As the console generation comes to a close I looked back on what my top games have been over the last 7 years. I’m specifically looking at console games that were either released first on console or at the same time as the PC, not PC games that get later ports.
5. Horizon Zero Dawn
Forever in the shadow of Breath of the Wild’s release, Horizon felt like it quietly lived up to the hype. The combat was fluid and cerebral offering the rare desire to keep playing because it felt fun to push the buttons. Too many times in modern gaming to I find myself just trying to slog through a game to get to the next part or complete it, with Horizon I kept taking side tracks just to participate in combat again and again. The story was also surprisingly deep. They managed to take most of the oddities of the world and explain them in a way that made me go “Yeah, that actually makes total sense”. The post-apocalyptic scenario is also the darkest I’ve ever seen, it makes Mass Effect’s Reapers feel hopeful and reassuring. Few experiences over the last 7 years gave me the tactile fun of dodge rolling, time slowing, and carefully choosing which parts of a giant robot to snipe off with my suite of specialized arrows.
4. Ace Combat 7
I feel almost guilty for putting this hear. I gave it my GotY in 2019 and feel like I’m the only one that did. In a year with Anno 1800 and Disco Elysium that is serious business, both of those games could have won GotY in many of the preceding years. AC7 made me feel like I was living in a world where all AAA games weren’t the same action/shooter type of games. Everything about the gameplay of AC7 was blissfully fun. The graphics were gorgeous, the planes were fantastically detailed and the controls felt responsive and exhilarating. I said in my review that it felt like what UN Squadron would feel like if it was given the modern AAA treatment. It’s not the most realistic game out there but there are enough flight sim games to satisfy those people, the unique experience AC7 offers was refreshing.
3. Ori and the Blind Forest
One of a handful of games I play every year. Ori is one of the most crisp and responsive Metroidvania games I’ve ever played, and yes I’m including Hallow Knight. The game’s perfect 10 hour length means it never outstays its welcome and makes it ideal for replaying every spring. The world is gorgeously realized with a fantastic use of colors. Each area is distinct and interesting and gives a sense of excitement to see what other areas will look like. The star of Ori though is the responsive and smooth platforming. Ori has some of the tightest platforming controls I’ve ever experienced and it makes me want to keep the controller in my hand just so I can spend more time bounding around the environment. The combat is “there” and doesn’t offer much in the way of complexity but I actually liked it that way. It made sure that combat didn’t get in the way of the excellent platforming core. Over the last 5 years I’ve probably replayed this game more than any game other than Deus Ex HR and the #1 game on this list.
I can see this game getting the #1 spot in a lot of lists at the end of this generation. This game came close to perfecting the souls-like experience. I’m always of the mindset that “waiting” is not an interesting mechanic to simulate difficulty. It was therefore very easy for me to get absorbed in the combat style that was fast paced and constantly engaging. There was always something for my fingers to be doing when it came to combat and I never felt bored. The environmental details used to convey the story of the world are some of the most imaginative in all of gaming. The lore, tone and architecture of the world have left a lasting impression on me. Bloodborne isn’t just a masterclass in gameplay, it’s a masterclass in artistic design that surpasses most other works of art across any medium.
1. Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze
Technically this came out on Nintendo’s 7.5 and 8.5 gen consoles since they staggered their console releases a bit differently. However, coming out in 2014 and being console exclusive meant that it felt right to include in this console generation. I have never played a platformer that felt as fun as Tropical Freeze. Not only were the controls tight and responsive, but the environments had an obscene level of detail. Everything I interacted with had context and felt congruent to the world around it, there wasn’t the suspension of disbelief requiring “Floating blocks” all over the place. The color choice of every world and level was beautiful to behold and the soundtrack is possibly the best in all of gaming. I’ve spent more time listening to David Wise’s music over the last 5 years than most other artists. I usually don’t 100% games but I’ve done full completion runs of Tropical Freeze over half a dozen times over the last few years. This always gets my nod for most underrated game of all time. Few gameplay experiences have been as joyous and wondrous as those I had flying through the levels of Tropical Freeze. It was a masterclass in perfecting the touch, sight and sound of a videogame.