Rather than doing the typical Game of the Year spiel, I wanted to do something more special with my very first roundup. Since I haven’t had this kind of outlet before, I thought it would be best to catch you up on my favourite games of the past decade. Not just one per year, but my top 10, for the full time period. There are a bunch to choose from, and it certainly wasn’t easy widdling these down to just 10.
It is also worth mentioning, as I have said before, I’m just one guy, I can’t play everything. Not only would that sap my life of all leisure time, it’d also make me even more broke than I already am. So just chill if I don’t talk about a 2-hour indie darling, sometimes I can’t justify the price.
Here we go, in no particular order:
Starting off with a biggie. Now I wasn’t ahead of the curve with this one, I started playing Dark Souls in 2013 when my housemate at uni lent me it. I was hooked. Luckily this was in first year, so I basically didn’t have any other cares in the world. Dark Souls drew me in immediately with an exciting premise and intriguing world, and sure it was difficult at the time, but that was never discouraging, it was encouraging. I had to overcome. I needed to know what monstrosity laid around that next corner. No game has ever made me put up with as much BS as this game, and I still love it.
There are plenty of other better articles to discuss the looping world design of Dark Souls, the open-ended combat, the bewildering story and everything else. For the purpose of this list though; all you need to know is, Dark Souls friggin’ rules and is more than deserved of the cult following it has amassed.
This is also seen with the typical “It is like the Dark Souls of X” which has popped up countless times in reviews of recent years. Critics constantly use this as a watermark for difficulty balancing, and for good reason.
Megalovania was my most listened to song for the DECADE when I did my 2019 Spotify Wrapped. How insane is that? So, I guess the first thing to note about this game is the superb soundtrack, and more than justification of Toby Fox being hired at Game Freak.
The game plays like a typical JRPG and that is all I am going to say about it really for fear of spoiling it. I went into this game totally blind and I would highly recommend you do the same. The combat is unique, the gameplay is unique the writing could be called a little “Tumblr”? I dug it though. Please check it out, there is a reason this game is so highly regarded.
I also posted about one of Undertale’s many other strengths here, feel free to check it out.
Another game which I have spoken about before in my discussion around UIs. Visually, this game is stunning. As I have also mentioned before, I fully blame this game for me achieving a 2:1 rather than a first in my university degree. If that isn’t enough reason to check this out, here we go.
- It looks amazing
- The creature and enemy design is weird as heck
- It makes the morning commute fun?
- The battle system, chaining together super effective moves feels amazing
- Constant progression makes the daily gameplay loop consistently rewarding
- The soundtrack slaps like nobody’s business
- The story is typical JRPG supernatural stuff, combined with teenage angst, I’m all about that
Check it out, this is a 90-hour time sink that is well worth the dive. Actually, maybe wait for The Royal version in March next year.
I have never been one for Metroidvania style games much of the time. Whilst I appreciate Super Metroid and Castlevania Symphony of the Night, they never seemed to strike a chord with me like they did many others. There was just too much backtracking for my liking, and this is that is woven into the very fabric of the design. I also hate getting a power up to reach new areas, and then having to replay the entire map to find the right path to use it on to progress the main story.
To my surprise then, Hollow Knight is an absolute masterpiece. The world is disgusting, heavy, occasionally beautiful, but always captivating. It is dripping with atmosphere and it is a joy to explore. Fearsome bosses and disturbed NPCs aplenty, this is a world that I became lost in, it is the best “metroidvania” game, hands down. If you haven’t played this yet, I recommend it, even if you don’t typically like this style of game, I assure you, Team Cherry have created something outstanding. I could not be more excited for the follow up next year.
Also, it makes bugs cool. Bugs are never cool.
The Last of Us (Remastered)
The writing in The Last of Us is incredible, reason enough to play it. The way it treads the line with your expectations, as something as cliché as a zombie story becomes so much more by the time you finish it. It is gory and brutal in its combat, tense and claustrophobic in its stealth and masterfully paced.
The way the characters grow is natural, believable and sometimes horrific. The storytelling really is the strength of this title. This statement shouldn’t detract from the many other gameplay merits though, as I have mentioned, the stealth and combat is visceral and grounded. A far cry from the bombastic adventures of Nathan Drake, this is a much more mature title and one which definitely deserves your time.
I know you have heard already how great this game is, so just add this list onto the pile.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
How could CD Projekt Red’s masterpiece not make this list? You know this game is good, it has picked up countless awards, garnered universal praise, there is nothing more I can add to that. The combat and monster design is all top-notch, along with the world building. However, it is the writing which is truly special here. This game is utterly engrossing, it is also one of the only times I have tried to get every dialogue option before opening the critical path. This is handily done using some colour coding, letting the player know which response will progress the story.
I was initially spooked by the lengthy runtime, often checking Time To Beat to see if I wanted to pick this up and deciding “I wasn’t ready for that”. However, 70 hours is not scary once you engage with the world, it is a total joy. If you haven’t picked this up already, no game is going to give you this kind of bang for your buck. A must-play for any fantasy fan.
The most profitable video game of all time. Do I need to say more? It hasn’t stuck with me the way I think it has for other people and I care little for the online component, which seems to be all Rockstar is concerned with at the moment.
When this first released, I picked it up from Blockbuster (how crazy is that?). The scope and ambition behind this game is undeniable, even by today’s standards, it can be hailed as one of the most expansive open-world games ever created. That is reason enough for this list.
The story mode is full of repetitive missions, with some standouts among the bunch but the heists in particular are excellently crafted. The gunplay is solidly stepped up from previous entries in the series, which was much needed. The package itself is just so complete, although there are better driving games, there are better third-person action games, there are better stories, none quite come as close to tying this all together like GTA V did in it’s time.
Although less visually striking than 2010s Limbo, I find Inside to be a much stronger experience overall. I am not going to say anything for fear of ruining it for you, but, much like Undertale, I think this was something worth experiencing blindly.
Mechanically it is a lot clearer than Limbo, and that doesn’t mean easier, it just means it makes more sense. This might be a little subjective, but I found the puzzles here to be less frustrating than in the developer’s previous work.
The atmosphere in Inside is unrivalled. It is twisted, creeping, oppressive and it never fails to horror and shock as you explore this cruel world. The pacing is perfect, ratchetting up and up with each uncomfortable discovery. If you’re a fan of 2D puzzle-platformers, this title deserves your attention.
Laser focussed, break-neck pace, pounding soundtrack, stylish aesthetic, all of these describe the many strengths of Hotline Miami. Whilst I don’t think the story is as ground-breaking as it would like you to believe, it is an engrossing world Dennaton Games have conjured. It’s a world full of brutal gangsters, spooky masks, déjà vu and plenty of rhetorical questions.
This story and world takes a backseat to the stellar gameplay loop however. Infiltrate and murder everyone in sight, you die in one hit so lightning reflexes are a must. Good luck. The constant trial and error needed to make your way through this story would surely cause the game to stumble, however, restarting a level takes seconds with basically no loading and the stages are short enough to not become frustrating. This combined with one of the best soundtracks going, means you are constantly pushed on, seduced into that “just one more try” mentality.
It’s bloody, badass, soaked in style and if you haven’t given it a shot yet, it’s dirt cheap. Playing with headphones or the music cranked is a must. It has also become apparent to me that it is difficult to show how awesome this game is with screenshots alone…
Super Smash Bros: Ultimate
Wooooooo momma! Not game is more deserved of the “Ultimate” subtitle. This isn’t just a love letter to Nintendo fans, it is a salute to gaming as a whole. Allowing you to make match ups you could previously only dream of, Super Smash Bros: Ultimate is the gaming equivalent of smashing together your Spider-Man and Power Rangers action figures together. Boasting an entertaining competitive scene, but also following the Nintendo mantra of “where is the fun?”, this is a balancing masterclass.
Each new character reveal pulls in more crowds, expanding the Smash Bros demographic to an obscene degree, although, there isn’t much typical slimy marketing behind it. There isn’t any money grabbing (which the game is ripe for). It is so sincere. Game director Sakurai actually promotes games from other platforms like Banjo-Kazooie, and that rules.
I don’t need to say anything further about this. It is a 2D fighter, perfect for parties, amazing with friends, fun. Fun. It’s fun. This list isn’t numbered, but damn if this wouldn’t be a contender for that top spot.
Yu Gi Oh: Millennium Duels
In terms of hours played, this game probably takes the cake. How crazy is that?
If you don’t know the deal; this is a card game based on a manga/anime series that many kids born in the early 90s are sure to recognise. The hair in this game is also absolutely absurd, it’s great.
Having a love for the franchise from an early age, seeing that first episode air on Sky One years ago, I was in. This game opened up the new card styles up to me, without the context of the anime, it was exciting and something I haven’t felt with any card game since. It helps that this came during the university years, allowing for many afternoons procrastinating to be poured into this. I want to write far more about this game, so it is definitely something I would like to save for a future post, but this game arrived with several life changes, essential for the impact it has had on me to this day.
Yu Gi Oh: Millennium Duels is an imbalanced, tremendously convoluted, obtuse game with a terrible UI. I love it in spite of all this, I come back time and again, whether it is for a single duel to kill 10 minutes, or to stay for an entire night. I think it is cool as heck, and that is why it makes the list.
Halo: The Masterchief Collection
What do you get when you bundle some of the best third person shooters together of the last generation, and throw in Halo 4? You get The Orange Box of the 2010’s. This doesn’t make the full list due to being a remake of a series from last decade, it feels a little unfair. So here it is instead.
So much nostalgic goodness wrapped up neatly, free with Game Pass. There isn’t really a lot to dislike here. The online multiplayer was apparently a little botched at launch, but I don’t really care about that. Making these legendary games playable on new hardware is also great from a preservation point of view. Absolutely top-tier local multiplayer, split screen co-op campaign, absolutely cracking soundtrack, it is easy to see why Combat Evolved launched Microsoft into the gaming market with such resounding success.
I just really have a great time playing these campaign missions with friends. You can make it as challenging as you like with a combination of skull modifiers. These can do silly stuff, such as making all headshots flourish with confetti, or disgusting things, like removing all checkpoints from each level.
I just have a blast whenever this gets booted up, it might be nostalgia, it might not. I like it.
Other honourable mentions (so you don’t get mad at me)
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- Portal 2
- God of War
- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
- Pokemon Alpha Sapphire
Here’s to the next decade
So, there have definitely been some ups and downs within the industry over the past few years, but it is great to see the indie scene keeping things alive and kicking. As I mentioned, there is a tonne that I missed out on, so I am totally going to spend some time going back and playing stuff that escaped me first time around.
In terms of what I am looking forward to for next year or so;
- Deltarune 2
- The Last of Us 2
- Hollow Knight Silk Song
- Doom Eternal
- Whatever the heck From Software are working on now
- More Smash Bros characters