This week is momentous for gamers around the world. The Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are launching in multiple territories. In just a few days’ time, millions of gamers will be going hands-on with the most advanced video game hardware ever produced. And we’ll all be getting early glimpses of what the next generation of gaming promises.
Of course, as exciting as new platform launches are, we know that they only offer a small taste of what’s to come. We are now accustomed to multiple waves of games appearing within a single console’s lifecycle. The PlayStation 4, for example, launched with titles like Killzone Shadow Fall but is ending its seven-year run with Ghost of Tsushima, The Last of Us Part II, and Watch Dogs Legion. Launch games for new platforms are often very impressive, but most of the truly groundbreaking stuff tends to come along a little later.
It seems fitting, then, to pause and take stock before we dive headfirst into the wonderful world of next-gen. We’ve been playing our soon-to-be-last-gen consoles for almost a full decade now. Many of us have played dozens — perhaps hundreds — of games over that time. And it would be pretty easy for most folks to list ten (maybe even fifty) games that they truly love from this era.
The SUPERJUMP team have been discussing our reflections on the last decade of gaming just recently, and we decided to come together to discuss our top picks. We set ourselves a daunting challenge, though: each writer may only discuss one game from the last generation to discuss. It might be an outright favorite, but it might also be a game that the writer sees as particularly significant on a personal level (even if it wasn’t necessarily the most “fun” game they actually played). We decided to keep the criteria fairly open-ended to allow each contributor maximum flexibility (this means we’re looking at the last decade or so, and including PC games from that period, as well as the Switch and Wii U).
In the end, we didn’t seek to create some kind of objective “BEST GAMES OF THE LAST DECADE”. There are too many incredible experiences for us to possibly do justice to them in a way that makes sense. Instead, we’ve simply reflected on the major highlights that spoke to us as gamers.
The following list is presented in alphabetical order by game title (it is, therefore, not ranked and there is no “winner”).
BY JOZEF KULIK
Every now and then there’s a multiplayer title that really captures my attention, and while we’ve had a few great titles in recent years, none have really captured me to the same extent as classic games like Halo 3 or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
Based on that statement alone, you probably know what kind of multiplayer experiences I’m interested in. I’m a big fan of shooters with faster-paced, arcade-style gameplay, but also games that hold good potential for strategy underneath the hood for the players that want to delve in there.
I found that the balance of pick-up-and-play fun with strategic depth was perfectly captured in Apex Legends, and boy has this game had me hooked ever since.
I think above anything else, Respawn does exceptionally well making their games feel fundamentally good to play. By that, I mean that it’s the attention to detail in both controls and movement that really make the game what it is, and feel as good as it does.
In Apex Legends, everything that the player has control over is designed to feel great. Moving around the world feels fantastic thanks to Respawn’s momentum-based slide mechanic and a climbing mechanic that lets you scale your way up just about any surface within reach, enabling players to explore its large open maps with a huge degree of vertical freedom.
The gunplay also feels fantastic thanks to clear visual feedback, distinct weapons, and tight responsive camera controls. These are things that you take for granted during play, but areas where so many other studios fumble.
This attention to the way the game feels to play is all supported by a series of hidden systems, things that players will never explicitly notice, or think about during play, yet enhance the feel of the game. For instance, weapons use predictable recoil patterns so that players can learn how to control them consistently, rather than struggling against randomised recoil. Players also have subtle, in-air control of their character, allowing you to redirect yourself to a safe surface when making a fall.
Of course, this all comes together with the usual class-based design. Apex features an interesting cast of characters each with their own set of unique abilities, but more than anything else I think it’s the gameplay that sets this particular battle royale apart from the rest. Many other titles struggle with unresponsive controls, middling framerates, and movement systems that never feel quite right, but Apex nails each of these and provides a competitive experience that feels a cut above the rest.
But perhaps Apex Legends’ most unique and innovative feature actually comes from its user interface design. Communicating in three-dimensional virtual spaces is always difficult, as verbal instructions like ‘over here’ or ‘over there’ often struggle to be interpreted without the context of the position of the player giving the instruction. With so many players opting not to use microphones, multiplayer lobbies often feel like a bit of a ghost town, but this is where Apex’s ‘ping’ feature really changes the game, offering a means by which players can communicate fairly complex information, tied to in-world locational markers.
This really is a game-changer, opening up the possibility for strategy and teamwork to a much wider audience of players. It allows nearly everyone to communicate and strategize effectively with one another, irrespective of language barriers, microphone availability, or the desire to speak online. The ping feature has since been adopted by several other titles, and for me, it really has changed the way I interact with random players online in a very positive way.
Between the tight controls, attention to the smaller gameplay details, and innovative communication features, I feel Apex Legends offers the best battle royale experience out there right now. The game sits at the pinnacle of my multiplayer list within the 8th generation of video games, and given the nature of these live service titles, I’m sure it’ll have a huge impact on my 9th generation experience too.
BY JAMES BURNS
When I look back at the last decade of video games, I can’t think of a single experience like Death Stranding. What happens if you give one man an almost unlimited budget, and task him with creating a deeply personal project without any regard for popular trends, franchises, or even game mechanics? Death Stranding is the answer to that question. The fact that this game even exists at all seems miraculous. It’s the ultimate indie project, propelled into the market with mountains of cash (and all the polish and high-tech trappings that confers upon it).
There have been so many almost-flawless games released in this last generation. My other two picks for this list were The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Bloodborne. The former is, in my view, the single greatest video game Nintendo has ever produced — and it’s quite possibly the best video game ever made by anyone. The latter is an unparalleled artistic achievement in the video game world; it is a work of genius. Why am I writing about Death Stranding, then?
Let’s start with the fact that Death Stranding has apparently invented an entirely new genre. Sure, this might be the one and only “stranding game” ever made. But I sure hope we see more. When you play Death Stranding for the first time — whether you love it or hate it — you can’t escape the clear realisation that you’re doing something entirely new. Every step into new territory moves you further into the unknown. There’s this bizarre mash-up of mountain climbing, freight logistics, survival, stealth, cooperative base-building, frantic combat, horror, and…trench warfare. Whatever you may think of Hideo Kojima’s self-indulgence here, there’s simply no question that Death Stranding is bursting at the seams with new ideas. In a world stuffed to the brim with often-very-good-but-highly-predictable franchise sequels, Death Stranding feels like an offramp into another dimension.
It’s not just that these new things are valuable because they are new. They also happen to be damn good fun. I never experienced a moment of boredom or tedium in my entire playthrough; a mean feat given that so much of Death Stranding simply involves…walking. But calling Death Stranding a “walking simulator” is painfully reductive. It’s like calling Mario a “jumping simulator”.
There’s also the fact that Death Stranding is — much like Metal Gear Solid 2 before it — remarkably prescient. The best kinds of games are the ones that add up to more than the sum of their parts in the end. Death Stranding is not just a mechanically-satisfying video game. It’s also a powerful, moving piece of art that explores the toxic corner we’ve wedged ourselves into. In 2020, our bunkers are both literal and figurative — we’re physically bunkered at home due to a pandemic, and we’re intellectually and emotionally bunkered thanks to toxic tribalism and partisanship.
There’s a reason Death Stranding’s asynchronous multiplayer doesn’t allow for any negative interactions. In fact, when I leave behind an item in the game for another player, I’m making a deliberate sacrifice — I’m giving up something for another person I’ve never met. It might even take a few days for me to get some likes from that random person who used my Timefall Shelter. But for them, at the moment, it might have been an utter life-saver — a welcome oasis amidst a desert blanketed with horrific dangers.
As I said in my original Death Stranding piece, Kojima Productions have built an interactive kindness tutorial. It’s an experience that deliberately rejects instant gratification at every turn in favour of slow, methodical effort and collaboration. There are moments of such understated and glorious beauty…my words simply can’t do them justice. It’s the only game I can think of that made me cry. It was the medicine I needed. And for that reason — among so many others — Death Stranding will forever occupy a place in my heart.
DESTINY & DESTINY 2
BY WALID AO
While everybody on the SUPERJUMP team got one game to talk about for this story, I’m lucky to get two games, six years of content, many DLC expansions, and countless memories.
I’ve spent 2,700 hours playing Destiny over the past six years. That is 112.5 days in total, or 18.75 full days a year spent on playing Destiny and Destiny 2.
Destiny had a significant impact on gaming in the last generation. What makes the game so special? It was one of the first FPS games to include RPG elements and was also the first successful MMO first-person shooter. In short, Destiny is an RPG MMO FPS video game (yeah, it’s a mouthful). In my opinion, Bungie’s success with Destiny came from four major points: loot, content, lore, and community.
While Destiny is a franchise that contains millions of moving parts, loot is the heart and soul of this game. Players engage in different activities, hoping to receive special loot. Throughout Destiny’s endgame, players can engage in both PVE or PVP activities in search of that precious loot. Some weapons and gear can only be obtained from a single activity (raids, strikes, etc.), and some can drop randomly from any activity.
The main gameplay loop of the franchise involves players replaying the same activities day in and day out trying to find specific pieces of gear or “god rolls,” aka gear with perfect stats. In July 2015, I had every single weapon available in the game except for one. The mighty Gjallarhorn.
The Gjallarhorn, in its prime, was the single weapon to have in Destiny. It was the end-all-be-all of the loot grind throughout the first year of the game’s life. At first, we all laughed at it when it was sold by the game’s black arms dealer, Xur, in week one, saying “who would use their single exotic weapon on a heavy weapon?” Once players finally got their hands on it, however, it became clear that it was the single most overpowered weapon in the game. It was so strong, in fact, that many public raid groups wouldn’t bring you along if you didn’t have one.
Given the weapon’s strength, I knew I had to have this thing. I would run each raid, the nightfall strike, all the weekly activities, and daily activities, and then jump into PVP every single week, hoping to get the privilege to own a Gjallarhorn. The weapon never dropped for me, and I had to buy it from the in-game exotic handler two weeks before the weapon was nerfed and basically retired before The Taken King DLC went live. Nonetheless, the quest and desire to get this weapon kept me coming back for hours and hours.
Destiny struggled with content in its early days. When the game was released, it included a handful of strikes and one raid. The only way to reach the maximum level was to play the raid, which was challenging, and it was only playable in a group of six players (with no in-game matchmaking). Obviously, not all Destiny players had a group of six to play the raid, which left many players locked out of what was the best piece of content in the early days of the game.
Player fatigue was visible and presented a major problem for Bungie. They immediately realized they had to have a plan to release new content continuously.
The Dark Below was Destiny’s first DLC released in December 2014, which added 4 story missions, a new strike, and a raid to the game. The House of Wolves DLC followed in May 2015 with new story missions, a new strike, and a two new game mode: The Prison of Elders and the Trials of Osiris.
In the summer of 2015, Destiny had enough content for all players; everybody was looking for the next release with its newer challenges. Bungie announced The Taken King DLC with a major controversial announcement; all loot before The Taken King couldn’t be leveled further. Bungie wanted to rebalance the loot in the game, and this announcement was necessary. The entire community was pretty much only using raid loot and the Gjallarhorn prior to TTK.
Bungie was not able to keep releasing new DLCs every 3 to 5 months. They had to change their strategy to keep the players engaged. With the release of The Taken King, Bungie announced they would be releasing multiple limited-time events and that the upcoming DLC would be released after one year.
Destiny 2 was released in 2017 with massive content. Bungie released a lot of content going on in the form of DLCs, annual passes, and later on, season passes. The game now has a lot of content to keep the players busy.
Destiny’s in-game story was sorely lacking and almost non-existent at the outset of the franchise. However, Bungie built up the world through the use of collectible cards called Grimoire. Every time a player finishes an activity or defeats a certain number of enemies, a lore card is discovered.
Personally, I never read the lore cards. The amount of information is just overwhelming. Other Destiny players and content creators, however, saw an opportunity. They dug deep into the lore cards and created YouTube videos explaining the story and lore for other Destiny players. MyNameIsByf is by far the biggest name in this arena, having made hundreds of videos and making a name for himself as the “Lore Daddy” of Destiny.
He and other lore masters dug into the Hive, the Fallen, Oryx, and Rasputin giving the players the story they lacked in the game itself. Bungie’s early misstep with the lore of this game turned out to be quite the success in a way since it spurned the online community into action.
As the franchise moved into the era of Destiny 2, Bungie did take notice of their shortcomings in terms of the overall story and beefed up their storytelling across the board. Grimoire was now readable in the game itself, allowing everyone easier access to the lore. Not only that, but longer and beefier questlines actually fleshed out characters and gave even minor characters a chance to shine.
Destiny’s activities require players to gather a group of three or six players. The game did not allow for matchmaking in all activities at launch, however. Thus, it required a lot of talking and planning in advance. The game sprung multiple platforms and Facebook groups for players to meet up and start activities together.
Destiny is a genuinely unique online gaming experience in terms of the remarkably supportive community that has sprouted up around it. For the most part, advanced players don’t look down on the less-skilled around them: instead, they see opportunities to mentor others and to shepherd them through the experience. Countless genuine friendships have been forged in Destiny’s fires.
Even though Destiny was not the first FPS to include RPG and loot elements in the game (Borderlands is the initiator), Destiny set the precedent for MMORPG looters, and its success was a milestone. Because of Destiny’s triumphs, we saw games like The Division, Marvel’s Avengers, and Anthem jump into the fray in the years following its release.
While there may have been speed bumps along the way, Destiny continues to be a genre-defining excursion that is indeed one of the best games of the generation.
BY BRIANA GONZALEZ
The loud call of a whaling ship cuts through the sloshing of the Wrenhaven River. My camera turns to watch the ship go by, a massive whale suspended and caught, twitching in its hold. Dunwall, this semblance of Victorian London, is just as I remembered it, cast in muted colors, already feeling the chill of the city. Inside the palace walls, during the day the colors are lighter and the rooms are warm with life. 15 years have passed since the events of Dishonored and Dunwall has changed.
The Rat Plague has been dealt with. Emily Kaldwin is no longer the little girl we rescued, but a young woman showing difficulty adjusting to her new role as Empress. Her eyes often drift to the rooftops and away from the growing stack of parchment that demands attention.
Don’t get too comfortable in this improved Dunwall and the posh seats in the palace. Just as Corvo Attano (the original Dishonored protagonist) predicts, “Someday our enemies will come after you.” At the anniversary of Empress Jessamine Kaldwin’s passing, those enemies will reveal themselves and turn the lives of Corvo and Emily upside down.
Dishonored 2 is a first-person action game that allows players to resist Dunwall, but to explore an additional part of the Isles — Serkonos — and the stories within. One of the unique and memorable qualities of Dishonored was how your actions drive and alter both the story and the environment. At the immediate start of the game, you’re pressed to decide who will continue this journey with: Emily Kaldwin or Corvo Attano. Whoever you pick leads to unique dialogue and supernatural abilities (if you choose to accept The Outsider’s mark).
The story forces us to flee Dunwall and explore Karnaca, the Jewel of the South. It’s a world painted in warm blues, oranges, and yellows. Long gone were the chilly hues of Dunwall, but don’t be deceived by this sunny appearance. There is a rot in Karnaca and it takes on the appearance of corrupt leaders, abuse of power, ambition, and a bloodfly infestation that has taken over the homes of many.
Your decisions impact Karnaca, and the lives of others, just as it did in the prior game.
What makes Dishonored 2 stand out from its predecessor is that it builds and grows upon the original game’s concepts and mechanics.
The Chaos System — for every action there is a reaction — is still prevalent within the game and makes it so no two playthroughs are ever the same. Taking on a more violent approach and stacking up the body count can morph Karnaca into a darker, harrowing version of itself. Or you can take a nonlethal approach and knock out foes instead of giving them their just desserts. The choices you make impact the story, the surrounding characters, and the ending.
However, don’t mistake the non-lethal approach as the go-to merciful approach. A moment that immediately sticks out is how you deal with one of your enemies, Kirin Jindosh. An incredible inventor and once mentored by Anton Sokolov himself, the nonlethal approach is to use his electroshock machine against himself. You watch that sharp mind of his fade and fade with each shock until it becomes nothing but mush. The entire scene was visceral and a reminder that often the choice not to kill is the most harrowing of them all.
This storytelling device makes the game memorable and re-playable. Arkane Studios builds upon this mechanic by creating these incredible missions and set pieces where you can enter unknown places in different ways. A rooftop entrance may lead to an easier time sneaking up on targets versus entering via the front door where there are more guards. These different possibilities of how to approach a level encourage players to explore and immerse themselves in the universe.
You may find yourself as an audience member of an argument between two guards by taking the rooftop entrance. Perhaps you will watch the Howler Leader, Paolo, poking and prodding at the captured Overseer in the basement. I often strayed off the path of my mission to explore buildings, collect loot, admire the art, read the lore, and more. There are hundreds of unique details, interactions, and pieces of backstory all across Karnaca that help further create this engaging world.
I could gush for hours about the beauty and tragedy behind ‘A Crack in the Slab,’ where you can slip between the past and present in Aramis Stilton’s manor with an artifact called the Timepiece. Or how my blood chilled during the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde change with Dr. Hypatia, watching them stalk the room looking for us.
Dishonored 2 is just as wonderful as its predecessor, leaving me with memorable missions, stealth, dialogue, and lore. However, this game takes it a step further and creates a seamless organic and breathing world between the major set pieces where the main mission takes place. It’s one of the primary reasons Dishonored 2 is a game you want to replay over and over again. What new dialogue will emerge? What new area will you discover by going a different route? How will the story change this time? Time for me to start a new game and find out.
BY JARED MCCARTY
Doom is one of those franchises that will forever stand the test of time. Originally releasing in 1993, Doom completely changed the gaming world as we knew it. Even though it was considered by many as one of the most controversial video games of all time, John Romero and his team somehow started the first-person shooter craze, with the original game taking over offices and schools as the way to pass the time and fill up every inch of expendable productivity.
In spite of its age, Doom still has a hardcore fan base who consistently mod and update the game, and it seems like id Software saw this love for the series and really took it into consideration when they released the series’ first new title in over a decade in 2016. Coming off the back of the divisive Doom 3, the developers knew this reboot needed to knock the socks off of both hardcore fans and casual players alike, and they delivered on that challenge wholesale. Everything from the incredible visuals and legendary soundtrack from composer Mick Gordon, to the pulse-pounding gory demon violence and traversal, feels considered and revised.
There are bigger games than Doom (2016) that have graced our collection this generation, with technical marvels like Red Dead Redemption II or The Witcher 3, but it’s been a long time since a AAA release felt this much like a seminal video game. It falls perfectly into that sweet spot of feeling just the right amount of familiar while simultaneously feeling like a fresh new take on the classic genre of arena shooters. The combat is buttery smooth and versatile while maintaining that (as Ice-T put it) “gaming cardio” feeling of archetypal competitive shooters like Quake and Unreal Tournament.
If you’re looking for a tearjerker of a story or a deep, character development narrative, Doom (2016) will not be for you. It will, however, be one of those games that will cause people to become unnecessarily excited when the HD remake is announced in 10 years' time. When the gaming community looks back on Doom (2016) it will be discussed and remembered with reverence and awe for how id Software revitalized a dead genre and inducted “Rip and Tear” into the gaming lexicon forevermore. The sequel, Doom Eternal (2020) is totally worth your time as well. It’s metal, it’s gory, it’s fun, and it’s everything an action video game is supposed to be. What else can you say? It’s Doom.
FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE
BY ALEX ANYFANTIS
Before anyone says anything — yes, there may have been far better games than this during the last generation. Final Fantasy VII Remake doesn’t have the same quality of story or connection between characters as The Last Of Us Part II or God Of War. It doesn’t have the gameplay mechanics of Horizon Zero Dawn or The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild. It doesn’t include the incredible backgrounds and views of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End or Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. It may not even be the best thing Square Enix themselves have made in the last few years. But, for many of us, this game is ‘the one’. The holy grail. The title we only dared to dream of in our childhood.
There are many reasons the original Final Fantasy VII has such a special relationship with its fans. The story, the characters, the music, the locations, and the underlying mythos that ties all these pieces together so smoothly. We grew alongside these characters as they helped us learn more about ourselves. Most of us were at a very delicate age when we first came in contact with them and went on to explore their world and find out about their personal histories. Even the developers themselves have pointed out that the main theme of FFVII is “life.” And so, going through those adventures and experiences with the technical limitations of the original PlayStation back then, our minds played the role of navigator in expanding what little we saw on our TV screens. Yet now, over 20 years later, Square Enix has attempted to reach into the minds of every single person that played that game and had those experiences and pull everything out for our eyes to see. And shockingly, they’ve done an incredible job with it!
As we pointed out in our review of the game, Final Fantasy VII Remake looks, sounds, and plays just as we imagined it would when we were kids. Going through the streets of Midgar, exploring the train graveyard, sneaking into the Shinra Headquarters, and watching Cloud, Tifa, Aerith and Barret interact with one another; all the right pieces are there just as they’re meant to be. And that’s the thing, we no longer need to imagine it. This is exactly the reason why, no matter how many greater games were released this generation, FFVII Remake will always be the best in the hearts of those who were around for the original, spending hours upon hours uncovering its secrets. Because turning fantasy into reality is by no means an easy feat!
When this project was originally announced back in 2015, it was met with a lot of excitement, but also a good amount of skepticism. After all, Square Enix’s track record was not all that promising at the time and didn’t allow much room for fans to be optimistic. There were also many traditionalists who were put off by the more action-based look of the game’s combat style, which was a far cry from the active time battle system of their youth. And yet, with the launch of the first trailers of the game, the developers were able to put all those doubts to rest, as it was obvious that they had taken all those worries to mind in order to create a game that can be enjoyed equally by everyone. Old and new fans, those that crave a faster action-oriented combat system, and those who prefer the slower, more strategic battles.
On top of all that, Square Enix’s decision to release this project through multiple titles allows the development team (which is composed of many of the key staff members that participated in the creation of the original FFVII, such as Yoshinori Kitase, Tetsuya Nomura and Kazushige Nojima) the opportunity to delve deeper into this story and go into greater detail. This was clearly a goal in the remake as demonstrated by the first entry’s deep dive into AVALANCHE and the stories of its crew (Jessie, Biggs and Wedge), as well as detailing what life in the Midgar slums looked like. Final Fantasy VII Remake is a game designed to reconnect and introduce older and younger players respectively to a world that has a great story to tell. Even though the end of the first game leaves us at roughly 30 percent into that story, it’s done a great job so far!
GOD OF WAR
BY WYATT DONIGAN
In a generation filled with plenty of blockbuster, genre-defining titles, there is one game that stands head and shoulders above the rest on my list: God of War. This was a game that took what everyone thought they knew about one of gaming’s most notable characters and completely flipped it on its head. Prior to the release of God of War, Kratos was the personification of toxic masculinity. Almost every game in the series before this generation was known for its sex mini-games and ultra-violent combat system. The violence stayed, but everything shifted and morphed into something much more meaningful.
At its core, God of War has always been a story about vengeance and revenge. From the original trilogy of games that saw Kratos seeking to take down Ares, Zeus, and the rest of the pantheon of Greek gods, this series was always about Kratos seeking revenge against someone or other. This time, however, the story of revenge took on a different form.
Rather than Kratos seeking out trouble, trouble sought out Kratos this time around. He was simply trying to get to the top of the tallest mountain in Jötunheim in order to spread the ashes of his recently deceased wife, Faye. As Kratos and his son Atreus set out on their journey, they encounter Baldur, son of Odin, who tries to kill Kratos for reasons not yet known to Kratos or the player. Baldur is a god, of course, and can’t be dealt with this easily.
Throughout the course of the game, Kratos and Atreus are pursued by Baldur and Thor’s sons, Modi and Magni. While the Kratos of old would have been perfectly content with destroying anything and everything that got in his way, fatherhood changed him. He wanted to show his son that violence and destroying your enemies isn’t the best way. All it does is feed into a cycle of vengeance that leaves no one happy or satisfied. That change in Kratos is what really made this game truly amazing to me.
In gaming or any media for that matter, we rarely see a character do this much of a 180-degree turn. Usually, a character’s defining traits stay the same, by and large. Changing Kratos from the figure of toxic masculinity to the struggling father he is in this game was a breathtakingly refreshing change that was sorely needed.
While the character flip and incredible storytelling of God of War would have been enough to put this game in the running for best game of the generation, the combat and worldbuilding really set it apart from the rest of the competition. Prior to the reboot, God of War games were mainly known for their hack-and-slash, combo-heavy combat system. It was all about button-mashing your way to victory against hordes of enemies pouring in from all sides. This game completely changed the combat system in the best way possible. Starting with a shift from a wide camera to a much closer, over-the-shoulder camera, everything about combat this time around feels much more impactful and visceral. While it’s not exactly punishing in the same manner as the Soulsborne genre of games, you can easily find yourself dead in a flash if you aren’t paying close attention.
That fact was seen best during the grueling series of boss battles against the nine Valkyries present all throughout Midgard. These nine fights are not only the pinnacle of combat in this game but the final one, Sigrún, is perhaps the pinnacle of boss fights in the last generation of gaming. Taking on this Valkyrie, dying over and over and over (and over) again as you learn her moveset before finally taking her down, was the most thrilling experience I’ve had in quite some time.
The greatness of this game goes beyond just the story and the combat, though, as the foundation of the world that was created for what will become a new trilogy of games set in Norse mythology was out of this world. Traveling throughout the realms of Alfheim, Helheim, Jotunheim, Muspelheim, and Nilfheim, each with their own climates and enemies, during this long journey was simply incredible. The fact that Midgard, the main realm in which most of the game takes place, changed each time you spoke to Jörmungandr, the World Serpent, only added to the realism and made it feel like a living, breathing world from start to finish. I’m incredibly excited to see what the next entrant to the series, God of War: Ragnarok, will bring when it’s released sometime in 2021.
In an era seemingly filled with an overall lack of innovation and what feels like a million battle royale games, God of War went back to the drawing board with one of gaming’s most well-known characters and created a masterpiece that is well-deserving of being deemed “Game of the Generation.”
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD
BY JOSH BYCER
I have to give credit to the rest of the team at SUPERJUMP for picking a diverse set of games (beating me to the punch in terms of my picks for this piece.) Thanks to all the great games of the decade that were picked, however, it gives me the chance to talk about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
There were a lot of amazing games that came out over the last decade and I wish I could fill this section with all the innovative and amazing indie games I had the pleasure of playing. But over the last 10 years, there was only one game that brought a tear to my eye when I finished it, and that was Breath of the Wild. Picking the best games is always difficult for me due to the sheer volume of titles I play month by month, but for a piece like this, I felt that talking about an emotional experience would be the way to go.
By now, I don’t need to explain the gameplay or pedigree of BOTW. This is the first time since Ocarina of Time that I’ve felt Nintendo was really stepping above and beyond their already great design. Nintendo had never really done open-world design with this scope and depth before BOTW, and the moment-to-moment interactions with the world put a lot of other games to shame. Emergent game design is usually in the wheelhouse of immersive sim games (and the team at Arkane), and for Nintendo to get it right on their first attempt deserves high praise.
In terms of abilities and powerups, this would be one of the smallest groups in a Zelda game, but Nintendo made it work by giving them all different functionality and utility. Credit has to be given for “tutorial island” as a great way of onboarding the player to the world before saying “now start exploring.” The smaller set of items allowed Nintendo to build the world (and puzzles) around them.
For the first time in the Zelda franchise, you truly had complete freedom to explore. Progress was hard-fought, from completing shrines and upgrading gear to just learning about the rules of the world and the enemies. This was for the first time in a Zelda game where combat mattered more than just mashing the attack button. For the longest time, I never understood the appeal of exploring a world like in the Elder Scrolls or Fallout games from Bethesda, but this version of Hyrule worked for me.
There was something special about moving through the world that the only other game to come close would be Genshin Impact. The freedom to leap off a cliff and point your glider to the horizon was a great feeling, as was spotting that shrine or chest below you and dropping straight down onto it. Being able to truly choose how you explored a Zelda game without the game telling you “come back later” was amazing. So much of what made BOTW work for me was that the game got out of its own way compared to the other open-world titles. You’re not bombarded with 15 different things to do on the map, or having to repeat the same exact event again and again. Here, you could just point Link in a direction, start walking forward and find some crazy adventure to get into.
When I think about the moments that worked for me, the first was getting the Master Sword. I’m not a fan of durability systems in games (and that’s a story for another time), so the second I discovered this weapon it was game on to earn it. I remember going on a shrine hunt for the extra health I needed (playing it blind) and returning to the sword with each heart to see if I could pull it out. When I finally pulled the sword out and the entire world stopped for a second and the theme started to play, I got chills.
But the moment that got me came at the very end. After a hard-fought battle with Gannon’s forms, the push through the castle, and the final set of fights, the game was over. And as I sat on my bed watching the ending play out and realizing that the game was done, I could feel myself starting to cry because I didn’t want it to end. For the first time in a long while, I didn’t want a game to be over because I wanted more to do in this world.
I feel that Nintendo is at their absolute best when they stretch their creative talents, and Breath of the Wild is proof that Nintendo still has that special touch with their games.
BY BRYAN FINCK
As a child, the length of each game I played was a major selling point. Most of my gaming was done through weekend rentals, so I put much stock in buying, or asking for, games that had a lot of hours in them. I vividly remember playing upwards of 200 hours on the copy of the NES title Dragon Warrior that came included with the Nintendo Power subscription, because I owned it and didn’t have to return it to the store on Sunday night. Most of us didn’t have several games to switch between, so we played the games we owned into the ground and loved every second of it. Quantity over quality.
These days, as a family man and business owner, the opportunities to play are few and far between. Like many, I have a significant backlog of games, and if a title begins to stretch toward the 20-hour mark, I get a bit fidgety, glancing furtively at my library to see what’s next. As such, I have come to appreciate games that don’t overstay their welcome, telling a story and wrapping up in a manner that is unstuffed, uncomplicated, respectful of my time. Both my Steam and PS4 libraries are littered with games of this type, titles like Celeste, Thomas Was Alone, and the subject of my ruminations today, Little Nightmares. Full of personality, wonder, and challenge, these games make no claim to bulbous quest lists or giant open worlds, they simply want you to experience what they have made and move along.
Little Nightmares, released by Swedish developer Tarsier Studios in 2017, lasts about 8 hours, but it packs more into that fleeting time than many games do in 50 hours. This is a virtuoso performance of puzzle-solving, well-paced horror, creeping tension, jump scares, and an ending that will leave your jaw on the floor. Add in the two DLC packs for a few additional hours of content along with a second “ending” that is just as disturbing as what came before it, and you have a recipe for greatness.
As a game that clearly has themes of hunger and unregulated consumption at its heart, Little Nightmares makes you think at the same time it is busy creeping you out. Corpulent humans with terrifying proportions and facial animations dwarf your character, the yellow raincoat-wearing Six, stalking her at every turn and, should you be too slow, devouring her without the slightest hesitation. Some enemies have no sight but enhanced hearing, so Six must crawl slowly through those rooms, crouching under chairs and taking alternate routes to escape the horrifyingly long arms that stretch toward her, lunging and grasping for her capture. At times Six appears to break down and lose her will to continue, presumably due to hunger, leading to some of the game’s more shocking moments.
The environment is truly the star of the show here, telling the entire story in a game that features no voices and setting the stage for all the tension and horror that is to come. Water drips from ceilings, down walls, and lies in puddles everywhere. Furniture pieces like chairs and tables tower above Six, presenting environmental challenges that must be overcome to progress to the next room. Food is ever-present, ranging from succulent cuts of meat and giant hams to putrefied bits of… something. Despite her hunger, Six cannot stop to indulge lest she is caught by her pursuers, leaving her adrift in a sea of her own potential undoing, like a person dying of thirst in the middle of the ocean.
The final stages are a perfect mix of new mechanics and horror-movie tropes, complete with screeching violins and a terrifying new enemy. It is a fantastic ending to a wonderfully compact adventure for both Six and the player. You’ll often catch yourself holding your breath and ducking down a bit while she creeps through a small passage or folds her way through a tiny hole in a wall, to escape the grasping clutches of those who would do her in without a second thought. The game gives you brief respites punctuated by moments of sheer terror, never belying what is around the next corner and forcing the player to think just as quickly as they twitch their fingers to find the solution.
This article will be filled with giant games, massive epics that stretch on for more than one hundred hours, world maps covered in question marks and symbols begging to be explored. Little Nightmares features none of those things, no doubt proudly displaying its limited scope, allowing you to care about the journey of just one being instead of saving an entire civilization, planet, or universe. There is a wonderful freedom in that, and you’ll be left thinking about the game far longer than you spent playing it. If that’s not a generational game, I’m not sure what is.
NIGHT IN THE WOODS
BY PETER CACEK
It might be odd to say that a game developed by three people can define an entire generation of gaming for me. This list is filled with genre-defining games that have made millions of dollars and rightfully cemented themselves as cultural icons that will persist for decades to come. But we can’t forget that this generation of gaming is also the moment that smaller games began to explode onto the market. Indie games went from niche to vogue seemingly overnight, and all of a sudden everyone had a platform to make the game they wanted to play, to tell the story they wanted to tell.
Night in the Woods came at a pivotal point in time for me when everything felt hopeless. I had just moved back home to be with my dad. I was seriously questioning my career path. A friend of mine had just passed away. When I thought the world was crumbling down, Night in the Woods did something unprecedented for a video game. Instead of trying to comfort me with a nice story, or distract me with loud noises and flashy particle effects, it showed me that everything I was feeling was completely normal and valid. It tackles the most complex subjects in a way few things can — by speaking from experience.
The whole game is a perfect embodiment of the expression ‘You can never go home again.’ Protagonist Mae Borowski’s journey to reclaim her childhood is marred at every turn. Her hometown has become empty as more and more people move away, leaving very few familiar faces that she can connect with. A close friend ran away from home, something the game points out on a regular basis. Many of the local haunts she was familiar with have closed down, either replaced with something new and unfamiliar or left as empty, dilapidated monuments to better days. The world continues on but seems to have left her in the dust. Her struggles to reintegrate into her old life mimic the journey of most people as they move into adulthood.
A large part of modern media revolves around nostalgia, and Night in the Woods does an amazing job of showing how that isn’t always a positive thing. There is pain in not being able to go back, and how we are forced to move on whether we want to or not. Other indie games may have made a bigger splash in the community, but I don’t think anything managed to capture the same tone and feeling as Night in the Woods has done. The contrast of the game’s bright, comic-like art style against the themes of depression and loss makes for an immensely compelling experience. The calm freedom to wander a sleepy town during the day, with manic nights spent smashing mailboxes and breaking into malls in an effort to blow off steam speaks to something that we are all familiar with: that painful experience called growing up.
Night in the Woods is a game I go back and play through about once a year. It brings to mind a moment in my life I can never forget but also reminds me how we will always grow and move on, regardless of what happens. It would be a travesty not to include it on this list, as it fully represents how far video games have come since their early days, and how we the players have grown alongside them from child to teenager to adult.
THE OUTER WILDS
BY MATT EDWARDS
The Outer Wilds is one of those games that I tried solely based on the scores and recommendations that came with it on the Steam store page. I had no idea about what the game was about nor had I looked at any trailers or streamer footage of the game. All I knew was that you got to fly around several worlds in a universe, not unlike the way you explore in No Man’s Sky, and after having played many hours in the updated Hello Games universe, I had a space-flight itch to scratch.
Mobius Digital’s offering surpassed my expectations by not only allowing me to fly around some varied, interesting worlds but also making me genuinely afraid to explore them. These worlds were at once beautiful, awe-inspiring, and terrifying to witness. One of the first planets I explored was a sea-drenched ball of chaos. Some thirty seconds after I had landed, a tsunami had launched my ship into the stratosphere — as well as the island I was standing on. In no time at all, I was back in space, with nothing but a broken piece of sand to comfort me. I made the unwise choice of looking over the edge just as my earth-based ship decided to make a crash landing back to the planet.
It’s safe to say that this game is not one for those with a fear of heights.
It’s really hard to talk too much without ruining some of its most defining moments, but this game is one of the best examples I know of where the gameplay tells a story by showing, rather than by telling. Every time you play through its experience, you learn a little bit more about the universe and how the laws of physics can be explored — and how they can be broken. With each playthrough, another puzzle piece slots into place, contributing to the overall story that is told through gameplay alone.
The two tools available to you — a sound amplifier and a camera probe — both play an integral part in how you progress through the game in ways not immediately obvious to a player first starting out. How you perceive the world is key to what you uncover from it. Specifically, the sound design is a vital part of what makes The Outer Wilds so atmospheric — for instance, the lone harmonica of a traveler lost in a fog of time and space, surrounded by no other beings save for interstellar angler fish. The game has no combat, so its main crutch is its ability to provide engaging exploration and a unique story — and it delivers on these measures and more.
Because of the way the game is structured — and it would be a spoiler-filled crime to tell you how it is structured, so please forgive the lack of detail there — the planets all change over time to reveal secrets and hide locations if you don’t get to them quick enough. The way the planets alter is a breathtaking experience that deserves praise for its detail and capacity to instill a fear of the unknown. It’s not a horror game by any means, but the scope of the changes of the world you encounter leave you with a sense that you are one being in a universe far, far bigger than yourself. Space exploration is always something that will excite me, but space exploration with quantum physics makes it that much more interesting.
Several publications named this Game of the Year in 2019, and the game also received a Nebula Award nomination for Best Game Writing in the same year. It’s easy to see why once you’ve sunk a few hours into the game, despite the game being a story sandbox waiting to be discovered.
The one defining moment for me, and for many players new to the game, is sadly one I cannot talk about here. It would be a disservice to reveal it because it bursts forth in such a grandiose and unexpected way, it’s best left to experience without being warned. It won’t take you long to play the game before it happens for you, but it’s such a memorable moment in the way it punctuates the game’s story that sets the bar for other developers to follow.
PERSONA 5 ROYAL
BY PAUL LOMBARDO
Rarely does a 100+ hour video game fully respect your time, but Persona 5 Royal blends quantity and quality, providing an enjoyable experience that never overstays its welcome. By foregoing ancient genre staples such as tedious grinding, Persona 5 Royal innovates the JRPG genre, leaving much to be desired in other titles that fail to hit this mark. This level of novelty from Atlus, the developers of Royal, refreshes a genre that many argue is in need of innovation.
As someone who hadn’t played the original Persona 5, I went into Royal with immense expectations, solely based on the amount of praise the original received. Even with the unreasonably high bar, Atlus blew my expectations out of the water. Not only does Persona 5 Royal top my favorite games of this generation, but it climbs the list even further, ranking as my favorite game of all time for its wondrous presentation, thought-provoking themes, and exciting gameplay.
In Persona, you play as a high school student leading a double life. During the day, you build up relationships with your “Confidants” and grow your social abilities, but after school, you pillage palaces of oppressive tyrants as leader of the famous “Phantom Thieves”. This group steals the hearts of villains in society per the request of those beneath the boot, causing a “change of heart” and making the oppressor repent and own up to their behavior.
Atlus does an amazing job of building the world of Persona by pulling from Jungian psychology to explain why our seemingly average teenage cast has supernatural powers. The dungeons, dubbed “palaces” per the thievery theme, are cognitive worlds manifested by the desires of each individual antagonist. The first palace exemplifies this through Kamoshida, an award-winning olympian P.E. teacher who places himself atop a pyramid in Shujin Academy. The egotist sees himself as king of the high school, using his power to molest female students and physically abuse his prized volleyball team; both scarily realistic and dark topics the game explores.
The palaces serve as the main dungeons the Phantom Thieves plunder. Palaces are themed on the palace owner’s cognitive perception of themselves, rendering Kamoshida’s palace to be a castle in which he is the king. The design of these palaces is unlike any JRPG I’ve played before — it encompasses clever puzzles and complex level design, making each new palace feel different than the one before. This is unlike Persona 4 Golden, where dungeons take after primordial JRPG design: lengthy hallways and unavoidable enemies. Persona 5 Royal avoids this trope and opts for elaborate dungeons with unique traversal mechanics, such as the grappling hook.
For fans of classic JRPGs, Persona 5 Royal harbors another dungeon that players explore: Mementos. This semi-procedurally generated subway system of the collective human unconscious provides many lengthy tunnels full of shadows to fight and items to acquire. Despite borrowing this tried formula, Royal spices things up by allowing players to drive through enemies with the hilarious “cat car”. Players can also upgrade Mementos by collecting flowers and gain special bonuses for money and experience, ultimately making the less-exciting dungeon worth the time spent.
When exploring these dungeons, the Phantom Thieves encounter formidable “shadows”. These enemies are cognitive creations of the palace owner and can be acquired by the main character to make use of new Personas. Joker, the protagonist/player character, is a “Trickster” which grants him a unique and useful ability to take in many Personas.
Fusing Personas in the Velvet Room (which is eerily designed as a prison, another metaphor for the theme of oppression) allows players to make new, more powerful Personas. The fusion process is enhanced when players spend time with their Confidants, amalgamating the two different gameplay loops: growing relationships in day-to-day life and taking down oppressors of society in palaces and Mementos. By building these bridges between the protagonist’s real life and the Phantom Thieves’ escapades, Persona 5 Royal maintains a steady pace that continually rewards the player with new abilities and mechanics.
Combat within Persona 5 Royal never takes a backseat either, entertaining a flashier and exciting battle system that always hypes the player up as they engage in a new battle. JRPGs often follow a turn-based formula, but Royal welcomes new mechanics to keep the combat flowing in a natural way. Instead of acquiring another turn when successfully targeting a weakness, players can opt to “baton pass” the turn to teammates. This powers up the next attack and can be done a maximum of three times, resulting in a devastating turn for the final person to grab the baton. Baton pass can also be upgraded by playing darts, another example of Royal blending the life-sim social gameplay mechanics with combat.
On top of engaging and innovative turn-based combat, Persona 5 Royal features an astonishing soundtrack by composer Shoji Meguro. “Beneath the Mask” is a melancholic Club Jazz track that kicks in as the player explores Tokyo, creating a unique identity for the game that sticks with you months after playing. Other tracks, like “Rivers in a Desert”, are bombastic, featuring quick and exciting violin riffs that hype the player during intense battles. Persona 5 Royal’s user interface also contributes to this special identity, opting for sharper colors and jagged lines. This unconventional style is fitting for the game’s thematic rebellion and ultimately results in a flashy but appealing menu system.
Building upon the themes of rebellion and oppression is something Persona 5 Royal handles beautifully. Characters like Kasumi Yoshizawa handle commentaries on tougher issues like mental health, something I highlighted in a previous article for SUPERJUMP. Every issue Royal deals with is carefully maneuvered with a perfect balance of nuance and realism to provide relatable characters and thought-provoking plot points.
There won’t ever be a way to truly understand how important Persona 5 Royal is to the JRPG genre without playing it. Atlus’ masterwork is nothing short of genre-defining through its unique storytelling, exceptional dungeon design, as well as flashy and engrossing combat that innovates on ancient turn-based combat mechanics. The unique identity of Persona 5 Royal, brought on by the distinctive user-interface and exceptional score, make the game one that will stick with anyone who plays it for years to come.
BY KHEN RAMOS
Prey is a game that is enjoyed by many but overshadowed by bigger games in the genre. It is revolutionary in form and identity, a masterwork in environmental storytelling, and a creative new approach to clichéd RPG mechanics. Prey in its purest and unbridled form is an experience like no other and as you finish the first loop of the sequence, you know that you are in for one hell of a ride.
There is something so intriguing about being isolated in an abandoned space station, the Talos I in this particular case. It fills the mind with ideas and boundless imagination, all without needing to populate it with moving and living characters. Because if you compare Prey with other known RPGs, it stands out with its storytelling in that there is no interactable human NPC for 70% of the game’s runtime. And yet, any player can easily piece together what happened to the former inhabitants of Talos I and the ever-consuming void that exists within.
Enter the psychotronics lab, climb above the ceiling and you’ll see a crossbow that fires rubber darts because the crew was bored with the mundane everyday task they have to go through. Enter the crew lounge and on a massive table, you’ll see character sheets from a rendition of a well-known table-top RPG game, showcasing what the crew does in their free time. In one of the testing labs of the space station, you’ll see a room filled with sticky notes saying “not a mimic” stuck into every laboratory equipment that isn’t pinned into the ground, explaining how everyone is paranoid about the very organisms they are working with.
Prey almost has a walking simulator vibe when it comes to storytelling, because just like Amnesia: The Dark Descent or Gone Home, the story is in the world’s details, and it immerses you into the world you will be inhabiting for the next twenty hours of your life. Despite its small size and the fact that it isn’t anywhere near as big as the maps of other open-world RPGs out there, it is one of the most fleshed-out settings in any RPG game I have found. Every room has a story and every crew member has an organized role that they have played in the bigger scheme of things. The players discover these stories one by one, without the need for greedy exposition.
A major part of the game is the player’s ability to manipulate objects, opponents, and the game’s very own mechanics to achieve their goals and fix problems. Found a room filled with Typhon Mimics? GLOO Gun the entrance to stop them from overflowing. Can’t enter a room because you have the low hacking skill and do not have the mimic skill yet? Create a path to the room’s ceiling and access it from its skyline. Phantoms outnumbering you? Hack Talon I’s turrets or better yet make your own.
There is no single way to approach a problem, there are at least three other ways you can achieve a goal, and it certainly rewards you for your creativity.
There is always an underlying problem in making an RPG game, how do players gain a meaningful experience from leveling up? Traditional experience mechanics in RPG games would state “Just give them XP in every fight and every quest they complete.” But that brings in the idea of grinding. Players who have the time to grind succeed in the game with flying colors and make bosses look trivial when compared to the player themselves. Those who do not have the time, however, find themselves having the worst day of their lives as they face the final boss with a low-level character with the equipment they had three chapters ago.
Prey bypassed this problem by giving the ability to level up to the player, anytime they want. The catch is that Neuromods are hard to come by in a traditional sense so players have to make them, using their precious resources. This makes survival a lot harder in the higher difficulties because it questions players whether they want to make a Neuromod or make a bunch of shotgun shells for the next encounter. It leaves room for foresight and planning and compensates those who mastered the game’s mechanics and environments rather than those who had more time to grind. This system gives the player the autonomous power to strengthen their character, whenever they want, cultivating player and character identity and ingenuity more than hours spent on grinding.
Games of the Generation should be idealistic in their own right. They should not be afraid of exploring the unknown and revolutionizing the old mechanics that plague their genres. They should give players an incentive for investing the time and effort in playing a game, making them feel good for fixing every problem they encounter in unique and satisfying ways. Lastly, such games should be timeless. They should be something that pops into gamers’ minds and bewitches them to come back and play again and again. Prey does all of these things and more, simply because it knows how to tell a story without saying anything, it knows how to reward player creativity by giving them desirable skills that help them manipulate the world around them, and it knows how to deliver meaningful gameplay progression by giving the power for players to make it themselves. Overall, Prey is one of the defining games of the generation with much of its DNA found in the pillars of many other game titles. It makes one wonder, what can’t you do with a space station, a character, and the never-ending vastness of space?
BY JOHN COOPER
This generation of gaming has been a long and strange one. From mid-generation release consoles like the Switch to the powerhouse refreshes like the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro, they all have one thing in common, and that’s Shovel Knight.
I’m a huge sucker for retro-style video games. My library is full of them, from classic platformers to throwback ‘90s shooters, I can’t get enough. Retro love letters like Shovel Knight have been a mainstay in this generation and are an ever-growing and loved genre, but few encapsulate the look, the feel, the gameplay, and the brutal difficulty more than this 2014 release.
Starting its journey as a Kickstarter campaign, Shovel Knight has been praised for its classic 8-bit color pixel art, tight and responsive controls, and fun and engaging gameplay. The game has grown to surpass any and all expectations, adding several additional campaigns, DLC content, and a release list spanning over eleven separate consoles and platforms.
But what makes this throwback platformer different from the dozens of others on the market?
Shovel Knight puts you in the shoes of the titular hero where you will, armed with your trusty garden tool, travel across dozens of levels to defeat enemies, crush evil bosses and dig up that sweet sweet treasure.
While the art and music do a wonderful job of bringing you into the action and giving you the nostalgia boost of early ‘90s gaming we crave, the gameplay is what makes Shovel Knight such a powerhouse. It’s well crafted and balanced mix of Mario-tight controls with Castlevania-like gameplay are a match that few games can hope to achieve. They give Shovel Knight a fun but challenging style that will frustrate you while it brings you crawling back for more, once again seeking even more treasure to add to your collection.
Shovel Knight’s legacy has been a strong and ever-growing one, appearing as a playable character in half a dozen games and a collection of additional campaigns that help flesh out the world and give players more addicting gameplay with which to challenge themselves.
With a strong and passionate fanbase as well as a developer who is devoted to keeping the legacy strong and alive, we can expect Shovel Knight to live on through this generation and many more to come.
SLAY THE SPIRE
BY DANIEL WARE
If I told you that I’d spent over 50 hours playing a game which I’d only successfully won four times in total, I’d forgive you for thinking I absolutely detest the game. To be honest, in most cases, I would absolutely detest the game. Yet, when it comes to Slay the Spire, even though there’s something about it which makes me want to rip all my hair out, I find myself enjoying it anyway.
Never before have I been so far into a game and felt as if I still have zero grasp of the mechanics and tactics involved. Every time I load up Slay the Spire, I feel a burst of enthusiasm, ready to reach the top of the spire and claim victory. And, inevitably, every single time, I fail miserably. The pain is always raw, fury etched into my face at my inexcusable mistakes.
Yes, Slay the Spire makes me feel useless as a gamer. And I mean, like, completely inept. Somehow though, I love it. Its appeal lies in the addictive gameplay and subtle variety present in each individual play-through. Despite the many hours I’ve sunk into it, I still feel like I barely understand how to win. Many games have a low threshold for rage-quitting, but for this title, the threshold approaches infinite. Every time I’m defeated, I simply want to play again, each session adding a little bit more understanding about its intricate systems and characteristics.
The thing is, Slay the Spire is a seemingly basic game. It doesn’t have the same steep learning curve compared to say, Darkest Dungeon, which is equally addictive and rage-inducing but has very complicated mechanics in contrast. You honestly can just pick up Slay the Spire and play it from the outset, even if you won’t find yourself to be that successful. As the adage goes, Slay the Spire is easy to learn but impossibly hard to master.
As a deckbuilding rogue-like, there are plenty of games similar to Slay the Spire, but none that are quite the same. None that have the same staying power either, at least in my opinion. With the four different characters you can choose from when trying to slay the spire, there’s a deep richness in the gameplay experience. Those characters are The Ironclad, The Silent, The Defect, and The Watcher. Each character has a different sort of focus and a lot of the deck building in a session will focus on amplifying your hero’s strengths while accounting for their weaknesses.
I think that’s what makes it one of my games of the generation, to be honest. It has such a low and approachable barrier to entry for almost any gamer. It’s not graphically intensive. It isn’t really (that) violent. It isn’t priced as a AAA title. It’s now also available on iOS among other platforms, although I wish you could carry saves across the different devices, as I would love to play it in bed on my iPad. Hidden behind all this approachability though, is a brutal experience. And I mean brutal.
They say when you play Bloodborne or a Dark Souls game the best thing to do first is go and die. It may as well be the same for Slay the Spire. Your chances are often left to good or bad luck. You might get good drops from bosses, or you might get bad drops. Sometimes you’ll just come across a really pesky enemy that perfectly counters everything your character is good at. This kind of complexity, woven into what appears as a casual sort of game, is remarkable.
There’s something meditative about playing Slay the Spire for me. Despite all my talk of its rage-inducing powers, I find it calming to play. Often I’ll chuck on Netflix or listen to a podcast or music while playing it. Sometimes I’ll be at full attention, thinking critically, and scheming about my each and every move. From what I’ve encountered though, it doesn’t matter what approach you take. More often than not, your character will be smited.
With the four heroes to choose from, there is plenty of variety in Slay the Spire’s gameplay. There’s also daily game runs you can do that have random modifiers applied which will alter the way you approach the game. Equally rich is the variety of mods available through Steam for the game, which can provide even more different characters to play as. Be aware though, that not all of these mods are created equally. Some of the modded characters are just as good as the official ones, but some aren’t as balanced or bug-free.
If I could put my finger on the one thing that sets Slay the Spire apart from the rest of the pack and truly makes it a game of the generation, it would be its impeccable blend of skill, luck, RNG (random number generation), and gameplay. There really is nothing else quite like it. I can’t wait for them to add more characters and cards to the game, and for me to continue banging my head against the wall. I absolutely suck at Slay the Spire, and to be honest, I think that’s the whole point.
SUPER MARIO ODYSSEY
BY SHAWN LAIB
Super Mario Odyssey is the most perfect 3D platform game ever made, and the best game of this generation. I believe it’s the best Mario game ever made, but when discussing such superlatives, everyone is entitled to their own opinions and everyone is going to have their own favorite.
It’s truly the type of game that defines an entire console generation and one which has fans clamoring for a sequel or game in the same vein as soon as possible. Why is it all of these things though? Of all of Mario’s adventures, why did this one capture my imagination and my love in a way that others were not quite able to in the same way?
It’s because Super Mario Odyssey is as big or as small as the player chooses for it to be. With hundreds and hundreds of Power Moons to collect in the entire game, but only a fraction of them required to complete the story mode and see the credits, the developers have allowed each person to decide how long they want to spend in this majestic universe.
It takes the classic sandbox-style from the beloved Nintendo 64 classic, Super Mario 64, and multiplies everything tenfold. The variety of collectibles, the environments that Mario explores, the costumes that he can wear, mix, and match, all add to the player’s ability to be immersed in the game’s world. It feels like the sheer magnitude of the experience is going to burst out of the screen and into your own lap or living room, depending on whether the game is being enjoyed on the TV or handheld. I wrote before about how putting a game of this magnitude on a handheld-only device is one of the modern marvels of the industry.
There is an enormity to it all, but the special moments come when a Power Moon is collected in the smallest of spaces, in an area or an ingenious way that makes you sit and smile. When you settle down on the bench to keep a lonely man company in the midst of the hustle in New Donk City, he rewards you with a witty line and a heart filled with joy. The effort was so simple, but the originality and clever thinking to turn Mario’s actions into something so human are what makes the game stand apart from others in the series. It makes Mario’s world feel so real in a way that has never been experienced before!
The game takes from so many classics of the genre that it turns into a celebration of the history of gaming. Taking a page out of the Banjo-Kazooie handbook, Mario has the capability to turn into animals and creatures with the help of his hat-come-to-life, Cappy. Each transformation affords the player with new abilities and new possibilities to alter the world and collect moons and coins. The mechanic is not overdone in any way, and it creates a sense of immersion for the character and the game world in a unique manner that goes far beyond just jumping on a Goomba or saving Peach from Bowser’s clutches (although that’s always been loads of fun)!
To close, I’ll say that Super Mario Odyssey may not be everybody’s favorite Mario game, but it certainly has parts of your favorite Mario game within its special reach somewhere. It’s a celebration of all of the elements that have made the portly plumber Nintendo’s main guy for nearly four decades! Now let’s get on that sequel, shall we?
THE WITCHER 3
BY ANTONY TERENCE
“Witch hunts will never be about witches.”
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. We are all products of circumstance, beings whose actions are influenced by the past as much as their consequences. In The Witcher 2, I let the lethal antagonist live. It wasn’t because I had a revelation that made me empathize with the kingslayer’s ill deeds. I did it because I knew my actions would let Letho show up in the game’s promising sequel. The promise that every action has its repercussions, even beyond individual titles, set me on a path that I would soon come to cherish.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s trail is one that few role-playing games have tread. Gone were the rudimentary fetch quests and cardboard cutouts lacking in character development. Even the most simple of tasks featured characters who truly lived and breathed, bound by the predicament brought upon them. The game’s overarching plot and its healthy serving of diversions formed a living entity that wove itself in tune with my actions. Mistakes could live within you as regrets. Or you could choose to display them with pride, knowing that in the end, choices make us.
Stepping into the shoes of Geralt, an infamous monster hunter for-hire, helped me experience emotional jolts that few narratives have delivered before. A haunting world riddled with strife and disease had no business meddling with beauty and enchantment, but its tendrils still found a home in the crevices of my mind. Good games let you feel emotions you’ve felt in the past, while great ones make you juggle emotions you’ve never dealt with.
Strutting into a conversation as a savior of the downtrodden did little good if the outcome of your crusade defied expectations. Just like in real life, doing everything in your power doesn’t guarantee a victory, no matter how trivial. With a monster on the loose, love would compel you to hold your dear ones tight. But when your embrace ends up stifling the very one you wished to protect, fate’s hooks burden your heart with a weight it has no choice but to carry. Folks don’t expect Witchers to save them from themselves.
The game plays like a literary piece of work come to life, bound together by an evocative soundtrack and breathtaking visuals that hold up to 2020’s standards. Its bestiary isn’t just filled with mindless monsters, it details all sorts of beings you could interact with, be they crafty conversations or something more intimate. Your arsenal might find itself lodged in the skull of an unfortunate human from time to time, for monsters aren’t defined by race here.
The machinations of a society ripped apart by both greed and desperation leave deep scars on its inhabitants. Scars that individuals choose to forget or embrace in all sorts of ways, that the game is bold enough to explore. Witcher 3’s stellar expansions could pass off as entire games themselves, but choose to complement an already riveting journey, concluding Geralt’s tale as we know it.
I still visit the game from time to time. It’s sad that our time together had to come to an end. But I am grateful nonetheless. CD Projekt Red’s 10-year anniversary video for the franchise is a pilgrimage spot that has yet to fail me when it comes to shedding a tear for those lost and those left.
With hyper-casual games booming in popularity, it’s not too late to grip a sword unsteadily and face a grim narrative of consequence. The world isn’t black or white; it possesses shades of all kinds, and the degree of suspicion is arbitrary. If only I could forget the scent of lilac and gooseberries to experience Geralt’s adventure once more. I’ll miss you, old friend.
BY KARL OTTY
It feels strange to discuss Yakuza 0 as one of the best games of this generation because, in many ways, it’s not from this generation. Besides being largely inspired by various elements of SEGA’s back-catalogue, as I’ve discussed before on SUPERJUMP, this particular entry actually debuted as a cross-gen PS3/PS4 title in Japan back in 2015. On top of that, it runs on an upgraded Yakuza 3 engine, which dates all the way back to 2009, and it really shows. The graphics are…well, fine. They are perfectly passable, but everything about the twitchy movement and oversized UI reminds you of the days of early HD gaming. It wasn’t until Yakuza 6, debuting in Japan a year later, that the all-new Dragon Engine made the games feel like a true eighth-gen experience for the first time.
So what makes this the game of the generation over the newer, flashier games in the series like Yakuza Kiwami 2 or the excellent detective spinoff Judgement? It’s pure passion for the subject matter and the characters of the universe. Yakuza 0 may not look like much, but it’s overflowing with tender loving care. The main plot is a gut-wrenching tale, adding so many levels of depth to mainstay characters like Kiryu and Majima that you would need an elevator to reach their darkest secrets. The cast of villains is a wacky, colourful bunch, but they still ooze a threatening aura that would make you cross the street if you saw them in public.
Outside of the main storyline, Yakuza’s iconic substories are funnier than ever, flashing a quirky, offbeat grin to lift your spirits from the game’s surprisingly dark main plot. And that’s before we even get into the minigames. You can spend 50 hours in this game just running a nightclub or building a real estate empire. Keeping the peace between the feuding Yakuza families can wait, I’ve got casinos to purchase.
But none of that is really the point, the real reason why I believe Yakuza 0 to be the best game of this generation is that it’s the one that finally welcomed us into its world. The Yakuza series was on its sixth entry when it got to making this prequel, and despite many releases, it still hadn’t found a foothold outside of Japan. Localisations had been attempted before but had replaced the game’s silly, optimistic tone with something more akin to the gritty, violent GTA-esque style that we Westerners supposedly crave.
The localisation team for the modern Yakuza games is a group of gods in my eyes, capable of creating an enthralling (and hilarious) tale without succumbing to the awkward translations that so many Japanese games are plagued with (looking at you, Persona 5). The script does have the occasional wobble, but those periodically odd word choices are usually so bizarre and out of place that I sometimes have to wonder if the team did it on purpose just because they thought it would be funny.
So that’s Yakuza 0, a brilliant, one-of-a-kind game that we almost missed out on entirely in the West, if not for a passionate, witty localisation team. Kudos to SEGA, and I’m thrilled to see that we’re opening the next chapter of gaming history with an all-new take on the series in Yakuza: Like a Dragon which is, of all things, now a JRPG. Madness! I love it.
Thank you for reading
It can be exciting to leap into a new generation, and sometimes a little sad to think about what we might be leaving behind. Thankfully, though, these new consoles are dedicated to backwards compatibility to an extent never seen before. For this reason, gamers around the world are really getting the best of both worlds — all of those incredible games we might have missed in the last generation will remain with us (and might even have new life breathed into them thanks to that shiny new hardware).
It’s truly a great time to be a gamer. For many of us, video games have been a true lifeline during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they will continue to be a source of happiness and inspiration in the future. We would like to thank all of the hard-working developers around the world who make these experiences possible. And we’d like to thank you for coming on the journey with us at SUPERJUMP. We can’t wait to explore all of the surprises and delights that await us in the coming generation of games, and to share these wonders with you all.
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