By Patrick Young
We’re only a couple days away from the dawn of a new gaming generation. On November 10th the Xbox Series X & S will finally be upon fans, with the PlayStation 5 following on the 12th. With rumors too of a Nintendo Switch Pro coming some time next year, it is a good time to be a gamer.
The promise of the new consoles has been a hope for millions amidst the many challenges we have faced this year. It hasn’t been an easy ride for these consoles either, with Microsoft and Sony respectively being ambiguous at times with information and neither handling console pre orders particularly well. However, this has seemingly made the masses more excited, just yearning to get their hands on the new generation.
There is no better time, then, to reflect on some of the games that have defined the last six years. This was an amazing generation for games, with some of the greatest games ever made coming out of this era. The games in this list are games that I have played and feel have contributed greatly in advancing the industry, are examples of the best medium has to offer, or should just simply be played because they are that good.
So, without further ado, here are my top 7 games that defined this generation.
The Last of Us: Part II (2020) artwork. Image courtesy of NME.com.
7. The Last of Us: Part II (2020)
I was a part of the community that thought we didn’t need a sequel to 2013’s The Last of Us; the game for all intents and purposes is perfect and one of my favorite games ever made. Naughty Dog’s sequel in Part II is a bold and beautiful project that is everything I wanted––and some things I did not. It is their most ambitious and interesting game technically, gameplay-wise and thematically yet, guiding the player through a gauntlet of beautifully dark places and uncomfortable moments of terror. This works to the game’s detriment at times though, some peculiar writing decisions affecting the game’s pacing and immersion.
Ellie’s revengeful journey through the ruins of Seattle is a rollercoaster of highs and lows, but is undoubtedly a showcase of Naughty Dog’s development as a studio and this generation of gaming in general.
Screenshot from God of War (2018). Image courtesy of Polygon.
6. God of War (2018)
Back in the days of the PS2 and PS3, God of War was perceived as a solid hack n’ slash series, but was losing steam in the early 2010s––how much further could the always-angry, one-note Kratos and his Blades of Chaos go? 2018’s God of War reinvented both the character and the franchise, while also showing that even the most rundown of franchises can evolve.
It is hard to praise just any one part of this game: the captivating relationship between an older, wiser Kratos and his son Atreus; the continuous one-shot, cinematic style of the game’s presentation; the bold yet satisfying new, over-the-shoulder combat system––this game executes in pretty much every way. The biggest component of this game might be its world, with every aspect having an in-game explanation or importance, whether it be what you can interact with, to the characters you meet and even the lore of the world itself.
If you haven’t played this yet, you can play it on the PS Plus Collection on your PS5. All I’ll say is there is a point in the game under an hour in which you won’t want to stop playing.
Screenshot from Resident Evil 2 (2019). Image courtesy of Horror Geek Life.
5. Resident Evil 2 (2019)
Resident Evil has one of the more tumultuous histories of any game franchise I can recall. When Resident Evil 4 revolutionized gaming with its third-person shooting mechanics, Capcom assumed people wanted more action with Resident Evil than horror. It makes me so happy to say that 2019’s remake of the PS1 original Resident Evil 2 is one of the most finely tuned gaming experiences I’ve ever had, as well as one of the most horrifying.
Gone are the original Resident Evil 2’s fixed camera perspectives and clunky tank controls, the remake having buttery smooth third-person shooting and precise player movement. Since the game can no longer scare you by controlling the angles you view the game with, it uses its environments, sound design and enemy encounters to build up the dread. Mix in some puzzles and item management and you have one of the most stressfully satisfying games of the generation, and definitely one of the best remakes of all time.
Screenshot from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015). Image courtesy of PocketLint.
4. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015)
I will admit I was skeptical about CD Projekt Red’s monumental role-playing game when I started playing it. I heard of its universal renown from critics and friends alike, but when I booted it up I wasn’t getting into it. The game looks good, but is not mind-blowing; the game’s many different mechanics and systems are daunting and not explained as well as they should; and I really did not know what was going on, the game just kind of throwing you into its story.
Yet, I kept playing and started understanding how to play, and started to become attached to the characters, and began uncovering secrets of the world, and participating in amazing side quests––before I knew it, I had already played for 50 hours! And eventually, another 150 hours later, I beat the main game and its two expansions, and have no more words to describe it. I loved being a Witcher, growing in power and acclaim, making friends and enemies, and just playing the game.
There are so many games out now and about to release (including CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077 in December) that this might not be the time to get into it, but if you ever need a game to get lost in, there are not many better from this generation than The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
Screenshot from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017). Image courtesy of Nintendo.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017)
The only Nintendo Switch game on this list, 2017’s Breath of the Wild revolutionized open world games. It’s subtitle “Breath of the Wild” is an encapsulation of the experience one has when playing: the world is alive and you feel its breath in everything.
After the game’s tutorial, you can go fight the final boss if you want. If you want to follow the main quest, you can do so. If not, across the horizon are numerous points of interest that you can go to and discover. Combine the incredible world with an ingenious physics system, and the possibilities for combat and traversal are endless.
Breath of the Wild is the greatest departure from the mainline The Legend of Zelda games, and yet, it was the breath of life that reinvigorated the franchise and the open world genre as a whole. As a long time Zelda fan, this is not my favorite one (that being Wind Waker), but the execution and promise of this new style is exactly what I wanted for my favorite game series.
Screenshot from NeiR: Automata (2017). Image courtesy of PCMag.
2. NeiR: Automata (2017)
Erase whatever assumptions you have about this game based on its name and artwork. Yes, there are anime characters carrying massive swords. Yes, you do not know what the name means. I’m telling you though, the less you know about this game when you play it, the better.
A combination of adrenaline pumping hack n slash and 2D bullet hell, the gameplay loop is constantly engaging and satisfying. What really makes this game stand out though is its story and presentation. To put it simply, the game follows two androids 2B and 9S in their fight to reclaim Earth, with there being a total of 26 endings. When you get an ending, just keep playing because you are not done yet.
If Breath of the Wild revolutionized open world games, NieR: Automata revolutionized the potential for video game narratives and immersive storytelling. Nothing can prepare you for this 20-30 experience and you had best play it through to completion.
Screenshot from Bloodborne (2015). Image courtesy of Sony.
1. Bloodborne (2015)
What do you get when you cross together the relentlessly difficult and addictive gameplay of Dark Souls with Gothic imagery and lore inspired by H.P. Lovecraft? One of the greatest games ever made.
Some background: I beat the first couple bosses of the game and rage quit for a year, before finally returning to it, and boy was I glad I did. I restarted my profile and promptly consumed the game for a couple months, wanting to complete it in its entirety. I wanted to outfit myself in the best gear possible, I wanted to learn the intricacies of every boss and I wanted to understand the lore.
The desire to keep going is all intrinsic, the only rewards ever being the satisfaction of defeating the boss and potentially getting to the next one, and I love that about it. You might die a lot, get scared of the Cthulhu horrors you’ll encounter, and even consider quitting like I did, but that urge to persist will linger.
Bloodborne is a classic, a perennial masterpiece, and a game that everyone should at least attempt experiencing.
Well what do you think? Agree with this list? Are there any games that I’m missing? I know there are some games I haven’t played that could probably be on this list. Let’s start a conversation!