Will games like Bioshock join the ranks of Mario and Zelda?
There exist some games that many a gamer would consider “timeless classics.” They are games that have withstood the test of time, proud pillars of an era long past that, without them, might have been forgotten. If you were to walk into a museum full of the most admired and influential video games, these would be the titles you would see on display. They include games such as Super Mario Bros., which served as a template for every side-scrolling platformer after it; Doom, which helped revolutionize the first-person shooter genre; Chrono Trigger, which defined the JRPG. These games will be remembered for defining our industry in the past, and will continue to be remembered as hundreds of gamers revisit them every year.
I have the great fortune of being a 90’s kid. Just last week, I celebrated my nineteenth birthday. It was the first birthday I ever celebrated without family (I am away at university), and it made me realize just how old I am right now. My first console was the Nintendo 64. Google and YouTube – basically the internet as we know it – did not exist when I was born. I grew up with cassette tapes and VHS tapes and floppy discs and blocky computer screens; today everyone owns a computer with all that stuff in their pocket! Yes, a lot has happened since I cam into existence over nineteen years ago. Hell, a lot has happened just in the past seven.
I remember when I first joined MyIGN. It was at the end of my sophomore year in high school, just after E3 2011. At the time, I was very soft-spoken and shy; unlike most people on the site at the time, I did not grow up with the NES and SNES classics. I felt far too young to hold an appreciation for the classics of the past. However, as I grew older, I discovered many fellow MyIGNers who felt the same way, those who grew up during the same era as I, those who played the same games I did while growing up. Over the years, I have even found those who were born even later than I was, those whose first console was the GameCube or PlayStation 2 or Xbox. In a few more years, I will most certainly see people whose first console was the Wii – and that just boggles my mind.
But back to the feature topic. While I was contemplating on how old I was, a question popped into my mind – what seventh generation video games will people remember as classics down the road? Certainly, it feels so foreign to us to see anybody with nostalgia for Wii Sports or LittleBigPlanet; when we think of classic games, our minds go back to a simpler, more archaic time. Yet, twenty years from now, our children – and possibly grandchildren – will be thinking the same thing. They will see the PlayStation 3 the same way we see the SNES. Every gamer today is familiar with at least a few SNES classics – Super Mario World, Street Fighter II, Donkey Kong Country, just to name a few. Will games like New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Super Street Fighter IV, and Donkey Kong Country Returns be viewed in the same light years down the road?
Below are a list of five seventh-gen games that I feel will be considered “timeless classics” a decade or so from now. These games either defined the genre they represented or defined the entire generation. There are certainly many more games I could mention – some of which I even enjoy much more than the ones listed – but I do believe the sample below best represents what the seventh generation was all about.
Personally, I did not enjoy Bioshock as much as many (if not most) others do. There was just something about the gameplay that did not click with me; I found the shooting to be monotonous and the plasmids underutilized. However, despite my criticisms, there was something unmistakably beautiful about Bioshock, and that was thanks to its outstanding presentation. Exploring Rapture and discovering its story was a fascinating adventure, and the characters it crafted felt so alive and personal. It created an atmosphere that was both spooky and tense, folding in a powerful narrative that was revolutionary for its time. In a way, it was like the seventh gen’s Half-Life, a game that did not shake things up too much in the gameplay department, but changed the way we experienced video game narratives forever.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Of the five titles on this list, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the only game I have not played at length. However, there is no denying how important of a game Modern Warfare was last generation, even if it did not reinvent the first-person shooter genre. Visually spectacular and emotionally gripping, Modern Warfare was Call of Duty at its best. Obviously, I cannot vouch for the game myself, so here are a few back-of-the-box quotes for you.
Eurogamer: “It succeeds not only for being consistently spectacular, but for the way it has been crafted into something that keeps you engaged right to the very end.
GameInformer: “There is no question in my mind that this is the best action shooter that I have ever played.”
GamePro: “I seriously cannot think of a single flaw in CoD4, and trust me, I looked for them.”
GameTrailers: “It’s absolutely relentless in its assault on the senses and never lets up until the last trigger has been squeezed.”
Many of you may be wondering why I chose such a conservative title to be on this list. Well, a “classic” does not always have to reinvent the wheel; Super Mario World was a relatively conservative game in terms of its concept, yet it is widely regarded as a timeless classic because it refined the formula to an unprecedented level.
Just as Metroid Prime and Halo: Combat Evolved wowed gamers with their scope and story during the sixth generation, Mass Effect was a game changer in the seventh. From the creators of other such classics as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic came one of the most engrossing third-person shooter ever created. From dialogue trees that brought each character to life, to massive landscapes and set pieces that delighted the explorer in all of us, Mass Effect crafted a world so enchanting and interesting that it had to span a length of three games just to fit everything in it. Although my personal favorite of the trilogy will always be Mass Effect 3, the first Mass Effect helped pave the way for a whole new world of storytelling and writing that many gamers will undoubtedly return to years into the future.
Super Mario Galaxy
Every generation has a landmark Mario title, and last gen’s Super Mario Galaxy most definitely fit the bill. Though obviously not as revolutionary as it older brother Mario 64, Galaxy’s scope and creativity made sure Nintendo’s Wii would not be forgotten. Personally, my experience with Mario Galaxy was hampered by its somewhat awkward controls and camera, but if there was one seventh-generation Nintendo game that everyone could look back fondly at, it would be this. Super Mario Galaxy is a masterpiece of design, and certainly deserves to sit next to 64 and Sunshine as one of Nintendo’s landmark 3D Mario titles.
Portal is perhaps my favorite game on this list. I remember thinking to myself how such a unique and creative idea never came to form until now. It was so creative, in fact, that it practically spawned its own sub-genre of games, among them my 2013 game of the year, Antichamber. However, Portal did much more than introduce a new idea. Valve was somehow able to successfully interweave a dark but humorous story into the game, resulting one of gaming’s most iconic artificial intelligences and a meme that will likely outlast the game itself. Portal is proof that Valve is still able to create amazing experiences no matter the generation and will forever be remembered as one of the most iconic games of the generation.
Bioshock, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Mass Effect, Super Mario Galaxy, Portal. Although there are many other games certainly deserving of mention, I feel it is these five games that we will remember best in the future, games that we will tell our children about for decades to come. Decades, huh? I wonder how our industry will look twenty years from now…
Which seventh-generation games would you consider to be timeless classics? Share your thoughts in the comments below!