Hello and welcome back to my effort of chronicling what I think the best games of the 2010's are. If you missed Part One of this series you can check out the first twenty games here. Just like the AV Club posts I stole this format from we are breaking up the series into 3 parts with this being part two. In this part we will be covering the games ranked 30-11 on my list of best games this past decade. I am going to be reposting the ground rules for this list here.
- First and foremost this is my list, it’s not a favorite games list, but it is the games that I think were the best of the decade.
- If it seems like I forgot your favorite, first wait for the entire thing to come out, then if it’s still not there just ask me about it, I may have genuinely forgot about it.
- I will be attempting to avoid putting two games in the same series on the list unless they are different enough or both good enough to warrant their own place on the list
- That’s it let’s get into the list
30. Bioshock Infinite
When it came out it was a near universally praised game that won a lot of Game of the Year awards. Personally I loved it after being a huge fan of the first game and eagerly awaiting this game to come out. The story is deep poignant and meaningful, even if it is a bit confusing, and sometimes even a bit pompous. Where I think the game stumbles is just, not being as good as the previous Bioshock. The story feels lifeless until you get to the very ending, whereas in the original Bioshock the story has a clear flow and shows its best twist well before the end (and then admittedly ends on a bit of low note). The gunplay in Infinite has the enemies feeling like bullet sponges and has you constantly running to avoid being hit which makes it difficult to aim, the gunplay doesn’t feel meaty and heavy like the original. Overall, Infinite is a great game with great ambitions that failed to live up to its predecessor.
29. Gone Home
The game Bioshock Infinite most commonly was competing against for those Game of the Year Awards it won. Gone Home was a game that was absolutely loved by critics, and a lot of fans, but then was criticized for just being a walking simulator. Really, Gone Home was one of the first games to help popularize the walking simulator “genre. Few of the many copycats have managed to tell a story as good as the one in Gone Home though. Ideally the opening of the game would feel less like a horror game as that is one of the big reasons so many criticized it because it seemingly hinted at being more than it was. What it was was beautiful though, a moving story of love and happiness that defied conventions. Putting a 20 year old man into the mindspace of a lesbian teenage girl is no small task, but Gone Home does it with aplomb.
28. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
My gosh this game is fun in a way that Ubisoft hasn’t been able to capture since and I don’t think they will again. Odyssey was fun(I skipped Origins), but the RPG mechanics and the lack of being an actual assassin made it feel like an entirely different game. Even Ubisoft’s pirate game is doubtful to replicate the fun of the boat combat in Black Flag on top of the fact Black Flag had things to do when you got to land. While there were still some relics of the series that dampened the experience, the moment to moment gameplay was easily the most enthralling in the series and it was one of the most fun to play pirate simulators to ever come out. I’ve heard Sea of Thieves is getting good, maybe I’ll finally give that a try next.
27. Dark Souls
This game was a revelation at the time it came out. With a changing gaming landscape becoming more and more gamer friendly with endless tutorials and waypoints and easy combat, Dark Souls came out and said enough of that. It lead a charge of a series of games that have still not stopped coming out that are commonly called “Dark Souls but” games. It started a new trend where dying meant something, but still wasn’t the end of the world for the good and cautious player. It was frustrating and buggy, and obtuse, but what some people saw as annoying and requiring a guide, others saw as immersive and drawing you into the world.
A game that calls back to the old days of gaming with its simple characters, addictive yet challenging gameplay, and 2D sidescrolling style. Where it departs from those games is the insane amount of polish it has, and of course the distinct art style that it deploys. With the art style designed to look like an old school cartoon Cuphead manages to stand out in a market filled with games trying to. Every frame of this game is gorgeous artwork that likely took ages. When I first heard this game would largely be a boss rush I was worried, but when I actually played it I was excited. The gameplay was simple, but addictive, easy to do, but very difficult to master and never feeling like the game’s fault. It encourages replays and I was always happy to oblige.
25. Super Mario Odyssey
Super Mario Odyssey or as I like to refer to it as SMO, is the first true 3D Mario game since Galaxy 2 and it shows there is still a market for them. This game is insanely fun, with the jumping being some of the best in the Mario series. Cappy adds an extra element that allows even noobs to feel awesome pulling off slightly more complex maneuvers. The capture element can help keep the gameplay fresh, changing up the goals and the control scheme throughout. Each world feels unique and while I will say some are clearly better than others all are a lot of fun to play around in. It will be very difficult for Nintendo to top this with their next 3D Mario game.
24. Titanfall 2
This is the part of the list where I get mad that more people didn’t buy Titanfall 2 while ignoring I didn’t buy it for nearly a year after it’s release. Eventually there was a deal that was too good to pass up and I got it, immediately regretting I didn’t get it earlier. For a sequel to a game that’s only story was awfully told in multiplayer matches through bad voiceovers, this game had no right having a story this good. The campaign is extremely fun and inventive and really makes you feel a connection to your Titan. This game was one of the only reasons I was still hyped for Jedi Fallen Order even after that awful trailer (at least until I heard the actual gameplay is closer to the Prime games). The people at Respawn games nailed it and I hope they continue to, because I want a third Titanfall, and release it at a less crap time this time EA.
23. Red Dead Redemption 2
Spoiler for the rest of the list, I went with only one of the Red Deads and I opted for the second one. I know there is a contingent that will argue the first one is better and I understand why. However, I think what needs to be celebrated is the gaming achievement that is Red Dead Redemption 2. This game can feel clunky at times that is for sure, but the amount of details that are poured into this game is on a level that is absolutely insane. The story is a simple, but powerful tale about the death of the Old West. Arthur Morgan is one of the best protagonists in gaming history to me, drawing us into his story and his life. On top of that, the other members of the gang have a lot of depth and it can really feel like you’re getting to know them.
22. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
I know there will be a group of FROM fans that will converge with hatred in their eyes after seeing that I put this the highest of the FROM games. However, I have my reasoning and that is that this game is the best combination of approachable and dense of any of their games. While it may lose some of the things that fans have always loved, it stays the same at its core and becomes more powerful because of that. While there are some aspects I don’t like, like having to farm Spirit Emblems if you get stuck at a boss for awhile, this game is insanely addictive. More so than other games in the series I feel like a master when I deflect a long series of blows and break their posture and deliver the final blow. For being the best combination of approachable and confusing as hell, this game ranks the highest of the FROM games and it still has the same insanely addictive gameplay loop.
21. Mass Effect 2
The game that a lot of people will point at and say afterwards that Bioware was never the same. This game fixed nearly every flaw from the first game while adding in a lot of good things. The story was simple, but complex enough to not actually have some depth throughout. The choices you make actually feel like they have consequences and you get a choice in what happens. The gunplay is actually fun this time unlike the first game and they took out the driving segments. The characters are real and the connections that you make with them feel real. Overall, this is what a choice driven RPG should be, where your choices actually matter and it is a nice tight experience that doesn’t feel bloated like a Dragon Age Inquisition.
20. Nier: Automata
I had never played a game by Yoko Taro, so I had little idea what to expect going into this game. I had seen a review of Drakengard 3 though, where the reviewer complained that it was clear a lot of reviewers had not played through to the true ending, so I was curious if the same would happen here. He must have conveyed it better this time though because the reviews were glowing and it was clear most reviewers had played through to the true ending. This game takes anything David Cage wants to say about androids or robots into the trash can because this does it one million times better (as does every game or series about the topic), but overall this game has an amazing story. On top of that the combat is fun and it is anime as heck while doing all of that.
19. Super Smash Bros Ultimate
I will be the first one to say that it is still far from a perfect game, with a lack of engaging story moments and still having multiplayer issues this game still does not live up to its full potential. It should however, still get judged for what it is. A massive collection of stages and characters all of them superbly balanced to play with each other on a level never seen before. The same gameplay is used that has lead the series to the success that it has seen before and it is the most universally loved by both fans and critics alike. Just like the last Mario game it will be very difficult to top this game when the next one inevitably comes out. Maybe actually including a story of the characters all fighting through each others worlds with enemies that aren’t super generic. Yes I do just want to see Snake jumping on Goombas or Mario fighting Metal Gears, because that would be baller.
The game that was so insanely popular in a certain sect of the internet that everyone else swore to hate it for eternity. Now while it did have quite a bit of a negative image for awhile due to it’s rabid fans, it has gone full circle to being wholesome again kind of like Minecraft. It is easy to see why it filled people with such passion in the first place though. The game is harrowing and mysterious and sometimes it feels like a warm hug and other times it feels like a warm hug by a bear covered in thorns and venomous snakes. It makes you feel the consequences of your actions if after your first playthrough you go for a genocide run you see the world emptying and the people you loved talking to in the first game disappeared. It is a very lonely game, or a very friendship filled game. It is a beautiful experience that requires multiple playthroughs to really get the full experience and there still isn’t another game like it.
17. God of War
The perfect example of how to take a game and modernize it while still keeping it with the same core. The gameplay is completely different, but it is to me even more fun than the original, with it’s difficult third person over the shoulder combat. My first playthrough I played through on easy and had a hard time sometimes. My second playthrough I played on Hard and didn’t have much difficulty at all with it’s easy to learn but hard to master gameplay loop. It takes a game that was known for being absurdly over the top in gameplay, visuals, and storytelling, and grounds it in reality with a father and son story. The switch to Norse mythology was a masterstroke, especially with the smaller amount of common knowledge about it compared to Greek or Roman.
16. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
This is the only Uncharted game on the list, while two is a fantastic game and absolutely could have made the list, I went with four instead. It is a near perfect conclusion to the story of Nathan Drake with smart evolutions to the gameplay and the combat. It is consistently fun and engaging with a story that doesn’t slow down for a second. Nathan Drake has always had his problems, but he has always deserved his happy ending. I couldn’t have imagined a much better conclusion to his story than the one presented in this game.
15. Grand Theft Auto V
What is there to be said about this game that hasn’t already been said, everyone and their mother owns a copy. This game has made more money than I could even imagine and is somehow to this day still a top seller. The Online mode is simple yet addictive and has gotten only better with time. The story is pretty good, a story of some guys trying to make a quick buck trying bigger and bigger heists. If the story was better this game probably could have been a top ten contender. The story though, is just alright, I often opted to just have fun in the sandbox though as that was generally more enjoyable. It is also dropped because a lot of the most fun things in the Online Mode are locked behind money barriers that either need to be paid away or be played an annoying amount of time to unlock.
14. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
I know a lot of people will be very surprised this didn’t make the top ten, but as a quick reminder this is my list, and I think Skyrim has a lot of flaws as an open world RPG. It has the same broken-ness that so many Bethesda titles have which can very often be annoying. The story is a short affair that really does not feel fitting a game of this scale. A lot of the systems are fairly broken and easily exploitable to become a near god-tier powerful character. Even with all those problems Skyrim is still insanely fun. It is big, but not so big that it feels barren like some open world games do, the side quests are often way more fun than the main quest and there is just a lot to do. My single biggest gripe and what ended up knocking it out of the top ten for me is the combat just feels so weightless and empty.
Wow, I am leaving off a lot of unbelievable games off my Top Ten, this has been an amazing decade for gaming. Journey was a new experience unlike anything anyone had experienced before. A game about overcoming obstacles with others even though you could only communicate through one note. This kind of communication and cooperation between complete strangers who had never met and never would was extremely weird and felt crazy. The first time I played through it I met someone early on and we traveled through most of the game together before eventually something came up and I had to go do something. I went AFK for a while and came back and he was gone. I continued on a bit feeling lonely and dejected until I ran into someone new. This game is amazing and the first time you play through it is like nothing you’ve ever experienced before.
12. Persona 5
Style, style, and more style, this game just oozes style from every fiber of it’s being. The menus, the dialog boxes, every thing comes alive as you play and blends flawlessly with a near perfect jazz soundtrack. This was the first Persona game I played (a lot of peoples first Persona game), and it is a near perfect introduction to the series. More simplified and friendly systems make it more accessible to people who are encountering the series for the first time and the fun friendly vibe of the Phantom Thieves does well to draw people in. The combat is fun but simple and has a lot of depth in terms of crafting Persona’s and items. The New Game + feels like an entirely different game as you can cruise through the palaces and without having to spend any time upgrading attributes have plenty of time to max out every confidant. This will be a tough one to follow up, maybe a green color scheme and following the globetrotting plan they originally had for Persona 5 can work out.
11. Doom (2016)
The last game to miss out on the Top Ten and it is a great game and it’s sequel might even end up topping it. The first modern Wolfenstein game was a perfect example of how to take an old first person shooter and modernize it. It’s sequel took it in the completely wrong direction, but Doom modernized in the completely right way as well. Hopefully, its sequel doesn’t change as much in a negative way as Wolfenstein’s sequel. The rebooted Doom was thrilling, charging into gunfight after gunfight, mowing down demons (sometimes literally with a chainsaw) while having tons of secrets packed in that emphasized exploration. The gunplay was insanely fun and the story was there without ever being too in your face or distracting from the reason we were all actually there. The multiplayer was an unfun boring addition, but maybe they can fix that with the sequel while still keeping the insanely fun campaign the first game had.
Alright everyone, that wraps up part two, I hope you enjoyed and let me know what you thought of the games that didn’t make the top ten and which ones you think should’ve. Also let me know what games you think will be on my top ten. I am 100% sure zero people would be able to guess it 100% correctly. But still, I have had a lot of fun making this list and a lot of fun interacting with people even if we disagree. So I will be happy to discuss more.
What game from 30-11 should have been higher, lower, or not on the list at all. Especially which ones do you think should have made my top ten?