We already gave you eleven video game-related things upcoming generations of gamers will never experience, but that doesn’t mean this generation is all bad. In fact, this generation might just be one of the most defining as far as the future of gaming is concerned. Not only have we seen fully-realized digital marketplaces and online presences, but this generation has also granted developers the ability to be as creative as their imagination allows.
Check out eleven of our favorite experiences that this gaming generation has to offer and let us know some of your favorites in the comments section below. Be warned, some spoilers are included in the descriptions.
Slaying your first dragon – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The opening sequence of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim shows off the newest threat to Elder Scrolls players everywhere: the mighty dragons that have infested the region of Skyrim. While the main character is almost taken out by a dragon in the first part of the game, the adventurer rises from adversity and embarks on a quest. Having seen the sheer power of these mythological creatures first-hand, the player’s first encounter with a dragon in the open is beyond intimidating, but watching the beast fall to the ground and disintegrate following an epic clash has the ability to bring a smile to even the most hardened warrior’s face.
Nailing your first solo on expert – Guitar Hero/Rock Band
Chances are, when you picked up your first plastic axe, you selected something along the lines of “Surrender” or “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and proceeded to watch helplessly as your meter dropped steadily into the red and towards failure. You didn’t stop there, however; you kept playing. You eventually worked your way up to the Expert level and found yourself face to face with the likes of “Hangar 18″ and “Raining Blood.” The reason games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band are so addicting is because players are constantly noticing progression and improvement, bringing players instant gratification, and making them want to continue playing more and more. That gratification becomes palpable the moment players nail the solo of a song like “Sweet Child O’Mine.” You probably aren’t a rock star, but for those four minutes of the song, you feel like one.
Getting the highest killstreak reward – Call of Duty
Whether or not killstreak rewards are good for the first person shooter genre is up for debate, but what isn’t up for debate is how great it feels when you achieve the highest one. Whether it was the Tactical Nuke in Modern Warfare 2 or the Gunship in Black Ops, the moment you received the notification on the screen, you just felt this urge to tell your team and/or anyone sitting anywhere near you. The Tactical Nuke may have made you public enemy #1 for the next round, but the very fact that you could single-handedly grab a win for your team made the animosity you worth it.
Feeling the environment bearing down on you – BioShock
From the moment you turn on 2007’s BioShock, the environment plays a key role in the sensory experience that was Irrational Games’ now classic hit. As you venture deeper into Rapture, however, the environment quite literally begins to bear down on you as you witness the dream-inspired underwater city deteriorating. The significance of this downfall is further highlighted by the audio recordings found during the course of the campaign, showing that Rapture was falling apart long before the physical damage you now witness. From dreamlike to decadent, the downturn experienced in Rapture is one of the most memorable and palpable experiences in gaming history, let alone this generation.
Designing the perfect level – LittleBigPlanet
For most of its history, gaming has been a one-way entertainment medium. Developers provided gamers with a very specific narrative, and players were expected to experience it in that particular way. While customization options have always been popular in gaming, and modding has allowed this for years on PC, developers have rarely embraced player creativity like Media Molecule has with its LittleBigPlanet series. By learning the tools and figuring out the physics behind each element, players could see the creative process through from conceptualization to actually sharing the level with other gamers in the community. The mode was even more robust in LittleBigPlanet 2, where players were able to create complete games within the editor if they were skilled/devoted enough. If you put in the time and saw your idea through to the end of the process, there have been few gaming experiences more rewarding than creating a well-executed level in LittleBigPlanet.
Getting your family to play with you – Wii Sports
Growing up, the idea of mom or dad hopping in on my gaming session was preposterous. At the very most, when I was really young, my father would jump in and help me beat levels that I couldn’t in Super Mario World. With Nintendo bundling each new Wii console with the glorified tech demo, Wii Sports, everyone became a “gamer” to a certain extent. Family gatherings would often shift towards video games rather than away from them. Watching your uncle trying to translate his real-life golf skills to the motion controlled links would always prove humorous, and nothing ever beat a family night at the virtual bowling lanes. Wii Sports succeeded in making games feel as though they weren’t just for “gamers” anymore. With Wii Sports, everybody was able to jump in and play.
Joining in on the fun – Left 4 Dead, Borderlands
Online cooperative multiplayer has exploded this generation through games like Gears of War, but the true frenzied feeling that defines co-op to this day is found in titles like Left 4 Dead and Borderlands. Joining in on the fun has made these titles so much more enjoyable that many claim that one should only play Left 4 Dead or Borderlands with friends. Adding new online players to the mix also helps to keep the formula fresh, making it feel like a new game every time. Working together to achieve a common goal has proven to be yet another real-life mentality that has been perfectly translated to the gaming scene.
Making it through wave 50 of Horde 2.0 – Gears of War 3
Horde mode takes our most basic human instinct and applies it to a wildly-intense game mode centered on teamwork. Survival-based modes are far from unique to this generation, but the way Gears of War 3 works the formula is truly memorable. By integrating tower defense aspects, as well as the fact that finishing will take a serious time commitment, accomplishing this feat was not only insanely fun, but also a real achievement. The difficulty spikes were maddening, but if you made it through, you felt as though you had formed some kind of special bond with the teammates you spent the past several hours with. Friendships form, controllers break and curses get hurled around quite liberally, but in the end, you feel a true sense of accomplishment and pride for having conquered this daunting task.
Reliving your favorite gaming memories – Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, Virtual Console
If all else fails to make you feel good about this generation, you can always just relive your favorite titles of the past through the wonders of modern technology. I still remember the first retro game I downloaded. I couldn’t believe that Xbox Live was giving me the chance to play the all-time classic Smash TV! all over again. Not only that, but Xbox Live allowed me the opportunity to do so with modern amenities. To this day, players are still able to download updated versions of classic titles. The updates can be small, such as the addition of online leaderboards to maintain the old school arcade feel, or ambitious, such as new graphics or the addition of new online-based modes. Either way, the current generation has succeeded in providing players with new experiences to compliment their favorite memories.
Realizing the truth – Spec Ops: The Line
In one of the most under-appreciated titles of the generation, Spec Ops: The Line demonstrated what a masterfully-executed storyline can do to boost an overall gaming experience. What could have been a forgotten and generic squad-based third person shooter was elevated into one of the greatest psychological experiences of this console generation. Without spoiling too much, the end has one of the greatest reveals in recent memory, and does an exemplary job of modernizing themes explored in Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness. The notion of a war without heroes is something that hasn’t been thoroughly explored in gaming, so it was beyond refreshing to see a storyline tap into that, rather than the celebratory tone we’ve seen in other games.
Seeing your choices through – Mass Effect
Love it or hate it, Mass Effect 3 realized one of the loftiest promises in the history of game development: a fully integrated choice system that spans three full-length games and brings resolution to every storyline introduced. Nothing is more compelling as a gamer than a strongly implemented permanence of choice system, and Mass Effect drove that home at every opportunity. The ending left a few questions on the table, but playing a 2012 release and seeing the impact of choices that were made in a 2007 game is an ambitious concept that has yet to be as well-executed as the Mass Effect trilogy.