The so called seventh generation of games consoles finally came to an end this year after an eight year inning with the release of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (although Nintendo jumped the gun in 2012 with the Wii U). Those years saw many games and many changes, but so much more than that, they birthed so many memories. Since it’s the end of the year and we’re feeling reflective, we asked the Ready Up staff to each choose a stand out game of the generation and explain why it holds a special place in their hearts. We’ll be publishing the selection over the next few days, divided into loose themes. First up is the whimsical.
Beyond the violence and obsession that the mainstream media assigns it, videogames are capable of inspiring a broad range of emotions in the player. But one of the purest of those has to be the childlike glee that games often capture. Most of us started gaming as kids and, although the medium has matured, it doesn’t take much to send us nostalgically back to the carefree days of our childhoods. Videogames are still young and each new quirky innovation often holds a sense of wonder. Here are a few games that inspire whimsical delight, from GLaDOS’s sociopathic charm to Mario’s inimitable joy of play.
For me Portal is the very definition of the seventh generation of gaming. Several elements of what made Portal great could not really have existed in previous generations. It would be unlikely to have as much impact now, in the eighth generation, although that might be because of the influence Portal has had on games ever since. In other words the world of video games would not be the same without it.
The cleverness of the challenges balanced perfectly with the idea that eventually you would work out even the most fiendish of puzzles, if you just kept the mantra in your head – speedy thing goes in, speedy thing comes out.
Your hilarious and soulless narrator, guide and enemy, GLaDOS, slowly unfolds the plot, taunting you all the while. The voice is a mere remnant of the past, not truly interacting with you. Your only friend is a cube with an icon of a heart on it. There’s no cartoon buddy to accompany you as you make your way through featureless rooms. The entrenched devices and milieu of the previous generation are shorn away. The music, guns and chatter of the before times seemed so unnecessary now.
Portal was in a shorthand that everyone in the seventh generation understood because everyone is a gamer. Everyone. Portal acknowledged that the person holding the controller is not just a player but a gamer and now all games do.
Saints Row the Third
Saints Row the Third, to me, is a perfect sandbox. There is so much to keep you entertained as you go along with the traditional elements of exploration and combat, and of course it was a huge departure from GTA IV. Whereas one had offered grittiness, occasionally funny characters and an infuriating circle of friends; Saints Row offered the polar opposite, and the result was a fantastic experience. It was a hilarious ride through one of the most ridiculous, yet somehow badass, gangster stories ever made!
It was also the first game I played that provided a truly organic environment for a player created character to exist in; one where they had a presence beyond the archetypal silent protagonist. Whilst this may have sacrificed elements of choice that are featured in games like Fallout, the protagonist is well rounded and likeable despite his personal flaws. The character design was almost a token add-on to increase my joy of playing as him. That was, of course, until I realised just how much you can do with character customisation in this game.
Within an hour of starting my game, I knew I wouldn’t be going back to GTA IV or Red Faction Guerrilla Warfare any time soon. Within a few weeks, I had copies of the previous two Saints Row titles.
This is an easy choice for me. Saints Row the Third is my favourite game of the last generation, and Saints Row as a whole is my favourite series.
Very few games brought me and my friends closer together than the original Rock Band. Music games were nothing new, we already visited each other’s flats and took it in turns trying to perfect the hardest songs on the couple of Guitar Hero games available at the time. When Rock Band was announced, I think we all sat back and thought, “Woah, we can actually play together”.
Pretty much a simple idea and nothing complicated, but the effect it had on us was that we would scour the internet almost daily for any more news or videos. Then, when release day came, a friend and I went halves (how many games can you say that about?) on getting the band in a box version so we got all the instruments. We got it to my flat and just started playing and playing. It became a weekly or more frequent activity for all of us.
We would swap instruments song after song, the drums were the favourite, singing was always embarrassing, but I secretly really enjoyed it even though I made cats cry with my awful wavering tone. I even resorted to moving my gaming profile onto a memory stick, just so we could use all our DLC when playing.
We kept playing, never really stopping. The cheap beer and cider kept flowing too. Eventually, one sad day, the drums broke, followed by the guitar… Who knows where the microphone is? I can safely say there is no game of this generation that has brought my friends and I closer together, while certainly not the most groundbreaking of games, it really does hold a special place in my gaming back catalogue.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
My choice of Skyward Sword for game of the generation is more to do with the series than this specific game. Besides being one of my favourite games I played on my Wii, what I loved about Skyward Sword was that it was yet another game from a franchise that never disappoints.
I’ve been playing through the Zelda series since I was a little girl, spending hours going through dungeons and figuring out puzzles. whenever I play through any game in the series, I always have that positive connection to my childhood. I can pick up any Zelda game and know that what I will eventually be playing, I am going to love.
Skyward Sword was a beautiful, and definitely, highly anticipated game for me and I couldn’t wait to play it. What I also think is just magical about Skyward Sword, as with every Zelda game I’ve played, is how engrossed I am when I play it. I believe that I am Link and I need to kick ass with my sword and be the awesome hero. I guess on the flip side it can be argued that the story is the same. Hey, I hold my hands up and accept that it is, most of the time. Good ol’ Link saving Zelda by beating Ganondorf, or whoever, but it never gets old. The franchise has grown and matured into something that recognises what its audience wants and gives it to them every time. And what gamer doesn’t appreciate that?
Super Mario Galaxy
It was the most anticipated Mario game since Super Mario 64 in 1996. While the GameCube’s Super Mario Sunshine had some neat ideas and was ultimately a solid platformer, the masses hungered for a true sequel to their beloved 64. Instead, Nintendo took a risk and pushed the franchise in a whole new direction (literally): into space.
Gone are the giant land-masses of 64, but their lessons are not forgotten; Galaxy joyfully asks the player to engage with both micro and macro sized playgrounds of increasingly difficult objectives and goals. Its ingenious twist – rotating players around spherical, rotund structures, complete with their own planetary gravity – allowed Galaxy’s designers to break and re-write the rules of 3D platforming with each and every challenge.
The game looks phenomenal; despite running in standard definition, it’s bursting with colour and energy, and runs at a silky smooth 60 FPS to boot. That said, the visuals might be upstaged by the audio. Featuring one of very best soundtracks in all of gaming, master composers Koji Kondo and Mahito Yokota offer us some incredible new tunes (“Wind Garden“), the most epic Bowser theme ever (“Battle for the Grand Star“), and the re-imagining of a classic (“Ship Plant“).
All of this is held together by an absolutely barmy story with an ending that, with just a little too much analysis, becomes pure Gainax fuel. While some might argue that Super Mario Galaxy 2’s streamlining of the hub world and its re-introduction of Yoshi make it the better game, Galaxy was fresher and more revelatory for its time. A master-class in single-player platformer design, Super Mario Galaxy could single-handedly justify Nintendo’s existence in gaming, and then some.
Plus: Bee Mario.