In an eager dash to scoop up the newest hardware in gaming coming out later this month, it’s easy to speed past the game store shelves filled with titles that defined this generation of gaming. However, before you trade in your PS3 or Xbox 360 or abandon it to the dust of your game room, The Mace & Crown would like to provide its recommendations for some of the games that made this generation a golden era in gaming.
“Bioshock” takes place in a 1960s dystopian city at the bottom of the ocean. That should be enough to sell anyone. In the unlikely case that it’s not, it also has an incredibly compelling story with one of the most iconic plot twists in gaming to-date, as well as a moral choice system that gained the game a touch of notoriety upon its release due to its shockingly dark nature. The game beautifully blends engaging environments, provocative story-telling, first-person shooting, and stealth gameplay to create a game that shines as an example for gaming as an art.
Fallout 3 (2008)
Bethesda Game Studios is famous for crafting enthralling and masterful open-ended environments, and “Fallout 3” is one of the most iconic examples. Its post-apocalyptic Washington D.C. setting is in-depth and chilling from the moment the player takes his or her first steps out into the sprawling destruction and sights the desolate remains of the Washington Monument in the distance. The story is rich and sprawling. While there is a certain critical path to the narrative, players will find themselves wrapped in the engaging plotlines of The Wasteland.
Fallout: New Vegas (2010)
It might seem like cheating to include two titles from the same series on the list, but “Fallout 3” and “Fallout: New Vegas,” while sharing the same dystopian setting and battle system, cater to two different audiences. Here’s an easy way to think of it: while “Fallout 3” is a shooter with certain RPG elements, “New Vegas” is an RPG with certain shooter elements. Its dizzying array of endings, influenced by the players own alliances with different factions, makes playing through the game multiple times necessary and completely gratifying.
A short experimental puzzle game originally based on a student project and ultimately constructed by a team of only ten people, “Portal” shines above the rest. Though the game can take as little as two hours to complete, its combination of unique physics puzzles and gleefully dark humor have cemented it in gaming history not only as a technical marvel, but also as a cultural touchstone of false baked goods.
Beautiful Katamari (2007)
Quirky is the best way to sum this game into just one word. The Katamari series does not offer much in the way of story other than a few cut scenes of off-beat humor. However, what “Beautiful Katamari” lacks in content it makes up for with eccentric environments and enjoyable gameplay. It’s simply a fun game and it doesn’t need a story to do that. There’s something almost cathartic about rolling over buildings to the tune of upbeat Japanese music.
Heavy Rain (2010)
This PlayStation 3 exclusive tried to do the improbable – make an interactive movie. Even if “Heavy Rain” wasn’t initially conceived as an interactive movie with wildly diverging storylines, that is absolutely what it became. Players have very little direct control of the characters in the game, but the player maintains narrative control despite this. Rather than use the apparent black and white choice systems of other games, Quantic Dream developed a new system that uses Quick Time Events to give the player agency at key points of narrative, and the execution of such points can mean the life or death of some characters, affecting story further down the line. The developers execute this perfectly and deliver an experience that is personally compelling and cinematically brilliant.
Assassin’s Creed II (2009)
Ubisoft redefined the expectations of an open environment game while managing to sacrifice nothing in terms of story, gameplay, or atmosphere with the release of “Assassin’s Creed II.” The game is a great example of fully detailed environments from floor to sky, and a marvel in dynamic crowd technology that populates the world with interesting non-playable characters that can act both as obstacles and as utilizable distractions. This combined with the total revamp from the first installment of the Assassin’s Creed saga has made AC II an example of how a sequel should be done.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009)
No game has impacted the multiplayer space or spread the videogame genre as much as the Call of Duty franchise. The series has garnered a monolithic following and generated a sub culture that draws from every aspect of American life. If you know someone with a game console, they have played Call of Duty at least to try. So with nine titles from the series, why “Modern Warfare 2?” Because it was the start of the current model of CoD shooters and the beginning of the studio split between Infinity Ward and Treyarch. In other words, this game defined the current formula and style of the modern military shooter.
Mass Effect 2 (2010)
Galaxy spanning space opera, tight shooting, dynamic choices, expansive dialogue, and not one, but two phenomenal lead voice actors to walk players through the story as either of their preferred gender. Mass Effect had a great start as a series, but the sequel was the crowning achievement for the trilogy. “Mass Effect 2” saw the simplification of complicated mechanics, the retooling of basic game design elements, and a visual upgrade that carried through to “Mass Effect 3.”
Geometry Wars (2005)
“Geometry Wars,” originally an Xbox game, was rebooted in 2005 for the launch of the Xbox 360 and was one of the first available Xbox Live Arcade games. And boy did it set the standard. Simple. Fast. Fun. Cheap. “Geometry Wars” would be a quarter eating, profanity inducing, relationship ending addiction machine if it had existed in a physical arcade. But the Xbox Marketplace allows you to lose your sanity in the safety of your own home. And no matter how irritated you will become at the tiny geometric shapes that construct your demise, you will keep coming back again, and again, and again.
By Sean Burke and Alyse Stanley
Webmaster and Staff Writer