Now that the big three game companies have all announced their new consoles, I thought I would take a look back at my favorites from the Wii/PS3/Xbox 360 era. I realize that what is soon to be dubbed ‘last generation’ isn’t actually over yet and there is a chance that some more truly impressive games might be released between now and the time that the Wii U/PS4/Xbox One take over completely. But as of right now, I feel that my list of favorite/most important games from this past generation will see little-to-no alteration, even with new games still on the horizon. The criteria for this list is as follows: all of the games listed below are among my favorites of this past generation, and have been placed in order of which I think were actually handled best, from gameplay, to storytelling, to graphical/artistic presentation, and overall production quality. A few series had sequels that were competing for a spot on this list, and because of how close it came between some of them, I’ve opted to include both as a single spot on the list. Keep in mind that this list is drawing from a large pool - everything from the Wii, DS, PS3, PSP, and Xbox 360. Also, re-releases of a game are not eligible – no Virtual Console or HD Collections, I'm afraid. However, full-fledged remakes are allowed. If your favorite game didn’t make the list that simply means that either I didn’t play it or it didn’t leave as significant an impact on me.
While the original Portal was certainly a landmark game for its physics engine and combination of puzzle and platforming gameplay, it lasted but a few hours. They were an enjoyable few hours, to be sure, but left less of an impression that I had played a ‘masterpiece’ and more the impression that I had played something that was a crossroad – not just for the aforementioned genres of video games, but for the medium as a whole. In the years that followed Portal’s release, there was seemingly no end to the number of developers who attempted to pay tribute to the game by including not-so-subtle references to false promises of cake and the instantly recognizable companion cube. But for so many that gave their individual nods to the game, there were few that dared try and replicate something like Portal.
Enter Portal 2, a sequel released four years after the original, which built and expanded upon everything the original created. Portal 2 once again follows protagonist Chell, but through a full-fledged story instead of a one-sided conversation with power-mad AI GLaDOS. It’s true that Chell is still silent, but Wheatley acts as both narrator and companion, while the other cores (brief though their appearances may be) and the recorded audio from Aperture founder Cave Johnson add a lot of life to the equation. The original Portal, while entertaining in its own right, did not feel to me as complete of a product as Portal 2. The addition of gels added a new dynamic to the gameplay, and a few of the puzzles were real stumpers. As for the flawlessly-executed co-op mode, that was simply icing on the cake.