Gen 7 was a surreal experience for me. I was late to the game; by the time I adopted the new consoles I was in college. Ironically enough, perusing a degree in game design left me with no time to indulge in my passion. When I did get a chance to play a game, it was really special and gen 7 had plenty of great games to offer. For my list, I looked for games that really hooked me, that moved past my cynical cocoon and reminded me why I'm a gamer.

10. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

38 Studios first and only game was a little too large for its own good. Nevertheless, Kingdoms of Amalur offered an unforgettable RPG experience with a world that felt real and inhabited. Amalur felt like a cross between a traditional and action RPG, filled with weapons and combos that aren't in typical games of the genre. It also had a fresh take on the traditional fighter, mage, and rouge classes, each with their own skill trees as well as the added wrinkle of the unlockable destinies that provide various buffs. It had the overtures of an RPG while also bringing something fresh to the table. Also, the art style was really cool.

9. Deus Ex: Human Revolution

We haven't see a lot of cyberpunk settings lately, save for Deus Ex. The orange-tinted world is suave with hints of rococo design elements organically melded with sci-fi tech. The true appeal of the FPS RPG hybrid lies in running around the streets of Detroit and Hangsha, searching out quests, talking to NPCs, and hacking every computer in sight. Like many games of the gen, Deus Ex gave players several options to approach situations. These options often correlate to which skills the player chose to invest in, as opposed to having no place outside of combat. The systems work together beautifully, resulting in gameplay that doesn't have any fat.

8. Dragon Age: Origins

Dragon Age was lauded as Baldur's Gate's spiritual successor, but took a departure from the classic game in terms of scale and themes. It offered a world that totally immersed players in terms of lore, characters, and presented choices. It was possible to replay the game and have a different experience each time, depending on player choice and character builds. Dragon Age played much like the games that inspired it: players could flip between party members on the fly and pause the game while they queued up actions. However, it was also possible to stick to one character and let the AI handle your party members, if that was more your thing. Dragon Age brought attention back to traditional fantasy RPGs and the importance of world-building in large-scale games.

7. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Black Flag took the only good thing from Assassins Creed III and made an entire game based around it. The idea to take a sandbox game and twist it on its head by making the sandbox an ocean was a gamble that paid off. Traversing the tantalizing Caribbean armed with your ship, your wits, and a shanty-singing crew was totally unlike any other Assassin's Creed to date. The on-foot segments were stronger as well; there were more opportunities for parkour, stealth, and open combat was a brutal joy with twin sabers. While I traditionally tend to go the stealth route, combat was so satisfying I didn't mind engaging in it this time around. Weather you wanted to explore, hunt, search for collectables, take on assassin contracts, or raid every passing vessel, Black Flag had something for every occasion.

6. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Uncharted 2 took the basic principles of its predecessor and dialed them up to 11. The gunplay was more satisfying and the introduction of the stealth mechanic gave players more options when approaching situations. The game is filled with massive set pieces reminiscent of a blockbuster film, which provide some unforgettable moments. I still remember trying to escape a building in Nepal, the train sequence, and hurtling through Shambala on a collapsing bridge. Though it has its share of issues, Uncharted 2 is still gorgeous and one hell of a ride.

5. Super Mario Galaxy

Nintendo has always pushed the game design envelope and Super Mario Galaxy reminded us how innovative they truly are. The little planetoids and gravity shifts were unlike any mechanics seen before in a 3D Mario game.  In typical Mario fashion, each new mechanic was introduced and then the player spent the rest of the level mastering the mechanic. When a design element popped up again in a later level, no explanation was needed. I often ended up playing longer than I intended simply because I wanted to see what t he next level had in store. Super Mario Galaxy flows in terms of design and the result is flawless.

4. Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon

While not a widely known game by any stretch of the imagination, Chocobo's Dungeon is a joyous game with streamlined game play. It offers continuous replay value thanks to the randomly generated levels and the urge to find as much treasure as possible is overwhelming. Combat is so balanced that a player has only themselves to blame should they fail. The outward simplicity belies a depth of complexity that most wouldn't expect. Positioning and using the right item or spell at the right time is key to conquering the myriad dungeons. I wanted to clear every single floor I came across to get loot and new weapons and armor to upgrade. I was constantly on the prowl for enemies in the hopes they would drop job points so I could level up the job class I had chosen for the dungeon. The interwoven systems are all very simple and easy to master but that doesn't make the game any less fun or rewarding.

3. Journey

It wasn't so much of a game as much as an experience. Journey is a simple game, with actions limited to walking, jumping, and chirping. The end result is an elegant game unlike anything the industry has seen. Borrowing the multiplayer principle behind the Souls games, Journey added a new spin by having the players work together, or simply pass through on their own journey. It elicited emotions besides the thrill and fun we usually experience with gaming; loneliness wandering the endless desert alone, worry if your partner was hurt, joy upon reaching journey's end. The art, music, and simple game play work together to create something haunting; something memorable that will stay with you longer than any other game you've played.

2. Tomb Raider

2013 was a good year for Tomb Raider. The reboot brought a beloved franchise back to life while updating it for a modern audience. I'll admit I wasn't too sure about the new direction, but after an hour I was hooked. Even though the new Tomb Raider placed more emphasis on combat, the result was an organic cover system coupled with satisfying gunplay. A couple of the weapons transitioned between roles. The bow alone provided options for combat, traversal, and puzzle solving; the climbing axe made movement more than just running, jumping, and climbing over obstacles. Each environment was like a giant puzzle, much like the classic games. Tombs offered nice breaks between battles and exploration, though they left many players wanting more, including myself. Tomb Raider is proof that a franchise can be resurrected and still retain the magic that infused the originals.

1. Red Dead Redemption

John Marston's story swept the industry by storm. With memorable characters and a story that embraced a moral gray area coupled with an open, ever-changing world, Red Dead Redemption quickly became a favorite among gamers. A few teasingly called it Grand Theft Horse, but it was more than a GTA clone. It embraced every aspect of the western from poker to gunfights. While the story was well done, the game's true appeal lied in the over world, stranger quests, and optional content. Like most sandbox games, fast travel was available. However, I rarely, if ever, used it. New Austin was lovingly crafted and even the simple act of riding a horse under a deepening sunset was enjoyable. Red Dead Redemption was something completely different and, in typical Rockstar fashion, fired on all cylinders.

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