Video Games have had their best decade in the history of the medium. It is a chapter that we’ll probably find ourselves revisiting over time, and it is one that we all have a long back catalogue of. Games are now a generation spanning, constantly evolving, creature.
Games of the past were remade in stunning modern glory, PC gaming became more accessible than ever, niche franchises found their audiences, and the tools of building games became more approachable than ever, resulting in astounding works of art by independent creators, unimaginable collaborations, and medium defining genre bending.
Everyone who thinks about their favorite video games over such a long period of time are bound to recall a 3DS in hand on a train or long car ride, a headset mic on to squad up over multiplayer online, powering through a newly released adventure game in a room with extra drinks and snacks in hand.
We will remember rowdy moments like a group of friends arguing over a fighting game, laughing together at a comedy games, or trying out virtual reality. We will remember quiet moments like sitting at a PC or with a phone, catching up with a favorite livestreamer, or crushing the final gauntlet of an RPG overnight until you realise the sun is nearly about to rise again.
In the 2010’s we as a people have defined video games, and we’re connected to each other and their creators more than ever before.
For all of its stumbles, the strange developments and incessant noise of the 2010’s, there are moments with our favorite video games that we’ll never forget the feeling of experiencing.
DISCLAIMER: we did not include free-to-play games on our list, so no, we do not have Fortnite or League of Legends or DOTA 2 or Hearthstone or Apex Legends–Look you get the picture right?
Anyway, there’s so many more games we wanted to put on here that we couldn’t fit, so if you’re interested in talking about those too, chat with us on social media @TheYoungFolks we’d love to hear your stories about your favorite games.
50. Animal Crossing Pocket Camp (2017 – iOS & Android)
“I had to endlessly berate the other editors and TYF staff to get this on the list. That’s because it may feel like a joke entry, but I’m being dead serious here: no other game in 2017… brought me more consistent joy thanAnimal Crossing PocketCamp.
It’s not a flashy game – indeed it’s very simple. You own a campsite, there are tons of friendly animals out there, and you want to build up the former, and befriend the latter. But I’ll be damned if it doesn’t put a smile on my face every time I pick it up. The distinctive cutesyAnimal Crossingaesthetic is suited perfectly to a mobile game, allowing you to pull out your phone and escape to another more adorable world during those brief periods of time when the dreary mundanity of life seeps in. Waiting at the doctor’s office, doing the laundry, trying to unwind before bed – all of these moments are now enriched by the fun fluff of catching butterflies, talking to a Texan penguin, and building a rock stage for a bunch of dogs.
More than that, it echoes the real-world communal bonding I haven’t experienced since the height ofPokemon Go. Everyone with a phone can get in on it for free, and everyone who has it can laugh over the stuff they’ve built or which animal is their favorite. There’s no toxic fanbase; there’s only people having a good time together.
I think too often when we consider which games should be considered “the best” we focus too much on serious debates of artistic merit and complexity of mechanics that we lose sight of what games really are: ways to pass the time and bond with other people.Animal Crossing PocketCampdoes both in a pure and wholesome way… I am incredibly thankful for that.”[Alex Suffolk]
Yes, this spot is taken as a joke to commemorate an old writer of ours. Needless to say, we’ll be overjoyed to be playing an Animal Crossing game on Switch this spring instead. [Evan Griffin]
49. Untitled Goose Game (2019 – Nintendo Switch, Mac, PC)
If you’ve ever had the misfortune of encountering a goose, just count yourself lucky that you’re even still alive. These majestic looking animals hide the fact that they are very likely demon spawn. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to shed the rules of society and be like one of them, Untitled Goose Game is definitely for you. The game design is simple, but clean and colorful. If you haven’t heard all about it by now, the goal is to basically sow the seeds of anarchy by using your limited goose skill set to achieve your dastardly goals. It’s a stupid little game of stealth play, but that doesn’t make it any less hilarious, and it certainly didn’t keep it from taking the internet by storm at launch. The entire game can be beaten in a short amount of time, and the replay value is pretty low, but what more can you ask from a game that provides the escapist delight of becoming one of nature’s greatest a-holes? I can count with one hand the amount of games that do as much good for understanding the goose community as Untitled Goose Game does. It does a perfect job placing you into the small creature’s headspace and leaves you with a begrudging admiration that will last a lifetime. After this game, the next time a goose honks at you as you’re trying to mind your own business at the park, you won’t get mad but instead think to yourself, “I feel you, bro. I feel you.” That’s the true power of one of the best games ever made and why Untitled Goose Game is an instant classic. [Jon Lennon Espino]
48. A Way Out (2018 – PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)
A Way Out is a unique game for a variety of reasons, but the one that truly defines it is its use of co-op, and most creative ways it utilizes having two players working together in a game since Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. This game can be played in multiple sittings with different players, but to truly enjoy the experience that the game wants the players to have, you really need to settle down with a friend you trust and play the game beginning to end. There is a rhythm that is found in the middle of the game in which you and your partner are working together so closely that you feel bonded and almost as if you’re watching a really well-done film from two continuous cameras at the same time. There’s action, puzzles, comedy, suspense, and even some Uncharted-like run and shoot moments. When you reach the end of the game and think back on the wild ride you and your friend have just been on together, you may even find yourself feeling the consequences of your actions in the game. That alone is worth picking up this highly experimental game. It was a big risk on the part of Hazelight Studios, and I found it to succeed at everything it set out to do. [Tyler Carlsen]
47. Unexplored (2017 – Nintendo Switch, Linux, Mac, PC)
Unexplored is a 2010s take on old ASCII roguelikes like the venerable Nethack. A lot of the basics of Nethack are here: You must you must retrieve a Macguffin from the bottom of an expansive dungeon, the exploration of which is the core element of the game. Unexplored is a game where you can have a great time even if you advance really far, but never get that amulet. The star of the game is its cyclically generated levels, which have an organic feel to them even though they’re created as you traverse them. The game’s presentation is fantastic, with all the crucial roguelike elements done right, including little aspects of the game like the ease of combining ingredients to craft potions or magic weapons. The game’s enemies are all great and unique, and figuring out the best or most inventive ways to dispatch them is a satisfying effort. Unexplored does right by its influences and genre roots, both presenting a great version of a classic gameplay while innovating through its interface. [Ryan Gibbs]
46. Pokemon Heart Gold & Soul Silver (2010 – Nintendo DS)
On the one hand, it seems a bit crass to include a remake of a game on this list, especially when the franchise in question is heading into its fourth generational upgrade in this decade, but not all remakes are made alike. HeartGold and SoulSilver sets the standard for what a game remake should be – understanding the aspects of what made the original so good while enhancing the overall experience. These titles look forward while also looking back in a way most of the video game industry continues to refuse to do, and as such are still the closest to a perfect form of one of the largest franchise games in the medium’s history. We had to make an exception to our no-remake rule to satisfy our love for this Pokemon game. [Travis Hymas]
45. Iconoclasts (2018 – PS4, Nintendo Switch, PS Vita, PC, Linux, Mac)
The 2010’s were a decade fill with retro revivals, games designed to invoke the style of older eras of games that had long fallen by the wayside. Iconoclasts could be sorted into this group of games, but that discards a lot of what makes this particular game special. After spending most of the decade in the throws of development, Iconoclasts appeared on the scene a bit under the radar but blew us away with the themes on display and the overall quality of the production, twisting the ideas of a metroidvania platformer into something challenging and welcoming all at the same time. Iconoclasts carries the dedication and thesis of the sole developer Joakim Sandberg – that games made two decades ago can’t really be made today and their ideas must be updated– all the way to creating a new take on the definition of “retro revival.” [Travis Hymas]
44. Torchlight II (2012 – PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Mac, PC, Linux)
Torchlight II doesn’t reinvent the hack ‘n’ slash dungeon crawler wheel, but doesn’t really need to. The game is a great single-player experience, with a long campaign and solid replayability, with a few new elements that help set it apart from the pack. Of course, comparisons and contrasts between it and Diablo III have been made since both games dropped within months of each other in 2012, and Torchlight II gained a reputation as Diablo III for Diablo veterans who didn’t like the new game. Torchlight II‘s presentation is more inviting, it flows better, its monsters more varied, its play areas are much larger and the game doesn’t force you to be online when you play single player! Part of this is because developer Runic Games includes several Diablo/Blizzard alumni in their ranks, including musician Matt Uelmen, who delivers another classic, creepy, ambient folk soundtrack for this one in the mold of his music for the first two Diablo games. All four character classes are great and play very differently from one another, and unlike Diablo III, the player has more control on their skill trees for those class progressions. Everything Diablo III did well, Torchlight II did better. If you loved the first two Diablo games, but didn’t really feel the third installment, give Torchlight II a go. (You might even grow to consider it to be the real Diablo III.) [Ryan Gibbs]
43. Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011 – PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360)
The 2010s have seen plenty of games set in a bleak dystopian future, and lord knows that setting won’t be going away anytime soon. There’s likely a case to be made that the original Deus Ex released in 2000 was one of the titles that set the tone for other atmospheric action RPGs. What Eidos Montréal brought to the table, despite Human Revolution being a prequel to the first installment, is fine-tuning the universe and mechanics of the Deus Ex universe. Where the first two installments felt like clones of Half-Life and Halo respectively, Human Revolution brought its own unique style to the origins of grisled ex-SWAT officer Adam Jensen. Not only does the dark techno-heavy atmosphere fit the story of a big-shot tech company plotting a hostile takeover of society, but it widened the abilities afforded to the players. Human Revolution is a melting pot of gameplay options: Jensen can be a stealthy secret agent hiding in air ducts and snapping necks from behind, hack computer terminals to gain background on the story, or go in guns blazing. It gives Human Revolution endless replay value and shows one of the few truly great mergers of action and role-playing. Underneath all the darkened skies and black trenchcoats is a surprising amount of fun. [Jon Winkler]
42. Portal 2 (2011 – PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac, Linux)
The Portal series had humble beginnings, starting as a student project and becoming a bonus game for The Orange Box, Valve’s collection of games in 2007. However, the original game became an instant hit, and Portal 2 is exactly the sequel we needed, expanding on the original in an incredible way. The gameplay is similar to before: you shoot portals, solving puzzles and advancing through test chambers. This core is very well executed, with some of the best puzzles in gaming. The game consistently introduces new mechanics, from turrets to bouncy gel, to keep the puzzle variety interesting and fun. Gameplay is consistently incredible, but what makes Portal 2 truly timeless is the story. The game begins with your captured by a sardonic psychopath robot administrator, who forces you through sadistic puzzles for science. However, as the game progresses, you escape, journey through ruins, and do so many other things I won’t spoil here. There are hours of hilarious dialogue to add flavor, courtesy of the cast of Stephen Merchant, JK Simmons, Nolan North and of course Ellen McLain as GLADOS. Combined with the great environment design makes Portal 2 one of the best overall experiences in the history of gaming. If you haven’t played it yet, buckle in for one of the most incredible start-to-finish games of your life, and prepare to join the legions of people patiently (and futilely) waiting for Portal 3… and Half-Life 3… yep, still waiting. [Sam Carpenter]
41. Super Meat Boy (2010 – X360, PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, PSVita, Wii U, Switch)
Difficult games aren’t only hard to play, they’re hard to make correctly. Frustrating is not the same as fun, and if a game is too challenging it could deter players that would otherwise be happy customers. Super Meat Boy is the perfect example of a game that makes difficulty fun. It’s one of the best-feeling platformers on the market, with fluid and tight controls that combine with good level design to make the player feel as though the only thing standing between themselves and victory is their own skill.
Past that, each individual level is short enough to make sure that the player doesn’t get too frustrated by its endlessness, but long enough to make sure that they have what it takes to get through. When this all comes together, you get a game that’s tough as nails, but feels rewarding and fun to the player. Tie it all up with an amazingly unique art style, and you get a timeless classic that has inspired countless difficult games, including some on this list. Meat Boy slides into this list just like the title character slides past deadly obstacles, and we can’t wait for the sequel to come out. You can read our two interviews with Tommy Refenes, co-creator of Super Meat Boy about it’s upcoming sequel, here and here. [Sam Carpenter]
40. Rocket League (2015- PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PC, Linux, Mac)
Rocket League is fire.
39. Just Cause 3 (2015 – PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)
When playing a video game there are two mindsets that you can enter with. Either you’re ready to play the game as intended and follow the plot, or you go off the rails and explore on your own. The beauty of Just Cause 3 is that it is designed for both of these moods and excels at both styles of playing. The story is interesting, easy to follow, and fun to progress through. If you don’t feel like doing the missions, the map is gigantic and provides hours of free roaming opportunities for Rico Rodriguez to play with countless vehicles, weapons and do insane stunts. And that’s just the base game, with the addition of the DLC packs you get more missions (which are even more fun than the story missions) and insane new tech and vehicles to aimlessly navigate around the beautiful landscape. This game has something for everyone to sink their teeth into and is well worth price of admission and then some. [Tyler Carlsen]
38. Tekken 7 (2015 – PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Arcade)
The most popular 3D fighting games can easily be comparable to different forms of art that have evolved over the years. Soul Calibur games look like watercolor paintings with royal characters and lush stages, while Street Fighter presents itself like grisled street art bursting with attitude and intensity. Tekken is akin to a sculpture, with each entry from Bandai Namco chiseling its characters and arenas into finely-tuned showcases for brutal beatdowns. You’d think there’d be nothing left to buff out, but the franchise’s first use of the Unreal Engine somehow gives the franchise a swift kick in the ass. While the story remains as ludicrous and melodramatic as prior installments, the fighting mechanics are sharper and more impactful than ever before (especially with the Rage Art included as a new final critical attack).
The game is further complemented with the expected detailed fighting stages and some of the best in-game music in franchise history that’s at times gorgeous and pulse-pounding. The bread and butter of Tekken has been and still is its distinct characters and the customization options afforded to them. Series favorites including Yoshimitsu, Jin and Nina have their moves touched-up to be more fluid, while newcomers Claudio, Master Raven and Shaheen bring fresher fighting styles. All proof that there’s still new dimensions to craft in this marble statue (before you perform a wall attack that breaks into the next part of the stage). [Jon Winkler]
37. Bayonetta 2 (2014 – Switch, Wii U)
Some games on this list are here due to their impact on “gaming” as a whole, and others because of an innovation or perfection on a design.
But Bayonetta 2 is here because Bayonetta 2 is fun as all hell.
The first twenty minutes feature extended gunplay while riding on top of fighter jets. From there, the plot takes the Umbra Witch into crazier and more bizarre scenarios that serve as excuses for Bayonetta to do cool stuff and take down monstrous angels with equally monstrous demons – and it is genuinely awesome. Video games are special, and the past decade has made the medium deeper and thoughtful, but sometimes you just need a really good set of action sequences stringed together by a power fantasy protagonist so suggestive you barely believe she’s in a Nintendo exclusive and Bayonetta 2 delivers on exactly that. [Travis Hymas]
36. Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze (2014 – Wii U, Switch)
Man oh man, Evan gets to write about Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze? To start, Donkey Kong is amazing, of course, and Retro Studios is a beautifully talented bunch of bananas. It’s truly a blessing that Nintendo gave this game second life on the Nintendo Switch, because it is one of the highest quality platformers of their historic IP they’ve published in ages. Harkening back to the original Donkey Kong Country trilogy on the Super Nintendo made by RareWare, it only makes sense that the studio responsible for making the 21st century hotness that was the Metroid Prime trilogy would be worthy of revitalizing DK’s Co-op rampaging and quest for bananas.
Of course, both of Retro Studios’ Donkey Kong Country games are master classes in design, but Tropical Freeze not only has some of the best gameplay in a title featuringNintendo’s first legend, it does so without sacrificing artistic integrity. The new and classic music throughout the game combines with the colors, backgrounds, and classic chase sequences and barrel cannon rushes, create an inspirational sense of awe on par with some of the best animated feature films, and the immersive level design has an inner logic and functionality that evolve through the game beyond the simple run, jump and collect rhythm. The way the world changes, deconstructs, evolves and transitions between levels, boss battles and worlds feels so consistent that it feels like interacting with it has action and consequence, and of course, like any good platformer by Nintendo, it has replay value in spades.
And they added Funky Kong! [Evan Griffin]
35. Night in the Woods (2017 – PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One, Switch)
Is there any game that we’ve managed to show as much affection for as Night in the Woods on this website? It’s difficult to not feel incredibly attached to this game, given this site’s mission statement. While a lot of games in the 2010’s tugged at our heartstrings, it was this game that drilled down to the extremely real sensation of feeling trapped in a world ravaged by a generation prior to our own and unsure of how to move forward in that world. Night in the Woods doesn’t have an answer to that conflict, instead being what I’ve called it before: a comforting hug reminding you that you’re not alone in this mess of a world – we have each other. That’s a hard message to internalize – highlighted by revelations about the one of the game’s contributors and this title’s development – but that makes the empathy at the heart of Night in the Woods all the more important to hold on to. [Travis Hymas]
34. Dark Souls (2011 – PS3, Xbox 360, PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch)
Hidetaka Miyazaki followed up the criminally underplayed PlayStation exclusive Demon’s Souls, with Dark Souls: an expansion of the concept of the former rather than a true sequel. The result was a near perfect video game. Dark Souls comes with the reputation of its challenge. But rather than succumbing to my more natural inclinations, I bought into what this world was teaching me when I played it. Ultimately, that lesson was in patience. The game does not tell you how to do anything. You are free as the player to go anywhere, and see any place at any time…at your own peril. This is the hardest of hardcore role playing games out there because you, are given all of the agency. Once you understand the hook of of this notoriously unforgiving game, it does make sense, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. Even the most advanced of players can still lose to the simplest bundle of early skeleton creatures.
The moniker “Prepare to Die” is not a lie. You will die, A LOT. That is the point too. Death in Dark Souls is always a lesson on what not to do. While that may seem intimidating to newcomers, the sense of accomplishment and wonder to experience in Lordran is near unlimited. Each section of the game is designed in a meticulously loop, enemy designs and combat styles are masterfully balanced and varied as well as inherently monstrous, strange, and nightmarish at every turn, and on top of it all Miyazaki’s perfecting of the definition of “boss battle” in this game is unparalleled. Dark Souls is a big, overwhelming, difficult, and daunting task, but to conquer Lordran’s mysteries is to witness its beauty and to feel the great accomplishment with every lighting of a new bonfire.[Grant Jonsson]
33. Celeste (2018 – Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Linux, Mac)
Here’s the honest truth. When discussing what kind of indie games we should consider for our top 50 video games of an entire decade and being presented with an overwhelming amount of options that were not only spectacularly crafted projects from independent developers, but were also outrageously, mind-bogglingly hard, I championed MattMakesGames’ Celeste because I feel like it does these things better than the direct competition. If you’re upset that Cuphead did not make it on this list, I will take direct responsibility for such a mistake, but I genuinely believe Celeste is the superior successor to the “get good indie game” scene, jump started by Super Meat Boy in 2010.
Not only is the game technically sound, visually stunning and the music nostalgic auditory bliss, all being features in competition with even some of the best Mega Man games, the thing that allows Celeste to pull above the rest of the pack is how the gameplay rhythm, and difficulty curve, weave into the story themes. When confronted with adversity, with a dark version of herself chasing close behind, a giant mountain in front of her and everybody telling her she can’t achieve her goal while also being one of the only trans icons in gaming on top of that, persistent failure only keeps Madeline going, and you along with her on that journey. It allows us to be absolutely determined to crush that daunting mountain, and instead of insisting players to accept defeat or crush their thumbs trying, they give you a friendly accessibility mode to help you along but just in the ways you need it to. [Evan Griffin]
32. Dead Cells (2018 – Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Android, iOS, PC, Mac, Linux)
With gameplay that combines two of the most popular indie game styles of the decade, Dead Cells is a perfect balancing act between a fast-paced Metroidvania and a roguelike that requires critical thinking and decisions of which of the game’s myriad of weapons and traps suit your play style the best. There is a bit of a difficulty curve in the game, especially in the first few playthrough, but once a player settles into the groove of Dead Cells, its flow (especially when it comes to combat mechanics) really shine. Dead Cells is also a different game each time you play it, depending on which items and mutations you pick or which of the branching paths you choose. Its choice mechanics and fun gameplay make Dead Cells a game you can spend much of your afternoon playing and perfecting, or one you can pick up in bite sized chunks. No wonder that its best on the Nintendo Switch, a console that works great with both play styles. [Ryan Gibbs]
31. Dead By Daylight (2016 – PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Android, PC)
If we’re talking about longevity in the multiplayer gaming world, Dead by Daylight is killing it! (Get it?!) Players take on the role of survivors or killers: as survivors, you must work together to repair five generators to escape, while as the killer, you gotta slash and hook your victims to appease the “Entity.” It’s a simple structure of repair/kill, but it’s that core mechanic that leaves the possibilities endless, especially with the countless perks, abilities, items, and offerings available to alter the course of a match. And that’s what make it so special!
Dead by Daylight doesn’t have a concise plot, but as each new chapter and feature is added to the game, more of the story becomes clear. The game is shrouded in mystery and only online – and that’s a lot of the fun. Plus, with the release of new chapters, the experience changes to feature a different horror motif. Whether it’s fighting one of the core killers or utilizing a special chapter (i.e. Michael Myers from Halloween, Stranger Things, the Saw chapter, Leatherface, and more), the survival horror element comes across every match to live through your favorite horror movie. [Justin Carreiro]
30. Deadly Premonition (2010 – Nintendo Switch, PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
Deadly Premonition can best be described as an homage to Twin Peaks. Everything about the game is a love letter to the 1990s TV series. You play as an FBI agent sent to a small town to investigate a gruesome murder in the hopes of stopping The Raincoat Killer. Everyone in town is a suspect and it’s evident they all have campy secrets. (Sound familiar?)
For a budget game, Deadly Premonition packed A LOT in for players to enjoy. Side-missions, collectibles, an open-world format, a large cast of characters to interview, and a long murder mystery that spanned hours to solve. Granted, the graphics are older generation, but it’s the campiness of the game that made it all work together like it was part of a grander design. The cast had an off-beat charm and dialogue, the ghostly enemies were clunky and unsettling, and the driving portions were frustrating. Deadly Premonition is a cult game at its finest; it’s a moment in time that makes it special for all these reasons and more. [Justin Carreiro]
29. Persona 5 (2017 – PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4)
I’ll be the first to admit that JRPGs can be a slog. The grinding can be tedious, and it sometimes takes too damn long for a story to develop. Fortunately, Persona 5 is none of these things. It may have the slightest bit of grinding, but the path to leveling up is so fun that it doesn’t even seem like tedious side work.
Despite being the fifth title in the franchise, Persona 5 is the perfect jumping-off point for new players. It takes its time explaining the battle system, velvet room, and the numerous Personas you use in combat. However, there’s still plenty of material and easter eggs for loyal fans to get excited about.
However, as with other Persona titles, the shining aspects of this game are the relationships you develop. Over 100 hours, you spend time with these people and begin to think of these as your own friends. Side quests and simply spending time with your friends reveal more of their secrets, and suddenly they become these complex characters rather than just the typical sidekicks.
With the time management system, unique dungeon design, and nearly flawless story, Persona 5 outdoes its predecessors and leaves a remarkably high bar for the next title. [Yasmin Kleinbart]
28. NieR:Automata (2017 – PlayStation 4, PC)
I love NieR:Automata.
Even after one of gaming’s best decades to date, with hit after hit and the beckoning of Nintendo’s second golden age, I find my mind wandering back to a wonderfully janky character action game from the distant past of 2017. NieR:Automata is my pick for the “Little game that could” award for that year, a glorious gem of a game that (even though the PC port is unpatched damn near 3 YEARS later) holds up to everything that’s come since. Automata is jam packed with everything you could hope from a Platinum Studios X Yoko Taro collab: fantastic, stylish action, a deep and messed up story, and honest to god 26 endings. The breakneck pace in which the game throws curveballs at you is relentless, with the first major twist coming just after the tutorial, and the game switching genres on the fly. One minute, Automata is a third person action game, next it’s a bullet hell shooter, then again it’s a platforming racing game and even sometimes its a fishing game. Throw in a DLC in which you fight a tag team of Platinum and Square Enix’s CEO’s (That’s real, look it up) and NieR:Automata has a little bit of something for everyone.
TL;DR: PLAY NIER AUTOMATA. BECOME AS GODS.
(P.S. Square, for f**** sake, patch the PC version already.) [Miles Stanton]
27. Shovel Knight (2014 – FireOS, PC, 3DS, Switch, Mac, Linux, PS3, PS4, PSVita, Wii U, XOne)
There’s always been a market for nostalgic games, with pixel graphics, eight-bit music, and simple but rich gameplay. Unfortunately, most nostalgia titles end up being too derivative to make an impact. Luckily for us, Shovel Knight is incredibly original, even though it looks like something from the NES days. Although it draws inspiration from some of the greatest classic games, from Mega Man to Ninja Gaiden, Shovel Knight brings so much fluid and fun gameplay that it’s become a classic in its own right. With a killer soundtrack, great platforming, and massive amounts of free DLC to keep the fun going, Shovel Knight easily takes its place as one of the best classic platformers to date. [Sam Carpenter]
26. Fire Emblem: Awakening (2013 – Nintendo 3DS)
There was Fire Emblem before Awakening came out, and then there was Fire Emblem after. While many long time fans were at first frustrated by the franchise turning towards the “casual,” the design shift brought in for Awakening not only broke down the barrier to entry, it made it easier for players to enjoy the relationships characters were building together. Since the game would reveal itself to have a time travel plot twist that let players see and recruit the children of their units, one that would have been a lot of a harder sell in a permadeath only game. Instead, Awakening makes the most of its changes and radically changed the fate of the franchise, stands as one of the best 3DS games ever made, and got way too many folks into Super Smash Bros.
Oh and just turn permadeath back on if you want, it’s fine. [Travis Hymas]
25. Hollow Knight (2017- Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox One)
In the era of real-time ray tracing and motion tracking, it can be difficult to make a game make a game stand out with truly breathtaking graphics. However, Team Cherry has done just that with Hollow Knight, a shining star in a collection of excellent platformers in the last few years. It’s a perfect example of games as an art form, as well as an exceptionally good Metroidvania.
The game is dark and moody, and the mottled blues and grays of the beautiful art perfectly convey it. The characters spring to life and enemies are as threatening as they are cute. The beautiful art is supported by fascinating lore and a story that starts simply but becomes an epic and winding tale into the darkest depths of the underground. The underground is a wide-reaching place of adventure, where the unnamed protagonist must travel through ancient ruins of fallen civilizations and untamed nature alike. Inventive mechanics slowly crescendo to create highly complex and rewarding gameplay. It’s a difficult game, but everything about it makes the challenge oh-so-worth-it, which is why we thing it’s the best of it’s kind of game, but also unlike any other. [Sam Carpenter]
24. Spec Ops: The Line (2012 – PC, Mac, PS3, Xbox 360)
You can always tell when a game development team hasn’t played this game, but it should be mandatory for anyone looking to make a first person shooter. Famously based on the literary classic Heart of Darkness, this reboot of Spec Ops was a grim mirror put up to the most popular (and still huge) genre of the first half of the 2010’s, a meta critique of the medium’s love of the military long before many got tired of the military shooter. While there are slightly different endings and a requisite multiplayer mode, you only ever have to play this game once – all it takes is one time through the requests it will make of you to reframe the entire genre, if not the very idea of games giving you a mission, forever. [Travis Hymas]
23. Resident Evil 7 (2017 – PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch (JPN), Xbox One, PC, IBM PC)
The Resident Evil series returned to its horror roots with one of its scariest games ever. Resident Evil 7 brings players to a first-person POV as you try to survive against a creepy family and a supernatural young girl, while investigating the mystery of your missing wife. You get plenty of the Resident Evil mainstays you love, like saving on typewriters, completing puzzles, and exploring creepy locations. It’s a back-to-form for the series.
Horror is what makes this a must-have game for the decade: Resident Evil 7 legitimately feels scary at times. Jump-scares, terrifying enemies, and a true feeling of survival horror (i.e., limited ammo and health supplies) fuel the experience as you try to survive the deranged family. You can shake off the worries of the RE action timeline – that’s now in the past. [Justin Carreiro]
22. The Witness (2016 – PS4, Android, Xbox One, iOS, PC, Mac, Nvidia Shield TV)
As if Jonathan Blow’s work with his breakout indie title Braid wasn’t enough, The Witness breezed on by like a passing storm overnight, leaving dizzy players in its wake. There are a number of games through the decade we might recall driving us mad, causing us to sink hours upon hours into them, but few were as an immersive, as immaculately structured as this. The confounding mystery of waking up on an island after a seemingly apocalyptic event and nothing to do but wander around solving increasingly complex maze puzzles with very little structure to its tutorial, entrusting the player to be smart enough to discover the meaning of the logic and rules, as you venture deeper into the intertwined labyrinthian Island. The Witness takes what people remember about Myst 30 years ago, and drives them up a wall with challenging mystique, but y’know, more calmly than I just described.
The world design and color palette are quiet, absorbing, meditative and occasionally haunting, with technological progress not only showing the island’s literal connection to nature in some puzzles, but also some otherworldly overgrowth. This game is like turning the city of Pompeii into an escape room for one. Something so simple gave me some of the greatest comunal gameplay experiences with friends I’ve had in ages, and maybe made me look like a madman scribbling notes and line puzzle into a notebook, but it all resulted in an incredible sense of pride when you’re able to solve a corner of the mystery, coming up for air from isolation. [Evan Griffin]
21. The Binding of Isaac (2011 – PC, Mac, PS4, Vita, Xbox One, Wii U, 3DS, Switch)
Edmund McMillen’s work appears twice on this list, and for good reason. McMillen and the people he draws in to work on games have a keen eye for what makes classic games great and how to make them relevant today. Isaac is a perfect example – Zelda inspired, classic roguelike play, but pushed to a whole new dimension. Throughout multiple updates, expansions, ports, and full on remakes throughout the decade, Isaac remains infinitely replayable even before you consider the entrenched religious symbolism repurposed and reframed in a truly bold and shocking fashion. Serving as both a critique and catharsis, McMillen’s warped take on religion begs to be picked apart and analyzed; not entirely negative, while also clearly not an endorsement – and just familiar enough to be terrifying. If all of that wasn’t enough, Isaac was able to accomplish what was once thought impossible – breaking down the prudish and decades old rules about religious imagery in games to get Isaac to Nintendo platforms, paving the way for more bold indies to follow on the platform’s eShops. [Travis Hymas]
20. Minecraft (2011 – PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, PS3, X360, Xone, PS4, Raspberry Pi, Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, Switch, Java, PSVita, FireOS)
Minecraft is a game that needs no introduction. It’s the best-selling game of all time, and one of the most instantly recognizable thanks to its unique voxel style. Minecraft drops the player right in the middle of a harsh, unforgiving world filled with monsters and lava, and makes them survive in a world that wants them to fail. However, the world is also filled with breathtaking nature, friendly animals, populated villages, and of course, diamonds. It’s also a world of possibility – especially in the game’s Creative Mode, the only limit to what you can build is your imagination. The immense world of Minecraft, with the freedom it affords you and the trials it throws at you, make it one of the greatest games ever made. It is a lasting classic, and one that will certainly be as big or bigger for years or decades to come. [Sam Carpenter]
19. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (2016 – PlayStation 4)
For four games, we have been traveling all over the world with Nathan Drake, and we couldn’t ask for a better tour guide. With his goofy humor and apparent flaws, he was both well-rounded and relatable. Uncharted 4 brings us the conclusion of Nathan’s journey and shows us just how much we will miss his shenanigans.
At the beginning of A Thief’s End, Nathan has left the exploring life for the married life with his longtime adventuring companion, Elena. He lives in a lovely suburban house and works for a salvage company to pay the bills. But when his long-lost brother, Sam, shows up with a daunting task of finding the lost treasure of a pirate captain, Nathan realizes that he still craves his old life.
Seeing as this is the fourth title in the franchise, Naughty Dog could have phoned it in, but they did quite the opposite. Naughty Dog is one of the world’s most respected gaming developers, and their commitment to producing quality content doesn’t cease in Uncharted 4. The script remains as heartfelt and funny as previous installments, if not moreso, and the cutscenes are as cinematic as ever, and character arcs made even more cathartic and emotionally tethered to its cast.
Even the ending, which could have hinted at future titles, felt final and concrete. It told us that “Uncharted is done, and thanks for being on this journey with us.” It’s hard to think of a better ending than that. [Yasmin Kleinbart]
18. Halo: Reach (2010 – Xbox 360, Xbox One)
Bungie has lost a lot of its luster this decade thanks to the unfulfilled promises of Destiny and Destiny 2. But at the start of the decade, the developer said goodbye to their beloved Halo franchise by completing the backstory of their game-changing cash cow in an incredibly-satisfying way. After years of hearing Master Chief and co. tell tales of the Covenant’s first grand strike against the UNSC, Bungie threw gamers into the military apocalypse that was the Fall of Reach. Playing as a mute Spartan joining the NOBLE team of elite commandos, players trek through the futuristic military stronghold as it starts to be covered in explosions and alien blood. One minute you’re climbing the towering Sword Base to make coms, the next you’re charging head-first into a battle, only to then be shot into outer space for a quick intergalactic dog fight before crashing back down to New Alexandria for another gunfight. Of course Reach has the expected distinguished Covenant baddies, weapon choices and intense first-person shooter presentation. What makes it stand out is its massive scale and a greater focus on the little guys on the frontlines. The NOBLE team doesn’t have a Master Chief to do everything expertly better than all the foot soldiers of the UNSC, so you’re on the frontlines taking the grunt of the Covenant invasion. You feel the dwindling hope in the story and see the crumbling of the world around you. And that whammy of a final stage is both a depressing yet fitting send-off for Bungie’s work: a lone wolf against the world. Bungie’s personal send off to Halo was not only satisfying, it was one of the best prequels across most mediums. [Jon Winkler]
17. Skyrim (2011- PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch)
You would be hard-pressed to see anyone that hasn’t dumped over 500 hours into The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. For a game that was released over nine years ago, the community around it has not diminished slightly, as it has been famously ported to every platform save for a toaster. The world of Skyrim has led to thousands of players experiencing gorgeous fantasy landscapes and immersive hand-crafted dungeons. So many moments in the game are made through decisions that the player decides and there are no real restrictions on how the game is meant to be played.
Skyrim set the standard for open-world, sandbox RPG’s in this decade. It’s best moments come at times when the music swells up and you’re able to soak in all of its majestic horizons and catch a dragon willing its way across the map. [Mark Wesley]
16. Fallout: New Vegas (2010 – PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Obsidian’s entry into the Fallout universe has quickly become one of the most celebrated releases in the game’s extensive catalog. The trademark social irony and expertly crafted environments meet all of the standard Fallout tropes. However, what makes New Vegas great is the attention to detail that Obsidian puts into the writing, mission structure and characters of the Mohave. Quests in this game take you to meet new and interesting factions like the NCR or Caesar’s Legion, where you will have to make decisions that will directly impact the world around you. The new reputation system gives way for players to roleplay even more effectively as well.
The Mojave Wasteland is just teeming with fascinating locations like Jacobstown, an old snow resort that is now the resident of the territory’s Super Mutants and Nightkin, or the New Vegas strip that is full of corruption and shady characters. On the whole, it manages to impress on a basic aesthetic level. The game truly shines when looking at the layers underneath and finding out the history behind the different locations. This is what ultimately separates New Vegas from the rest of the Fallout games. [Mark Wesley]
15. Until Dawn (2016 – PlayStation 4)
Think you can survive a teen slasher flick? Until Dawn puts you to the test. Set as an interactive horror movie, you play as multiple teens in a snowy cabin as they try to survive a masked figure and mysterious creatures. The decisions you make affect “The Butterfly Effect,” a game mechanic that alters the plot of the story, how relationships are formed with other characters, and whether players will live or die in the movie. Make one wrong move and your character will die gruesomely. (Looking at you, Emily!)
Until Dawn is how to do interactive storytelling right. The characters come across as real people with their own unique personalities, and each one fits the mold of the horror cliché: the jock, the Final Girl, the geek, the drama queen, the promiscuous couple, and so on. The game embraces its horror cheesiness. And with an in-depth horror movie plot, there’s enough time to learn about the characters and grow with them. There needs to be a sequel ASAP! [Justin Carreiro]
14. Batman Arkham City (2011 – PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, Mac, PC)
The Arkham series is the gem of the Batman video game legacy, but it’s the second title in the story, Batman: Arkham City, that takes the cake. Set in the fictionalized world of Gotham City, you play as Batman as he tries to stop a criminal uprising in a new quarantined criminal neighborhood in Gotham called, “Arkham City.” Supervillains like Joker, Harley Quinn, Hugo Strange, Mr. Freeze, The Riddler, and more have taken over.
Batman: Arkham City improved upon the controls of the previous Batman: Arkham Asylum and made the experience a thrilling ride! You get the best Batman experience: the combo fighting mechanics flow seamlessly together to pack every punch, Batman’s arsenal of weapons is super-packed, and you get to solve crimes in his investigator mode. Plus, the story in Batman: Arkham City is incredible! None of the supervillains felt arbitrary or redundant; each one played its purpose and pushed the plot forward to an explosive climax. This is one open-world that you should replay again and again. [Justin Carreiro]
13. Red Dead Redemption (2010 – PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Unlike its sequel, Red Dead Redemption doesn’t sacrifice its brisk pace and traversal for real world immersion – even now at nearly ten years old, this remains one of the decades finest action experiences. There’s a consistent sense of urgency and thematic weight to the narrative, but gameplay and pace are always prioritized above all other facets. Pushing the limits of what was possible early in the life cycle of Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, RockStar animated their characters delicately in a way that granted the design longevity. John Marston and his dead posse interact with turn of the century Texas and Mexico as if these regions are living, breathing entities in the world of Red Dead Redemption, in a map that is large, but not overwhelming, and with places and people to interact with that keep the world feeling just sparse enough that you still feel immersed in the Chihuahuan Desert – so as to immerse the player with not only raw bloody action, but with earned moments of poignancy. [Dylan Griffin]
12. The Last of Us (2013 – PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4)
The world is lost, gone to the Cordyceps fungus in Naughty Dog’s 2013 post-apocalypse adventure. Survival of humankind lies in Joel (Troy Baker) and Ellie (Ashley Johnson) stealthing their way around clickety infecteds or combative scavengers. Sneaking, not rushing — that’s the noteworthy thing here. In an industry that churns out games, and most times with gameplay at an annual rate with repetitive nature, the measured, deliberate pace in The Last of Us is both a breath of fresh air and the best way for every “A” of the production’s “AAA”-ness to envelop players, including but not limited to: a gripping story about civility lost (and humanity gained), beautiful performances, terrifying creature and environmental designs, and a score (from Gustavo Santaolalla) that evokes everything through the simplest of compositions. Doesn’t matter whether you still have a PlayStation 3, or if you download it remastered on the PlayStation 4, or in 4K on a PlayStation 4 Pro (you lucky duck), make sure the first game you play on Sony’s platform absolutely is The Last of Us. [Nguyen Le]
11. God of War (2018 – PlayStation 4)
The God of War series was known for its brutal violence with twin chained blades, heavy use of ancient mythology and deities, and the main character Kratos murdering gods like they were bugs on a windshield. In 2018’s reboot/sequel to the early 2000’s series of games, God of War follows a much different version of the Kratos fans have come to know, and has evolved him into a multi-dimensional character. He’s older, he has a new wife and a son, he has a cool new axe, and he’s living in Norway, burying his past. This game gets the player comfortable with this new Kratos, and his new fighting style, more calculated, slower, and less bull-headed. He’s now strategic, and he has the addition of his son (also known as BOY!) to join in the fight and give support by his side. Soon enough, Kratos kills again with new intents and purposes, all with a continuous camera shot throughout, and the direct narrative of bringing his wife’s ashes to the top of the mountain and give himself and his son closure. Despite his efforts, the gods of Norse mythology can’t help but meet the end of Kratos’s axe. The story is very well written and definitely a welcome change from the original games, the gameplay and combat are both significantly improved, and the environments are gorgeous to look at and explore even after the story is complete. This game is worth the investment for true God of War lovers and for new players who are starting the series with this game. [Tyler Carlsen]
10. Super Smash Bros Ultimate (2018 – Nintendo Switch)
One of the most hyped games of last year, and the hypest DLC cycle in modern gaming, Super Smash Brothers Ultimate definitely lives up to expectations. As its name suggests, it is truly the ultimate Smash Bros game in every way. The title brings back every character to ever have appeared in a Smash title and adds eleven new characters, coming in at over seventy playable fighters with many more on the way. Each character feels unique, with fluid controls and dynamic mechanics that let this game play more smoothly than any other in the series. The basic fighting matches that the game revolves around are supplemented by an expansive single-player campaign called World of Light, which brings in over a thousand extra characters as Spirits to help you battle your way through a series of rich, unique battles, turning the party game turned competitive fighter into something of an RPG! Truly amazing, that Sakurai. The online gameplay was rocky on release but is solid now, and multiplayer really adds to such a big game. Ultimate’s gameplay is rounded out by the inclusion of bonus features, such as the option to customize almost any aspect of play, to listen to over eight hundred songs from a multitude of games, and create your own playlists. With amazing gameplay and an unbelievable amount of content Smash Ultimate is a shoo-in for our number ten slot. [Sam Carpenter]
9. Telltale’s The Walking Dead Season One (2012)
If you ever wondered what it would feel like to live through the zombie apocalypse, TellTale’s The Walking Dead captures the heart and torment of this bleak reality. Inspired by the graphic novel, you play as Lee, a man thrown into the mix of the zombie chaos as he tries to keep a little girl, Clementine, alive. Later seasons, you play as Clementine as she grows up around the walkers, but the impact of her relationship with Lee over the course of Season 1 is a complete and fulfilling experience on it’s own, and has yet to be topped by other story-driven games like this.
What’s amazing about the game is that it feels like an interactive story in the most immersive ways. The choices you make as Lee (and Clementine) have serious consequences that alter the progression of the story and how characters interact with you. People like you, people hate you, and depending on specific moments, characters could live or die longer across several chapters. The stakes mean something in this story, and possibly more so than even in other stories in The Walking Dead franchise, let alone the genre.
And out of all the seasons, the first season is perfection. Each character is well-developed and given their unique personality, the action ramps up consistently, and the emotional twists pull on the heartstrings. Try to tell me you didn’t tear up at the end when Clementine said goodbye to a dying Lee? That moment is a heartbreaker. [Justin Carreiro]
8. Titanfall 2 (2016 – PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)
The latter half of the decade has seen most first-person shooters blend together in a loud grey mush without many new distinguishing features. It’s as if Call of Duty, Battlefield, Counter-Strike and others camouflage each other in a seemingly-endless blitz of cosmetic upgrades and headshots. But leave it to Jason West and Vince Zampella, who helped create Call of Duty, to start another studio and inject some much-needed fun to the FPS genre. While Respawn Entertainment merely had a rough draft on their hands with the first Titanfall in 2014, Titanfall 2 is a fully-blossomed romp into futuristic, intergalactic absurdity.
In a story campaign that James Cameron would likely be jealous of, you’re a soldier fighting for a militia that is somehow protecting the environment of outer space by shooting things and fighting with giant robots (in an environmentally-friendly way, I’m assuming). Titanfall 2 has some of the smoothest, most fluid movement in an FPS thanks to the wall-running mechanics and boosters on the soldier and the robots. Speaking of which, seeing giant mech gameplay merge so well with the on-foot shooting reopens the doors of possibilities of what FPS games can do. The Titans themselves all have fun individual abilities to test out on the campaign and use expertly during online multiplayer. Instead of dilapidated sand pits and half-baked jungle settings, Titanfall 2’s stages inside a crashed spaceship and vast factory are set up to be like a playground for players to slide, jump, cover and run through. There’s a reason why fans are holding their breath for the future of Apex Legends and next week’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, because Respawn proved they deserve to keep testing the possibilities of shooters. [Jon Winkler]
7. Undertale (2015 – Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PC, PlayStation Vita, Linux, Mac)
Every once in a while, a truly amazing indie game comes along and changes gaming forever. It doesn’t get much more indie than Undertale, a game created almost entirely by composer and developer Toby Fox. The game’s combat system seeks to improve on a standard turn-based RPG, by adding more options than just violence. Undertale allows you to negotiate, intimidate, flirt, and just about anything else with the wide cast of wacky characters. Nobody has to die while you play, and how much violence you decide to cause can significantly change the ending.
This unique system is complemented by a rich, hilarious world that feels better than any other game I’ve played to date. Each character instantly becomes lovable and unique, with a perfect juxtaposition of hilarious dialogue and the occasional emotional scene. The world is the most important part of Undertale, with tons of places and people to explore and enjoy. It’s also reinforced by surprisingly deep lore that can be revealed over multiple playthroughs, or just enjoyed with one. Undertale is the ultimate indie game, with insanely inventive mechanics and a quirkily fun world, placing it squarely into our top ten. [Sam Carpenter]
6. Super Mario Odyssey (2017 – Nintendo Switch)
Is there anything that Mario can’t do at this point? He’s conquered giant monkeys, driven cars, played sports, jumped into paintings, flown through space and even saved a civilization with nothing more than a fancy water hose. Every time Nintendo releases a new Mario game, the endurance of everyone’s favorite plumber is tested. How many more barriers can Mario break? With Super Mario Odyssey, Nintendo once again threw caution to the wind by trying to merge the grounded presentation found in Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine with the expansive creativity in the Super Mario Galaxy series. The result is the best of both worlds, refining Mario’s platforming origins for the modern age while also being one of the most creative in series history.
Every stage in Odyssey is filled with lush colors, distinct background characters, gorgeous music and a plethora of discoverable goodies. Cascade Kingdom, Wooded Kingdom and Seaside Kingdom beam with relaxing atmosphere and fun exploration segments. Metro Kingdom is a heartfelt throwback to Mario’s origins while also containing one of the best pieces of Mario music since his Mario 64 theme. There’s even a kingdom where Mario is randomly in Dark Souls for some reason! The other major booster to Odyssey is Cappy, Mario’s new multipurpose BFF who can do anything from boost Mario’s jumps to take over the bodies of others (ah mind control, what a gas!). So the question still stands: Is there anything Mario can’t do? Odyssey doesn’t have an answer, but it does prove that Nintendo isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. [Jon Winkler]
5. Grand Theft Auto V (2013 – PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)
Wealth is a regular in Rockstar’s universe, but in this 2013 blockbuster it has never looked better or possessed more significance. The way to prove that (and, in retrospect, it’s the most ideal) is to give players three roles to embody — Michael (Ned Luke), Franklin (Shawn Fonteno) and Trevor (Steven Ogg) — each with a different way to make you laugh, cringe and recognize that the dollar doesn’t affect everybody the same way. One touch of a button and it will be “more money, more problems,” “more money, more might” or “more money, more enemies,” all of which takes place in a gorgeously remodeled San Andreas and to an as-always excellently curated soundtrack (that Tangerine Dream headlined). Then there’s also the multiplayer component that sees each update a reason to boot up and link up, for example conquering the city’s nightclub scene with Gay Tony. Among the thousands of things you forget every day, that — and the entire game, in the bigger picture — is something you wouldn’t want to. [Nguyen Le]
4. Mass Effect 2 (2010 – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
With Mass Effect 2, Bioware avoided the sophomore slump and helped to create one of the best sequels in all of gaming. The mythos and lore of the Mass Effect franchise were beautifully crafted and full of conflicts that forced the player to consider something different than a simple binary choice. The sequel took the admittedly dated gameplay of the original Mass Effect and modernized it. It serves as not only a great story-driven game, but a better-than-solid third-person shooter experience. The combat experience was improved ten-fold offering new ammo types and a revamp of the old classes. Shepard moves around the arena smoothly with slick new cover mechanics and abilities to help him maneuver.
Mass Effect‘s story saw the breadth of its potential in the second game. Squad and family have always been important themes within the Mass Effect games.The entry of the new antagonists, Illusive Man and Cerberus, offer a whole new perspective in the whole of humanity in the far future. Returning favorites like Tali, Garrus and Joker bring a familiarity to the game, but the new cast of wonderfully written characters is also a pleasant welcome. When the climax of the game comes around, it’s your relationship with your squad that gets you through the iconic Suicide Mission. It’s the core of all Mass Effect games and it shines brightest here. [Mark Wesley]
3. Marvel’s Spider-Man (2018 – PlayStation 4)
For any fan of 2004’s Spider-Man 2 on PS2, your dream of a game that brings back that feeling of wonder and excitement you’ve been missing has finally come. Spider-Man is by far one of the best superhero video games ever and from the very first level will flood players with nostalgic feelings from their golden days of web swinging around a PS2 quality NYC, but now in pretty PS4 golden hour sun. Along with that beautiful quality, the game is visually stunning and provides gameplay that will make you feel like a web-slinging machine as you take down Spidey’s greatest foes. The story of this game deserves to be its own film and is better than a lot of the actual Spider-Man films. This game will make you smile until your face hurts, punch the ceiling with excitement, and maybe even cry like a baby (that ending…) while leaving room for future playthroughs. Even when the story is over there are more awesome suits to unlock, cool gadgets to build, and DLC missions to play that add to the overall story. This game will definitely be this decade’s Spider-Man 2 and will be referenced for years to come. [Tyler Carlsen]
2. DOOM (2016 – PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC)
Doom fans were understandably still wary about whether this reboot was going to deliver what they were looking for right up until release, myself included. That wariness dissipated for any fan as soon as they got their hands on it and returned to Mars for the unadulterated, messy, and gore filled cacophonic orgasm of violence that is 2016’s Doom. This game is fast, frenetic, overwhelming, bombastic, and pure chaos in every way imaginable. It demands that you play recklessly and always on the move. To stand still is to ensure certain death.
Every moment of this game is deliberately injected with pure action fun, and the story, while not the game’s strength, is interesting and captivating enough to tie it all together. id Software has delivered a masterclass in guiding its player through the game as the difficulty increases. They achieved this through excellent level design, progression, and enemy type variety. New weapons that you find in the world are always tied to a new enemy type being introduced coming up and that weapon is delivered to you because it will greatly assist with taking down that new enemy. The cherry on top? Each strategy I learned from the different encounters and how the game mixed and matched its enemy types, informed my success the closer and closer I got to the end of the game. id Software were the originators of the first person shooter genre, and with Doom 2016, they reminded us why. [Grant Jonsson]
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017 – Wii U, Nintendo Switch)
Nintendo forcibly redefined the Zelda formula through introspection, with a desire to revolutionize the conventions of a 30 year old, acclaimed franchise. In a word, “exploration” was the key mission statement for this installment – and has since been hailed as a “landmark in open world design”. We see Link interact with Hyrule and its varying ecosystems, communities and religions, journeying in between the vast, detailed but solemnly simple landscapes and mountains with gentle piano sweeping across our speakers like the wind over the grass.
For a franchise about a story eternally retold across generations of lifetimes and Nintendo consoles, there’s always a moment where it unexpectedly evolves. From A Link to the Past in 1991, and from Ocarina of Time in 1998, The Legend of Zelda reaches these landmark points on which the series defines itself for a couple of decades, and the rest of the industry quickly chases after the magic it encapsulated. In a way, Breath of the Wild is the most like the original 1986 game than any other while simultaneously being the game in the series to feel the most like it’s competition in a decade filled with open world content in Skyrim, The Witcher and so on. Still, Breath of the Wild is so natural, so historic and so filled with life that it came out the other side of development like something new. [Evan Griffin]