Feature

Matthew Kato's Top Five Games Of Last Generation

by Matthew Kato on Jan 01, 2015 at 12:00 PM

I've been playing games for many years now, and I couldn't be more fond of the last console generation. It doesn't have the excitement of the new systems nor the romance of past golden eras, but when I look back on the last generation of gaming I feel like we've experienced a high point for the medium. These are my top five games that prove it.

5. BioShock

Immersion into BioShock's world isn't down to just the environments or the story, but how all its constituent components come together to create the world of Rapture. The gunplay is tight, the Plasmid choices add a tantalizing amount of customization to your character, and the thrills are paced nicely.

While playing BioShock I became conscious of the push-pull between wanting to explore and take in the gorgeous and well-done environments to being scared to find what was lurking in the shadows.

It sounds strange, but I so thoroughly enjoyed BioShock that not only was I not interested in returning to Rapture for BioShock 2 (the new developer was a factor, too), but I wonder if my time with BioShock Infinite was subconsciously spoiled.

4. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

Brotherhood wasn't the first Ezio game, and it only came out a year after Assassin's Creed II (foreshadowing Ubisoft's annualization with the series), but for me it's the height of the Assassin's experience.

Although I missed building up Monteriggioni from AC II, unlocking parts of Rome and upgrading it by destroying the Borgia towers was a big carrot, and I reveled in building my brotherhood of assassins and calling them to my aid instantly and sending them on missions. Who would have thought that a simple text-based mission structure for your assassins abroad could be so much fun?

I don't think of the Assassin's Creed series as an open-world one, per se, but Brotherhood layered on more structures to your Assassin's simple seek-and-destroy missions to make cities like Rome more vital to the experience.

3. Journey

Journey distills its story and gameplay to ask powerful questions about our existence, and it remains one of the most affecting games I've played.

I choose to play it as a multiplayer title, and luckily I met up with fellow travelers who took the game as seriously as I did. This allowed the Journey's themes of connection amidst struggle and death to prominently emerge.

When I met a person for the first time I was struck how the game's limited communication method only strengthened my bonds with them. The urge to push forward with them wasn't a stated objective or shouted command, but a spirit of exploration and strong companionship that paid off numerous times in the game. I felt loneliness when my friend wasn't there, and was buoyed by our teamwork up the game's literal and metaphorical mountain.

2. Red Dead Redemption

I've tried many times to get into Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto open world series, but until GTA V I wasn't really invested in any of them. The developer's representation of the West, however, really struck a chord with me.

Perhaps it's because the crafting fetch quests and exploration of the frontier on horseback gave a logical in-world context to normally mundane tasks. Similarly, tracking down fugitives from Wanted posters and deciphering treasure maps became a seamless part of who I imagined John Marston was.

I think I fell in love with the game when I pulled off the trail to partake in one of its random events. A stranded woman needed help, but it ended up being an ambush when she pulled out a gun and started blasting. This truly was the Wild West. I'll also never forget a stranger mission where I met a mysterious man claiming he knew me. He was menacing, and as he spoke thunder and lightning lit up the sky of our cliff-side rendezvous.

The game's endings – both of them – were extremely satisfying because they brought real meaning to what in most games is simply a 40-hour laundry list of things to do.

1. The Last of Us

The beginning of The Last of Us might be my favorite intro of any game. The sense of unease as you creep through the house is captivating. Is something going to jump out of the darkness? What exactly is going on? This is magnified as Joel, Tommy, and Sarah get in the truck to drive through town to the military blockade. The director's camera work during this sequence is excellent. Players can control the game camera, and yet set moments are still timed and presented in order to surprise the character. The sum effect captures both your curiosity and confusion.

Of course, the title's main gameplay is engaging and offers a nice mix of stealth and action that encapsulates Joel and Ellie's survival existence. But apart from that there are so many small but meaningful elements that make The Last of Us more than a clicker-killing romp. The giraffes. The way time passes in the game via hard visual cuts. The scarcity of weapons and equipment. Tess. Bill's homosexuality. The high quality of the dialog and voice acting. You get the picture. This attention to detail is mirrored in the Left Behind DLC, which is a must-play for any fan of The Last of Us.

The Last of Us is not only my favorite game of the last generation, but could be one of my favorites of all time.