The previous generation crossed eight years of gaming history, longer than any other generation to date. Regardless, only ten games could stand atop our list of the greatest titles of that period. Here are our picks.

Also you can listen to how we came to these 10 games by listening to our podcast. 


You can download part 1 here (Right click and save as)


You can download part 2 here (Right click and save as)

10. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Metal Gear Rising’s Rocky-like ascent to our best of gen list isn’t all that surprising when you remember exactly how well the game plays. Built entirely around the parry system Revengeance offers a combat engine that is unique from anything else the genre has to offer, and those boss fights? Incredibly satisfying to fight, with Senator Armstrong’s speech before his fight being one of the most hype moments in a video game this past generation. Also that Zandatsu finisher is awesome.

 

9. World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade

Most companies play it safe with expansions. Not Blizzard. Burning Crusade was ballsy. Blizzard threw a lot of beloved content from Vanilla WoW (40 man raids, faction specific classes, the tank and spank approach to endgame content, class specific tier gear in raids) out, and started from scratch. Warcraft’s story was brought into the game in a major way for the first time, and presented in an engaging way. Questing and zone structure improved significantly.The Horde and Alliance became more alike than they were different. Raid tokens replaced individual pieces of gear, ensuring more people got more gear when raiding. Dailies became a major part of the game, and Heroic dungeons were introduced. 25 man raids became the standard, and featured an enhanced focus on skill. Flights in The Burning Crusade, like Lady Vashj, Kael’Thas, and Reliquary of Souls are still some of the hardest (and best) the game has ever had. The expansion’s endgame content, from Karazhan to The Sunwell Plateau, is arguably the best to ever grace the genre. That’s probably why The Burning Crusade became the blueprint for designing MMOs, and continues to shape the genre today. Many pretenders have approached the throne since 2007, but the original is still the best.

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.

7.  Super Street Fighter 4

Between all the exciting EVO matches we’ve seen online, and how often we’ve taken advantage of Street Fighter 4’s robust online options for game nights, it would have been a travesty if we didn’t give Street Fighter 4 a spot on the list. A deeply engaging fighting engine with a variety of entertaining characters/matchups gives you the feeling that you’ll always have something new to learn in this game. Street Fighter may not be the franchise named “King of Fighters”, but it sure as hell is still wearing the crown.

6. Persona 4

Persona 4 is a fantastic game. A weirdly perfect blend of dungeon crawling and social simulating, every piece of Persona 4 feels important. Making connections with a wonderful cast of characters and then bringing those bonds into battle is like going on an epic adventure with your best friends—a trope many games attempt, but never accomplish to the same degree as Persona 4. It’s funny, dark, and extremely strange (in all the best ways, of course).

 

5. 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, we 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.

 

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.

 

3. 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. Until Mario’s next mind-blowing adventure, Galaxy 2 is the greatest 3D platformer of all time. No one else need apply.

2. Bayonetta

Bayonetta is stupidly fun. Every encounter is a dance of death, every set piece an eye-searing climax that could end a lesser game. When you master Bayonetta, you are 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 came before, a delightful surprise. 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.

Bayonetta is absolutely divine when it comes to its gameplay, and sure the character has her shortcomings. Maybe she’s a little overkill in her sexualization, but it is easy to appreciate the fact that she’s funny, entertaining, sassy, witty, and all around an actual character. The soundtrack ranges from offering you music that made every fight feel, for the lack of a better term, “epic”, to ‘Fly me to the Moon’, which fit the character perfectly. Because to play Bayonetta, is to feel like you are playing amongst the stars.  

 

1. Demon’s Souls

Gagan had a hard and fast rule about not getting too caught up on what games had the most “influence” or what games “innovated”, as he was more about what games executed what they wanted to do the best. Because being the best game of the generation should be a bottom line thing, which was that the game that delivered from start to finish should hold more weight than influence and innovation. After all even bad games can do the latter, but what if a game did all of it? What if a game did have influence that we would be seeing going into the next generation, what if a game did innovate and do something we hadn’t seen before, and what if a game did execute at the highest of level from start to finish?

That’s what Demon’s Souls represents as a game that in many ways felt like the obvious pick for our staff as Endless Backlog’s game of the generation. In 2009 gamers found a game unlike any other they 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 menacing creatures we had faced in a game, and that ultimately made fighting those demonic hordes and winning all that much more satisfying.

Demon’s Souls was a breath of fresh air that made death a relevant part of video games again, as the proposition of losing all your souls (the game’s currency for everything) was an excruciatingly bitter pill to swallow. The way the game combined the single player and multiplayer to create this world where you could leave other players messages, or summon other players to help you out against tougher enemies was a happy compromise to keep the overall game balanced. But, the true satisfaction came from being able to invade another players world, challenge them to a fight, and snatch all their souls from them. It provided a catharsis that few video games could have ever hoped to match.

This is now the go-to for how developers are trying to handle their online implementation in primarily single player experiences. We saw its effect on the likes of Journey and Watchdogs, and we’ll see Demon’s Souls impact on a game like The Division. To say nothing of how Demon’s Souls to this day still offers brilliant boss fights, still offers an experience that is different even when measured up against what From Software did with Dark Souls, and still offers an unforgettable gothic fantasy atmosphere that would be a tragedy to exclude from this writeup.

But at this point, you get the gist of it: Demon’s Souls is brilliant. It was brilliant in 2009 when it launched, it’s brilliant in January 2015 when this is being written, and even when they take the servers down, the game will still be brilliant. That’s why it won Endless Backlog’s Game of the Gen. Well done, From Software.

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