As is to be expected at the end of a decade, many gaming outlets have been posting lists of the greatest games of the past ten years. That got me thinking about the games I loved this decade. (Please don’t give me the “a decade doesn’t end in a year ending in 9” argument. I am sympathetic to your cause, but I think it’s fine to think of the 2010s as beginning in 2010.)
Our culture often pegs gamers as adolescent boys, but at least one statistical analysis suggests that such an image is skewed. In reality, almost half of gamers are women and almost two-thirds are between twenty-one and fifty, according to some statistical analysis. Demographically, I spent the past decade right in the middle of that age bracket. In fact, I probably spent as much time playing video games in my thirties as I did as a kid. Why? Why does an adult male who started the decade as a high school English teacher and finished the decade as a computer science PhD student like video games so much?
Well, the easy answer is that this is the decade in which video games came into their own as popular entertainment; games got a lot more sophisticated in narrative structure while simultaneously designers started to take on a sort of auteur status that (for the most part) wasn’t recognized outside of the gaming community in the industry’s nascent stage. Designers like Shigeru Miyamoto, Hideo Kojima, Sid Meier, Will Wright and Roberta Williams have been major stars within the gaming community for years, and Indie Game: The Movie (one of my favourite movies of the decade) tapped into the growing recognition of indie game developers as auteurs.
I will always have a soft spot for games like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Metroid, Chrono Trigger, Super Mario Bros. and Bases Loaded. I grew up playing those games with my brother and with my friends. I still play them now and again thanks to Nintendo Switch Online and retro machines like the NES Classic Edition and the Super NES Classic Edition. That said, as brilliant as The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is, I think it pales in comparison to the sheer scope and beauty of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. While Chrono Trigger is a brilliant game that will likely always be in my top ten games of all time, it was superseded by Atlus’s brilliant Persona 5.
Breath of the Wild and Persona 5 are my two favourite games of the decade. They are probably my two favourite games of all-time. The past decade is, I would (and do) argue, the greatest decade games have seen. It also includes the best single year in games: 2017. In that year, we saw Breath of the Wild, Persona 5 (in North America), NieR: Automata, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Super Mario Odyssey, Cuphead, What Remains of Edith Finch, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, Divinity: Original Sin 2, Prey, Destiny 2, Assassin’s Creed Origins and many, many other amazing games. Gamers were spoiled in 2017, and there are dozens of other games that came out in the other nine years of the decade that could easily hold positions in any list of the top ten games ever made.
Reflecting on how great a decade it was for games and on how much time I spent playing many of those games, I decided that I want to write a series of short essays on the most important games of the decade for me. This doesn’t necessarily mean best. For example, I think Portal 2 was one of the five best games of the decade, but it doesn’t make me want to come back to it in the way, say, Rocket League does. As a result, I am leaving out many games that I think are the best in order to focus on ones that I found more personally meaningful.
In order to ease my mind, though, I am going to list all of my favourites from the decade, but I will only be writing essays about ten of them. Which ten? I guess you’ll have to read the essays (or at least the titles) to know. Without further adieu, here is a list of my favourite games of the past decade (in alphabetical order):
Assassin’s Creed Origins
God of War
The Last of Us
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Mass Effect 2
No Man’s Sky
Ori and the Blind Forest
Return of the Obra Dinn
Rock Band 3
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Super Mega Baseball
What Remains of Edith Finch
The Witcher 3