That Shelf asked a few of our writers to help compile a list of what they thought were the Best Games of the Decade. Dozens of games that stood out for what they did and how creative the games were at the time of launch.
While it doesn’t feel like much has changed over the last decade, it is in fact, the opposite. We’ve seen the rise and fall of many companies, consoles, and mechanics that plagued the industry. Online Passes turned into Season Passes, the rise of the loot box, and now microtransactions to name a few. We met the seventh generation of consoles with the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Wii U, Nintendo Switch. Games have become a service and companies are taking fewer chances on new properties to focus on profits.
Mass Effect 2
This one is not a hard choice at all. I had not actually played the first Mass Effect at the point when Mass Effect 2 came out. It was suggested to me by a friend in journalism school who described it as being “Dragon Age in Space with battle mechanics that feel like Halo on stims. Bioware and EA Vancouver put a lot of emphasis on letting fans of the original have their voice, and the success of that shows in this game that very much honours existing fans and brings in new fans. It’s a shame that the trend didn’t carry over to the third instalment until much later!
Fallout: New Vegas
Following Fallout 3, Obsidian was brought on board to create a new Fallout game. Enter New Vegas, the only game in the series I’ve bought more than once and as gifts for others. The story of the Courier is to this day unmatched within the series and offers the most complete experience of modern Fallout games. Sure the combat isn’t the best and comes with tons of jankiness, and many bugs plagued the game throughout the experience but the writing and the characters are so damn good.
Feel free to call me a fake gamer right now, but I hate platformer games! As someone who barely has enough coordination to put on his pants in the morning, I hate when games require precision. I gave Playdead’s bleak-but-beautiful platformer a shot after I got it for making a Humble donation. The next four hours of my day went by so fast! I was hooked by the total lack of story. I kept asking myself what was going on — even though I did not need an answer. Most platformers are infuriating to me. Limbo kept me calm with fantastic music and a silent encouragement that everything will turn out fine. You know, until the game makes you see otherwise!
Leave it to EA to be masters of competition. I mean, Madden has long run as the only AAA American football simulator. FIFA has long outshone any major competitors. They lost the battle for Basketball games, but it’s hardly a big L for company. Skate 3 ran directly against the legend that is Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and for a short while, took the board right from under that series. At a time when skateboarding games were sorely lacking for story-driven excitement, Skate 3 gave us the punks-on-boards equivalent of Footloose. Skateboarding is all about balance, and that’s what Skate 3 did so well. There was an exciting and realistic world to shred, but there was also a great online environment to take on as well.
Batman: Arkham City
I grew up a hardcore Batman fan, so when Batman: Arkham Asylum came out, I was all over the game. However, Batman: Arkham Asylum pretty quickly becomes confining. Try being locked up in an asylum, there isn’t very much freedom. Batman: Arkham City aimed to change that by giving you a whole city to run and glide around. It also gave you a ton of significant landmarks to play around in, challenges to complete, and easter eggs to find. Much like Mass Effect 2, Batman Arkham City is an example of a franchise at it’s best — it’s exactly what fans were asking for.
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
JRPGs are also so similar. You`ve got the same pool of hero types going on the same sort of quest to banish the same sort of villain. And yet, regardless of the tropes they use, a lot of us North American gamers seem to enjoy them. But when we were introduced to Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch in 2011, the conventions changed. This game is beautiful thanks to the hard work of Studio Ghibli in helping Level-5 design, animate, and present a world that felt like that of the Miyazaki we all fell in love with. Like many JRPGs before it, this was one that featured a coming of age story. But it was a refreshing one because it was not quick to shed its childhood innocence. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch got a re-release this year, and it’s strong sales numbers are proof that this game — much like the films that inspired it — is timeless.
In 2012, Arkane Studios released Dishonored, a game in which you were truly free to explore and engage the city of Dunwall. The fantasy-world of Dishonored allows player freedom and traditional gameplay elements took a backseat to creative expression. There was no one good way to take on enemies and that idea carried on through to the end and into Dishonored 2.
The series also introduces some of the best open-ended level design I’ve ever seen and allows the player to plan and execute their ideal scenario of taking an enemy down. No playthrough is the same and that’s something more games need to offer.
As of the end of 2019, I have logged more than 1,735 hours of Diablo 3. I’ve created and named dozens of wizards, monks and demon hunters, dispatched hundreds of thousands of enemies, and frequently questioned how much of the outside world I may have missed as a result.
But no matter how minuscule the updates, no matter how many times I’ve done it before, I always come back. It’s the perfect, mostly-old-school hack ‘n’ slash game you could ask for. And kudos should be given to Blizzard for tweaking and overhauling entire underpinnings of the loot and mission system after its famously disastrous 2012 launch.
What happens when an already perfect indie game becomes one of the best ports? You get Cave Story+. In 2011, Daisuke Amaya worked with indie accelerator Nicalis to bring the web’s best-kept secret to the wider gaming audience. Suddenly, we were introduced to some of the most memorable characters, some of the best platforming elements, and one of the coolest pixel worlds in gaming. Granted there wasn’t much to improve upon, the second edition of the game made the story much easier to follow thanks to better translations. But the care put into improving the graphics and translation made Cave Story+ one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in gaming.
This is the first indie title I’ll put on this list. Hotline Miami is a game that my at-the-time roommate and I got in a Humble Bundle, and we instantly fell in love with it. It had the feel of the old top-down Grand Theft Auto games with the gritty, often grimey, storytelling only a game with no upward oversight can achieve. I can recall the game not always running smoothly, but for a game programmed by one man, and overall worked on by two people, Hotline Miami stood out in a masterclass of games that renewed series like James Bond and Need For Speed. And also gave us some huge AAA titles like Darksiders II, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and Spec Ops: The Line.
Faster Than Light
This indie gem is my Minesweeper. And by that, I mean that it’s often sitting idle in the corner of my screen at all times — ready to help me procrastinate. Faster Than Light is the ultimate space opera adventure game. You get to control a crew of humans and aliens, each with unique abilities, and pilot one of several different ships with just as many different layouts. What I love most about this roguelike excursion is its replayability. There is a challenge that’s constant and nearly impossible to master. Anything can happen in the deep reaches of space. And should you make it to the end of the map, chances are slim you’re going to come out of the boss battle alive.
We’ve all had our moments when gaming where the frustration is too much. A boss that has our ticket punched, a section of enemies grating our nerves, and the worst – a section of a game where it just doesn’t want to work how we want it to.
Then you have a series like Dark Souls which is now synonymous with difficulty. Except for the way the series works is that learning attack patterns, learning when to block or parry are the key components to a successful run.
FromSoftware’s grim fantasy worlds date back to King’s Field on PlayStation but it wasn’t until Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls that the genius behind these games came to life.
I grew up living right next to a ski hill, so my childhood was spent on skis and a snowboard. I also grew up with a little brother and a bunch of stepbrothers and friends who also were on the hills. So it’s only natural that there were always extreme snowboard challenges held between us all. But when the snow melted, the heated antics usually headed to the hills of an SSX game. Now, SSX, the 2012 reboot isn’t a great game, but it filled the void for arcade-style snowboarding games. I felt it at the time because I’d been living in Toronto for just about three years at the game’s release. And as is often the case with living in the city, I hadn’t been snowboarding much at all, so I was craving something that felt similar.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a game of great skill, great patience, and… Screw it! XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a game of significant loss. Few words can be used to describe the loss you feel in the game that is safe for me to write in this. But the reason this game is so enduring is that you want to be the best you can be at it so that Private McMuffin becomes Colonel McMuffin. XCOM: Enemy Unknown forces you to race against the timer of an alien threat to improve your squad. What you do off the battlefield is just as important as what you do on it, and that’s what makes XCOM: Enemy Unknown so much fun. You have to weigh every option because, at the end of the day, Colonel McMuffin may be the world’s only hope.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Aside from Persona 3, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is the most impactful game I’ve ever played. In a long-running series where the stories and gameplay up to this game’s point had been both wildly out there and limited at the same time, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag refined the series. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a good pirate’s tale? This game reduced the confusing lore of Ubisoft’s foremost franchise’s lore to a simple story of a sea-faring marauder’s adventure to do enough good and earn enough money to settle down with his daughter — and just enough of the story of the Abstergo Entertainment employee tasked with putting it together.
Pokémon X and Y
Generation 6 was the best time for Pokémon — fight me. With a world based off of the sovereign country of France, Kalos features some of the log-running franchises best 3D visuals to date. Much like the country and culture, it’s based upon, Pokémon X and Y’s story is undoubtedly the most fleshed out for a series of games almost never known for telling stories that differ or have detail, what’s not to love about an immortal king suffering from the loss of his best companion, and his relative trying to take back the throne, i.e. Louis Philippe. The 3D models, a new form of evolution and near-perfect online infrastructure makes this the most memorable Pokémon for me.
In Papers, Please, you are an immigration officer at the border checkpoint of a circa-1982, fictional totalitarian Eastern Bloc nation checking the passports of your nation’s citizens and would-be immigrants.
With a click and a thump of twin spring-loaded stamps, you control the fates of parents desperate to see their son across the war-torn border or members of a mysterious organization, for whom the recent war is far from over.
Designer Lucas Pope has married gameplay and narrative in a way rarely seen, as the number of documents to peruse, data to scan and questions to ask to grow in a comically ludicrous crescendo that at the same time asks biting questions about what we’re willing to do in the service of an oppressive regime – face-to-face with its victims – to protect our own.
The Last of Us
After focusing exclusively on Uncharted for several years, developer Naughty Dog took a chance and created something different. A more mature, darker tale set with a world ravaged by a viral infection, The Last of Us puts us in control of Joel, as he works to transport Ellie across the country. By now, the opening moments set the tone of the game and delivers to this day, one of my most heartbreaking experiences playing video games. Everything about this game felt like a breath of fresh air and Naughty Dog fired on all cylinders, delivering their best game to date.
Mario Kart 8
Mario Kart 8 became one of the quintessential party games on the Wii U. Upon release, the new Mario Kart became a critical and commercial success for Nintendo. While elevating the iconic kart franchise, Nintendo was able to achieve 60FPS and lock in a rich lineup of playable characters and diverse tracks. While not straying too far away from what made the series so special, Nintendo incorporated anti-gravity portions to the track and more in-depth customization options. The game was so widely adored that Nintendo released Mario Kart 8 Deluxe to Switch with even more new features in 2017.
Back when new retro-style platformers were still fairly niche, Yacht Club Games launched one of the more successful Kickstarter campaigns to develop their homage to classic NES games, Shovel Knight. The game features some of the best platforming elements of this generation. Jake Kaufman created a wonderful chiptune soundtrack to accompany the game. Yacht Club innovated on the games of our past and grew a dedicated fanbase. Shovel Knight was released in 2014, and yet Yacht Club has spent a great amount of time developing new DLC and spinoffs.
While yes, P.T. is technically a demo, it created an event the industry still fondly remembers to this day. Developed by Hideo Kojima during his tenure with Konami, Kojima and his studio released P.T. under the pseudonym “7780s Studio”. The “playable teaser” was released on August 12 on PSN and lit the internet on fire. Very few players knew what the game was so it became a race to the finish to decipher the puzzles. P.T. still holds up as one of the creepiest experiences of this decade. Having to venture through the same hallways as the environment changes in small ways. The audio design was impeccable as you never knew what awaits you around the next corner. The real kicker was that P.T. turned out to be a demo for what would have been Silent Hills, featuring Norman Reedus. While the full game will never be released, the summer of 2014 will forever be remembered for P.T.
Insomniac Games’ Sunset Overdrive perfectly encapsulated pop-punk style and substance. Although it was widely overlooked for being such a bizarre new IP, Sunset Overdrive featured some of the most fluid traversal systems in a third-person action game. Insomniac never pulled any punches when it came to fusing hilarity and over-the-top action. Sunset Overdrive became a cult classic of this generation and its DNA can be seen in Marvel’s Spider-Man.
Launching in 2013, Cellar Door Games took on the roguelike genre and delivered a game full of charm and challenge. Your character is essentially the latest bloodline to tackle an immortal castle full of supernatural beings ready to kill you. The neat part about this is that every generation of a knight comes with variable traits; one character inherits Dementia while your child turns out with Dyslexia. Add in the fact the castle’s layout changes each time you enter and the replayability proves itself satisfying for those looking for a challenging game.
Ori and the Blind Forest
Platformers saw a resurgence in popularity during this past decade. While Shovel Knight touched on nostalgic notes, Ori and the Blind Forest felt like a natural evolution of the genre. Moon Studios created a vivid landscape for players to explore. The colour palette was bright and magical but never steered away from incorporating darker elements. Ori and the Blind Forest also served as a strong Metroidvania title with impressive gameplay mechanics that begged players to explore every corner of the map to uncover secrets and collectibles. Plus, Ori became an adorable mascot for the Microsoft brand.
Bloodborne is a very important game of this decade. Alongside the Dark Souls series, FromSoftware created a genre many studios wanted to chase––Soulsborne. What set Bloodborne apart from the Souls series was its hauntingly beautiful gothic setting. Castles, statues, and other wonderfully dark architecture build the backdrop while demonic enemies await your arrival in the foreground. Bloodborne built off the frustratingly difficult combat but incorporated some new weapons and meta-skills. It was widely regarded as the first “must play” PlayStation 4 exclusive and fans are still awaiting a sequel for a chance to return to Yharnam.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
CD Projekt Red raised the bar on open-world RPGs with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The Witcher series built a respectable fan base in previous years, but Witcher 3 blew the pants off players and widened the audience in 2015. The Witcher 3 instantly became the best “bang for your buck” with over 100 hours of content that was actually worth investing time into. The laundry list of supplemental side missions and mini-games (I spent an obscene amount of time playing Gwent) had many players invested long after the initial release. This marked the moment Geralt of Rivia became a character in the consciousness of many players. Since 2015, influences from The Witcher 3 can be seen in many open-world games.
This pseudo-follow-up to Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars became a gaming phenomenon in only five years of this past decade. Tightening up their laces, Psyonix decided to self-publish the game and release the game as part of PlayStation’s PS Plus promotion, which was quite unorthodox. What resulted from this risky venture helped Rocket League become one of the most revered multiplayer experiences in the past 10 years. This fusion of soccer and cars broke down the barriers of crossplay, being one of the first to persuade Sony to allow its users to play with Xbox, PC, and Switch. It also carved out a massively supported esports league.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
2016 marked the end of an era in gaming. Naughty Dog closed the book on the story of Nathan Drake (for now) and wrapped up the story of one of the most iconic characters with one final journey. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End gave players everything they were looking for. We were able to witness touching character moments between Nathan, Elena, and Sully. Neil Druckman and Bruce Straley, Naughty Dog’s game and creative directors, knocked it out of the park when it came to action and set pieces. The studio has always been known for achieving awe-inspiring graphics and well-told stories and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End boasted Naughty Dog’s clear comprehension of how great games are made. Although the studio quickly turned around Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, the 2017 standalone expansion, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End will stand alongside The Last of Us as the studio’s crowning achievement this decade.
Actions speak louder than words. Looking at Blizzard’s Overwatch, the hero-based shooter saw a ton of action in only four short years. Garnering an incredibly large fan base right from the get-go, it was hard to have a conversation without Overwatch coming up in some capacity. Blizzard developed a large gallery of adored characters, each with their unique abilities. Also, Overwatch turned out to be an incredibly competitive game. With a large amount of support from Blizzard, Overwatch was never without new content to keep the attention of players. It spawned the renowned Overwatch League and has become one of the most profitable esports games for the industry.
Serving as a reimagining of the original 1990s title, DOOM creates a chaotic throwback to a time where shooters didn’t allow you to stop and think. Mauling demons and blowing their faces off as they arrive from a portal in Hell doesn’t get old and you’ll be itching to blast through them at each encounter.
DOOM pays homage to the original but establishes a new and exciting baseline for the series while poking fun at the games that came before it. What I enjoyed the most about this game is how well the action is broken up in such a way that old school gamers can appreciate, while serving newer gamers the opportunity to explore and collect hidden power-ups.
The 2010s saw the rise and maturation of the “walking simulator,” a genre label with derisive origins for developers with the audacity to take the lauded first-person perspective and do something that doesn’t require a gun.
Firewatch has you do a little more than just walking around, but I’d call it one of the best in the genre. You play as one of two national park watchmen as they attempt to suss out a series of mysterious events, while also coming to terms with their own suspect life choices.
It doesn’t go where you’d expect if you were raised on the point-and-click adventure games from which Campo Santo draws some of its influences, but it’s hard not to be immersed by what is essentially a two-person play anchored by the stellar voice acting work of Rich Sommer and Cissy Jones as you hike, climb and poke around the beautifully rendered Wyoming countryside.
The summer of ‘16 belonged to Pokémon GO. The game unified players from across the world in unimaginable ways. Tugging at the nostalgic heartstrings, the game encouraged players to get out and catch ‘em all. At launch, the original 150 Pokemon we all know and love were waiting to be found. As you walked down the street, you could instantly tell when another person––and there were many––was playing the game. Frantically swiping and flicking the screen, smaller groups became larger groups as random players joined each other in the pursuit of completing the Pokédex. There are rare moments in gaming that are as wholesome as Pokémon GO’s first summer.
While criminally overlooked due to a poor publishing date from EA, Titanfall 2’s campaign was as strong as it was memorable. After omitting a full-fledged story in the series’ first bout, Respawn Entertainment brought an impressive amount of lore and emotion to the table in Titanfall 2’s narrative. With heavy undertones of a Transformers story, Titanfall 2 gave players a reason to care about Jack Cooper, an underdog pilot, and his Titan, BT-7274. Respawn Entertainment also proved that they weren’t a one-hit-wonder with Titanfall as the studio iterated on their tight gunplay and traversal mechanics.
Resident Evil 7
Capcom signalled the return of great Resident Evil games with Resident Evil 7. The studio took a new approach to the series, reigning back the action and investing in intimate storytelling elements. The game returned the series to its survival horror roots. Resident Evil 7 toned down the number of bullets you’d be shooting and threats you’d encounter. This created a game that was settled on creeping you out with its atmosphere. Exploring the Baker residence and the larger Louisiana plantation, you were never quite sure how the game would one-up itself. Capcom also brought back the fantastic puzzle mechanics that made the first few games so memorable. While the Resident Evil series has continued, many hope Capcom returns to the first-person, close-quarters template.
Horizon Zero Dawn
Guerilla Games kicked the doors wide open in 2017 with its strong showing of Horizon Zero Dawn. Pairing a post-apocalyptic setting with mechanized dinosaurs was a head-scratcher at first, but as you discovered the lore of this world, everything fell into place. Although it took a bit of time to get the hang of, the combat was fluid and fun. Horizon introduced us to one of the best protagonists this decade. Aloy became a phenomenal lead in this new IP as a prominent female figure in games. Her character was well established and lacked many of the usual tropes attached to females in games. She was surrounded by a supporting cast of characters that made you invest time and effort into learning more about this 31st-century world.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Nintendo exceeded fan expectations when it came to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Overhauling the moment to moment gameplay to incorporate thoughtful puzzle mechanics and combat, despite the weapon degradation system. Breath of the Wild was a tentpole for player creativity. Logic that is often thrown out the window in most games was front and centre in how the weather and physics affected the game. Breath of the Wild featured the sprawling open-world hub of Hyrule. You gained a sense of wonder looking at the far reaches of the map knowing that anything you saw, you could scale. Simply put, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was magical in every sense and became a system seller for the Nintendo Switch console/handheld hybrid.
Emily Is Away Too
Although Kyle Seeley released the first Emily Is Away in 2015, its sequel built off what made the first so special and spoke to those who grew up in the age of AOL. Everything about the game felt authentic and brought me back to the early 2000s. Seeley created two true-to-life characters, Emily and Evelyn, who you interact with by selecting dialogue options to form bonds and relationships. Emily Is Away Too executes on every aspect of Seeley’s vision. You’re even able to interact with early “YouToob” and “Facenook” pages the two send your way. It’s a beautiful trip down memory lane and outcomes served to you can often remind you of your awkward teen years.
Sega and Headcannon made Sonic relevant again. In one of the best games in over a decade, Sonic Mania returned Sonic to form and created one of the most competent, exciting, and complete experiences. Over 12 zones, we revisited classic stages and took on Dr. Robotnik as he attempted to once again stop Sonic. A year later, we’d get Sonic Mania Plus which added Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel as playable characters. Also, the excellent Encore mode remixed levels, added bonus levels and a four-player mode.
Divinity: Original Sin II
Larian Studios released the sequel to Divinity: Original Sin and launched to unanimous critical acclaim. Building on its predecessor, the sequel continued by expanding everything that made the first game so good. The various ways you can tackle events within the campaign as you explore a wonderfully alive and exciting world. Rivellon is one of the most interesting places and is available on every console and PC today.
This one isn’t complicated: You’re an effectively-immortal space hero with superpowers and hundreds of guns, tasked with defending humanity’s last city on Earth. What’s not to like?
Bungie nipped and tucked at many of the problems players had with the original and came out with a more refined and replayable experience with an old-fashioned core: sci-fi shooting that just felt good. There’s nothing else quite like the moment you hit a Fallen enemy in the head and out comes a sound effect akin to popping a giant pod of bubble wrap.
Since Bungie’s divorce with Activision, it’s also iterated with new content every few months to shake things up and give me another reason to traipse across the solar system and somehow keep enjoying myself doing mostly the same missions over and over again.
Cuphead is one of the toughest games I’ve played in years but not one that ever made me feel defeated. Using its unique and timely art style the gameplay is reminiscent of classic series like Contra as you run and gun across dozens of levels and try to stay alive. Memorizing patterns, learning when to make the next move across a peculiar gap or past an enemy is half the fun. It can be said we’ve never seen a game like this and it’s exciting to see what’s next from Studio MDHR.
Super Mario Odyssey
Console Super Mario games are usually contenders for Game of the Year awards because of how reliable and fun each game is. With Super Mario Odyssey, Nintendo created something special across several gorgeous landscapes and introduced us to Cappy, Mario’s newest and most interesting friend. With Cappy, the talking hat expanded the existing formula by allowing Mario to use enemy powers. We got one of the peppiest and catchy tunes in the form of Jump Up, Super Star!
Slay the Spire
This indie game created an exciting game that Dave couldn’t stop talking about when he reviewed it. Slay the Spire is a rogue-like card game adventure that focuses on building the perfect deck to climb the procedurally generated spire and attain victory. You will encounter many enemies, merchants, treasure chests, and unknown events that will lure you in with the hope of gaining items that will give you the upper hand in combat. Battles are turn-based encounters, but your attacks, commands, and spells are the result of playing specific cards that you acquire on the journey.
Shadow of the Colossus
Yes, Shadow of the Colossus is a PlayStation 2 title but the remake from Bluepoint Games is one of the finest remakes we’ve ever seen. While respecting the original vision and updating mechanics to acclimate to the current generation, this faithful restoration is everything you would want. It’s still the same game that leaves you feeling lonely, but the experience is much better now.
Monster Hunter: World
Monster Hunter: World was the first introduction to the series for many gamers as Capcom did an excellent job streamlining the systems to draw in a broader audience. It was the first game in the series I spent over 50 hours in and that alone is a testament to the success of the series. The cute partner Palicos and absurd weapons used to hunt various beasts of all sizes kept on bringing me back to the game, with the grind for better gear keeping me seated each night.
Sea of Thieves
Sea of Thieves launched as a completely different game than it is today. It’s a far-fetch from what it is since Rare has been working on phenomenal updates following Sea of Thieves’ launch. The ever-evolving video game is an open-world playground where you can be the pirate you imagined yourself as a child, and with the Anniversary Update that launched this year, the inclusion of Tall Tales, as well as the Arena, add a new layer that was missing when the game shipped. The new PvP modes require teamwork to succeed and finding worthy teammates is a task of its own, but when you do, the fun never ceases.
Assassins Creed: Origins
The Assassin’s Creed series went through an identity crisis over this console generation, but Ubisoft seemed to have found its way with 2017’s Origins. Bayek is arguably the series’ strongest protagonist since Ezio Auditore, overflowing with compassion for his friends and family while skewering legions of mostly-faceless bad guys wearing red.
Personally, Origins was also the killer app for the upgraded Xbox One X, rendering the sprawling cities and sweeping landscapes of Egypt with stunning colours and a rock-solid frame rate. Leaping onto hapless victims or into gleaming lagoons from a great height has never looked or felt better.
Extra kudos to that one trailer set to Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker.
A Way Out
Josef Fares had one interesting night at The Game Awards while promoting A Way Out for his studio and EA. However, regardless of that, A Way Out is a fine experience. Building on the concept used in Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, the story is told in a third-person perspective and exclusively played in split-screen co-op. As one of two convicts, you and one other person are on the run from the police and offer several minigames to distract you from the task at hand. However, jokes aside the action when it happens is excellent and the ending while divisive, is excellent and the relationship between Leo and Vincent is worth exploring with a friend.
God of War
No one expected God of War to be as good as it was. The team at Sony Santa Monica Studios did the impossible and made Kratos a character who was more than his anger. A series previously known for erotic minigames turned into a moving story about loss and moving forward. Everything old is new again and the new direction this series steers toward is everything I want in a video game. An open world that respects my time and offers secrets worth investigating as well as optional bosses that won’t second guess decimating you for intruding. I’m all in.
Dead Cells is a hard game to put down but easy to pick up. This is one of the finest roguelike games available and the feeling of exploring is reminiscent of a Metroidvania title. A challenging but rewarding gameplay loop, you’ll explore the world hoping to get to the next boss in hopes of defeating them. Dead Cells launched as an Early Access title and thanks to that, the developers catered to feedback offered from players and creating the game as it is today. Its success shows no signs of slowing down as more content is already planned for the new year.
Red Dead Redemption 2
It took me a while to get into Red Dead Redemption 2 but when I finally did, boy did I find myself immersed in Dutch’s gang of miscreants. Rockstar Games delivered one of the most exhilarating video games of the decade and returned us to a time where shooting first was usually the best way to do things. With excellent storytelling, interesting characters, and the way you’re free to tackle the Old West in whatever way you chose offers hours of gameplay. Discovering secrets of the land, hunting, cooking, and growing the finest beard are some of the things you’ll spend your time doing. You’ll have moments of peace and you’ll have moments of bullets whizzing past your head.
Resident Evil 2
Kicking off 2019 began with the remake of Resident Evil 2, a game I didn’t necessarily agree needed a remake but was happy to be proven wrong when I played it. One of the best games in the series gets a fine remake treatment in the RE Engine and creates a creepy, anxiety-driven experience. The first time Mr. X chases you in the corridors of Raccoon City PD is one of my favourite moments this year. Hands down, this is one of the best third-person horror games ever made and you need to check it out.
Kingdom Hearts III
We waited 13 years from the day Kingdom Hearts II launched to the day Kingdom Hearts III arrived on consoles. The gameplay was improved, the models looked the best we’ve ever seen them and most importantly, the Dark Seeker Saga ended, allowing for a future in which the series is now free to tell any tale it chooses to. We have confirmed story DLC out next month on PlayStation 4 in the form or ReMIND, set after the epilogue of Kingdom Hearts III and I’m curious to see where Tetsuya Nomura wants to move the series now that Xehanort is no longer the antagonist.
Can you believe we’ve been playing Tetris for over 30 years? Me either. Tetris Effect is but one iteration of the classic puzzle game but to me is the standout version everyone needs to play. Enhance Games somehow made a highly addicting game that I’m still to this day find myself coming back to. A stellar soundtrack and VR support are why you need to try this for yourself. The joy you feel playing this game is thanks to how good every aspect of the game is.
Respawn dropped Apex Legends out of the blue on us early in 2019. Within 24 hours, over two million people were playing the free-to-play title set in the Titanfall universe. The Battle Royale genre is still alive and kicking but this is easily the most fun I’ve had thanks to stellar gunplay and a colourful world that oozes style. Titanfall’s weapons and movement are key components to the success of this game, offering some of the most satisfying guns to take on other players.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
FromSoftware moved on from Dark Souls and left us wondering where they would head next. Turns out, they had plans in place to cater to their fans and introduce new players to their style of games. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is the perfect combination of difficulty and learning from your mistakes. Each time you die, you learn how to come back twice as ready to overcome the challenges in front of you. A departure from any Souls game, Sekiro introduced a narrative that no longer asks you to fill in the blanks. This is unlike anything the studio has ever done before and that alone is reason to try their best game yet.
Outer Wilds is a quirky game that took me by surprise. Months of delaying the inevitable, I dived in after so many recommendations. What I liked about it was the sense of exploration as you move from planet to planet to unlock the secrets of those who came before. There’s no combat and you’ll be solving puzzles in roughly 22-minute blocks; after that, the world ends and you start anew, hoping to learn why this keeps happening.
At first, I wasn’t too impressed by the mechanics but once you start exploring this mysterious little corner of the galaxy and unravel pieces of the overarching narrative, the charm and magic begin to rub off and you’ll be itching to uncover the truth.
Remedy Entertainment released Control this year and I’m still thinking about this game. It was weird, it was bold, and it was the perfect game to close out the summer. Exploring The Oldest House was always like exploring a new neighbourhood, lost but never for that long. Jesse Faden impressed me with her skills and how quickly she overcame the obstacles this supernatural building threw at her. Learning the truth, her backstory, and unlocking new telekinetic powers never got old.
Luigi’s Mansion 3
Mario’s younger brother returns and once again his vacation is ruined thanks to pesky ghost out for revenge. Luigi’s Mansion 3 launched to critical acclaim and offered a rewarding romp through a haunted hotel full of secrets, treasures, and ghouls to capture. Mixed in with fun multiplayer offerings, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is one of the best games available on Nintendo Switch. Watching poor Luigi tremble in fear but overcome his doubts is fantastic and shows that even though Mario may be the star, there’s plenty of room for Luigi to share the spotlight.
After four years of discussions, theories, and a whole ton of guessing, Death Stranding launched to mixed reception. In my review, I noted that Death Stranding is far from the perfect game but it’s the perfect game to talk about; a notion I hold after finishing the game and having some time to understand the ending and speak to colleagues about the direction things went in the end. Hideo Kojima offers one of the most perplexing video games I’ve played in years and while some of the narratives are confusing, the performances are top-notch and the world is beautiful.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
I’ve always had a soft spot for Enslaved thanks to a wonderful cast, setting, and combat system. Ninja Theory knocked this game out of the park when it launched and the relationship between Trip and Monkey kept me coming back every night to find out where things would take these two next. At first, Trip blackmailed Monkey into helping her but as time went on, the two ended up trusting and relying on each other. That and the ending left us with a massive cliffhanger that to this day is still unresolved. I’d love to see what potential sequels look like.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
One of the biggest games of 2011 and one world I spent hundreds of hours in. Yet, no two playthroughs were ever alike and exploring the Blackreach Ruins, completing quests for the Dark Brotherhood, and taking on Paarthurnax were some of the biggest and most memorable experiences I remember about Skyrim. Of course, the joke is that now everything can play Skyrim but I focused on my playthrough on PlayStation 3 where my file bloated due to my inventory and dealt with so pretty nasty bugs. Even so, exploring the lands within Skyrim, earning the Dragon Armour and learning the language of the Dragons is still one of my most cherished experiences.
Kicking off the decade as a completely different game, Minecraft was only beginning its long journey to where it is today. However, in the years that followed, Minecraft has become a pillar of gaming and available on nearly all platforms. There’s so much to love about Minecraft, a game that’s allowed people of all ages to build worlds we can only imagine. With the tools found in the game, individuals are free to create anything and everything, we’ve seen other games take on the idea and spin it for their properties to various degrees of success. Whether you like Minecraft or not isn’t important but the series is important to the industry for what it offers.