The Games That Defined the Generation

Posted November 15, 2013 by Jean-Luc Botbyl in Video Games

As we enter the final month of this generation of video game consoles, it’s time to reflect on the past seven years, and take a look at the games that we loved so much. This generation has seen video games evolve into something greater than ever before, and we’ve seen the release of some of the best games of all time. From massive open world juggernauts like Skyrim to more linear, story driven games Gears of War, these are the games that made this generation so enjoyable.

Crysis 2

Again, this is one of my unpopular opinions. I personally believe that Crysis 2 is the bets entry in the Crysis franchise, certainly better than 1 and 3. Often, what ends up deciding my favorite game in a franchise is the narrative, but, as the plots of all three Crysis games are pretty weak, my love for Crysis comes from something else entirely. No, its not the graphics, though this game does look gorgeous, and uses the Cryengine to its full potential. No, what makes this game one of the definitive games of this generation is how the game plays. More than any other game like it, Crysis 2 makes you feel like a super soldier. Crysis 3 nerfed this, and other games that put you in a similar situation don’t make you feel that way. But with Crysis 2, you almost have to play like a super soldier, or you will die, and you will die a lot. The suit the main character wears allows for this, allowing the player to sprint, cloak, or strengthen your armor. It may not sound like much, but when you apply the Halo-esque level design and a multitude of enemy types and weapons, Crysis 2 offers a lot of variety while managing to shrug off the bloated feel of the first game.


Once you’ve made it through the overlong opening of the game, you’re turned loose upon the lands of Skyrim to do whatever you want. An overarching story is present, but it is quickly lost in the midst of everything that makes this game great. The vast world of Skyrim allows for numerous adventures, and the sense of discovery that comes with them gives the player a sense of accomplishment. From fighting dragon atop a snowy peak to fighting your way through a vampire infested cave, there is little you can’t do in Skyrim. The game masterfully incorporates almost every aspect of fantasy, from magic to giants to good old fashioned sword fighting. For the vast majority of this game, there is no one holding your hand, no one telling you what to do. You’re almost forced to make your fun, and that can be nearly anything you want it to be. The massive variety of locales and side quests ensure that there’s something in this game for everyone, and that alone makes it worth playing.

Gears of War

Before the grandiose, bloated sequels came about, Gears of War was a simple game that told a simple story of a group of soldiers trying to survive the near annihilation of the human race at the hands of a race that was alien to them. Everything about this first entry in this series made it a joy to play. The banter between squad mates created a group of characters you could feel attached to, the cover based third person shooter gameplay made it buckets of fun, and the multiplayer, be it co-op or versus, easily made this one of the best third person shooters ever created. While the original Gears of War is a very linear game, it takes that and uses it to its advantage. Holding off hordes of Locusts as you attempt to advance to the next bit of cover allows this game to revel in linearity, because there is a sense of accomplishment when the player makes even the slightest move forward. The high stakes, over the top combat makes the linear experience even more fun to play, and makes this a must play before the end of this generation.

Assassin’s Creed 2

After the well meaning mess of Assassin’s Creed 1, the developers took two years, and went almost entirely back to the drawing board. Assassin’s Creed 2 saw breathed new life into a mediocre game that had great ideas behind it. With Assassin’s Creed 2, Ubisoft stripped the game down to nothing, and built it back up again, even giving it a completely new setting and protagonist. At its core, the gameplay remained the same, though it was vastly improved. However, the developers chose to limit the settings to a handful of Italian cities, each one its own open world, yet completely different from the others. Exploration became the name of the game, and it became a rewarding experience, allowing players to make their own fun and tell Ezio’s story in a way that was unique to them. The game’s excellent narrative only served to solidify Assassin’s Creed 2’s place on this list, as it told a powerful, rewarding story, offering a plot and characters that the player could actually care about.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

The original Deus Ex game is remembered by much of the community as one of the greatest games of all time. So when this game was announced, the gaming community was excited, yet skeptical. However, as soon as the game was released, and players got their hands on it, all their worries were wiped away. Human Revolution places the player back into the cyberpunk world of Deus Ex, revamps the story, and builds upon what made the original such a great game. The amount of choice there is in this game is astounding, and this is one of many games that has fueled the war against linear games. Of course, if you want, you can play it in a very linear fashion, and still get a lot of fun out of it. That being said, you’d be cheating yourself. It’s much more fun to upgrade your skills, and find new ways around the hostile world. Every mission is its own sandbox, and each of the semi-open world cities has something new to offer. This game defined this generation in many of the same ways the original defined its generation. It gave the player choice as to how they wanted to accomplish the mission, and almost everyone who played it would have a different experience with the game.

Halo 3

By the time the Xbox 360 was released in 2005, Halo was already a household name among the video game community. Combat Evolved had been the driving force behind the original Xbox, and its follow up, Halo 2, had been the driving force behind Xbox Live. Despite its late entry to the next gen scene (Halo 3 wasn’t released until 2007), every Halo game has been extremely successful, getting better with each game. Continuing the trend set with Halo 2, every current generation Halo game, including Halo 3, was story driven, providing an excellent narrative despite its largely silent protagonist. Also, a multitude of battle grounds, ranging from tight corridors to large, open fields gave every level a unique feel, and allowed players to use their own play style to accomplish every mission. That, combined with what may very well be the generation’s best multiplayer, has made the Halo franchise one of the most definitive games not only of this generation, but perhaps of all time as well.

Batman: Arkham City

In 2009, an unheard of developer called Rocksteady released the stellar Arkham Asylum, a game that reminded everyone that good superhero video games can be made. Of course, like most games, it still had its problems. However, the publisher returned in 2011 with the follow up, Arkham City. Bigger, flashier, and vastly improved, Arkham City hammered home the point made by the first game: Superhero games can be good; in fact, they can be amazing. An excellent free flow combat system, awe inspiring stealth portions, and a myriad of gadgets made the player truly feel like they were the world’s greatest detective. Every aspect of Batman’s character was present here, all the way up to the shocking ending. Leading up to that point, the story is stellar. Many of the people that worked on Batman: The Animated Series is present here, including Paul Dini, Kevin Conroy, and Mark Hamill. That may be why the story feels like a more mature installment in the Timmverse, and it works, especially in the context of this game.

Portal 2

I have the unpopular opinion of liking Portal 2 more than any of the Half Life games. Most gamers would say that those games are some of the most innovative games of this generation. To that, I say that yes, they are innovative, but most of what makes them innovative is Valve’s Source engine – which is also present in Portal 2, and used much more effectively. Portal 2 is one massive puzzle game, with room after room of challenging physics puzzles, all based around creating portals from one area to another. When the original Portal was released, this was a concept that was unheard of, and Portal 2 only refines it. The physics engine, combined with the Portal mechanic, makes the game a lot of fun to play, even when it gets hard. Out of context, of course, this game couldn’t have been as good as it was. The characters that inhabit this world are a large part of what keeps the player playing, and the story is one of odd twists and turns in a world that might be post apocalyptic, but it doesn’t beat you over the head with this. The game’s subtlety is part of what makes the narrative so great, and when it all comes together, it creates the ultimate gaming package.

The Walking Dead

Before Telltale released this game, I would have laughed at anyone that would have told me that a point and click adventure game could have been one of the generation’s best. However, they would have gotten the last laugh, because The Walking Dead certainly managed to achieve what I thought would be absurd. Unlike many games, The Walking Dead isn’t successful because of its gameplay mechanics, but rather because of its narrative. Thrust into the shows of Lee Everett, a the player must survive the zombie apocalypse, while doing their best to keep a young girl, Clementine, alive as well. Throughout its five episodes, The Walking Dead will introduce you to a cast of characters you’ll come to care about, and then yank them away just when you thought you were safe. What makes it hurt even more is that every single decision you make has contributed to the death of someone you cared about. The Walking Dead is a high stakes game, and it truly makes the player question what the right thing to do really is.


Coming from largely the same team responsible for the System Shock games, Bioshock entered the gaming scene in 2007, and quickly became one of the most loved games of the generation. Its fast paced first person shooter gameplay made it a lot of fun to play, especially on higher difficulties, when you encountered Big Daddies left and right. Creating combos of plasmids and weapons made the semi-open world missions open to the gamer’s play style. Aside from the game just being a lot of fun, there’s a lot that makes this game special. The setting, of course, is one such aspect. The underwater city of Rapture is the perfect example of a utopia gone wrong, overrun with horrifying creatures, and humans who are even more horrifying. The story progresses at a brisk pace, leading the player along until the carpet is pulled out from under him or her in the last portion of the game. But perhaps the best part about Bioshock is its emotional side. The inclusion of the Little Sisters was the master stroke in this game, pulling on the heart strings, especially once you reach the ending. Unless, of course, you harvested them.


About the Author

Jean-Luc Botbyl

Jean-Luc is a grizzled veteran of We the Nerdy. Most days, he just wonders why he hasn't been formally fired. Follow him on Twitter at @J_LFett to make him feel validated.