Ben Hanson's Top Five Games Of Last Generation
Back in July we published a list of some of the greatest developers in our industry sharing their favorite games from the last generation. Ever since then I've been trying to lock down my personal list. There's the oddball choices like Mushroom Wars or Driver: San Francisco that might have made the list if it expanded to ten entires, but we're masochists that locked it in at five. I'd love your feedback on my choices and ranking, so feel free to complain about what an idiot I am in the comments section below.
5. Red Dead Redemption
While I'm not typically a big fan of open world games, 2010's Red Dead Redemption blew me away. For every mission that didn't knock my socks off, there were 15 jaw-dropping vistas to soak in. I love the character (especially the voice) of John Marston, even though the stats at the end of the game told me he murdered over 750 people. The game also contains my favorite exchange/line read in a game, coming from Armadillo's sheriff. Also, the multiplayer servers for this game are still online so I recommend going in with a group of friends, finding or unlocking the sniper rifle, shutting off the map and player name UI elements, and turning areas of the map into a sprawling sniping duel a la The End from Metal Gear Solid 3. You won't regret it.
4. Portal 2
I had no idea how Valve was going to pull off a sequel to one of the tightest, most perfect games in the history of the industry, but Portal 2 succeeds on every level. I've forced so many people to watch or play the intro sequence that shows the hotel room crumbling away to reveal the full facility. The writing and subdued spectacle of this moment is master class work from Valve. Stephen Merchant as Wheatley gives my favorite game performance of all time and possibly takes the award for the first earnest "umm" ever recorded for game dialogue. His performance is backed up by the quietly amazing animation work that went into Wheatley's sphere. Also, fun fact, Wheatley's animator Karen Prell was the performer behind Red Fraggle on Fraggle Rock. When Portal 2 was released, I devoured every "making-of" interview and video that I could find, and I'm consistently amazed by the game's writing and design.
3. Super Mario Galaxy
With my job as Game Informer's video producer, I've traveled to dozens and dozens of game studios to interview developers about the process and difficulty of game design. Whenever Nintendo is brought up, they're always dismissed with a simple "well, they're just geniuses on another level". Nowhere is Nintendo's (and specifically the Tokyo team's) brilliance more on display than with the wild variety and creativity of the first Super Mario Galaxy. It's mind-boggling that this game was made by human beings.
2. The Beatles: Rock Band
Playing Rock Band with a group of friends is some of the most fun I've had this generation, but I'm going to narrow my entry down to The Beatles: Rock Band. Considering how difficult licensing anything with The Beatles can be, this game should make us fall on our knees daily and thank the stars for its existence. Not only is there an amazing amount of detail that went into the game's varying presentation, but hearing the unguarded band's banter before and after each track's master recording and the amount of information packed on that disc make it the greatest documentary game ever made. Do yourself a favor and play this game over the holidays with your entire family, it's an amazing bonding experience for everyone involved.
1. Mass Effect
I didn't own an Xbox 360 for years into the last generation, but one day I walked by my roommate playing some game in the living room just as the cutscene kicked in where the Citadel is introduced. From that point on, Mass Effect had me hook, line, and sinker. In my first playthrough, I innocently thought it would be funny if my character hated the Krogans in general and consistently insulted Wrex. I had no idea that this would snowball and result in my teammate Ahsley shooting him in the back of the head and taking him out of my trilogy forever. I don't load saves, I want to feel the consequences of my idiotic actions. Every scrap of lore in the first Mass Effect fascinated me in a way that I didn't think was possible as an adult, the Codex became my Bible. While I love them all, I chose Mass Effect 1 for this list because it had the biggest impact on me and I still prefer the focused story of hunting down Saren to the character-specific episodes of the second and sprawling sci-fi epic of the third. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go home and play all of these games again.