Calvin’s Games of the Generation
Bunch of years have passed with more changes and games than any previous span. It’s full of high and lows, defining new twists on old ideas. We’ve decided the best way to sum the long period up are individual lists of five videogames. Here are the five that have defined the all-too-long seventh generation for me and will stand as markers of quality and influence for their time.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
The strategy genre’s gone under the radar for most of the generation. The excellent Firaxis reboot of XCOM immediately brought it back to the forefront, producing an incredible return to old ideas that reminded just how good and timeless those concepts from the first XCOM game had been. It’s on form and fulfills exactly the formula that’s been missing for too long, a necessary and welcome strategy with broad appeal.
Valve are experts at refinement and have, as they’ve done in the past, brought the shooter into an undefined space where it can flourish in new ways. Portal stands strongly as the generation’s most innovative title, bringing tightly designed puzzle concepts and a lack of real violence into a genre most only choose to recognize when it’s full of death. It’s subversive, well written, and eloquently polished. Everything one has come to expect from Valve.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
Ghost Trick is the best adventure game I’ve played. It’s a smart new IP from the creator of Phoenix Wright with a novel mechanic. We’re dead before the game begins and as the ghost, we navigate through objects within the game world and solve contraption puzzles. Stunning animation and a great sense of character elevate Ghost Trick above the rest and we’re beginning to see its influences come through in the big games.
Vanquish carries an ideal set of systems. It’s a triumph of Shinji Mikami’s design philosophy, Platinum’s sense for what plays, and of Japan. Bringing together a lineage of videogame history that spans from bullet hell to survival horror (emphasis on survival), it melds these choice genre examples into one of the few modern shooters that encourages restraint but also rewards balls-out action all the same. It is a perfect genre product and gains instant inclusion, being the generation’s most complete videogame.
Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption’s open world perfection. It’s a refined spaghetti western finally brought into videogame form, bringing us a setting, characters, and motifs largely unexplored in games. It’s Rockstar’s masterwork, losing out on the soulless grind of the big city for one game that celebrates a land that we’ve lost to such rapid expansion. There are few open worlds as beautiful, coherent, and romanticized, and few videogame stories as moving. Red Dead Redemption’s an essential game that emphasizes all of the ways videogames have moved forward this generation and does it with some real finesse.