Next-gen is fast approaching, so as part of Boss Dungeon’s continuing retrospective of our current gaming generation, we all had a sit down and a think about our personal favourite games of the generation.
Spelunky – Nominated by Nick Allen
I could write for days about Spelunky. Boss Dungeon has already seen two posts I’ve written about its genius, and I could doubtless write many more, but to summarise the plethora of thoughts I have for this game: Spelunky might well be the best game ever created.
Now, that’s a big statement. Most ‘best games ever’ lists would never dream of putting Spelunky in even the top 20. But it is, quite honestly, perfectly crafted. Every jump arc, every animation length, every enemy’s health is planned to perfection, creating a game world that oozes logic and system from its every pore. This means that Spelunky can get away with being hard as nails without feeling cheap. It’s Dark Souls, condensed into a quickfire platformer and without any of the issues that can make Dark Souls so infuriating. It’s the elegant gameplay design of Super Mario World combined with the risk/reward of Call of Duty’s Zombies mode and the sheer pleasure of progress of Super Hexagon. It pinches from the best while putting its own spin on gameplay classics. The base adventure mode doesn’t give you a penalty for death, so every game is a learning experience. The daily challenge mode is an exam that tests you on everything you’ve learnt from the base game, completely changing how you play.
In 20 years, when the indies of tomorrow are talking about their inspiration, Mario and Sonic won’t come into it. No, it’ll be the long evenings playing Spelunky on their console, or in bed with their Vita. Spelunky is full of such fantastic ideas that it’s impossible to think the games of the future won’t be shaped by it. Derek Yu, Mossmouth – I salute you, you beautiful bastards.
Alan Wake – Nominated by Tobiichi Karlsson
Picking one game to define what I found to be the very best game this generation is hard and not something I can simply do. While talking about the subject on The Final Battle I constantly moved back and forth between games, so what I decided to do was pick the game that lived up best to my expectations this generation. That game is 2010′s Alan Wake, by Remedy Games. I remember reading about Alan Wake in PC Gamer back in 2005 when the game was open world and whether or not it even was a supernatural horror-thriller was up in the air. I remember following the few pieces of news about the game that would float past now and then, about changes and development problems.
Eventually the game ended up a Xbox 360 exclusive that was re-revealed at E3 2009 where it looked absolutely amazing. Alan had gotten a redesign, the game was no longer open world but instead focused on delivering tense levels with opportunity for exploration at a risk, something that worked a lot in the games favor as a horror game, since the enemies could be lurking around any corner and appear out of nowhere as you were running around hunting manuscript pages and coffee thermoses. The fact that combat was used more as a tool to get out of tight situations and back to fleeing helped a lot as well since the player, as Alan, would truly feel helpless and weak whenever you ran out of batteries in the flashlight and had to start running and dodging enemies that were constantly tossing axes and stuff at you, much like Resident Evil 4 did with its enemies.
It also helps that the story and narrative, while cheesy, ended up such a strong point as well. The way Alan describes things and reacts to things is unique to this game, and its spin-off, and while the influences from Stephen King and other horror novelists are apparent and obvious, the character and the story around him stands so well on its own that it might as well have been a entire new concept created by the writers at Remedy, because it feels so fresh. And really, how often do we get a game that mixes chase-sequences, action-sequences, exploration and driving and have the game nail each single gameplay aspect? Not very often, something always suffers, but not in Alan Wake, because it’s such a well-made product.
The fact that the spin-off, Alan Wake: American Nightmare ended up really solid as well and even brought with it some awesome FMV sequences, a genre I’ve loved all my life, is a great bonus as well. The PC port released a few years later was also a great product. From start to finish, no other game this generation lived up to my expectations as well as this game did after five years of waiting.
Dragon’s Dogma, Resident Evil 5, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories and Tales of Graces F.
Borderlands – Nominated by Michael Carey
Every now and then a game comes along that’s just so up your alley that it’s hard not to fall in love and feel like the game was made exclusively for you. That’s sort of how I’ve come to look back on Gearbox Software’s Borderlands.
Everything about it just jives so perfectly with me. The art style manages to be rough and gritty, but the cel shading technology also makes it vibrant in its own right, setting it apart from other grey/brown shooters this generation. Its sense of humor is superb, managing to be irreverent and dark without seeming forced or pandering. It handled cooperative gameplay wonderfully, allowing for easy couch co-op as well as online play. Things were kept interesting across multiple playthroughs with its different classes, each of the four having at least a couple different viable builds to play with. The FPS and RPG elements were blended well, meshing in a way that let level and gear progression be apparent without making starting equipment too weak and frustrating. The loot possibilities are massive, adding incentive to keep playing for a better piece of gear and easily scratching any itches I had for item collection. Finally, Gearbox offered the game some of the best post-game DLC support this generation, with the writing in “The Secret Armory of General Knoxx” standing out as some of my favorite.
It’s a game I’m completely enamored with and have spent hundreds of hours on across multiple platforms and characters. It’s a game I’d still go back and play because it’s connected to some of the fondest memories I’ve had this generation, both from the game itself and the experiences I’ve had playing with friends.
Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness – Nominated by Gregory Edwards
It’s odd, I was absolutely confident that I’d not see another game this generation that I got quite as much out of as Bayonetta, possibly the finest action game of all time. I was set on that being the best the 7th generation would ever get, but then at the absolute last minute, Nippon Ichi Software swoops in with a direct sequel to my favourite game of all time, setting out to deliver a game that, were I more arrogant and incredibly stupid, I’d assume was aimed directly at me and no one else.
So along comes Disgaea D2, a sequel that not only is a huge mechanical improvement over everything else in its franchise, but erases any lingering doubts I had that the series may have begun to overstay its welcome. Disgaea’s never felt more fresh than it does here. Strange, considering it’s a back to basics title in so many ways.
There are few gaming memories that’ll last as long as starting up this game, seeing characters I’d grown so very fond of taking center stage again. I had a stupid grin on my face throughout my entire first play session, and whenever I play it now, it’s damn hard for that grin not to come creeping back.
It’s a series that made grinding the most enjoyable thing in the world, and to see it make a triumphant return in top form, well that’s just remarkable.
Mass Effect 2 - Nominated by Julian Rittmayer
Coming up with a single game to fill my nomination was much harder than even I originally anticipated. However, the Mass Effect series, and more specifically Mass Effect 2, made the biggest impression on me this past generation. The first Mass Effect was great, but was plagued by technical issues and clunky combat. Mass Effect 2 stepped it up and streamlined the gameplay into a rock-solid experience. It was a turning point of the franchise for me, and likely, a score of like-minded gamers.
While Mass Effect 2‘s story might not have had the grandeur that the first or third ones had, it stood above and apart because of it’s loyalty missions. Tailor made to each character, they are the best part of the Mass Effect franchise. These missions developed your relationships with each member of your team to the point where you truly felt a connection with each and every one of them. This made the final mission all the more enjoyable… and harder.
And while the gameplay of Mass Effect 2 is excellent, it’s the fiction that seals the deal. The diverse and interesting cast of characters. The massive universe filled with planets to explore and races to encounter. The wonderful ability to experience the story the way you see fit, as a Paragon or a Renegade, via it’s choice heavy dialogue. Even the DLC for the game is incredible, adding even more value to an already packed game.
There are few franchises I have genuinely gotten swept up in, but I was, and am, a complete and utter Mass Effect fanboy. I’ve sunk over 100 hours into each game on various platforms, read the books, the comics, even watched the terrible anime. I’ve spent more money on Mass Effect memorabilia than probably most game franchises. While I hope it doesn’t happen, if Mass Effect 4 turns out to be an Xbox One exclusive, I’d buy the system solely for that.
All this Mass Effect love can be traced back to the game that started it all, Mass Effect 2. It is one of, if not THE game that defined this past generation for me.
Dark Souls – Nominated by Zack Furniss
I could relentlessly expound upon this game being the hardcore light in the casual darkness, but how many times have you read that article? Instead I’ll be honest with you about my love for Dark Souls: it’s the best 3D Metroidvania I could have hoped for.
If you stop listening to everyone about the difficulty for just five seconds and give it a try, you’ll find a sublimely-crafted world. Though many prefer its predecessor, Demon’s Souls, I prefer this because of the interlocking level design. Just when you think you are about the furthest point away from the area you started in, you’ll find an elevator that’ll take you right back to the beginning. I love this feeling of recursive discovery, and it takes me right back to late nights and early mornings of Super Metroid, my fondest of memories. And even though Lordran has characters peppered throughout, it is one of the loneliest games I have had the pleasure of experiencing.
Dark Souls brings back that feeling of dread that I miss from older survival horror games. When I reach a new zone, I tread slowly and carefully, conserving my health items, wary of each corner and shadow. It’s a feeling a miss, and a feeling I crave. Thank you From Software for giving it back to me, and I look forward to you doing it again with Dark Souls II.
So there we have it, Boss Dungeon’s games of the generation. An interesting mix, to be sure. What were your favourites? Sound off in the comments!