How do you start to summarise an entire decade of gaming? How do you make a list of only your 10 favourites? Firstly, you go down a Google search spiral and then drown in the nostalgia brought on by all the fantastic games you wish you could replay for the first time. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.
As one would expect, it has been a decade of so much growth in the gaming industry; we went from games like Darksiders and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, to Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and Control. We, as a community, have learnt what we want out of a game, adapted to the times and demanded the same from our video games. We’ve seen a rise in stronger female leads, more community-conscious writing and characters that bring representation, and I genuinely cannot wait to see what the next decade holds. There’s a lot happening and so much is yet to come. But let’s get stuck in with what has already been given to us, shall we?
10. Night in the Woods (2017)
I think everyone that has had the honour of playing Night in the Woods would agree that they found a true, weirdly wonderful gem. It’s deep, intriguing, slightly creepy, but most importantly hilarious on so many levels. There are a million and one things to experience in every nook of the town, so it definitely has replayability, but the thing that stood out to me was the genius behind the dialogue. The visuals were also absolutely phenomenal and stylised to perfection. I always recommend it to anyone that asks for a story that’s a bit… different.
9. Portal 2 (2011)
This shouldn’t be a shock to any of you since Portal 2 is probably one of the best puzzle games ever to be released. Or at least, it is to me. There is nothing that compares to the brilliantly written and witty GLaDOS, who is perfectly voiced by Ellen McLain, and the mind-bending puzzles that try to make you question your own intelligence. It really is an iconic game that took us on a wild ride filled with conspiracies, Easter eggs and a potato version of GLaDOS. What’s not to love?
8. Fez (2012)
If there’s one game type that just manages to grind my gears and push all of my buttons, it would be platformers. I don’t know if I just lack the skills or patience to play these games and enjoy them, but somehow I always come out being peeved to the point of many foul words. That’s exactly why Fez made it onto my list.
This game has an innate ability to actually calm me down and makes me enjoy it even though it’s a wretched platformer. Fez is in all likelihood the only one of its genre that I have played to near completion, and not for a lack of trying. This game was thought out beyond my beliefs, with layers upon layers of secret passages and puzzles for you to solve. Oh, and did I mention it actually functions in a 3D space? Because it does! Everything about it is just fantastic, including the soundtrack.
7. Bioshock Infinite (2013)
I struggled quite a bit to find the game that will take up this “in-between” spot. There has been an abundance of amazing releases these last 10 years, so much so that I couldn’t choose even from the very short list I put together! But what made the decision for me was the fact that Bioshock Infinite still has one of the best plot twists I’ve experienced in a very long time (if ever), and has provided me with many enjoyable replays.
The easy-to-pick-up combat system and great selection of vigors in Infinite made it fun and provided many different styles of play to try my hand at. The characters and overall visuals were also a stand out with it being extremely stylized, but still maintained a high level of detail and realism. It really is the whole package, and I always enjoy my time running around with Elizabeth. Although, I’d like a game centred around the Luteces…
6. Borderlands 2 (2012)
Borderlands 2 is one of only two games (so far) that I have made sure to complete everything it has to offer, even the DLCs. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute I spent in this game; whether it was doing silly errands for Lilith, or playing a table-top RPG with Tiny Tina, Borderlands 2 really had it all. It was a bucket full of crazy, and I couldn’t stop drinking that weird-smelling Kool-Aid. I haven’t tried Borderlands 3 yet, but I’m sure I’ll have fun if it gives me more of that ridiculous humour and scratches my shooter itch.
5. Monster Hunter: World (2018)
I think mid-way is a good place for Monster Hunter: World, not because it’s bad but more because there are games that gave me so much more story-wise. Apart from the endless challenges and surprising amount of fun it provides, the thing that got me hooked on MH:W was the fact that it made me fall in love with video games again. It gave me a new set of skills I had to learn, and re-learn thanks to the way it ranked monsters. It is also one of the prettiest games with the best armour designs I’ve laid eyes on in quite a while, so that definitely helped.
I’ve played it mostly as a single-player game, with only a few friends jumping in on rare occasions to help out with hunts. But even then I’ve spent well over 100 hours hunting and gathering in The New World, and I have no plans on stopping any time soon! Especially not with all the wacky crossovers they’ve been introducing lately, and not to mention Iceborne coming to PC in only a few short weeks. This game will be in my life for quite some time, I think.
4. Dishonored 2 & Death of the Outsider (2017)
OK, so I know making this a twofer is kind of cheating, but I do believe that playing them together gives you the best experience of the universe. While Dishonored 2 gives you the story, Death of the Outsider gives you lore and the emotions. The whole series has become my absolute favourite set of stealth games to play, with Dishonored 2 taking the dark, edgy cake. Running around as Emily Kaldwin is a treat that everyone should experience since she has better powers in the family. That, and she finally sees her kingdom for the bloodfly-infested ruin that it is.
3. The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt (2015)
Yet another unsurprising member of this list! I came quite late to the party on this one, but even though I’ve only been playing it last few months The Witcher 3 has become one of my go-to games when I want to get in a good gaming session. What makes it even more special to me is the fact that I also started listening to the audiobooks around the same time as starting it, and the attention to detail and inclusion of all the pieces of lore in the game is just amazing. I find myself in awe of how much care they’ve taken in creating this whole world in a digital space.
This is another title that has just fully reminded me why I love video games. I foresee myself spending well over 100 hours (I’m already on 70) running around the streets of Novigrad, or some strange woods in the middle of the ocean in search of adventure!
2. Kingdom Hearts 2.5 ReMix (2014)
While I know this is just a bundled, remastered re-release of some of the Kingdom Hearts games, it genuinely is one of the top standouts for me this last decade. It not only contains my favourite game of the entire series (KHII Final Mix), but Birth By Sleep is probably one of the best remasters I’ve seen. The sheer amount of work they put in to make this title go from PSP controls and graphics to PlayStation 3 and 4 is incredible! Both titles have, in my opinion, the best and most gripping stories with gameplay that is challenging but never unfair.
Kingdom Hearts III might be the most visually stunning game of the series, but the game lacked the signature challenge the other games had. I enjoyed III a whole bunch and cried my eyes out multiple times during cutscenes, but it doesn’t hold a candle to its predecessors in terms of giving me that sense of accomplishment.
1. Mass Effect 2 (2010)
I was first introduced to the Mass Effect series by way of Mass Effect 2, and I instantly fell in love. I cannot tell you how many times since then I’ve played through the game, too many to count, but I still feel like I will never get enough of it. Sure, it’s not perfect but the team at BioWare truly made me feel like I had an impact on the universe while also providing a rich, story-intensive game with absolute stunning characters. Except Jacob and Miranda.
Even though the title says ME 2, please read it as the entire Mass Effect series. Each time I think about playing through one particular game, I realise I can just as well restart the whole trilogy since you can’t rightfully skip the other games. It’s like eating a hot dog but you only take a bite out of the middle, which is just heresy.
As I said before, there have been a lot of amazing games released in the last decade and it made making these lists quite a task for the SA Gamer team. The games that didn’t make it on the list had nothing wrong with them, there were just gems that shone that little bit brighter. But even though they didn’t place, they still deserve a good mention!
In no particular order, here are a few of the games that made the last decade of gaming spectacular:
- Assassin’s Creed II (Plus Brotherhood and Revelations)
- XCOM: Enemy Unknown
- Batman – Arkham City
- Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
- Bulletstorm (one of my favourite shooting games)
- Prototype 2
- Saint’s Row 4
- Guild Wars 2
- Fallout 4
- Pokemon – Alpha Sapphire
I think that covers all of them! What a decade for gaming, indeed. If we keep improving like this, who knows where we’ll be in the next 10 years?