It is done.
Click here for the complete feature series.
Otherwise, sit back, relax and wallow in the rapturous glow of nostalgia...
Mirror’s Edge (2008/ PS3, Xbox 360)
I [Mark] found that Mirror’s Edge struck the perfect balance between giving players enough freedom to find the quickest path around a level and linearity to ensure that the story and action moved at a steady pace. The free-running mechanics were superb and there really was no greater feeling than getting a head of steam up and traversing a level without breaking your stride.
I [Daniel] always had a good feeling about Mirror’s Edge, right from the exultant promotional material featuring Faith to the overt style of the thing. But actually playing it was a thing of unique gaming beauty. DICE, better known for their personality free shooters, designed an incredible world of over bright whites and brief dashes of colour and created the first (and possibly only) game to fully capture the incredible rush of free running. It remains a unique, absorbing and strangely beautiful experience – except for the crappy shooting mechanics.
Meanwhile, I [Jack] just enjoyed jumping over shit.
Like, a lot.
Mark, Daniel and Jack
Super Meat Boy (2010 / XBLA)
Super Meat Boy is the classic tale of boy-meets-girl, girl-gets-captured-by-an-evil-foetus-in-a-robot-suit. And your quest to rescue her will have you traversing a variety of diverse and devilishly difficult landscapes.
While it was tough and punishing, Super Meat Boy managed to avoid feeling unfair. The controls were precise, there was always a clear objective, and there was never a feeling that a level couldn’t be beaten. Plus, the ability to watch all of your runs simultaneously after completing a level was a great source of entertainment and stress relief.
With hundreds of levels, hidden warp zones, collectable bandages, and A+ rankings to achieve on each level, Super Meat Boy will test your skills for endless hours.
Dishonored (2012/ PS3, Xbox 360)
I still feel Dishonored don’t get enough props, you know? Though clichéd, the plot was slick and stylish. Its water-colour aesthetic is still more visually striking than most of the Next Gen line-up. And Dunwall’s world-building and lore is a thing of bleak, morbid, fascinating beauty.
Beyond that, Dishonored is peerless in the gameplay department. Aye, it’s fast and fluid and hella sleek. But it’s every system interlocks joyously, integrating stealth with combat with traversal with investigation with exploration with… you get the picture. Combining mechanics is Dishonored’s great joy, it’s crowning achievement and an area in which it trounces every pretender to its throne!
[How to play Dishonored. Enjoyably.]
Fallout 3 (2008 / Xbox 360, PS3)
I considered for a long time whether to include Fallout 3 or sequel New Vegas here, the later title always felt a little more refined than its older sibling. But Bethesda’s 2008 effort was the origin and so it gets top billing.
The post apocalyptic world is a familiar landscape but it had never been presented with this level of detail, with this massive world to explore and this strange mixture of end of times depression and zany humour. It’s a dark and dull version of the future, but that makes the moments of light all the more stunning, the hidden settlements that the war hasn’t touched, the secrets found buried in forgotten cities, a race of sentient trees.
Games these days are short and fleeting. Fallout 3 sucked in over 100 hours of my life and not only is it time well spent, it’s a place I plan on revisiting someday.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007/ PS3, Xbox 360)
The fourth instalment in the Call of Duty series saw the franchise break away from the World War II setting and enter the hearts and minds of millions of gamers around the world. It featured a captivating storyline, set in modern times, full of explosive set pieces and overlapping events.
But the main draw, and what ensured that it stayed in consoles until its successor was released, was its multiplayer. It was compelling, competitive, and chock full of content with a variety of game modes, unlocks, player levels, and the temptation to Prestige just to do it all again.
Call of Duty 4’s mark was felt and continues to be a driving factor behind many design decisions that you see in games today, particularly with regards to multiplayer.
Metal Gear Solid 4 (2008/ PS3)
Arguably the very definition of a polarising title: Is it a game? Is it a movie? I’m happy to weigh in on this one… OF COURSE IT’S A SODDING GAME! And a damned ambitious one too.
A unique, experimental synergy of interaction and storytelling, Guns of the Patriots is heavy on the (interactive, skippable) cut-scenes. But it also does very, VERY interesting things with them too, like the Gekko/Vamp encounter and Microwave corridor.
That I still have to defend the quality of perhaps the most imaginative, aspirational, sophisticated game of its age saddens me. But that pales in comparison to the sheer delight of actually experiencing something as bravely bonkers as MGS4!
[5 Reasons MGS4 Still Reigns Supreme]
Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time (2007 / PS3)
My experience of the Ratchet & Crank series is an unusual one. I skipped the PS2 titles and instead sought out the first PS3 variant (Tools of Destruction) ahead of reviewing the sequel A Crack in Time. And so I played two of the best platformers of the generation within days of each other.
It was a glorious time, but it also means both games are forever intertwined in my brain – not to mention the fact that I’m currently reviewing new title Into the Nexus!
Regardless of the failures of my beleaguered brain, R&C was one of the first games that really showed me what the PS3 was capable of – cartoon quality graphics, incredibly detailed cutscenes and levels of over the top and colourful destruction! The dialogue was fun, the shooting was slick and the game threw new weapons at you with delirious abandon. And it still looks great!
Minecraft (2009/ XBLA, PSN)
Minecraft has been a phenomenal success story and has dominated the download market on every platform that it has been released for. It’s strange, in a way, that with so many developers pursuing graphics which mirror real life that a game based on pixels could be so successful. But the distinctive art style is just one of the beautiful elements of Minecraft.
With no traditional endgame for most of its lifespan, Minecraft gave players a chance to tell their own story and set their own objectives. Want to journey to the deepest darkest recesses of the world, build a replica of a famous monument, or simply tend to a farm and craft objects? You can if you like; it’s all up to you.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011/ PS3, Xbox 360)
This game is indescribable.
Sure I could prattle on about its tactical gunplay, generous stealth avenues and glorious takedown animations. Likewise I could lament a few clunky models and facial animations. I could try to hammer home the appeal of violently sensitive frontman Adam Jensen. And if I was feeling particularly cheap, I could bemoan a trio of Boss Battles.
But DX:HR resonates within me still. Before, after and (crucially) during my every play session I was electrified. Be it spying a flirty email, rewiring a gun-turret, overloading a suspect with convincing pheromones, boning up on my Neuropozyne studies of smiling at the earnest encouragement of the Sarif Industries janitor, DX:HR transported me. Truly.
I don’t think I’ve ever loved a game more…
Uncharted 2 (2009 / PS3)
Like Ratchet & Clank (see above) I came late to the Uncharted party, picking up both a PS3 and the original game in time for the release of the sequel in late 2009. And if Uncharted 1 was an impressive early showcase for the hardware, the sequel was a revelation.
For me, Uncharted 2 was the defining of this generation. It was a true blockbuster in both scale and execution, and the closest video games have even to recreating not only the look but also the feel of the best of action cinema.
It showed what developers Naughty Dog could do once they got to know the quirky hardware of the PS3 and they crafted what remains one of the most technologically superb games I’ve ever played, dwarfing everyone else in the field.
And then there was Drake himself, as embodied by Nolan North. Every inch the action hero, he’s also one of the only playable characters that has ever felt real to me, a man close to violent death who soldiers on. And sometimes laughs hysterically when totally crazy shit is happening all around him.
As a rather more elderly gamer, I simply don’t care about social sharing, about achievements or motion controls or letting someone else play my game remotely. I care about experiences, about connecting to another world through the mitigating media of controllers and screens. And no game this generation has drawn me in and suspended me in another place like Uncharted 2. A must play.
And. We. Are. Out!
Let the outrage commence!
But don't forget: We'll be back next week with our own personal Top 5 Games' lists and a comprehensive list of why CERTAIN titles didn't make the final cut!
And if you need a refresher of all top fifty titles, here they are...
50 Essential Games of the Last Gen - Part One
50 Essential Games of the Last Gen - Part Two
50 Essential Games of the Last Gen - Part Three
50 Essential Games of the Last Gen - Part Four