All gaming-systems must come to an end, but not without that one last great game, that one last gem, that one last epic experience... its swan song… Though some systems might have more than one, the swan song is usually the final masterpiece for the system before heading to its dark and lonely grave. With ads for the 360, PS3, DS, Wii and PSP flooding the media, now is an appropriate time to take a look back at games that gave our fallen systems one last breath of life. These ten games were the best our old systems had to offer right before biting the dust.

The first of ten swan songs that shouldn’t be missed, Half-Life 2 for the X-Box was a fantastic game on the PC, and easily the big black box’s final masterpiece. Though the frame-rate might be poor at best, Half-Life 2 features one of the most engaging single-player campaigns ever created for a first-person shooter. This action-packed, thoughtfully crafted experience features a unique physics engine, amazing voice acting, a well thought out plot, countless unique weapons, breathtaking environments and intense vehicle scenes. Though inferior to its PC brother in every way, Half-Life 2 is a game that simply needs to be played. Not only is Half-Life 2 a great way to end the life of a system, but it’s also the biggest step forward the genre has taken in years.

The first of three Final Fantasy games on the list, and the first of two remakes is also the final stand for the loved GameBoy Advance. Final Fantasy VI Advance, a remake of Final Fantasy III for the SNES, is a deep, long and engaging role-playing experience for your GBA. You set off with a unique cast of characters to save the world, and though the plot may be your standard affair, this game certainly isn’t. Your spell slinging, sword wielding, random-encounter fighting heroes will keep you busy for quite some time. A classic on the SNES, and even better on the GBA, this is a game to look for before taking a stroll down the DS or PSP aisle of your local gaming store.

The first of two (or more technically, three) Zelda games on the list is one that shouldn’t be missed. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is the GameCube’s final gem. This long-awaited follow-up in the Zelda franchise certainly doesn’t disappoint. With a long single-player campaign, intense visuals and the Zelda charm fans of the series have come to know and love, Twilight Princess will go down in history books as one of the best swan songs ever released. Those new and old to the world of Link will find something to love; whether it be old-fashioned sword-play to vanquish your enemies or enjoying a peaceful fishing trip, Twilight Princess has something for everyone. Though the Wii might be getting the game as well, Twilight Princess will deliver one last round of action, puzzles and adventure for GameCube owners everywhere.

If its one thing that can be said about the Playstation2, it’s the following: it certainly knows how to die. The first of three Playstation2 titles on the list, Final Fantasy XII continues the epic role-playing franchise. Featuring new action-based combat, disturbing half-naked bunny-women and an engaging story line, Final Fantasy XII moves the franchise in a bold new direction. With cinematic scenes rivaling full-length motion pictures and a game-budget matching the national debt, its no surprise Final Fantasy XII turned out to be such a masterpiece. Final Fantasy XII is a fitting end for not only the Playstation2, but for this generation of RPGs in general.

The unique game known as Paper Mario closed out the N64 era with fun combat, a cute story line and an excellent visual style. The long awaited follow-up for Super Mario RPG doesn’t disappoint in any way shape or form, and it will certainly leave you begging for more. Take Mario on a long and exciting journey through a unique and colorful world. Meet new friends, take on tough enemies and even execute a classic jump attack or two. Paper Mario proves to be not only a groundbreaking role-playing experience, but one of the best swan songs a system has ever received.

Ever wonder how Final Fantasy got its start? Find out in the Playstation swan song: Final Fantasy Origins. Final Fantasy 1 shows today’s gamers what an 8-bit classic truly looks like. Though it might have received a light face-lift, Final Fantasy 1 takes players back to where it all began. The tiny black-mage sprites, the frequent random encounters and the epic story truly set a strong backbone for the series it is today. Final Fantasy 2, never before released in America, will give an 8-bit experience that lives up to, if not surpasses, its older brother. Can re-visiting a classic truly be a fitting end to a groundbreaking system such as the Playstation? Final Fantasy Origins certainly proves it can.

The second Playstation2 title on the list, Okami is a game that completely redefines a genre. After Okami, you will never look at an action game the same way again. Take on tons of enemies as a wolf god by utilizing cool combo attacks, make the world literally come to life beneath your feat and paint your destiny as you go on a quest unlike any other. If Okami’s award-winning visual style doesn’t leave you speechless, its open-ended gameplay and engaging story will. Take your magic paintbrush and devastate your enemies, or grow some evergreens if you prefer, either way, this unique title will please both your inner child and inner artist.

Though not released in America, Shenmue 2 was a fitting end for the gaming icon known as the Dreamcast. Shenmue 2 continues the journey of Ryo, a young man in search of his father's killer. One of the most beautiful games ever released on the Dreamcast, Shenmue 2 immerses the player in a reality so detailed, that at times, it becomes completely overwhelming. Play old-school Sega games at the local arcade, buy a soda or two at the corner vending machine, and even talk to locals in broken Chinese. Shenmue 2 is an experience so emotionally driven, so graphically intense and so open-ended, that it's no surprise that this title was one of the biggest selling import games all time. Let's just hope Shenmue 3 comes out within the next millennia.

The last of the Playstation2 titles, God of War 2 is a true gamer's game. With breathtaking level design, non-stop in your face action, crude sexual content and a hero that makes Conan the Barbarian look like a 12-year old girl; God of War 2 was the perfect way to put-down our old friend known as the Playstation2. If you thought ripping out harpy wings was fun the first time around, you haven't seen anything yet. Kratos and his Blades of Chaos really know how to put a hurting on that action game craving.

The ultimate way to end a legacy: Zelda: Oracle of Ages/Seasons was an action packed blast from the past. Ending the 8-bit hand-held god known as GameBoy Color, these two inter-linking games made sure that GameBoy Color went out on top. Fight through time and the different seasons of the year, utilize classic Zelda weaponry and take on multiple puzzles as you embark on one of the greatest adventures crafted for the 8-bit generation. Not only two of the greatest hand held games ever made, but by far the best swan song ever released. The GameBoy Color received a hero's death, filled with swords, fire magic and fairies that know a thing or two about resurrecting elves.

Well, there they are: the top 10 swan songs. Though our old school favorites like the SNES, NES, GEN and Atari might have died with a whimper, this generation certainly knows how to go out in style. Take some time to look for these groundbreaking games, though the system might be dead, or will soon take a trip to the grave, these gems will give it new life for just a little longer.

List by Pop (04/04/2007)

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