For almost a decade, players reveled in the gaming experiences provided by last-gen consoles. From the Xbox 360's release in 2005 to the launch of current-gen consoles, the gaming industry experienced some serious and positive changes. Players watched the uprising of casual games on mobile devices, the increasing blockbuster nature of triple-A titles, and the growing trend of competitive online gaming.
During the eight years of last-gen consoles, game developers provided new and challenging experiences for players and launched a true revolution in online gaming. Gamers were no longer required to sit next to their friends on the couch to play together, but could now connect with other players around the world. Gamers experienced new worlds and stories that challenged their abilities, minds, and morality.
As we prepare to close out the final chapters of the last-gen consoles, we look back on the games that had the most impact on us. We polled our writers and developed the below list of the top 25 best games from last generation. Here they are in no particular order:
The Last of Us - PS3
Very few people will argue the impact The Last of Us has on those who play it. From its heart-wrenching storyline to creative gameplay, The Last of Us has earned its place among the best games of the last generation.
Thanks to the game’s success, developer Naughty Dog remastered The Last of Us for Sony’s current-gen console, the PlayStation 4, allowing a new generation of players to enjoy the game’s immersive and stunning experience.
Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword - Wii
For many Zelda fans, Ocarina of Time has been the best game in the franchise. However, when Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword hit shelves, many gamers began to change their tune.
Skyward Sword provides a compelling and engaging origin story, along with some impressive visuals and fun gameplay. The controls worked seamlessly on the Wii and make for a low learning curve for new and veteran players. For many gamers, Skyward Sword is considered the best game ever produced for the Wii.
Left 4 Dead 2 - Xbox 360
Valve’s Left 4 Dead 2 took the intensity and action of its predecessor, but with better weapons and other additions. Where the first one introduced an engaging, zombie-killing concept, it was Left 4 Dead 2 that truly showed the game’s potential.
Much of what made the game so fun and immersive was the four-player co-op. Players had to work together and maintain strong communication if they wanted to succeed and live through each level. Although the title is now six years old, many gamers still enjoy jumping in with friends to take on hordes of zombies.
Super Mario Galaxy - Wii
Nintendo took their famous Italian plumber and sent him into space with Super Mario Galaxy, and it was a brilliant move. The game’s fun levels, unique challenges, and lengthy gameplay made it a gem on Wii.
Super Mario Galaxy’s success led the sequel to be available on WiiU’s eShop, though hopefully they’ll also bring HD versions of the games to the WiiU in the future.
Batman: Arkham City - PS3, Xbox 360
Rocksteady’s first Arkham game showed the gaming world that Batman games could be dark and gritty, while promoting Batman as the hero we’ve always known. Batman: Arkham City then built upon the strengths of its predecessor, while also delivering plenty of new features players came to love and appreciate.
The Gotham of Arkham City entreated players with exciting fighting and a detailed environment we all wanted from Batman games for years. It’ll be difficult for Rocksteady to outdo themselves, but many gamers are hoping they do just that with their upcoming game, Batman: Arkham Knight, which launches in June for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
Page 2: Lancers & Necromorphs
Dark Souls is a unique beast among games. While it was never designed to be a ‘hard’ game, it’s considered one of the most difficult releases of the last-generation. However, it wasn’t just the fact that the game was hard that made it so great, but that it perfectly punished players enough to make them work harder and keep coming back for more.
The success of Dark Souls led to a sequel and to this year’s PlayStation 4 exclusive Bloodborne. We’re sure to see plenty of additional games from developer From Software in the future that use the same winning formula.
Fallout 3 - PS3, Xbox 360
The first two Fallout games were undeniable successes, but things hit big with Fallout 3. Fallout 3 took the shooter genre and gave it a unique twist, then stacked that onto a compelling RPG for a fantastic game.
What gave players the most excitement was the ability to explore post-apocalyptic Washington D.C. By using a real-world location with recognizable landmarks, players were able to get a feel for how the world would look after it ends.
The game’s characters and unique gameplay only compounded the experience for gamers. Hopefully Bethesda will continue their winning streak with Fallout 4, which is rumored to be revealed at this year’s E3 conference.
Gears of War - Xbox 360
Gears of War brought the over-the-shoulder gametype into a new realm by introducing compelling characters, fast-paced gameplay, and awesome guns. Where the game shined was its AI, which used basic military strategy to take on players, making the game an enjoyable challenge all the way through.
Even though Gears of War was quick-paced, it required players to be strategic and methodical with their approach, making it an enjoyable and challenging shooter.
Grand Theft Auto V - PS3, Xbox 360
Grand Theft Auto V blew away player expectations and set numerous records upon release. It is one of the most expensive game ever developed, costing a whopping $500 million to create. However, that cost was quickly recovered when the game made $800 millions in the first day, and reached $1 billion in sales in three days.
Grand Theft Auto V’s massive success was due in large part to the popularity of the series’ earlier games. But beyond just a great history, Grand Theft Auto V took the franchise to new places with a bigger world, three compelling characters, and far more visually impressive than the previous Grand Theft Auto games.
Even today, Grand Theft Auto V continues to top sales charts and build a following. Now, we look forward to Rockstar Games’ next Grand Theft Auto game, which, if players are lucky, will hopefully release sometime in the next few years.
Dead Space - PS3, Xbox 360
Dead Space gave rise to the new generation of over-the-shoulder shooters. The game’s mix of action, horror, and story gave it a lasting feel that continued through three games.
While it definitely wasn’t the most successful of Electronic Arts’ games, it received strong reviews and incited a cult following among those who enjoy its unique offerings. It's mechanics are some of the tightest we've seen from a third person shooter and it's design and atmosphere are second to none.
Page 3: Sackboy & Assassins
LittleBigPlanet brought a unique and enjoyable arcade experience to PlayStation 3. From the cute knitted creatures to the creative puzzles, LittleBigPlanet established itself as a staple game on Sony’s last-gen console.
Thanks to the success of LittleBigPlanet on PlayStation 3, we’re sure the series will continue long into the future on PlayStation 4.
Assassins Creed 2 - PS3, Xbox 360
Ubisoft set the standard for last-gen consoles when it released Assassin’s Creed. The open-world game opened gamers to the power of open world action, but a new age of historically-based adventure games.
When Assassin’s Creed 2 released, players quickly realized the sequel expanded and enhanced the experience of the first. Due to its compelling story, immersive gameplay, and engaging characters, many Assassin’s Creed fans consider Assassin’s Creed 2 to be the best of the series.
Rock Band - PS3, Xbox 360
Rock Band took the concept developed by Guitar Hero and expanded it to include vocals and drums for a full, co-op musical experience. The game provided a challenging and engaging experience for all players, whether casual or hardcore.
Like Guitar Hero and similar games, Rock Band brought real and well-known songs to life and let the players take the stage as the rockers they love and adore. The game quickly became a staple at parties and gatherings, and maintained its presence in living rooms for many years.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots - PS3
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is one of the most highly-rated and reviewed games of all time, let alone the last generation of consoles. From the game’s groundbreaking graphics to its movie-worthy story, the game held players' attention and excitement from start to finish.
Additionally, Metal Gear Solid 4 changed up gameplay mechanics and offered players the option of working stealthily or charging in, guns blazing. This choice made Metal Gear Solid 4 the perfect game for almost any gamer of any play style, and helped make it a great replayable game.
It’ll be hard for Konami to improve upon Metal Gear Solid 4, though many gamers are confident the studio will do just that with the upcoming Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain.
Far Cry 3 - PS3, Xbox 360
Far Cry 3 showed that a strong story and relatable characters are important ingredients for a great game. Sure, gunplay and wild animals help, but it was ultimately the flawed and mature nature of Far Cry 3 that made it a great game.
Add to that the incredible open world that begged to be discovered, and players had a game they could spend hours in without noticing the time flying by. And as players progressed through the map and game, they were greatly rewarded with engaging enemy battles and a satisfying upgrade system.
Page 4: Tennis & Cake
Borderlands 2 took the unique and comical nature of its predecessor and added more loot, crueler enemies, and bigger weapons. The open world game is never without interesting characters and dark humor, which work extremely well together to create an overall awesome adventure.
What Borderlands 2 did well was make constant looting fun and upgrading worthwhile as both were extremely useful and necessary for players to succeed. Add to that the game’s engaging co-op and the balance was tilted in its favor.
Wii Sports - Wii
One would think that a free game that was included with every Nintendo’s Wii would be little more than filler. But that was definitely not the case with Wii Sports, which gained popularity and fame due in large part to the way it introduced the Wii Remote's unique controls.
Wii Sports let Wii owners experience golf, tennis, and bowling in the comfort of their home, with all the motions required for each sport. The Wii’s unique setup, mixed with the Wii Sports' simple, yet elegant game offering made the two a perfect match, and helped make Wii Sports a staple game for all Wii players.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare - PS3, Xbox 360
Activision shook things up for Call of Duty fans when it broke away from the historical nature of the franchise and brought the shooter into modern times. But what really made this game stand out was its addicting and thrilling multiplayer. Modern Warfare would set a standard for first person shooter games for the next few years thanks to its quick gameplay and unique map design.
The success of Modern Warfare helped Activision and the Call of Duty franchise expand substantially, ultimately leading to today, where the publisher has three different Call of Duty games in development, with one releasing every fall. Needless to say, we doubt the Call of Duty franchise is going away anytime soon.
Portal - PS3, Xbox 360
Portal introduced players to a new type of puzzle game, as well as make us all really hungry for cake. The game’s unique style and approach kept players coming back for more to discover new and faster ways to complete each level.
Portal’s ability to draw players in with its simple, yet complex tasks, compelling storytelling, and intriguing lead GladOS has not been matched by many games since.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves - PS3
Developer Naughty Dog is now well known as a cinematic storyteller, a calling card built largely on the success of their Uncharted Series. Immersive gameplay and a sophisticated storyline were a major part of the first Uncharted, but it was Uncharted 2 that struck gold.
Uncharted 2’s character, environments, puzzles, gunplay, and story kept players engaged throughout the whole game, and led to a successful third game. Uncharted 4 is slated for early 2016, and will bring the features and quality of the first few games to the current-generation.
Page 5: Cowboys & Dragons
Red Dead Redemption - PS3, Xbox 360
With Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar Games was able to take the success of the inner-city Grand Theft Auto and translate it to the Wild West. The game’s immersive story and diverse characters kept the gameplay interesting and players engaged.
Surprisingly, Rockstar has yet to officially announce a sequel to the open-world cowboy RPG, despite constant and consistent requests from fans. Hopefully we’ll learn at this year’s E3 that the developer has been hard at work on the project and will be bringing it to current-gen consoles soon.
Halo 3 - Xbox 360
Halo will forever be known as a trend-setting and beloved video game series. Although the franchise has had its hiccups, overall it’s been a massive success.
Halo 3 built upon the features and gameplay of the earlier Halo games and enhanced the experience for players. Halo 3 and its predecessors were also influential in building eSports to what it is today. And thanks to the Halo: Master Chief Collection, which was released on Xbox One in 2014, players can continue enjoying Halo in the current generation.
Mass Effect 2 - PS3, Xbox 360
Mass Effect 2 took the choose-your-own-adventure idea and made it into an immersive, expansive experience for gamers. The decisions players made went beyond just how to answer a question, but delved into principles of trust and partnership. These decisions affected the players’ effectiveness in the game and the outcomes available within missions.
This feature, along with opportunities to explore, fight, and discover made for an enjoyable experience for players. Unfortunately, players had issues with the way Mass Effect 3 ended, though many are hoping developer BioWare will repair that relationship with Mass Effect 4.
Bioshock - PS3, Xbox 360
Bioshock is one of the most influential and beloved games of the last generation. From the opening sequence in the game to the final moments, Bioshock captivates and mesmerizes players.
The environments are impressive and terrifying, and the characters are raw and engaging, but where Bioshock excels is its compelling and immersive story. From its interesting ideas to hints of objectivism, addiction, and beauty.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - PS3, Xbox 360
Despite the fact that Skyrim was released four years ago, Bethesda’s open world fantasy masterpiece continues to make headlines and capture the excitement of gamers. This is due mostly to the RPG’s captivating story and simple-to-learn gameplay.
Skyrim has sold over 32 million copies worldwide, and doesn’t show any signs of slowing. In fact, the game’s success is no doubt a major reason Bethesda created Elder Scrolls Online, which is set to release on current-gen consoles this summer.
What do you think of our list? Are there any games you feel are among the best of the last generation? Share your favorites in the comments below.