If there is anything 2020 will be remembered for, the birth of a new gaming generation is 100% going to be the only thing people look back on what was otherwise a very uneventful year. While we were all locked inside and forced to play video games for some reason (I can’t remember why), Playstation and Xbox came in with a new generation of consoles – the PS5 and the Xbox Series X/S – meaning that my PS4 is now a relic of a bygone age. So even though I will be sticking with my PS4 until I am able to find/afford a PS5, it feels like a good time to look back on the last generation of games and pick out the ten games that gave me incredible, fun and sometimes emotional experiences over the past seven years.

RULES – I will be presenting this top ten in alphabetical order, these are all equally worthy entries on this list. Games qualify if they were released after the launch of the Playstation 4 but before the launch of the Xbox Series X – they do not have to be on a console to qualify just released between those dates. And this is my personal list so feel free to give us your list on our twitter.

Final Fantasy VII Remake

I love Final Fantasy. I love Final Fantasy that I am currently going through the whole damn series on my Twitch channel. Final Fantasy VIII was the first one I ever owned but VII was the first one I ever played, and like many who played the adventures of Cloud and the Gang back in the day, the game has never left my heart. The announcement of the remake in 2015 was one hell of a hype moment at that year’s E3, though years of little information and Square-Enix seemingly refusing to even talk about it dulled my hype over the years. However, in the year leading up to it’s actual release, FF7R started to look good. Hell, it started to look GREAT. The demo came out and I loved it. The game came out and I played it as if it was my full-time job.

The early halcyon days of the pandemic – when we were all trying to make the best of it as we prepared for a few weeks indoors (note: I am writing this ten months later and I am still locked indoors) – was a weird time but the one-two punch of Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Final Fantasy VII Remake helped to make it a little better. FF7R shines because it isn’t just a remake of a classic game – it’s a complete reimagining that manages to stand side-by-side with it’s original while giving returning players something new without disregarding what made the original good. Granted, this only covers the first five hours of the original, but they have managed to stretch that into a near 40-hour experience without too much filler. A lot of attention has been given to Midgar that fans of FFVII and it’s extended media will appreciate and Midgar itself feels alive with the insane amount of NPC chatter you’ll hear as you walk on by.

The combat takes a little getting used to but once you get used to it’s combination of an action RPG with the classic ATB gauges of the original it starts to feel amazing. Boss fights are thrilling experiences, the acting is impeccable and the fact they absolutely nailed everything they needed to nail to make this game just as fresh and new for FFVII veterans than it is for newcomers is impressive. I hope they keep this quality up for future iterations but on it’s own – Final Fantasy VII Remake is probably the best Final Fantasy has been since XII, in my opinion.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

This might sound strange, but I never want to beat this game. I have to at some point – as of right now I’m three divine beasts down – but Breath of the Wild is a special game that I want to take my time with. As soon as I feel like the magic is going away just a little, I take a long break from it and then I come back and it’s all special again. This is a really dumb way to play a video game but Breath of the Wild is an experience I want to savour. It’s like a fine whiskey – I wish to experience and appreciate every drop of this magnificent game.

The beauty of BotW is in how easy it is to just lose yourself in the game. There is so much to see but the game wants you to discover them yourself. This isn’t a Ubisoft open world game where the amount of icons on a map can be a little overwhelming – it wants you to explore, it wants you to experiment, it wants you to truly look at the environment and notice that circle of rocks is missing one, what would happen if I put a rock down and complete it?

Breath of the Wild is so good that even my two big complaints – weapons break too quickly and rain ruins everything – end up being dwarfed by what is great about this game. I plan on finishing this game for good the day before the sequel comes out and honestly? I’m rather excited to see if they can improve on this masterpiece.

Marvel’s Spider-Man

Up until 2018, Spider-Man 2 on the PS2 was my favourite superhero game. It was fairly aged and janky by that point but no game that followed it managed to make me have as much fun playing as my favourite superhero. Swinging around an open-world New York is an amazing feeling and the game, which blends the events of the Sam Raimi movie with new original content to pad out the game a little, just ticked every box I wanted it to tick.

Marvel’s Spider-Man didn’t just overtake Spider-Man 2, it swung miles over it, did several somersaults and took a mid-air selfie just to prove how much better it was. Insomniac’s Marvel’s Spider-Man has an unfair advantage over it for sure, it was made using 2018 technology and probably had a much larger budget attached to it, but many Spidey games have come and gone but this was the first one since the mid-2000s that truly felt great.

You can’t beat the swinging which is always a fun experience even in the worst Spidey games, but add to it a fun combat system that is a little Arkham but faster paced, a great original story that manages to hit every facet of what makes Spider-Man – it can be funny, warm, heart-breaking and harrowing. New York is a joy to traverse and it’s not too massive. Honestly this game is a perfect open-world game – lots to do without making you travel miles per activity. Speaking of miles, I can’t wait to eventually play Miles Morales (though Blake did and you can read her thoughts here).

Ultimately, Insomniac made the Spider-Man game I have been dreaming of since 2004 and I loved every single second of it. Even the stealth scenes a lot of people hated, I was there for it. I can’t wait to see how the future of this series turns out.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

This is a bittersweet game. On one hand it is an exceptional game that feels incredible to play, a huge success in bringing the MGS formula to an open world setting. It allows you to experiment with many weapons, gadgets and tactics to shoot, sneak or kidnap guards so they become an employee of your mercenary business. It is a stunning looking game and age hasn’t slowed it down one bit, feeling just as good in 2020 than it did in 2015.

Yet, for a game that can easily drain away over a hundred hours and still not show you everything it has to offer – it just does not feel like a complete experience. The war between Konami and Kojima is well known, the infamous Act 3 was confined to incomplete cutscenes and storyboards in the special editions of the game and the fact that as fun as it is sneaking around the two maps, neither of them have many interesting locations or landmarks outside of what you visit in the actual game itself.

However, for all my gripes with the game – and this is my favourite series of all time so naturally I have lots of complaints – I loved my time with this game. As a game it truly is fantastic. As the end of the Metal Gear series (as of right now), it is a disappointing finale. By just being Metal Gear Solid V it is one of my top 10 games of the generation

Nier: Automata

This game. This freakin’ game. I never played the first Nier but when Automata came out I could hardly ignore the response it got. I knew going in that it would be a game I like. I never knew it would be one of my favourite games of the last decade. With Platinum Games coming in to help with the combat and Yoko Taro’s signature writing style, the blend of a well polished action RPG with a story that delves into themes of death, loss and what makes someone a human resulted in a game that delighted me as much as it made me sad. It’s absurd at times, beautiful at others and the whole experience is something I would urge anyone to try out, even if you have never played Nier.

I played this during probably one of my lowest points of the last decade. Nier: Automata was either the best game to play during this state or the worst. It got to my emotions in unexpected ways, leaving me incredibly sad at various times of the story. Yet, I found a lot of delight in letting the game take me for a ride, not knowing what roads Nier: Automata was going to take me. The soundtrack is incredible – the theme that plays in the theme park is one that plays in my mind all the time – but I really don’t want to say too much more. Play this one if you get the chance. It will be worth it.

Stardew Valley

I never thought that a farming game would end up being one of my favourite games of all time, but in 2021 I can say that this ended up being one of the most special games of the generation. Unfortunately, Farmville 2 has been shut down so the next best thing is Stardew Valley. Jokes aside, Stardew Valley is a completely lovable game that takes the Harvest Moon formula and perfects it. The charm of the game is that it is as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. Just want to do a little farming, talk to the people of the town and maybe keep a chicken or two? That’s cool! You want to create a complicated and totally automated farm system designed to make you the richest farm person in the world? That’s cool! Want to forgo all that and just fish at the beach? That’s cool!

Stardew Valley’s success might have been surprising but it’s longevity since is not. Every ounce of love that ConcernedApe put into the game and the fact that five years later he’s still putting out major updates that breathes new life into the game is impressive. For me, personally, it’s a game that I play when I just want to play something nice. Sure, there is combat in this game in the mines, but for the most part even that feels relaxing. The whole game just puts me in this calm state of mind, almost trance-like, and before I know it I’ve spent eight hours of my day working on my farm life, giving gifts to my beloved and making infinite mayonnaise because anyone who knows me knows that I need infinite mayonnaise in my life.

I’ve played this extensively on both PC and console (Switch, specifically) and I plan on getting the platinum trophy on the PS4 version (which I also own) once 1.5 is released on the consoles. It is a game that will always be near and dear to my heart. If you haven’t played it and you want something lovely to play, Stardew Valley is the first game I recommend.

Super Mario Odyssey

The Nintendo Switch did more in its first year than the Wii U seemed to do in its entire lifetime. Breath of the Wild was the killer app that the console’s launch needed, but Super Mario Odyssey ensured that the Nintendo Switch was a true force to be reckoned with. Odyssey feels like the natural progression from Super Mario 64 through Sunshine and Galaxy – just give players giant hubs with dozens of tasks, puzzles and obstacles to complete in exchange of Power Moons. The result is probably the best Mario game ever made if you were to ask me.

Odyssey just feels satisfying to play and controlling Mario has never felt better. The levels are massive and exploring them, looking for any sign that a power moon can be earned, rarely feels old. The ability to possess other enemies and creatures and use their unique abilities is an incredible twist to the Mario power-ups and it’s always a treat to see what will come up next.

One of my favourite aspects of Odyssey is the ability to dress up Mario in different suits, some of which reference Mario’s many, many other appearances in games, cover and promotional arts, with some real obscure gems that is worth researching. Or, of course, you can pick the correct choice and put Mario in his boxer shorts. Finally, Nintendo giving us the sexy Mario we’ve been craving all of our lives.

This, along with New Donk City endless references to Mario’s far, far past back before he even had a name – means Odyssey feels like a celebration of Super Mario whilst also taking Mario’s formula to a brand new generation with a grace that we’ve come to expect from a flagship Mario game but Odyssey stands on it’s own merits as one of the finest platformers of the last generation – if not THE best.

Uncharted 4

Naughty Dog hit the goldmine with Uncharted – a more modern take on the Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider formula of a roguish treasure hunter searching for priceless artefacts (and more information about his family history in the process), shooting hundreds and hundreds of bad guys and in the end realising that the real treasures were the friends we made along the way, and also all the treasures.

Throughout Uncharted 1-3 we spent our time with Nathan Drake, a likeable and charming protagonist alongside a charismatic cast of characters including his long-time friend and mentor Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan and love interest Elena. We had three games of caring about these characters and their relationships and all that time was rewarded in Uncharted 4. Now married to Elena and retired from the treasure hunting game, Nathan Drake tries to live a normal life but struggles to keep his past firmly in the past. That’s when his past comes to find him in the form of Sam Drake, his long-lost brother.

Gameplay wise, Uncharted 4 is the best the series has ever been. It will feel familiar to anyone who played the first three games but with a few tweaks and additions to make it better. However the real draw for me is the characters, their interactions and their trials. The story is at times funny, heart warming, thrilling and emotional – the way they end this game is one of my favourite endings in a video game for a long time and it’s all built on the strength of a fantastic cast of characters. Uncharted 4 might not be on this list if I didn’t care so much for Nathan Drake and the gang. While I’d be sad if this is it for the series, I can’t think of a better way to wrap it up and move on to other things.

Yakuza 0

One of the highlights over the past five years has been the rise of the Yakuza series in the West. A cult-classic for many years throughout the franchises days on the PS2 and the PS3, the mad lads at Ryu Ga Gotoku made the perfect decision to make a prequel to the whole series with Yakuza 0. This made it a perfect entry point for newcomers but the magic of Yakuza 0 is that it just OOZES charm. From the duel protagonists in series mainstays Kiryu and Majima, the 80s aesthetics and the constantly shifting tone that has become a Yakuza trademark – the game is 1/3 gritty Yakuza drama, 1/3 over the top martial arts action and 1/3 zany comedy.

The wonderful thing about Yakuza 0 (and the series as a whole) is how easy it is to just lose yourself in the game. The two maps the game takes place in are small enough that you can easily traverse the entire game on foot but each map is jam packed with activities – ranging from batting cages, darts clubs to SEGA branded arcades where you can play actual SEGA arcade classics. If the story gets a little heavy you can take a wee breather, sing some karaoke, drink some actual real-life alcoholic brands, boogie woogie in the club and then get back to the fairly heavy plot.

What always delights me about the Yakuza games I’ve played so far is how wholesome the main characters are. Kiryu in particular has become one of my favourite video game characters of all time – he is stoic and serious to a fault but he cannot turn a blind eye to someone in need and he always ends up learning a lesson, or teaching someone else something valuable and the game will constantly surprise you in how it can create nice wholesome stories out of less than wholesome beginnings (shoutout to the substory where you help a dominatrix learn to be mean as an example).

Yakuza as a series is just inherently likeable and as long as you’re happy with a beat ’em up style combat system I would recommend this game as the starting point for anyone looking to get into the series. It will charm your socks off. So please, wear an extra pair of socks before you start playing. I promise, give this game a chance and it will leave an impression on you for sure.

And with that, those are MY games of the generation. Do you have a different list? Let me know, there might be a game or two that I never got around to checking out so I would genuinely love to hear your opinions and I will see you in 6-7 years time for the top ten games of THIS generation.

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