Top 10 - Best Games of the Decade | xGamers
In the past ten years the gaming landscape has changed, many for the best and many for the worst. We saw the release of new consoles and the unfortunate crash burn of one (rest in peace, Wii U). That being said, we saw the release of many (and I do mean many) great games that we had the pleasure to play. Of course, limiting to just ten is no easy feat, and I am sure I am bound to make quite a few people angry, but in either case, these games are definitely ones any gamer should play. Some ground rules: obviously, any game released from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2019 will be here, so sadly, while Minecraft is a great game and no doubt has left an impact on many gamers of all ages, its initial release was in May of 2009. Also, no remasters or late rereleases, meaning games like the Kingdom Hearts HD “remixes” and the abundant Final Fantasy remasters will also not be here; the original version had to be released in the aforementioned date range. Now that we have that out of the way, let us begin!
(Released July 21, 2017; available on PS4, XBox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, Android, iOS, & MacOs)
When you even mention the word Fortnite, you will either insinuate exhausted sighs from parents just visiting various GameStops and Wal-Marts to purchase V-Bucks to children starting to perform the various dances from the game. Fortnite came to us mid-2017 and had instantly become a worldwide phenomenon, basically overshadowing the earlier released and more realistic-looking PlayerUnknown’s Battleground (aka PUBG). Of course, I am referring to the “Battle Royale” side of Fortnite and not the “Save the World” mode. Sadly, it seems the latter PvE (player vs. environment) mode has become a pale shadow compared to the massive playerbase seen in the battle royale. In fact, depending on which platform you play on, certain devices do not even offer the “Save the World” mode such as the Nintendo Switch and iOS devices. Still, it is quite astounding how much Fortnite, just nearly two and a half years since its debut, has already ingrained itself in our pop culture from all the merchandise to all the press coverage (both good and bad).
Its cartoony graphics make it more appealing to kids (pretty much its target demographic) and also makes the violence a bit more akin to a Tom and Jerry cartoon...just with guns and a lot of dancing. Plus, it was one of the first games to bring all the consoles together and by incorporating cross-platform multiplayer meaning now PS4 can play against Xbox One and Switch players at the same time.
9. Dark Souls
(Released Sept. 22, 2011 for PS3 & XBox 360; also available on PC, PS4, XBox One, Nintendo Switch)
“If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.” That is the mantra players have to adopt if they want any hope to get through Dark Souls unforgiving world. What began with Demon’s Souls on the PS3 just two years prior, developer FromSoftware’s spiritual sequel Dark Souls took the foundation laid by the former and tinkered with it to provide this huge sprawling world where you only get better by learning from your mistakes. The character creation encourages multiple playthroughs to try out how to overcome certain class disadvantages by adapting their playstyles to negate them. While it is not a perfect game and some of the game’s mechanics can seem a bit sadistic, toeing the line between fair challenge to downright unfair, there is no doubt many have risen up to the challenge to where you will see many players streaming the game using unconventional control methods such as Guitar Hero controllers or Dance Dance Revolution dance pads just to spice things up even more.
If the series is known for anything besides the high difficulty, it is its world-building. The vast amount of lore in not only the main game, but also the multitude of sidequests is astounding; you practically need a Wiki just to keep track of the many plotlines, some of which span multiple games. Of course, later games in the series and FromSoftware’s mechanically similar titles Bloodborne and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice would refine the mechanics born from Demon’s and Dark Souls to make those games slightly more accessible to newcomers that it sort of makes the first game a bit of a slog to play through. Still, there is no doubt we have Dark Souls to thank for all the various controllers we may have snapped in half.
(Released Nov. 11, 2011 for PS3, XBox 360, & PC; also available on PS4, XBox One, Nintendo Switch, VR)
While Bethesda seems to be heading towards a downward spiral towards the close of this decade, way back in 2011, it seemed to have reached the peak of its greatness with the original release of Skyrim. Releasing five years after Oblivion, the fourth mainline game in the Elder Scrolls series, Skyrim went bigger in almost every single way. After that opening sequence being saved from execution, players are then thrust into an adventure that is completely structured by themselves. Sure, there is a basic storyline, but you are allowed to take it on however you wish. Of course, that good old “Bethesda Charm” rears its head with the abundance of bugs and glitches littered across the world, yet in some respects, that sort of adds to the charm of playing Skyrim. You will never know when the bug or glitch will occur which just adds to the infinite replayability the game has. And, because Bethesda knows just how much the public loves the world of Skyrim, it has been ported over to nearly every modern console and even (what started as a joke) a very special version on the Alexa. And of course, who could forget the countless memes spawned from the game. We will have to wait and see if Bethesda is able to make a comeback following all that negative press and disdain to the company Fallout 76 has brought with it.
7. Grand Theft Auto V
(Released Sept. 17, 2013 for PS3, XBox 360; also available on PS4, XBox One, PC)
Rockstar has become almost synonymous with the open-world sandbox style games. Every game that came out since Grand Theft Auto III has taken that formula and just continued to expand and refine the mechanics to where we are now with Grand Theft Auto V. Expanding the story to be told from three different perspectives of equally memorable protagonists, Franklin, Michael, and fan-favorite Trevor. Rockstar continues to create these giant sandboxes, as seen with Los Santos, that just feel like people actually live in them (sometimes to a fault as they sometimes become a bit too expansive) and there is always something new to see. The music, especially the radio stations, offer so much variety that you will never get bored. And then there is the online mode of the game which honestly, you could practically make that its own standalone game and it will have just as much content and variety as the main game, but now you are making your own story. Of course, as big AAA studios tend to, the game has started to incorporate microtransactions especially now with the addition of an in-game casino that only rewards in-game money that you can buy with real money.
That being said, the fact we still see people always asking for a copy of the game and just now beginning to wonder when the sixth entry will make its appearance just shows how much V continues to be the powerhouse in Rockstar’s library. Grand Theft Auto VI has some monumental shoes to fill.
6. The Witcher III: Wild Hunt
(Released May 19, 2015 for PS4, XBox One, PC; also available on Nintendo Switch)
Witcher III came to us post-Skyrim where it seemed every open-world fantasy game was trying to be “the next Skyrim.” Coming out five years after both Witcher II and Skyrim, Witcher III proved that even though you are one set character, the white-haired hero Geralt, there are still multitudes of ways to play because of all the different dialogue options and number of quests to tackle in almost any order you want. And with two giant expansion packs, there is plenty for players to enjoy. CD ProjektRed has had a consistent history of providing engrossing worlds for players to explore and Witcher III is no exception. And now with the Netflix show, more people are being introduced to Geralt and crew. And even for those who have not played the previous games, Witcher III still is an approachable entry to where newcomers can still appreciate the world they get to explore without feeling too overwhelmed. It will be truly exciting to see what CDPR has in store for the futuristic setting we get to explore in Cyberpunk 2077, maybe it will be one of the great games of the next decade.
5. The Last of Us
(Released June 14, 2013 for PS3; also available on PS4)
Last of Us came to us at an interesting time. Being towards the end of the PS3’s life cycle just mere months before the launch of the PS4, Naughty Dog created what would, in essence, become the former system’s swan song. They had proven to be a boon for the PS3 with the Uncharted trilogy which provided players the ability to play in their own interactive action movie and feel like an action star. Then there is Last of Us, a survival horror game involving the zombie-like creatures, Clickers. Focusing on adult Joel and the teenage Ellie on what is essentially one escort mission interspersed with cover-shooting enemy waves, we get to witness a truly touching story about a father who lost his daughter at the beginning of the outbreak having to work with a teenager who only knows the world after the outbreak.
Split up into seasons, we see their relationship grow as they begin to see each other as almost the missing father/daughter they each need. With the soon-to-be-released Last of Us Part II, it should be a scarily exciting time that will be sure to keep making us fear any clicking noises.
4. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
(Released March 3, 2017 for Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Wii U)
Nintendo’s successor to the Wii, the Wii U, was an unfortunate failure. From bad marketing to dwindling third party support, it was only a matter of time before Nintendo had to fast-track the next system. That being said, Nintendo knew they could not just fully abandon Wii U owners and give up on them. So, almost like the GameCube, which saw its own share of problems during its lifespan, they at least had the Wii U have one last hurrah with Breath of the Wild, the only original Zelda title for the Wii U after the HD rereleases of Wind Waker and Twilight Princess. Essentially being “Skyrim but Zelda,” Nintendo basically did what they did with the very first Zelda game, give them the basic story and left the player to their own devices. The beautiful cel-shaded world provided players, fans and newcomers alike, a sprawling world where there is always something new to discover even when returning to already visited towns.
The introduction of voice-acting to the series (while keeping Link silent) was met with some drawback but I personally welcomed it considering how Zelda is a more cinematic, story-driven game compared to the Mario games, yet this game seemed to be pretty light on story (again, sort of invoking the first game though an argument could be made that the many quests expanded the lore of this game’s Hyrule). And yes, I do sort of see the weapon durability as a minor hiccup but the enemies drop so much at any time it hardly becomes anything to worry about unless you are woefully unprepared when going headfirst into an enemy hideout.
As a launch title to the Switch, it pretty much became instrumental to the Switch’s success (though 2017 was a pretty good year for the Switch with other heavy-hitter titles). Almost every Switch owner picked up the game with their new console; there is a reason this game won “Game of the Year” at the Game Awards. The upcoming Breath of the Wild 2 will hopefully give us more insight to this version of Hyrule and what happened to it all those years ago...
3. Nier Automata
(Released Feb. 23, 2017 for PS4; also available on PC, XBox One)
Developer PlatinumGames has made a name for itself making stylish action games. With games like Bayonetta and Okami (from its Clover Studio days), their games are never boring to play; Nier Automata is no different. A sequel to the original Nier (not a PlatinumGames game), the game takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where androids watch over the earth from a bunker on the moon. It combines hack-and-slash action with third person shooter and twin-stick shooter gameplay styles depending on which character you are in the story; that is right, there are multiple characters you will be playing as. The game has multiple “endings” which all play into the main story as some of the playthroughs are the same story just from the other character’s perspective while later playthroughs continue the story (and that is as much as I will discuss on that) so even when you think you have beaten the game and seen the credits, there is still plenty of story to uncover and of course being an RPG, there will be a lot of sidequests.
The game won Best RPG of 2017 and it more than deserved it. There were many points of the story where you just are in awe of what is going on and what the many characters you encounter are experiencing. I found myself tearing up a few times just because some of these characters are suffering; even for robots, they have more emotion than you think. If you are looking for fun action game that just makes you feel cool pulling off slick dodges and an easy-to-grasp combat system with a lot of variety in its weapon choices (as well as the aforementioned gameplay changes you will get to encounter mid-game).
(Released Sept. 15, 2015 on PC & MacOS; also available on Linux, PS4, PS Vita, Nintendo Switch)
A game nearly made entirely by one person. A game made in the style of late 80s-early 90s JRPGs like Final Fantasy, Phantasy Star, and Earthbound. A game advertised that you can beat the game...without killing anyone. A game where could...date a skeleton and a fish girl? Toby Fox’s Undertale’s quirky charm and even quirkier cast of characters instantly became a success upon its release in mid-late 2015.
Combining RPG elements with bullet-hell style gameplay in its battles, players get to explore the Underground and its many (and I mean many) quirky inhabitants. Despite the simple graphics, you could tell what the characters were thinking and feeling by how well they are written: Sans is a wise-cracking, laid back jokester who you should still be wary of, Alphys is a reclusive scientist afraid of the outside, Toriel is a motherly goat-mom of a person who hides a big secret (and she still leaves a big impact on you despite her short screen time).
Speaking of Sans, that character alone has made such an impact on gaming, that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has included a Sans costume for the Mii fighters as well as one of Undertale’s most famous songs with him. If you have yet to play Undertale, try to avoid spoilers as much as you can. The internet does make it hard as you will no doubt be bombarded by the many theories surrounding the lore, but try to beat the game at least once or twice (preferably twice) before Googling anything related to it.
Walking Dead Season One, Bayonetta 2, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Celeste, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, God of War (2018), Mass Effect 2, Doom (2016)
1. Super Mario Galaxy 2
(Released May 23, 2010 for Nintendo Wii)
Yes, you read that correctly. A game from 2010 and for the Nintendo Wii...is my game of the decade. Why? Many just look at as Super Mario Galaxy Plus considering the mechanics between the two games are the same. But in all honesty, that is not a bad thing. The first Galaxy already was mechanically sound and a great game in its own right that pretty all Nintendo needed to do was just expand on those concepts with some extra refinement. And why not the Switch’s Super Mario Odyssey, considered to be the best Mario game ever made? To be honest, it was tough to choose between Odyssey and Galaxy 2 (I could have given it to both but that would have been a cop out); yet, Galaxy 2 just edges out because of one main theme, it just flows. Now, Odyssey is a phenomenal game and there is so much to do in that game, but that does seem to be a slight detriment to the game: the 1000+ moons to collect are quite a bit much. With Galaxy 2, since the star you collect let’s you know what you are meant to do, you are never unsure where to go in a level. Plus, everything is streamlined and there are so many levels to explore with so much variety. Sure, you may see a few repeated levels towards the endgame but they usually offer a change like a level taking a more autumnal look compared to the previous iteration’s spring look.
And the music, mixing synthesized and a live orchestra, is just phenomenal. You have your callbacks to previous games with one big one being Throwback Galaxy which gives you the opportunity to explore a full recreation of Whomp’s Fortress from Super Mario 64 with a big band version of the level’s theme music playing. Then there is the game’s main theme which you may recall hearing when you explored Gusty Garden Galaxy from the first game. While Odyssey’s “Jump Up, Super Star” is no doubt catchy and fits with the series more jazzy music stylings, the sweeping score we got to experience in the Galaxy games just makes you feel like you are exploring all these different galaxies through space.
Many of my favorite Mario tunes come from Galaxy and while the final boss battle against Bowser can feel a bit underwhelming considering what you have to do to defeat him, the music used during the fight still makes it feel epic. That’s the thing with Super Mario Galaxy 2, it just feels good and is so much fun to play, even on repeated playthroughs. It showed that the Wii, despite being vastly underpowered compared to the PS3 and XBox 360, was a force to be reckoned with and truly has earned every accolade it has received and belongs among the top games ever made.