Video Games Generation 7: The Cute Neighbor Generation

_For whatever reason, I often find myself talking with my sister about the attractiveness of actresses. More specifically, about actresses she thinks are ugly. She doesn’t like Michelle Williams, Maggie Gyllenhaal, or Claire Danes, to name a few. For the most part, I agree with her…but only to an extent. I agree that compared to the likes of maybe Charlize Theron, Jennifer Connelly or Christina Hendricks, they don’t quite stack up…but how many women do? (Or maybe lots of women do, this is based on my own taste in women, after all. But seriously, if they aren’t up there for you…I don’t even know.) On their own merits, I would qualify most of them as good looking. I would bring up the point that many of actresses people would might call “unattractive” due to the high standards set in the media were merely a next-door neighbor, I would describe them to my friends as my cute neighbor.

_I was watching IGN’s panel from PAX East about people’s thoughts on the best game of this current console generation. Lots of games were brought up…BioShock, Portal 2, Mass Effect 3, Super Mario Galaxy, Dark Souls, Rock Band…mmmmmmmm, Rock Band…Uncharted 2, Metal Gear Solid 4…plenty of stuff, lots of games. Then I got to thinking…we’re close to the end of this gen, with the WiiU already out and the PS4 on the way, as well as a likely announcement in the coming months on a next-gen Xbox…what would I pick as the best game of this console generation? Why would I pick whatever I picked? What would I pick as the best games of previous console generations?

_I first thought back on the last gen; the PS2, the Gamecube, the OG Xbox. What were the stand out games? Resident Evil 4…Grand Theft Auto: Vice City…Halo: Combat Evolved…Final Fantasy X…Okami…MGS3…Shadow of the Colossus…F-Zero GX…Skies of Arcadia…I’d be hard pressed to pick one. All of them are exemplary titles with unique features that separate them from the pack, but I really don’t think I could go wrong with any of the choices. The generation before, besides obvious winner Xenogears, there was FF7, Suikoden 2, Ocarina of Time, WCW/nwo Revenge, MGS1, Final Fantasy Tactics, Goldeneye, Super Mario 64…before that Super Metroid, Mega Man X, FF3/6, Donkey Kong Country, Sonic 2, A Link to the Past, Chrono Trigger…NES had Mega Man 2, Super Mario Bros. 3, Punch-Out!, Blaster Master, Contra, and Ninja Gaiden. All of these are classics, and while some may have aged more gracefully than others, if you listed any one of them as the best game of its respective time, I don’t think I’d have go against it.

I went back to the current batch of consoles…I thought about all of the games people listed as the best games of the generation…was there anything that would seem “right?” For some reason…it didn’t feel like it. Mass Effect? Lots of great elements throughout the entire series, but each entry feels a little too flawed in places to single one out. MGS4? Story doesn’t stand up by itself. BioShock? The last act of the game pales in comparison to the events that precede it. Halo 3?  The series cinematics peaked with Combat Evolved. Nothing really feels like a “Best game of the generations.” The more I contemplate on this generation of games…nothing really feels outstanding. It kind of feels like there aren’t any truly generation defining games in this generation of consoles.

Now, you could make an argument for most modern games being objectively way better than games of consoles past. And you’d probably be totally right. Think of simple things like textures. Super Mario World featured incredible backgrounds, full of background objects containing as many as 3 distinguishable colors. Real quick, take a look at the amount of shading done on the average sprite in SMW. Most objects are monochrome, in the literal sense. Now think about something like…dirt. Your average, pay-no-attention-to-it dirt in your average shooter. Think about how complicated the texture for that dirt is. That’s in…every game. Now think about something like enemy AI. Most every enemy is pretty much mind blowingly one dimensional in SMW. “Move forward.” “Kick footballs.” “Spit out projectiles in the exact same pattern, regardless of Mario’s position.” There’s literally no AI to speak of. Compare that to way even dumb enemies in modern games act. Even dumb enemies tend to adjust their actions based on what the player is doing.

_This isn’t meant to dump on SMW. I love SMW. It’s just to point out how far we’ve come with the average video game. But best games of a generation aren’t about what the average game does…it’s about standing out above the pack and embarrassing your peers with excellence. Classic games of generations past were Jennifer Connelly level bombshells. Classic games of the modern gen feel more like my cute neighbors. They’re attractive, but I’m not sure if I’d really gush to anybody about how hot they are. “I live next door to this cute girl, Skyrim. She’s pretty good looking, though not more so than your average toned woman you’d see at the gym.” The older generation defining games were the kind of classic beauties I’d do image searches when I thought of them because picturing them in my mind doesn’t really do them justice.

“Hi…I’m Metal Gear Solid 3 and I’m way out of your league.”

There’s a reason why Xenogears is a game I keep coming back to year after year. There’s a reason why I sometimes pop in Mega Man 2 for an hour when I should be playing other games I own and haven’t even unwrapped. For me, this seems to be the ultimate outlier. When I look at my 360, PS3 and Wii libraries of games, there are plenty of games I wouldn’t mind playing again…but I’ve actually popped in and actually replayed almost none of them. I think the game I replayed the most was Braid, and it might be my game of this console generation for that reason…it just had some kind of quality that kept me coming back. But here’s hoping that the next slate of gaming consoles goes back to the days of bombshells, leaving us breathless.


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