It's kind of remarkable to think about just how long this generation was. When I was lined up outside a Target getting my best friend a Wii for his birthday with money pooled from across our class, I was a junior in high school. By the time it ended, I had graduated from high school, graduated from college, found a job, and spent two years on the other side in the world. I've changed and grown in so many ways, but my love for games still burns. Here are my ten favorites.

10. Earth Defense Force 2017

This game is about as simple as it gets. It's just you and a friend, each with two weapons, against ridiculous hordes of giant bugs and robots and ships. It's not pretty, the framerate grinds when big explosions happen or lots of enemies fill the screen (in other words, all the time), any building falls to a single rocket and bugs awkwardly bounce around the screen before they die. But you know what? It's hella fun. My best co-op experiences of the generation came blasting bugs into the stratosphere with the slow-but-deadly Air Tortoise missile launcher.

9. Super Street Fighter 4

I'd spent a little while with Street Fighter 2 HD Remix beforehand, but Street Fighter 4 is really what introduced me to fighting games. When I first started, I barely knew how to throw a fireball, and while I'm still far from pro, I've overcome a lot of losses to the point that I have some idea how the game works. Street Fighter 4 is accessible enough to let beginners do cool stuff, while maintaining a huge universe of second-to-second tactical possibilities. In the game's first revision, Super Street Fighter 4, I spent plenty of nights testing my E. Honda against Aljosa's C. Viper, and Gagan still hasn't lived down the times I beat him with Ken using nothing but Hadoken and Shoryuken. No other game has let me inflict such deep mental scars upon others.

8. Braid

Xbox's Summer of Arcade in 2008 was a real turning point for indie games, and Braid was the star of that promotion. Its puzzle design is top-notch, taking the idea of time manipulation and exploring it in every possible way without sacrificing the game's platformer-based mechanical simplicity. On top of that, the puzzle-play of manipulating time works with the story, an allegory about regret, obsession, and trying to change the unchangeable. The game's ending is a powerful intersection of mechanics and narrative that no other game this generation matched.


I sunk a ton of hours into this gem of a game when it first appeared for free on the PC, and its Xbox rework hooked me once again once it made it to Steam. Spelunky is the best of a new school of roguelike-esque games built around randomization, challenge, and learning. Spelunky's systems are consistently applied across all the crazy enemies and traps that you encounter in the game, and learning to turn them to your advantage, one careless death at a time, until you defeat Olmec and reach the end, is really satisfying. It's a really clever playground. There are still depths to that game's challenge that I have yet to plumb.

6.Super Mario Galaxy 2

Nintendo's Mario games are all about the joy of movement and the exploration of space, and Super Mario Galaxy 2 is his best outing in 3D yet. It's incredible that Nintendo still had enough ideas after the excellent Galaxy 1 to fill another game, and it's even more incredible that they're executed at such a high level of quality. Galaxy 2 surprises the player at every turn while supplying a challenge level more in line with what an experienced Mario player can handle. I really ought to beat it one of these days, but what I've played alone is enough for me to declare it superior to its predecessors, and among the best platformers of all time.

5. Portal

I had tried out Narbacular Drop beforehand, but playing Portal for the first time on the day of the game's release was such a wonderful shock. The best part of the value-packed Orange Box, Portal is a perfect little jewel of a game, just long enough to make full use of its mechanics, loaded with excellent writing, humor, and horror. Portal doesn't have quite the polish of its sequel, but the more open levels reward creativity and repeated playthroughs, and Valve's bonus commentary here is among its most insightful uses of the feature in any of its games. It's a shame that people ran its excellent jokes into the ground in the years following its release, but the game itself can hardly be blamed for being so infectiously funny.

4.The Last of Us

Arriving well past the point when AAA game design had become a cliché, The Last of Us proved that polished, encounter-driven linear design didn't have to come at the expense of a strong narrative. The gritty presentation and tense pace of its fights played back into the desperate post-apocalyptic setting and cast, whose dialogue and performances are among the best ever featured in video games. The Last of Us respected the intelligence of its players both through its open-ended encounter design and its challenging, confrontational story that deprived players of moral certainty and easy catharsis. There's a reason I gave it the highest marks possible.

3. Dota 2

No game consumed more of my time, and no game delivered so many excellent highs. League of Legends may have been what introduced me to the “MOBA” genre, but in my eyes, it has nothing on Dota. It's a game of staggering complexity and depth, with over a hundred heroes, dozens of items, and thousands of viable strategies. Matches may be long, dependent on the cooperation of random online teammates, and sometimes unbelievably frustrating. But nothing beats the satisfaction of hard-fought victory, of successfully applying something new that you've learned, of turning around impossible odds. If only the community weren't such a crapshoot.

2. Demon's Souls

There's nothing quite like your first time. Even after the glowing import impressions, I didn't know what to expect when I first imported Demon's Souls from Hong Kong. What I found was a game unlike any other I had played, a game that was dark and oppressive, but one that rewarded patience, care, and cooperation. The fallen kingdom of Boletaria contained crushing odds, and some of the most hideous creatures I have ever faced in a game, but that made fighting those demonic hordes and winning all that much more satisfying. Once I realized what I had on my hands, I immediately sold the game and preordered the American edition. This was a true generation-defining gem, and its influence has been felt all across the industry.


Bayonetta is stupidly fun. Every encounter is a dance of death, every setpiece an eye-searing climax that could end a lesser game. When you master Bayonetta, you are a deadly dervish, always attacking, always inches from harm, fighting on the razor's edge of danger. Shockingly, the game's ending built enough to serve as a fitting capstone to all the madness that came before, a delightful surprise. I kept coming back to it until I had gotten every achievement that game had to offer, and it was worth it. Bayonetta makes most other games feel stingy, and not just because it's bulging with bonus unlockables. It's constantly delivering new ways to have fun, and while not all of its crazy curveballs work, it's unforgettably earnest. The greatest action game ever made, and my favorite game of the last generation.

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