top_5_header_miklos

[Ed’s Note: Hello! This is a new, but temporary, feature we’re going to be running over the next few weeks. We’re at the end of a console generation so it’s high time all of us here at NAG Online piped up and revealed our favourite games of this generation. We set it to a maximum of FIVE games, with room for three honourable mentions at the end. Any more than that and it’d be too easy; we’re all about making our writers sweat over here.]

I’m busy playing Assassin’s Creed IV on my Xbox 360. Last night I realised that it would probably be the last game I play on this generation of consoles. That made me nostalgic, so I set myself the almost impossible task of choosing my top five game of this generation.

In exactly one week today, Sony’s PlayStation 4 will lead the charge in next-gen gaming. A week after that, the Xbox One will hit retail stores in selected territories across the globe. We are standing at the end of a console generation; behind us is eight years’ worth of gaming titles. There have been some incredible gaming experiences spread across both consoles as well as the PC. Trying to narrow down a list of my five favourite games has been almost impossible. I looked at my shelf and began pulling standout games and piling the boxes on my desk; there were way more than just five.

I have, I think, finally settled on my five. What was most interesting was trying to find a common reason as to why I picked the five I did. In the end, I think that two elements influenced my choices the most: emotion and immersion. So, in no particular order, my top five games of this generation are:

Mirror’s Edge

During a time when the console generation fell into a rut of endless sequels, Electronic Arts took the plunge and released two brand new IPs: one was the sphincter-clenching Dead Space and the other was Mirror’s Edge. In an industry that was dominated by first-person games that were drab, brown and grey shooters, Mirror’s Edge was this crisp, high contrast experience that rewarded you for playing through the entire campaign without firing a weapon. It was, in a sense, the antitheses of popular first-person experiences at the time.

mirrors_edge_feat_1

When did I know it was love?

Probably the moment the main menu loaded and the stark whites and vibrant reds filled the screen as the view panned slowly across The City. Then that theme tune kicked in with its purposefully subdued tones that inexplicably complimented the setting of the game: a futuristic city that was minimalist and neat and beautiful, but one that was ultimately flawed. I was given instant goose bumps and sucked head-first into Faith’s world.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

Every now and then you decide to try a game without much knowledge of what it’s about. I’d never played a Castlevania game before, and as such I hadn’t followed the development of Lords of Shadow. On a recommendation from a friend I picked up a copy. It became a nightly ritual for weeks for my wife and me to sit down and play through the story. We were both enraptured by the art direction, the music, the characters, the settings and set pieces. Seeing the different tropes of gothic horror blending with fairy tale elements and mythical creatures created a game that felt like an epic adventure from start to finish. There was so much variety we just couldn’t wait to see where the game would take us next.

When did I know it was love?

castlevania_feat_1

In chapter 1, part 4 when you reach Pan’s Temple – I realised that there would be more to this game than dark castles and vampires. Here was a verdant forest bristling with details and loaded with fantasy beyond that which is ordinarily found in gothic literature.

 

 

 

BioShock

Despite how terrific BioShock Infinite is, I still find myself thinking about Big Daddies and Little Sisters whenever somebody mentions the franchise. Irrational Games’ first-person shooter is my recurring go-to title when I’m asked what my favourite FPS game might be. It wasn’t because it was such a polished shooter; it wasn’t because they did clever things with Plasmids; it wasn’t the story even though it probably had the best plot twist in gaming history; my love for BioShock stems from its setting: Rapture.

Rapture had the starring role in BioShock. The underwater city begged to be explored; every room held a story; every drop of ocean that leaked its way into the hallways reminded you just how broken and dangerous the city had become. It was claustrophobic at times and beautiful at others.

When did I know it was love?bioshock_feat_1

After I’d fought my first Big Daddy – I can still remember the flush of sadness I felt as it fell over and died. I’d almost forgotten about the Little Sister that had scurried out of my view. Then the most powerful thing happened: the way Irrational made her scamper backwards as I approached her had such an impact on me. That brief, three second scene was so emotionally charged it will stay engrained in my memory forever.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Say what you will about this game, there isn’t another title on the planet that I have sunk more hours into than this one. I don’t think I’ve allowed myself to become as immersed in a game as much as I did with Skyrim. Bethesda is exceptionally good at creating immersive worlds, and I had a tough time deciding between this and Fallout 3. In the end I chose Skyrim because no other game in my 25-odd years of gaming has consumed my thoughts as much as this one has.

skyrim_feat_1

I still play this game. According to Steam I have 227 hours clocked, which might not be a lot when compared to the hours people sink into MMORPGs, but for me anything longer than 20 hours on a game is almost unheard of. Did I mention I own three copies of this game across two platforms? How about the fact that I still haven’t finished the main quest? I think part of me is worried that the flame will go out the moment there is narrative closure.

When did I know it was love?

The moment I left the cave after escaping Alduin’s attack on Helgen – when that daylight hits and you can see the whole of Skyrim sprawled out in front of you. I had butterflies in my stomach; I was so excited to run off and explore.

Limbo

Oh man, this game. It isn’t exactly revolutionary in terms of gameplay, but Limbo was one of those games that said so much without saying anything at all. No text, no narrative, no dialogue – hell, there isn’t even any colour. The only shred of narrative we’re given is in the game’s official blurb: “uncertain of his sister’s fate, a boy enters limbo.” This is the sparsest of games, and yet it is also one of the most powerful gaming experiences I had this generation.

Puzzle-wise the game exhibits meticulous pacing; you’re always stretched, but not to the point of exasperation. It’s tough, but not tough enough to make you want to fling a controller. You can finish the whole thing in one sitting; around two hours from start to finish. It is one of the most highly polished and meticulously crafted games I think I’ve ever played. Succinct, powerful and unforgettable.limbo_feat_1

When did I know it was love?

The moment I finished the game – an ending that I will not discuss for fear of spoiling it for anyone else who still hasn’t played this game. It’s by no means life-changing, but it definitely made me utter an expletive and stare at my TV for unusually long time.

 

Honourable Mentions

The few that came so close to being in my top five: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves; Red Dead Redemption and Machinarium. If I’m honest, that last one is probably only getting a mention because of its soundtrack.

More stuff like this: