This generation went on for way, way too long, which inevitably made the picking of this list incredibly difficult. Even the purpose of the list itself was hard to accept. Should I pick the most influential games of this generation or should I pick games that defined what this generation was all about to me?
In the end, I just took the easy way out. Games that I liked. And here are five of them.
5. Super Mario Galaxy
You either love Super Mario Galaxy or haven’t played it.
There are things we lost along the way in this generation; the 3D platformer genre was one of them. So perhaps it’s only fitting that a genre that almost became extinct was kept alive by a company that was teetering on the edge of irrelevance when this generation began. It is also shockingly well designed. You either love Super Mario Galaxy or haven’t played it. There are games that are great, but won’t appeal to everyone. Super Mario Galaxy, on the other hand, is one of the very, very few games I can think of where you could put the controller in anyone’s hands and watch the grin spread on their face in a matter of minutes. It’s almost impossible to not fall in love with it. Joyful, exuberant, colourful and utterly charming, it is the answer to the question ‘why we love video games’.
If you are going to obsess over a game, might as well obsess over one of the best ones ever made.
At some point, I intend to stop playing Spelunky. Or at least that’s what I tell myself when the need to fire off a quick game takes over. But that point in time is hard to imagine. Sometime after release, Spelunky stopped being “just a game I play” and became very noticeably a game I had to play. And you know what, I am alright with that. Spelunky is perfect. There is nothing I can think of adding to it; nothing I would remove from it. In the very literal definition of the word, it’s flawless. At any given second, I could happily pick up the controller and play it or watch someone play it or just think about it. And like I said, I am alright with that. If you are going to obsess over a game, might as well obsess over one of the best ones ever made.
3. Left 4 Dead 2
It wasn’t the AI director that made the game so completely unpredictable; it was the strangers.
The runt of the litter – that’s how I would describe L4D2. It’s not particularly pretty, or influential, or even that popular, but by god, its goddamn good. For a pretty long time, it was my go-to game to relax and unwind. And here is a bizarre little confession – unlike every other game that has co-op, I actually preferred playing L4D2 with strangers instead of friends. With friends, you are expected to do the right thing. With strangers, there were always wildcards. Someone you never know will sacrifice himself to try to revive you. Someone you will never meet will leave your ass out in the cold and slam the door of the safe room while a Jockey dry humps you. It wasn’t the AI director that made the game so completely unpredictable; it was those strangers. Like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you never really knew what you were going to get. So this one goes out to all you strangers; I love you for making this game unforgettable.
2. Halo 3
A shooter made by a developer that was at its absolute peak; a game still unmatched six years after its release.
Halo 3 was the last gasp of a dying breed. A multiplayer arena shooter, where everyone started at the same level. Where it’s not the amount of grind you put in that separates you from the chaff, but the skills you pick up when you play. Where XP and unlocks are utterly meaningless. The only thing that mattered was skill. The multiplayer alone would put Halo 3 on this list, and then there was the campaign full of massive levels with huge battles and some utterly stunning vehicle sections. Throw in a feature set that is still unmatched by most developers (local and online co-op, screenshot and video recording, skill-based matchmaking, etc) and you start to see why Halo 3 set as much of a stand in this generation as Halo 2 did in the one before. A shooter made by a developer that was at its absolute peak; a game still unmatched six years after its release.
1. Dark Souls
It is an exceptionally good game not because it’s tough as nails (which it is not), but because it’s so brilliantly designed and amazingly well thought out.
What do you say about a game like that? Let’s start with something other than the difficulty of it (which is highly overrated, if you ask me). How about the level design, which folds back on itself in a way that reminds you of the utter genius of Metroid Prime; or the art design that makes the game look unlike anything else I have seen; or maybe the combat, which can be fast or slow or easy or tough depending on how you approach things; or the phenomenal boss fights. Let’s not forget the multiplayer, which can be asymmetrical or co-operative or versus, and sometimes all three at the same time. Those things to me define Dark Souls more than the difficulty of it. It is an exceptionally good game not because it’s tough as nails (which it is not), but because it’s so brilliantly designed and amazingly well thought out.
Do check back on Wednesday for Part 4 courtesy Murali Venukumar.