Whoo boy. This all started because a friend of mine listed her top 10 of the decade and I mentioned, once again, how I hate ranked lists with a burning passion. But, it got people talking and looking at what games released in a decade is pretty interesting. Just thinking back on that time was a nice trip down memory lane, and how many grand games we have had. Sure there are companies that are out to game us and nickel and dime us, but some of the greatest gaming moments have happened in the last few years.
So here are my top games of the decade, with some special consideration for how much time I sank into the various titles. Yeah, you can probably guess what that means, right?
Dota 2 (2013)
I have over 900 hours clocked on Dota 2, and while I would rather drink my own piss than play it again, for a long time it was my go-to social game. Get your friends together and hop into a game and get to levelling your character, pushing lanes, farming items and it feels like the great parts of an RPG as you get stronger. Then hit the enemy hard and fast in brutal ambushes, or distract them long enough for your late-game heroes to have some space to farm properly.
Final Fantasy XV (2016)
Final Fantasy XV continued the latest trend of Square Enix telling large fantasy stories that expanded beyond the scope of a single game. Final Fantasy XV had a movie and animated shorts to tell the full story, with the game focused on Noctis’ journey. This tale of four friends on a journey of discovery, growth, duty and sacrifice is full of endearing moments, glimpses into the connections between friends and what happens when the stress and trauma start to test them. Add in a likeable yet completely hateable antagonist, massive summons and music that plucks at your soul and you have a road trip you won’t soon forget.
Assassin’s Creed Origins (2017)
Bayek’s journey is a tale of loss and revenge, of how sometimes a traumatic event can never really be left behind us, shaping what comes in the future. With great attention to detail we get to explore Egypt, a land so steeped in culture and ancient empires that even Bayek goes exploring ancient ruins. What really made the game special was how much it cared bout the little things, like how characters touch and interact and how burial rites made up so much of the lifestyle of the time, with NPCs mourning dead NPCs and taking them to centres to begin the mummification process.
Beyond this, it also was a turning point for the Assassin’s Creed franchise. By changing the combat system and implementing more RPG elements, Assassin’s Creed Origins broke away from the rut that the series was being heavily criticised for, turning things around in the most stunning way.
World of Warcraft: Legion (2016)
Oh hey, how did this get on the list? I won’t lie, World of Warcraft is a bit more than a game for me. It is a part of my lifestyle. So many of my friends were met through this game, and so many memories are somehow linked to the goings-on in Azeroth and nearby planets. Where most people talk about the hours they have invested in a game, I measure my gameplay time in WoW in days.
Whether levelling up, playing with friends, challenging a new raid or hunting for mounts, toys and pets, WoW is part of my daily activities, similar to how eating is something you do every day. If I had to pick a specific expansion in the last decade, I would opt for Legion, as that is where the game really shined and showed promise and stories that rivalled some of the early glory days of the game.
Subnautica is the type of survival game you just have to tell people about. This isn’t about the multiplayer and stories of making off with the loot of others or killing them as a shortcut. It is just you, completely alone on an alien planet in a small stretch of ocean. Armed with a multi-tool and a desire to find a way home, you must brave the ocean waters to find resources and remnants of technology to get back home.
Build a base, harvest everything you can and watch out for the scary things down in the deeps that want to turn you into lunch. Subnautica’s clever map design, story element placement and progression system takes you all over, heading deeper and deeper to find the secrets of an alien world and after playing it, many survival games just feel lacking.
Final Fantasy XIV (2010)
If you want to see a success story and how to turn something around, then Final Fantasy XIV is the game to pay attention to. After a fairly dismal launch, Naoki Yoshida was given a chance to try and turn things around and boy, did his magic touch do the trick. The world of Final Fantasy XIV was all but destroyed by an in-game event, making it part of the complex, rich canon and lore of this universe.
Every expansion of the game has taken it to new heights, weaving in new classes, improvements and a sprawling interwoven story that is currently at heady heights. Shadowbringers is FFXIV at its zenith, with the story bringing some extremely memorable moments, a few big revelations that challenge what players knew of the lore so far, as well as my new favourite villain ever in a Final Fantasy game, Emet Selch.
How can you mention games of the decade without looking at the sensation that is Minecraft? It went from indie darling to damn near-ubiquitous and has sold more millions of copies than our brains can comprehend. The game influenced so many spheres, with so many companies trying to clone the sandbox or survival elements or even just that blocky look. It is used as an educational tool and sometimes even as a cheap modelling software for architectural proof of concept.
Whether building a giant golden phallus outside of your small village or being a part of a community and working to create a massive project, there is so much to do in Minecraft. From fan art to complete level recreations of other games, Minecraft users have been there, done that and sat working out how to make it better the next time around. Even just writing about it is giving me the itch to go hit some blocks.
God of War (2018)
What happens when you take one of my favourite protagonists and have him voiced by one of my heroes? Christopher Judge and Sony Santa Monica breathed new life and depth into God of War’s anti-hero, taking us on a journey of discovery, dealing with the past and accepting those around us. It was absolutely beautiful to be a part of this and there are times when I can hear Kratos’ words echo in my mind, like a part of him continues to live in me.
Endless Legend (2014)
I feel this list wouldn’t be complete without some strategy game on it, and what better option than my favourite grand strategy title? Endless Legend takes the 4X genre and breathes love and stories into it, giving you something rather intimate to chase down between the many decisions you make while running an empire. City-building requires more thought than just hitting an upgrade button and the technology tree allows each game to be quite different. Add in many quests to follow, the ebb and flow of progress as you survive harsh winters and races that each have a unique trick to master and you end up with a game that can be played for many many hours without feeling bored.
Disco Elysium (2019)
Sometimes you play a game and it changes the way you look at games of that genre. Disco Elysium came out of nowhere and turned CRPG on its head by showing everyone just how you could take an existing format and completely subvert it. Disco Elysium isn’t about sprawling dungeons and endless fights against various minions. Instead you are a detective, an amnesiac detective at that and the case is getting cold. Thanks to a bender that would put almost anyone’s idea of a rough night to shame, you have managed to make things a lot more difficult for yourself by losing most of your police-related inventory and the local gang is quite aware of what you were up to.
It is a lovely, meandering story as you piece together what happened in the murder case as well as your own life, picking up the pieces if you can, all while various parts of your psyche talk to you. Witty writing, colourful characters and a setting that feels both alien and weird while completely relatable all mix together to create a game that deserves attention and praise, and I can’t stop thinking about it.
Here are some games that I wanted to include in the list, but have also been covered by other members of the team, and I can’t work out which to cut to add them in. Which idiot made it only 10? Oh, me… Right. Mass Effect 2, Divinity Original Sin 2, Overwatch and The Witcher 3.