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Top Tuesday: 5 important video game franchises of this generation


Come Christmas time this year, we'll welcome the eighth generation of video games into our lives in earnest when the PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720 launch (Sorry Wii U). And with the introduction of those new consoles one can hope that we'll be seeing a host of original new ideas, concepts and games come along with them. And for the record ordering pizza via Kinect doesn't count. But before that happens, we have to acknowledge the games that came before, the games that contributed in one way or another to how we play them. While a legitimate argument can be made that Generation 7 was plagued with sequels and spin-offs, it also can't be denied that it did bring us new properties that have proved as enduring as Mario, Madden and Call of Duty. Here then, are the most important franchises of the current video game generation.

6. Assassin's Creed

With the recent release of Assassin's Creed III and the subsequent announcement of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, not to mention a host of inbetween-quels, you wouldn't be blamed for thinking the series has been around forever. It may seem hard to believe, but Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad and his decedents only started their adventures in this generation. While the first game was, at best, an okay experience, it laid the groundwork for a vast, historically accurate open-word game, that continues to excite. The franchise's heady mix of real history mixed with centuries long conspiracy makes for a compelling narrative that continues to intrigue. Assassin's Creed remains an fascinating property that will likely continue into Generation 8. [Spoiler Alert] Although, in its own way, Assassin's Creed is about fighting an alien menace, sort of, the franchise showed that triple-AAA gaming could be about more than just fighting terrorist, rescuing princesses and, yes, fighting aliens,

5. Bioshock

From a purely FPS gameplay perspective, Bioshock proved to be a competent, if not compelling experience. But what Bioshock and it's sequels really brought to the table was proof that video games could be more that just brainless entertainment. Even if it looked like brainless entertainment. Looking like nothing more than a skop, skiet and donner type game, Bioshock was a revelation as far as its story was concerned. It wasn't just a compelling story that dealt, with things like the rampancy of unchecked science, personal freedom and objectivist philosophy, but managed to also really mess with the player's role in the story as well, once it's awesome twist was revealed. Yes, really, a FPS had something meaningful to say about philosophy. More importantly, all it had to say could only be said in the form of a video game, proving that video game are and remain a true art form in their own right.

4. Uncharted

If Bioshock proved that games could be Oscar worthy, then Uncharted proved it could also be MTV Movie Award worth. While Uncharted's ambitions may not have been as lofty as Bioshock, it was nonetheless a character-laden spectacle of a game that blended boisterous Hollywood action, with white-knuckle action gameplay that didn't have to deviate heavily from how we actually played games. And yet, it seemed to offer so much more. Uncharted was/is the best of old style gameplay and modern cinematic character-driven story.

3. Left 4 Dead

It's not as if before Left 4 Dead come around, there were no co-op games, but this game almost turned co-op into a genre all its own. Left 4 Dead took an incredibly simple concept, four people trying to survive against a seemingly unending swarm of Zombies, and turned it into the ultimate tool to learn teamwork. And it was true teamwork; no room for lone-wolfing here. And morons that ended up doing that, found themselves kicked from the game post haste. With Left 4 Dead, cooperation wasn't just a checkbox for the marketing team, it was an essential gameplay principle. Failure to work together meant failure for everyone.

2. Gears of War

Gears of War was Generation 7's first event game. I bought a copy of Gears of War before I even had enough money saved up for my Xbox 360. That's how awesome a job the game's hype vendors did in promoting it. But it was more than just hype, Gears of War was a game changer. The games staple features, the cover shooting, roadie run, horde modes, co-op play, have all found their way into other shooters (and even technically speaking non-shooters. See below) to the point that those games could be called re-skins of Gears of War.  Of all the games to come out of this generation, the adventures of Marcus Fenix and Delta Squad is arguably the most influential.

1. Mass Effect

This is just my opinion, but the Mass Effect Trilogy may just be the most perfect game of this generation. By the time you get to Mass Effect 3, the series evolved into a culmination of the best aspects of other great games mentioned here - barring perhaps Left 4 Dead. It had a large fully realized world, fantastic bombastic action set-pieces, satisfying third-person combat, an epic compelling narrative that didn't ignore smaller character moments and - surprisingly, in it's third chapter - great multiplayer co-op. Mass Effect wasn't without its flaws, but as a game that tried to be all things to all people, it came closer than anything has ever come before.

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