I’ll admit it, when I was thinking of doing this piece, I thought “Yeah, this will be easy”. How wrong I was! I’m a young guy of 25, so I guess this is the first decade I’ve really gotten into video-games. Sure, I was playing them before 2009 but this is when games started to sink in as my preferred art form.
This list is my favourite games of the decade based on the year of release (not when I played them, for clarity). Looking back at the titles released this decade and it really has followed the “Good year, bad year” schedule. Sharpen your pitchforks and yell at us on Twitter and Facebook about how wrong I am.
Honourable Mentions: Dragon Age: Origins, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Assassin’s Creed II
Winner: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
I enjoyed the first Uncharted title well enough but I never thought it would lead anywhere. Seeing the screenshots in game magazines blew my mind and I knew I had to get this game. There was far greater depth given to the cast and the story felt like a great action film. With awesome set-pieces and incredible visuals, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a must-play.
Honourable Mentions: Alan Wake, Fallout: New Vegas, Red Dead Redemption
Winner: Mass Effect 2
While I loved the first Mass Effect game, it definitely had its issues. Mass Effect 2 has one of the finest openings of any video-game and even someone new to the series will be hooked. Opting for a more focused and darker plot, Mass Effect 2 is a masterpiece.
The combat saw huge revisions and the cast were designed for you to care about them. By the time you’ve increased your bond with your crew, the dreaded Suicide Mission draws near, an epic finale where beloved characters can meet their demise. Choosing this over Red Dead Redemption is not easy.
Honourable Mentions: Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Winner: Dark Souls
So, I’ll admit it. I didn’t like Dark Souls on my first attempt. It was simply too hard. About a year later, I dove back in and it clicked. Any fan of the series will know the “click”. It’s a brutally difficult game that forces you to be better.
The incredibly well-designed world, teeming with mysteries, drives you forward. It’s certainly frustrating but never feels like it’s unfair. It’s a tough balancing act to pull off but Dark Souls does just that. Multiplayer was as fresh as the rest of the game, rewarding both co-operation and competition equally. Take a deep breath, have some patience and dive in.
Honourable Mentions: Lollipop Chainsaw, Mass Effect 3, Sleeping Dogs
Winner: The Walking Dead
I was a huge fan of The Walking Dead in 2012. I was one of those who had read a few issues of the graphic novels before the show came out and a massive fan of the show itself. Telltale released the first episode of this adventure game and I was eager to buy it.
It was a fine episode and after I finished the second episode, I knew this was something special. Lee Everett is a fantastic protagonist, deeply flawed but trying to do the right thing by a young girl he takes under his wing. This was before people discovered the “Telltale formula”, so every conversation was tense, every decision felt dramatic. Then there’s that finale, absolutely beautiful.
Honourable Mentions: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, The Wolf Among Us, BioShock: Infinite
Winner: The Last of Us
The Last of Us is a 17-hour escort mission where you play as a middle-aged man travelling with a bratty teenager and you fight zombies. Or at least in the hands of a lesser developer, it would be. What we got was a broken man, reluctantly taking in a girl who tries to survive in a dangerous world and they go on a journey fighting against people infected with a disease that causes them to lose their minds and against people who have fallen to evil as society falls.
It’s powered by emotion and delivers in spades. Not forgetting to be a game, it prioritises stealth and cunning as opposed to Naughty Dog’s other series, Uncharted’s reliance on explosions. In an extremely strong year for games, The Last of Us takes the podium.
Honourable Mentions: Wolfenstein: The New Order, This War of Mine, Dark Souls II
Winner: Dragon Age: Inquisition
2014 was a pretty terrible year for gaming and the most difficult year for me to make a decision on. I adored the first Dragon Age game and actually quite liked the panned Dragon Age II. While it’s a pretty game with plenty to do, Dragon Age: Inquisition feels off to me. Like it’s trying too hard. The combat is great and the world design is incredible but the story didn’t really grab me. It only just etches over Dark Souls II, not a great year in my opinion.
Honourable Mentions: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Life is Strange, Bloodborne
Winner: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
2015 was a fantastic year for gaming. When I finished Bloodborne, I thought there’s no way anything could top it. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt not only proved me wrong but made the entire industry turn its head. A moderately successful series with an incredibly complex story shouldn’t be flying off the shelves but CD Projekt Red did the impossible.
It wasn’t the change to a more standard combat system, it’s wasn’t the stunning visuals and huge open world that made this a masterpiece. It was the story and the characters. For over 150 hours there is a level of care placed that no developer would even dare try to do. You can jump into this game with no knowledge of the series and be absolutely enthralled by the plot. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a game for the ages.
Honourable Mentions: The Last Guardian, Dark Souls III, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Winner: Stardew Valley
While I put a fair bit of time into Harvest Moon, the farming sim genre isn’t one I’d steer towards. Stardew Valley was a major talking point and I bought it just to see what the fuss was about. What a great decision! See, Stardew Valley is something special. It’s a farming sim, a relationship sim, a fishing sim, a dungeon-crawling sim and much more.
What sets it apart is the fact it’s developed by a single person and you can feel it. There is this magical feeling exploring the world that so much love has been poured into it. It’s a game that makes you happy and there’s not many of them on the market.
Honourable Mentions: Hellblade: Senuas’ Sacrifice, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Persona 5
Winner: Super Mario Odyssey
2017 was a pretty strong year for both AAA and indie developers. Nintendo weren’t to be left behind as 2017 saw the release of the excellent Nintendo Switch. While everyone is still open-jawed that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild isn’t here, relax Nintendo still killed it.
Super Mario Odyssey is pretty much perfect. It offers the level of challenge you expect from a Mario game and all the colourful fun you would expect but once again, Nintendo managed to change up the formula and knock it out of the park. There are over 250 Mario games, how do Nintendo it?
Honourable Mentions: Marvel’s: Spider-Man, Shadow of the Colossus, Red Dead Redemption 2
Winner: God of War
Picking this over the stellar Red Dead Redemption II speaks volumes. God of War 2018 flips the entire series on its head and manages to deliver a powerful narrative with excellent combat. Like The Last of Us and BioShock: Infinite before it, God of War is an escort mission from start to finish and like those games, I wouldn’t have it any other way. New to the series or a veteran, this a journey worth taking.
Honourable Mentions: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, A Plague Tale: Innocence, Resident Evil 2
Winner: Disco Elysium
2019 was a “so-so” year, as a whole but there were a few great titles. The most surprising title by far is Disco Elysium. An isometric adventure game that has your stats as party members. The story is what you make it, on a level no game has even come close to providing. A massive amount of content that is consistently excellent is impressive but the fact it’s constantly engaging is mind-blowing. You would be a fool to miss this one.