GameCentral looks back at the outgoing generation of video games and names the best console and PC titles of the last seven years.
Now that the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are out (not that you’d necessarily know given the limited stock) the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are officially last generation. New games will continue to be released for the formats but increasingly they’ll have been designed for the new machines and so we’re now able to look back at the generation as a whole and try and pick out the best of the best.
Nostalgia does tend to cloud the issue but it’s not hard to argue that the outgoing generation has been one of the very best, with the base level of quality expected from a new game rising considerably, so that genuinely awful ones are now thankfully very rare. That has come at the cost of losing the middle ground, where new games are now either mega budget blockbusters or tiny indie efforts, but the results below speak for themselves.
There are, of course, hundreds of excellent games we’ve had to leave out, but we feel satisfied this is a pretty good cross-section of the best games released between late 2013 and now. Of course, the Switch is still going, and may still produce a classic or two more, but for now these are the best games of the eighth generation.
Playing Astro Bot: Rescue Mission is the closest any modern game has got to the shellshock of seeing Super Mario 64 in action for the first time. It’s an absolute revelation no matter how many VR games you’ve played before, with a sense of immersion and tangibility to the game world that is literally breath-taking. It helps that it’s also a very good platformer, albeit one that borrows a little too liberally from Nintendo, but in terms of audio-visual impact no game punches harder. The sheer sense of scale when battling the end-of-level bosses, or the moment when you rise up out of the ocean for the first time, feels like a genuine vision of the future and one that the rest of the video game world may not catch up to for a long time yet.
The pinnacle of modern Japanese role-playing games, Persona 5 Royal’s success in both Japan and the West proves that the genre still has plenty of appeal as long as it’s presented in an interesting and dynamic fashion. As it happens, that’s exactly what Persona 5 specialises in, with its real-world setting, three-dimensional characters, and a layer of thematic depth that is rarely seen in any kind of video game. The combat still feels a little old-fashioned, and the English translation is not the best, even for the series, but despite those flaws this still earns its badge as the JRPG for people that don’t like JRPGs (and those that already do).
In terms of the most financially successful games of the generation it’s online titles that lead the way, from GTA Online and Call Of Duty to Fortnite and Apex Legends. Overwatch doesn’t do bad for itself either and for very good reasons. It helped to popularise the concept of the hero shooter sub-genre, with a wonderfully diverse – in terms of abilities and backstory – group of characters that look like they could double as fighters in a 90s era beat ‘em-up. The constant stream of free updates has left the game with an enormous amount of content and a complex lore which is rarely ever communicated through the game itself but instead the highly engaged community and Blizzard’s interactions with them.
The hero of the pandemic may have got lucky with its release date but that shouldn’t distract from just what a good game New Horizons is. As revamps of long-running series go it’s up there with Breath Of The Wild, maintaining the original idea of maintaining your own perfectly landscaped village but greatly expanding the range of customisation options, including a new crafting system, and eliminating distinctions between what can and cannot be placed outside. It’s not only the perfect relaxation during a terrible year but also a very social one, with communities of players working together to create the perfect accessories and beat the lockdown restrictions.
2D platformers with retro graphics are the oldest cliché in the book for indie games but Celeste is not only the best designed example since Super Meat Boy but has some of the best storytelling of the generation. Its sympathetic depiction of mental illness is never overbearing and instead feels relatable and optimistic. The themes are reflected perfectly by the level design but even divorced of context they’re superbly well designed and, much as with From’s games, seem unfairly difficult at first glance but quickly prove that the seemingly impossible is easily within the grasp of any player.
CD Projekt may have gone from hero to zero in the space of just a couple of weeks, but this was the game that put them in the former category. At heart it’s a fairly standard third person action role-player, with mediocre combat and a plot that, while interesting enough, goes on for rather too long. The genius of The Witcher 3 though is in its detail, the grey morality of its memorable cast and expertly crafted side missions that are the very opposite of filler. Classic examples like the Bloody Baron combine gameplay and storytelling in an organic manner that other role-players struggle to match, with multiple options for every encounter and seldom anything as straightforward as a good or bad outcome.
We would describe Return Of The Obra Dinn as a detective game but that would imply that there were enough others to qualify as an actual genre. Needless to say there are not, as detective work is something that has never really worked in games since it’s so difficult to offer challenging puzzles without making them either pointlessly easy or having players get constantly stuck. This indie release uses a number of affectations to manoeuvre around the problem and in the process creates one of the most engaging, original, and downright strange video games of the generation. The Mary Celeste style plot does not unravel at all as you would imagine and the low-tech visuals are beautifully reminiscent of not only Victorian line art but also old Macintosh Plus graphics.
You can argue over whether the story takes too long to say too little but if any game in the next generation is able to create an action scene half as good as the Madagascar chase sequence from Uncharted 4 it will be doing very well indeed. In fact, everything in the Madagascar portion of the game is near perfect in terms of third person action, with the chase, the preceding platform puzzle sequence, and the open world area all showing Naughty Dog at the absolute height of their craft. It also helps that the graphics are absolutely fantastic and that Nate and most of the supporting cast (maybe not so much his brother) are such a delight to be around. It’s also nice that for once a game series is given a proper conclusion, even if the door is left ajar for more.
In the space of two generations FromSoftware has risen from complete obscurity to creating the unexpectedly influential Dark Souls and now having one of the most anticipated games of the new generation, in Elden Ring. Technically Sekrio isn’t a Soulsborne game (there are less role-playing elements and no multiplayer) although most of the other ingredients are the same, with a similar style of open-ended level exploration and brutally difficult combat. Sekiro is also a ninja game though, clearly influenced by the old Tenchu titles, and that adds a distinct flavour of its own, with one of the most satisfyingly difficult final boss battles of all time.
We wish the art design wasn’t so bland, and the random elements do repeat a bit too often, but beyond that Into The Breach is a perfect video game. It doesn’t look like much but that tiny eight by eight grid plays hosts to some of the most intense video game action ever put to silicon. It may be a turn-based strategy game but Into The Breach is fast-paced and accessible, although admittedly very difficult. Literally every single decision matters, with an easy victory turning into total failure in an instant. The roguelike elements add almost infinite longevity and this may well be our most played game of the generation.
Although Devil May Cry 5 represents a convincing return to form for Dante and co. it is Bayonetta who remains queen of the still nameless sub-genre which the two franchises occupy. Part action adventure and part fighting game, Bayonetta 2’s combat may seem relatively straight forward at first but layer upon layer is added as the game progresses, with new weapons, moves, transformations, and items that add depth but never overcomplicate. And yet it’s the game’s bizarre sense of humour and arcade style logic that seals it as a classic, with enormous boss battles and wonderfully imaginative action set pieces that make this one of the greatest action games ever made. Read from source….