Over the last seven years, being a gamer has never been better. When the PS4 and Xbox One originally launched back in November of 2013, we were merely getting a glimpse into how gaming would evolve over the generation. The introduction of Virtual Reality technology and the innovation of cloud-based services allowed gaming to become more immersive and simplistic than ever before. The rise of cross-play finally allowed players across all platforms to put down their console-war swords momentarily and work together to achieve a victory royale in Fortnite or to build a rich world in Minecraft.
Sony has spent most of the generation providing consumers with captivating single-player games like The Last of Us Pt. II, God of War, and Spider-Man. During a generation that was notoriously focused on massive online multiplayer games, creating these story-driven experiences could have been a disaster. Sony believed in these projects and was able to release consistently great games that have been compared to big-budget Hollywood films. Sony also took the lead when it came to affordable VR for home consoles. While the future of PSVR is currently uncertain, Sony took big risks over the last generation, and most of them were successful.
On the other hand, Microsoft invested more of their focus on creating the strongest and most powerful console on the market. While we did get entries in the Gears of War and Halo franchises, the Xbox One did not have even half of Sony’s exclusive titles. But Microsoft was also busy trying to redefine how the consumer pays for and plays games. With the introduction of Game Pass back in June of 2017, Xbox owners could now access hundreds of games for a low monthly subscription price. Microsoft had an incredibly bumpy start when the Xbox One originally launched. Still, over the last seven years, they have taken the lead in having the strongest hardware and innovating how we will play games in the future.
Nintendo is, well, not really paying attention to what is considered a generation. While the Wii U was released only a year before the PS4 and Xbox One, its failed attempts to capture an audience led to the console’s demise only three years after release. With Nintendo’s reputation on the line, they decided to take a big risk with the announcement of their hybrid home and handheld console, the Switch. The Switch quickly captured both old and new Nintendo fans’ hearts with titles like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey within the first year of the console’s release. As Sony and Microsoft prepare for the next wave of consoles, Nintendo is still seeing massive success with their console and will continue to support it alongside the new PS5 and Xbox Series X.
As the future of gaming remains mysterious and exciting, we decided we wanted to look back at the last generation and decide what games defined it. Over thirty current KeenGamer staff members voted for their favorites games released on any platform between September 2013 to November 2020. After tallying up the votes, we are proud to present our top ten best games from the eighth generation.
#10 (Tie) – Overwatch
Release Date: May 24th, 2016
Overwatch combines a cast of colorful and interesting characters and personalities with lightning-fast FPS reflexes and varied modes and environments. Players are tasked with capturing objective points (or moving the payload from one area to the next). Overwatch reinvents the genre by giving players access to unique hero abilities and ultimate special moves, reminiscent of games in the MOBA genre.
Each new game of Overwatch puts players on a level playing field with no progression to speak of, making it instantly replayable and endlessly addictive. Each game played leaves you with that feeling of “one more match”—whether it’s to redeem a crushing defeat or to continue the euphoria of a hard-fought victory. The hook to keep coming back (outside of the addictive gameplay) is in loot boxes. Still, where that phrase usually acts as a deterrent, Overwatch implements them well, and seasonal events keep the faithful fanbase coming back for a look at the newest of Blizzard’s excellent skins.
Overwatch took the multiplayer shooter in a pretty cool direction. Offers play styles for all kinds of gamers while also managing to represent character archetypes from gaming history (ranging from Soldier as a classic FPS shooter/COD to D.Va as the sci-fi twin-stick shooter/Space Invaders). Super Smash Bros. appeal combined with a multiplayer shooter.
While it isn’t the first game to do free content updates or events, it most certainly champions it even if there are paid loot boxes. The cosmetics, events, and game modes create an environment that constantly changes with the players. Even now, the developers at Blizzard are still releasing balance patches while they shift their focus to Overwatch 2.
#10 (Tie) – Super Mario Odyssey
Release Date: October 27th, 2017
I remember when it came out, I was working full-time at Whole Foods, and every day I would rush back to my flat to play it on the TV with my flatmates and have a few beers all together. It felt like I was a big kid and brought back all the video game magic Nintendo always seems able to muster up.
It’s the best 3D Mario game ever, so kudos to Nintendo for making the best 3D Mario game ever for the quadrillionth time.
The game filled my need for a collectathon, and of course, had the classic Nintendo charm to it. It was also expertly made for the Switch, including easy collectibles to find in short trips on the go and more difficult ones best found in a longer session on the couch.
#9 – Undertale
Release Date: September 15th, 2015
There are very few pieces of fiction that have changed me as a person, that have truly affected me on a deeply personal level. They are rare. But when they come along, they are more than just a memorable distraction; they are a fundamental shift in who I am as a person. I could talk for hours about how fantastic Undertale is. How it affected me on a personal, emotional, philosophical level. How it helped me through a dark period in my life. How its rock-solid gameplay creates an experience that feels perpetually fresh, challenging, and engaging at every turn. That its mere existence is what helped put me here today. But I won’t. All I will say is that Undertale is every bit deserving of the praise it gets and then some, and if you haven’t played it, then play it.
An indie success story that shows that unique gameplay, a developer’s passion, and the player’s journey are still the main driving force of a long-lasting hit.
A fantastic and affecting deconstruction of the old-school RPG, with memorable characters, unique mechanics, and a deeply emotional through-line mixed with an off-the-wall sense of humor.
#8 – Bloodborne
Release Date: March 24th, 2015
FromSoftware games aren’t for everyone. The often brutal difficulty players can face turns many away. But, if you’re willing to stick with it, Bloodborne offers a macabre and magnificent experience like no other. From incredibly designed bosses to the intricate world design and a new and vastly different combat system, this 2015 game was so good that the excellent Dark Souls 3 was arguably overshadowed by it. Even if we never get a sequel, the cruel but captivating world of Yarnham will always draw me back.
Bloodborne is an important game to me as, like many, it was my introduction to the Soulsborne genre. Without it, I would have likely never given the series a chance, simply due to how unapproachable it is. Bloodborne is a marvel of level design that hasn’t been matched since. It has so many memorable fights that I could name every single boss in the game and the order that you fight them. It’s From Software’s greatest achievement in my eyes, and I pray to the Paleblood Moon that there’s a sequel in the works.
#7 – Fortnite
Release Date: September 26th, 2017 (Battle Royale Mode)
I don’t play this game or any of its various modes. However, objectively speaking, its impact on culture is undeniable. Full-grown respectable adults, who wouldn’t know who Drake the rapper is, know about Fortnite. Its rampant success made a big enough financial volcano to essentially create the Epic Games Store to rival the uncontested God that is Steam. The aesthetic, addictiveness, and variety in expression have captured the hearts of an entire generation, akin to the rise of Pokémon in the ’90s. Plus, remember that dance? Yeah, Fortnite, baby.
Sidharta F. Rasidi
It practically duct-taped many mechanics from other competitors into its base gameplay, but Epic did manage to evolve the game into what sandbox MMOs back in the day always do: building some sort of a “metaverse.”
Don’t let its fall from grace cloud your memory of the beginning of Fortnite. It was the most popular video game for years and was free to anyone who didn’t care about cosmetic items. Little kids made it uncool, but almost everyone enjoyed the game, at least for a while.
#6 – Grand Theft Auto V
Release Date: September 17th, 2013
Grand Theft Auto V has to be up top for the way it advances the “GTA” series and for its extremely successful multiplayer gameplay. The huge map, three-character structure, urban and rural areas, scenery, and voice acting all worked well for me. It is a game I’ve returned to time and time again.
The story is brilliantly well written, performed, and realized. With memorable characters, quotable lines of dialogue, and a branching story, GTA V is already one of the best games this generation. But what helps tip it over the edge of many of its contemporaries is that it remembers one key thing: gameplay is king. With a range of exciting missions, set pieces, heists, side missions, and its ability to switch between its three protagonists at will, it creates an experience unlike anything else in gaming and one that comes close to recapturing the glory of the likes of Vice City and San Andreas.
GTA Online has been (I believe) the most consistent title of the past generation.
#5 – The Last of Us Part II
Release Date: June 19th, 2020
A beautiful masterpiece that pushes video games across various areas. It has graphics and animations, unlike anything I have ever seen before that will surely rival some next-gen titles. Its storytelling has a level of nuance and emotion rarely seen in games, especially in the AAA atmosphere.
What can I say about The Last of Us Part II that hasn’t been written in all-caps on Twitter? There were moments I had to pause the game and put my controller down – not because it’s bad, but because I was so heavily invested in the characters. Never have I experienced such visceral hatred turn into empathetic care for such a flawed group of characters. I often say that if a game can make me cry, it’s a great game. I cried my eyes out. The Last of Us Part II is a transcendental experience and one I’ll cherish for years to come.
It is hard to think of an aspect where it isn’t quite literally the best out of any game I’ve ever played: the story, the animations, the graphics, and the satisfying stealth-action gameplay are all just amazing. I love how many risks it took, and the gameplay also doesn’t get enough credit.
#4 – Red Dead Redemption 2
Release Date: October 26th, 2018
Red Dead Redemption 2 is my game of the generation. No other game has managed to capture such a pivotal moment in history, with such attention to minute detail. The world is simply the greatest ever crafted. The narrative is epic in scope and produced the whole spectrum of emotions from me over the course of the story. It’s not perfect, but I love it. RDR2 is the only true current-generation game Rockstar developed – it’s literally a once in a generation game.
Not only is it the most visually impressive game I’ve ever played, but it’s also one of the weirdest. It’s basically Violent Cowboy Animal Crossing. Of course, it’s cinematic and exciting at times, but most of the game is just spent wandering around, saying “howdy” to people, or just catching some fish. I love that in a video game and still haven’t finished the story even though I’ve played 150 hours!
An absolutely epic game with the scale to boot, the story and characters were so incredibly well written that I spent far too much of my time playing in this massive old west sandbox.
#3 – The Witcher 3
Release Date: May 19th, 2015
It sounds like an impossible task to argue that a game from 5 years ago can compete with 2020’s batch. But The Witcher 3 captures not only an incredible story, but it crafts a world that manages to be beautiful, deadly, and full of interesting and thought-provoking side quests that’ll keep you playing for not hours but years. And, who doesn’t want to see Geralt in a bathtub?
No game before or since has matched The Witcher 3 in terms of its size and scope, the depth of its storytelling, and how plot quests are weaved seamlessly together to make even the smallest side missions relevant to the overall story. The characters are varied, each a product of the harsh reality of The Continent setting. The Witcher 3 seeks to subvert your expectations at every turn, from its myriad of plot twists and character arcs to the way it challenges the player’s own morality and choices. The Witcher 3‘s DLC is better than most main stories, and even its mini-game, Gwent, was complex and interesting enough to spawn two of its own spin-offs.
The Witcher 3 is beautiful to look at, near-endless in breadth, and will have you thinking about its messages long after your 100+ hours are up. It’s a video game masterpiece and deserves to be lauded for its achievement.
Rarely does a game get everything right. The Witcher 3 had hundreds of hours worth of content, and barely any of it felt filler. A side quest in Witcher 3 carried the weight of a main quest in any other game. Conversations in the game felt like the best of Uncharted‘s banter but throughout the game’s entirety.
It’s just a perfect game all-around; I won’t be surprised if it’s everyone’s first choice.
#2 – God of War
Release Date: April 20th, 2018
God of War is the most technically impressive game I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. The series is known for its huge set pieces and spectacular boss fights, and God of War takes it to a new level. Add to that the reinvention of Kratos as a caring yet firm father figure to Atreus, God of War also had a much better story than I think anyone was expecting. Santa Monica created one of the best games I’ve ever played and is now my bar for cinematic, story-based games.
Somehow, this game turns newcomers who never touched God of War like myself and haters into die-hard fans as Kratos goes on a deeper, more sophisticated journey that makes him feel more human, or in his case, God-like. It has nuance and emotion while evolving what it means to play an entry in this long-time flagship franchise for PlayStation. Mechanics and storytelling are woven together to give everything a purpose, something that the rest of the industry could learn from.
BOY, is this a great game. This narrative-driven souls-like blends some of the best elements from some of the best games, and the result is easily one of the most outstanding experiences of the eighth console generation.
Combining a narrative that’s on par if not exceeding cinematic storytelling, with gameplay that embodies the thrills and excitement in what a single-player video game should be.
#1 – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Release Date: March 3rd, 2017
It would be almost blasphemous to leave this game off a list of the best games of the generation. Breath of the Wild isn’t just one of the best LoZ games: it’s one of those Nintendo masterclasses that defines a genre. With visuals that somehow balance the style of older Zelda games with the capabilities of this generation to create a stylish open world and gameplay that relies on the player to solve its puzzles and challenges, BotW redefined not only its genre but gaming as a whole. Few games can stand next to this masterpiece.
I hate to start with the most obvious candidate, but this title is the Usain Bolt of gaming. It leaves all other competitors in the dust. It took everything element learned about open-world design and absolutely perfected it. The mechanics and systems at play allowing in-game elements to interact with each other creating entertaining and spectacular results were marvelous. I’ve never felt more clever than when I’ve come up with out-of-the-box solutions in this game. And we can’t take for granted the technical achievement in game design of actually being able to reasonably challenge any and every part of the game (including the final boss) immediately after leaving the tutorial. It’s a masterpiece.
In a whole new reimagining of the Zelda franchise, Nintendo was able to rewrite how open worlds and exploration are done.
A beautiful and novel approach to the Zelda formula, it’s an absolute joy to play and get lost in.
It redefined what Zelda games were as well as innovating massively in the open-world genre. I’ve never spent such a long time just mucking about in a game, seeing what silly physics I can make happen or just seeing what I can find. It is the perfect video game.
What are your favorite games of the eighth generation of games? Let us know in the comments below!