In November, Sony and Microsoft will release the next gaming generation’s defining consoles — PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. These new consoles will bring game-changing technology, and with that, they’re leaving behind a few classics. Neither console will offer backward compatibility to the games of this past generation. So, in homage to a generation ending, here is a look at some of the “game-changing” titles and how they’ve impacted the industry.
1. “BioShock” (2007)
Not many games have played with the line between gaming and art and lived to tell the tale. “BioShock,” the 2007 first-person shooter developed by Irrational Games, is such a title. The game revolves around the main protagonist, Jack. As you play as Jack and try to escape an underwater, futuristic city called Rapture, you are called upon to make moral choices — but are you a morally bound hero, or do you blur the lines between right and wrong? With excellent storytelling strategies, “BioShock” combines Randian objectivist philosophy with an Art Deco design to create a city that almost seems to be alive.
2. “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” (2007)
Few would call any of the “Call of Duty” titles art, but it’s important to note the series’ impact on the global online community. Ten years ago, the prospects of online gaming on a console seemed to be gimmicky at best. Then, “Call of Duty” happened, and online gaming became de facto for every game. Massively multiplayer online (MMO) game communities are no longer exclusive to role-playing games and tribes of socially alternative teenagers completing quests and gaining life experience from the confines of their parents’ basements (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
3. “Grand Theft Auto IV” (2008)
The “Grand Theft Auto” franchise has long been focused on letting out your demons. Offering an entire city to explore and pillage, “GTA” liberates the souls of road ragers and angsty teenagers. This isn’t to say, however, that it’s all senseless carnage. The story centers on Niko Bellic, an Eastern European immigrant who struggles in life and turns to crime. It starts out harmless enough, but works its way to the extreme. “Grand Theft Auto” really works at creating a world that’s satirical, politically irreverent and morally dark. “Grand Theft Auto IV” casts the mold for dark and amusing societal commentaries and, if “GTA IV” is any indication, Rockstar Games is going to continue to deliver on quality.
4. “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” (2011)
Welcome to a brave new world where Middle Earth-themed dungeons and dragons are no longer confined to “Dungeons and Dragons.” Years after the release of “The Lord of the Rings,” the magic hasn’t been lost. “The Elder Scrolls,” one of the flagship series from Bethesda Softworks, may have been around for a long time, but never as successfully as “Skyrim.” In a world where the power of choice is in the hands of the player, each campaign played is just as unique as the last. What made the game so influential was how it made magic, swords and dragons accessible to more than just geek culture. “Skyrim” changed the gaming world by showing how open-world, re-playable and fun a fantasy game can be.
5. “Mass Effect” trilogy (2007-2012)
Lastly, we have the “Mass Effect” trilogy. While technically three games, they stand together in creating one of the best sci-fi action RPG universes created since the “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” of old. You play as Commander Shepard, who can be the nicest or meanest ship captain you’d like. Another game with a heavy element of choice, you can play as a paragon (good reputation) or a renegade (bad reputation). Navigating the minefields of politics and war, Shepard has one ultimate goal in mind: to save all organic life from complete destruction. What makes the game really stand out was its ability to tackle racial and political issues among war and battle tactics. Full of original lore, a wide display of humanoid alien species and old interspecies conflicts, “Mass Effect” impacted gaming in a very crucial way and, to this day, stands as an amazing example of how original, exhilarating and interesting new worlds can be created.