Last month SpecFicMedia.com hosted a special gaming show on Hangout/YouTube where Christiana Ellis, Justin Macumber, and I selected SpecFicMedia.com\\™s \\Top 10 Videogames of this Generation.\\ Of course this list is only the opinion of three writers who love strong story-based videogames, so go troll somewhere else. And because of the nature of our roundtable, two of my favorite games didn\\™t even make the top 10. Also, due to the console ownership of our hosts, a few games (Super Mario Galaxy 2, so sorry) didn\\™t get discussed at all. It\\™s just the way of things, but I\\™m still very happy with our final list. We hope you enjoy it, and let us know what your top 10 games list is!
For a long time the character of Lara Croft was known for two things — her gigantic breasts and her guns. Okay, I guess that’s four things. She was a gaming icon, but also a bit of an embarrassment. But now\\¦ now that’s changed. Thanks to the smart folks at Crystal Dynamics, not only has Lara been given a makeover, trimming down her bosom and putting actual clothes on her, but the entire franchise has been rebooted. Now instead of the seasoned spelunker we used to know, Lara is a young woman thrown into a deadly adventure. Tight platforming mechanics, amazing graphics, a compelling story, and a wonderful music score by Jason Graves gives this once venerated franchise a breath of new life it sorely needed. Lara is back and better than ever! — Justin R. Macumber
Great games move players to do things other than simply survive the level, kill the big baddie, or win the race. And in The Walking Dead, Telltale Games succeeds in this, in a way never before seen in what used to be considered simply as the \\point and click\\ adventure genre. Over the five part season, you move from simply surviving the zombie apocalypse to openly caring for and protecting another character, a young girl named Clementine. You are presented throughout with challenges and choices that are difficult to make, many of which do not have a right answer. And while the choices you make as a player affect your story, you will eventually come back to the same (or nearly the same) ending. It is the best example of how the journey is the thing, rather than having multiple endings based on your choices (I\\™m looking at you, Beyond: Two Souls). \\“ P.G. Holyfield
Years after creating one of my favorite games of an earlier generation (1999\\™s System Shock 2), Ken Levine and Irrational Games released one of the most rewarding experiences of this generation… Bioshock. The gameplay was similar, but what really set it apart was the vision of its setting, the steampunk meets art deco underground utopia-gone-so-very-wrong called Rapture. I won\\™t go into the political/satirical elements of the game (Objectivism is not my strong suit), but at its core it explored a question worth asking: How far will a player go in following a game\\™s quest objectives, and the requests of a voice on a radio? And will you choose to harm little girls in order to harvest a type of magical energy that will help you reach your goals? What? A game that makes you think!? And oh yeah… it\\™s fun as hell. \\“ P.G. Holyfield
A lot of recent top ten lists include Portal as one of their choices, but we went with Portal 2. Valve expanded up on 2007\\™s Portal, and in so doing made the original look a bit like the prototype it was. All it took for me was the voice of J.K. Simmons as Aperture\\™s founder, Cave Johnson, to mark this as a great game (along with Stephen Merchant as a personality core named Wheatley, and the return of Ellen McLain\\™s GLaDOS). The puzzle mechanics build logically and seamlessly as you proceed through the game, and the humor is ratcheted up multiple notches from the first game, including during one of the best co-op modes ever created. \\“ P.G. Holyfield
Naughty Dog built upon the mechanics of Uncharted 2 and created one of the most cinematic games in history. The action-adventure game expanded upon the ways Nathan Drake can move, shoot, and fight, and concentrates on a story that is part T.E. Lawrence and part Sir Frances Drake, with a few Timothy Leary hallucinogens thrown into the mix. Add onto this is an even better integration of motion capture and voice acting, and you end up with one great experience. U3 is a story about \\finding your way,\\ and by the end Nathan Drake has found his happy ending with Sully and Elena… at least until Uncharted 4 is officially announced at next year\\™s E3. \\“ P.G. Holyfield
John Marston used to be an outlaw. Now, he wants to be a family man, but even while progress threatens to change the Old West, the past refuses to be forgotten. Red Dead Redemption features a classic story with both humor and deep emotion, but the real star is the dense, gorgeous setting. Featuring landscapes which range from the evergreen forests of the Rocky Mountains to the dusty deserts of Mexico, the experience of living in a collage of all your favorite western movies provides a unique environment for all of the open world gameplay Rockstar is famous for. – Christiana Ellis
As you will figure out soon enough, we love Bioware. Hell, I even loved Star Wars: The Old Republic (okay, love is a bit strong I guess). Mass Effect 3 wasn\\™t a perfect game, but it was still a damned fine one. ME3 saw even greater improvement in its combat, and did a great job in tying up all of the threads and relationships established in the first two games. And it is one of the best sci-fi RPGs ever. The only thing that holds back Mass Effect 3 from being the top game of this generation (in my mind), was the end of the game. It\\™s not that I didn\\™t like how the game ended for me, or would have ended if I had made another choice at the end, but the realization that the promise at the beginning of the series didn\\™t really come to fruition. Your choices, as we\\™ve seen in other games on this list, gave you your story, gave you your own journey, a journey different than most everyone else. But in the end, it still came down to a binary (or tertiary) choice, and the choices along the way didn\\™t really matter (as Bioware had promised since the original Mass Effect). And, sadly, in gaming terms, the lack of a true final battle was enough to lessen the overall impact of the finale… for me anyway. – P.G. Holyfield
But here I\\™m sounding all negative when I\\™m talking about our #4 overall game of this generation. Visuals, gameplay, music, voice acting… ME3 was an incredible achievement. And in the end, ME3 was more satisfying than all but three videogames on our list. So there… 😉 – P.G. Holyfield
BioWare has long been known for their stories and deep yet still enjoyable gameplay, and in no game is that more the case than in Mass Effect 2, the middle child of the Mass Effect trilogy. Once again Commander Shepard finds himself/herself with a galaxy to save, but that’s only the beginning of the adventure. Loaded with incredible characters, amazing locations, plot twists upon plot twists, and painful choices, ME2 is a nearly perfect role-playing game that also happens to be a damn good action game at the same time. It might seem extreme to call it the greatest game ever made, but for me, it’s simple truth. — Justin R. Macumber
Armed with a tight, gripping story, Naughty Dog expanded on and adapted the outstanding mechanics and visuals from the Uncharted series to create the most intensely emotional and stressful gaming experience of my life. The Last of Us ratcheted the survival story to the next level (and to the level beyond that), and along the way created two of the strongest characters ever to appear in a videogame. Beautiful at times, horrific at others, and with the best implementation of live actor performance in a game, The Last of Us is simply a masterpiece. \\“ P.G. Holyfield
Featuring a rich and compelling setting, brilliant tactical gameplay, and incredible characters, Dragon Age: Origins distinguishes itself amongst not only other fantasy-themed RPG’s but the entire medium of videogames. Pairing a strong narrative structure and choices that actually matter, this game allows players to create a Grey Warden that is truly their own, and then to lead them into battle against threats both mortal and moral. Strategy in battle is both deep and flexible, giving any adventurer plenty of options for how they want to play. A triumph, from start to finish. – Christiana Ellis
The Honorable Mentions
Not all of our favorites could make the top 10, of course. The following games are the ones that pained Justin and me most… our \\Favorite Game(s) that didn\\™t make the Top 10.\\
Justin Macumber – Rock Band 3
Like so many people out there, I once had dreams of being a rock & roll star. I was that kid standing in front of the television as Van Halen played on MTV, broom in my hands, strumming power chords, imagining I was up on that stage instead of Eddie. I even went so far as to get an actual guitar years later. Several, in fact. But eventually I realized that no matter how much I wanted to be a rock god, it was never going to happen, so I gave it up and focused on writing instead. It was the right choice. What makes Rock Band 3 so wonderful is that now I get to have that dream again, a plastic guitar in hand and a list of literally hundreds of songs at my fingertips. Every song has been lovely transposed from real music to buttons by the people at Harmonix, so much so that it’s easy to forget you’re NOT really playing them, and since you can choose from guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, and vocals, any rock & roll dream you had can be relived. For people like me it’s the closest I’ll ever get to playing for an arena full of sweating fans, and thanks to Harmonix it feels damn near real. It transports me to a wonderful place every time I play.
P.G. Holyfield – X-Com – Enemy Unknown (and a special shout out for Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim!)
These two titles I loved most that didn\\™t make the top 10 for the group (silly co-hosts) were also the two games I logged the most hours playing during this generation.
I loved them both equally, but I\\™ll focus on X-Com here because it is the only game I\\™ve completed on two different platforms (XBox 360 and PS3), and by the time I\\™m done I\\™ll finish the game on the only slightly less perfect iOS version as well. X-Com features turn-based combat, rpg elements and a separate base building meta-game, all in the service of allowing us to save the world from an alien invasion. X-Com was also great because it had two simple mechanics that, when combined, created what some would call exquisite torture: one, the ability to name your squad members (Chooch, I need a MEDIC!!) and two, permanent death (Macumber bit it? I can live with that…). It is a beautiful thing.
I can\\™t leave without mentioning Skyrim. I put over 100 hours into the damned thing. It has a huge open world that puts GTA5 to shame, great rpg and combat mechanics, a solid story, and nearly limitless side-quests. Skyrim is a must-play. As Liz Lemon would say, “I want to go to there.” So go…