As we enter a new decade, much like every other gaming site, we decided to take a long look back at some of the best games released over the past ten years. While some years seemed a bit light on ground-breaking titles, others were so packed we had a hard time picking just one. So after a long trip down memory lane, contributor myself and Henry Perez have compiled this list of what we each considered to be the best games of the decade.
I adore both indie and AAA titles, as long as they are memorable. While I do have some blockbusters in my list, I tried to pluck a few of the lesser praised titles that I personally feel were just as good as the now considered classics. If I put in loads of playtime, felt some heavy emotions, or just plain had fun with a game, it made this list.
Without further ado, here are my choices for games of the decade.
-Justin Ortiz-Burrow (@LazHimself)
This was by far the toughest year to make a choice. There were so many games released in 2010 that I now consider some of my all-time favorites. In the end, I went with the game that made me fall in love with the Wild West genre. Much like Vice City did with the 1980s, Red Dead Redemption transported me to a time in America that I never experienced, but left me wishing I could.
The bleak storyline, memorable characters, and insane attention to detail set the bar yet again for open-world games. With perhaps the most memorable ending in video game history, RDR is a game every player should explore. This game left a lasting impact on me. I will never forget first crossing into Mexico, and I wish I could experience it for the first time all over again.
Horror games have taken a turn for the worse in recent years, at least in my opinion. Swapping atmosphere and creatures for combat-free running simulators, we simply don’t get games like Dead Space very often anymore. Sure there are exceptions, but I feel even those retread old ground. Dead Space introduced us to the first fully realized space horror game, and the sequel perfected it.
The wonderful monster designs, the incredible atmosphere, and satisfying gameplay crafted a world of gore and unimaginable horror. They pulled no punches and for that I applaud them. I mean how many games do you know where you can literally stomp mutant babies? Shame about the third one. But that’s the real horror story, isn’t it? The bloody history of EA.
If you’ve met me, you’d know this game would be on the list. If we were choosing a single game of the entire decade, I would more than likely go with Hotline Miami. Absolutely bleeding with style and neon gore, Hotline showed the gaming world how a simple indie game could have such a massive impact on the industry. With a cerebral and purposely confusing story, the game feeds the player just enough information to allow for them to fill in the blanks. Leaving some things up to interpretation, it crafted a wonderfully trippy journey.
Mixing bloody, fast-paced, and difficultly satisfying combat with one of the best soundtracks in video game history, it’s hard not to get caught up in the game. Thanks to Dennaton Games, I’ll always find animal masks aesthetic and macabre.
The Metro games prove to the AAA industry that a small team with a relatively small budget can produce an incredibly detailed and visually stunning game like Last Light. The post-apocalyptic tunnels are filled with great characters, lore, and unknown forces that come together to put a truly interesting spin on the now played-out genre.
Inserting a subtle but impactful choice system, the game changes depending on your various approach to situations without being a flat-out A or B option. This affects various things throughout the game, including the ending itself. It was the first time in a game where I really thought about every action I did, rather than waiting for a button prompt to point of the obvious paths. Oh, and if you’re a sucker for reloading animations like me, the Metro series is the absolute king.
“But it’s not a full game!” I hear you scream, and you’re right. But I don’t care. PT, the “failed” Silent Hills beta, demo/prototype/secret insult to Konami/whatever you wanna call it, was absolutely the best horror game I’ve played in the past decade. The audio design was impeccable. The atmosphere and tension were unmatched. And the entire way it was presented is absolutely genius.
Originally sold as a demo from a small unknown indie team, PT infiltrated PS4s worldwide, only to be revealed as a sort of secret “playable trailer” for a Kojima/Del Toro driven Silent Hill entry. Released before the Konami and Kojima split, PT is a glimpse of what could have been. It’s both heartbreaking and mind-boggling. And it is without a doubt the single most studied game demo of all time.
From Software‘s PlayStation exclusive that strayed away from the medieval fantasy genre in exchange for a Lovecraftian romp, Bloodborne is widely considered to be the best exclusive of this generation. The peak of combat and level design in video games, Bloodborne is what I consider to be FromSoft’s masterpiece.
The lore, creature designs, art style, and just about everything else is absolutely top-notch. Perfecting the aggressive play-style with its unique health regeneration system, the game encourages players to get those few extra quick hits in exchange for health. While I never thought I would say this about a single game, I can’t help but admit I feel Bloodborne alone is worth the purchase of a PS4. I cannot recommend it enough.
From Software hits us again with a fantastic entry into the genre-defining Dark Souls series. Improved hitboxes, online modes, framerate, and physics, Dark Souls 3 ends the trilogy with a raging bonfire.
Joining all previous game’s lore and story together in a way that pleased long-time and new fans alike, the game feels like a love letter to the dedicated players. Returning to Anor Londo and seeing the rubble of the first game brought such a rush of emotions I find hard to describe. Dark Souls 3 cemented the entire series as a staple of video game history.
While this wasn’t my first Yakuza game, it was the one that really made me fall in love with the series. I had tried the Yakuza titles years ago on PS3 after hearing them being compared to Shenmue, but I just could not get myself into them. Maybe it was because I started with what many consider to be the most dialogue-heavy and slowest of the series, maybe because I was expected more Shenmue vibes. Regardless of why, I just didn’t get the hype. After being told how much I would like the series by my friend, I decided to give it another shot. After a few hours, I never looked back.
The story and characters of Yakuza 0 are some of the best in gaming. Each character is a deeply developed and layered person that you both understand and root for. Majima, long-time fan favorite but not the focus of the franchise, gets a much larger role in this entry. Being playable for the first time, the “Mad Dog” flipped player’s expectations when he was presented as his true, human, self. I cannot stress enough how well they deepened and crafted his character in Yakuza 0. It placed him firmly at the top of my favorite characters not only in gaming, but in all fiction. If you haven’t tried the series, or want to give it another chance, start with Yakuza 0 and you won’t look back.
What can I say about Red Dead Redemption 2 that hasn’t already been said? At first, I was annoyed with the “replacement” of John Marston. I just could not imagine a protagonist topping the likes of my lovely John. But damn you Rockstar, you did it. Arthur Morgan is perhaps my favorite protagonist of all-time. Morgan is a flawed but charming character that brought so much life to the standard outlaw gang story it’s incredible. While I’m usually not one for prequel stories, Rockstar Games managed to tell us the origins of Dutch’s gang, while somehow only enhancing the original Red Dead Redemption’s story.
Once again launching the bar for open-world games into orbit, RDR2 has such an unprecedented amount of detail, polish and content shoved into it, it’s frankly hard to wrap your head around. Over a year later and people are still finding new things in the single player.
Remedy Games are responsible for creating some of the most influential games to my personal tastes, and even style. Max Payne made me fall in love with gritty noir crime stories, and depressed, witty cops who fall in love with identical twins. Alan Wake roped the Lynch fan in me, and pulled me into the mysterious town of Bright Falls, a place in which I never wanted to leave. Control feels like it aged along with me.
With its minimalist, foreboding level design and art direction, the visual aesthetic of the game can’t be beaten. I found myself staring at the world for hours on end just admiring the stylishly simple and looming architecture within The Oldest House. Mix this with the amazingly strange, interesting, and borderline horrific lore and story surrounding the known powers of the world and the void of the “Astral plan“, Control is easily the most creative and intriguing game in years. I can’t remember a game in which I consumed every note, file, log, diary, and video, only to be hungry for more. I hope this is only the start of the Control universe, because I frankly need more of it in my life.
As we leave this decade behind, there’s a lot of great experiences the involved generations have provided. Perhaps not all of these are surprising for someone who prioritizes pure action games, but these are the games of each respective year that left the biggest impression on me that will hold a special place in my heart. Here’s to the next decade providing more wonderful gaming experiences!
But before that, let’s see what I felt were the highlights of this decade.
-Henry Perez (@GhenryPerez)
Harmonix is a company that always prioritizes their fans and what they wanted out of their games. While the company got intertwined with the Guitar Hero feud throughout most of the 7th generation, they wanted the third main iteration of Rock Band to be truly captivating for fans of the series.
Adding new features along with other features from the spin-offs, such as the keyboard peripheral and harmony vocals on applicable songs–potentially making multiplayer rack up to 7 different people at a time–this made it a big hit for parties and gatherings. Stack that with a huge number of customization options for creating bandmates, 3 years worth of weekly DLC compatibility, and a surprisingly wholesome story mode, this made for an immense entry to the Rock Band series and helped cement Harmonix as the rhythm game company that knew its music and fans best.
The year 2011 was ripe with most game companies obsessing over 3D graphics and high-end visuals, so it was refreshing to see the likes of Michel Ancel return to the Rayman franchise after a handful of years to make a beautiful 2D platformer with lush animation. Rayman Origins amazed me as a fan of classic platforming action. It was such a great entry for the genre to come out that early in the decade, and still remains as one of the best at the end of it! The sequel, Rayman Legends, is certainly worth checking out as well.
The subgenre of “arena brawlers” never had much presence, but that didn’t stop the fine people at PlatinumGames to make a successor to the cult-classic Wii-exclusive brawler “Madworld.” While the unique comic-style visuals and motion controls were absent for this entry, they expanded this brawler immensely with a much deeper combo system, an array of unique characters to play as, and online multiplayer for up to 16 players!
While originally set for a 2012 release overseas, it was Japan-exclusive for many months after the Western release was already finished! It wasn’t too well received in the review sphere, but I adored everything this game went for. From the hard-hitting indie-rap soundtrack to the ultra-satisfying combat! If you can convince a few friends to grab this from the bargain bin and gather online, why not get some multiplayer action going?
Vanillaware made a great single-player 2D hack-n-slash game with a beautiful art style set during the Edo period of Japan with Muramasa: The Demon Blade back in 2009, so I was itching to get Dragon’s Crown once it was first revealed, and it delivered immensely! A 4-player RPG beat-em-up with incredible visuals set in a medieval fantasy world made for a fantastic experience with friends both online and locally! There was so much to discover, and the enemy line-up was seemingly-endless, making for a very fun and unique experience, even for seasoned beat-em-up veterans.
Insomniac Games had a rocky relationship with the 7th generation. While Resistance was considerably underwhelming for me, as well as most of the PS3 Ratchet and Clank titles, their early entry to the 8th generation with Sunset Overdrive reminded me why I loved this company in the first place. Rising from the rubble that was the “Fuse” debacle with EA, they were inspired to make something so wonderfully off-the-wall and exciting, which came to be Sunset Overdrive.
A third-person shooter that heavily encouraged the player to take advantage of the environment around them and to keep moving as quickly and creatively as possible! Mix the fun movement mechanics with explosive action, a punk-esque soundtrack, characters that are hard to love but harder to hate, and a beautifully colorful atmosphere, what you have is a great experience that was only attainable on Xbox One for a while. The PC port released last year runs great, however, it lacks the online competitive co-op mode.
“Really, Henry?! An arcade-exclusive first-person on-rail shooter?! Are you serious?!” While the game isn’t exactly easy to come across, as a fan of the Time Crisis series, it was a highlight for me back in 2015 when the full edition started popping up in Dave & Busters locations. While most current arcade games are shameless credit-munchers, the people within Namco were able to craft a great new iteration to Time Crisis that finds a good balance between challenging scenarios and fair gameplay from beginning to end.
This choice probably sticks out like a sore thumb among all the other decade highlights here in Console Monster, but I want to give credit where I feel its due. Time Crisis was mostly dormant for about 10 years before this title. It makes me happy to see that Namco still cares about the arcade scene by providing a new and exciting experience for Time Crisis players, such as myself! If there’s a Round One or Dave & Busters near you, check it out sometime!
This decade was a big one for the indie scene of game development. Many great titles from small teams with simple concepts were able to stand tall among the greatest games of this generation! And Superhot is certainly no exception. A first-person shooter that has mechanics more familiar with turn-based styles, this game not only demands accuracy when taking down enemies, but a means to strategize and fully understand the concept of time moving only when you do.
The intense gameplay and minimal story of intrigue make for a gratifying experience. I’d also recommend the VR version, as you perform all the movement and actions with your own body, really making you feel like a super-spy when you pull off the scenarios perfectly!
As action games proceeded to take the world by storm, the run-n-gun subgenre really fell into obscurity. That didn’t stop the folks at Studio MDHR to make an incredibly unique take with their drinkable heroes! Cuphead sported amazing visuals with its hand-drawn artwork and animation that honors the golden age of cartoons perfectly. While that’s what most people adore this game for, what really got me was the gameplay!
The bosses were an absolute blast to learn and conquer, and its fair design makes for a great stepping stone to the best run-n-gun games of all time. If you’ve taken on the biggest threats of Inkwell Isle and took them down with relative ease, you’ve got what it takes to dominate the classic Contra series! I thank Studio MDHR for showing the world that a great run-n-gun game can still be achieved.
This Indie title might not have groundbreaking gameplay, but the experience of it comes from the lugubrious atmosphere and beautifully-woven narrative. The story of a silent woman in this dead world trying to restore its color was considerably heartbreaking, but absolutely fulfilling in so many ways. That, and the puzzles throughout are really fun to solve. The most impressive thing about it is that it was able to provide such a deep and profound narrative from beginning to end, without even a shred of dialogue. If you haven’t already, please give Gris a try.
2019 was a pretty strong year for video games, even though the two I anticipated (which I’ll leave unnamed) were very disappointing in my eyes, the sleeper hit of this year ended up meaning so much to me, more than I can summarize right now. Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes has pretty simple combat and can feel monotonous at times, but the narrative, writing, and presentation go beyond anything else I’ve experienced this year.
-This game was an analogue for Suda51’s personal history with video games, including his time dedicated to the industry, which counts for the majority of his life at this point. It’s intriguing, soul-crushing, and inspiring all at the same time! Be sure to read between the lines when you experience Travis’ journey across these savage Death Drive games!
So there you have it, the top games of the decade as chosen by us. Do you agree? Disagree? Want to threaten us for leaving out your favorite title?
Let us know in the comments!