Gamers have an insatiable need to list things.
Consider it part of the territory when dealing with a fanbase that’s in constant need of validation. Since the PlayStation 1 games have evolved into a life-crippling time investment and we need some sort reassurance that the 100 hours we’ve invested into the Mass Effect series wasn’t a complete frittering away of our precious time upon this mortal coil.
While industry luminaries are constantly in search of their own recognized Oscars analog, gamers already have their own Oscars event-- the Game of the Year Awards. Virtually every site (and the few print publications still in existence) have their own versions. Most sites treat this as the most important event of the year, and our preparations at for our GOTY lists here at Nitrobeard take place months in advance. Sites face fierce scrutiny for these lists-- are they too mainstream? Trying too hard by stuffing the list with indie darlings? Just plain boring and tick off every year’s version of Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty? Just plain insane and voting anything other than Deus Ex 2 as GOTY 2011?
(As an aside, this is the first year I can remember when I’m genuinely unsure what my Nitrobeard GOTY vote will be. 2012 was a uniquely weak class and the The Walking Dead won by default, I was convinced my 2011 vote was Skyrim, Bayonetta managed to win 2010’s award in early January. I can’t remember now what my 2009 pick was, but if it wasn’t Arkham Asylum then I’m the world’s biggest fool. But this is a historically great year for gaming and there are at least 3 legit GOTY contenders floating around in my head and another 2-3 on the periphery. Also did you see what I just did there? I managed to put a list of games in the middle of my article about lists of games.)
While GOTY lists are the most important event of any site’s year, they’re also expected. Somewhat common. Much rarer and more momentous is the Game of the Generation list. Where everyone gets to grab at the GOTY list at least once, you only get to rank an entire console cycle’s worth of games if... well, if you’re around for the end of the cycle. And it’s a much more of a statement of personal opinion. While a GOTY list is scrutinized, in most years it’s a mostly mechanical-- Mostly the good games are generally accepted among the gaming public, the list itself is more of a matter of where you rank them-- in many years you have to stretch to fill up all 10 slots, whereas the top 3-5 are set in stone months in advance.
One may be tempted to do the same with a Game of the Generation list, and simply sort through each year’s #1 game of the year, but in doing so you quickly run into problems. I’d be forced to list The Walking Dead-- A fine game, but would not approach the top 5 in this year’s list-- while leaving out, say, Uncharted 2. Or Dead Space 2. Or Mass Effect 2. (By this trend one may safely assume that The Walking Dead 2 will be the greatest game ever devised by gaming scientists)
By necessity, a Game of the Generation list is a reflection of that writer’s personal opinions, and even more so, their evolving personal opinions. You may be able to set a Game of the Year list in stone, but a Game of the Generation list is necessarily fluid. The list I will provide today is not the same list as I will provide two years from now. I feel differently about Mass Effect 2 now than when I first played it; at one point I penned an article asking if Mass Effect 2 was “secretly lame”, now I rightfully recognize as a highpoint of the generation.
A Game of the Generation list needs to be a fluid list that the writer can revisit every year or so to reassess his changing viewpoints and opinions. For instance, my Game of the Generation list for the PS2 era looks something like:
- Shadow of the Colossus
- Ninja Gaiden
And then some combination of
F-Zero GX, Viewtiful Joe, Metal Gear Solid 3--- no, wait
- MGS 3
- Ninja Gaiden
Okami, Gran Turismo 4, Viewtiful Joe, F-Zero GX, Persona 4-- goddammit
- SotC I SWEAR TO GOD
- Persona 4
- Metal Gear Solid 3
You get the idea. For the record, the two I've yet to mention are Katamari Damacy and Resident Evil 4.
- a. SotC
b. Resident Evil 4 (You simply can't leave this out. It’s the best pure action game of the generation and was enormously influential. Also shut up if you don’t think it’s a “real” Resident Evil game, no one cares. That entire genre is dead and we're better off without it)
- Metal Gear Solid 3
- Persona 4
For people who are not professional reviewers, a Game of the Generation list is also a reflection the games you actually have access to. My list will not include Wii games simply because I don't have a Wii. It will not include Vita games because I’m not a madman who hates money. Worthy PC games prior to 2012 will probably be left out because I waited too long between PC builds. But that’s not to say that Mario Galaxy/Galaxy 2 would not appear on that list a year from now when Bayonetta 2 forces me to buy a Wii U. Also it’s going to leave out handhelds entirely because I’m awful and prefer to read on the train.
So now that I've presented the setup, I'm going to present you with the one big problem this console generation presents with such a list:
This console generation is has gone on too damned long.
The Xbox 360 was released in 2005. When the 360 was released Rick Santorum still held public office. Chris Benoit was still a hero to millions. People still cared about Rare. We can probably consider Metal Gear Solid 5 a bookend to this console generation much like MGS3 had the PS2. That will mean this console generation will have lasted at least nine years.
How long has this console cycle lasted? In the nine years after the NES was released in America, Sega released Daytona USA.
So you can’t really have a single definitive list. You need two. Ideally you'd have three, but at that point I’m l’d have to include The Walking Dead again, and fuck that noise.
So over the rest of the week I’m going to provide you, the fair reader, with Mark Bradshaw’s Definitive Official (for now) List of Games of the Generation. The list will be split into two eras: 2005-2009 will represent the Early Era (because I wish to stack the deck as much as possible for Bayonetta) and Late Era representing everything else. Five games each because I'm lazy and would like to talk about things other than games, namely the best and worst trends and events of the past console cycle. I would rather hope I've not gone on as long on the next two installments as I have this, but no promises.
BUT I’M NOT DONE YET! Before I go I’m going to leave you with a list of games that, for whatever reason, you will not see on my upcoming list:
SUBLIST THE FIRST: GAMES THAT PROBABLY DESERVE TO BE ON THE LIST, BUT I’VE NEVER PLAYED, SO THERE
- As Previously Stated, Any Wii game. Also any handheld games because they tend to break the vague, arbitrary definitions of a console cycle. Where do I place 3DS games? What about Space Invaders Extreme for the DS? It’s too confusing, also I’m a terrible console elitist.
- X-Com: Enemy Unknown. Probably amazing, I own it, looks too stressful as to actually be fun.
- Any Call of Duty/Battlefield game or games of that sort. I’m a snob.
- Any Sports Games: See #3, Also the Carolina Panthers have been depressing for most of this run.
- Any guitar game. The best part of the entire guitar game fad was that it flared up and died before I was tricked into owning a closet full of plastic instruments.
SUBLIST 2: GAMES THAT WERE OVERSHADOWED BY SUPERIOR SEQUELS
I’m not listing series or sequels. Each franchise will have only one representative. I’m tempted to list “thematically basically the exact same game” here as well, as we’re going to be talking about Bethesda games a lot over the next week. Also I reserve the right not to actually list any of the superior franchise games in the upcoming lists.
- Mass Effect 1. Totally a judgement call here, as I consider Mass Effect 2 to be the superior game. Also Mass Effect 3 was shit.
- Fallout 3. FO3 was amazing, but it’s hard to discuss it as a genuine GotG contender when New Vegas improved on it in every conceivable aspect.
- Dragon Age II: Just kidding! Dragon Age II isn’t appearing because Dragon Age II is garbage!
- Any Forza Games That Are Not Forza 3: Primarily because I decided I only needed one of the Forza/Gran Turismo reps this console generation and I settled On Forza 3.
- Metal Gear Solid 4: I’m putting this here for now so I can reserve a slot for Metal Gear Solid 5. Get back with me in a year.
SUBLIST 3: GAMES THAT DESERVE TO BE IN THE DISCUSSION, BUT ARE TOO NEW
These are games that need more time to be dissected by the community to be fairly judged and ranked. The temptation is too strong on an of these to rank them too highly:
- Bioshock Infinite.
- The Last of Us
- Gone Home
- Brothers: a Tale of Two Sons
- Metal Gear Solid Rising
NEXT TIME ON MARK BRADSHAW'S DEFINITIVE (FOR NOW) LIST OF GAMES OF THE GENERATION: 2005-2009 (spoiler, Bayonetta).