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The best games of the last generation

Bloodborne
(Image credit: Sony)

The previous generation is beginning to reach its conclusion, and with it, we’re welcoming a new age of visual fidelity and technical power. Now that the PS5 and Xbox Series X have launched, consumers are ready to commit themselves to the excitement of what will come out of the next generation.

However, the staff at Laptop Mag aren’t ready to move on just yet. Join us, as we reminisce on some of the best video games that have been released over the past seven years. And yes, Nintendo Switch games count, especially when we might get the New Nintendo Switch sooner or later.

Bloodborne 

FromSoftware was no stranger to developing a masterpiece prior to the release of Bloodborne. With the launch of Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, the company had proven itself to be more than capable of presenting striking and imaginative worlds full of grim secrets. Shortly after, it was clear that Hidetaka Miyazaki and his brilliant development team would become some of the most respected minds in the medium.

When Bloodborne launched in 2015, it only heightened FromSoftware’s exceptional acclaim, instilling an astonishing sense of dread into critics without the need for jump scares or cheap thrills. Instead, its focus lies in atmospheric horror, wearing the player down with self-doubt from the slightest perception of darkness, maze-like forests and cathedrals, a dying Lovecraftian setting engulfed in hopelessness, and a gauntlet of merciless beasts that could easily tear you limb from limb (screw you, Ludwig). Some of these elements don’t set it too far apart from other Souls titles, but Bloodborne boasts the most memorable world I’ve ever explored.

I’ll never forget the first time I stepped through the rusty gates of Byrgenwerth. I cleaved my way through human-sized, decaying insects and stood behind a worn stone fence, overlooking a vast ocean beautifully reflecting the moon’s luminescent figure. I ascended up a dim observatory, reaching the pinnacle of a long-abandoned university when a mute old-man sat in a wheelchair gestured towards the unguarded end of a balcony. I took a few steps forward and looked down towards the ocean, acknowledging what could only be a fall to my death. After exhausting all other alternatives, I courageously took one step off the edge and plummeted through the ocean. I appeared in a foggy, moonlit realm, face-to-face with a giant glowing spider.

Bloodborne

(Image credit: Sony)

Moments like these have never really left me, even five years after my first playthrough of the game. Have you ever examined an evocative painting and thought: “I want to live in this world, to see what’s lying behind the frame, to explore beyond this narrow perspective.”

Every memory I have of Bloodborne can be likened to the fulfillment of this feeling. You’re not an observer. You’re one of its inhabitants, desperately struggling to thrive in a nightmare ripe with beasts and men, both of which are indistinguishable throughout.

It's fitting that the events of the game occur over the course of a single night, as it solidifies the fleeting sensation of being a prisoner to an unending dream. This will be the most arduous night of your life, but if you can push through to the end, you'll never forget your time with Bloodborne.

— Mohammad Tabari, intern

Dreams

Media Molecule has had a special place in my heart for over a decade. After all, LittleBigPlanet is the most important game I’ve ever played. It showed me the wonder of community cooperation based around a creation system that allowed kids like me to express themselves. Nothing was as special as jumping into creative mode and building bizarre worlds and logic systems with friends. 

Dreams Game

(Image credit: Sony)

Every time I tried out a new level, it felt like I was navigating someone else's imagination. When I was a kid, I constantly played pretend with friends. I used cars, action figures, and toy weapons to roleplay or tell funny stories. LittleBigPlanet put the tools in my hands to make that more than just fantasy, and it did so in ways that were easy for an 11-year-old to understand.

Dreams is how Media Molecule took this concept further. Instead of just being stuck in a 2.5-dimensional space (LittleBigPlanet was 2D but allowed you to move between three layers), Dreams functions within 3-dimensions. It keeps up the trend of being relatively easy to understand, although admittedly, it’s not as accessible as LittleBigPlanet. Even then, it’s inspiring to see what incredible creations kids have been making.

The fact that you can just jump in and mess around without the need for much prior training to create a mini-game is beautiful. I’m really glad Media Molecule is continuing to create games like these, and I’m incredibly excited for the future of Dreams.

— Mohammad Tabari, intern

God of War

I’ve grown up and it’s nice to know that some of my favorite video game characters are also maturing. Case in point, Kratos in the latest entry of God of War. Instead of the rage-fueled brawler with the biggest case of daddy issues this side of the Greek pantheon, we get a more pensive, regretful hero. And not just a hero, a father. No, this isn’t the same Kratos who, via well-timed button presses, entertained a bevy of beautiful concubines or forsook his place in the Elysium Fields and pushed his beloved daughter aside to wage war with the gods. No, this is a Kratos who’s mourning his wife and trying to finally get this fatherhood thing right with his son Atreus. But man, it’s hard.

God of War

(Image credit: Sony)

As the two venture out on a quest to fulfill their loved one’s final request, it quickly becomes apparent that Kratos and Atreus have a big part to play in the Norse pantheon. And while the two heroes undertake their realm-spanning journey, you see a totally different Kratos. Sure, he’s leaving an impressive trail of broken bodies in his wake, but he’s also working with his young son who he’s having serious problems connecting with (I mean seriously, I almost thought Atreus’ name was Boy). Plus, the titular God of War, is grappling with serious remorse of killing his own father and is trying his best to break this major generational curse. 

Ultimately, Kratos has grown up. And like my 40-year-old self, he doesn’t have all the answers. Still, he’s gotten older and wiser and has found more important things to fight for instead of youthful angst and bravado. He’s fighting for legacy and in the backdrop of such a visually stunning title. It’s thrilling to see such an iconic character undergo so much growth 

Sherri L. Smith, editor-in-chief

Horizon Zero Dawn

Aloooooooy! The outcast, the warrior, the matriarch and the savior, Aloy and developer Guerilla Games took us on quite the ride with Horizon Zero Dawn. Sporting huge robotic dinosaurs and the remnants of a ruined world, Horizon Zero Dawn was unlike anything gamers had ever seen in more ways than one. Not only was the premise great, but the game also marked the launch of the PlayStation 4 Pro and Sony’s official first step into 4K gaming. And the game did not disappoint. 

Horizon Zero Dawn

(Image credit: Sony)

From Aloy’s fiery red mane blowing in the wind, to the glint of the metal hide of a charging sawtooth at high noon, to the sudden pop of color from the magenta flowers dotting the sprawling plains, Horizon Zero Dawn is an absolutely beautiful game. Whether she was charging into the fray to save the current world that shunned her or exploring the dilapidated ruins of the world that ultimately begot her, the PS4 Pro rendered it all admirably at 30 frames per second in 4K. And yes, that seems like a pittance now, but in 2016, this laid the foundation for the 4K, 120 fps we anticipate enjoying on the PlayStation 5. 

But pretty graphics aside, Horizon Zero Dawn is a standout among third-person action-adventure genres. Combining slick gadgets, interesting puzzles and a unique crafting system, the game felt familiar but foreign. And the story with its many twists and turns made me press on despite the hordes of huge teched-out fauna and hostile humans standing in Aloy’s way. It’s a game that I wholeheartedly recommend when anyone asks me for my must-play list. And until Horizon Forbidden West debuts, it’s gonna stay on that list for a while. 

Sherri L. Smith, editor-in-chief

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

What can I say about the best open-world game of all time? Like a number of games last generation, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild made a statement, and that statement was “this is how open-world games should play.” It is hands down one of the most immersive games I’ve played thanks to its incredible world. At every corner, there’s something to be discovered. Unlike many open-worlds, this one is full of life, and it even feels active, as if it continues to exist beyond your presence.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

(Image credit: Nintendo)

For the first time in an open-world game, I didn’t feel like I had a ton of busywork to do. With Breath of the Wild, it was more about the adventure and exploring the world around me. I charted out my own course, whereas other games lay out everything in front of you, so it’s less about exploration and more about completing a bunch of arbitrary tasks. It made such an incredible impact that a number of games have attempted to emulate its design, like Genshin Impact and Immortals: Fenix Rising. They took the emulation to the extreme by even mimicking its art style to an extent, and while they may not hit the same high notes, Breath of the Wild’s immersive open-world gives developers an excellent example of what an open-world should feel like.

— Rami Tabari, staff writer

The Last of Us Part II

The Last of Us Part II made a mark on the gaming industry that resounded not only in this generation but in every single generation before it. Naughty Dog took a direction that no one expected, which shook up narrative tropes and a number of wild fans. It’s easily the best game I’ve played thanks to The Last of Us Part II’s deep, gut-wrenching storytelling and immersive gameplay. 

The Last of Us Part II

(Image credit: Sony)

The Last of Us Part II is long and exhausting, but that’s the point. You shoot, stab and gut everything you see, all in the name of vengeance. But after a while, you ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. Then you convince yourself that you’ve come this far, you’ve already bathed yourself in this much blood. Just keep going. Then Naughty Dog hits you like a truck, and then they do it again and again until you get a furious bundle of mixed emotions.

This game isn’t for everyone. There is pain and suffering that’s not only inflicted on the characters but also on you as the player. It’s either something you rush to finish just to see what happens or a game you’ll have to put down after a few hours just to take a mental break.

Regardless of your feelings about the direction of the story, you cannot deny that The Last of Us Part II is a master class in animation. Every single detail is just mind-blowing. Watching Ellie field strip her weapon at a workbench is the most therapeutic video game experience.

— Rami Tabari, staff writer

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The Witcher series will always have a special place in my heart, but The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt? Holy crap, what a ride. Between the epic story-telling and super-compelling dialogue choices to the hypnotizing music and gorgeous world design, it’s hard not to fall in love with this game.

Witcher 3 Wild Hunt

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

The beauty about The Witcher 3 is that there’s no A or B choice. For the most part, there are several ways a quest can unfold and typically there’s no one ending objectively better than the other (apart from that one very bad overall ending). Like the real world, there’s no such thing as black and white, and thus, The Witcher challenges your moral code. Seeing someone make decisions in The Witcher 3 can be very telling about their personality and ethics.

Yes, it’s long as all hell, and the combat isn’t the best, but the writing is incredibly enticing and the skilled voice acting makes every moment feel like you’re watching a fantasy TV drama. If you happen to make it to the DLC, you’ll get to experience some of the best boss fights in the entire game.

— Rami Tabari, staff writer

Monster Hunter: World

Monster Hunter is one of my favorite co-op game series, and it has been the game I’ve put the most hours into this past generation (don’t judge me).

It reminds me of Dark Souls in many ways due to its tough difficulty, but it’s completely designed as a co-op experience. Hunting monsters is tough, and it's always better with a friend, maybe even three. This entry into the series boasts not just gorgeous graphics and refined gameplay mechanics, but also a streamlined experience that opens its arms up to newcomers and old-timers like me. 

Monster Hunter World

(Image credit: Capcom)

If you're looking for some intense action, epic grind fests and the ability to create an adorable kitty cat as your companion, Monster Hunter World is the game for you. Oh, and the Iceborne DLC? Well, that'll send your butt straight to a harsh tundra for some more pain and suffering. From Low Rank all the way to Master Rank, Monster Hunter: World holds no prisoners. And the hardest parts are when you get epic crossovers, like Final Fantasy's infamous Behemoth.

— Rami Tabari, staff writer

Gears 5 

This past generation hasn’t been too kind to Microsoft, but Gears 5 is an excellent third-person, cover-based shooter. Not only that, but it’s arguably the best Gears of War game thanks to its in-depth storytelling, beautiful open-world environments and believable characters.

Gears 5

(Image credit: Microsoft)

I had my doubts at first, especially after seeing the boring reveal trailer and playing Gears 4, which is low on my Gears ranking. However, Gears 5’s gameplay shift and willingness to dig deep into its own lore and provide a story that shakes you to your core makes it a super satisfying entry into the franchise.

If campaign isn't your thing, don't worry, Gears 5 also has a game mode called Escape, which traps you in a Swarm nest and forces you to fight your way out in a limited amount of time. It's super intense and a great way to experience Gears with friends. There's also Horde mode and countless PvP modes to keep you busy.

— Rami Tabari, staff writer