My favourite games of the last decade - part 1.

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Hello! I'm really in a writing mood for whatever reason and I have the perfect excuse to post another blog following my favourite games of 2019 and what better way to celebrate the end of this decade than to look back at all the fantastic games that have came out over the last ten years.

Having spent a good chunk of time creating a list of almost every game I can remember playing that was released in that period and finding myself confronted with well over 100 games, a lot of which I do have strong feelings about, I've decided to split this into two parts. Part one will be a selection of five categories - Biggest Surprise, Best Visual Design, Best Soundtrack, Best Multiplayer and Best Story. Most are self explanatory but I'll add a bit more of what I'm considering before each. Each category will have five (three for best surprise) unordered "winners" in addition to a list of the games I've considered - I want to give a shout out to as many games I've enjoyed as possible.

Part 2 will be the meat and potatoes - a top 20/25 (I haven't decided yet) of my favourite games of this decade.

Hopefully you enjoy reading this, it's quite cathartic and fun to consider how many good games have came out since January 1st 2010 (and there are a lot more that I haven't even played - I'm looking at you, Super Mario Galaxy 2!). 10 years is a hell of a lot of time... I don't think I've thought about DS and PSP games this much in a while. The 3DS and Wii U both came and went this decade! The poor old Playstation Vita has some representation here as well (well... one particular game, I think we all know what I'm talking about.)

In terms of whether I'm considering remakes and re-releases - standard HD updates are NOT considered. Any re-release offering substantially more content (for example, Persona 3 Portable or Devil May Cry IV Special Edition) have been included. Enough of the preamble - let's get started!

SPOILERS ABOUT OLD GAMES IN THE FOLLOWING

BIGGEST SURPRISE OF THE DECADE

Where did this game come from?! Woah, this game is actually good? Why do I keep playing this?! Whatever the reason, we all get surprised by video games occasionally. Here are three of my biggest surprises of the last decade.

Velvet Sundown - PC - 2014

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Does anyone remember this game? God, I have 30 hours on steam playing it. It's so dumb (and as far as I know, it has sadly shut down) but for the month or so around release that I played it, it was incredible. There truly was nothing else like Velvet Sundown. Role playing with a bunch of strangers as these utterly bizarre characters, the cheesy jazz that plays in the cabin, goddamn Boyle, the Microsoft Sam voices! I still haven't decided if this game was good or not and sadly, due to it being shutdown completely, I guess I'll never really know... but I'll say it again, it truly was one of a kind.

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Sleeping Dogs - PC - 2012

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I think if there is any community that knows exactly why I love this game, it's the Giant Bomb community. Special thanks to one Vinny Caravella for showing us all just why this game is so great. This falls squarely under the "How is this game so good?" - it looks like any standard mid 7th-generation open world crime game, just set in Hong Kong. The developers were an unknown as well (at least they were to me) but Sleeping Dogs delivers on so many levels. The combat is fun and accessible with a decent amount of depth to it, the driving is fantastic and then you get to the crazy. Sleeping Dogs straddles this line between Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row so successfully that things like Wei Shen jumping from car to car and the crazy Yakuza-esque beatdown moves feel so much more impactful. The cast of characters are surprisingly great as well, with fantastic performances from so many. Don't forget that incredible original PC port with the amazing textures and THAT RAIN! It still looks great now but seriously, games looked this good in 2012?!?! It's a shame we'll never get a follow-up to old Wei Shen's amazing adventure but we'll always have this game.

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Undertale - PC - 2015

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Okay... so back in my 2015 game of the year list, I noted everything that surrounds this game. It's not the best game of all time - I'm sorry guys, it just isn't. I don't think I've played a single second of it since I completed it back in 2015. I never played the sequel (is Deltarune a sequel? I don't actually have any idea). I didn't play any of the re-releases or updates. I was absolutely delighted with my Undertale experience and felt no need for anything else. Enough of the babbling though... Undertale came out of nowhere for me. I'd never heard anything about it until I saw the GBeast quick look on the game and thought "Hey, that looks a bit like Earthbound." I won't open the Sans = Ness theory, don't worry... Undertale is a charming, fun little game with a fantastic soundtrack and a big heart that really did make a big impression on the gaming community at large. These characters have representation of sorts in Smash Bros. and even professional wrestling now! I love games like this. Not everything needs three years of E3 trailers and a lot of times its better now to have it.

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Honourable Mentions: Zero Escape Series (999), Catherine, Bayonetta 2, Antichamber, Civilisation V, LA Noire, Ori and the Blind Forest, Sonic Generations

BEST VISUAL DESIGN

A lot of developers like to pump out polygons and go for photorealism but let's be honest... we're unlikely to be talking about any of those games for their graphics in the future. Visual Design when considering the decade is thinking about what's going to be timeless. We all still think Crono Trigger and Jet Set Radio look great, right? Here are five games that I love the look of that will age like fine wine. Do I need to discuss the games? I don't think so, I'll let these screenshots do the talking.

Persona 5 - PS4 - 2017

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Ori and the Blind Forest - PC - 2015/16

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Cuphead - PC - 2017

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Journey - PS3 - 2012

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Guilty Gear Xrd - PS4 - 2014+

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Honourable Mentions: 999, Person 4 Golden, Tearaway, Danganronpa Series, Catherine, Ni No Kuni, Bayonetta 2, Super Mario Ofyssey, Yakuza 0, Octopath Traveller, Bastion, Devil May Cry 5, Dragon Quest XI, Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIV, FEZ, Hollow Knight, Hotline Miami, Monaco, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Resident Evil 7, Transistor, Spelunky, Undertale.

BEST SOUNDTRACK

Video games music is so integral to allowing a game to have a lasting impression. I still listen to the soundtracks from the following games a lot, even if I haven't touched the game since release. Good video game music generally seem to fall into one of two categories... they're very evocative of the environment that they occur in or they're absolute bangers. The best video game music falls into both.

Hotline Miami - PC - 2012

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Hotline Miami still remains the absolute gold standard for video game music. The soundtrack is grimey, disorientating and almost suffocating which aligns perfectly with the hyperactive coke-fuelled murder spree that the player has to begrudgingly participate in. Add the tension that comes with the the fact that one mistake guarantees almost instant death and you're onto a winner with Miami's electronic godsend. The music also aids the games story telling process as it perfectly fits the main characters descent into madness and hallucinations. What a neat little game.

Highlights - Miami is the most soothing music in the game, fittingly only playing once the nightmarish level ends. Horse Steppin is the musical equivalent of a downer, sleepy and otherworldly. Miami Disco is both tense and exhilarating.

Shin Megami Tensei IV - 3DS - 2013

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Now this is a bit out of left field. SMT IV the game is very good, it's a challenging RPG with some interesting moral choices and has a real style to it that pops despite the 3DS's horrible resolution. SMT IV the soundtrack is incredible, perfectly evoking both the eastern mikado kingdom where the heroes quest initially begins before descending into grungy electronics to perfectly reflect the destroyed but still futuristic Tokyo that the game primarily takes place in.

Highlights - Tokyo Overworld remains my absolute favourite JRPG overworld music, ever. It's a beautiful, sweeping arrangement that perfectly captures the ruined Tokyo and the scale of the journey that the hunters have to overcome. Ashura Kai Shop is a fantastic electronic bop that fits the underground sanctuaries very well. Arcade Street may have actually been the streetpass theme... nevertheless, just listen.

Persona 4 Golden - PS Vita - 2012

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I don't think I need to comment on this games soundtrack, it's a Giant Bomb classic. Who knew J-pop could be so great?

Highlights - Your Affection is the poppy overworld theme that we all love... I don't need to say anything else, right? Signs of Love is the theme that you're greeted with almost every time you return home in the game and it feels like a warm embrace. Sky Full of Stars is a fantastic, Golden exclusive arrangement that plays as you journey out at night.

We all still listen to this OST, right?

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Final Fantasy XIII - PS3 - 2010

Remember the category. Music! Firstly, Final Fantasy XIII actually came out on March 2010 and thus will likely be the oldest game I talk about in this round up. Man, the decade is long, right? I was in high school when this game came out. Final Fantasy XIII is not a good game. It's very monotonous, does not respect your time at all and spends about 25 hours in a tutorial before extending the game just as you want to quit.

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Final Fantasy XIII does have an absolutely incredible soundtrack though, one of the best in the entire series. It's fantastically evocative of both Cocoon and Pulse and sounds like something they would actually play in this world. If it wasn't for the soundtrack I never would have finished this game.

Highlights - The Gapra Whitewood is an absolutely beautiful arrangement and potentially one of my favourite pieces of video game music ever. It's incredibly ethereal and fits the whitewood area fantastically. Blinded by Light is one of the all-time great JRPG battle themes and doesn't get boring over the 60 hours or so that you have to endure this game. Snow's Theme ramps up wonderfully and really fits the all action type of hero he is initially presented as.

Persona 5 - PS4 - 2017

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Double-trouble! Persona music is great, it really is. Persona 5's jazzy arrangement manages to sound very different from Persona 4 and Persona 3 and fits the modern-day tokyo setting to a tee. Atlus better be paying Shoji Meguro his dues.

Highlights - Last Surprise is another contender for the all-time greatest JRPG battle theme - listen to this jam! Beneath the Mask is the theme of the game, in my opinion and fits perfectly with Tokyo at night. I profess to playing this a lot when I actually visited Tokyo for the first time this year... When my Mother was there is a fantastic dungeon theme for Futaba's pyramid, with a melancholy undertone to the theme that fits the characters state of mind at that point in the game perfectly.

Honourable Mentions: Fire Emblem Fates, Persona 3 Portable, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, Journey, Catherine, Grand Theft Auto V, Kingdom Hearts 3, Sonic Mania, Sonic Generations, Transistor, Devil May Cry 5, Dustforce, FEZ, Final Fantasy XIV, Hollow Knight, Lone Survivor, Life is Strange, Nier Automata, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Stardew Valley, Undertale, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey.

BEST MULTIPLAYER

Multiplayer games are a strange one for me. I play games with my friends in fits and bursts and haven't really done so regularly since midway through the decade. I haven't played any of the big multiplayer games (Fortnite, PUBG, Dota 2, LoL) to any real extent with Overwatch being the sole exception. Multiplayer games are never really something I gravitate towards but I have enjoyed a lot of them over the decade. The games I end up playing are a bit of an eclectic mix with the sole exception generally of shooters. Multiplayer is probably the category with the most subjective slant - a lot of the games I like for multiplayer are a complete time and place thing (GTA IV is my favourite multiplayer experience ever, for example).

Street Fighter V - PC - 2016

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This game does mean a lot to me and I've gone over it a lot in my 2016 game of the year round up but essentially, this is the first fighting game I truly got into in a major way. I followed majors and watched events regularly (and continue to do so). I continue to try and get better at the game and look to learn as much as I can about each character. I've played over 850 hours of this game, with it being my most played game on Steam now by a large margin. It's not the best game ever and it still suffers badly in terms of reputation from its shoddy launch but the 2020 game, Championship Edition, is a million miles away and I urge anyone who passed over it originally to give it another try. Gill is in the game now!

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Blazblue Central Fiction - PC - 2017

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This is kind of the other side of the coin - it's a game I never would have played had I not got into fighting games. Blazblue is notoriously system heavy and hard to get into and I did find it a bit of a struggle initially to really understand what I was doing but the game clicked for me in a way that almost all the other anime fighters didn't. I enjoyed the movement, I enjoyed the character variety and again I enjoyed learning how to actually play the characters. The sad thing is the community is never going to last long in the west - I did manage to play it a bit in Tokyo though (and got my ass handed to me). I'll be ready day 1 for the next mainline Blazblue game.

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Smash Bros Ultimate/4 - Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Wi U - 2014, 2018

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Is it odd that I kind of regard these as the same game? They're pretty much exactly the same gameplay wise... Ultimate just managed to release on a console that was a success. I'll never fully get into the competitive aspect of Smash bros, I find the controls relatively unintuitive and frustrating and the platform fighter aspect doesn't grab me in the same way that a 3D fighting game hasn't managed to grab me yet. I'm a 2D player until I die, I guess. What Smash has given me is hours of fun on and off throughout the decade (Brawl included). I'll never take it seriously and that's okay, it's just a fun time for me.

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Sid Meier's Civilisation V - PC - 2010

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And I mentioned left field earlier. Anyone who has played multiplayer Civ knows how enthralling it can get, how the hours in your evening can just melt away into nothingness. I had a lot of great fun with this with my friends in the first few years of the decade and the game will always be close to my heart. I love the singleplayer too but something about multiplayer, about surprising your friend with a war declaration or something ridiculous like that, is just too great. Singleplayer can't match it, really.

I also played a lot of Europa Universalis IV multiplayer as well but Civ V's slightly shallower learning curve made it a lot easier to actually get people to play with and it gets points for this.

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Risk of Rain - PC - 2013

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Risk of Rain is a fun, challenging multiplayer rogue-like. Unlike Spelunky, for example, multiplayer is a key component of the game and doesn't ruin any of the runs you wind up having. Infact, RoR seems to be tailored to multiplayer - I don't remember having anywhere near as good an experience playing it by myself. Plowing through the different maps with a friend and beating the final boss was always incredibly fun, as was trying new characters and finding new power-ups. Unfortunately I've not been able to try Risk of Rain 2 at all but I'll always have a fondness for this game - props to the team who semingly made it in their University dorm room?!

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Honourable Mentions: Monaco, Dungeon Defenders, Awesomenauts, Guilty Gear Xrd, Blazblue Crosstag Battle, Final Fantasy XIV, Europa Universalis IV, Euro Truck Simulator, Football Manager Series, Velvet Sundown, Overwatch, Dark Souls, Dark Souls 2, Bloodborne

BEST STORY

God, this has been an absolute marathon. Finally, we come to the best stories of the decade. A lot of a games rely on their story, visual novels for example, whilst other games stumble onto something enthralling without it being the main focus. I think when you look back at a decade like this, the moments in a game are what you consider meaning the story is probably the second most important aspect in a game behind the gameplay itself and just ahead of the OST. I guess that's a discussion for another time, though.

The following games completely nailed their story telling and stuck with me. Whether it was the plotitself or the characters in the game, something sunk its hooks into me. I've definitely rewatched moments from these games many times over the decade.

Persona 4 Golden - PS Vita - 2012

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Ah, Persona 4 doubles up - I guess Persona 5 was the only other game to do that. Good job Atlus. Again, like the OST, I don't think I need to say anything about this game that hasn't already been said. Arguably the most famous content produced on this site is a play-through of this game! The characters are charming, the localisation is witty, the antagonists are sufficiently threatening and shocking and the humdrum of everyday life in rural Japan is captured wonderfully. I love this game.

I even like the majority of the golden exclusive content - I know people dislike Marie but I thought she was okay and those new events help to add so much to the characters. Plus those Winter outfits and the new years celebration are very cute.

Yakuza 0 - PS4 - 2017

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Yakuza came into my life fairly late into the decade - I played my first Yakuza game midway through 2016. Thank god for that, I would have missed out on this game otherwise. Yakuza 0 is a thrilling crime drama with absolutely incredible characterisation that goes so many different places and drags so many different emotions out of you that it's incredibly hard to put it down until you've seen everything. Even the side stories have great characters. Majima in particular is an absolute delight and one of the stand-out characters of the decade (thankfully, I'm not doing that category or this would go on forever.) Whether this is your first Yakuza or not, it's hard not to take something from this game as long as you're willing to give it a chance. Great localisation too!

It's worth noting that the other games have great stories as well but 0 is absolutely the top of the pile.

The Witcher 3 - PC - 2015

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Witcher! I waxed lyrical over this game in my 2015 GOTY list and I'll likely wax lyrical over it some more when I get onto part 2 so I'll keep this brief. Witcher 3 manages to succeed in making every single stupid little thing that you find yourself doing feel meaningful. Why is Geralt helping some three building village with their Rotfiend problem? The game will articulate it far more than it really needs to. The main plot line is a deeply personal story about reunion played with a backdrop of war, otherworldly plotting and diplomatic tension and you care about each aspect that CD Projekt Red presents to you. Then you add the two best pieces of DLC of the decade in Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine, each with their own fantastic characters and stories?

It's hard to go wrong with this game. Enough for now.

Zero Escape Series - DS, 3DS, PSV - 2010, 2012, 2016

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The Zero Escape games are a trio of visual novels produced by Aksys games that all feature 9 unfortunate individuals trapped in a game of life or death, seeking to escape. It's a simple setting that proceeds into a fantastic science fiction plotline featuring numerous parallel universes, time travel and so much more that I've probably forgotten. 999 and Virtue's Last Reward in particular are absolutely fantastic with great characters and incredible tension. Sadly, the series doesn't exactly stick the landing fully in Zero Time Dilemma but even with that, the series is a ride worth taking.

Excuse the meta again but man, the DS was around this decade, wasn't it... 10 years is a long time it turns out.

The Walking Dead Season 1 - PC - 2012

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Ah, Walking Dead, how I miss you so. A part visual novel, part adventure game produced by Telltale Games, the Walking Dead Season 1 was an absolute masterclass in story telling. The zombies provide an effective background to a story that is almost entirely about the characters - everyone here can probably remember their own time spent with Lee and Clementine. It's unfortunate that the following series didn't maybe provide as much of an amazing experience as this did (I haven't actually got around to the final season) but this game will always serve as a reminder that in their prime, Telltale were the masters of the video game story.

It also has arguably the greatest ending of any game of the decade (provided you selected it) - Lee teaching Clementine an important lesson that pretty much defines her character for the future games.

Honourable mentions: Fire Emblem Awakening, Fire Emblem Birthright, Shin Megami Tensei IV, Persona 3 Portable, Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, Danganronpa Series, Nier Automata, Catherine, Grand Theft Auto V, Yakuza 4/5, Yakuza Kiwami, Final Fantasy XV, Final Fantasy XIV, Bastion, Transistor, Bioshock Infinite, D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die, Kingdom Hearts 3, Hotline Miami, LA Noire, Life is Strange, Portal 2, Resident Evil 2 Remake, Resident Evil 7, Saints Row IV, Sleeping Dogs, Walking Dead Season 2-3, The Witcher 2, Undertale, Ori and the Blind Forest, Devil May Cry 5.

Man, that was a long ride. Well, it's only going to continue. I'll hopefully see you on Part 2 where I run through my X favourite games of the last decade (still need to decide that all important number...)

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