10. Ultra Street Fighter 4
Street Fighter 4 revitalized 2D fighting among mainstream gamers when it debuted in early 2009. It combined traditional techniques with new flourishes like Focus attacks and comeback-enabling Ultras, plus a few zany additions to the roster. Flash forward to Ultra Street Fighter 4, and that roster has ballooned into a cast full of possibilities and wildly unique fighting styles. Whether you like to rush down or turtle, play smart or play dumb, there's someone in Arcade Edition who you can play to your heart's content.
And the community-driven options for online play are excellent. From endless battle and team battle to the replay channel that lets you rewatch great fights, theres a wonderful depth of content designed to keep you engaged, playing, and sharpening your skills till the end of days. With the numerous improvements to Capcom's formula, excellent netcode, and a truly solid foundation, Ultra Street Fighter 4 is the definitive version of the game.
9. Grand Theft Auto 5
Rockstar games sure takes its time, doesn't it? The wait between Grand Theft Auto games is draining, but always--always--worth the wait. Grand Theft Auto 5's return to Los Santos is a great one, and brings with it some of the largest changes to gameplay since GTA3 reinvented the open-world shooter. Being able to swap between characters fundamentally changes how you interact with the world, and allowed the developers to create one of the largest sandboxes we've ever seen in a game without it feeling overwhelming. Well, alright, it's a little overwhelming, but it never gets out of control.
And then there are the characters--oh, lord, the characters. No one writes dialogue like Rockstar, breathing life into every single person you interact with. The three protagonists all have totally different motives, stories, and personalities, making for a wholly unique experience that no game before has ever successfully executed. Plus, breaking it into thirds made it so there could be a wider variety of levels without sacrificing the believability of the world, fixing one of the nagging flaws that has plagued Grand Theft Auto games since their inception.
8. Tomb Raider
Lara Croft was one of gaming's original treasure hunters, but as time went on, she fell into obscurity. That is, until Crystal Dynamics rebooted the action adventure franchise with a whole new origin story - Tomb Raider isn't just the best game in the series, it's one of the best games in the genre.
The tale of an inexperienced Lara having to fight to survive while stranded on a creepy, cult-infested island is surprisingly gritty and brutal. Seeing her die to the island's many dangers establishes her not as a superhero, but a regular human being. Granted, she still guns down a small army of mercenaries, but the gunplay is so good you won't even mind. As is the platforming and exploring of the mysterious island setting, itself a character with plenty of secrets to find and, shocker, tombs to raid. The fantastic pacing does a great job of letting you explore without whipping out a gun every five seconds - and when the 12-hour journey comes to an end, you'll be eager to play it all over again.
7. Dark Souls
Contrary to what you might've heard, this game--and the Souls series as a whole--is not about death: It's about what you learn from it. In many games, dying simply means restarting from the most recent checkpoint. In Dark Souls, it's a metric of success. If you die to the many traps and monsters in the game's dark fantasy world, it's because you messed up.
See, few things are as gratifying as overcoming a seemingly impossible challenge. Dark Souls latches onto this notion and turns it into its very foundation. It throws one obstacle after another at you, ranging from regular monsters that are outrageously deadly to towering bosses that can destroy you with a single hit. Only by persevering can you hope to succeed, and the adrenaline rush that comes with victory is something that very few games can replicate.
6. Red Dead Redemption
There are few games that put you in the Wild West setting, and even fewer that would let you do basically anything you would ever want to do as a cowboy in an open world. Want to wear a bandana on your face and tie a damsel to train tracks? You can do that in Red Dead Redemption. Want to fight a bear with a knife, hunt for treasure, or duel some varmint in the dusty streets outside the town saloon? You can do that too. Then you can hop online and do it all with your friends.
And we havent even mentioned the story. RDR also tells one of the most compelling tales in gaming, letting you explore developer Rockstars version of Texas and Mexico with some of the most memorable characters of this console generation. Meet colorful characters like grave robbers, snake-oil salesmen, and Mexican revolutionaries, and get into bar fights, have shootouts with bandits, or just ride out into the sunset. This is a game that shouldn't be missed.
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5. Batman: Arkham City
If Batman: Arkham Asylum took the world by surprise, then Batman: Arkham City took it by storm. Moving the action from the world's most famous home for the criminally insane to a dingy, crime-infested corner of Gotham City gave us the chance to truly behave like the bat. Hearing the cries of the victimized, we swooped down from the rooftops, dishing out cruel justice with our fists and utility belt full of wonderful toys. Arkham Asylum broke ground with gameplay that actually felt like authentic Batman behavior, but with Arkham City's open world to patrol, we felt as if we were the Dark Knight.
It was an awesome expansion of the gameplay from Asylum, and the story was similarly deepened. Batman just wouldn't be Batman without his enemies, and centering the plot around the Joker was a perfect move. So was introducing even more memorable villains from his long list of enemies. From a frightening face-off with Solomon Grundy to a mind-bending encounter with the Mad Hatter, alongside one of the most creative boss fights we've ever seen with Mr. Freeze, Batman: Arkham City didn't disappoint in the villain department. In fact, it didn't disappoint anywhere. We think it's the best superhero game to date.
4. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Forget what you've heard - size matters. All things considered, you could probably conquer Skyrim in about 10 hours if you just stick to the games main quest line. Stay on the main line and you'll watch the credits with a confused look on your face, wondering what all the hubbub is about. But if you don't get lost in the huge world, you're missing the point.
The massive role-playing games main attraction is everything it has to offer on the side. It's no exaggeration to say that you could spend hundreds of hours adventuring, exploring, crafting, hunting, and dungeon diving. Main story? It's pretty good, but it's the story you create as you carve your mark in Skyrim that's the real victory here. Elder Scrolls V ups the ante for the open-world experience, making a truly gorgeous and ambitious title that'll keep you busy for a long, long time. Like, seriously, go ahead and cancel all other obligations you have - while you wait for Elder Scrolls 6 to come out, you're best off spending those hundreds of hours fighting dragons.
What began as a student demo grew into one of the Xbox 360s most unforgettable games. Whether packaged as part of The Orange Box or on its own as the Still Alive XBLA version, Portal achieves an astoundingly rich atmosphere by combining hilarious (but character-rich) writing with clever puzzle gameplay. And Portal does it all with so few components that it makes many bigger games look bloated by comparison.
The experience begins with the simple concept of travelling between two portals in a locked room, but the developers find so many smart ways to iterate on that gameplay. The puzzle action grows unpredictably just as your unseen AI controller slowly transitions from banal directives to biting insults. The writing and action synergy culminates as the straightforward setting gives way to an amazing twist that enriches all that came before it. Portal tells a story in a way that only video games could, and thats why it (and the Companion Cube) remain in our hearts to this day.
The real beauty of BioShock is its philosophical exploration of hubris. It's a haunting experience that explores what happens when a chunk of mankind is left to embrace its ideals to the fullest, without societal restrictions. It suggests, in a very convincing way, that pride is often fatal. That these eye-opening themes are conveyed through rather fun gameplay is just icing on the cake.
At a glance, this is a first-person shooter in which you a) shoot stuff and b) jack yourself up on sea-slug juice to get magic powers. The people you're killing? Sea-slug juice addicts. Even BioShock's most basic gameplay elements are tied into its narrative: How far are you willing to go to gain power? Would you kill a child in exchange for an extra ability, or would you let them go because that's the Right Thing To Do? Are you really any better than the addicts you're destroying? The way BioShock ties all of its gameplay elements into its haunting message, coupled with its incredible use of atmosphere, makes this one of the best games to play on any console.
1. Mass Effect 2
You probably have more of a heartfelt connection with one (or every) member of Commander Shepard's crew than at least 50 percent of the people you know in real life. That's because the Mass Effect trilogy tells a captivating story in a fascinating, fully realized universe, where morality, politics, and love between lifeforms are all part of a much grander picture. Mass Effect 2 is the Empire Strikes Back of the series, giving you more of everything you loved from the first game with none of the tonal changes of the third.
Commander Shepard feels like an extension of you, both in the ethical choices she or he makes, and in the enthralling third-person shootouts, where bullets, lasers, and orbs of biotic energy zip every which way. But the crown jewel in this N7 helmet is the cast of unforgettable characters, all of whom have their own personal journey of absolution and self-discovery. Regardless of how you feel about the way the story ends, Mass Effect 2 is the indisputable high point in one of the greatest action RPG franchises of all time.
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