Over at the NeoGAF forums, a thread was created asking users to vote on the greatest games of the PS2/Xbox/GC/PC generation. It was one of the greatest periods of gaming with huge gaming franchises at the peak of the powers. Here then were my choices for the best games of the era.
1. Final Fantasy X – There’s many reasons why Final Fantasy X remains one of the most popular entries in the franchise. Firstly the story has a broad appeal where it combines elements of a coming of age story and romantic tale set against a backdrop of saving the world. The game was also heavily modernised with voice acting for the first time in a Final Fantasy game. Gone were the days of reading the story and along with many cutscenes, the game paved the way for storytelling in the video game medium.
At the core though was the stellar turn based battles and with the 7 character party this allowed a wide variety of experimentation. Boss Battles really tested gamers and showed how well designed the gameplay systems were. If there’s any doubt how good FFX is, you only have to look at how FFXIII disappointed gamers. FFX is an incredible game in every way and one of the greatest JRPGs of all time.
2. Silent Hill 2 – To understand how good this game really is all you have to know is that this game may never be topped in the storytelling department. This game along with games like FFX gave birth to video games with mature stories. Not only did it tell a powerful story, the game used atmosphere, sound design, graphics, animation to break ground in ways that still haven’t been as impactful as it was in Silent Hill 2.
The most important aspect though is that Silent Hill 2 is one heck of a scary game, so much so that gamers don’t want to continue playing yet find themselves compelled to so they can discover what happens next. What other game can do that? And the ending(s) are one of the greatest ever in gaming. A must play to understand what gaming is all about.
3. God of War – God of War was a stroke of genius. It was late in the PS2 cycle yet it still managed to be such an innovative entry in the action adventure genre. What it does so well is blend story and art and game world into a gloriously cohesive package. The game had so many wow moments because it was based on Greek mythology and because these were things that many had only read about which God of War brought to life in stunning glory. The gameplay mechanics were incredibly fun too largely because Kratos’ weapons were incredibly badass. The sequels don’t hold up as well largely because they repeat many of the aspects found in the first game and don’t really have anything that set them apart.
4. SSX 3 – While the first SSX was an unbelievable game and probably one of the greatest launch games of all time, I’m going to give the nod to the second sequel SSX 3. The main reason? You can ski down the entire mountain linking a bunch of runs together. It was like Outrun where you get to choose which direction and run to board down and much longer to boot. There was also stacks to do, plenty of characters to try out and loads to unlock. The best game in the series.
5. Pro Evolution Soccer 3 – This was the best entry of the series (and for the record I have played PES 1, 3, 5, 6, 2008, 2010, 2012). It improved on PES 1 clunky eight way player movement and the short passing game was incredibly rewarding letting the player exploit a variety of angels and beating the AI through passing. I spent countless hours in Master League buying the best players and winning the league and champions league. Modern football games just aren’t the same because Master League has by now frankly been done to death.
6. Halo: Combat Evolved – What sets Halo apart from other FPS was the sense of scale. I don’t proclaim to be a FPS expert, I just don’t play enough, but the world created in Halo was breath taking and hasn’t really been topped in any of the Halo sequels. It also came out at the Xbox launch and it showed how much more powerful Microsoft’s machine really was. The size of the levels were immense. Besides the richly rewarding campaign, Halo: Combat Evolved contained what might be the greatest multiplayer experience I’ve been a part of. Playing 8 player+ LANs, sharing TVs and sitting all huddled in the same room is an experience that’s no longer available yet provided some of the very best gaming memories.
7. Project Gotham Racing 2 – PGR2 was the best racing game of the generation. It had three key ingredients, incredible locations – Washington, Chicago, Barcelona, Florence, Stockholm, Yokohama, Hong Kong, Sydney, Nurburgring. Amazing car physics for a sim/arcade style game. And it was one of the first online racing games that worked without a hitch (most of the time). Another thing I loved was the local DJs at each of the location, you could also rip music and download it to the Xbox hard drive and play it during races.
8. Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore – Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore is a great casual fighting game. A game that anyone can pick up and immediately start having fun. All you really had to know was that attacks beat throws, throws beat holds and holds beat attacks. An experienced player therefore could utilise special moves to his advantage so spammers still had a difficult time actually beating someone good. DOA2:HC was silly fun too, with an amazing cast of great characters, many with powerful outrageous moves and for the first time in the series multi tiered stages to throw your opponent off.
9. Yakuza – If you’re a gamer who loves quirky Japanese stuff, then Yakuza is the game for you. It lets you roam the streets of Tokyo and just be a Japanese guy browsing department stores, eating at noodle shops, playing mini arcade games and taking on hoodlums that you don’t like. The game also has a great voice dub and the story is simple but engaging. The series keeps getting better and better but the first one defined the series.
10. Civilization IV – I actually wish I played this more as I’ve only managed to complete this game fully once, but its always on my ‘next to play’ list. The game improves on past Civ games by getting the gameplay balance right and having the right gameplay features. This is one of those games that are timeless because it still plays a great game of strategy and with so many gameplay choices it provides an unlimited amount of experimentation.
What are your favourite games of the generation? Comment below and head over to the Neogaf thread to read about other users’ favourite games.