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.


Top 7


  • sofaku - November 8, 2010 9:31 p.m.

    first ya thats right i said it.
  • Eliath - November 8, 2010 9:31 p.m.

    Good top 7. I'm not a big fan of Gears or Left 4 Dead, but I know a ton of people are huge fans. Still, I have a hard time of thinking of anything else I would have preferred up there. Maybe Puzzle Quest.
  • sofaku - November 8, 2010 9:32 p.m.

    anyway ive always wanted to get into bioshock but never had the time or money
  • mockraven - November 8, 2010 9:34 p.m.

    Great list and loved the video for Mass Effect! I always played a female good commander shepherd and, well, she was pretty boring compared to this version. I definitely agree with the majority of the picks! :)
  • HankVenture - November 8, 2010 9:34 p.m.

    Alright now lets see if the 3rd game messes up any of these or brings it to glorious hall of fame forever
  • ithurtstopoop - November 8, 2010 9:34 p.m.

    Cool top 7, Id have liked to see rock band in there somewhere
  • Fishow753 - November 8, 2010 9:38 p.m.

    I still hate ME2 with all my heart
  • WoodyWoodrowAndThePanfluteOfDestiny - November 8, 2010 9:40 p.m.

    ^ I hate you, troll
  • EAC73 - November 8, 2010 9:41 p.m.

    I agree with this list but i didnt like assassins creed that much but it is still a big franchise and i see why u put it other than that great article
  • cronoman66 - November 8, 2010 9:42 p.m.

    Mass Effect totally deserves first place, I may have put Gears of War higher because of it's impact on third person shooters
  • batman5273 - November 8, 2010 9:43 p.m.

    Very good article. I am pleasantly pleased that Gears of War made the list.
  • D0CCON - November 8, 2010 9:44 p.m.

    I saw ME on the picture that came with the article and got more hopeful each time another game let it get closer to number one. I totally agree with it being number one. It is (or was) the best reason to own a 360 (glad to those who only have a PS3 get to join in on half the action now too). I'm already super pumped about the third game and will preorder it ASAP (which would still be in a couple years). The character choice, characters, story, action (especially in the second one) and voice acting are all spectacular. Glad to see GR agrees. And Uncharted is defiantly number 2. I replace Assassin's Creed with one of the games that didn't make it, especially Portal, LBP, or Rock Band.
  • taco12324 - November 8, 2010 9:45 p.m.

    @ ithurtstopoop Rock Band was included, look at the end of the 3rd page. @ Fishow753 GTFO, ME2 was amazing!
  • bonerachieved - November 8, 2010 9:47 p.m.

    Agreed, Bioshock and Mass Effect definitely deserve to be in here.
  • stuartramone - November 8, 2010 9:47 p.m.

    good list up to #1. sorry but IMO biowares way overhyped.
  • db1331 - November 8, 2010 9:50 p.m.

    Agreed with all except Assassin's Creed, Uncharted, L4D, and Gears.
  • db1331 - November 8, 2010 9:52 p.m.

    Oh and I don't know enough about Professor Layton to pass judgment, so I guess what I'm saying is I agree with BioShock and Mass Effect.
  • n00b - November 8, 2010 9:57 p.m.

    i think mass effect 1 was overrated but mass effect 2 is worth game of the year. (even if they gutted out most of the rpg and stats elements)
  • AlpineGuy - November 8, 2010 9:57 p.m.

    I'm actually surprised you left out Rock Band, but all-in-all this is a great Top 7. I can't wait to hear Brett gush about Mass Effect this Friday. ME2 is suuuuch a good game.
  • BK-201 - November 8, 2010 9:58 p.m.

    Never got into most of those games, but I have heard of most of them from friends. Would like to see Assassin's Creed higher up the list as it told a compelling story as well as giving a lot of action that was fun, but got kinda repetitive, unless you began looking for ways to kill people that are out of the normal "rush in, create havoc, run for your life." And let me guess why Call of Duty didn't make it, Modern Warfare II and all of it's hacks and modders?

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