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posted: 11/15/2013 6:00 AM

The best games of a generation

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  • "Portal 2" and its predecessor are considered to be two of the finest achievements in video game history.

      "Portal 2" and its predecessor are considered to be two of the finest achievements in video game history.
    Associated Press

  • "BioShock Infinite" is the most acclaimed video game of 2013, but why didn't it crack Sean's list of the best games of this console generation?

      "BioShock Infinite" is the most acclaimed video game of 2013, but why didn't it crack Sean's list of the best games of this console generation?
    Associated Press

  • The Microsoft Xbox One console makes its North American debut on Friday, Nov. 22.

      The Microsoft Xbox One console makes its North American debut on Friday, Nov. 22.
    Associated Press

  • Mark Cerny, lead system architect for the Sony PlayStation 4, announces the new console at a February news conference. The PS4 hits stores Friday, Nov. 15.

      Mark Cerny, lead system architect for the Sony PlayStation 4, announces the new console at a February news conference. The PS4 hits stores Friday, Nov. 15.
    Associated Press

  • Video: "Rock Band 2" performance

  • Video: "Portal" musical finale

 
 

A new generation of console video gaming begins this week when Sony unleashes the PlayStation 4 in stores on Friday. Not to be outdone, Microsoft launches the Xbox One a week later on Nov. 22.

While the graphics will undoubtedly be better, online experiences will continue to improve, and the way we use our gaming console will constantly evolve, can the next generation of games live up to the incredible run that began in 2005 with the debut of the Xbox 360? It won't be easy -- you could argue we are living in a golden age of video games, sequels and remakes notwithstanding.

The five games below are my favorites from the 360/PS3/Wii era. (Don't be shy about chiming in with your favorites in the comments section.)

Five gaming classics:
1. "Rock Band 2," 2008 (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii) -- The addictive rhythm genre that began with "Guitar Hero" and continued in countless sequels and spinoffs was perfected in "Rock Band 2." With its clean, attractive interface, crowd-pleasing song list and variety of possibilities, "RB2" is perhaps the video game I've played more than any other. The massive amount of downloadable songs kept this game relevant for the entire life span of the genre; I still can't believe a video game let me play a plastic guitar along with an entire Iron Maiden album. Not many games can actually send me to a euphoric state, and "RB2" managed to do just that time and time again.

2. "Portal," 2007 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC) -- It is nearly impossible to describe this game to the uninitiated. I suppose you'd call it a darkly comedic, first-person physics puzzler, but that hardly does it justice. What begins as a series of scientific tests for your avatar turns into an epic struggle against a psychopathic computer system named GLaDOS -- who sings you a song after you kill her. This game and its ingenious sequel should be required playing for every living person with a controller.

3. "Super Mario Galaxy," 2007 (Wii) -- The Wii's first tentpole exclusive proved to be its best; it was all downhill from here for hard-core and traditional gamers who owned Nintendo's motion-controlled console. At first blush, it looked impossible to control, but luckily the geniuses who created Mario's iconic 2D adventures created an intuitive 3-D world with surprises around every corner. "SMG" is one of the most beautiful of all recent games, even though it's not a lifelike HD experience.

4. "Uncharted: Drake's Fortune," 2007 (PS3) -- This Sony exclusive was the game "Tomb Raider" promised but never seemed to achieve, a cinematic adventure that could surpass the excitement of a top-flite Hollywood movie. (I mean, would you rather play this or watch "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"?)

5. "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3," 2011 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC) -- I know, your eyes are rolling, but I cannot deny that this game took command of my life for the better part of a year. Are there better-written campaigns? Yes. Is the multiplayer game a little simplistic? Yes. But have I sunk 15 days of play time into any of those other, supposedly better games? Nope.

Honorable mention: "BioShock Infinite," 2013 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC) -- The most critically acclaimed game of the year is unparalleled in the world-building department; I could explore this game's warped utopia in the sky for days, drinking in every detail. The problem is that you actually have to play the game, which is a rather annoying, repetitive shooter with pointless secondary weapons. "BioShock Infinite" is perhaps the only video game I'd rather watch than play.

• Sean Stangland is a Daily Herald copy editor and a tireless consumer of pop culture. His entire life has been a mathematical error. You can follow him on Twitter at @SeanStanglandDH.

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