Okay here we are, the end of another console generation, and I don’t think I’m the only person who thinks that this has to be the best generation we might have ever had.
I can’t help but notice I’ve omitted a couple of my favourite games from this list (ahem Persona 5, Spider-Man, Uncharted 4, Watch Dogs 2), but there was some stiff competition this gen and I wanted to make sure my selection featured no games that appeared on some of my colleagues lists.
So, with that said, let’s get started with my absolute favourite release of the last generation!
Death Stranding – 2019
Say what you will, but I truly believe Death Stranding is my favourite game of the last generation. It combines all the whacky humour, absurd melodrama, and political commentary of Kojima’s work with Metal Gear Solid, and combines it with some of his LEAST convoluted writing. Yeah, it’s still Hideo Kojima, but the story here feels vastly more manageable and even more relatable than ever in 2020.
In Death Stranding, it’s less about picking off enemies strategically and more-so about observing the terrain ahead of you and prepping yourself with the right pair of hiking boots to taking the best route through uneven terrain. It makes traversing the landscape as active an experience as a firefight in any other game, and it was because of how involved, and often punishing, it was getting around this world that I felt so attached to the characters that lived in it.
That’s all without mentioning the narrative about building connections between the civilians of a post-pandemic United States. Yeah, this was a game released in 2019 and could you believe the premise felt far-fetched back then?
Death Stranding is a game that made me a better, more empathetic person for having experienced it and that’s something pretty damn special.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain – 2015
I know it’s another Kojima game, okay.
Just hear me out.
It’s difficult for me to think about The Phantom Pain without thinking of the immense anticipation I felt leading up to release. Swept up in the marketing cycle, I had no idea how anything could have lived up to the hype I’d built up in my head. So when Metal Gear Solid V finally launched, I couldn’t help but find myself disappointed in the story when the credits began to roll just as I felt like we were getting started.
I think it speaks volumes then, that five years on I still think back on MGS V as one of my favourite experiences of the generation because this is the first time a Metal Gear game nailed the ‘Tactical Espionage’ gameplay this well. Riding across Afghanistan on horseback while jamming out to The Cure before effortlessly transitioning to a sneaking mission felt so intuitive that I feel the only other game that nails control nearly this tightly is Insomniac’s Spider-Man.
Some years on reflecting on my time with Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, my largest complaint is that it ended too early, and while that isn’t the worst way the franchise could have ended, it still hurts.
Bloodborne – 2015
While it wasn’t my first time with a Souls-Like, Bloodborne was the first From Software release that had me absolutely enthralled from beginning to end.
Everything from the beautifully decrepit gothic streets, to the new combat system that rewarded me for playing offensively, felt directly aimed at my interests and playstyle.
Having played more games in the genre since have even given me a greater appreciation for the level design on display here. Whereas in other “Souls” games I often find myself reaching for a guide to lead me to the next checkpoint, here I hardly noticed myself being whisked from one location to the next, rarely finding myself lost.
It was a toss-up for me whether or not to include Kingdom Hearts 3 over Final Fantasy XV, but at the end of the day I found myself looking back more fondly on my time spent with Noctis and pals in Final Fantasy (Sorry, Donald and Goofy!).
Looking back on my time with Final Fantasy XV I undeniably had a great time fighting monsters and piecing together the melodramatic, anime-esque story. My favourite memories with the game, however, were the quiet moments with my gang of impeccably dressed best buds. Cruising down the highway listening to the crew banter back and forth, or argue over who was setting up camp for the night were the kinds of endearing little character moments so many big releases breeze over, but here it was the primary focus, and it made Noctis, Prompto, Ignis and Gladiolus all feel like substantial, compelling characters in their own right.
A couple of rushed plot points might have left me with their own phantom pain (GET IT?!), but it’s the characters that I’ll always remember from Final Fantasy XV.
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age – 2018
It’s a bit of a surprise for me to have Dragon Quest XI sit so firmly as one of my favourite experiences of the generation.
DQXI is about as traditional a Japanese role-playing game could be; turn-based battles and a hero unaware of a secret royal lineage headline are a list of tropes that would normally be taken as a detriment. That’s not the case here however, as Dragon Quest carves out its own niche combining staples of the genre with a shiny coat of paint and a heavy dose of quality-of-life improvements, making otherwise irritating or monotonous aspects a breeze.
This is all while ignoring just how gorgeous the game is, to the point where just existing in the world of Dragon Quest XI puts a big, dumb smile on my face.
I mean come on, how can you look at a slime and not feel happy?