The lights are on
When you make a list, you’re bound to upset a few people. That’s true whether you’re calling out the best Xbox 360 games, PS3 titles, or Wii releases, as we’ve been doing. Everyone has an opinion; if you’re not putting a particular game too high in your rankings, you’re placing it too low. Even worse, there's the distinct possibility that you've left a deserving game off entirely. Cutting our lists down to 25 entries was a painful process, and nearly all of the editors championed a personal favorite but failed.
That’s where our snubs list comes in. Here’s where the Game Informer editors are able to not only call out what they see as our biggest oversights, but articulate why they believe their favorite games should have made the cut.
Splinter Cell: Conviction (2010)Ben Reeves
I was one of Splinter Cell’s early adopters; I bought the first entry on day one. Even though the game was fairly unforgiving when you failed to stay in the shadows, I still loved shooting out the lights and snapping necks as Sam Fisher saved the world, day in and day out. However, after several entries, the series' slow-paced shadow stalking began to wear thin. Enter Splinter Cell: Conviction, which stripped away most of Splinter Cell’s tired mechanics and reinvented the series to be a faster, more action-packed spy thriller. Conviction was still a stealth game, but instead of punishing players for failing to stay hidden, it rewarded those who blended into their environment. The mark-and-execute system not only encouraged players to sneak past their foes, but it made it easy to cover up your mistakes. I also loved interrogating thugs for information and the way the game seamlessly transitioned between levels. It’s hard to make a top 25 list that appeases everyone, but Splinter Cell: Conviction is firmly cemented in my personal top 25 list of best games from last generation.(Read our full review here)
Alan Wake (2010)Mike Futter
Remedy's original tale of a writer plagued with demons both real and imagined is an exploration of light and shadow and of hope and demons. As Alan searches for his wife, who has mysteriously disappeared (along with their vacation cabin in the Pacific Northwest), he unravels a mystery that is bigger than himself. The narrative structure sees players finding pieces of Alan's manuscript that foreshadow events, and the use of light as a gameplay mechanic is unique and thematic. Stephen King hasn't dipped too heavily into gaming, but if he did, I suspect that we'd see some similarities to Alan Wake. The game is so loved by fans that studio creative director Sam Lake took to video to talk about a possible sequel.(Read our full review here)
Heavy Rain (2010)Matthew Kato
Often, games present their stories merely as devices to deliver gameplay, but Heavy Rain effectively mixes both to embroil players in its mystery. It also represents one of those uncommon moments when a game’s graphics and ability to convey a mood demarcate it from the crowd. Heavy Rain guides players through the lives of four playable characters who each bring their perspective to the mystery of the Origami Killer. The game strikes a fine balance between its quick-time event-based gameplay, FBI investigations (as hokey as Jayden Norman is), and story events to propel players through a tale which evokes feelings of loss, action-fueled adrenaline, and suspense. The various choices you make on behalf of the characters are a central aspect to the game. Whether it’s something as big as failing a police chase and getting arrested or as small as exploring the nuances of a character’s daily life, the game does a great job of involving the player without losing its own story thread (despite some plot holes). The simple contextual button presses work in conjunction with the cinematic presentation to imbue meaning and drama in torture scenes and everyday life alike. With Heavy Rain, David Cage and Quantic Dream created a moment on the PlayStation 3 that I believe will be chased and replicated in successive generations.(Read our full review here)
Resident Evil 5 (2009)Tim Turi
Resident Evil 4 simultaneously reinvented the series and changed how we play third-person shooters forever. This sequel gave fans more of the same while letting them blast away zombies and mutant insects with a friend in co-op. Some criticized the game for not letting players move while shooting like in Dead Space, but those who looked past that design decision were treated to a bombastic, satisfying trek through an infected African landscape. Resident Evil 5 should be remembered as one of the best co-op experiences of last generation.(Read our full review here)
Limbo (2010)Kyle Hilliard
The ambiguous nature of Limbo's world and story, its perfectly executed collection of puzzles, and its engaging art style that set it apart from other games immediately pulled me in and honestly still hasn’t let me go. Even though I know all the puzzle solutions and every beat of what little story exists, I still find myself totally enraptured on every playthrough. The game is among the collection of definitive titles associated with the new wave of independent success stories that took off during the previous generation, and it deserves to be among the best games of the previous generation. Even if it couldn’t quite crack the top 25.(Read our full review here)
Valkyria Chronicles (2008)Matt Miller
While it never got the attention it deserved, Valkyria Chronicles is a refreshing and rewarding integration of tactical gaming and classic Japanese role-playing and one of the bright points of the PlayStation 3 library. The alternate-history World War II setting was the first of many features that set Sega’s game apart. Anime-styled cutscenes were beautifully crafted, presenting an impressive ensemble of characters with distinct personalities and developing relationships. Pre-dating the revival of XCOM: Enemy Unknown by several years, Valkyria Chronicles allowed for deep strategic gameplay that used cover, range, and character special abilities to provide tremendous choice in how to tackle a mission. Each of Valkyria Chronicles’ missions felt distinct from the last, encouraging stealth in one sequence, only to follow it up with a destructive tank battle a few minutes later. A touching score was a perfect accompaniment to in-game graphics, which presented a pencil-drawn aesthetic that was both highly engaging and different from other anime-themed projects releasing around the same time. Stellar critical response wasn’t enough to give Valkyria Chronicles the sales boost it needed, and later PSP installments failed to capture the same magic. Even so, that first installment remains one of my personal high points of gaming with my PS3, and I keep wishing that Sega would give the franchise one more shot.(Read reviews editor Joe Juba's enthusiastic support for the game here)
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