The decade is about to be over, and what a decade it was for video games. First, the 2010s saw the launch of mxdwn Games, and we couldn’t be more excited to celebrate an amazing decade full of stellar titles. Overall, the last decade saw a strong ending for games on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 before the current generation of PlayStation 4 and Xbox One dominated the majority of the decade, and the dual-use handheld/console Nintendo Switch took the end of the decade by storm. The decade also saw indie games rise to prominence, the battle royale genre explode onto the scene, and persistent online games become a mainstay in the industry. Now, to celebrate an amazing decade of great games, we present to you our Top 50 games of the decade!
50. Rainbow Six Siege
Original Release: December 1, 2015
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege struggled at launch, but a rough start doesn’t mean a game can’t grow into something special. Ubisoft catered to the dedicated playerbase and turned Rainbow Six Siege into something that nails what’s needed from a persistently online game. Featuring refined squad-based gameplay and a plethora of unique operators for players to use, Rainbow Six Siege brought the franchise back to prominence, and is a great spot to kick off our Top 50.
49. Alien: Isolation
Original Release: October 7, 2014
Easily one of the best licensed and horror games of the decade. Alien: Isolation nails the atmosphere of the film franchise and feeling of being hunted by the terrifying Xenomorph. The unscripted AI truly makes the scary moments even more horrifying as you experience sensations of claustrophobia while hiding from the Xenomorph or Androids that roam the environment—these enemies can, and do, attack at any time. The game truly stands out as one of the greats and is absolutely one of the best horror games of the decade.
48. What Remains of Edith Finch
Original Release: April 25, 2017
What Remains of Edith Finch tells the story of a young woman named Edith who goes back to her old family home. As you explore the house, you learn the history of the “cursed” Finch family and how each member died. The game takes you through the house, going room to room to share the experience of the final moments of past family members’ lives. Each memory changes up the gameplay, and each one feels very distinct from the others. There are memorable moments, with some parts nailing certain feelings perfectly. What Remains of Edith Finch is a special little game that surely is one of the best of the decade.
47. Ultra Street Fighter IV
Original Release: June 3, 2014
Capcom’s Ultra Street Fighter IV is the definitive and most complete version of the fourth entry in the Street Fighter series of 2D-style competitive fighting games. Ultra Street Fighter IV played a critical role in repopularizing the one-on-one fighting game genre for a new generation of players. It also secured a place for fighters in the growing world of competitive, high-dollar esports.
46. Far Cry 3
Original Release: November 29, 2012
This is the game that brought Far Cry into the mainstream. Far Cry 3 featured the first of the memorable villains of the franchise, a sprawling open world, crafting, hunting, comedic side characters, and so on, and all have become mainstays in the franchise thanks to this incredible title. Also, we can’t mention Far Cry 3 without talking about Vaas. He’s one of the most memorable villains of the decade, and his “Definition of Insanity” speech is an especially standout moment. Far Cry 3 made an impact and turned the franchise into one of Ubisoft’s best sellers, and for that it lands on our list.
45. Destiny 2
Original Release: September 6, 2017
Since the original Destiny launched years ago, Bungie has improved on everything in its sequel. Support for Destiny 2 has been constant, and the split with Activision earlier this year seems to have helped Bungie refocus and create an amazing expansion in Shadowkeep, which was released earlier this year. Now, with Bungie having full control over the series, it’s only up from here.
44. Resident Evil 2
Original Release: January 25, 2019
Remaking something that’s extremely beloved is always a risky venture. Not being a 1-to-1 remake is even riskier, but Capcom was up to the task when they decided to remake the 1998 classic Resident Evil 2. They did not disappoint either as Resident Evil 2 became one of, if not the, best video game remakes of all time. The game stays faithful to the 1998 classic, but the change to third person over-the-shoulder gameplay refreshes the game entirely in the best way possible.
Original Release: August 12, 2014
The unfortunate case of what could have been. P.T. (Playable Teaser) was one of the best horror experiences of the decade, and possibly the scariest ever. This experience featured an ever-looping hallway that grew more uncomfortable as you traversed it over and over, and the sense of dread and of being trapped made players fall in love with P.T. Finding out it was a teaser for Silent Hills, a game being made by Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro, shocked everyone even more. However, the game was canned when Kojima and Konami split and P.T. was removed from the world. For what could have been, and for being so terrifyingly memorable, P.T. is deserving of a spot on our list.
42. Spec Ops: The Line
Original Release: June 26, 2012
An underrated gem. Spec Ops: The Line touches on the violence and impact war has on people. Wanting to stand out from other military shooters, developer Yager focused on a hard-hitting narrative that makes players question their decisions in the heat of conflict and battle. The game shows how the horrors of war can change people, and there are moments that can even make players question how they play and how they feel about these types of military tactical shooter games. Spec Ops: The Line is a game everyone should experience.
Original Release: July 21, 2010
One of the games that lead the indie game boom. Playdead exploded onto the scene with the release of Limbo in 2010. The black-and-white noir art style, eerie environment and atmosphere, short length, open-ended ending, and deadly puzzles made Limbo stand out as something completely new and different when it first released. Since then, the game has become one of the most recognizable indie games, and is still one of the best ones to date.
40. Red Dead Redemption
Original Release: May 18, 2010
The first introduction to Rockstar’s Western epic, John Marston, and the Van der Linde gang (or what’s left of them as we’d come to find out) hit it out of the park when Red Dead Redemption released in 2010. Exploring the wide open frontier as the age of the outlaws was coming to a close was something to behold at the time. Marston’s story of having to find and bring in his old running mates to gain freedom for himself is a great driving force, even if things don’t always go Marston’s way. The graphics are stunning for their time, and the world truly feels alive. Rockstar nailed this game in every way they could, and it would only be topped by its 2018 sequel.
39. Tetris Effect
Original Release: November 9, 2018
Who doesn’t love Tetris? Now, imagine Tetris with amazingly entrancing visuals and music from Tetsuya Mizuguchi, the mind behind Rez and Lumines. Imagine being able to to clear up to 20 lines in one combo. Now, imagine all that being playable in VR. That’s where Tetris Effect comes in. The game is truly engrossing visually and audibly and is an absolute great spin on the classic Tetris formula.
38. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Original Release: August 8, 2017
The way this game tackles mental health and the loss of a loved one is outstanding. Senua’s journey to hell and her struggles with The Furies, the voices she hears due to her condition, tell an incredible story. Senua struggles through her condition and mental health to bring back the one she loves, and the effect on the player is enrapturing. Senua is a character that wants to be stronger than her darkness, and actress Melina Juergens deserves all the credit in the world for her performance.
37. Gone Home
Original Release: August 15, 2013
Gone Home caught many off guard when it released back in 2013. At first, Gone Home looks to be something generically horror-related as you return home and find no one there aside from a sad sounding voicemail. This combined with what appears to be a bunch of supernatural happenings makes you think you’re in store for a bunch of scares. However, Gone Home turns out to be much more than that and, without spoiling anything, turns out to be something really special to experience.
36. Marvel’s Spider-Man
Original Release: September 7, 2018
Marvel’s Spider-Man is one of the best superhero games of all time, hands down. Insomniac blew expectations out of the water with their interpretation of Marvel’s beloved web-crawler. You truly feel like Spider-Man in this game as you zip across New York City, and every movement from traversal to combat feels fluid and precise. The narrative is engaging and feels distinct from the vast amount of other Spider-Man stories out there.
Original Release: January 25, 2018
The hardcore platformer Celeste was one of the best games of 2018. Celeste features fluid yet very challenging platforming, so be prepared to die a lot. You are spit back to the beginning of the screen nearly instantly once you die, so the urge to complete each challenge a screen at a time pushes you forward—all the way to the top of the mountain that the titular character Celeste is climbing. The narrative deals with depression and overcoming self-doubt, a set of themes that fit perfectly with the herculean task that climbing a mountain or conquering this game can be.
34. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Original Release: March 22, 2019
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice differs from Dark Souls and Bloodborne in many ways, and this time around the game is a completely single-player experience. Yes, that means when it’s time to square up with bosses you are entirely on your own. It also means that Sekiro (also called Wolf), the game’s protagonist, is balanced to handle every situation and has to depend on the power of his blade, his ability to parry, dodge, and counter enemies, and his judgment in using a variety of ninja prosthetics to weigh the scales of war in his favor. Sekiro also has to depend on you, the player—while the game’s difficulty is higher than many other major titles and cannot be changed (well, you can ring a semi-secret bell to make the game even harder) the reward is so much sweeter when you conquer your foes. Every victory feels earned and satisfying, and you get a sense of pride in beating bosses that few current games deliver.
33. Dark Souls
Original Release: September 22, 2011
Dark Souls is a genre-defining game—this hard as all hell game that drew players in and created one of the most hardcore fanbases out there has inspired a classification of its own. You hear “This game is Souls-like” when discussions about combat are brought up for certain combat-heavy games. Some games have even taken the Dark Souls formula and put their own spin on it, like Nioh and Code Vein. Dark Souls propelled developer FromSoftware into the limelight as one of the best out there and started their series of variations on the Dark Souls theme in the form of Bloodborne and Sekiro. For all that, Dark Souls deserves a spot on the list.
32. Horizon: Zero Dawn
Original Release: February 28, 2017
Who doesn’t want to hunt robot dinosaurs?! The gameplay loop in Horizon: Zero Dawn is so rewarding. Hunt robots to get their parts. Craft better weapons with those parts. Then, use those to progress and kill more robots. Also, Aloy is a great character. She isn’t afraid of the crazy things that happen during her story in Horizon: Zero Dawn. She’s out on a journey to stop horrible things from happening, and on the way Aloy has to find out where she came from. Aloy has the monumental task of uncovering what happened to the Old Ones, the history of Project Zero Dawn, and stopping a group of terrorists—together, all great pieces to form the whole of the story they tell.
31. Metal Gear Solid V
Original Release: September 1, 2015
Hideo Kojima’s final Metal Gear game was an outstanding entry into the series (even if it wasn’t completely finished). Metal Gear Solid V brought the series into the open world genre and gave players the full freedom to tackle situations in any way they wanted. The gameplay loop was masterful, and who could resist fultoning everything and everyone in sight when you cleared out a base? The narrative fills in some gaps between the Big Boss and Solid Snake stories from previous Metal Gear games nicely and is a great send off for the mainline series if Konami never releases another proper Metal Gear.
30. Monster Hunter: World
Original Release: January 26, 2018
At the end of the decade Capcom mounted a major comeback and reclaimed their spot as a top of the line developer of high-quality, well-received games with Resident Evil 2 Remake, Devil May Cry 5, and Monster Hunter: World. The revamped action-RPG Monster Hunter series has exploded with the latest entry, becoming a global sensation and Capcom’s best-selling franchise to date (and they have a few in their portfolio). This iteration of Monster Hunter is for everyone instead of just die-hard loyalists, moving gameplay to a New World so everyone can get in on the ground floor and make a fresh start. Add in the smooth and finely tuned approach to the core mechanic of hunting monsters and making stuff and Monster Hunter: World gets pretty tough to put down. Plus, the Palico companion is adorable.
29. Super Mario Galaxy 2
Original Release: May 23, 2010
Super Mario Galaxy 2 builds upon the greatness of the original Super Mario Galaxy with its unique worlds to explore, dynamic gameplay, beautiful music and visuals, and more. Super Mario Galaxy 2 introduced new features that only enhanced the gameplay, such as new abilities for Mario and the addition of Yoshi. As a 3D platformer, the game uses its different planet environments for different puzzles that challenge players to master Mario’s various abilities.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 takes advantage of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk duo. While one hand controls Mario’s movements with the Nunchuk joystick, the other can point the Wii Remote at the screen to collect and shoot Star Bits or shake the Wii Remote to make Mario spin, which helps him jump longer and defeat enemies.
Though it’s been almost 10 years since Super Mario Galaxy 2’s release, it lives on as arguably one of the greatest Nintendo games of all time.
28. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Original Release: December 7, 2018
Last year, Nintendo released the newest iteration of the Smash Bros series for Nintendo Switch. The fighting platformer maintains its classic recipe while adding several new characters such as the Belmonts, Incineroar, and King K. Rool. The game also brings back several blasts from everyone’s pasts with the reintroduction of Pichu, Snake, and Roy the the roster. The game also introduced several characters from new franchises such as Joker from Atlus’s Persona 5, The Hero from the Dragon Quest series, and the classic Banjo with his friend Kazooie from Rare’s Banjo-Kazooie.
The story mode introduced the new Spirit Feature which allowed players to equip several spirits to grant their character specific boosts for the duration of the battle. This feature adds a bit of variety to a Smash battle by allowing players to enhance their character’s niche abilities. The best way to get these spirits outside of story mode is in the Spirit Board, a mode where players can fight NPCs possessed by the Spirits of other games under certain conditions. The game has received multiple accolades, even winning the award for The Best Fighting Game Of The Year at The 2019 Game Awards.
Original Release: June 29, 2016
INSIDE is a uniquely affecting digital experience, and I find myself thinking about it every now and then with instant discomfort. INSIDE is a game that has a lot of fun making you feel that way. Developed by Playdead, INSIDE has the player take control of a small boy who seems to be the last resistant force in a monochromatic, zombified world. The 2.5D puzzle-platformer is light on music and color, but very heavy and immersive on atmosphere. The boy solves the game’s puzzles in a variety of innovative but not irritatingly complex ways, including the use of an ability to control the bodies of humans around him to progress through the levels. Despite the player character being a young boy, the game is pretty brutal and death can happen in several realistic and gory ways if puzzles are not completed properly.
No spoilers, but INSIDE features a mysterious and very uncomfortable main ending involving an… entity? known as “The Huddle,” which has led many to speculate on the game’s deeper meanings about human willpower, collectiveness, individuality, and what it means to be a player controlling a character in a game. There is a “secret” second ending as well, enhancing the philosophical conversation around this fun and satisfying puzzle-platformer.
26. Super Mario Maker
Original Release: September 11, 2015
Super Mario Maker gives longtime Mario fans the chance to step into Nintendo’s shoes and create their own Mario levels. While this may appear simple at first glance, the fact that Mario Maker includes elements from four different installments of the classic side-scroller series—Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. U—makes for near-endless possibilities in level creation. The level creation tools all work well, especially with the Wii U’s stylus and touch screen functionality.
The fun doesn’t stop at designing your own levels either as you can upload your levels online to be downloaded, played, and rated by other players from around the world. Likewise, you can download and play others’ levels.
Original Release: March 11, 2014
One of the most popular card games of the decade, Hearthstone provides players a way of enjoying the Warcraft Universe without having to actually own or have played the main series. Blizzard’s digital turn-based collectible card game pits players against one another in a rather interesting way. Players choose a character class, granting them both unique abilities and cards that allow the player to attempt to reduce their opponent’s health to zero in a card battle. Hearthstone’s freemium formula allows anyone to enjoy the game without having to climb a paywall.
24. Batman: Arkham City
Original Release: October 18, 2011
The sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum does the thing that every good sequel does—it retains what makes the original so great but adds something new and fresh. In this case, the Batman world that Rocksteady Studios created was fleshed out even more. Batman: Arkham Asylum creates a very unique environment that players got to explore in new ways, now having the freedom to glide around Arkham City without ever touching the ground. The gameplay became much more refined as well with the evolution of the free-flow combat system and additions to Batman’s arsenal. As a whole, the Batman: Arkham series is one of the best Metroidvania games out there, created in a world that is populated by one of the most popular comic book characters. Batman: Arkham City perfects Rocksteady Studios’s formula.
23. Nier: Automata
Original Release: March 7, 2017
Nier: Automata perfectly merges third-person hack and slash and bullet hell games, dashed with light RPG elements and a seamless open world recovering from the disappearance of humanity. Players control the androids 2B, 9S, and A2 over a near 80-hour adventure that explores the conflict of humanity and aliens via the proxy of androids and machines. Nier: Automata achieves near technical perfection, with minimal bugs and smooth and kinetic combat. Nier: Automata has large biomes that are visually different from each other and enemies that are distinct in their design and culture. Nier: Automata‘s soundtrack is special as well, with tones and orchestral composition which while stellar on its own alone greatly enhances each location the player visits.
Nier: Automata is one of the few games to explore philosophy as deeply as films and literature. The narrative is split into three acts and explores human consciousness and the meaning of life with a post-modern twist, examining things like the ideas of Abraham Maslow’s theory of the psychological “hierarchy of needs” and Roland Barthes’s “The Death of the Author.” Each new biome and machine culture explores another tier along that hierarchy before culminating in Adam and Eve, machines that are identical to humans in both form and mentality. Both androids and machines learn to derive meaning from their existence, developing their own agency and interpretations in spite of their previous programming. Ultimately, these new creatures kill their author. These sorts of heavy philosophical underpinnings are rarely seen in gaming, with Dark Souls and BioShock being other notable examples. The ideas explored are perfectly executed, presenting both the flaws and the beauty of existence before finally taking a stand on the value of community and coming together.
22. TellTale’s The Walking Dead Season 1
Original Release: April 24, 2012
Telltale’s The Walking Dead Season 1 is a beautifully crafted tale of redemption full of difficult decisions that will have repercussions for the player throughout the series. Players must navigate a world ruined by a Walker epidemic, armed with only their wits and their morality as they seek to survive and protect the life of a small child. The implementation of a time limit within the game made every decision feel crucial as one wrong decision could change the course of the gameplay. Telltale’s The Walking Dead can be argued to be one of Telltale’s best works of the decade.
21. Persona 4 Golden
Original Release: November 20, 2012
Sony’s PlayStation Vita is a fantastic little handheld that unfortunately didn’t get enough love. Persona 4 Golden is the brightest spot in the life of Sony’s last handheld. Persona 4 Golden is easily one of the best JRPGs of the decade, if not ever. Being able to take a meaty up to 100-hour RPG on the go means P4G and PlayStation Vita are a match made in heaven. This match is one of the reasons why fans have been begging for the Persona series to make its way to Nintendo Switch.
Being an enhanced and updated version of the 2008 PlayStation 2 original, Persona 4 Golden adds more content and a great new character in the form of the mysterious Marie. The game’s murder mystery plot in the cozy town of Inaba draws the player in and carries them through all its twists and turns. The game also features one of the best and most memorable casts of characters who players are sure to fall in love with as they meet and get to know them via their Social Links. Persona 4 Golden is easily one of, if not, the best PlayStation Vita games and is easily one of the best games of the decade.
20. Astro Bot Rescue Mission
Original Release: October 2, 2018
Something every platform needs is a killer app, something that people need to experience that draws them to that platform. Last year, PlayStation VR got its killer app in the form of Astro Bot Rescue Mission. The game nails what a VR 3D platformer should be. For what it did for VR, Astro Bot Rescue Mission is comparable to Super Mario 64‘s impact on the 3D games that followed.
The game features tons of great levels for the player and Astro Bot to journey through in order to rescue Astro Bot’s crew of missing robots. VR really adds a new dimension to the platformer genre, granting the ability to look around obstacles and providing new ways to discover secrets that regular games can’t replicate. The game is full of small, memorable moments that are sure to astound even those who are skeptical of VR games. Astro Bot Rescue Mission showcases how VR games aren’t just small demos anymore—they are full-fledged amazing experiences. This is why the game lands this high on our list.
19. Fallout: New Vegas
Original Release: October 19, 2010
Fallout: New Vegas gave the remnants of Black Isle Studio, now merged with Obsidian, another chance at the Fallout series. Instead of being a sequel to Fallout 3, New Vegas heavily builds its world off of the events of Fallout 2 and the cancelled Van Buren project. Playing as a self-created courier, the player is thrust into the Mojave desert and the remnants of Las Vegas as a three-way conflict between the Neo-America faction New California Republic, the brutal reimagining of the Roman Empire that is Caesar’s Legion, and the mysterious Robert House who is based off the real-life Robert Hughes. Fallout: New Vegas’s defining feature is the expansive amount of opportunity given to the player. Every quest has at least two methods of approach and more than one ending. The player is set free after the short introduction that accompanies the character creator where players pick a cocktail of skills, perks and traits to make a truly unique character that will dictate which of Fallout: New Vegas‘s various playstyles the player will experience.
The main quest starts off in a linear fashion as a way to encourage players to meet and interact with various factions before the player arrives at the glamorous Strip and meets Robert House to get into the meat of the game. Player agency is the central philosophy behind the design of each interaction. Players can side with any of the three main factions—or none of them. Players meet and interact with various factions and peoples across the desert, along with a few returning from previous games, all of which the player can decide the fate of. In true Fallout fashion, New Vegas and its expansions offer a huge array of places to explore, collectables to find, bosses to fight, and the world record for dialogue with 65,000 lines to exhaust. The scale of New Vegas is astounding for the Fallout series and games as a whole.
18. Mass Effect 2
Original Release: January 26, 2010
It’s a rare thing when a sequel trumps its original, but Mass Effect 2 manages to best its predecessor in almost every way. The first Mass Effect game has its pluses as well as its pratfalls, but Mass Effect 2 manages to correct the course and did its part to progress the franchise towards true greatness. BioWare worked on solving everything that wasn’t ideal about Mass Effect for its second installment, and managed to do it without compromising on what made Mass Effect special when reformatting the action RPG into one of the most well-crafted shooters of its age.
More important than the mechanics, the combat, and the issues with the game engine, Mass Effect 2 is memorable and a standout this decade for its storytelling and its world building, handled primarily by writers Drew Karpyshyn and Mac Walters. Mass Effect 2 keeps the ball rolling on one of the most interesting, deep sci-fi environments in any medium. Commander Shepherd, the series protagonist and player character, is dead—but duty calls. Fortunately, what revenant Shepherd chooses to do with his new life is up to the player, and those decisions have truly meaningful effects throughout the game’s detailed and multilayered universe. Mass Effect 2’s approach to player-driven narratives left such a lasting impression that the third installment, Mass Effect 3, felt so limited by comparison that BioWare had to change the game’s ending to accommodate fan expectations.
17. Super Mario Odyssey
Original Release: October 27, 2017
Super Mario Odyssey returns to the exploration-based styles of past Mario games like Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. Players can wander around areas and earn Power Moons as they discover opportunities for them, while still moving through each world in a linear fashion to complete the story.
Thanks to his new sentient hat named Cappy, Mario has more abilities in addition to his classic jumping moves. He can throw Cappy at certain things and enemies to possess and control them, which helps for clearing puzzles and accomplishing other tasks.
Super Mario Odyssey is a fun “odyssey” (aha!) through the Mario universe, featuring old favorites, such as Pauline from the classic arcade game Donkey Kong. Also, Pauline’s song “Jump Up, Super Star!” that was first unveiled in the E3 2017 trailer for the game is undeniably fun.
16. Life is Strange
Original Release: January 30, 2015
Max and Chloe are a truly memorable duo, and the pair make Life is Strange something special. The game captures the sense of excitement of attending your dream school, then realizing it may not perfectly live up to everything you’d hoped it would be. The intro to Episode 1 with Max walking through the hallway with Syd Matter’s “To All of You” playing is something that nails that new school feeling perfectly. Over the course of the five episode season, players watch a typical high school/college story evolve into an ever-growing mystery filled with time travel highjinks. Each episode feels like it’s the perfect length, and the story beats hit hard and make you want to rush into the next episode.
Max and Chloe’s relationship feels real, and that makes it something really special. DONTNOD nailed how easy it is for people to fall back into friendships and habits even after spending years apart. The relationship with Chloe isn’t the only one Max has to manage either. Each choice and decision you make as Max impacts how others view her, which can trigger major ripples over the course of the game that can cause things to play out differently. Life is Strange is a game full of tough choices, emotional moments, a great soundtrack, and characters that anyone can connect to.
Original Release: September 15, 2015
There is something truly special about Undertale. The game feels like an ode to classic genre-riffing RPGs like Earthbound, but plays on the tropes of those RPGs too. What makes Undertale feel different from everything else is its form of storytelling. The game really goes against everything you learned from other video games as you don’t necessarily have to kill the enemies you encounter. Undertale gives the player the option to spare those enemies instead.
“Pacifist” or “Genocide” are the two main narratives of Undertale, and each changes the game drastically. However, playing both lets players experience the full story of the game. Undertale also has a fantastically memorable cast of characters that players grow to love as they become friends (or enemies) with the player’s character. The game features a great soundtrack, hilarious and meaningful dialogue, and a very unique turn-based combat system. Undertale stands out from the pack as a game everyone should give a chance to as well as one of the best of the decade.
14. Portal 2
Original Release: April 19, 2011
There are a lot of games that think they’re funny, but Valve’s Portal games genuinely are. The iconic Portal 2 is a puzzle game, sure—and the orange and blue portal-based puzzles are the just-right kind that are satisfying to solve but not excessively frustrating—but Portal 2 is really a solitary, fairly lonely game about being verbally harassed while you try to get on with your business.
Portal 2 takes place primarily in hallways and test chambers, but the writing makes the world of the game feel boundlessly alive. Whether it’s the artful abuse of the sadistic and mean-spirited AI GlaDOS as she delights in bullying the silent Chell or the affable robot Wheatley, this cloistered game never gets boring. There’s also the addition of posthumous audio files from the founder of Aperture Labs, and these provide a chunk of lore to the world Portal shares with Valve’s other juggernaut series Half-Life. There’s a lot of really funny and sharp writing (and voice acting) that feels well-placed and never overstays its welcome.
13. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Original Release: November 11, 2011
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim throws players back into the world of The Elder Scrolls’s Tamriel, now in the frozen tundra of the Nordic homeland. The region of Tamriel that players explore is called Skyrim, a rich and detailed fantasy interpretation of Dark Ages Scandinavian culture. Streamlining RPG systems from the previous games, Skyrim is much more action-focused from the gameplay to the storyline itself. Skyrim gives players the chance to have a fantasy power trip as the last Dragonborn, a humanoid mixed with the soul of a dragon which grants the player the ability to use mythical powers. As expected, Skyrim offers a densely packed world to hack and slash through, replete with easter eggs and lore to discover. Skyrim offers more than enough content for hundreds of hours, even long after the end of the story.
12. Persona 5
Original Release: April 4, 2017
“Style”—the perfect one-word description of Persona 5. Everything about this game is dripping with style from the music, art, UI, combat—everything fits perfectly together in Persona 5‘s stylistic choices. Easily the best JRPG of the decade, Persona 5 nails how a modern-day JPRG should feel. The game is the most ambitious in the series and provides well over 100 hours of gameplay for players to engross themselves in.
Following the Persona series’s tradition, the game has another great and memorable cast of characters that all stand out and grow as the game progresses. Choosing how you spend your limited amount of in-game free time is always one of the toughest decisions in the series, and Persona 5 gives you plenty of options for how to fill that time. The dungeons stand out in this game more than any other in the series for their memorable designs and puzzles, and there are also tons of quality of life improvements compared to older entries in the series. All together, it makes this game nail the feeling of a modern RPG and really set the bar for future JRPGs. Persona 5 deservingly lands this high our list.
11. Pokémon GO
Original Release: July 6, 2016
Developed by Niantic, Pokémon GO brings Pokémon fans one step closer to living in a real Pokémon world. The game is notable for its clever use of augmented reality (AR) as you can see Pokémon appear in your real-life surroundings via your device’s camera as well as location-based features as your geographical location in the world determines what Pokémon you encounter. Additionally, real-life locations such as landmarks, parks, stores, etc., may appear in the game as Poké Stops to collect items from and Gyms in which players can fight to maintain control of the area.
Though Pokémon GO struggled with technical issues at launch such as overloaded servers, it reached 500 million downloads just two months after releasing. Earlier this year, it surpassed one billion downloads after drawing many players back into the game with its still ongoing Team GO Rocket event, which incorporated the main series games’ infamous Team Rocket into the game for players to track down and defeat.
10. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Original Release: March 3, 2017
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was arguably the biggest game of the few available for the Nintendo Switch at launch in March 2017, as well as the last title published by Nintendo for the Wii U. As an open world game, Breath of the Wild gives players a vast landscape to explore with a nonlinear story to complete at their own leisure. The vast amount of freedom that Nintendo gave players to explore and complete quests is unparalleled. The game allows for the player to do so much without getting in the way of itself too often. Breath of the Wild went onto receive high praise for just about everything in it: the art, the mechanics, the music—you name it.
Original Release: May 24, 2016
With their latest IP, Blizzard pulled off the tricky maneuver of making players care about characters that have minimal lore and star in a game with no campaign that rose from the ashes of a failed MMO project. To be fair, the Blizzard story cinematics are always top notch, and a lot more lore has been added to Overwatch since the game’s initial launch. Not since the cast of Street Fighter II has it felt so easy to recognize a character on sight from a big lineup and become attached in a flash to their personality and unique gameplay strengths—just consider all the hero-themed merch available based on every character, as each one on the ever-growing roster represents a relatable identity—yeah, even the monkey—that appeals to Overwatch’s massive and diverse fanbase.
On top of that, the approachable and intuitive multiplayer team-based shooter is wildly fun and easy to get hooked on. Overwatch is set in a colorful and endearing near-futuristic world full of gadgets and novelties, built with the trademark Blizzard polish that fans of their production have come to expect. Overwatch is mashing all your favorite action figures together in its purest form, and with its sequel-expansion around the corner (the world could always use more heroes) Overwatch will be sure be a major title for causal and top-level competitive play for years to come.
8. Grand Theft Auto V
Original Release: September 17, 2013
It’s easy to say that Grand Theft Auto V is one of the best games of the decade. For one, it’s developed by Rockstar Games and when they put out a game, they deliver. It may not be for everyone, but it usually changes the landscape of what a game could be.
With Grand Theft Auto V, Rockstar Games decided to try something new. The story that they told featured three playable characters who each had their own story within the world. And then there’s Grand Theft Auto Online, the multiplayer component to the game that is still being updated today. Grand Theft Auto V has not gone away since the game’s release in 2013.
Original Release: March 13, 2012
Journey is a beautifully unique cooperative adventure experience by indie developer Thatgamecompany. The game is perfectly simple—the player controls a figure in red robe as they traverse the desert in search of a mountain far off in the distance. There are other red-robed figures on this pilgrimage too, and cooperative play is achieved by using the game’s sound-based system of impressionistic communication, where pieces of cloth are affected by musical chimes and influence the game environments.
The anonymous but warm and friendly approach to cooperative gaming is emotionally potent and helps magnify the sense of smallness the player experiences while exploring the big, beautiful world of Journey. One very memorable stand-out scene involves coasting down a sand dune in the sunset—not only is it really gorgeous to see this play out on screen, it’s a great testament to Journey’s ability to deliver a fun, resonant, and philosophically rich experience all without saying a word.
Original Release: March 24, 2015
Love it or hate it, FromSoftware is infamous for the difficulty of their games. Where the Dark Souls trilogy is slow and loaded with character build options to approach the steady, controlled pace of combat, Bloodborne stands out for its frenetic, frenzied approach to battle. Bloodborne is about bloodlust. Doing away with the sword-and-board standard of Dark Souls, director Hidetaka Miyazaki and his team created a combat rhythm that encourages the player to get their Hunter (the only combat class) up close and personal with their foes, and stay there until that foe is a bloody mess. There aren’t any real play-it-safe approaches to besting Bloodborne—the game asks blade and gun-wielding Hunters to play fast and loose with their own health pool to fuel their prowess in close quarters combat just a bit longer than feels wise.
The world of Bloodborne is uneasy and unrelenting too. Miyazaki took inspiration from the themes of Victorian Gothic and added a very big dash of eldritch, Lovecraftian horror that perfectly suits the vast mystery of the world of Yharnam and the blood-borne pathogen that’s polluting it very literally from within. FromSoftware games are known for more than their difficulty—Bloodborne builds an extremely immersive world laden with decay and an overpowering sense of wrong-ness that is not easy to forget once the game is through. All of this world-building is done in the trademark “hands-off” style of FromSoftware that helps make the Dark Souls series so cherished. The impressionistic but vivid narrative structure of the game encourages speculation, thinking, feeling, and ultimately remembering—the way you might remember the tail end of a terrible nightmare.
5. God of War
Original Release: April 20, 2018
There are a number of reasons why God Of War is one of the best games of this decade. From the drastic changes in design from the previous games to the way this latest iteration was masterfully presented, God Of War is a true narrative-driven experience in every way. Perhaps the biggest departure from previous entries is its emphasis and focus on the characters. For many gamers, this latest entry in the series made them become attached to Kratos as a character. One focus when rebooting the God of War franchise for Sony Santa Monica was to flesh out Kratos and give him more depth. Every character that you come across during God of War is detailed, and every event that occurs during the story is a by-product of a character’s actions. Some of the best stories are character-driven and God Of War has that in spades.
The other core tenet that makes God of War so special is how different it plays from the previous God of War games. Sony Santa Monica completely overhauled the mechanics for this iteration of God of War. From the new camera perspective to the changes in combat, everything feels fresh. Obviously, the new weapon also helps. Like the Blades of Chaos, Kratos’s cherished new axe became an iconic video game weapon. Most importantly, God Of War did something that no other game has ever done: the entire game is one continuous shot. From the moment you start the game to the last scene, it never cuts. There has never been anything like it before, and it makes 2018’s God of War very special.
4. Red Dead Redemption II
Original Release: October 26, 2018
With Red Dead Redemption II, developer Rockstar Games decided to try and make the most realized open world ever created. They did this with an obscene amount of attention to detail—this comes at no surprise as every Rockstar game does that, but they also created several new mechanics that make it seem as you are truly a part of the world of Red Dead Redemption II.
On top of creating the most realized and detailed open world ever made, Rockstar challenged themselves narratively as this game serves as a prequel to Red Dead Redemption, a game we at mxdwn consider to be another of the best games of the last decade. Forgoing any spoilers, it’s safe to say that Red Dead Redemption II might be Rockstar’s best story, and it stands on its own while setting up the story of Red Dead Redemption. Rockstar also let everyone loose in their western world with Red Dead Online, the next evolution of what they’ve created with Grand Theft Auto Online. It seems that this game won’t be going anywhere anytime soon either.
Original Release: July 25, 2017
The worldwide phenomenon known as Fortnite takes the number three spot on the list. Few games have ever penetrated into the mainstream and entered the cultural zeitgeist like Fortnite has. The game perfected the battle royale genre, is constantly updated with new content by Epic Games, and continues to be one of the most streamed games on Twitch over two years after its battle royale mode was released. Don’t even get us started on Fortnite‘s in-game events. Each event is something special and Epic always makes them absolutely must-see for anyone interested in the game.
The game has had major crossovers with the Avengers movies (even briefly appearing in Avengers: Endgame), John Wick, Star Wars (even premiering a scene from The Rise of Skywalker prior to the film’s release), and more. The massive amount of success the game has found has even allowed for Epic to launch the Epic Games Store. Also, what game can be taken offline for almost two days—not for any problem, but just to make players wait in anticipation for a huge Fortnite revamp?
Man oh man, did the revamped Fortnite Chapter 2 make an impact. With a graphical overhaul, new map, and refined gameplay mechanics, Chapter 2 of the game turned an already great game into something truly special. Fornite dominated and was the defining game of the end of the decade. Thus, that’s why Fortnite lands at number 3 on our list.
2. The Last of Us
Original Release: June 14, 2013
What really needs to be said about The Last of Us? This game is a perfect example of doing something different and uncertain and being rewarded for the risk with amazing success. Naughty Dog split into two different teams after Uncharted 2 to develop Uncharted 3 and a new Jak and Daxter game (though this didn’t come to fruition). Instead, ideas shifted and that led to one of the best studios on the planet creating their best and one of the most memorable games ever. Thus, The Last of Us proves that taking chances instead of sticking to something known can pay off in a huge way.
Joel and Ellie are absolute standouts, and watching their relationship grow from tense and angry to a full on father-daughter relationship is something to behold. The story taking place over the course of the four seasons makes each part of the game feel different as Joel and Ellie trek across a post-apocalyptic America. The story beats hit hard, especially the ones at the beginning of the game and the end of Winter. Both are sure to pull at a player’s heart stings as they show how hard it is to survive in their post-apocalyptic world and share something about what it means to truly care for others. The Last of Us is easily one of the best games of the decade and solidly deserves its place on our list.
Game of the Decade: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Original Release: May 19, 2015
There isn’t a lot that needs to be said as to why The Witcher III: Wild Hunt is mxdwn’s best game of the decade. CD Projekt Red put a lot into the game, from the world to the narrative to the different RPG systems and gameplay mechanics. Everything is as detailed, intricate, and fleshed out as it can possibly be.
One thing that makes The Witcher III stand out above all the other games on this list is the fact that every quest, whether it be main or side or monster hunt, was fully formed and purposeful. Every single element had a story attached to it so none of them felt like busy work the way some quests can in other games. And while the game has been out for four years now, it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere soon with the new Netflix series based on the Witcher franchise bringing back more players to the game than ever before.