With the new generation of games consoles here with us now, in terms of the Wii U, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, the Hex team and I have looked back at seven years of gaming to reflect on which were our favourite games from the outgoing generation. These are the games that have stuck with us for so many, varied reasons. If you’d like to reminisce, join us in the comments below.
Space Giraffe (Xbox 360, PC)
Jeff Minter. He’s been making games since the dawn of the home computer era in the UK, including such early machines as the Commodore Vic20 with all of 3.5K of RAM. He’s done lots of iterations on classic gaming concepts over the years but this Xbox 360 / PC release is one of my favourites; the ‘web’ playing areas of Tempest with enemies appearing from the far end and the player shooting down at them from the top lip, but this has a game mechanic which heavily promotes score multipliers and risk/reward. Not everyone’s cup of tea, I know, because it divided critics and some people just did NOT get it, but I did. I’ve played this for HOURS. Not far off the truth to say Minter’s upcoming game for the PS Vita is half the reason I bought one.
Mass Effect (Xbox 360, PC, PlayStation 3)
Because of the narrative arching over the three games I find it next to impossible to separate these out. How could I recommend one over the others? It’s like telling people to only read from chapter 7 in a novel. I love sci-fi and by god, this has a cracker of a story which will be pointless going into here. Suffice to say that I’ve replayed these games several times, first on 360 and now on PC and while they’re not perfect, I dearly love them. Thanks to the fixing of the terribly told ending of 3 – the ending *wasn’t* changed in what it did or said, just in how it said it & how much your actions throughout the series affected things – it’s now one of my favourite sci-fi tales in any genre, anywhere.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
This was a tough one. It was down to this or Bioshock, but here we are. A superb prequel to the original Deus Ex, it tells the tale of big corporations, human cybernetics and what it actually means to be human once technology is inside our bodies & minds. Stealth or guns blazing, helpful or a complete arse, it’s up to you in how you approach the Bladerunner / Mass Effect world it portrays. Currently replaying the Director’s Cut on PC.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii)
Twilight Princess has a place on this list because it holds the distinction of being the first game I ever played on the Wii. That’s right, I bypassed Mario Kart & Wii Sports and jumped right into the good stuff. I was always wary of the Wii, seeing it as more of gimmick than anything else, but this game turned my head completely. I still dream of the day when Virtual Reality might be a reality, and for me, Twilight Princess brought this dream one step closer. To this day, it is still ridiculously fun to wave the Wiimote around like a sword, or use it to carefully aim your bow. At its time of release, it was by far the best looking Zelda game to date, and the production and character design is truly gorgeous at times. The story might not be overly revolutionary, but the introduction of the Twilight Realm and Link’s wolf transformation keep things fresh and interesting, and the Wii’s gameplay makes sure every playthrough is deliriously addictive. They say you never forget your first time, and Twilight Princess is certainly no exception.
Wii Fit Plus (Wii)
The Wii Balance Board is an incredible piece of engineering. So much so, that there are actually reports of doctors using them to test patients’ centre of balance displacement. So not only is the Wii Fit medically approved, but it is also an absolute blast when used with a group a friends. There’s nothing funnier than seeing a friend getting knocked clean off the Obstacle Course, or failing miserably at Bird’s-Eye Bulls-Eye, or finding out that they have a previously untapped aptitude for the Hula Hoop. But it’s not just a fantastic party piece. It also does what it says on the tin, and is a surprisingly effective way of getting fit, while managing to make the whole process a fun undertaking. I know someone who got their first big fitness break on Wii Fit Plus, and seeing the change they went through, and are still going though, is truly breathtaking, and the fact that a lot of it is down to something that many dismiss as just another gimmicky consol game makes it all the more impressive. In my mind, the Wii Fit Plus will never lose its appeal because, unlike a lot of other Wii games, it is a completely unique experience, suited only to the console it exists on, and it will keep you coming back for more.
Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
Super Mario Galaxy is, in my older brother’s words, “The reason the Wii was invented”. While I’m not sure if I agree with this statement, I do agree that playing the game is one of the most exhilarating and mind-blowing experiences you can have without the aid of illegal and mind-altering substances. The story might make no sense, but the gameplay is truly inspired, and the physics of the game is great and brings a whole new meaning to the word ‘globe-trotting’. Super Mario Galaxy will always hold a special place in my heart because of one particular night when me and my younger brother played it. I had the Wiimote, he had the Nunchuk, and we made one hell of a team. We also decided to narrate the game as we went and voice the characters ourselves. And it was hilarious, with Mario constantly complaining about how overweight he’d got, how he didn’t even really like Princess Peach, and how much his friendship with Bowser had soured since their days as frat brothers. The fact that the game could capture our imagination so vividly and for such a long time speaks volumes about just how good it is. Although, we really could have done without that ‘Bee Mario’ level. It still burns my eyes just thinking about it!
Left 4 Dead (PC, Xbox 360)
As an avid enthusiast of all things undead, the gaming genre often made me feel like a zombie. Shuffling around, searching for that satisfactory feast in order to sedate my hunger. There wasn’t much to select from, with Resident Evil and Dead Rising acting like a snack between meals. Thank Valve then, for serving up a veritable feast of undead delight.
No background story, Left 4 Dead was a frantic affair and a title that delivered one of the best gaming experiences of all time. You pick one of four survivors, armed with a weapon and a limited supply of ammo and must fight your way from A to B with your fellow survivors. Co-operative play is a must for as the tagline suggests: “Fight together or die alone” This isn’t really a game for soloists.
The undead you face along the way are seemingly fitted with comfy trainers, as the common horde sprint with ferocious intensity towards you, in huge numbers. Zombies will pile you until your floored unless your friends can save you. These overpowering numbers are the least of your problems too. Special infected types threaten to stop you dead in your tracks. Witches, Hunters, Smokers, Boomers and the unstoppable Tank, each with their own signature traits guaranteed to bring you down.
Not only do we have the most panic inducing game of the last generation, but the added bonus of the game’s “director” meant that no one game would play the same. Each round would respawn hordes and specials at different moments, giving no time for strategy and increasing the game’s longevity.
Batman: Arkham Asylum (Xbox 360, PC, PlayStation 3)
Rocksteady struck gold when they released Arkham Asylum. Delivering a visual style reminiscient of Bioshock and truly embracing what we enjoy about Batman, Arkham hit all the right notes. Characters voiced by the cast of the seminal 90’s animated series, numerous appearances from a lavish rogues gallery and easter eggs that only a true fan would notice, this was the game comic book fans had been waiting for.
What made it work was the importance of character. Rocksteady wanted you to not just play as Batman but to become him. Not only did you possess an unbridled knowledge of fighting styles, you also had a fine array of gadgets to utilise either in combat or simply for detective work. It’s rare to find a game that forces you to think before each action, formulating the way to succeed before you’d even stepped foot in a room.
A captivating story, fantastic character design and even some fiendishly tricky unlockables for the completist to find, Arkham Asylum was the new benchmark in how to make a comic book game.
Heavy Rain (PlayStation 3)
I chose Heavy Rain, not as a game itself, but more of a look at how a developer isn’t afraid to try something new. It’s a dark murder/mystery thriller at it’s core, mixing different events with different characters in real time. Quantic Dreams developed the game with it’s QTE’s in mind, but making use of the Playstation 3’s Sixaxis motion sensor technology to add a new way to play.
The cinematic visuals really pushed the PS3’s power, delivering on-screen motion captured performances that looked almost lifelike. The gripping whodunnit story pushed along, each button press choosing it’s path regardless of success or failure. At certain times, a character would be stuck in a situation where strict timing is of the essence, that even the slightest wrong move could be potentially fatal.
Heavy Rain was a welcome change of pace, and proudly shone above the glut of generic shooters that it sat amongst on the shelves.