These are my top 10 games of the PS3/Xbox360 generation, just like the title says. I’ll give a little description next to each, explaining why I felt that way and why it ranks where it does for me. I tried to stick with games that changed the way I thought about games, and effected me in a way no other game had not, whether that be on an emotional level, or the game was just a load of fun.
1.) The Last of Us (2013):
I don’t think I’m alone in naming this as the number one game of the generation, in fact I know I’m not. The Last of Us took me beyond the initial zombie outbreak that so many other mediums put me in, and made me consider life after the end of civilization. The game took me on a journey with a man who was hardened by the things that make his world a living hell, and a teenage girl who had never experienced outside of them.
This game could have very easily turned into a 20 hour escort mission where your teenage partner is both helpless and useless, but instead it helped to craft one of, if not the most, touching and heart wrenching stories to every be told in a video game. Ellie turned out to be one of the strongest female characters in gaming history, and Joel turned out to be more than just a gruff anti-hero with a chip on his shoulder. I won’t spoil any more, but anyone who has played this game knows that I could go on about it for hours on end. Plus, you know, Pittsburgh!
If you haven’t yet picked this up, DO IT. The game will be remastered and re-released this summer for PS4 as well, so your list of excuses gets even shorter.
2.) Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Season 1 (2012):
I’m a MASSIVE fan of all things zombies, and an even bigger fan of The Walking Dead. This game fell just short of #1 only due to some technical glitches here and there, an a few loose ends that have still yet to be tied up in season two, but never the less, it offers a story that rivals The Last of Us.
The story in this game is arguably better than the ones told in both The Walking Dead comic and television show, and gives us the opportunity to experience the end of the world from a different point of view.
This is another game that easily could have left us with a stereotypical anti-hero and helpless child to care for, but instead it gave us one of the more lovable, albeit flawed, protagonists in Lee and definitely the strongest female character in gaming in a long, long time in Clementine.
What’s more is that this game rarely does what you’d expect it to. You must make choices that can alter your outcomes, and tear jerking moments come by the boatload, but still, you’re given plenty of reasons to be hopeful for the characters you meet along the way.
Fan of the franchise or not, The Walking Dead: Season 1 is not to be missed.
3.) Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (2009):
The Uncharted series is often saddled with the nick name “Duderaider” which I feel is unfair. Sure, the series draws largely from the likes of Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones, but also holds it’s own in terms of story. A story which many consider to be better than either of its inspirations.
This was the game that made me buy a PS3. In 2009 I had only owned an Xbox 360, but after watching a friend play through a few high altitude, high stakes levels of Uncharted 2, I was sold. The game’s story and graphics are top notch, and still largely unrivaled in the adventure game realm. Pair that with tight platforming mechanics and challenging gunfights and you have yourself one of the best games of the generation.
I tend to love the second installments in trilogies due to the challenges they present the hero, and their largely bleak outlook (looking at you The Empire Strikes Back). This game proved no different, and is a clear standout in a series I adore.
If you have a PS3 and haven’t played any of the Uncharted games, especially this one, you’re cheating yourself. Plus they all can be had for around $10 now, so you literally have no excuse. DO IT.
4.) L.A. Noire (2011):
L.A. Noire was my first real look into the 1940’s and the culture of the time period. Many had recently returned from war, and even more were caught somewhere between the traditional lifestyles of having a family and white picket fence, and the temptations and glamour of a booming celebrity culture. L.A. Noire effectively dabbles in all three of these themes as you maneuver your ways through the ranks of the LAPD, as the clean cut Cole Phelps.
The game does a great job of mixing in both fictional and real historical crimes. It also features an interesting, albeit linear, search and interrogate system that much of the game employs. Those features combines with some groundbreaking facial tracking technology, strong performances from real actors, and Grand Theft Auto style gameplay makes a thrilling romp as a gumshoe detective in yesteryear.
The story, while it has its flaws, is fairly unpredictable, and in the end you’re left with an ending that is both unsettling and appropriate. If you enjoy open-world shooters and want to take a tour of the past, I can’t suggest this game enough. Think Mad Men meets GTA.
5.) South Park: The Stick of Truth (2014):
I honestly don’t have a ton to say about this game, but that’s fitting, considering the game speaks for itself in so many ways.
If you love South Park, and even sort of, kind of like RPGs, this game is for you. For the first time ever you really feel like you’re in an episode of TV series and not just toying around in the universe.
The game is simple, to the point, and only about 12 hours, but it’s 100% worth it. If you’re a fan, you owe it to yourself to take this for a spin.
6.) MLB The Show 13 (2013):
As a huge fan of baseball, I spent the early days of this past console generation resenting PlayStation gamers for the top notch experience they got with the Show franchise, while I was stuck on Xbox playing crappy rendition after crappy rendition of the 2K series. After buying a PS3, I never looked back.
Everything I loved about the Show franchise culminated in their 2013 iteration. All of the features I wanted were there and all of the glitches of the past had been repaired. Andrew McCutchen, the face of my beloved Pirates, was even on the cover to boot. Not to mention the fact that he pretty much did the opposite of the “Madden Curse” and propelled both his team and himself into long lost lands, ending a twenty year losing streak and playoff drought for the city, and taking home the National League MVP.
Sorry, I’m getting off subject…
7.) Mafia II (2010):
Mafia II is almost the exact opposite of L.A. Noire as far as the story goes. Returning from war, you play as Vito Scaletta, who instead of turning to law enforcement, turns to crime.
Under a guise of what may seem like GTA in the 40s, you’re told a mob story of friendship and redemption, and it connected with me deeply. I picked this game up on whim for $20 one weekend, and was floored by it. The time period intrigued me, the vehicles were plentiful, and the characters were fleshed out very well. On top of this, the game has good looking graphics and a really neat seasonal system that changes throughout the story.
If you love gangster flicks, GTA, or the tales of yesteryear, you shouldn’t miss this gem. Plus, it’s dirt cheap these days.
8.) Catherine (2011):
Catherine is a weird ass game. No, seriously. It’s strange. Even to those who are familiar with anime and the work that Atlus puts out might find this game a bit off-beat, but that’s a beautiful thing.
Throughout the game, you experience something between dating sim and puzzle game, acting as protagonist Vincent during the day, and a horned, half sheep Vincent at night. The night sections play through Vincents dreams as the weight of adulthood, monogamy, and faithfulness press down on him. All the while, an intriguing mystery is unfolding as many men in the area are suddenly dying their sleep.
If you want to pick something up that is truly different, grab Catherine. It completely changed my opinion on what a game should be.
9.) Heavy Rain (2010):
David Cage’s Quantic Dream has a history of making interestingly different games, many of which follow a mystery. Heavy Rain is no different, but it plays unlike anything I had ever tried before. The story is much more interactive movie than video game, but that’s okay. Not unlike Catherine, this game changed the way I viewed the medium.
I won’t really say too much more, as even the tiniest detail beyond the overall description can ruin the experience, but a series of murders connects four different characters with four different perspectives on the situation. This story is not for the faint of heart, as there are many uncomfortable moments. The story can be utterly depressing at times, but it’s definitely worth the time if you’re up for it.
In addition, the DLC for this game scared the living hell out of me. Something a game hadn’t done for quite awhile.
If you played Indigo Prophecy or Beyond: Two Souls, I suggest you pick this game up. It is the superior of the three in many ways, and even if you don’t end up digging it, it can be had for pennies on the dollar at this point.
10.) Halo 3 (2007):
Halo 3 was one of the first games I picked up for my Xbox 360, and one of the only games I played religiously in my first few years of college. Halo 3 ended up being the sole reason I started and continued my Xbox Live subscription, and heralded some great moments with friends in our dorm rooms freshman year.
Halo 3 was also my first step into the franchise, and while I never really connected with the story as deeply as I did with say, Mass Effect, it was enough to encourage me to keep up with the series as time went on.
The online multiplayer was the real key for me though, as my roommate and I spent hours on end playing online, eventually leading us to having two consoles and two TVs in our freshman dorm room.
Just like the other games on this list, Halo 3 changed the way I viewed gaming. Before it, I saw online gaming as a novelty, a neat option. Since, it’s an absolute necessity. To this day, I’d rather pick up a controller and play as a Spartan than an uber-realistic mercenary or soldier.
Honorable Mentions: Spec Ops: The Line, Super Mario Galaxy, Red Dead Redemption, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and Mass Effect 2
And there you have it, my top ten for last gen. Let me know what you think in the comments below, or hit me up on Twitter for more insights and commentary.