I started Gen 7 off through the looking glass. I was not able to play Gen 7 games until I finally built a gaming PC sometime during 2007. Shortly after, I purchased an Xbox 360, and finally, a PlayStation 3 when the first hardware revision and price drop hit. Generation 7 started when I was a freshman in college, and despite the distractions of a new social scene and classes, I diligently followed the latest developments in gaming and jumped on board as soon as possible. What followed was a wild ride of extreme highs, major disappointments, and unexpected surprises. Now that the dust has settled and the 7th gen is officially a part of history, here are my 10 favorite games of the generation. Picking 10 wasn’t easy, as there were dozens of fantastic games, but Gagan made me do it.

10. Forza Motorsport 4

There were many great racing games in Gen 7; too many to list. While I enjoyed many, none of them sucked my time away like Forza 4. Forza 4 represents the best of Turn 10. It not only features a massive amount of meticulously detailed cars and tracks while providing a very immersive and intense racing simulator, but it also combines the best aspects of the multiplayer community seamlessly with the single player. The integration of the BBC’s Top Gear and the voice-overs provided by Jeremy Clarkson in the Autovista (car porn) mode was the cherry-on-top and made this one of my favorite games of the generation.

9. Civilization V

The Civilization series has a long and highly praised history of fantastic titles that I can (much to my embarrassment) say I’ve mostly missed throughout my gaming career. Civilization V was able to rope me in like no other with it’s brilliant integration of a hex grid. This ushered in a whole new set of unique strategies and situations where the combination of unit types and their position on the battlefield was paramount to success. Civilization has such a strong sense of progression that I was able to see the consequences of my actions resonate throughout the length of the game. It's the kind of game that had me missing out on a lot of sleep. "Just one more turn," I'd tell myself, "and then I'll go to bed." Yeah, right.

8. Company of Heroes

It’s basically the anti-Starcraft, and that’s why I adore it so much. Company of Heroes takes the emphasis off of base building and resource gathering and puts it on moving units, capturing territory, and delivering decisive blows to your enemies. Each firefight has its own personality and the dynamics of the battlefield change as buildings and cover are blown away in the fury of combat. The emphasis here is on tactics rather than overall strategy. Victory can be achieved (or quickly snatched away) by the clever positioning of a machine gun or a lucky mortar strike, all of which adds to the chaos of the battlefield. Few real-time strategy games manage to so successfully break away from the derivative gameplay conventions made popular by Command and Conquer and Starcraft. Company of Heroes is loud, bold, and intense, which is everything you want in a World War II game, and has unique qualities that still stand out in the genre today.

7. GTA V

What can I say? I’m a sucker for perfection, and Grand Theft Auto V is one of the closest things we've gotten to a perfect game. Such quality is, almost unfairly, expected of Rockstar, yet they continue to deliver. GTA V’s greatness does not come from the breadth of the gameplay features but rather how seamlessly and nearly perfectly the game ties them all together. It may be cliche to say at this point, but the state of San Andreas and the city of Los Santos feel alive. Mechanically sound, wonderfully silly, and mindblowingly vast, it’s a wonder that the wizards at Rockstar even got such a game working on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

6. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

I like the World War II setting and I was one of the weird people that was not sick of hitting the beaches of Normandy time and time again. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare showed me the folly of my ways. While Battlefield 2 may have been the first foray into modern military shooters, Call of Duty 4 was the catalyst that ignited the explosion of the genre. While the series may garner mixed opinions today, in 2007 CoD 4 was universally praised, and for damn good reason. The single player campaign pulled no punches and assaulted the norms with some dark themes and incredible action sequences that were all wrapped around some of the most satisfying shooting we had seen in an FPS at the time. The multiplayer thrived on the excellent mechanics and built upon them with fantastic map design and a large variety of game modes to play, and rewarded players for playing the way they wanted rather than shoehorning them into the “right” way to play. You can still find full Call of Duty 4 servers to this day, which is a testament to this game’s design.

5. Fallout New Vegas

Open world games have to strike a delicate balance between giving the player the freedom to explore and play in any way that they would like while driving a narrative and giving character to the world and its inhabitants. The genius of New Vegas isn’t just that it accomplishes this, but rather how it achieves it without breaking from the familiar open world formula. Everything seems to just fall in place with New Vegas. Your choices deliver consequences throughout your playthrough, content and mechanics are delivered naturally without feeling forced, you never feel overwhelmed despite an overwhelming amount of content being thrown at you, and the side missions add to the whole of the game rather than being a distraction from the main quest. It’s not the prettiest game ever released, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a more fulfilling experience.

4. F.E.A.R.

It’s impossible to be bored with F.E.A.R. Engaging in a firefight with the persistent and dangerously clever enemies results in an epic ballet of blinding muzzle flashes, intense explosions, and bloody carcasses that paint the environments with destruction and gore. This frenzy is highlighted by a Matrix-like slow motion that allows you to simultaneously gain the upper hand on your opponents and feast your eyes on the visual spectacle. If you’re not at the edge of your seat from the relentless pace and carnage, you’ll be there from the anticipation of the next heart-stopping fright or sudden firefight. The dimly lit and downright creepy atmosphere play host to a nightmarish antagonist that surprises and scares without ever feeling like an overused gimmick. These sequences break up the brilliant, high speed firefights and keep you immersed in this paranormal adventure.

3. ArmA 2: Combined Operations

It is possible to be bored with ArmA 2: Combined Operations. ArmA is a sim in its purest form and a sandbox built to let the players play out whatever scenarios they want. These scenarios are not always the Hollywood portrayal of war, and test your patience as well as your wit and trigger finger. The robust scenario editor is the crucial piece of the puzzle that allows players to fully realize the potential of the sandbox. Bohemia Interactive's seemingly backwards philosophy of hardcore simulation elements trouncing fun gameplay, combined with the endless imagination of the community, has resulted in the creation of some of the most deep and rewarding first-person shooter gameplay I’ve ever played. Every type of combat scenario possible has been reflected in the missions created by the community, and ArmA’s strict emphasis on presenting the most realistic combat simulation means players must overcome these scenarios in ways they never imagined they could. The result is that even the most simple task becoming a rewarding adventure all on its own. ArmA challenges you in ways you’ve never been challenged before, forces you to work as a team in a way you can’t experience in other games, and ultimately experience the first-person shooter in a refreshingly original and extremely satisfying way.

2. Minecraft

Minecraft is a deceptively complex experience. The game is the literal definition of an open world sandbox which gives you complete freedom to manipulate the world and build whatever you can dream of. The rules and mechanics of the world are simple and the objective is vague and up for interpretation. Minecraft fully utilizes its procedurally generated world in a way I couldn’t have imagined before and opens the door to some of the most addictive gameplay I’ve ever played. For me, Minecraft’s allure comes from the sense of progression you get as you mine and craft your way to constructing your creations. The simple mechanics can be combined in an elegant fashion that gives a certain finesse to solving problems and achieving your goals. Building an aesthetically pleasing castle takes careful planning, industrial engineering, and lots of free time, but the end results are something to be proud of. Minecraft’s simple and vague approach allows it to appeal to people of all ages and brings out the creative side in the people who play it.

1. Red Dead Redemption

There are good people in the untamed west, but John Marston isn’t one of them. As civilization encroaches upon the last refuge of lawless men, there is nowhere for Marston to find an escape from his past. Red Dead Redemption portrays many tropes of Westerns in a unique and powerful way with the twist of classic Rockstar shenanigans. The result is my favorite game of the last generation and one of the best games that I’ve ever played. Everything in Red Dead Redemption is the result of a labor of love as each environment is masterfully crafted to beautifully represent the American Southwest in the final days of the “Wild West.” Game mechanics are refined to Rockstar’s typical level of quality and provide the foundation for some of the most intense and satisfying gameplay of the 7th gen. Even the horses, which are the primary means of transportation, are a joy to ride with their life-like animations and behavior. Simply traveling the vast distances between small pockets of civilization is an enjoyable experience that is filled with memorable discoveries and dangerous encounters. Red Dead Redemption is more than the sum of its parts and more than earned the number one spot on my list.

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