Top 25(+1) Games of the 2010s
First of all, yes I know the decade doesn't technically end until December 2020. No one cares. Call this list "Best Games from January 2010 to December 2019" if you want.
As if we all weren't sick of lists at this point, I know. But, I did this for a generation once, and decided I'd try to do it for the decade this time. Cutting it down to twenty-five was quite difficult, which is why it's twenty-six. #26 was going to be on this list no matter what, and I didn't have it in me to cut anything else when it got down to the last few. You may think #26 is a joke entry at first glance, but it is most certainly not.
So, what I've done here (aside from make a list) is included whatever I wrote about the game on that year's Top 10 list. You'll also see where I had it ranked that year. That's the "THEN" segment. For the "NOW" segment, I wrote a couple sentences about how I feel about the game now and whatnot.
Anyway, let's get on with it. It's never been a better decade for games.
26. StreetPass Mii Plaza
THEN (2011, Unranked)
I didn't get a 3DS at launch.
So, I cheated and put a #26 on the list. It's my list, so who cares? I couldn't ignore the game(s) that I played for a solid seven years of the decade. I've put nearly 400 hours into StreetPass Mii Plaza primarily due to a dozen or so PAXes. It's probably my second most played game of all time behind EverQuest. I got all of the puzzle pieces. I got all the flowers. I got all the fish. And, most importantly, I got all the hats. That damn rabbit got me good.
25. Astro Bot Rescue Mission
THEN (2018, #5)
Surprise of the Year? Definitely. You're telling me that scea is taking the Playroom robot and making one of the most innovative, joyous, and captivating platformers that I've ever played? I probably wouldn't have believed you a few months ago, but here we are. It's been two years since the launch of PlayStation VR, but I feel like it truly became recommendable this year with games like this, Moss, Tetris Effect, Beat Saber, etc. Astro Bot sold me after just the first level. By the end of the first world, I knew it was special. But, the wildest thing is that it just continues to get better all the way to the very end. All of the power-ups are great and it never stops being fun to lean around looking for all the lost robots and hidden chameleons. This game is amazing and I only hope they (Sony Japan Studio) get to make more of this.
Astro Bot is the best game I've ever played in VR. As such, I had to find a spot for it in this list even if it did end up being #25.
24. Marvel's Spider-Man
THEN (2018, #4)
In a world (in a world) where we've seen multiple film reboots and a slew of mediocre-to-terrible games in the last fifteen years, we should be sick of Spider-Man at this point, right? Yet, here we are in probably the best year Spider-Man's ever seen thanks to Tom Holland's portrayal in Avengers, the incredible Into the Spider-verse film, and Insomniac's excellent game. The biggest compliment I can give Marvel's Spider-Man is that it's an open-world game that somehow avoids being a "podcast game." Oh, I certainly tried to listen to other stuff while playing this game at first, but that stopped quite quickly. There's so much going on in this version of NYC that you don't want to miss a moment.
While the combat missions get a little repetitive if you're trying for the platinum trophy, the game doles out side content throughout the story in such a way that it feels like there's almost always something new to do. The story kept me going all the way to the end and I loved the twists they put on the "standard" Peter Parker story. Dude...they killed Aunt May! Choosing to not only skip the origin story, but the entire first eight years of his life in the suit was a bold and wise choice. They could always go back in time if they want, but either way I'm excited to see what Insomniac does next. And who knew that Scorpion would be the most terrifying villain in the bunch?
Not much has changed in regard to my opinions on Marvel's Spider-Man since last year. It's truly a master class in open world action games. That bit about not being a podcast game still rings true.
23. The Walking Dead
THEN (2012, #1)
As many have said already, if you had told me my #1 game of 2012 was going to be a point-and-click adventure game, I would've laughed in your face. I have no real history with this genre. No sense of nostalgia. But, The Walking Dead blew me away. Plus, it was kind of cool to play a game that takes place (at least the first half) where I live (Macon, GA).
The lowest of my #1s on this list. Even though it may not fully stand the test of time, in 2012 it was an emotional journey of storytelling that hit hard. Playing it as each episode released ended up feeling like I had been taking care of Clem all year, which I think is an element that's lost on anyone who plays it all at once.
22. Tetris Effect
THEN (2018, #3)
If you want to boil it down to being "just Tetris," that's up to you. But, it's the best version of one of the best games of all time. It's "just" that. I had the chance to play it at PAX West 2018 both in VR and regular. I knew then that I was in trouble. Losing track of time in Tetris Effect is dangerously easy. The ebb and flow of relaxing to frantic and back again makes for a much more enjoyable experience than the traditional method of just speeding up until you can't physically play it anymore. The soundtrack is on a whole 'nother damn level. Why the hell is it still not available to purchase anywhere? Let me give you more money, Miz! I think the only person on my friends list with better scores than me in almost every statistic is @fobwashed. But, I think he beat Geometry Wars and Threes, so I can live with that.
"Just Tetris" is definitely one of the best games of the decade. It's a year later and I still get the music stuck in my head.
21. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call
THEN (2014, #5)
I doubt you'll see this game on many people's lists, much less in the top five, but here we are. Theatrhythm is the perfect blend of nostalgia, challenge, and silliness that keeps me coming back for more. The new quest mode is great and the addition of all of the spin-off Final Fantasy games' music is more significant than I would've thought. I only wish the Theatrhythm concept could extend to franchises outside of Square Enix.
One of only two #5s to make the list. I continued playing this well beyond 2014 and bought a slew of DLC for it. especially when they started adding music from other franchises. I'd do it all over again too if they wanna make a third version for Switch. Please?
20. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
THEN (2014, #2)
Can I rank this as 1B on my list? No? Okay, fine. I love Tolkien. I'm probably not at Alexa Ray's level of fandom, but hey…I've read through The Silmarillion. Playing through Shadow of Mordor gave me the feeling that it was a game made specifically for me and me alone. Combining my love of Tolkien with an open-world adventure in the vein of Assassin's Creed was a perfect mix for me personally. The real magic is the dynamic Nemesis system though. I could go on, but Shadow of Mordor simply does so many things so well, it could've easily been my #1.
2014 was a notoriously "down" year, but Shadow of Mordor was still amazing even if it did feel like maybe it was designed specifically for me. It's still baffling that the Nemesis system hasn't become more prevalent in the last five years. It's also baffling how badly they fucked up the last act of the sequel. But, we're not here to talk about that game.
Never forget. The "e" is lower case, and the Shadow is singular. That is all.
19. Everybody's Golf
THEN (2017, #4)
I've played every Hot Shots Golf there is. I even have the Japanese versions of the first two so that I could play the PocketStation content. At one point, I was in the top 100 online players on Vita (insert joke about there being 87 Vita owners). This year's edition is simply the best one they've ever made. They completely redesigned the progression of the game after following the same general formula for the last twenty years, and it works great. Rather than plowing through a list of unlockable characters to build affinity bonuses and buy new equipment, the goal now is...just play golf. Everything you do in the game, whether it's online or offline, is earning experience on each individual club in your bag, thus making your character better.
If this new sense of freedom wasn't enough, they double down on it with the semi-open-world layout of courses that allow you to run (or drive) around doing whatever you want. And like previous games, the game is very easy to pick up and play, but the depth of control is there for more serious players. I ended up getting the platinum trophy here, which involved my personal "Best Moment or Sequence" of 2017; landing a condor. After several hours attempting it, I genuinely stood up and shouted "YES!" then set my controller down in disbelief. Oh, did I mention you can go fishing?
As you can see, I love Hot Shots/Everybody's Golf. I wish they came out more often or at least supported each game longer with new courses, but I still have a blast every time. Landing that condor (and then two more) was easily my favorite trophy/achievement of the decade.
18. Horizon Zero Dawn
THEN (2017, #3)
I'm a sucker for open-world games. I'm a sucker for being a sneaky archer in games. I'm a sucker for...robot dinosaurs? Turns out...apparently also true. Nothing about Killzone ever resonated with me, but Guerrilla has built an incredibly deep, dense, post-post-apocalyptic world here. Unraveling the mysteries of the far-flung future Colorado kept me engaged in the story all the way through the extensive campaign. And, while graphics typically don't mean much to me, Horizon is gorgeous and easily one of the best looking games of this generation. It's no wonder that Kojima chose to work with Guerrilla on Death Stranding. Ashly Burch unsurprisingly does a great job conveying Aloy's frustration with being alone, not just as an outcast from birth, but as one of the only people with advanced knowledge in a world zealots and savages. After finishing the game, I went back and wrapped up the platinum trophy just to wring every possible morsel out of the game.
Horizon feels like one of those games that gets forgotten a bit due to everything else that came out around that time (not just that year). Zelda, NieR, Mass Effect, and Persona were all early that year and took up a lot of mindshare for better or worse. But, Horizon was amazing and I'm hoping the sequel does end up being a PS5 launch game like some rumors are saying.
17. Assassin's Creed Odyssey
THEN (2018, #2)
As I stated last year, I've loved Assassin's Creed from the beginning. Have they all been amazing? Certainly not. But, I'm a sucker for their brand of mixing of facts and myths. When Ubisoft announced that we were getting another just a year after Origins, I think everyone was a bit skeptical. But, they nailed it. Odyssey took what made Origins fun and streamlined it even further to the point where it feels like you're always moving forward. Everything is fast and fun to do. Do I miss the "old" style of AC games? Yeah, I do. But, I highly enjoy the new style as well.
The way that they weave Greek mythology into the franchise's own mythos is perfectly done. The world they built here is massive, but it's chock full of both grand adventures and personal stories. I spent over 100 hours criss-crossing all over the Aegean Sea with Kassandra. She's easily my favorite new character of this year, and I would love to see a spin-off game focusing on what she's been doing for the past 2000+ years before Layla shows up in Atlantis. And if you just read that last sentence before playing the game; a) I'm sorry, but you were warned, and b) yeah, dude...this game goes places. I'm happy they're taking another year off before the next one, but I could easily see myself dumping 100+ hours into this world right now if given the chance.
This spot could easily be Origins, but either way I loved both. Odyssey edges it out for me due to its bat shit crazy twist near the end. It's also stunningly beautiful at every turn. I loved getting lost in that world.
THEN (2019, #1)
2019's hottest Game of the Year has everything; upside-down pyramids, FMV projectors, creepy janitors, hallucination pods, pneumatic tubes, vindictive rubber ducks, attention-seeking refrigerators, rigged roulette wheels, and ten minutes of blood-pumping prog rock.
I came to Control late in the year. I've never been into Remedy's games, so another one just didn't seem like it'd be my jam. But, I'm an idiot. Just about every single moment, every single department, down to every single redacted memo was 100% my jam. From the word go, I was invested in figuring out what the hell was going on in the Oldest House. Many times I found myself needing to stop playing, but just telling myself, "Hey, let's just get to one more control point first."
Sure, there are technical issues and there are difficulty spikes. But, none of that deterred me from pressing onward. On top of the stellar writing and stylish visuals, the mixture traversal and combat felt great (especially after unlocking the majority of the skills). Even with the difficulty spikes, I never felt like any particular boss battle was impossible or that I needed to come back later. Every time, I just needed to rethink my strategy to better fit the scenario.
Control hits hard at every turn and keeps hitting all the way to the end. And the Ashtray Maze is by far the coolest fucking moment in games this year. All of this and more easily makes Control my Game of the Year.
It's hard to properly place a brand new game on this list. It's still too fresh in my mind. But, right around the middle feels right.
15. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
THEN (2016, #2)
Was a 4th Uncharted necessary? Probably not. But, I'm incredibly happy they did it. From start to finish, Uncharted 4 is everything I could've asked for in a conclusion to Nathan Drake's story. The action parts are fun, but it's the quiet, character moments where the game truly shines. That scene with Nate and Elena at home is easily one of the most memorable in the game, and not just because of the Crash Bandicoot cameo. My favorite character interaction, though, is late in the game when Elena is back and after discovering Nate was lying to her. It's super awkward between them, and, for a moment, they defer talking about it until the job is done. But, then, they stop and are like "no, we gotta deal with this now!" For ten years now I've loved these characters. I'm sad to see them go, but it was time, and Naughty Dog gave them a proper send off as only they could.
Uncharted 2 is still the best one in the series, and while A Thief's End didn't feel like it was necessary prior to the game coming out, it's an excellent end to the series and one of the best games on PS4. I'm gonna go on believing that Uncharted 4 is what actually got Activision to do those Crash remakes.
14. Animal Crossing: New Leaf
THEN (2013, #4)
Animal Crossing is an interesting franchise for me. I could not care less about the console versions, but I will dump hundreds of hours into the handheld ones apparently. For several months this year, New Leaf was a daily ritual. Like many others, I find it difficult explain why I love this game. Admittedly, there's not much "game" there to begin with, but...wait...I haven't played since it changed to Winter. I...I need to go catch new bugs and fish for Blathers. See ya.
I put over 180 hours into New Leaf and I'm more than ready to do it all over again with New Horizons. I even bought the "Pop Tart" 3DS XL with the game, which served me well for quite a few PAXes and was always a good conversation starter due to how rare it seemed to be.
THEN (2017, #2)
NieR was easily the biggest surprise of the year for me. I played the demo that came out late last year and it hooked me even though I had no idea what I was getting into. But, then Horizon and Zelda came out right before it. By the time I was done with those behemoths and Persona 5, I finally got around to NieR and man...I'm sure glad I did. To say the least, that story goes places. It continuously plays with your expectations and often wrecks your emotions in the process. On multiple occasions, I just set the controller down and thought for several minutes about what I was about to do or what I'd done. It's a relentlessly sad game, y'all.
While the world itself is somewhat dull, which I think is at least partially by design, every moment of the story (and most of the side missions) drove me to find out what the hell was going on in it. And, having seen it through to the very, very end, they completely make good on everything that came before it with a beautiful, meaningful, thought provoking resolution. NieR is probably the game that I thought about most this year even long after I finished it. I think it's a shame that the game is saddled with the notion that you have to "play it several times," because that's largely false and I think it turns many people off before they even try it. Lastly, the soundtrack cannot go unmentioned. It's excellent and I bought it, which I hardly ever do these days.
There always seems to be one game each year that sort of comes out of nowhere and jumps way up my annual list. It's always fun when a game does that because it's not only a great game I get to play, but it also opens up doors to other games I never even though about trying. I can't wait to see whatever Yoko Taro does next. Also, if you didn't delete your save, we can't be friends.
12. Dragon Age: Inquisition
THEN (2014, #1)
After the disappointment of Dragon Age II, I was cautiously optimistic about Inquisition at best. Well, 140+ hours later, it's safe to say I love Dragon Age again. While the primary story arc is a bit generic (you're the chosen one), it's all the ancillary things that what make the game excellent. The conversations, personal relationships, and seemingly endless line of impossibly difficult, potentially world-altering decisions in Inquisition are BioWare at its best. Also... #TeamSera.
Sometimes I look at this list and think "I loved that game so much, how is it #12?" And then I look at the top of the list again and it's a murderer's row. Anyway, DAI rules. It's unfortunate what's happened with BioWare since then. We can only hope that the next Dragon Age is at least equally as good. Also... Fuck Solas.
11. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
THEN (2013, #1)
A Link to the Past is my favorite console game of all time. I have lost count on the number of times I have played through it on various platforms. When Nintendo announced they were making a sequel, I was worried. Don't fuck with a good thing, you know? But, they nailed it. A Link Between Worlds is the perfect balance of familiarity, nostalgia, innovation, and challenge. While still feeling like that old game, I was constantly stopped in my tracks to really think about how to tackle dungeon puzzles. Not only did they make a worthy sequel to one of the greatest games of all time, they also shook the foundation of what makes a Zelda game, which is promising for the future of the franchise. My only complaint about the game is that it ended. For I was suddenly no longer 11 years old anymore.
I debated for a bit whether or not there should be multiple entries from a franchise on this list or not. I decided that it's my personal list, so there shouldn't be any rules. But, also, top-down Zeldas are different enough from 3D Zeldas anyway. I don't know if it should be surprising that they made a worthy sequel to the best game of all time, but I'm so glad they pulled it off. Some of the tenets in this game's design can be seen in a certain game later in this list.
10. Mortal Kombat
THEN (2011, #2)
I love MK. Some of the first work I did on the wiki here was adding info for the actors in the first three MK games. MK9 sets the bar frighteningly high for any future fighting games in terms of story and overall single-player content. It masterfully straddles the line between nostalgia/fan-service and competition-worthy gameplay.
You could easily argue that MKvsDC was the start, but NetherRealm set the standard for story modes in fighting games this decade. They also proved they could make a game worthy of being in the competitive scene, which was somewhat surprising considering how the PS2 era trilogy was received. I could easily swap out MKX or MK11 here, but the retelling/reimagining of MK1, 2, and 3 transported me back to being in those early-to-mid 90s arcades, scouring the internet for rumors, and late night discussions with my friend Christopher on AOL. MK9 might not be "better" than X or 11, but it meant more to me. Also, Stryker is in it.
9. Rock Band 3
THEN (2010, #4)
Nearing perfection thanks to the refinements that have been made over RB2. The addition of "Pro" modes have added a new layer of difficulty and realism to the game. Passing a difficult song on Expert Pro drums never stops being satisfying. And the keys are a refreshing new challenge.
It's sort of weird to think about how massive guitar/band games were at the end of the last decade compared to the end of this one. But, Rock Band 3 was by far the pinnacle of the genre. And, in a way, Rock Band was what changed what PAX means to me since it was the 2011 Rock Band Night in Boston where I met so many new friends. We even played on stage a couple times (despite being haunted by technical difficulties both times). Rock Band 3 will always have a place in my heart.
8. Titanfall 2
THEN (2016, #1)
I am not a competitive multiplayer shooter guy. I play some Battlefield every couple years. The last Call of Duty I played was Modern Warfare 2. But, ever since the demo I played at PAX Prime 2013, I fell in love with Titanfall. And the sequel improves on the original in every conceivable way. The campaign is incredibly fun and every level has you doing something different. Whether you're on foot, rollin' in BT, doing crazy platforming, or...that time travel level? That time travel level! It's all great. And then the multiplayer got me hooked hard. I love that in most of the modes, you can play defense and still come out as MVP a lot of the time. It's just sad the game was sent out to die.
I'm still not a competitive multiplayer shooter guy. I still think about Titanfall all the time. It's on PlayStation Plus right now, which means there's a bunch of people playing it again. I...I gotta go!
7. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
THEN (2015, #1)
I'd never played a Witcher game before this, but it was easily my #1. No doubt about it. It consumed me for about two months and I loved every bit of it. The quests and storytelling in this game are on a different level than everything else. My GOTY last year was Dragon Age Inquisition, but it pales in comparison to The Witcher 3.
I kept playing The Witcher 3 long after this thanks to the incredible expansions (I'm old, so I'm gonna call them expansions and not DLC) that came out. It's ridiculous how dense that world is compared to any other open-world game then or now. I'm excited to see what they do with Cyberpunk, and I'd love to see what's next for the Witcher franchise. Unfortunately, we probably won't know until around 2026.
6. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
THEN (2010, #2)
Hey! This game has a robust single player campaign. I love AC. Yes, even the first one. The tweaks they made here were great and the utilization of your guild of assassins simply never stops being awesome.
Brotherhood is the pinnacle of the "old" Assassin's Creed games. Everything clicked with this one. The story was great. The new mechanics like building a guild were great. And the multiplayer was super cool.
One could say that stabbing fools in the face was oddly satisfying.
5. God of War
THEN (2018, #1)
They did it. Cory and his team...they fuckin' did it. I enjoyed the first three God of War games for what they were, but I was never invested in the characters. So, when it was announced that they were basically blowing up everything we know about the series and creating something new while not actually rebooting the story, I was both curious and skeptical.
Over the shoulder camera? One continuous shot for the whole game? Combat on the shoulder buttons? An axe instead of chains? One giant escort mission? A button dedicated to the kid?
There was good reason to be worried, but the way that they slowly ease you into this new version of Kratos is downright masterful. It may come off as "slow" to some people at first, but letting you get settled into this new take on the series before setting you free in the Lake of Nine was the perfect intro. And even when they set you free, there's a sense of momentum that lets you wander but never lets you get lost or too distracted like many open-world games. You're always heading for that mountain. You can see it. It's right there!
From start to finish, virtually every element of the game (story, combat, exploration, world building, etc) is excellent. For such a large game, there are very few characters, but over the course of the game their connections are revealed to be deeper and deeper in a way that keeps you pressing onward to learn more.
There are so many memorable, great moments through the game; many of which are amplified if you've played the old games. That entire sequence from the boat to the house to get the blades again...damn. On top everything else, it's absolutely gorgeous. And let's not forget how good it feels to call that Leviathan Axe back to your hand. So...damn...good!
God of War is simply one of the best games I've ever played. It's excellent in every conceivable way. And it's still somewhat astonishing that they were able to tear down so much of what seemed integral to a God of War game, rebuild it, and end up with something infinitely better.
4. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
THEN (2011, #1)
No surprise here. 152+ hours and there's still soooo many dark icons on that map. Despite all the reported issues with the game, I experienced virtually no problems. I think I had a hard lock-up twice. I'm engrossed in the world of Nirn so much that I'm seriously thinking about going back to play Morrowind since Oblivion was my first game in the series.
I spent well over 200 hours in Skyrim by the time I actually stopped. I got all 1000 achievement points, and then I just kept going. The only reason I haven't bought it on more platforms since is because I KNOW WHAT WOULD HAPPEN. I keep staring at that Switch version though. The game clearly became a phenomenon. It's a shame that Bethesda hasn't made any games since then...so weird.
3. Persona 4 Golden
THEN (2012, Unranked)
I didn't start P4G until December 2012.
I hear you saying Persona 4 didn't come out this decade. Well, first of all, I didn't play vanilla Persona 4. I didn't even watch the Endurance Run at the time. Secondly, this is my list and I make the rules! Well, 90+ hours later, P4G cemented itself as one of my favorite games of all time. The additions to the game (especially Marie) are excellent and it's hard to imagine playing a version of the game without her. I know it's blasphemous to say this around here, but I'm on Team Yukiko. Sorry!
2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
THEN (2017, #1)
A Link to the Past is the best console game ever made. For the last twenty-five years, that was the measuring stick any time a new Zelda game came out. Some have come close (Wind Waker, A Link Between Worlds), but none have ever matched it...until now. Going into it, I was both curious and leery due to how much of a departure from the Zelda formula it was said to be. The equipment degradation was easily the most jarring thing, but I found it relatively easy to accept the fact that I would always be picking up anything I could find and using it. In a way, forcing me to use stuff I normally wouldn't enhanced the exploration aspect of the game. I must've wandered around for about forty hours before doing any of the main dungeons and I loved every minute of it. The sense of discovery is unmatched. Having all of the tools within the first couple hours felt strange, but I soon discovered the sense of freedom this allowed. Anything I found out in the world was doable; I just had to figure out how to make it happen. This created countless moments of "oh, shit...I don't think I'm supposed to be here yet, but I'm gonna make this work." The first and most memorable for me was finding the Naydra when I only had five hearts. It was terrifying and amazing at the same time. Seemingly every inch of the world is so packed with things to discover.
Such a magical game. After 25 years, I didn't think anything (even another Zelda) game could approach A Link to the Past, but they did it. I kept playing well after writing what I did above. I got that silly motorcycle and finished all the shrines, but I still look at that map with my trail on it and I know there's stuff I still haven't seen despite spending 140 hours wandering around.
1. Mass Effect 2
THEN (2010, #1)
Far and away the winner as far as I'm concerned. Never before have I felt so attached to certain characters and scared to death that someone could possibly die based on my own decisions. I've completed it twice so far. Once while I was laid up after having jaw surgery. And seeing the trailer for ME3, it just makes me want to go through ME2 a third time.
Turns out that we started the decade with the showstopper. January 26, 2010. We could've just stopped making the list then I guess. As you can see from the rest of this list, I play a lot of single-player, story-driven games. Yet, this the only one that I've played all the way through multiple times, which I think says a lot. Also, that Shadow Broker DLC might be the best DLC of the decade too. And thanks to Mass Alex for reminding me how great this game is this year.