Despite the fact that few people have been able to get their hands on the newest consoles from Microsoft and Sony without buying one from a shady guy in a shadier alley, the next generation of gaming is here, and all eyes are on the games that will make the best of the new tech. This week sees Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart for the PS5 hitting the shelves — which, based on trailers and gameplay footage, will show just how powerful the new system’s capabilities are.
With this new Ratchet & Clank game on the way, I thought it was a good opportunity to take a look back at other sequels and series continuations that made the leaps onto next-gen consoles. I will be avoiding remasters and games that had cross-gen releases (should’ve ditched the Wii U, Breath of the Wild), sticking to entries that brought a series exclusively to the newest consoles for the first time.
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10. Halo 3
Image via Microsoft Game Studios
After the first two Halo games made the first-gen Xbox a must-have, the same pressure was on Halo 3 to keep pushing Xbox 360s. With a story that lives up to the first two, upgraded graphics, and more seamless multiplayer, the game quickly solidified itself as a crown jewel of the console’s lifespan. While Master Chief’s story has continued – with Halo Infinite on the way – Halo 3 marked a fitting end to his arc, with some of the best multiplayer of the time resulting in sleepless nights for millions of players of all ages (but mostly trash-talking tweens).
9. Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Image via Nintendo
With solid-to-great initial entries, the Super Smash series blossomed into a perfect butterfly of IP-driven mania with Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Debuting on the Wii, the third entry in the franchise continued to refine the mechanics from the first two, while expanding the roster to include characters like Pokémon Trainer, Pit, and everyone’s favorite, Wario. The sublime score is a standout in the series, and the story puts these characters in an MCU-level scenario to add even more hours to the endless amount of time you can spend with friends duking it out – with Kirby if you’re wise.
8. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Image via Sony Computer Entertainment
With three exceptional entries that came before, the fourth Uncharted game – Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End – lived up to expectations when it arrived on PS4 in 2016. Using the then-next-gen capabilities to make Nathan Drake’s “final” adventure more visually stunning and exciting than ever – and with the most emotionally involving story of the lot – Naughty Dog outdid themselves with a game that stands as one of the best looking and feeling of the PS4 catalog.
7. Super Mario 64
Image via Nintendo
After ruling the side-scrolling landscape for over a decade, it was time for Mario to get a much-needed upgrade. Enter Super Mario 64 on the Nintendo 64, a game no ’90s childhood (or adulthood, no judgment) was complete without. Everyone’s favorite plumber’s quest to save Princess Peach from the devilish Bowser was more entertaining than ever, with 3D coins to scour for, Goombas to flatten, and acrobatics to pull off while rocking the iconic overalls. Even with countless other games gracing the console, you can’t talk the best of N64 without SM64.
6. Grand Theft Auto IV
Image via Rockstar Games
I cannot overstate the number of hours friends and I spent taking character Niko Bellic through the streets of Liberty City, blowing up everything in sight, or simply driving top speeds to crash and send him comically flying half a mile down the road. With its biggest playground and most cinematic story yet, Grand Theft Auto IV brought the series onto next-gen consoles with more thrilling player freedom than ever before, with greater console power allowing for more explosive action and absorbing detail in its world.
5. Red Dead Redemption 2
Image via Rockstar Games
Rockstar knows how to make use of the latest gaming software, and Red Dead Redemption 2 – coming eight long years after the previous – pushed the power of the newest systems to their limit. The late-19th-century landscape is some of the most arresting we’ve seen yet, and it’s matched by a story that’s as incredibly complex as it is long. Even the deliberate pacing can’t stop anyone from dumping dozens, if not hundreds, of hours into riding, shooting, and looting. When it comes to thinking about the best games of this last generation, it’s impossible not to include RDR2.
4. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Image via CD Projekt
Move over Mass Effect, there’s a new King of Kissy Time in video games. Okay, there’s more to The Witcher 3 that makes it one of the best games of its generation aside from its superior romance options, from its thrillingly layered open world filled with monsters to its finely-tuned storytelling. The game made a splash after debuting on PS4 and Xbox One, making the series more popular than ever, and being a big reason why we get to see Henry Cavill in a long white wig on Netflix now.
3. The Last of Us Part II
Image via Naughty Dog
Arriving seven years after the original’s debut at the tail-end of the PS3’s life cycle, The Last of Us Part II arrived at the same point in the PS4’s own timeline. And like the first game, the sequel is among the very best in that generation’s catalog. Your feelings regarding the story aside, there’s no denying that developer Naughty Dog’s commitment to challenging, narrative-driven gaming is unlike anything else on the market, and the emotional scope of storytelling here is staggering. Fleshing it out is a grimly gorgeous post-apocalyptic world set in several completely different locales, a taut combat and stealth system, and numerous heart-wrenching moments to make you cry harder than a Pixar movie.
2. God of War
Image via Sony Interactive Entertainment
The leap into next-gen should come with a bit of reinvention for any established game series, and for 2018’s God of War, Santa Monica Studios took that idea to heart. The fourth game in the core series acts as both a sequel and a reboot, continuing the story of Kratos in a way that entirely re-envisions how players connect with him as a character and control him through countless instances of rage-filled battles. Ditching previous stories of revenge and hate with one of love and growth, God of War is a masterpiece of the action-adventure genre, standing tall and bearded as the PS4’s very best game.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Image via Nintendo
What praise could I bestow onto this game that hasn’t already been bestowed? Released for the N64 in 1998, the first 3D adventure of Link (or whatever you decided to name him) in the Legend of Zelda series turned Hyrule into a sweeping, vibrant, lore-filled tapestry ripe for exploration. Loaded with innovations, you can feel the influence of Ocarina of Time in adventure games to this day. Whether it was listening to the magnificent score while galloping across the green hills or going toe-to-toe with Ganondorf in a battle of energy-ball tennis, there’s no shortage of reasons why Ocarina quickly became a must-own on the N64, and those same reasons make it a timeless classic that deserves to be ported onto every Nintendo system to come.
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