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The Top 7... Best new franchises of this generation

5 – Gears of War

Why it’s better than the rest: Gears of War was essentially a new Halo-level event made specifically for the fledgling Xbox 360. Naturally it was backed by an extensive, months-long advertising blitz that culminated in a huge launch day celebration, but all the hoopla was deserved – not only was the single-player game loaded with cinematic “oh shit” moments and fantastically gory chainsaw battles, but it also brought “online co-op” into gamers’ vernacular like no console title before. It was the 360 experience, one that took advantage of the hardware’s online features and helped create a brand-new, must-have IP at the crucial one-year-old point in the 360’s existence.

 

Above: The flowing rivers of blood and chunky gore helped sell a few extra copies too

Legacy: Gears has since spawned a mini merchandise empire full of toys, books and geekily awesome life-size props. It also made slow-paced, deceptively ponderous commercials for M-rated shootouts a bit of a trend:


Above: “Mad World” set a tone that had nothing to do with in-game content, but it sure was an effective commercial

But plastic doo-dads and brilliant TV spots aren’t the reason it’s on this list - many of the features Gears and Gears 2 popularized (cover shooting, roadie run, horde modes) have been outright stolen and used to death by the games industry at large. It’s also become a holiday staple for Microsoft; since 2006, every fall has been led by either a Halo or Gears game, including Gears 3 in 2011. In short, Gears has become second only to Halo in terms of importance to Microsoft and the Xbox brand as a whole, and it didn’t get that way by marketing alone – it got there through exquisite and (it’s an overused buzzword but it really fits here) viscerally bloodthirsty gameplay.


4 – Left 4 Dead

Why it’s better than the rest: Completely unpredictable mayhem. While Gears and every other game on this list may have larger sales and bigger name recognition, L4D trumps them all in terms of sheer gameplay. The innovative “AI director” constantly alters the zombie horde to increase and decrease intensity as you play; if you and your pals run into a car-throwing Tank in one playthrough, he may not be there next time. Or that zombie rush near the beginning of the second chapter may come a little sooner… or later… or not at all. Every session is new and the tension never lets up for a second, creating a game that still feels fresh a hundred hours in. Throw in absolutely flawless controls and you’ve got the best, most nail-biting co-op experience of modern times.

And when it comes to story, L4D managed to convey a broken, horrific world with nothing but in-game dialog and expertly placed nuances in the environment. No lengthy cutscenes, no hidden journals that fill out a backstory, just banter and scrawling on the wall – and it honestly made a deeper, more believable world than most games this generation.

 

Above: The character banter really helps sell the experience – these aren’t chiseled heroes, they’re regular people coping with near-extinction in their own way

Legacy: L4D2 released just one year later and added more infected, new weapons, an eclectic new cast and a genius weekly event called “mutation” that altered the way the game was played. One week it’s infinite ammo, next week it’s something else. Developer Valve has continuously updated both L4D and L4D2 with beefy DLC and new modes that refine the multiplayer experience to near perfection, and continue the “every game is fresh” mentality that made the original so addicting.


Above: Brad’s plan is just one of millions the AI Director foiled

Want to casually dabble in L4D? There’s still a shockingly strong game to blast through, filled with exciting set pieces and top-notch level design. Want to really tear into it? There’s an ocean of co-op strategy to consider, from player formation to timing respawns to equipment and weapon loadouts for a given stretch. And considering Valve’s devotion to the series, you can expect near-constant (and often free) updates to a game that’s already more than paid for itself. All this from a series that’s barely two years old.

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109 comments

  • sleepyMexican45 - August 13, 2011 10:08 p.m.

    dead space instead of Assassins Creed.
  • 19Pakk99 - November 14, 2010 7:25 p.m.

    Fishow753 ... I agree. It was neither a good shooter nor a good RPG. And what was up with the (spoiler alert!) giant Terminator at the end? The game suddenly became the final stage of a Sonic game! Poor.
  • Sukharevskaya - November 11, 2010 10:54 p.m.

    Great list, except Left 4 Dead shouldn't be on here and Mass Effect shouldn't be first. Other than that heck yes!
  • philipshaw - November 10, 2010 11:18 p.m.

    I couldn't agree more with the Top 3, can't wait for ME2 to come out on PS3
  • Sy87 - November 10, 2010 7:09 p.m.

    I like how the trilogy franchises are starting and ending on the same console. A lot less fuss for gamers.
  • FanofSaiyan - November 10, 2010 5:43 a.m.

    While I agree that the list was good, I just have to ask why these games weren't mentioned: Crackdown, inFAMOUS, Mirror's Edge and Dead Rising. Before people criticize, inFAMOUS and Mirror's Edge are both franchises because sequels were announced for both of them (though for some reason NOBODY has new info. on Mirror's Edge 2!)... please GR, if you find out any info on Mirror's Edge 2 LET US KNOW!
  • michaelpreston - November 10, 2010 2:20 a.m.

    OKAMI? Guess it's not yet a franchise....:(
  • ComradeKhani - November 10, 2010 1:45 a.m.

    good call on all of these. especially mass effect, best game of all time :D
  • BoondockSaint54 - November 10, 2010 1:04 a.m.

    I gotta say I agree
  • Albireo6972 - November 10, 2010 12:03 a.m.

    Screw Mass Errect, that game was horrible, did not care for em one bit.
  • kmdeftones - November 9, 2010 10:55 p.m.

    Good list. My only disappointment is that Bioshock is a franchise. I loved the first one, but it had a finite end. Mass Effect and Assassin's Creed built a longer story into their first games, but Bioshock didn't (shouldn't) have anywhere to go. I will never play Bioshock 2 because of this. Having said that, I'm not sure what I would replace it with. @AncientCanada97 I agree with you. I really want to see where they take Dragon Age. I really liked most of the characters in the first one and I cared about the choices I made. I love Bioware!
  • Gkicker2 - November 9, 2010 10 p.m.

    I'm sure 3 Xbox 360 exclusives aren't going to make PS3 owners very happy. No Crackdown?? No Army of Two?? Just kidding... Thats a joke people!
  • InstantTitKill - November 9, 2010 9:40 p.m.

    I sure can't wait to hear them discuss this list on the next Tdar, I pretty much could not agree less with this list...
  • ColonelKc - November 9, 2010 8:47 p.m.

    Im not trying to be mean, but i dont like this list. Not one bit.
  • monsterhunter3rox - November 9, 2010 7:15 p.m.

    No more heroes is going to get a third game next generation.and mass effect has 2 games too
  • HitmanSB07 - November 9, 2010 5:37 p.m.

    Completely agree with the number one, one of the greatest franchises of all time.
  • babyhenchy1 - November 9, 2010 5:05 p.m.

    The only reason Bioshock didn't get here was because Bioshock 2 was a big disappointment for me. Still a good game but nowhere near as memorable as the first Bioshock.
  • babyhenchy1 - November 9, 2010 4:53 p.m.

    Mass Effect is one of my Top 3 franchises of all time along with Metroid and Metal Gear. The story is probably the best in gaming, the characters are so good, the universe so deep, and in Mass Effect 2 we had the same strengths plus excellent gameplay and design. Nearly all of these franchises deserves this list. My top 5 ( only franchises that have more than one game released) 5. Gears of War 4. Dead Space 3. Assassin’s Creed 2. Uncharted 1. Mass Effect Soon Portal will be on here too.
  • JADENkOTOR - November 9, 2010 4:27 p.m.

    @ Everyone who is stupid and didn't read the article including you digitaltheorpy and the guy above me: LAST GEN GAMES AREN'T ON THE LIST!!!! BEFORE YOU GET BUTTHURT LEARN HOW TO READ
  • Gahmah - November 9, 2010 4:10 p.m.

    I really have to disagree with mass effect, that second game was a pretty substantial letdown story wise, and overall interaction with equipment and things felt too shallow. I mean c'mon, roboskeleton? the other reapers all look the god damn same but humanity gets a robo-skeleton? Not to mention hardly anything really happened in the story, you recruited a few guys, you flew through one mysterious gate, you blew up a ship, the game is cool and rather fun, but I guess as a franchise for the decade is pretty alright. As much as I dislike saying this, I would say COD is a better franchise, don't settle for hackneyed stories like mass effect 2 if you're going to beat on heavy rain folks, it's hardly much better.

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