have saved me a few tears, and I wouldn’t have felt compelled to scream obscenities, scaring my poor dogs in the process.

If you can harness a bit of calm in order to keep from snapping your DualShock 3 in half or throwing it into the driveway, starting your car and running it over time and time again until it is nothing more than black, plastic chunks in your driveway – Demon’s Souls is a truly satisfying game.

3. Rock Band 2-3

Guitar Hero 1-3 were, and still are, some of my favorite games. They were innovative. They allowed you to imagine, for just a few measly minutes or hours at a time that you were, well, a Guitar Hero. The soundtracks were fabulous and varied, and each spawned many a YouTube video featuring players showing their shredding prowess with Through the Fire and the Flames, by Dragonforce. You know, because being able to play a guitar really, really fast automatically means you’re great, right? But I digress.

While Guitar Hero brought me joy over the years, nothing could compare to the fun I had with Rock Band 2 and Rock Band 3. I missed out on the first game, so Harmonix, you will have to forgive me for the lapse: I made up for it with the next two iterations.

The reason why, for me, the Rock Band games can be considered games of the generation, is not only due to their innovation; the jobs the game created for peripheral companies; or the way the games brought various artists into the living rooms of an entirely new generation of players – it’s because the game’s co-op creates a sense of comradery instead of competition.

Rock Band not only altered the video game industry, but the music industry as well. Because of Rock Band, many bands and unsigned artists found success by being included in the games or as DLC. Established acts with included tracks in games like this experienced sales increases of up 300% at retail. For fun, next time you log into iTunes, have a look at one of the titles included in a Rock Band game. I guarantee it is one of the most popular songs listed for the artist.

People who had never picked up an instrument in their life became interested in drums, guitar, and the keyboard, after playing Rock Band. The impact on the rhythm-action genre was phenomenal: many, many a company created titles in the genre just to ride the same wave of success.

I have spent many an evening over at my friend Ron’s house playing Rock Band with him, his wife Anita and our mutual friend Stephen. What better way for four friends who are all music buffs, as well as avid gamers, to spend their time? Yes, we are well aware we are not in rock band; we aren’t playing real instruments; we aren’t entertaining a real crowd. That’s beside the point: we are enjoying two of our favorite things with one another while having a few drinks, some laughs, and few heated discussions on why RUSH is/isn’t the be-all and end-all of classic, progressive rock. Hint: it’s not.

Some of the most enjoyable evenings of my life have been spent at that house: and I owe it all to Rock Band. While Harmonix has sunsetted the game, and gutting me in a way, my rag tag troupe and I still fire the game up on occasion – and we probably will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

2. BioShock

You’re walking along a corridor in a decrepit, underwater city. Up ahead, you will have to make a choice. Do you go left? Or do you go right? Around the right corner, you can hear a demented Splicer mumbling to itself. It sends shivers up your spine. You have no desire to face another one of Rapture’s deformed, genetically modified citizens so soon. Best make a left instead.

The hall is more of a glass tunnel, providing you a glimpse of the ocean. You can see fish swimming among the ruined buildings jutting from the seafloor. As you slowly make your way up the dim walkway, you step over detritus strewn across the floor, mixed among the possessions of those who did not survive the Rapture Civil War. They were the lucky ones.

Up ahead in the distance, you can hear a Little Sister singing. She is gathering ADAM from a corpse. You need to tread lightly, because where there’s a Little Sister there is most always a Big Daddy.

This, my friends, is BioShock. A game I have probably replayed more than any other single-player game in my collection. I think I am on my fifth playthrough. Maybe it’s sixth. I’m not quite sure.

Not being a massive fan of shooters, the game being described as such almost put me off. I’m glad it didn’t. I don’t really consider it a “shooter” in the truest sense of the word anyway; you do a lot more than shoot people.

There are machines in which to craft spare parts you gathered into weapons; you can hack machines; you can take pictures for “research”; use turrets to aid you; buy Plasmids to give you special attacks which can be used in combination with your weapons. See, there’s more to do than just shooting. BioShock Infinite? Yeah, it’s more of a shooter.

Plus, there’s nothing like the sense of impending doom I felt the first time I heard Big Daddy bellow. And even with subsequent playthroughs, the first time I encounter him, I’m yelling “oh shit, oh shit!” out loud.

BioShock is a great game, and should be considered one of the best of this generation for that reason alone. But there’s another reason too: it provided players with a very controversial moral dilemma. Do you harvest the ADAM from the Little Sisters, killing them in the process? Or do you use the special Plasmid Brigid Tenenbaum gave you to destroy the slug inside, gaining only a partial portion of the ADAM?

I’d like to think the majority of players saved the little girls, but that’s the whole point of choice isn’t it? I’m pleased to say my choice gave me a rather fulfilling conclusion when I reached the end of the game. A game, that I have to say, ranks up there among my most favorite games of all time next to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and the next game on my list.

1. The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim

Here, there be dragons. Lots and lots of goddamned dragons dropping out of the sky when you least expect it. Killing Khajiit traders carrying a bow you wanted along with your horse because it decided to fight instead of flee with it’s tail tucked between its legs like a real horse would. Damn you Todd Howard; but oh, how I love you for it!

Let me tell you something you may not know about me: I am obsessed with The Elder Scrolls. Not in the sense I am with Tolkien, but close. I own a copy of each game on multiple platforms and I have devoted hours upon hours of my life to each copy. I can’t seem to keep from it. I may need professional help.

You see, it all started with my friend Matt who was the first among us to have a computer. He was the one who introduced me to SimFarm, and then complained when all I did was play it when I came over instead of participating in drinking games based around Star Trek. The biggest mistake he made, though, was introduce me to The Elder Scrolls: Arena and The Elder Scrolls 2: Daggerfall.

Sure, I enjoyed both Arena and Daggerfall enough, but I didn’t have a computer of my own, so my gaming mainly focused around Nintendo consoles until PlayStation 2 was released a few years later. Therefore, I put the series out of my mind best I could – but on occasion it would itch the back of my mind.

Sometime in early 2002, I heard a new Elder Scrolls game would be coming out. I can’t recall what magazine I read it in, and I can’t recall the images shown other than the logo. I do remember feeling both elated and disappointed at the same time, because while I finally had a computer, it would not be able to handle a game with specs greater than what was required to run Deer Avenger or Elf Bowl. I also knew it would be released on Xbox as well, but I had no intention of ever purchasing an Xbox. I even laughed at Microsoft when it came out. (Look who’s laughing now, right?)

In 2003 when I was Christmas shopping at Best Buy I saw an Xbox bundle on sale with a copy of Knights of the Old Republic. There, next to the massive, heavy box in the aisle, was Morrowind – an angelic beam of light shining down from the heavens upon it. Turns out it was just the florescent lighting in the store acting up, but I digress. I bought the Xbox bundle under the premise of it being a Christmas present for my long-term partner, along with a copy of Morrowind to go along with it.

Hundreds and hundreds of hours later, I still have yet to finish the game on my original Xbox. I have since purchased it for PC and, again, have yet to finish it after hundreds of hours. Same with The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion, and the game I mentioned at the onset of this rambling life story: Skyrim.

It’s because of my love for Morrowind, which made me want to write sonnets in homage to Todd Howard and Ken Rolston and walk down the aisle someday to the title track, that I adore Skyrimh. And it’s not because of the tried and true mechanics and skill traits you find the game: it’s the lore; the story; the feeling you get the first time you look upon The Throat of the World; it’s the music composed by Jeremy Soule; it’s – well – everything I ever wanted or loved about the RPG genre all rolled into one lovely package.

Skyrim, to me, is the game of this console generation, for all these reasons and more. It’s a never-ending adventure in a living, breathing, gorgeous open-world full of fantasy, dragons, magic, and mystery. It’s glorious, and I love it. I plan on firing it up again over Christmas break once I bravely crack the seal on my Elder Scrolls Collection.

It is, my favorite game of this generation, bar none, and I am not in the least bit ashamed to admit it.

When compiling this list, I had a bit of a hard time excluding other titles I felt worthy of being included. Had it been a top 10, five others would have been included. Honorable mentions in no particular order: Borderlands 2, Dead Space, Fallout: New Vegas, Resident Evil 4, and Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.

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