TuffGnarl.com’s 50 must-play Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 titles: Part 1

Yes, I know… we are now in the era of Playstation 4, Xbox One (remind me how that numbering system works again?) and Wii U. However, for those of us who aren’t yet ready to part ways with our beloved previous generation Sony and Microsoft consoles, there are still plenty of games that even the most dedicated gamers may have overlooked.

Here are 50 such games. They run the gamut from FPS and strategy to sandbox and sports, but they all have one thing in common: your last-gen gaming experience will not be complete until you put in time with these top-notch titles.

(Note: titles are listed in no particular order.)

1. Mass Effect 2 – Bioware/EA | 2010

Continuing the epic story of Lieutenant Commander Shepherd, this installment is by all accounts the finest in the series. While many Xbox 360 owners were already well-versed in this superlative sci-fi action and strategy RPG epic, this was the first taste PS3 players had and boy, was it eye-opening. Following his (or her—the game allows you to customize every aspect of Shepherd, down to gender) apparent demise at the end of Mass Effect, Shepherd is resurrected and given a new mission: assemble a new crew for the starship SSV Normandy to stop a mysterious insectoid race known as the Collectors from bringing back the Reapers, the world-destroying ancient race whose enormous shadow hangs over the entire series. Every choice you make in the game, however minute, creates a ripple effect through the series, so no play-through is ever the same.

2. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots – Konami | 2008

Spreading across numerous platforms and earning millions of fans in the process, Hideo Kojima’s groundbreaking tactical espionage action series arguably reached its summit with this, the last installment starring series protagonist Solid Snake. While fans of previous games hoping for quirky convolution and abundant self-reference were left wholly satisfied, newcomers to this flagship Playstation title finally got to see what all the hullabaloo was about. We find Snake, a clone of the legendary Big Boss, hyper-aged and left with creaking bones in need of a special suit to allow him to complete his final mission: assassinate Liquid Ocelot, a hybridization of former series villains Liquid Snake (another Big Boss clone) and Revolver Ocelot. Anyone even remotely familiar with the series should know that it gets way more complicated than that before it’s all over—but never at the expense of fun and accessibility.

3. Fallout 3 – Bethesda Softworks | 2008

When it was announced that the cult favorite post-apocalyptic RPG series, Fallout, was getting a next-gen facelift, fans were delighted. Their delight soon turned to apprehension, however, when it was revealed that, instead of the 3/4 top-down perspective point-and-click adventure they’d all been introduced to by former developer Interplay, the game was going to be delivered in a FPS format. How would the turn-based strategy work—if it was going to make the crossover at all? What was Bethesda going to do to make sure certain recurring elements in the series remained intact? All doubt was dismissed entirely when the game finally dropped. Nearly every element of the game, whose stunning graphics and gameplay had fans agog, remained faithful to its electronic heritage. Although Bethesda’s almost equally amazing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion had already displayed the potential of these consoles, Fallout 3 blew the doors off of their perceived limitations.

4. UFC Undisputed 3 – THQ | 2012

Whether or not you’re a mixed martial arts fan, you’ll respect the sport’s intricacies considerably more after some hands-on time with this, the third and best installment of THQ’s criminally under-appreciated combat sports simulator. THQ, as many fondly recall, famously made the first legitimately playable pro wrestling game, WCW vs. nWo: World Tour, for Nintendo 64 way back in 1997. Although the developer’s intuitive grappling system (which every single other pro wrestling game since has emulated) didn’t entirely cross over to its UFC-based offerings, the team’s knack for breaking down a complicated system into its nuts and bolts and reassembling it in a fun, playable fashion was perhaps never done better than here (to wit: EA Sports UFC, the current-gen game, borrowed liberally from the now-defunct developer’s design). As an added bonus, UFC Undisputed 3 saw the arrival of Pride, the UFC’s mid-2000s Japanese rival, allowing for dream matchups that had until then only been wishful thinking. Simply put, it’s the finest realistic fighting game put out during this generation.

5. Bioshock – 2K Games | 2008

With nary a hint at what players are in store for, creator Ken Levine’s mind-blowing brainchild drops the game’s unnamed protagonist in the middle of the ocean following a terrifying plane crash. Unbelievably, there is a lighthouse situated nearby, surrounded by sprawling water in every direction. As players descend the spiraled staircase and enter a futuristic bathysphere, things become increasingly surreal. And then you see it: Rapture, the underground city constructed by business magnate Andrew Ryan to be an isolated utopia, a refuge for those wishing to escape the growing materialism and selfishness of the surface world. We arrive years later. The city—now warped beyond recognition following the discovery of ADAM, a superpower-granting plasmid—has fallen into the hands of its now maddened and depraved surviving denizens. Finding a way back to the surface means going through the city, uncovering its haunting, Orwellian secrets, and surviving several encounters with the terrifying Big Daddies.

6. Demons Souls – From Software | 2009

Although Dark Souls tends to attract all the attention regarding this infuriatingly difficult hack-and-slash RPG action and adventure series, Hidetaka Miyazaki’s inaugural entry got the ball rolling, establishing such a lofty watermark in terms of both the challenges it posed players and the overall design of the game that its sequels were all but a foregone conclusion. Dark and terrifying at all times, the plot revolves around the doomed kingdom of Boletaria, which has been plagued by a cursed fog that allows soul-devouring demons to cross over into our world. Like the old days of Megaman, players have to memorize levels, time enemy attacks and roll out of environmental dangers at precisely the correct moment or be forced to go through the entire process all over again. There are many ways for the game to play out—and even more ways to fail to make it to the end. As an added bonus, a unique multiplayer element allows other players to join you on your quest or, if they so evilly desire, kill you and loot your corpse of its belongings before you have a chance to make it back to reclaim your things.

7. Grand Theft Auto IV – Rockstar Games | 2008

When PS3 and Xbox 360 were first announced, one of the first things I remember thinking was, “What will Rockstar do with all that extra room to work with?” Previously, Rockstar released a series of games on Playstation 2 beginning with the game-changing Grand Theft Auto III, which forewent the top-down format of the previous games in the series in favor of a close-up, third-person perspective. Although developers had previously toyed with a truly open-world sandbox adventure game, none had come remotely close to pulling it off until Rockstar came along and did in 2001. Several subsequent GTA games came along—Vice City, Liberty City Stories, San Andreas—and they’d all built on the promise of GTA III, but new consoles meant new possibilities and boy, did Rockstar deliver. Following the story of an industrious, albeit morally ambiguous (depending on how you play him) protagonist Niko Bellic, there is more depth in a city block of GTA IV than in many games coming out today. That says something.

8. South Park: The Stick of Truth – Obsidian Entertainment/Ubisoft | 2014

One upon a time—back in 1998, to be exact—licensing television and film properties was every bit as big as it is today. The difference, however, was that there didn’t seem to be as much concern about the quality of the game, only that it sold a certain number of copies. Such was the case with Iguana Entertainment and Acclaim Entertainment’s dreadfully awful FPS, South Park, which by all accounts belonged in the same stinky barrel as Mr. Hanky. Understandably, South Park (the show) creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone were reticent to allow for another licensing. But when Obsidian Entertainment approached them about collaborating on a legitimately great idea—an RPG based in the South Park world that told a cohesive story, implemented strong role playing elements and looked exactly as if you were watching an episode of the show—they were sold. The Stick of Truth is disgusting, highly inappropriate, vulgar, thought-provoking, ridiculous and, most importantly, hilarious. In short: it’s the game the show deserves.

9. Portal 2 – Valve Corporation | 2011

Back in 2007, game developers Valve Corporation released a video game compilation called The Orange Box, which contained Half-Life 2, its semi-sequel and two mods for the game: Team Fortress 2 and Portal. Four years later, Portal got itself a legitimate standalone game when Valve released its sequel. Like its predecessor, Portal 2 takes place in the subterranean Aperture Science Enrichment Center, a research facility for advanced technology. Once again, players are put in control of Chell, the series’ protagonist, as she tries to make her way out of the now-dilapidated, enormous underground structure using only a portal gun, a device which opens a circular passageway in one area and its exit in another. Based on design ingenuity alone, this game stands head and tails over almost every other puzzle game out there. But it’s the humor of this game—the mocking tone of the supercomputer antagonist GLaDOS and the hapless AI, Wheatley—which really make this game unforgettable.

10. Batman: Arkham Asylum – Rocksteady Studios | 2009

Before Arkham Asylum, the general consensus was that it was pretty much impossible to make a serviceable Batman game. Sure, you could make a side-scrolling brawler, but you’d be leaving out platforming elements that would make the character seem too static and generic. You could create a platforming, building-traversing engine, but the action elements may take a backseat. If developers went the “world’s greatest detective” route, that’d make for an interesting game—except for the fact that he’s also arguably the best hand-to-hand combatant in the DC Universe. When Arkham Asylum dropped, it was the perfect marriage of all of these disparate elements, condensed in one of the Dark Knight’s most iconic settings. With no shortage of baddies to do battle with, numerous puzzles left behind by the Riddler for Batman to decode, complex structures to scale and explore, and an arsenal of gadgets to play with, this was the game Bat-fans had been waiting a lifetime for.

Check back soon for parts 2-5!

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Jesse Scheckner

A freelance MMA, entertainment and business journo born, raised and residing in Miami, FL, Jesse Scheckner is a former semi-serious musician, cinephile and recovering ne’er-do-well who still believes Mickey Rourke’s finest performance in film has yet to come. He is TuffGnarl.com's editor-in-chief, a feature staff writer for MMASucka.com and the 2014 MMA Media Correspondent winner at the Florida MMA Awards. Follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner to talk about the stuff he writes about with him.

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