Before me, Sam and Rishi haven’t failed to mention how arduous the task is to pick up five games from an entire generation. In my opinion, it is an impossible feat, but begrudgingly, I did finally arrive at a list of five games that more or less represent the very best of this generation for me. Not without a bucket list of honourable mentions though.
Braid was a statement that small teams with offbeat ideas can make it big.
Braid was far more than the masterpiece of a video game created by Jonathan Blow. Everybody and their grandmother’s cat have raved about the dreamy canvas painting like art, the devilishly clever puzzles and mechanics, and the brilliant use of music and genius of the narrative. More than any of those things, Braid was a statement that small teams with offbeat ideas can make it big; that the gaming world did not belong exclusively to big publishers and games with multi-million dollar budgets.
This generation saw indie gaming acknowledged and recognised by a wider gaming community. We have seen new heroes, such as Supergiant Games and Klei Entertainment, emerge from the indie scene. We have been exposed to lots of new ideas – some of them brilliant, some aspiring, some outright bad, but each carrying hope and a beating heart. That is the legacy of Braid.
4. Batman: Arkham Asylum
Instead of trying to capitalise on the established name like countless superhero games before, Rocksteady used the lore to build a solid video game.
More than anything else, this was the generation where the greatest superhero of the universe finally got his due. This was after suffering through years of humiliation from the likes of Joel Schumacher, Bat-nipples, painted eyebrows and drinking orange juice.
Apart from kicking off the seventh console generation, 2005 also marked the beginning of Nolan’s excellent Batman trilogy. It reached its crescendo with The Dark Knight in 2008, just as we started seeing more and more of Rocksteady’s new Batman game. It looked good, and it looked right. We hoped and somewhere deep inside we all expected to be disappointed once again, but Batman: Arkham Asylum delivered in spades.
Instead of trying to capitalise on the established name like countless superhero games before, Rocksteady used the lore to build a solid video game. The success of Batman: Arkham Asylum lay in the fact that it was able to draw in gamers who were not Batman fans, but for fans such as myself, it was something we couldn’t imagine in wildest geekiest wet dreams. The game raised the bar, not only for superhero games, but for the whole action-adventure genre as a whole.
3. Mass Effect
Even with the distinctly sci-fi setting of the game, it feels more believable than many real-world settings.
Mass Effect is lacking in many ways. It is stuck between the RPG and action genres without completely belonging to either. Subsequent entries blurred and botched up that line even further, but in storytelling and characters, it has few peers (all the way to the controversial conclusion of the third entry).
The story, immersed in civilisations with rich history and lore, intergalactic politics and issues which bear a striking resemblance to real world problems, take the done-to-death save-the-universe plotline and turn it into something that very few stories in any media do. They make it personal.
That is the most striking achievement of the game. Even with the distinctly sci-fi setting of the game that includes a race of female-only blue aliens, it feels more believable than many real-world settings and immersive experiences that stellar games like the Uncharted series have to offer.
2. Assassin’s Creed 2
Assassin’s Creed 2 was everything Assassin’s Creed should have been, starting from its protagonist.
Open-world games did not interest me much, but that changed the moment I saw the first gameplay preview of Assassin’s Creed. With its revolutionary new puppeteer control scheme and its offbeat setting, it screamed next-gen like nothing else. In fact, Assassin’s Creed was the reason I bought a PS3 in the first place. The game didn’t quite turn out to be the experience I had imagined. It felt like a great recipe botched up in execution. I guess Ubisoft felt the same way, and after taking in all the criticism levied at the game, they came up with probably the most improved sequel I have ever played.
Assassin’s Creed 2 was everything Assassin’s Creed should have been, starting from its protagonist, who went on to become one of the most iconic video game characters this generation. Assassin’s Creed 2 held on to the ideas that made the first one so distinct from everything else out there in the market, but it was humble enough to take a few steps back to include ideas that worked. The end product was a game that was an absolute joy to play, and never felt like a drag.
1. Portal 2
I wouldn’t want to change a single thing about it, even for all the cake in the world.
Every gamer dreams of the perfect game. It may not be a universally lauded or critically acclaimed game. It’s just a game tailor-made in every way for him. If you were to ask many gamers what their perfect game is, there’s a good chance they wouldn’t know. After all, the job of thinking it up is for the people who make games. The moment it comes along though, we instantly recognise it.
Portal 2 was my perfect game of this generation. Like Assassin’s Creed 2, it picked up everything that made the first game awesome. Then it went on to take each and every one of those aspects to a level I couldn’t have imagined. Aperture Science grew to include a twisted past. GlaDOS became crazier and saner all at the same time, and the results were astonishing. The puzzles became more awesome. They even threw in a co-op mode with a parallel story. And let’s not even start gushing over Wheatley.
I mentioned earlier how difficult it is to come up with five games that sum up an entire generation for me, but I had no problems in choosing the game of the generation. It may not be the perfect game, but everything about it is perfect. I wouldn’t want to change a single thing about it, even for all the cake in the world.
Honourable Mentions: The Last of Us, Max Payne 3, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Devil May Cry, Catherine, Bioshock (series), Grand Theft Auto 5, Red Dead Redemption, Mirror’s Edge, Mark of the Ninja, Infamous, Shadows of the Damned, Bastion