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Warning: Horrifyingly long post ahead. (But probably worth reading )
The consoles I owned and the best game for each. Justifications follow below.
NES: Super Mario Bros 3 – 1990
SNES: Earthbound – 1995
Gameboy (old school): Pokemon Red & Blue – 1998
N64: Ocarina of Time – 1998
PS: Final Fantasy VIII (Yes – 1999
PS2: Final Fantasy X – 2001
PS3: Red Dead Redemption – 2010
PC: This is a fool’s errand I’m not even going to attempt. Diablo II, MechWarrior 2, Wolfenstein (Mechahitler. Nuff said), Star Wars KOTR 1 or 2, Sim CIty 2000, StarCraft… Far, far too many to even think about.
NES was hard only because I was so young at the time. I looked up IGN’s top 100 list and I couldn’t believe how many games I had played. All of which took up a significant portion of my childhood. Duck Hunt is an honorable mention here. But let’s be honest, there can only be one choice here.
SNES was probably the toughest of the lot. With such games as Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, Super Metroid, Super Mario World, Super Mario RPG, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, any of which I could see an argument for greatest game of all time (except for SMRPG), it’s not easy at all. The story in each of these games trumps nearly everything that’s been released since. To try and pick one based on merits is impossible. You almost have to differentiate between them based on emotion alone.
I think the easiest of the lot was Gameboy. Nothing even came close to Pokemon. Maybe Tetris, but let’s be honest, it wasn’t even made for Gameboy, it was ported. Link’s Awakening was also a great game, but nowhere near the impact that Pokemon had.
N64 was very difficult. There were a number of games I consider to be truly revolutionary. It was a toss-up between Ocarina of Time, Goldeneye, and Mario 64. Mario 64 was, at it’s time, unapproachable for the paradigm shift to 3D. Think about that for a second. This was the game that held our hand as we ventured into a completely new dimension. It represented a complete new generation of video games and the first big step in the push for quality graphics (aside from the additional dimension). We probably owe much of the beautiful graphics in today’s games to Mario 64. Then there was Starfox 64 and Goldeneye. Both truly amazing games. I don’t think many people who read the video games threads can say they haven’t played Goldeneye. Not many games can claim that. It’s one that always pops up in discussions of greatest games of all time. I still remember playing rowskex 3 v 1 with remote mines in The Facility and he beat us something like 30-1. Stunning. In the end, I had to give it to Ocarina because of the depth of gameplay. You could lose yourself in this game unlike many games before. It also pushed the bounds in terms of impressive landscapes and graphical quality. The story was superb. Plus it wasn’t a completely linear game. It really is one of the greatest games of all time.
Playstation, for me, was easy because I absolutely fell in love with the story of FFVIII. Almost as much as Earthbound. I know some are going to be stunned by this selection since it followed what most FF connoisseurs would select as the greatest game in the series (VII). The other games that almost made it were Chrono Cross and Metal Gear Solid. Chrono Cross to this day has the greatest soundtrack ever released for a game. Maybe best soundtrack of anything (movies, games, whatever). I find it terribly sad that so many people didn’t get it experience this game. It didn’t have a great reception, but this Gamespot review is a must read: http://www.gamespot.com/chrono-cross/reviews/chrono-cross-review-2545933/” onclick=”window.open(this.href);return false; . MGS also had a story that played out like an action movie with a great script. Add to that the truly innovative gameplay and you had an instant classic.
Playstation 2 was when I first started to pay for my own games. So I had to be careful which games I bought because I had to earn them. Unfortunately, I feel like this was the generation where video games began to lose their soul. Gone were the days where you could create a masterpiece without fear of shareholders destroying the company if it tanked. Everyone was more concerned with making money as opposed to creating a classic. There were some amazingly bright spots in a dull field though. GTA III was mind-blowing. I vividly remember discussing this game with a number of classmates back in high school, not many games where I can say that. There was also Vice City which improved on the massive innovative effort that 3 put forth. And I’ll even throw ESPN NFL 2k5 in here because it was, to this day, the greatest football game of all time. It was so good that it’s the only one I uniquely remember. It was so good that it forced EA to start shelling out massive sums of money for exclusivity (which in turn made the Madden series into an absolute dreck not worth owning). For me, the final decision was quite easy here because no game before or since have I logged 200+ hours into a single playthrough while STILL not “completing” the game. I have never had so many nights that turned into mornings while playing a game. Dozens of nights where I would hear my parents leave for work in the summer before I turned off the console. I still remember a few nights that lasted until almost noon before I would turn it off. The characters, the story, the side games and missions, the graphics, the music, everything. This was one of the last masterpieces I can recall when it came to a console-based game.
Of all of the consoles, amazingly, the PS3 was the most disappointing. I felt like most of the games were the equivalent of a Michael Bay sequel. Just an overbudget explosiongasm. Sure the graphics have improved in subsequent games, and more lead has been pumped into the bad guys with ever-increasing efficiency, and never have we seen such beautifully crafted stadiums and arenas in our sports games. But the stories have taken a severe beating. I can’t rank games like MLB: The Show 2010 up here, but these were the games I played the most. I’m sure there are a lot of people who are going to say games like Mass Effect #, Uncharted #, or even Elder Scrolls #. Maybe even GTA IV. I honestly think that GTA peaked (for now) on the PS2 with Vice City. Honestly though, none of the games on PS3 pulled me in and made me forget about the world like the first seven generations of consoles. Is it because I’m now an employed homeowner and not able to dump countless hours into it? Or is it that much of the development dollars went into producing sequels to games the studios knew would sell while sacrificing what gave video games their soul. Tell me, when’s the last time that a video game truly pulled at your emotions. Where the story made you enraged (not because of the difficulty of the game but the story) because you were so emotionally invested. When was the last time you had to put down the controller and take a break because you went through a heart-wrenching scene as one of the characters suffered a mortal blow? I can’t remember, but you can be damned sure it wasn’t on the PS3. Some of the indie games coming out now are nice, but I really can’t classify them as greatest of all time. Of all the games on this system, Red Dead Redeption is the only one that still makes an impression on me. It was the only “epic” game I came close to finishing.
I’m not going to include anything on the iPhone/Android because none of these games have anything to add. These are all great time-wasters with truly mediocre (at best) development. Despite what seems like billions of downloads, can you really claim that Angry Birds is one of the greatest games of all time? Absolutely not.
TLDR? I pity everyone born after 1990. I really do.