If the community can come together to vote on their favourite games of the generation then I can do that by myself! Besides, some of the results I was a little unhappy with, so this lets me make games that have been knocked out of the bracket already come back and have a better place. I took games only from Giant Bombs Official Bracket, so it matched up with what the community was doing.
Also, it's entirely possible I left out a better game, as I didn't get a chance to play all 64 games. So things like Elder Scrolls 5 or Dark Souls I wouldn't consider, as I don't know their quality.
I tried to evaluate a game on multiple levels, including my enjoyment, but also how impactful or important the game was. I also thought about how a game fit into the overall themes of this generation. I feel like this generation was typified by things like but not limited to RPG mechanics getting into everything, and moral choices becoming the cool thing to do. Introducing something revolutionary doesn't necessarily guarantee a spot on, which is why something like LoL or Dota 2 isn't on this list.
Games that have exemplary mechanics, achieve standards that other games tried to reach for, or brought about a new change in game development are the ones I included on my list. It was tough, having to get rid of games like Bastion and XCOM, but I think that I am satisfied with my list for the generation. Also, like the Giant Bomb Bracket, this is subjective. Perhaps I made a mistake in cutting a game, but that's just the way she goes.
So without anymore stipulations, here are my top 10 games of the generation!
10. Uncharted 2
I came to the party pretty late on this one, only getting around to playing it in 2012, but man, what a ride! The game looks gorgeous and came basically as close to an action movie as games have ever gotten. Plus it wasn't all shooting, managing to mix things up with some simple but still really cool platforming. This game also helped popularize the term 'ludonarrative dissonance'. So, y'know. Thanks Uncharted 2, for teaching me such a dumb sounding word.
9. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
This one is slightly cheating. I played much more of the second Modern Warfare than the first, so even though Modern Warfare is in the Giant Bomb bracket I had to pick this one instead. The RPG leveling mechanics definitely kept me playing multiplayer for much longer than I played Halo 3. Some people played lots of Goldeneye or Halo 2 in their college dorms, but for me my de facto multiplayer shooter during university was Modern Warfare 2. I haven't played every game in the franchise, but I know what to expect when I pick up a controller, and what I get is a very solid gunplay with a crazy campaign.
I played this game to death. Multiple playthroughs, most of the classes, all of the DLC, and I did it mostly by myself. I know these games are fun to play with others, but I had no one else that I knew to play it with online, and local splitscreen was not always the best way to play. I went back and forth on if I should pick this or Borderlands 2, but I didn't play through as much of the sequel, mostly because it gets hard as balls in the third playthrough. Borderlands had some pretty tough moments in the DLC for solo players, but it wasn't insurmountable. I just loved all the guns I could find in both games, plus Claptrap was pretty great. The DLC is some of the best out there, and while the story was really non-existent, I still kept wanting to go further in the world to see what was next, and to keep leveling up.
Games like Braid and Super Meat Boy potentially deserve a spot on this list because of how they opened up the floodgates for small development teams to put together kick-ass games without a huge studio or huge publisher intervening. I know thatgamecompany probably had more help from Sony on Journey than other independent developers, but this game just feels like the culmination of the indie revolution. The game was a visual masterpiece, my mouth was just hanging agape during the sand skiing section. And for a game with no dialogue the ending still managed to bring me to some vastly different highs and lows in the space of a few moments. Watching as my cries got smaller and smaller as I trudged up the mountain with my fellow journeyman, only to see them fall down the side hurt. I couldn't tell if it was them or another one who joined up with me at the end, but the many chirps and cries I heard led me to believe it was the same one, who some how managed to survive the fall and get back to me. Playing this game in one sitting was definitely the right choice.
6. Red Dead Redemption
I feel like there isn't much to say about this game, that it can really speak for itself. While the section in Mexico did drag on a little too long I always enjoyed the little conversations John Marston would have along the way to do someone else's dirty work. The story is really good, and I can only think of a couple games that had better endings than this. Of course, those games didn't have quite as many endings as Red Dead. That final, final, FINAL moment, that is quickly followed by the title card, is just so perfect.
5. Bioshock Infinite
This game is really one of those games that is more than the sum of its parts. I played it on hard and right up until the end I never found the combat dull or wished I could skip it to get to the next story (I had to drop the difficulty down to medium for the final sequence, as it was just too tough). There was always something new to try, some different combination of guns vigors, and tears. The final info dump was pretty awesome, and I loved thinking about all the little hints they offered along the way about the nature of the world. Booker and Elizabeth had some great teamwork and interactions, both in cutscenes and in combat. It was a merging of story and combat that I hadn't seen before (2008's Prince of Persia came close!).
4. Portal 2
When I first started playing I looked at the achievements for this game and saw one named 'Lunacy' and thought to myself that, no, they definitely couldn't do that in Portal 2, could they? Luckily I mostly forgot about it until the very end of the game, when the moment actually presented itself my mouth dropped open. My face was some weird combination of an open mouth in shock and a big grin at the same time. Not all games end strongly, so when a game nails it as well as Portal 2, I want to be sure that it gets its due. The rest of the game was amazing as well. Wheatley is probably the funniest character in a video game (sorry Claptrap), and I loved the changed roles in the other characters. Going through Aperture's history was neat, as well using the gels in connection with my portal gun. Add to that a pretty kick ass co-op mode (Probably the best game to play with my non video game playing girlfriend) and user created levels and I've racked up a solid chunk of time played in this game. It's just plain fun to play.
3. The Walking Dead: Season 1
Probably the only game to make me cry. The final episode was so depressing that I couldn't help it, and broke into tears. I tried to play Lee not as a video game character, but as a human being. Sometimes the logical choice for a video game wasn't the choice I made, as it didn't seem like what Lee would do. Talking with my brother about our choices, we both had clear reasons for picking them, and our Lee's both felt vastly different. My Lee was a man beaten down by this new world. He tried to be friends with everybody, and thus couldn't pick a side in arguments. He would do anything to protect Clementine. When time came for him to be held accountable for his actions, Lee couldn't defend his prior choices, he could only say that he did what he thought was right at the time, but wished he could go back and change things. People talk about immersing themselves in their video game avatar, but I say forget that nonsense. I may have controlled Lee, but I was not him. Lee was his own character, I merely picked what he was already going to say and do. Only a couple sub par gameplay sequences prevented this game from reaching a higher point on this list. This game brought up more conversations with friends about what happened than any other game I've played. Telltale nailed it.
2. The Last of Us
2013, you did a pretty good job. There were some kick-ass games this year. But none that were quite so good as The Last of Us. This game is basically The Road but in video game form. The journey across the US with Joel and Ellie was almost always depressing. The gameplay was well put together, but I don't know if I can call the game fun. Certainly it was an experience unlike any other I've had in video games. Despite coming from Naughty Dog, and seeming like it would be a typical AAA game, it felt small and personal, even while they crossed much of the US. The "save the whole world" trope is still present, but feels like it's almost an afterthought, like it isn't even something worth considering in this bleak world. They hit all the right post-apocalyptic notes, and coupled that with the solid, challenging combat, and an emotionally affecting story. I watched Joel and Ellie transform, both in how they acted as characters, but also in how I saw them. I'm conflicted on if I want to see any sort of sequel to this game. On the one hand, it would be awesome for them to explore their world more, and give us some more time with Ellie or maybe even Joel, but this game felt self-contained. Naught Dog doesn't need to touch this world again and I'm sure I'd still be happy. As more or less an end of the generation swansong, you couldn't have asked for a better game.
1. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
Some of my earlier explanations may not be fully fleshed out, but that's just because I wanted to quickly get to this point where I could talk about The Witcher 2. I was a little miffed when it lost to Fallout 3 a couple rounds ago, because this game puts Fallout, and most other RPGs of this generation, to shame. This game has it all, an engaging story, challenging combat, interesting characters, and solid mechanics. Now, I had fun playing through the Mass Effect series, even ME3, but I feel like people portray it as something that it is not. People had put up the Mass Effect Series as the poster child for choice driven games, but throughout the story your choices rarely ever truly changed what happened in the world. Not so with this game. The Witcher 2 will send you to different zones for its second act based on a choice you make. After I beat it I talked with my friend about our respective end states, and the fate of some of the characters. Because he and I had made different decisions in the first act, I had crucial information about one of the characters that he never found. CD Projekt Red had the guts to gate off parts of the game based on what you did, which takes gusts. Beyond that, the game had a pretty challenging first act. Even 3 of the weakest enemies could be enough to take you down if you weren't careful. The combat became easier by the end (I remember taking on something like 7 or 8 harpies at once and barely getting hurt) but it didn't get boring. There was also interesting side quests, crafting systems, and an inventory system where you got to find gear for more than just 1 or 2 distinct slots. The developers cared about their customers, and offered lots of post-release content --- for free. The game looked beautiful, the world seemed alive both in towns and in the wild. This was a game that respected your intelligence, and demanded your respect to do well in it. I love this game and feel like it both offers a solid experience, and delivers on promises better than other games in its category. Go play this game if you haven't yet!
Any glaring omissions? Any questions as to why one game is on the list but not another? Let me know so I may enlighten you as to the inner workings of my subjective decision making process.
And please make your own lists, I want to see what other people say for their games of the generation!