By MooseyMcMan 0 Comments
Next up on this celebration of the decade, I originally intended to rank each one of the Moosies from the decade. Problem was, I started reading through the 2010 one, and...well, suffice it to say that I've grown a as writer in the decade since. I'm glad I have, but I don't want to actually read through all of every year, word for word. Even after the point where I feel like I got better at this sort of thing, and didn't rely so heavily on referential humor, or...Luigi fan fiction (rest in peace, Year of Luigi).
Instead, I've decided to rank every year of the decade in video games, recount the gaming highlights (the highlights are literally in the order in which I thought of them), and what was my game of the year at the time. And of course, reevaluate each one.
Years of the Decade:
Highlights: Super Mario 3D World, Metal Gear Rising: REVENGEANCE, DmC: Devil May Cry, Saints Row IV, Batman Arkham Origins, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, The Last of Us.
The year of the new consoles. Well, now not so new, and soon to be old consoles. The launches themselves were limp, and looking back on the rest of the year, it's maybe most noteworthy for some games that I don't think fondly of anymore. BioShock Infinite wasn't a game that I loved at the time, and certainly found a lot of disappointment in the story, but that was because of a bad plot twist at the end (that I had spoiled for me before I even started), rather than the more "current" discourse around the game and its slapdash/ill-thought out handling of race, amongst other things. GTA V was a game I did love at the time, but now... That style of humor, that whole Rockstar tone just doesn't sit well with me anymore.
There were still some really good, even great games that year. Just not really as many as a lot of other years.
It's a shame that the Year of Luigi wasn't stronger, given that we all love Luigi so much. At least I do.
My game of the year at the time: Grand Theft Auto V.
Whoof. You know, I bet parts of this game hold up. There was a lot of good mission design! Remember the one where Trevor had to fly a plane into the cargo hold of a bigger plane that was already in flight? Then again...remember Trevor? I used to find that guy pretty funny, but it's been a long six-ish years since that game's initial release.
Those missions though, I remember enjoying the act of playing this game, but... Even just watching Giant Bomb East struggle with playing the online portion of the game in their video series, I find it hard to believe I enjoyed playing GTA V back in 2013. It reminds me of the much more recent RDR II, except in this case GTA V's story and characters don't stand up. Granted it's only been a little over a year since I played RDR II, but I feel a lot more confident thinking Arthur's journey, at least, will hold up better than just about anything else Rockstar has ever done.
Again, all of this just makes me glad that I've grown and changed as a person since then. If nothing else, that's a good thing.
As for which game I might pick instead, in retrospect...probably either REVENGEANCE or Super Mario 3D World. Those feel like the two, based on both how excellent they are at what they're trying to do, and where my tastes now lie. Maybe if I played The Last of Us again (which I intend to prior to Part II)... On the other hand, while I remember liking The Last of Us well enough, I don't think it ever stayed with me as much as the Uncharted games, so it probably wouldn't be that.
I'll go with REVENGEANCE, because I'm me, but also because I'm me, I'm going to again call Nintendo COWARDS for not porting 3D World to Switch.
Highlights: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Dark Souls II, Dragon Age Inquisition, Mario Kart 8, Bayonetta 2, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.
Thinking back on the decade that was, two things stand out about 2014. The first being that it was the first full year after the release of new consoles, and that year was spent with them trying to find their footing. They sold well, for sure, even without standout games to sell them. Which isn't to say those games were all bad, some of them were very good.
But the other thing about 2014, is that it was the year of the Wii U. Hit after hit, all of them great, and it was easily the single year I spent the most time playing Wii U games. Mario Kart 8, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, Bayonetta 2, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, and at the time it even had Shovel Knight as a console exclusive! It may have only been a year, but that one year of the Wii U was stellar, and I hope that each of those games has found a bigger audience once they were ported to Switch, which normal people actually own and use.
Looking back on 2014, I was initially expecting this to be the worst year of the decade, but the strength of that one, incredible year of Wii U games helped it move up a slot. That, and a couple notable games from 2013 that, in retrospect, I don't think so highly of anymore. But don't let that take away from Wii U's one, shining year.
My Game of the Year at the time: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U.
It was a fun game, absolutely, but in retrospect? It didn't last, for a variety of reasons. Well, I say "variety," but really the answers are a mix of Nintendo's netcode being so inconsistent that one match might feel as good as playing it locally, and the next would have the entire fight playing out in slow motion. Literally. The. Entire. Fight. The other reason being my cousin, who got so good at the game and only played the character he was best with, that the rest of us slowly gave up on the game because he almost always won and it ended up not being fun for anyone else. I know that's not the game's fault, but the netcode is. Especially when I never had any problems with the online stuff in Mario Kart 8, which I did continue playing after 2014.
As for what game I think I look back most fondly on now... Probably either Dragon Age Inquisition, or Dark Souls II? Those are both great games, and while they have very different issues, I'd be lying if I didn't say I've felt an urge to revisit both of them recently. But if I really had to pick between the two, which I know I don't but I'm forcing myself to anyway...
I'm going to say Dark Souls II, because like in Dark Souls II, I wish I had a coffin guarded by giant hippo people I could sleep in to magically change my gender, but then not realize it until like twenty hours later in the game.
Highlights: Tokyo Jungle, Mass Effect 3, Dust: An Elysian Tail, Xenoblade Chronicles, Spelunky, Dragon's Dogma, Telltale's The Walking Dead, Journey.
2012, in my memory, felt a lot like how 2019 feels now. It felt like the year before the new consoles, even though technically a new console released that year (the Wii U flopped onto store shelves). The then current generation was nearing the end of its life. Games like Far Cry 3 were pushing those consoles further than they probably should have, and while fun enough at their best, were messes. Looking at the games I feel best represent how I now feel about 2012, messy is certainly a good word for that year, and I think it was a pretty good year in general.
My Game of the Year at the time: Mass Effect 3.
It's hard, even now, to fully unpack my feelings on Mass Effect 3. I love that series so much, and Mass Effect 1 is still probably my favorite game ever. ME2, while a bit disappointing in a few regards, was largely an improvement over the first one, and ME3 was better still in some respects. But it was also such a mess, and the whole thing over the ending, and that getting changed was... It was a mess (though I still think the ending changes were, overall, positive).
And looking back... Even at the time, Mass Effect 3 wasn't the "best" game of the year, it was my Game of the Year because of my love of Mass Effect. Because I spent so much of that year thinking about that game, going back to play DLC, and wondering about how the Mass Effect series got from the original to there. There's other games from 2012 that I know are "better" games, but in my heart, it's hard to take that away from ME3. So I'm not going to, it's still my Game of the Year 2012. Sorry, Dust.
Highlights: Devil May Cry 5, Judgment, Control, Resident Evil 2, Death Stranding, Outer Wilds, Mortal Kombat 11, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
It feels a bit weird to "look back on" a year that only just ended. It's also more than a bit weird to try to guess where that year fits amongst all the other years of the decade when it's still so fresh and new. That said, even if this is technically in the lower half of the year rankings, it was still a year with a lot of great games, and I think that just speaks to the quality of the decade as a whole. Every year from 2019 onward (in this ranking, I mean) was a great year for games. Judged purely by the quality of the games, the 2010s were mostly great.
2019 itself, though, like I was saying above, feels like the year before new consoles. Some games (Control, Jedi: Fallen Order) feel like they are pushing the consoles too far. There were large stretches of the year that felt a little barren with new releases, or new releases that were worth caring about. It felt like a year where a lot of the real focus was being put into next year, and into the new consoles. And unlike 2012, this time we don't know yet how that's going to go. Hopefully better than 2013, and 2014.
My Game of the Year at the time: Devil May Cry 5.
Obviously I'm not going to have changed my mind about this already. But I will take a moment to say that, it was tough for me to decide the overall ranking of my top ten this year. A lot of those games I could have swapped around, not because I felt indifferent to any of them, but because I felt so strongly about all of them. There was simultaneously a part of me that wanted to put MK11 above Outer Wilds, and a part of me that wanted to put Outer Wilds higher. I was really torn between Judgment and DMC 5, until I went back and replayed DMC 5, and remembered how thrilling that game is. Heck, there was even a part of me that wanted to make Death Stranding Game of the Year.
Only time will tell how my feelings on these games changes. But will I ever go back and seriously reevaluate 2019? Probably not, but who knows?!
Highlights: God of War, A Way Out, Red Dead Redemption II, Monster Hunter World, Marvel's Spider-Man, Iconoclasts, Vampyr.
This was the year when the rumors of new consoles really started picking up steam, but obviously also the year before those rumors coalesced into anything concrete. That said, it was not a year hidden beneath the shadow of the newer consoles looming on the horizon, it was a year of great games. It was the year when the early inklings of crossplay between consoles started becoming a thing. Hopefully the launch of the PS5 and Xbox Series X will also mean that crossplay becomes a standard feature, but that's speculation, and not a reexamination of 2018. It was a really solid, great year of great games, at least.
My Game of the Year at the time: God of War.
Let me tell you something, the capital D Discourse around this game was exhausting. The "this is the greatest game ever" crowd on one side, the "actually Kratos is a bad dad and an irredeemable character" people on the other side, and frankly, I just wanted to enjoy a game about two characters bridging the divide between them while also killing monsters. No, it's not perfect. I hope the team takes the criticisms about the game's treatment of women, and the fact that there's really only one woman character in the game to heart, and do better with God of War II. It's still my favorite game from 2018, and God of War is still a better dad game than Yakuza 6. A game I'm still angry about.
Highlights: Deadly Premonition, Mass Effect 2, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Alan Wake, Fallout New Vegas.
The 2010s started out strong. Maybe not every game I loved at the time has held up (Red Dead Redemption), but it was a year of great games. Not really anything else to say about it, as I realize too deep into doing this to make a meaningful change to this format. I guess I could say I made the mistake of not playing Super Mario Galaxy 2 until years later, because the Wii U video output for Wii games somehow looks way worse than hooking a Wii directly up to an HDTV. Unfortunately that was the only Wii game I bought digitally on Wii U, meaning I couldn't even hook up the Wii and use a disc to get around that bad upscaling, or whatever the Wii U was attempting (or not attempting) to do.
My Game of the Year at the time: Deadly Premonition.
This one's kind of tricky. My experiences with this game had such an impact on me, and took up so much of that year that it really couldn't be any game but Deadly Premonition. The thing is, times have changed, and I changed. It's harder for me now to forgive stuff like the game's transphobia (around a specific character/boss fight) that didn't quite sit well with me at the time, but I didn't yet have the knowledge to understand why, or the vocabulary to explain it. And it's also possible that there's something else in the game that I can't recall that's also problematic in similar ways.
But does that mean it's not still the game I look most fondly back at? I could change my mind and say Mass Effect 2, but I feel like that'd be dishonest. I love that game too, and it's probably the "better" game, but in my heart, it's still Deadly Premonition, even if it was a flawed game at the time, and a problematic game now.
Highlights: Dark Souls, Saints Row The Third, The Witcher II: Assassins of Kings, Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, Batman Arkham City, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Yakuza 4, Dead Space 2.
This is the point where I really started running into trouble trying to rank these years. There's some really, really great games in all these years. I almost had this year at number TWO on this list. What ended up dropping it a few spots was that I didn't feel totally great putting this there based on the strength of Dark Souls and Saints Row The Third alone. Which is to say nothing about the other games here, but several of them I think are somewhat eclipsed by other entries in their franchises. Witcher II, for example, might have the better story and skill tree than its sequel, but Witcher III was kind of THE WITCHER, right? I'd like to revisit Witcher II one of these days, but I don't want to hook up my 360 again. Anyway, there were some fantastic games, and I really loved them at the time, but in retrospect, they might not all be the classics I thought of them as at the time.
My Game of the Year at the time: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.
This game is better than people give it credit for! Yes, the start is slow, but it's still good! Does it still rank as the game I'd say is my favorite from that year? Sadly not. That'd probably be Dark Souls? That or Saints Row The Third, I'm not entirely sure. Both are games I love still, but both have their issues. In one case it's some large swathes of the game that are bad (like Blight Town!), and the other, well, I don't need to go over the problematic side of Saints Row The Third again. They're both great, and I think back on both more fondly than I do Skyward Sword at this point. Also I played neither of them in 2011, which is a thing. That happens.
Of course, upon my final proof-reading of this, I decided to force myself to pick a game from each year, so I'm going to do that, and follow my heart, which takes me to...Saints Row the Third.
Highlights: Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, Final Fantasy XV, Titanfall 2, DOOM, Overwatch, The Witness, Dark Souls III, Mafia III, Hitman (purely for the joy of watching others play, I still am not a huge fan of playing it myself).
Getting down to it here. The best three years of the decade (in video games and video games ONLY). This year really felt like a steady stream of great releases. In my memory, at least, there weren't really any down periods, it was just hit after hit after hit. Some of which were games I obsessed over (The Witness, for better or worse), or kept playing for an extremely long amount of time (Overwatch, Titanfall 2). DOOM was an absolutely astounding reboot of a franchise I'd never touched before, and I could just go on and on. By this point the generation had really hit its stride, and it was truly amongst the best times to be playing video games.
My Game of the Year at the time: Uncharted 4: A Thief's End.
This is the toughest reevaluation yet. Not because I think any different about this game, more because there's games from this year that I either didn't play at the time (Final Fantasy XV), or have stayed as a regular in my rotation (Titanfall 2), and... I'm not sure what to say is my favorite from the year now. FFXV is an especially odd one, given it was actually the Royal Edition I played, and some of my favorite moments in that game were from that version, which I think released several years later. Maybe I should go back and put that in with the 2018 games? Nah, it's not like that's stuff only in that version, that DLC exists for the base game, so does it count as a 2016 game, or something else?
That's why the nature of modern games, and their ability to change and update so much over time is so interesting, and such a conundrum in situations like this. Even if I discount FFXV, do I go with the one that had such an emotional impact on me at the time, or the game I've kept playing since?
I think, as much as it hurts a part of me, I might have to give it to Titanfall 2. Uncharted was another Uncharted, and better than it had ever been, but Titanfall 2 was truly something special...and sadly maybe something we might not see again for a long time...
Highlights: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Life is Strange: Before the Storm, Prey, Hollow Knight, NieR:Automata, Horizon Zero Dawn, Yakuza 0, The Evil Within 2, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus.
2017 is probably the year that most people would point to as the best of the generation, or even of the decade. It was a phenomenal year, and maybe the one that had the highest number of excellent games. It absolutely had a bunch of games I really, truly loved, and still feel special to me. Maybe a few more years from now, with even more distance, I might change my mind on this ordering, but at this moment, this is what feels right.
And in terms of the broader sense of Video Games, this was the year of the Switch. Nintendo's gambit to get people's attention with a new gimmick, one that would hopefully sell better than the Wii U. Which it obviously has, the Switch has become a phenomenon. It turns out that a lot of people value being able to play their games portably, and as such it's sold more along the lines of stuff like the 3DS, than the poor Wii U. I'm glad Nintendo is doing well, mostly because I'd like to think that selling well means they have more resources to fund more games, and do more interesting things with those games, but I have no clue if that's true.
Also I'm still the only person without a Switch (hyperbole) because of my stubbornness. That, and relative lack of money. I know I could afford one, but you know how it is. Money. Hate it.
My Game of the Year at the time: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
The only thing even resembling a regret that I have around this game is playing it on the Wii U, so I had more technical issues than I would have on Switch. I almost wish there hadn't even been a Wii U version, in retrospect, because an exclusive of this magnitude would have forced me to get a Switch, and I wouldn't be in this stubborn mess I am. There's other games from this year that I love, but none of them could ever replace Breath of the Wild.
I never played that DLC. Not that I really want to load up the Wii U and spend probably the same exact price it was new to get that, but maybe someday. But probably not because when I do eventually get a Switch I bet BotW and the DLC will all still be full price because of the capitalist monsters that run Nintendo. Not to turn this into anything weird, but come on, Nintendo's the ONLY ONE where the games stay at full price as long as they do.
Highlights: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Bloodborne, Undertale, The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, Rocket League, Batman Arkham Knight, Life is Strange, Soma, Contradiction: Spot the Liar.
This was the year that the generation really came into its own. This was the year when everything started running at max power, and maybe it's not everyone's favorite year of the decade, but it is for me. 2015 felt staggering at the time, and maybe part of that was because it was coming off a couple disappointing years, but even in retrospect the games that I loved then I love just as much now, if not more so in some cases.
It might not have been the most interesting year of the decade, but gosh do I love the games from that year.
My Game of the Year at the time: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
This game absolutely captivated me. It was the realization of everything I ever wanted out of tactical espionage games, and a lot of things I didn't know I wanted. The story is ultimately a let down, but the game itself is still one of the absolute best I've ever played, and maybe ever will play. It's still my Game of the Year 2015.
As one final farewell to the decade that was, I intended to make a list of my ten games of the decade, and the previous portion of this "one" blog was to be dedicated to all the other games that didn't quite make it. True to form, I couldn't get it down to ten games, I wrote so much this whole thing had to be split in twain, and I couldn't even commit to not including some of the games from the "interesting" section in Part I. I also decided not to order them, just to embrace chaos. But also...there's an order to them. CHAOS.
Anyway, this is not me trying to say these are the "best" games of the decade. They're the ones that feel special, or important to me. But kind of the problem with making that sort of list so soon to the end of the decade is that it's hard for me to really feel like I have a hold of the most recent stuff. There's no games from 2019 here. Does that mean there's nothing from last year that I think could be an all time "of the decade" favorite? Not at all, it's just too early for me to really say. Which is part of what makes doing lists like this so silly in the first place, but there's fun to be had in the silliness.
All of that aside, these are great games, and going forward into the 2020s, I can only hope to have more games that affect me as much as these ones have.
So, in true nonsensical fashion, I've written about these games, and come up with totally arbitrary awards for them. Please enjoy, and forgive me for not being nearly as short as I intended.
Games of the Decade:
A boy, and a reinvention of a tired series: God of War.
My thought process on these things is a lot of going back and forth, deciding at first to include something, writing about it, then deciding to cut it, deleting all those words, and finally backtracking and putting it back on, with a new mess of words.
God of War was a great playing, great looking game, but the thing that stuck with me has been the journey of the wayward boy Atreus and his father Kratos, both lost and just trying to find their way through the world. I'm still kind of amazed that they managed to make this sort of game out of what God of War used to be, and I'm extremely curious what the sequel will end up holding. Can it make me feel the way this one did, or even should it? That story about two people working to bring themselves back together was so special, and a retread of that would be disappointing, but I don't know that just focusing on the bigger Norse Gods and Ragnarök stuff would have any emotional impact. I'm not sure how they'll do it, but I've got a good feeling they'll figure something out.
God of War wins:
Best boy of the decade: Atreus.
Weapon gimmick of the decade: Leviathan Axe's recall.
A near decade long journey: Uncharted 4: A Thief's End.
I had no idea how much of an emotional impact this game would have on me until I was several hours into it. That early chapter in Nathan's house, that opens with him reminiscing in the attic, and ends with him and Elena talking, eating dinner, playing Crash Bandicoot. That whole chapter made me realize how important those characters, and their adventures had been to me. I played the first Uncharted back in 2007. I was still in high school then, and this was almost a decade later. I'd gone through so much in that time, and every few years I'd go on another adventure with the gang. More fun with Sully grumbling, more of that rocky back and forth between Nathan and Elena (one of the very few hetero relationships in media in general that I like), and more of those fun adventures in pillaging the leftovers of ancient civilizations and accidentally destroying what little remains of their civilizations. I'm mostly joking about that last part.
This game was a conclusion to a years long journey, almost decade long, and I wasn't prepared for how it'd make me feel. Even a few years later, I still find myself smiling just thinking about it. My heart warms up a little, and I realize just how much those characters and their adventures meant to me. Even if the Uncharted series didn't end there (and Lost Legacy was great in its own right), this was the end of an era, and one I am grateful I experienced.
Uncharted 4 wins:
Best use of Crash Bandicoot of the decade.
Best conclusion of a decade(ish) long journey of the decade.
Nolan North of the decade.
Wildest ride of the decade: Saints Row the Third.
I included The Third in the "interesting games" section of Part I of this Decennial thing because at the time, I thought I wasn't going to include it here. The fear that it wouldn't hope up to modern scrutiny, that maybe it'd be too problematic in a few spots, the mission design for most of the game probably wouldn't hold up, all that scared me away.
But then I thought about what this game meant to me back when I played it. It was something of a mentality changer for me. Not on its own, 2011 and to a certain extent 2012 (when I actually played this game) was a time where I was beginning to re-embrace my love of the absurd. It started when I saw Fast Five, and I think culminated in this ridiculous nonsense game. It was a year of me re-discovering my love of things just being wild, and goofy, and fun.
I can't explain why I felt that way at the time, and why it was specifically these two things that really drove it home to me. But that's how I felt, and I still feel so very strongly. Besides, even if not every part of Saints Row the Third holds up to modern scrutiny, or the scrutiny of the era, it was a fun time, and I think worth remembering as one of my favorites of the decade.
Saints Row the Third wins:
In retrospect I should have realized why this was important to me award for best character creator of the decade, which included the ability to completely change everything about the character pretty much any time.
Best near random use of zombies of the decade.
Absurdest big release of the decade.
A blade worth studying: Metal Gear Rising: REVENGEANCE.
This one's in the same boat as Saints Row the Third, in that I originally wasn't going to include it here. It's not the best of the genre, and who knows, a decade from now maybe DMC 5 will be the game I look back fondly on and wish was on here instead of this. But right now, in this moment, REVENGEANCE is that game. It's so over the top, so ridiculous, and yet the combat is so tight, and the feeling of the well timed parry is almost second to none. Or heck, it might even be better than Sekiro's, it's been a while since I played it.
That, and it's in some ways it's a weirdly prophetic game. Something to be said about a game released in 2013, set in 2018, that features a right wing politician as the bad guy who used a certain fascistic phrase years before... Well, I've already gone too far into politics for this, don't @ me.
I guess I'll end with this: The perfect parry into stunning an enemy, slicing them in twain, ripping out their cyber-spine and using its cyber-fluids to refill health was a mechanic so good that even DOOM copied aspects of it for its big reboot.
It's just a fun, ridiculous game that I love.
Metal Gear Rising: REVENGEANCE wins:
Most prophetic game of the decade.
Best slicing things/people into many little pieces of the decade.
Zandatsu of the decade.
Robot wolf of the decade: Blade Wolf.
Duel of the decade: Raiden vs. Jet Stream Sam.
Best ridiculous music of the decade.
Double jumps, wall runs, and mechs: Titanfall 2.
Titanfall 2 isn't just a game that I played for many many hours online over the last few years. If that's all it took to get into my favorites of the decade, Overwatch would be here too (and honestly I wouldn't want to lose all the happy memories I have from that game). No, Titanfall 2 gets on for two other reasons. The first is why I kept playing it for so long, and why I was so delighted at the influx of new players when it was on PS+.
Titanfall 2 is my favorite "competitive" multiplayer shooter. Ever. It takes the ultra tight, lightning fast style of Call of Duty, makes the movement way more fluid, fun, and high flying, and on top of all that, basically has a second style of game along for the ride! The Titans themselves, mechs that tower over the battlefield, slower than the Pilots on their own, but still fast and arcade-y by most video game mech standards. That dynamic between the two is part of what has kept the game still fresh and fun over these years, and honestly would keep me coming back for years to come if enough people kept playing it.
But even that, all of that, isn't the sole reason why it's one of my favorites of the decade. It's also got one of the best, if not THE best campaigns in any shooter. Certainly my favorite of what I would call "CoD style" campaigns. It's just a fun mix of combat, great level design, especially considering how much of it is built around first person platforming, and who could forget BT-7274? One of the best buddies of the decade, and still a favorite of mine.
Titanfall 2 wins:
Best robot buddy of the decade: BT-7274.
Best use of time travel of the decade: Effect and Cause.
Best competitive multiplayer game of the decade.
Best use of mechs of the decade.
Friendship was the real loot: Destiny 1 & 2.
For all my faults with these games, for all that part of me really didn't want to actually "award" Destiny because I think it's in kind of a slump, I just wanted one more chance to remember how good the best times with Destiny were. Especially Destiny 2. I wanted to remember all the time spent with my friends, mostly Tom and "Loremaster" Jay. I wanted to remember all the goofy moments we had where the game was really secondary, and just the conduit by which we were talking about nonsense. But ALSO all the fun hijinks we had in game. I hope I never forget the now infamous "unlimited ammo" incident. For those who weren't there (literally everyone except those other two), suffice it to say that there was not, in fact, unlimited ammo.
I'm cracking up just thinking about it, and if that isn't worthy of getting on here, I don't know what is.
Destiny 1 & 2 win:
Most up and down in terms of quality of the decade.
Online co-op game(s) of the decade.
Most fun I've had playing with friends online of the decade.
Game(s) of the decade best suited to me just @-ing a friend with nothing more than the name of an Exotic and a question mark, and then getting an expert analysis of if it's good or not (or sometimes just a, "lol it sucks").
The most immersive of sims: Prey.
There is an unease that permeates the entirety of this game. It's the rare game that could really make me distrustful of just about anything and everything in it. Even the sorts of junk objects littered throughout the station! People always talk about this game in the conversation amongst "immersive sims" (perhaps one of the loosest and illest-defined video game "genres"), but really I think it shines best as a survival horror game. Okay, I know I shouldn't be invoking video game genres, but Prey really stands out in my memory as a game that excelled at that unease.
So great was that unease that it wasn't until I finished the game, watched all the credits roll, saw the true ending, and realized what actually happened that it all fell into place. It has all the hallmarks of the immersive sim, it fits nicely into survival horror, but at the end it's really a game about empathy, and the importance of going out of your way to help others when you can. I really felt that ending then, and I still feel it now.
Plus the Mooncrash DLC was great! I almost wish it had been a standalone game, so I could have TWO excuses to write about Prey again, haha. But seriously, even if I did figure out how to break Mooncrash and make myself extremely overpowered, the early parts, where I was forced into corners, forced to make creative decisions on the fly, and forced to actually adapt and play Prey differently than I did in the main game, were my favorite hours spent in any immersive sim ever. Now I've got myself wanting to play it again!
Best mimics of the decade.
Best twist ending of the decade.
Space station of the decade.
Best instance of what I assume is a game written with the male protagonist in mind so the lady version is accidentally gay by having the protagonist's ex-girlfriend be a major character...of the decade.
Heart wrenching and goofs: Undertale
Oh, Undertale. The stuff of memes years after release. But it wouldn't be the Undertale I know and love without that goofy sense of humor, and honestly, I can't think of a game better suited to have nonsense memes that will last until the end of time. That goofy, silly, corny sense of humor is the thing that opened my heart to this game years ago. All those puns, the wordplay, the goofs, it's all right up my alley.
The humor is what pulled me in, but the story, characters, and all that other serious stuff the game gets to by the end, that's what makes Undertale one of my favorite games of the decade. Maybe ever, really, but that's a whole other, harder discussion. Gosh, it's hard to boil down what makes this game special without just spending pages and pages on it, so instead I'll focus on one thing: Music.
Out of every game released in the last decade, there isn't another game that has tied so many songs to specific, deep emotions for me. Even if a lot of them are goofy hijinks, there's also all the serious ones, and I'd be lying if I said the final boss theme doesn't still send a chill down my spine. No, literally, I just tried, and it does.
I know I opened this by mentioning memes, and for a lot of people that's all this game ever will be, but for me, and a lot of others, it's one of my favorite games, and experiences of the decade.
Most memorable music of the decade.
Funniest game of the decade.
Most heartwarming game of the decade.
Most punderful game of the decade.
Skeleton of the decade: Papyrus.
The game that made me think about the queer teen life I never really had: Life is Strange: Before the Storm.
As I sat here, trying to find the words for this, I just listened to the main menu music, on loop, for some time, letting it wash over me. And I still don't know that I even have the right words. It's a game that made me feel...for lack of a better word, "seen." It's a game about the awkwardness of teenage life (or all of life), of navigating that while also figuring out your sexuality, and so many other things, and I just...
Very little of the specific beat by beat moments of the plot have anything to do with things that happened in my life, but the broader stuff? The unpleasant cop-ish stepfather, the "drama kid life" in school, playing D&D with friends, and all the confusion with coming to terms with my queerness...
I wish I had something profound to say. Something that feels even half as profound as this game made me feel when I played it. But I don't. It does make me think about my life, chances I wish I'd taken, things I wish I'd done, but... I don't know.
All I've got is this garbled mess, which given how the final proper episode of Before the Storm went, never mind the prequel episode, I guess that's only appropriate. So much of life is a mess, mine especially. Of course many of the things that spoke to me most would be just as messy.
I miss Chloe and Rachel. And I wish their story had a better, happier ending. But that's life, I guess. We've just got to remember the good things we have, or had, and take it from there.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm wins:
One truest pair of the decade: Chloe and Rachel.
Best queer game probably made almost entirely by straight people of the decade.
Melancholy of the decade.
A long journey with digital friends: Final Fantasy XV: Royal Edition.
I've written so many words about this game. I still have a few left to say, even if they're probably rehashes of what I wrote months ago.
The sheer brilliance of having a character, in game, snapping pictures on his own, and the game taking the time when the characters rest to go over what he's got... It's the thing that makes this game work. It's what ties it all together, and what made me tear up at the end, when they took one last opportunity to reminisce over the journey. So many games are good at building up memories, and attachments to characters, but this one little thing... It made all those connections feel real.
And that's it. I've run out of words to say about this game. It's a mess. I love it.
Final Fantasy XV: Royal Edition wins:
Road trip of the decade.
Fishing minigame of the decade.
Best looking video game food of the decade.
Best photography of the decade.
Best charmingly bad photography of the decade.
Song that most makes me tear up ("Stand by me," by Florence at the Machine) of the decade.
Best sadly non-canonical queer ship of the decade: Promptis (Prompto X Noctis; let them be gay SQUARE ENIX YOU COWARDS).
A game best played with a friend at your side: Deadly Premonition.
Back in 2010, a friend of mine mentioned this game, I don't even remember what he said, but it was to the effect of his thinking we should play it together. It'd be a good laugh. So, I got it, as it was $20 new, and we started playing. At first we were just laughing at the game, it has such a weird opening (York discussing the subtext of Tom & Jerry), and then it goes into some of the worst survival horror I've played in my entire life. If you've never actually held a controller and played this game, you owe it to yourself to try it, it's astounding how bad it feels.
There was something...that I couldn't put my finger on at the time, but there was something to that game, so we kept playing it. Over the months, because this friend and I are terrible at coordinating together. Mostly because he's always had a thousand different things going on in his life. We were both still in college at the time, so that didn't help either. Eventually I became so enthralled with the story that I finished it on my own, and had to let my friend finish it without my spoiling anything for him.
During all this, I also realized Giant Bomb did their dual Endurance Runs. I was still new to GB at the time, and didn't realize my friend had probably gotten the idea to do this from them. Anyway, I ended up not only playing this game through, watching my friend play through a large portion of the back parts of it, but also watching it be played twice on the internet, all in the same year. Deadly Premonition was 2010 to me, and its best parts still hold their charm over me to this day.
Even as I become more and more conflicted by its problematic side. I still don't have anything profound to say, just that we all probably have things like this. The things we really love, but wish were better. Not better in the "I wish the game played better," or things like that, but better about queer characters. Better about not falling into bad stereotypes, or violence against groups of people that face far too much of that in real life.
Soon enough, there's going to be a sequel to this game. I don't know what to expect. I predicted it'll be my GOTY 2020, but I can't say that was a serious expectation. I guess all I can really hope is that it's got enough of that charm that enthralled me so, but that everyone involved has grown, and knows better now.
I have, and I don't think I'll be as forgiving a second time around.
Deadly Premonition wins:
Favorite "cooperative" game of the decade.
Sandwich of the decade (Sinner's Sandwich (still never tried one)).
Song of the decade: Life is Beautiful.
Another duo I couldn't separate: Mass Effect 2 & 3.
I could pick between the two, but really the story of Mass Effect and my experience with it this decade isn't just a game. It's, well, it's also inextricably tied to the first one, but these two feel more like two parts of a same whole, in retrospect. Mass Effect 1 felt different from these two. Mass Effect 2 and 3 feel like a two-parter. Not quite a "get the gang together" and then "go do the thing," because there isn't a one to one with the crew members between them, but it's something like that.
Mass Effect 1 is my favorite game of all time, and that universe is one of my favorites out of all the fiction I've ever played, watched, read, etc. That series was just the right mix of having enough of a directed story and plot, but also while letting me feel like a person there, feel like a real part of the story myself. And obviously I know the choices are pretty limited in retrospect, as are their impacts, but that doesn't negate all those dozens of hours I spent with these games, with these characters.
Garrus, you bastard of a space cop, you're kind of the worst, but I love you, faults and all. But I'm still glad I was able to temper your more "The Punisher" lines of thinking and acting.
Wrex, oh Wrex, they did you wrong by not having more of you in 2 and 3. Not super wrong, there's still enough, but I would've loved more. To hear more of your stories, and add a few more to that never ending list.
Tali, my friend. If there was one character in this series that had the most growth, it was probably you. I'm so glad to have been there on your Pilgrimage with you, and helped you whenever I could.
Liara, you wild weirdo, going from introvert archaeologist to full renegade information dealer, to something a bit more reasonable in 3. Again, I'm just glad to have been on the ride with you.
Mordin, Legion, Thane, Jack, Samara, EDI, Javik, Grunt, and so on, there's too many to list. Mass Effect 2 might have been somewhat lacking in the main story department, and 3 might have ended poorly/had some very large plot holes, but these games were such a part of my decade, and I still think back fondly on them.
That, and I curse every day EA doesn't port them to modern consoles! Give us the remastered trilogy YOU COWARDS.
Mass Effect 2 & 3 win:
Best cast of characters of the decade.
Best endorsement of the decade ("my favorite store on the Citadel").
Best callback to a goofy moment of the decade ("my favorite spot on the Citadel").
Best overall DLC of the decade.
Best party of the decade (Mass Effect 3 Citadel DLC).
A horrible night for a curse: Bloodborne.
If there was any one developer that truly rose from obscurity into greatness this decade, it was From Software. Yes, Demon's Souls just missed the cut, but Dark Souls was when they got big, turned into a studio that people payed attention to. A studio that would garner a certain crowd of fans, not all of whom necessarily made the best impression on others, but popularized a new style of game that took people by surprise.
And then they made their masterpiece, Bloodborne. I don't use that word lightly, but amongst all of the games here, all of the ones that I played this decade, this is among the few that I think comes closest to being the perfect realization of what it sets out to do. It is that style of game play, near perfected, that style of world building, the best I've ever seen, and all wrapped up in an aesthetic that entrances me to this day.
It does all this, and for my money, is the best piece of Eldritch/cosmic horror ever crafted. All it took was creating a world that so clearly and obviously appears to be anything but that, aside from a few hints here and there, that sense of there being something lurking, just beneath the surface, slowly getting closer, closer, closer....
Until the reveal, when the whole world feels like it's flipped over, and the truth is laid bare.
Even if it had none of that, few games have ever gotten my pulse pounding as much as Bloodborne. The thrill of fighting a boss, a towering monster of rotten flesh, scraggly hair, and jagged bone, dodging and weaving, and coming so close, so close until... my prey has been slaughtered.
My heart beats just a little faster even thinking about it.
Bloodborne is one of my favorite games ever, truly in the top ten. I know I said it's close to perfect, but there's some blemishes. Even so, this game entranced me not just from the start, through to finishing it, multiple times, through to getting the Platinum, through to playing the DLC, through even to today. From Software has continued to make great games, but none have captured my imagination the way Bloodborne has. It is a modern classic, plain and simple.
Souls game of the decade.
Best sweeping "cinematic" soundtrack of the decade.
Horror game of the decade.
Best build up and reveal of an Eldritch truth of the decade.
Most blood of the decade.
Tactics, espionage, and operations: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
Metal Gear, for better or worse, has probably meant more to me, and had more of an impact on me than any other video game series ever has. And likely ever will, given how much the earlier ones affected teenage me. Over all these years, my feelings for Metal Gear on the whole, and the people who made it (one in particular that I don't need to name) have changed. Not for the better, or for the worse. They've just changed. More critical of some things, but fonder remembrances of others. It's also just funny to think about how much MGS's weird sense of humor and tonal shifts affected me as a fiction writer, even if the direct influence isn't that apparent in most of what I write.
And, as so many of even the most die hard MGS fans will say, MGSV is a pretty big letdown in most of those respects. There's the core of a good story in this game, but it it feels like a seed that was just planted, and given basically no time to grow. With the development of that game being what it was, and at least one plot thread known to have been left dangling because a mission was cut, it's not really possible to know how much of the story is the way it is because of creative choices, and how much was the result of deadlines, cuts, or what have you.
Even with this game disappointing at the thing Metal Gear had always been known for, and generally regarded as its strongest suit, MGSV still became one of my favorite games of the decade, and honestly ever. What it lost in storytelling it more than made up for it by being the best stealth game I've ever played. There is a fluidity to this game's mission design and structure that still excites me with the breadth of what's possible. It's not just that it lets you go about missions in whatever way you want, it's the way that missions react to you doing that, it's the way not everything is always as clear cut as it seems, or the way that things change once you're actually on the ground, trying to complete the mission.
I spent almost two hundred hours playing this game. I don't remember how long it took me to get through the story, probably under half that, because the rest was a mix of me getting the Platinum Trophy, and just messing around with the game. Seeing how far I could push the AI, seeing how many ways I could think to tackle missions, how much leeway there really is. Turns out there's a lot! It's not a game where literally anything is possible, but it's a game where just enough is possible so it feels like anything is possible. For my personal tastes, it's the best stealth game I've ever played, and if the story was better, it might be my favorite game of all time.
Or, to put it in the immortal, maybe accidentally paraphrased words of Brad Shoemaker, "it was almost the greatest game ever made."
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain wins:
Dog of the decade: D-Dog.
Horse of the decade: D-Horse.
Robot horse of the decade: D-Walker.
Tactical Espionage of the decade.
Best balloons of the decade.
Best cardboard boxes of the decade.
Vaping of the decade.
The First Moosies Decennial Video Game of the Decade (2010-2019): The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Breath of the Wild, in so many ways, is the culmination of most of my favorite things in games. It's a game about exploration, about huge, open spaces. About moving through a world, where the traversal is the draw, the fun, the challenge. A beautiful yet desolate world, ravaged by a long gone war, but crucially not a dead world. A world of regrowth, of survival, where people do their best to get by, and live their lives as best they can.
It's a game about puzzle solving, both big and small. A game that gives you most of the tools right up front, and designed for people to be able to go in almost any direction, and do almost anything. A game littered with shrines just waiting to be delved into, so their puzzles can be solved, so I can hear that classic little chime and feel so excited. A game where any odd little thing out in the world might be a quick little puzzle to solve, and get a Korok seed.
It's a game about creativity in problem solving. Over the last few years, I have seen so many videos of people fighting enemies, solving puzzles, or traversing the world in ways that left me stunned. Infusing things with so much force while they're in stasis that they fly off at breakneck speeds, using the power of magnets to make a pair of mine carts into a makeshift aircraft, or even just as simple as some well timed explosives when all the normal weapons are broken.
But these aren't just separate elements of the game, they're all connected. If Breath of the Wild is about anything, it's freedom. Freedom to go wherever, and do whatever. Obviously it's not limitless, and the only frustrating parts of the game are when that freedom is stripped away in favor of more scripted scenarios, or the worst forced stealth sequence I've played this side of Majora's Mask. That, and the whole subplot with Link disguising himself as a woman to get into the women only town, which is, um, problematic, let's say.
The thing is, in a game as enormous as Breath of the Wild, a game as otherwise incredible and truly awe-inspiring as this, those end up feeling like nitpicks. It's not just easily my game of the decade, it's the closest a game has ever come to dethroning Mass Effect from my favorite game ever. Maybe at some point, with enough time passed, and nostalgia, it'll get there. Who knows.
I could go on and on, but I think it's clear how much I love this game. Few games have ever made climbing to the top of a mountain, just to enjoy the view, so good, and pure of an experience. Now let's just hope the sequel doesn't screw it up somehow.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild wins:
World of the decade.
"Emergent game play" of the decade.
Vistas of the decade.
Best use of the sparseness of music to make its appearance have all the more impact of the decade.
Adventure of the decade.
Do-rag of the decade.
Most mountainous game of the decade.
Most seeing mountains, going to them, and climbing them of the decade.
Thank you for reading, especially if you got through both Parts of this end of the decade special. In terms of video games, I think it was a really incredible ten years. Maybe not consistent, but on the whole, there were more fantastic games than I could even recount here. And looking forward to the future, I'm excited. Excited for what's possible with the new consoles, excited for a future where, hopefully, cross play is the standard. But most of all, I'm excited for the next game that I don't see coming. The next game that goes from "what's that" to knocking my socks off.
I'm sure it'll be another decade worth remembering.
Let's just hope climate change doesn't end us before we get there.