Tim Turi's Top Five Games Of Last Generation
Unlike a lot of my fellow Game Informer editors, I had a very odd experience landing on my five favorite games of last generation. I opened of a blank Word document, listened closely to my gut, and jotted down the first five titles that came to mind. That was days ago. I've been busy with other projects since, but all the while I've been refreshing my memory by carefully parsing through tons of other lists ranking the games of last generation, examining my own game collection, and of course delving into the depths of my soul. When it came down to it, I agonized over my initial five choices for nothing. I nailed my top five games of the 360, PS3, and Wii era in one shot.
5. Super Meat Boy
I cut my teeth growing up on hard-as-nails 2D platformers. I threw myself at Super Mario World, Alex Kidd, and Sonic the Hedgehog when I was only five years old. At the time, these games were about as punishing as it got, but I persevered because I was in heaven playing what were practically interactive cartoons. And the inconvenience of limited lives and continues? A small price to pay for the hundreds of hours spent honing my jump timing in these colorful worlds. My love of the genre didn't wear off as I grew up. In high school I sought after the games I missed out on growing up, collecting and defeating entire old-school series like Mega Man, Castlevania, and Capcom's excellent 8- and 16-bit Disney titles.
Even though I've always had patience for the old-school three-lives-and-game-over formula, I was blown away by how effectively Team Meat distilled the pure joy and challenge of the 2D platformer with Super Meat Boy. Instead of watching your character die and waiting for the game to reload the first frame of the level, Super Meat Boy's zoomed-out levels reset you at the start the instant you die. In a blink of an eye, you're suddenly back in the fray hitting your head against a tricky wall jump or leaping across a chasm of buzz saws. The payoff for beating a particularly dastardly level feels euphoric, especially as you watch an army of your failed attempts bounce through the world to their doom.
You don't have to play much of Super Meat Boy to appreciate the blood, sweat, and tears that creators Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes dumped into the game. The controls are pitch-perfect, on par or perhaps dethroning those of the best platformers ever made. Super Meat Boy is as close as any 2D platformer can get to perfection.
4. The Last of Us
I poured a lot of praise on Naughty Dog's post-apocalyptic drama when I reviewed The Last of Us Remastered. The game received the only 10 I've ever given out as a reviewer, and similar to the creation of this list, it's weird how naturally that decision came to me. I was intrigued by Naughty Dog's unique, emotional spin on the cliched zombie apocalypse ever since the developer teased the game years ago with a time-lapse video of parasitic fungus growing from an ant's head. Shortly after that, I visited Naughty Dog's studio and met with the creators of the game for our The Last of Us cover story. The build from that initial reveal to the eventual release of the game on PS3 was an exciting ride, but it would've all been for naught if the game wasn't such a masterpiece.
I've loved survival and horror in video games since first playing the original Resident Evil when I was 11 years-old (in hindsight I probably shouldn't have seen that, so a big thanks to my awesome cousin Ryan). Since then, I've grown to appreciate ominous atmospheres, lethal enemies, and a scarcity of resources in the horror games I play. However, outside of maybe Silent Hill 2, I never felt emotionally invested in horror game characters until The Last of Us. Watching Joel and Ellie's complicated relationship evolve over the course of the game changed the context for the action. Their desperate journey across the country and the hardships they faced were compelling on a gameplay layer, but their grounded dialogue and behavior drove it home.
The moment the end credits rolled on The Last of Us, I was confident it was among my favorite games of the last generation. That decision took no reflection or internal deliberation, it just happened.
3. Resident Evil 5
While I feel like The Last of Us is a slam-dunk for anyone's Top Five Games of Last Generation list, this is where things start to get much more personal. As I mentioned before, Resident Evil has been one of my favorite series since I first laid eyes on it. I spent many nights alone in the dark, developing my masochistic relationship with the series while enduring jump scares and the oppressive sense of isolation surviving in Raccoon City. After a time, I began playing Resident Evil games for sport, aiming my sights on not survival but domination in order to unlock every costume, mode, and special weapon. Oftentimes I'd have a friend by my side cheering me on as I gathered rare weapon parts from Nemesis' unconscious body, or someone I could pass the controller with. Resident Evil 4 took over my life when it launched in 2005, and my best friend and I spent weeks playing side by side on our own respective TVs and GameCubes. We defeated the crazy cultist Saddler in record time, memorized the location of every hidden blue medallion, and achieved every star in Mercenary Mode together.
Forging those skills and poring over every detail of the game with my friends was an engrossing experience, but I never would've predicted how satisfying the payoff of Resident Evil 5's co-op would be. As a single-player game, RE 5 is a let down (thanks for burning through all my ammo and health items, A.I. Sheva). But played with a friend, especially locally, transforms it into my favorite co-op experience of last generation. Covering each other's backs from the hordes of Majini and splitting up ammo was an exhilarating experience, and one I feel reflected the bond my best friend and I had forged over time. We dumped hours upon hours into unlocking and upgrading every weapon and beating Wesker using only contextual melee attacks. We unlocked every achievement and memorized every QTE button press. We dominated that game together nearly a dozen times, and still look forward to blazing through it again.
Sure, Capcom missed an opportunity with RE 5 by not allowing players to move and shoot, but the gunplay and enemy variety is so spot-on that I can't help but love it. Resident Evil 5 is essentially RE 4 with co-op, and I couldn't love it more for that reason.
2. Dead Space
Have I mentioned that I love horror games? Because one of the best horror games ever developer released last generation. Dead Space did everything with the Resident Evil 4 formula that fans were asking for, except that it was developed by Visceral Games instead of Capcom. Being able to move and shoot while exploring the U.S.S. Ishimura as Isaac Clarke was a liberating experience, akin to playing an FPS with a mouse and keyboard for the first time. I initially thought my oodles of RE 4 experience would make the game a cakewalk, but Visceral clearly had the foresight to compensate for this by ratcheting up the agility, speed, and unpredictability of its enemies. Drawing a bead with my plasma cutter on the twisted, disgusting necromorphs for the first time was like trying to slide a thread through a moving, undead needle. Unlike traditional zombies, Visceral's innovative design tasked players with clipping off enemies' limbs. This slight wrinkle in the usual combat formula turned up the heat in even small skirmishes.
Visceral nailed the sci-fi horror atmosphere (inspired by The Thing and Alien) in ways that most developers and even filmmakers only dream of. The isolated feeling of being stranded on an inoperative spaceship was amplified further during sequences that forced players into tense spacewalks. On top of staring into the gaping maw of space and running low on oxygen, the lack of sound means you'd never know that necromorph was creeping up behind you. Sequences like these, in addition to a perfectly scarce amount of ammo and health, made the entire experience gripping.
Further selling the immersion is the game's completely in-universe HUD. Visceral keeps the screen clean with a holographic ammo counter on the guns, a health meter on Clarke's back, and menu screens that project on thin air like Minority Report. Dead Space nailed HUD design like no other last generation, and pulled it off as early as 2008.
While I adored both Dead Space 2 and 3, the first installment takes the cake for its originality. Few new IPs, especially in the ever-shifting horror genre, can claim as much success as Dead Space's debut. Here's hoping we see more this generation.
1. Super Mario Galaxy
I said before that Super Meat Boy is among the best 2D platformers ever made, but I can confidently declare that I think Super Mario Galaxy is the best 3D platformer ever made. I'll admit that I personally feel like it's a tie between this game and its direct sequel, Super Mario Galaxy 2, but I give the edge to the original because of the sense of wonder I felt playing it for the first time. Booting up Super Mario Galaxy on my Wii for the first time charmed me in a way I hadn't felt since playing Super Mario World or Sonic the Hedgehog for the first time. The beautifully orchestrated score, barrage of colors, and whimsical interstellar tone swept me away.
I'll never forget the sense of surprise and curiosity I felt the first time I experienced the gravitational pull of Galaxy's tiny planets. Running along the underside of these little planets and wrapping my head around the new mechanics felt like discovering 3D platforming in Super Mario 64 all over again. What's more, Nintendo cleverly masked load time within levels by launching players into the stars for a spectacular view while soaring towards the next destination like a rocket. Given the Wii's hardware limitations, this game is a visual miracle.
Every world was filled with fun, exciting new ways to earn stars. I loved chasing down the Dino Piranha in Good Egg Galaxy and watching Mario become a boo in Ghostly Galaxy. Super Mario Galaxy packs more variety in one disc than most developers manage in an entire series.
Working at Game Informer affords me an amazing, unique opportunity (and excuse) to try to play everything that comes out. I love my job and the duty of keeping current with the wonderful stream of modern games, but I adore the gaps between new must-play release so that I can return to my favorites and rediscover why I love video games as much as I do. Whether I played it one year earlier or one week, nine times out of ten the first game I want to replay is Super Mario Galaxy.