The 8th generation of gaming has officially begun, and has already provided us with some great games like Pikmin 3, InFamous: Second Son and Mario Kart 8! E3 2014 is right around the corner to give us details on some of our most anticipated games, while hopefully also unveiling some surprises (Spore 2, anyone?). But before we look to the future, I think it's important that we sit down and frame our most cherished memories of what I think was the greatest gaming generation of all time: The 7th. Let's look back at every big 7th generation year we had, starting from 2007 and ending with 2012.
2007 was the first year that started with all five consoles/handhelds released. Here are some notable games.
Pokémon Diamond and Pearl Version for the DS were two games that I fell in love with. It was the first Pokémon game where I could actually link with my friends. I never owned a link cable for the Game Boy Advance, so for me this was new. The online modes were also a cool thing, and just the amount of extra activities and side-quests made this one of my favorite RPGs ever.
BioShock was the spiritual successor the System Shock franchise. I never played any of those games, but I really liked BioShock. It had one of the most immersive worlds in a video game. Unlike a lot of horror games, it managed to be both disturbing and stylish at the same time, which is a combination that's really hard to match. The Big Daddies are some of gaming's coolest enemies, and they were just a blast to fight. A great start to one of the the 7th generation's best new IPs.
Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction for the PS3 was the triumphant return of the series on next-gen consoles, and hands-down one of the best games in the series. It was the biggest improvement to the franchise since Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando for the PS2. It added 60 fps, a faster upgrading system and streamlined the level design to make it overall a smoother experience. It's sad that the current Ratchet games, like Nexus, went a step back from Tools of Destruction.
Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii was the best game of 2007. Nintendo absolutely outdid themselves with Galaxy. They improved upon everything that Super Mario Sunshine and to an extent 64 did wrong. The controls were flawless; you rarely felt like dying was your fault. The level design was a lot more enjoyable because of its gravity gimmick. It was a revolutionary game in many ways, and the last time Nintendo would really innovate with the series.
2008 is, by far, my favorite gaming year. Literally my three favorite games all came out that year:
Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii is hands-down the best fighting game I've ever played. Not that I'm the best judge, but it was one of the biggest and best packages of fan service one could ever ask for, as well as the best multiplayer game I've ever played. The addition of 3rd party guest characters like Sonic the Hedgehog and Solid Snake (who I really hope makes it back into the next game) was amazing, and other favorites of mine like Captain Olimar from Pikmin and Wario were also added. Not to mention the abundance of content, including a cinematic story where all the characters teamed up against this new threat. Brawl is a masterpiece, no question.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots for the PS3 changed the way I viewed games. This was a game that, much like the others in the series, challenged the conventions of the industry. The game put an equal - if not bigger - emphasis on cutscenes over gameplay. It was also emotionally charged in a way that games had not been before. Kojima said that he never intended to make this game, but by god am I thankful he did. The gameplay was amazing as well. This was the final game in the Tactical Espionage Action series, and it is in my opinion the greatest wrap-up of a saga, even more so than such movies Return of the King and Toy Story 3.
Spore for the PC was this big game from Will Wright that everyone were anticipating, myself included. It had been in development for eight years, and had been followed closely by gamers everywhere since E3 2005. The game, at the time, seemed like the most ambitious idea of all time: A game where you played as the god of your own alien species. The game turned out not quite as good as people hoped, but I personally wouldn't have it any other way. The game had a charm that no game to this day can beat. There was just something lovable about it. If you know me, you this that Spore is my favorite game of all time, as long as you add in the Galactic Adventures expansion pack that came a year after the original product had been released.
Fallout 3 was the first Bethesda RPG that I really got into. The game had an immense world that was immersive, packed with content, and full of creative and unexpected characters, locations and quests. Unlike the Elder Scrolls series, all the quests could be approached in different ways. To this day, no open world game that I have played has been as open-ended and detailed as Fallout 3. Every new save file felt like a totally different experience. You could go anywhere you wanted, talk to everyone you saw, and become a powerful character in any way you wished. There were no boundaries in Fallout 3, expect for those annoying forests blocked by invisible walls at the very end of the map, but that's besides the point. It also has what in my opinion is the ONLY way DLC can be utilized right. Overall, one of the my absolute favorites.
2009 was an alright year for gaming. It had a great E3 (especially compared to 2008), but the game releases were disappointing compared to last year, though that was an almost impossible year to top.
The Sims 3 for the PC was the best game in the series in my opinion. Sure, it was plagued by a half-assed furniture and clothing selection, as well microtransactions and the constant expansion packs, but everything else was a lot more fun overall. It was just fun and cosy to set up a home and a family or a group of friends and just relax. It is the best time-killing game to-date, but in a good way.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves for the PS3 was hands-down one of the biggest technological bench-marks of that generation. It was a sequel to a game that came out in 2007 which showed promise, but felt a bit repetitive and frustrating a times. However, all those problems were fixed in the sequel. The story was better, the gameplay was smoother, the set-pieces were amazing and the level design was much better. Even though I had played the first game previously, it was Uncharted 2 that really made me a fan.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was my first Call of Duty game, and it remains my favorite in the series. I was already a big fan of quite few multiplayer shooters including Halo and Star Wars Battlefront, but they all ran in 30 fps. Modern Warfare 2 showed me just how much 60 fps could improve a shooter. The campaign was more entertaining than today's shooter campaign garbage (I'm looking at you, Battlefield 4), and the multiplayer was incredibly addicting. There was also the Spec Ops mode, which is still one of the best co-op experiences I've ever had. Later on the series would fall into a commercial presentation-over-gameplay trend, but Modern Warfare 2 was an incredible shooter that game out before COD was crap.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii was more or less a remake of the DS version with bigger levels, better graphics, smoother gameplay and an added 4-player campaign. The game was incredibly chaotic, but also tons of fun. The removal of the extra modes from the DS version was disappointing, but it was still a great experience, especially then when a new 2D Mario game was a special thing.
2010 is my second favorite year of the 7th generation. Just like 2008, it had tons of great games.
Mass Effect 2 was a promise that BioWare made; to create the most personal RPG ever. Mass Effect 2 was the closest they got to that promise, and simply put: It was incredible. The original game was pretty good, but held down by some gameplay shortcomings and wooden voice acting. Mass Effect 2 not only improved on everything presentation-wise, it also had amazingly fun gameplay. The game's story also packed quite some emotional punches. Your relationship with these characters felt very personal, and I am so saddened by the fact that they were not able to follow this up in Mass Effect 3, the failed conclusion to the trilogy.
God of War III for the PS3 was an epic game, plain and simple. The game had what is still, in my opinion, the greatest opening of a game ever. It's just a thing the God of War series does best; the opening gameplay section. It also had the best graphics of that generation, and it looked a generation ahead of its console. Seriously, it would pass off as a PS4 game. The gameplay was the most fun of the series, with the best combat system out of any game ever. The weapons were all awesome to look at, and not just beneficial but boring like the ones in the two first games. Magic was more satisfying to pull off, and the boss battles were epic as can be. As the finale to Kratos' revenge trilogy, it wasn't anything special in terms of its ending. But in terms of gameplay, God of War III is still the pinnacle of the franchise.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 for the Wii was simply unbelievable. In terms of pure level design, Galaxy 2 may be the greatest game ever made. Everything was just so creative, fresh, exciting and ... tasty. 2010 was the year that Nintendo showed that they still had it in them to make incredible games; not just a company shielded by a legacy. I remember pre-ordering this game, and picking up it day 1, and playing it in awe for a few hours. Then I had to go to a summer camp, and then I rushed back home and beat the game in a few days. And that's saying something, because Galaxy 2 was packed with content. In just a few months, I had almost 100% it! I never attempt to do that with games, ever! Galaxy 2 was just so amazing, I can't even begin to describe it!
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker for the PSP was the beginning of a new era for Metal Gear: The first installment in the Tactical Espionage Operations series. The game made some huge changes to the franchise: Gone was the linear and connected story lines, and in came a campaign that was divided into missions that also blended in with a multitude of optional missions. The game also let you create your own Army Without a Nation, where you could assign members you collected throughout the missions to different jobs which would benefit you in different ways. Kojima, who had no previous experience with this type of game, was able to create a Metal Gear game with focus on trading between players for mutual benefit, all while retaining the feel of a typical Metal Gear Solid story line. It was a great installment, and my favorite game on the PSP.
2011 was where the 8th generation hardware started releasing, with the 3DS coming out in March of that year. Though there was still quite a bit of steam in the 7th generation.
Portal 2 was and still is one of the most clever games of all time. It expanded on the Portal (and to an extent the Half-Life) universe in ingenious ways, by introducing some of the most memorable NPCs of all time, including Wheatley and Cave Johnson. It also had one of the coolest endings ever. But the main selling-point was the puzzles, which were simply mind-blowing. You felt like Einstein when you completed them, and they could get real challenging. Admittedly, the isolated and slow-paced feel didn't work as well for a 10 hour game as it did for a 3 hour one (the first Portal game), but the game's pure brilliance is what kept me going all the way through.
InFamous 2 took everything about the original game (expect the karma system) and improved upon it. The controls were great, the open world was so fun to jump around, the story was interesting, the characters were much better, it was a lot more cinematic, the graphics were better and the powers were AMAZING! The mobility you got was a big improvement over the first game, and that's very important. They also added more elements to your superpower arsenal, as well as some awesome finishers. And who could forget, they added a level editor. An awesome game, and one of the best sandbox games of the 7th generation.
Sonic Generations was the best Sonic game since Sonic Adventure on the SEGA Dreamcast. It took some of the most memorable levels of Sonic games past and remade them in in gorgeous detail. Not only that, but each level had two versions: One where you played as 3D Sonic with levels resembling Sonic Colours, and another where you played as Classic Mega Drive Sonic with levels resembling the original Sonic games from the early 90s. It had an entertaining story, amazing boss battles, fantastic level design, outstandingly epic music and tons upon tons of replay value.
Saints Row the Third was my introduction to the Saints Row franchise, and it was hilarious! It also controlled really well and I felt it was a lot more fun and fast-paced than the Grand Theft Auto games. The weapons, the voice acting, the customization, the story: All of it was just so over-the-top and enjoyable. It didn't really feel like a rip-off of GTA, but more like a self-aware parody. Some incredibly entertaining missions were included, and the amount of silliness was just unparalleled.
2012 was kind of an anti-climatic year for the 7th generation. Nothing really happened, aside from the somewhat underwhelming release of the Wii U. There were still some great games here.
LEGO Batman 2: DC Superheroes was the best LEGO game since LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga. It had an open world, a free camera, voice acting (that for the most part didn't suck) and tons of fun secrets and unlockables. It was everything I had always wanted LEGO to be, and the first time I actually felt like revisiting a LEGO game in a long time. The amount of characters, vehicles and collectibles in this game was amazing, and it would keep me and my best friend busy for hours. It was fun to fool around in Gotham, and it's disappointing that LEGO Marvel Superheroes wasn't able to achieve the nostalgic and fun feeling of LEGO Batman 2.
Spec Ops: The Line was a work of art. It had a lot of things to say about the gaming industry, and it conveyed its message in a very subtle way. The game basically criticized the glorification of war in video games, and how military shooters these days have players plow through faceless enemies without a second thought. Spec Ops: The Line made you question these things, but only by the end of the game, where you had already shot down hundreds of soldiers. The game had fooled the entire world, and then criticizes their morales in the process. A real work of post-modern art.
Halo 4 was basically your typical Halo formula, but perfected. It continued the story of Master Chief and set itself up for a brand new trilogy, and the campaign was enjoyable. But it was the multiplayer that saw the best improvement. The Flood Mode especially was simply incredible. I had never been as scared in a multiplayer shooter as I was in the Flood Mode of Halo 4. The normal Red vs. Blue was also great, since the environments felt more open. And the graphics were simply some of the best the XBOX 360 had to offer. In my opinion, Halo 4 is the best game in the series.
The Walking Dead was an episodic game that retailed at the end of 2012. And by god, it was amazing. It made me very interested in Telltale's other adaptations, such as Back to the Future and The Wolf Among Us. It took the concept of a personal narrative to the next level, by giving you a blank character and basically deciding how he would face certain situations. The game was incredibly fun and interesting, and you got really attached to the characters. And because of its episodic nature, playing one episode always got you excited for the next, just like a good TV series. This was my game of the year for 2012.
That was my revisit of the previous generation. It was pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. With E3 coming around in just 5 days, it's hard not to get excited.