November 22nd 2005, that is when the Xbox 360 launched and with it the seventh generation of console gaming. Thinking that it has been almost seven years it is almost hard to fathom. In that time I have graduated college, went from an assistant to a director at my place of employment, went through a handful of serious relationships and from someone who scoffed at regular exercise to going to the gym everyday. I have also played an insane amount of videogames this generation, to try and quantify the number; over 40,000 gamerscore and over 3,000 trophies (lv19). This doesn’t include the Wii or handhelds. I am not much of PC gamer but I did fire up Half Life and Grim Fandago again in that time period and mess around with Steam.
I am ready for the next generation of consoles. Although there are still some great experiences to be had; The Last of Us, Halo 4, Assassins Creed 3, Watch Dogs, there are still apparent limitations that are frustrating this generation. Looking back at these seven years, I tried to think of the games that had the most impact, the most importance on the industry. The list started at 20 games, I then trimmed it to 15 and finally to 10. Here are a few honorable mentions that did not make the list; Little Big Planet, Portal, Mass Effect 2, Super Mario Galaxy, Heavy Rain, and Bioshock. The following are in order of North American release.
- Gears of War – The Blockbuster Factor
Released November 7th 2006. In February 2003 during the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences (AIAS) third annual summit, Cliff Bleszinski (CliffyB) stated, “Going to make me the Halo of the Xbox 2”. In a lot ways he was correct. Aiming directly at the “dude-bro frat” demographic it became an overnight smashing success. It showed what this generation is capable of in terms of graphics, gameplay and mulitplayer. While it didn’t create it, it did make the cover mechanic a basic necessity for this generation. It was also a critical success, being garnered game of the year by the Academy Interactive Awards, this is decided by other developers. The subsequent sequel brought us the horde mode which has become a staple of multiplayer this generation as well. With the launch of Gears 3, the series has hit a lifetime of 1 billion dollars in sales.
- Wii Sports – The Motion Factor
Released November 19th, 2006. This is the highest selling game on this list with over 79 million copies. A pack in for the Wii, this game defined the system and was the perfect gateway to show what the system was capable of. It was met with good reviews and even won the E3 Game Critics Award for Best Sports Game. This game tapped into the casual market in a big way, it became the definitive family video game. From kids to the elderly, everyone was impressed with what they were experiencing. It permeated all of media and when people were playing games on tv or in the movies, it was with the Wiimote and most likely Wii Sports. This success made the rival companies spend what is most likely close to a billion dollars developing, creating and marketing their own “motion” experience.
- Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – The Multiplayer Factor
Released Nov 11th 2007. This game was well received critically and commercially, the players loved it as well as other developers. It received Academy Interactive Arts Awards for Game of the Year, Action Game of the Year and Console Game of the Year. It was also a fast seller, to date over 13 million copies sold throughout multiple platforms. It brought fast paced action, thrilling set pieces and edge of your seat moments. Sneaking around in a ghillie suit, experiencing a nuclear explosion, bombing from above, speeding down a highway; these all punctuated the blockbuster campaign. What this game did was arguably change multiplayer for the whole generation forward. Infinity Ward seemingly perfected the pick up and play fast experience but also complemented it with a deep perk system. Almost every multiplayer component afterwards has some sort of upgrade/perk system. Unfortunately, as this generation progressed, the series annualization with minimal changes has made it chastised by the gaming community. Regardless, the series has become the event game for large portions of population who otherwise would not care about videogames.
- Fallout 3 – The Rise of the Western RPG Factor
Released October 28th 2008. Bethesda developed a Fallout game that was a departure from past installments in the series but it still retained the story, black comedy and non linear gameplay. An engaging and involving experience, Fallout demanded a lot of your time to fully appreciate and it did not disappoint. A robust and entertaining character upgrade system, interesting characters thoughout, and an expansive sense of scale. Mixing action based gameplay, dialogue and personal choices, it defines the Western RPG for the generation. With the decline in popularity of the JRPG, the new age approach that Fallout takes to the RPG formula is still relevant today and for the foreseeable future. With such an expansive world, the game is plagued by bugs, some minor and some game-breaking. Players still spent countless hours on the wasteland. This title also won the Developers Choice Award for game of the year.
- Braid – The Indie Developer and Xbox Live/PSN Factor
Released August 6th 2008. A critical and commercial success, Braid exemplifies the importance of the Xbox Live, PSN platform for distribution. It gives indie developers a chance in a industry dominated by the big budget blockbusters. With an impressionist art style, old school platforming and a rewind mechanic, it is an unique experience. Jonathan Blow created the game himself over the course of many years, he then had a artist come in and create the look for the game. The success of this title let other developers know that their ideas could have a place to flourish. When it comes to original ideas, different gameplay experiences and also being affordable; the vast and varied selection on the consoles networks is a good place to start.