Check out Part 1 of the list here.
Metro 2033 (Xbox 360)
While working for GameStop, one upshot was that we sometimes came across titles that might have gone unnoticed. A few examples include Demon’s Souls, The Saboteur, and Metro 2033. Erich gets full credit for checking it out initially, but he quickly brought me into the fold. Metro takes the Eastern post-apoc sensibilities of games like STALKER and streamlines the experience into something more akin to Resistance. The atmosphere is unbelievable, and the story managed a unique twist: There’s a “moral choice” system, but the game literally never offers an explanation on what choices affect the outcome, or even lets on that there are alternate endings.
Mirror’s Edge (Xbox 360)
I’m not going to defend this game against its detractors anymore; it had flaws, and certain gameplay mechanics that made is completely impossible for some gamers to enjoy. For my money, though, few games have ever brought the same rush that comes with getting all the moves on a big run exactly right or reacting on pure instinct during the chase sequences. I’m very excited for the sequel, though my fingers are crossed that the developers will keep firearms far, far away from Faith.
Portal 2 (Xbox 360)
“Oh hi, how are you holding up? …because I’m a potato.”
“*Clap, clap, clap*… oh good, my slow-clap processor made it into this thing. At least we have that.”
“Ha! I like your style; you make up your own rules just like me. Bean-counter said I couldn’t fire a man just for being in a wheelchair – did it anyway. Ramps are expensive!”
“Those of you who volunteered to be injected with praying mantis DNA, I’ve got some good news and some bad news: bad news is we’re postponing those tests indefinitely. Good news is we’ve got a much better test for you: fighting an army of mantis men. Pick up a rifle and follow the yellow line. You’ll know when the test starts.”
Red Dead Redemption (Xbox 360)
If Grand Theft Auto is Rockstar’s bread-and-butter, then Red Dead is the five-course meal they were preparing that bread as an appetizer for: It is graphically beautiful, exceptionally well-written, with nearly flawless gameplay, and set in an unbelievably detailed world nearly overflowing with features. On top of all that, there’s a free-roam multiplayer mode that to this day is more entertaining than GTA Online. Plus, Red Dead actually had co-op missions at launch!
Rock Band (Xbox 360)
When my friend Adam got his 360 two months ago, one of the first things I did was bust out my Rock Band instruments and haul them over to his place, immediately installed all of the songs from Rock Band onto the drive to play in Rock Band 2, and finally bought a half-dozen of our favorite songs from the marketplace. That game is seven years old at this point, Adam actually plays bass, we’re both South Park fans (you know which episode, don’t even pretend), and yet to this day kicking on the star-power hitting a perfect solo in “Everlong” still feels bad-ass.
Shadow Complex (Xbox 360)
Beth gets all the credit for this one; she downloaded it while I was at work one day, and had it mostly beaten by the time I got back. It’s a Metroid-style 2D explorer, so there were still countless items and upgrades to collect, and secrets to find, and multiple playthroughs to be had. Owing to some fantastic mechanics and genuine graphical prowess, Shadow Complex helped establish that the Xbox Live Arcade was something to be taken seriously.
‘Splosion Man (Xbox 360)
Apparently, my going to work enticed Beth to find all sorts of awesome things on the Live Arcade that summer, as ‘Splosion Man followed right after Shadow Complex. The single-player was challenging and fresh, but it was the seizure-inducing mayhem of co-op that really made this a stand-out title. It’s rare that a game where you and your friends fail so frequently – and often because of each other – only gets more fun as the body count stacks up. Plus, everybody loves doughnuts!
Thomas Was Alone (PC)
I doubt anyone is surprised to see my 2013 Game of the Year on this list, considering how much I raved about the title in two separate articles already. The fact remains that in a generation where annual releases became the norm, “resolution” and “frame-rate” were discussed ad nauseam, and publishers slapped “HD remake” on everything within arm’s reach, Thomas and his friends captured my heart with impeccable gameplay, an incredible soundtrack, and the best narration this side of Bastion.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PlayStation 3)
Uncharted 2 is the single best game I have ever played on my PlayStation 3, and that includes Metal Gear Solid 4. It is inarguably the single best action-adventure title I have ever encountered, and is one of my top ten games ever, period. From the breathtaking opening – dangling off a cliff, clinging to a crashed train car – to the touching ending as Nate comes to grips with his love for Elena and his fear of clowns, Among Thieves delivers the greatest Naughty Dog title to date. Yeah, it’s way better than The Last of Us. Deal with it.
The Walking Dead: Season One (Xbox 360)
My review should tell you all you need to know if you still haven’t experienced Telltale’s masterwork adventure game for yourself; luckily for everyone, it’s also now available on next-Gen consoles! Similar to Thomas Was Alone, The Walking Dead made player-driven storytelling a priority over everything else, and delivered that story through genuinely emotional voice work and a visually arresting art style. Never has there been a character I’d rather look in the eye and shake hands with than Lee, or one I’d rather give a hug to than Clementine.
Wii Sports (Wii)
Who knew that a single disc, packaged in a simple cardboard sleeve, could lead to the sale of more than One Hundred Million Wii consoles worldwide over the last decade? I realized that Nintendo has the best first-party lineup of any existing console manufacturer, but the fact of the matter remains that Zelda isn’t the reason my grandmother briefly knew how to use a Wii remote. From weekly living-room bowling leagues to some of the most intense doubles tennis matches ever experienced, Wii Sports inserted itself into the social consciousness in a way most AAA titles can only dream of.
Damn, the past eight years have been pretty fantastic for games, and I genuinely hope things only get better from here. If you’re interested in what this new generation has to offer, I highly suggest checking out each contributor’s Game of the Year 2014 picks here on the site. Of course, you could also use this as a checklist and see if there’s anything big you’ve missed; most of these titles should be available for bargain prices. You could also just play Thomas Was Alone.