The 360 and PS3 are going to be relevant for a little while longer, but the Wii is long gone and the new console generation is slowly but surely tightening its grip. This is the rather sad side-effect of a new generation, the old one is subjected to a slow, lingering death as less and less new titles are released, eventually there will be none, the PSN and XBLA released geared towards the systems will dry up and it’ll become a case of keep up or get out of the way. It would be easy enough to just write a countdown of the best games to have appeared on each system and there are plenty of those going around, but I thought I’d do something a bit different, something which I would invite you to try as well.
Here’s the scenario: some time in the near-future the world is coming to an imminent end, some inevitable calamity is going to wipe out human life. Fun right? While we haven’t been able to figure out a way to save the species, capsules have been developed in order to preserve our legacy for future generations to enjoy. The problem? The materials are very, very finite and only a few have been made. Some have been designated to books, films, works of art, and some to games. Each one is large enough to house all the consoles and a small collection of games pertaining to that generation (I know, I know, just roll with it). There’s room for 12 in the PS3/360/Wii box. 12 games to define that generation, the 12 most important ones. A few rules to adhere to: firstly, if it wasn’t developed specifically to run on one, two or all of those platforms, it can’t be included, PC gaming has its own deal. Secondly, if it’s a franchise game and it didn’t really bring anything new to the table, either discount it or have a damn good reason why an earlier entry (or even the first one) didn’t make the list in another capsule instead. Thirdly, no double franchise entries. I know that I’m stretching the limits of plausibility here, but it’s an interesting set of parameters, you have to try and be even-handed and choose games that are significant, rather than just your favorites.
Let’s make one other thing clear, you are not going to agree with all of my choices, you might not agree with any of them, and that’s fine. Actually that’s what I want, this should be debate, a vote, and this is just my ballot. Take a look at mine, then figure out yours.
12 – Braid
Despite the wild, mind-blowing technological advancements made during the 7th generation, in some ways I can imagine it being recalled as the period when developers were brave enough to go back to formula. Whilst a slew of casual, puzzle and mobile games took the world by storm either deservedly (Angry Birds) or undeservedly (Flappy Bird), Braid remains the perfect, unfettered example of what can be achieved within those parameters. It took story-through-gameplay to a place yet unexplored, and challenged to really fight your way to a shocking, powerful end note.
Since it came out, the idea of simplified, refine storytelling has run riot, from Limbo to Bastion and we have Braid to thank for that particular revolution. It was the game that first defined the distinction between something retro and something far beyond that.
11 – Street Fighter 4
Fighting games will continue to look prettier, boast wider rosters of characters and boost their brutality, but will there ever be one as refined, as challenging and as deep as Street Fighter 4? I’m not so sure. At some level, there is an upper limit to the complexity of the mechanics that allow these games to function. It might not necessarily have hit a crest yet, but no game pushed the envelope more than Street Fighter 4, it’s the ultimate iteration of the franchise, the one that everyone should play.
More than just another notch in the fighting game belt, this one actually brought the entire genre back into contention and gave it a new lease on life, made it relevant again, if that’s not worthy of preservation, I don’t know what is.
10 – Saints Row IV
Ok, I know what you’re thinking, of all the sandbox games out there, from the sublime to the gorgeous, why oh why did I pick this ridiculous cavalcade of lunacy? That’s exactly why. Sandbox games are going to keep on growing throughout generation 8, they are going to get bigger, deeper and more astounding. With 7 though, the real thing to take away from it all how how ludicrous they became. A side-effect of gaming maturing as a medium is that we’re moving deeper into a period where silliness is less common.
Saints Row 4 is absolutely insane, it takes all the best elements of all the most overblown sandbox games and hurls them at you. The world might not feel the most organic or the most engaging but that was never the aim, this game sets out to be as fun and facetious as possible and it succeeds. GTA has existed through 4 generations of gaming and counting, its legacy is assured, Saints Row started out as a pale imitation before embracing the absurd and becoming something so much more important, it’s pure madness with no agenda.
9 – Wario Ware: Smooth Moves
Depending on where Nintendo go from here, the Wii might end up remembered as an important turning point or a needless fad. In either case, it has a place in gaming history and there has to be a game on this list that reflects that. Most would argue in favor of Wii Sports, but not me. Wii Sports was bundled with every Wii, it demonstrated an isolated pocket of the remote’s capability, whereas Wario Ware: Smooth Moves went ballistic with it and had you moving the remote and nunchuk around in every way imaginable as it threw hundreds of rapid-response mini-games at you with reckless abandon.
Ultimately, the appeal of the Wii was a social one, it encouraged people to get active, to stand up and make the games they played a more physical experience, which is fine in a restricted way but not reflective of what most people want out of video games. It’s a distraction, a bat out of left field and no game understood that better than Wario Ware.