Our three-part farewell to the seventh generation of video game consoles continues! Last time, CRN's writers picked out their favorite system exclusives for the Xbox 360, Wii, and PlayStation 3, but now they're freed from the confines of each particular system! More than just about any generation before it, multiplatform games have taken off as a dominant force in the industry. For the most part, it didn't matter what system you had, or if you were gaming on PC--it was more likely to find a game everybody could try out on their preferred hardware.
Going genre-by-genre, Crunchyroll News' gamers looked at which games they loved the most in their respective categories, starting with...
FAVORITE ACTION GAME
Joseph Luster - Bayonetta
This category is tough, because action games--particularly of the third-person slash- and/or beat-em-up variety--are my go-to genre. Platinum Games' Bayonetta is the one I still think about the most, though. It delivered a killer challenge that bloomed into something even tougher depending on how far you were willing to go with it, and the final showdown is up there--appropriately--with the likes of outspoken director Hideki Kamiya's other creations, particularly the original Devil May Cry. I'll never forget the shooter stage that provided the best shoutout to Space Harrier of all time.
Nate Ming - Bayonetta
I've always preferred action games that play like fighting games, that demand the same amount of practice and the same mindset, and Platinum has a stranglehold on that side of the market. Bayonetta is ruthless but fair, expecting you to be on your toes at all times, but giving you every tool you need to fight back just as hard. I absolutely cannot wait for the sequel.
Nate Ming - Catherine
Taking on silver-haired bishies who want to be gods and Lovecraftian forces of nature is scary and all, but nothing compares to the tension you feel while keeping a secret from your significant other. Deftly blending some intense puzzle gameplay with a rich, dialogue-driven story, Catherine showed that big-name JRPGs can still surprise us.
Amanda Rush - Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
Ni No Kuni hearkens back to the good old JRPG days of Final Fantasy VII while mixing in liberal amounts of Studio Ghibli charm. The none-too-subtle references to the studio’s greatest films amused me, while the gameplay, sidequests and heroes kept me playing. The true JRPG genre is not as strong as it use to be; Ni No Kuni takes pains to bring us a fun game flavored with nostalgia that holds to the old standards.
Nate Ming - Mass Effect 2
The first and third games are pretty awesome in their own right, but Mass Effect 2 is that perfect storm of great writing, loveable characters, and expansive world-building in a huge galaxy filled with stuff to do, people to talk to, and bad guys to defenestrate while firing off one-liners. This is one of the few games where I actually bought every piece of DLC--with the amount of play this game was getting, it was worth it.
Amanda Rush - The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim took over my life. I lost entire days to the game, and more than once described it as my video game soul mate. From the first moment I emerged from the opening quest’s dungeon onto the snowy landscape, I knew I was done for. Whether spending hours adding slain monsters to the trophy hall or simply pulling back to get a good look at the night sky from atop Dragonsreach, I gleefully spent countless hours on the heaps of available gameplay. There was also a considerable amount of fun watching the gaming community fall down the rabbit hole with me.
Joseph Luster - Vanquish
Short but sweet, and it left a lasting impression. Vanquish is so ridiculously fast and over-the-top, and if you haven't had a chance to play it, you should absolutely pick it up and toss it in the pot for a killer weekend.
Nate Ming - Spec Ops: The Line
I've previously described Spec Ops: The Line as "a video game about killing, for people who don't like killing in video games." I may have enjoyed the monster-slaughtering mayhem of Gears of War, and I look at Call of Duty as a glorified HD airsoft simulator, but The Line has completely taken over what I expect from shooters. This is the first time that I've ever added a straight-up, no-frills shooter to my "yearly replay" list, mainly for its unforgettable story and nightmarish atmosphere.
Amanda Rush - Borderlands
Shooting and looting while interacting with a crazy, wild and humorous cast of characters makes Borderlands pure, unfiltered fun. Everything about this game has a flair all of its own; the NPCs populating it are foul-mouthed, crude and likable (even their version of Navi, Claptrap, is endearing), the action is exhilarating, and the fights get weirder and more over-the-top with each boss. Borderlands is unrelenting fun, top to bottom.
FAVORITE OPEN-WORLD GAME
Nate Ming - Sleeping Dogs
This seems to be a regular thing, now: I voraciously play GTA games when they come out and love them, but it's the stuff that's just slightly different that leaves a more lasting impression. Last generation, it was Bully, and this time it's Sleeping Dogs, a love letter to Hong Kong heroic bloodshed actioners--to me, the very best action movies ever made.
Amanda Rush - The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
There’s just so much to do in Skyrim. You can wander wide, play the side quests, play the main quests, stockpile cabbages in all of your homes or skip about slaughtering. The worst and best thing about Skyrim is that there’s so much to do, even once the game is done, that you can keep playing for ages. The game uses a light hand with the progression of the story, so if you want to run around hitting random villagers with the Wabbajack, so be it. It’s your game.
Joseph Luster - Super Meat Boy
As far as I'm concerned, Super Meat Boy is one of the most refined and smartly-designed platformers outside of Nintendo's camp. At first, some of the tougher levels seem unfairly difficult, but it's all about practice and repeat attempts, and SMB makes giving it another go a fast and painless affair. Well, maybe it's not entirely painless, but there aren't many other games out there that give you such a satisfying "just one more try" feeling.
Nate Ming - Mega Man 9
Growing up with the NES Mega Man games, it felt like a breath of fresh air when Keiji Inafune and his team got back together to make a new, download-only adventure for the Blue Bomber. Stripping Mega Man back down to his basics--jumping, shooting, no charge, no slide, and an arsenal of actually-useful weapons--made for one of the most cruelly-designed and brutally-challenging platformers in recent memory.
Amanda Rush - New Super Mario Bros. Wii
My childhood was filled with the Mario games of the NES and SNES; New Super Mario Bros. is those games brilliantly reborn for the Wii generation. Whether tackling the game alone or experiencing the more bonkers four player mode, this is the classic platformer with all of the trimmings of this gen’s consoles.
FAVORITE STEALTH GAME
Joseph Luster - Assassin's Creed II
I still haven't played ACIV, but right now II remains my favorite in the franchise. The first game was better than it got credit for, but this is where the multiple objectives, expanded world, and absorbing sidequests all merged together perfectly.
Nate Ming - Mark of the Ninja
It was a toss-up between this and Dishonored, but when it really comes down to it, I'm a better ninja than a steampunk superhero. Multiple setups for ninja tools, powers, and countless ways of approaching situations all come in a gorgeous budget-priced package. Mark of the Ninja gives you an insane amount of bang for your buck. But, y'know, a quiet and stealthy bang on the opposite end of the room, to attract clueless and curious guards.
Amanda Rush - Batman: Arkham Asylum
As a huge Batman fan, this series is a no-brainer for me. Sneaking around Arkham and delivering painful Bat justice never ceases to delight. As the first in this series it made the biggest impression on me, though the others (Arkham City and Arkham Origins) have been every bit as fun.
Joseph Luster - Condemned 2: Bloodshot
Other titles I considered include Dead Space and Alan Wake, but Condemned 2 is most definitely survival-horror, and also happens to be one of the best games of the last decade. The "giant bear attacking in a solitary cabin" scene is up there with the most hand-trembling moments.
Nate Ming - Left 4 Dead 2
The unexpected (and for some people, unwanted) sequel to Valve's 2008 co-op shooter can be viewed as an action game, but every time I play, my AI director is unusually sadistic and genre-savvy, and knows my love of horror movies. The Last of Us, Alan Wake, and Minecraft all stand out for brilliant and tense survival horror, but Left 4 Dead 2 always knows how to get my heart rate up in the worst ways possible, like leaving Witches where you least expect them, or the sheer terrifying joy of Stealth Tanks. I play other horror games for the story or the atmosphere--I play Left 4 Dead 2 for the scares.
Amanda Rush - The Last of Us
There’s just something about zombies that makes for good survival games. The Last of Us had more heart than the other survival games I played this gen, which made me care more about the characters and whether or not they got eaten.
FAVORITE FIGHTING GAME
Joseph Luster - SoulCalibur IV
Street Fighter IV was a close call here, but there's no fighting game my friends and I played more this generation than SoulCalibur IV. Seriously intense fighting fans might balk at this reasoning, but it was the only game of its kind that everyone in my apartment could sit around and play and have an equal shot at actually winning. There were countless hours lost to passing the controller around while we took on opponents around the world, cheering and shouting as we put the pain on a stranger who sat at some absurd over-500 level. A fantastic, highly-addictive fighter.
Nate Ming - Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition ver. 2012
I was surprised at just how many fighting games came out this past generation--Street Fighter IV opened the floodgates for another fighting game boom, and the most recent update is (at least for now) the most balanced and well-rounded version in the IV series. I've always preferred the slower, more methodical pace of Street Fighter, but the IV series also encourages aggressive, fast-paced play and keeping the rhythm going. I spent a lot of time with a lot of different games, but I always came back to SFIV in the end.
FAVORITE PUZZLE GAME
Joseph Luster - Portal
Beyond all the instantly-tired jokes and memes, the original Portal stands tall as a benchmark of solid puzzle design. It's funny (at least, it was before everyone tried their hardest to ruin it), clever, and solving its puzzles makes you feel great about yourself.
Nate Ming - Portal
A lot of people like Portal 2, and that's fine, but the original stands out more to me for one big reason: flexibility. Aside from its unforgettable writing and brilliant portal-based puzzle mechanics, Portal would just dump you in a room and let you hash out a solution, while the second game felt a little too hand-holdy in some respects. Don't get me wrong, Portal 2 is an excellent game that you really should play, but if you're going to only play one, make it the original.
FAVORITE ADVENTURE GAME
Joseph Luster - The Walking Dead, Season One
I don't even really like adventure games, but I loved TellTale's The Walking Dead, and I'm really glad I took everyone's recommendation on this one. The brutal, gutting five-chapter tale was best consumed a chapter a night, in the dark and under the covers with headphones plugged into my iPad. Thanks to some wonderfully-realized characters, TWD actually made me care about someone else more than the one I was controlling.
Nate Ming - Asura's Wrath
I think a lot of us got the description of Asura's Wrath wrong: it's not an action game, it's a story-driven visual novel in the vein of the equally awesome The Walking Dead, Season One. The only real difference is that this story moves along not by dialogue and wrecking your emotions, but by PUNCHING and SHOUTING and RAGE and MORE PUNCHING and WRECKING THE UNIVERSE. I still hold Asura's Wrath up as the gold goddamn standard of QTEs, and no game since has even tried to make them as intense or memorable.
FAVORITE SINGLE-PLAYER GAME OVERALL
Joseph Luster - Dark Souls
Frankly, I'm not even 100% sure where this one goes, because I kind of want an excuse to put it in every section. Either way, Dark Souls is one of the best games of the generation, and it's definitely my favorite action-RPG. Actually, maybe this also belongs in the open-world section I skipped. There may be optimal ways to tackle the game, but you can do a good deal of it in any order, and the world is laid out in such a way that--if you're daring enough--you can charge right into some of the most notorious areas as soon as you create your character and escape prison.
Want to know why Dark Souls is the jam? I love watching videos of people playing it. I love seeing how they tackle sessions I went through, and I love watching different boss tactics. What a magical, incredible, and deeply foreboding game.
Nate Ming - Mass Effect 2
Split between three characters, I have a total of nine complete playthroughs of Mass Effect 2. That's not saying that much, since I replay Resident Evil 4, Super Metroid, and a handful of other games every year, but when you factor in that most replays were with my "main" Nate Shepard, and this is a game that came out in 2010, well... you can see where I would start getting a little concerned. It's just that Mass Effect 2 is so damn fun to play, tightening up the gameplay of the original while maintaining that laser focus on storytelling and character development, all culminating with three great lead-ins to Mass Effect 3 with original "suicide mission" ending, Lair of the Shadow Broker, and Arrival. Personally, my favorite's Lair of the Shadow Broker, but everybody's ME is different... that's the beauty of it.
Amanda Rush - The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim is one of those games you can lose yourself in, and gamers did just that en masse. For a while, it brought the gaming community together; we may have been playing alone, but the arrow in the knee jokes were ubiquitous, the memes reached every corner of the internet and everyone I knew was playing so obsessively we nervously joked about how much of our lives it had taken over.
FAVORITE MULTIPLAYER GAME OVERALL
Joseph Luster - Splinter Cell: Double Agent
I realize I kind of stopped playing multiplayer games at a certain point this generation, but the first half was littered with countless sessions of games like Gears of War and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Either of those could have easily taken this one away, but I have a special soft spot for the multiplayer in Splinter Cell: Double Agent. The first in the series to hit the generation in question also offered up some of the most fun online action, with spies taking on mercenaries, forcing you to either expertly creep around your friends, or on the other end, pace nervously with your flashlight illuminating every suspect sound. Now I want to go back to this...
Nate Ming - Rock Band 3
I'm not a musical person. Playing an instrument is a 100% alien skill to me, along with actually singing in front of people. Now, I know we're gonna get a bunch of disgruntled guitarists complaining that a plastic strummer is nothing like the real thing, but on the same note, analog sticks and triggers are nothing like firing a gun. Getting five (or more!) friends together was always a good time--not to kill anything or fight each other, but to work together and rock the f**k out.
FAVORITE NEW FRANCHISE
Joseph Luster - Darksiders
For a mix of pretty much everything I enjoy, Darksiders delivered with a nice combination of comic-booky designs by Joe Madureira and Zelda-style gameplay mashed with other heavy-hitters. Seriously, they even somehow managed to work the Portal gun in there, and the sequel further upped the ante of the kitchen sink style of design by Vigil Games (R.I.P.). Darksiders II simply can't be the last we've seen of the horsemen.
Nate Ming - Mass Effect
It started out as a galaxy-spanning adventure with endless possibilities (and a lot of very samey prefab buildings), and then just spiraled outward from there. Mass Effect wasn't just a game, it was a world that needed exploring, people who needed saving, and characters whose quirks you took very personally. What makes it even better for me is that my story is just that--my story, and different players will have long lists of things they did differently on their playthroughs of the trilogy. It was the first time since Baldur's Gate that I saw this many people actually role-playing in a role-playing game.
Amanda Rush - Borderlands
Like Firefly, Borderlands fits into the space western genre – only it boldly goes into a much crazier place than space westerns have gone before. Borderlands makes gunslingers of us all, whether we’re taking out interdimensional space monsters or firing potshots at our Claptrap. Delightfully bizarre, this is a franchise I’d love to see live a long, happy life.
Humberto Saabedra - GRID
Codemasters have been one of my favorite developers over the past 20 years. From their beginnings in the PC market to their current status as a formidable multiplatform developer (despite their reduced size compared to their heyday), they've always managed to release solid mulitplatform games that play well and provide hours of entertainment and replay value.
In 2008, they released what I consider to be one of the most underappreciated racing games in GRID, a complete rebuild of their old racing game franchise. The hook to the game was that while you were starting a path to being a world champion driver by managing your own career, the game let you "rewind" what would normally be costly mistakes in other games while racing for wins and points.
The idea was that by allowing players to redo their mistakes, they would have an easier learning curve compared to other racing games, and make them more enjoyable compared to the increasing difficulty of Forza and Gran Turismo, which stressed proper racecraft to the point of inflexibility for most players. So well-received was GRID that it spawned a sequel released earlier this year, although that focused more on social features and constant play, with leaderboards and a dedicated online racing series. It may not have flown off the shelves like the other games, but everyone that took a chance on either GRID ended up preferring them over other racers, with the critical reception to back up its quality.
FAVORITE RETURNING FRANCHISE
Joseph Luster - Castlevania
It's fine if some people bemoan what Castlevania has become with the arrival of Mercury Steam's Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. As much as I love the Koji Igarashi-helmed 2D games, we were absolutely inundated with them at one point, and I'm fine with moving on to something else for a while. Lords of Shadow may not have the same ear-wormy tunes the franchise is known for, but it's an absurdly gorgeous, sprawling adventure that boasts a wide variety of locales and some truly over-the-top action. I skipped the 3DS follow-up because the demo was dire, but I can't wait for the proper sequel.
Nate Ming - Street Fighter
It's not for everybody, but it's a hard and fast fact that Street Fighter leads the charge for other fighting games. A genre that caters to the super-hardcore and usually isn't (openly) welcome to newcomers, the FGC got a real boost when Street Fighter IV's online play taught many local arcade badasses (myself among them) that they were insignificant little fish in a vast ocean. The community grew exponentially, with players all around the world learning and training and competing together. Now, more than ever, it's a great time to be a fan of fighting games, and it's thanks to the undisputed king.
Amanda Rush - The Elder Scrolls
Everything that the Elder Scrolls franchise does well came together beautifully with Skyrim. From world building to battle mechanics, it was the best the series had offered so far. The next gen – Elder Scrolls Online – is going to be a fun jump. Here’s hoping it can live up to the last gen’s badassery.
I think Amanda said it best a few weeks ago while we were all prepping this article: too many games, man! Well, we're two-thirds of the way through our look back at Generation Seven--what are your favorite multiplatform and genre-specific games? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to come by tomorrow, same time, and check out our third and final "Farewell" feature, remembering our favorite CHARACTERS, MOMENTS, AND MORE!