Mark Serrels, Editor of Kotaku Australia
I did a lot of thinking about this. Ten minutes ago I wrote the words 'Red Dead Redemption' and I deleted them. Then slowly, letter by letter, I wrote the words 'T-r-i-a-l-s E-v-o-l-u-t-i-o-n' and paused. I looked at the words. 'Is this really my favourite game of the generation?' I asked myself. Really?
Red Dead Redemption is undoubtedly more important. In terms of our aspirations for video games as a medium it is a more logical choice. Red Dead Redemption is a totemic, monolithic representation of everything we vaguely want our games to represent. Red Dead Redemption is serious, it's well written. It's 'cinematic'. It features a fully realised world you want to exist in. It's... perfect really.
Trials Evolution, on the other hand, is a stupid fucking game about motorbikes going really, really fast.
But I couldn't lie to myself. I couldn't reconcile it. I can't really explain why I chose Trials Evolution over Red Dead Redemption as my personal game of the generation. I just know that when I wrote the words 'Red Dead Redemption' I had to delete them. I loved that game, but I loved Trials Evolution more.
I've always loved games that teach me a skill specific to that game. A useless, pointless skill that I dedicate myself to, that feels fun to practice. That's why I love Dark Souls, Super Meat Boy. That's why I love Trials Evolution.
That's why Trials Evolution is my game of the generation.
Luke Hopewell, Editor of Gizmodo Australia
The Capital Wasteland is my second home.
For a period of about seven or eight months in 2009, the disc for Bethesda Softworks’ Fallout 3 never left my Xbox 360’s CD tray.
I’m a sucker for the post-apocalypse, and Fallout 3 doubled-down on my delight by giving me more to do than I could ever hope to accomplish in a single session, often out of sequence and in my own time.
Enemies were varied, as were their weapons, and you really felt that as you approached each band of raiders or wasteland survivors that they were their own little community that would dynamically respond to a threat with different weapons and different tactics each time.
After each altercation, I’d check my load out and hope to tweak and improve on my combat stats with a new weapon or a different modification.
It’s the first and last game in which I have crafted and repaired my weapons, because in the Capital Wasteland, every strike, shot or reload you get with your rifle, machete or BB Gun counts.
VATS was a fun way to prioritise your enemies that put your maths to work. Battles would be materially affected by what you had specced up and how much ammunition you had to take down multiple targets. It was truly challenging, and truly fun.
I wish I could Spotless Mind myself and forget Fallout 3, because no game has come close to beating it since.
Janet Carr, Executive Producer of Good Game and Good Game: Spawn Point
Thank you Mark for asking me to be a contributor to this article. I've very much enjoyed, over the last few days, thinking about the outstanding games of this generation of consoles and reliving my experiences with them. I'm in awe of the achievements of the game creators.
My choice was simple though. Journey by That Game Company is my GoTG, a PSN downloadable game released in March 2012.
Already a subscriber to That Game Company's belief that games can deliver genuine emotional experiences, I downloaded Journey late one night, immediately after it became available. Just over two hours later and with tears freely flowing, I was left profoundly moved by this masterpiece of a game.
Delivering in spades on its promise of creating an emotional experience, Journey is also a master class in level design, cleverly guiding your angel-like character within a seemingly vast landscape scattered with the mysterious ruins of a lost civilisation.
A landscape that encourages playfulness with sand surfing and flight and yet emphasises the loneliness of being the only living thing.
Then, you meet another. On that first play through I was initially confused by the unusual behaviour of this character which I assumed to be AI. Then came the incredulous realisation that this could be a real life player, followed by the frustration at the inability to communicate effectively with them. A frustration which evaporated in the sublime process of working together to create a new way to communicate and forge a path of discovery together. A language of pings, shapes, jumps and dances that transcends gender, age, and nationality and delivers human interaction in a pure and beautiful form.
There is so much I love about Journey: Its respect towards the history and conventions of gaming (climb to that glowing peak - you know you must), its lack of H.U.D, its two button control system, its subtle but oh so beautiful power meter... And the incredible soundtrack created by Austin Wintory, its replay-ability and that beautiful moment, in the credits, when you see your fellow travellers' gamer tag.
Journey is it. It is the experience, for me, that proves that interactive gaming can equal if not transcend all other forms of digital entertainment in delivering profound human experiences and that's why it is my game of this console generation.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Morgan Jaffit, Founder of Defiant Development
I logged more hours in Arkham Asylum than any other game of the generation. The list of things it does right is huge, but more important than that are the things it chooses not to do. There's no attempt to invent new mechanics or game structures from scratch (it's a Metroidvania game in 3D). There's no attempt to invent new mechanics for the sake of new mechanics. On the other hand, there's a complete and total commitment to delivering on the Batman fantasy. You never feel clumsy, or graceless. Every single interaction is honed towards making you a powerful, silent threat that strikes terror into the heart of villains. Even bad guys who work for certified lunatics like the Joker tremble in fear as the Batman starts picking off their team mates one by one. It's brilliant.
There have been a tonne of superhero games (I've even worked on one) but nothing has come as close to delivering the "You are X" as Arkham Asylum. Combine that with a combat system so nuanced I played the combat minigames, a great selection of bad guys taken from the rogues gallery, interesting mechanical challenges, hundreds of bonus items to find and explore. The game is a triumph.
Danny Allen, Publisher at Allure Media
Rockband. Released just before Xmas in 2007 – at the height of the music game craze – Rockband expanded upon Guitar Hero by introducing drums, vocals, lead and bass guitar. I don’t think I’ve spent more time in the same room playing a game with friends before or since. And I fired off a shitload of Zerg rushes at some packed LANs back in the day. For a brief moment in history, Rockband made it OK to sweat while you play games.
Super Mario Galaxy
Daniel 'Vooks' Vuckovic, Editor of Vooks
Super Mario Galaxy is a perfect example of what can happen when Nintendo aren't afraid to just let loose with one of their star franchises. No pun intended.
Free from the confines of Mushroom Kingdom, Mario shoots through a perfect galaxy of platforming perfection. If anyone ever says Nintendo is out of ideas with Mario then they need to play this game, unconstrained by a single theme each planetoid has a different setting, a different idea and they're fun to play as each other. The game brings untold joy as Mario flies through space.
Galaxy just works, there's no real camera controls — that's because it doesn't need it. The controls are easy to pick up and the games waggle doesn't get in the way like so many other Wii titles in that era.
The game's graphics, though not HD, have a beautiful art-style, they are bright, bold and unique. The soundtrack too is on another level. It's fully orchestrated and the themes of Gusty Garden Galaxy, Buoy Base Theme, Good Egg Galaxy, Beach Bowl Galaxy have not been topped yet and will be remembered for years to come.
The greatness of Super Mario Galaxy hasn't been repeated yet, many have tried. Its direct sequel was its equal. Galaxy is a reminder of a happier time, it brought untold joy to me and will continue to for a while yet. Everyone has a Mario title they love for all time, Super Mario Galaxy is in top spot for me
Ben White, Kotaku Tech Wizard
Oh man, how embarrassing. I wish I could list off something a little more poignant and emotive like To The Moon or a game that made my face hurt from smiling so hard like LittleBigPlanet, but I would be lying to myself.
Counter-Strike: Source has to be my Game Of The Generation.
I spent a good three years of my life running a Counter-Strike: Source clan. With humble beginnings as a family tag, the clan eventually grew into its own little community.
It was a crazy time. I was living at my girlfriends place, and her whole family played — including her parents. Every night after dinner, everyone would head to a PC and would stack our favourite GameArena server. For some bizarre reason, people wanted to join our group and suddenly we had a website and forum, were joining competitive ladders, and running 60+ player LAN events.
But after two years of climbing the ladder, drama struck the fledging community. A splinter of the competitive team felt the clan name was dragging them down - they were being pushed around competitive circles as 'pub heroes' and no one took them seriously. They wanted to create their own new clan, but still be buddies and use the website and forums.
I was scared. Hurt. I was about to loose a huge part of this thing I had built, and I didn't want to let go. But the wheels were in motion, the foundations were slipping and everything was falling down. Gaming was supposed to be fun Goddamn it! Why?! Why couldn't they just be proud of their name! Their heritage!
With my ego bruised and battered, I quietly withdrew from leadership. Like a bitter old man shaking his fist at the clouds, the clan came to its undignified demise in 2008.
I married my girlfriend. We had kids. The whirlwind highs and lows of running a clan are now a distant memory — something I did to fill time that I no longer have.
I think Counter-Strike: Source is my Game Of The Generation not because of the game or it's mechanics, but what the game led me to achieve. All the drama and lack of conflict management skills aside, it was my main creative outlet and kicked off my interest in web development. I don't think I'd be where I am today without the countless hours I sunk into creating stuff for the clan back then.
So thank you, Counter-Strike: Source.
Plants vs Zombies
Angus Kidman, Editor of Lifehacker Australia
I am Crazy Dave. In console terms, I long ago turned into a grumpy old man who screams "Get that Xbox 360 off my lawn!" at every passing FPS. But that's OK: mobile games are arguably where the most innovation and excitement happens now anyway, and certainly the platform where far more people play.
I have to go with the numbers, and the numbers show that Plants vs Zombies is easily my most-played title. Everyone has been so disappointed with the greedy, indept, poorly-plotted sequel (I too tried to love it but ultimately failed miserably) that it's worth remembering that the reason PvZ became a globe-humping behemoth is because it is a fantastically well-executed game. It's fun, it's filled with humour, it's not so easy you can coast through it but not so hard or repetitious you cast your phone/tablet/handheld aside in disgust. I am Crazy Dave. Now fetch me a taco.
Raygun Brown, Freelancer, Editor of RaygunBrown.com
In terms of personal favourites, Atlus' puzzle-horror-relationship sim stands surprisingly high as a standout of this dwindling generation. There was nothing like it before or since. Vincent Brooks tries to balance his daily life between his distant girlfriend, hilarious drinking buddies, his bizarrely mysterious mistress and the horrific puzzle nightmares that hound him every night. And somehow, they made that into a video game. It's one of the oddest games ever made and it could have only come from Japan. I couldn't imagine EA or 2K throwing publishing money towards such a strange experience.
The story is baffling, the characters are obtuse and the difficulty is stupid hard. I was stuck on one block puzzle roughly halfway through the game and even after more than sixty attempts, I still wanted to keep going. I couldn't help myself. I wanted to see every inch of it. Answer every personal question. Talk to every sheep. Figure out all the insane paths through to one of several endings.
I can't think of a more unique and satisfying game released this generation. I'm certain that I'm in the minority on this one because some people I know HATED Catherine. When that happened, it suddenly became more personal and made me love it more.
And that was the cocktail trivia for tonight.
Luke Plunkett, Associate Editor, Kotaku US
A weird choice, I know. I'm pretty sure I've played dozens of games I'd call "better" during this hardware generation. But none have taken as much of my time away from me as FIFA, and none really epitomise the real difference this generation of consoles have made to the gaming landscape.
You can talk about advances in visuals, and AI, and surround sound, and all the other obvious candidates when highlighting a generational advance, but we'll look back on the 360/PS3 era as the time when multiplayer gaming stopped being about mates sitting on a couch, and started being about telling random strangers over the internet to stick something somewhere unpleasant.
For loads of people, that change can be most easily seen in the popularity of Call of Duty or even Minecraft, but for me, it was in the way online play and services transformed FIFA and the way I play it. Formerly a solo affair, or occasional party piece, it's become over the years almost a lifestyle, multiplayer kept fresh by the addictive Ultimate Team, solo play relevant and timely by updating squads and providing challenges based on real matches.
I buy a new FIFA when it comes out and I don’t stop playing it until the next one is released. Hundreds and hundreds of hours, every bloody year, while every other game on the planet comes and goes. If that doesn’t define a great game of the generation, I don’t know what does.
Darren Wells, Editor of the Official Xbox Magazine Australia
It's been a long console generation - the longest we've had. A lot of great games had their chance to shine, and over the last eight years I've had the opportunity to play most of them. But in terms of raw statistics, in terms of the sheer number of hours invested, there's one game that stands far beyond anything else. An iPhone game. Tiny Tower.
I know, it's absurd. I don't know why I played as much as I did, as much as I continue to do. There's no true challenge in stocking floors and using the elevator to send pixel-block people to their floor of choice. Truth be told, it's a little Skinner tower of doing a thing, getting money, and using that money to do another thing. But Tiny Tower is always there, in my pocket, available to play at a moment's notice. It's there during boring train rides, and waiting in queues, and during television commercials. Its persistent world constantly ticks away in the background, fuelling a compulsion to check in again, and again, and again, just to see what's changed. And if you squint, there's an element of strategy within the balancing of Bitizen abilities versus availability versus cooldown time. I'm probably underselling it. But there's no denying the $600 million dollars and 2000 Tower Bux I've accumulated over a year of game time: this thing, this little iPhone game, has kept me hooked.
Tiny Tower is a game that represents perfectly the strengths of the smartphone as a gaming platform. It's an ecosystem that has spawned new ideas, made them accessible and convenient, and does it all for a low price – in the case of Tiny Tower, for nought. Which reminds me – it's high time I gave NimbleBit – a two–bro team – a few dollars to say thanks for the game.
A game that you actually want to give your time and money to. Imagine that.
Gears Of War
Chris Jager, Lifehacker Journalist
If we're talking games that defined a generation, I'd have to plump for Gears of War. There are many reasons why this game is important — it helped to popularise the shoot-and-duck mechanic, the 'cinematic' button, the in-game cut scene, the "roadie run" and numerous weapons that became staples of the action genre. But its most enduring legacy is probably the Ugly Arse Hero.
Before Gears of War, most video game protagonists looked like metrosexual GAP models — they all had the same perfectly chiseled face, manufactured 'messy' hairdos and meticulously manscaped genitals (probably). If the designers wanted to make the character "gritty" they usually just added a sprinkling of designer stubble.
Then Marcus Fenix lumbered into the picture, and everything changed. Fenix and his comrades looked like a cross between a refrigerator and a pit-bull terrier's anus. They were massive slabs of ugly man-meat riddled with pock marks, misshapen lumps and scar tissue. These guys really looked like they were grizzled warriors raising hell in a post-Apoplectic landscape.
Fenix paved the way for a new generation of heroic eye-sores. Without Gears of War, we may never have got a Niko Bellic or John Marston. Hell, even Max Payne and Sam Fisher got reverse-makeovers to fit in with the times. Gears of War gave video game heroes their testosterone back. For this, I salute you.
As for personal favourite, I'd probably have to go with Red Dead Redemption.
The Sims 3
Rebecca Fernandez, Developer at Convict Interactive, IGDA superhuman
My game of the generation has to be The Sims 3 (or any Sims game, really). I've sunk more hours into those games than I would like to admit (I actually don't know - it would be somewhere around 500 hours, I think). There is nothing more relaxing than playing God over fictional lives whilst ignoring your own life problems. Needless to say Sims 4 is the game I am most anticipating from next year's release schedule.
Earth Defense Force 2017
Alex Kidman, Editor, Fat Duck Tech, freelance journalist, insane Bubble Bobble fanatic
This has been an interesting generation for gaming, with a lot of quality games. Frankly, I'm very tempted to simply say Bubble Bobble, because it's rather expected, but the reality is that while there have been loads of really gripping games that nearly bubble up as my personal favourite, I cannot and should not overlook the game that I've spent more time playing than any other over the course of this gaming generation.
That game would be Earth Defense Force 2017. Yes, it's nothing special at all to look at. That's not the point. Blasting the ants is the point. Blasting the spiders and their cursed, cursed webs is the point. Even — and perhaps especially — blasting at the fellow and incredibly stupid gung-ho members of the EDF squad who were stupid enough to stand in front of my slow speed huge radius missile of doom (tm) just as I fired it. Laughing like a loon because I've been stuck in an underground lair getting lost and/or killed for hours with one of my best mates by my side while trying to take on some kind of flying ant thing is the point. Setting up sentry guns and standing back while waves of deadly red ants swarm at me on a sunlit beach is the point.
EDF: 2017 might not look like much, but every single time I play it, it reminds me that it's not about who's got the fanciest polygon count, or even the most hours of pointless sub-quests. It's about who's got the most pure fun game to play, and I can't think of any title that I've got more fun out of than EDF 2017.
Honorable mentions: Portal 2, Dead Rising, Arkham Asylum, Borderlands, Bubble Bobble.
Far Cry 2
David Wildgoose, Editor of MCV Pacific, ex-Editor of Kotaku Australia
Replaying Far Cry 2 post-Far Cry 3 is a terrifying experience.
Far Cry 3 empowers you at every moment. Tagging enemies lets you know where they are even when you can't see them. The mini-map amplifies your situational awareness, quadrupling your field of view. Clearing outposts depopulates the world, rendering huge swathes of the map friendly, inert.
Far Cry 2 disempowers you at every moment. Without enemy-tagging or a mini-map, firefights alternate between fraught chaos, panicked flights and desperate crouch-slides to cover, and tense interludes, hiding in the jungle, eyes flicking back and forth, ears twitching at every noise. You clear the outpost, enjoy a brief moment's respite, then prepare to do it all over again.
As I replayed Far Cry 2 I was dismayed at just how many bad habits Far Cry 3 had taught me. Reliant on an overloaded HUD, I'd become seduced by its path of least resistance. I was no longer thinking for myself.
But Far Cry 2 respects you. It believes in you. Despite its every effort to bring you to your knees—literally, in the case of malaria. Far Cry 2 still trusts you to overcome each new obstacle. Here's a bleak, relentlessly oppressive world, it says, but you can find a way to survive in it. Where Far Cry 3 feeds you with a silver spoon, Far Cry 2 knows you can forage for yourself.
In a generation increasingly defined by linear rollercoasters, Hollywood pretensions, hand-holding and drip-fed rewards, Far Cry 2 stands apart. It's my game of the generation.
Dan Golding, writer at ABC Arts, co-creator of Press Select
This generation, there are no masterpieces. To truly love any game of the Xbox 360/PS3/Wii generation, you have to love it for its failures as much as for its successes.
To me, L.A. Noire is perfect. Its ideal recreation of post-war Los Angeles and its wannabe film genre approach is laughable, a psalm to irrelevance. Its obsession with photo-realism is its defining flaw — how long can you stare into the faces of Mad Men actors, only to misread what the game is asking of you and steer Cole Phelps into yet another car crash of an interrogation?
Yet I love L.A. Noire for all of that. I love it for the way that Cole Phelps points to every piece of evidence with a single index finger; for the way he’ll monotone “Hmm, not relevant,” to himself; for the way the operator will chant “How can I help you, detective?” in the same voice every goddamn time; for the way every suspect always runs (they always run); for the way you’ll end up spending most of the game driving a car from scene to scene, like an idle commuter sucked into the world’s most realistic James Ellroy sim.
L.A. Noire is the game of the generation because it asks the only questions that are important for this generation. One: what do our games look like, and why? Two: what on earth do we do with the player now? For that, and for all of its flaws, it’s perfect.
Just Cause 2
Brendan Keogh, Freelancer, Author of Killing is Harmless, co-creator of Press Select
Just Cause 2 begins where most open-world games end. That moment in an open-world game where you’ve finally unlocked the whole world, have a powerful character capable of all kinds of feats, and just want to spend some time mucking around and locating hidden items: that is where Just Cause 2 begins.
A deliberately and unashamedly ‘video gamey’ video game, Just Cause 2 offers a sandbox of desert-zone/snow-zone/tropics-zone/city-zone littered with thousands of items to collects and things to explode.
Most importantly, Just Cause 2 does everything in its power to get out of the player’s way. Powerful vehicles are a phone call away. Get close enough to a ‘hidden’ item and a ‘getting-warmer’ bleep prevents you from wasting time running in circles. The entire game’s plot is essentially: you should blow stuff up and make chaos. And, framing it all, a mere tap of the left bumper away, is that grappling hook: climb skyscrapers, leap onto cars, take down a fleet of helicopters in a Dragon Ball Z aerial ballet, row a parachute through the air.
There’s no shortage of open world games that give you a lot of stuff to do, but precious few have that endless, constant rhythm of Just Cause 2. It’s soothing. It’s comfortable. It’s the chicken soup of video games. Whenever I need to relax or stop thinking or am feeling sick, I load up Just Cause 2 and complete a few more locations. I’ll never reach 100% (I was at 92% last time I played), but that doesn't bother me. I’m not it for some completionist impulse; I just want to go through the motions for a while, motions that are going to take more than fancier tech for the next generation to replicate.
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
Alexander Cavenett, Editor of Pixel-Otaku
Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood is my game of the generation for two very significant reasons. The first is more personal - I attach a lot of meaning to it because it was a game that brought me a lot of happiness in a rough patch of my life. Maybe that sounds pathetic, but I think the best media and the best stories are capable of resonating with us in that way, and Brotherhood was the first game to tell me that video games can be more than entertainment. Plenty of games carry a deeper meaning for me now, but none are as deep as this one.
But I also love it because it's a game with a strong sense of balance between all of its components. Brotherhood struck all the right chords for the series – a perfect balance between cheesy-creepy modern day conspiracies and fictitious stories shaped around historical truth. An engaging story, supported by a wealth of sidequests, and all in the rich and varied open world of Rome. It also proved that it was possible to introduce multiplayer to an established singleplayer experience without sacrificing quality anywhere else in development, with that cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek gameplay that was so unique in a release schedule filled with shooters.
Ultimately what makes me say this is my game of the generation is the fact that Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood is a game that I will constantly revisit and never get tired of. But that isn’t owed to sidequests or collectibles (of which there are many). It’s simply a world that I want to continually immerse myself in. And whether that’s dependent on the sentimentality I feed into it or not, that’s just a wonderful feeling.
What is your favourite game of the last generation? Let us know in the comments below.