100 Best Games of the Decade
We've picked the very best games released this decade. Guess which titles ended up at the top?
What a difference 10 years make. We kicked off the 2010s with the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii, and we’re ending the decade at the twilight of another generation of platforms. The PC remains a constant in our lives, but we’ll soon be saying goodbye to the era of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. In the years between, we’ve also seen the rise of live services, cloud gaming, on-demand streaming, home-handheld console hybrids, and excellent experiences on our mobile devices. In 2010, we were impatiently waiting for DLC expansions, and now we bow to the almighty battle pass.
What future will the 2020s bring? For one thing, we know that the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are coming next year, while cloud gaming services like Google Stadia will continue to challenge the notion that we need a box at all to enjoy the best games. And with Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Now making a major push in on-demand gaming, will the next decade ring in a new, all-digital status quo for the industry?
Time will tell how gaming will change in the next 10 years, but before we get there, it’s time to take one last look back at all of the games that brought us joy and/or introduced new ideas to the medium. We’ve looked at the last decade and chosen an eclectic list of titles that defined this decade and will perhaps inspire the next. Chosen through a voting process by our Games staff as well as a few of our esteemed colleagues in the industry, Den of Geek brings you the 100 best video games of the decade:
100. Amnesia: The Dark Descent
2010 | Frictional Games | PC, PS4, XBO, Switch
With its first-person perspective, claustrophobic environments, and the complete defenselessness of its protagonist, Amnesia: The Dark Descent helped set the standard for horror gaming this decade. Even after you learn the game’s tricks, it can take a lot of convincing to get you to dive into Amnesia’s haunted halls. This title stands alone as a testament to the power of horror in gaming and proof that atmosphere is one of those sometimes intangible things that video games uniquely excel at over other mediums. – MB
99. Return of the Obra Dinn
2018 | Lucas Pope | PC, PS4, XBO, Switch
Here’s the pitch: you’re an insurance investigator who must examine a recently returned ship known as the Obra Dinn to figure out what happened to the vanished souls that once inhabited it (and how much the whole thing is going to cost your company). The twist is that you also have access to a mystical stopwatch that allows you to turn back time and view the crew’s final moments.
A puzzle game unlike any other, Return of the Obra Dinn demands that you clear some serious chronological confusion while unraveling stories both personal and epic. There’s nothing quite like this game, and we doubt there ever will be. – MB
98. World of Warcraft Classic
2019 | Blizzard | PC
It’s tempting to dismiss World of Warcraft Classic as a nostalgia trip, but it’s not quite that. It’s an epic adventure to a bygone era when the seemingly infinite possibilities of creating an online world inspired an intrepid group of developers to go for broke with an MMORPG. Word of Warcraft Classic shows its age at times, but even the game’s rough edges are a testament to the spirit of adventure, the thrill of discovery, and the joys and frustrations that the greatest MMO of all time has come to represent. – MB
2017 | PUBG Corporation | PC, PS4, XBO, iOS, Android
PUBG didn’t invent the battle royale genre (the holder of that title is tricky to identify). It also didn’t turn it into a global phenomenon (that would be Fortnite). However, PUBG is correctly regarded as the game that converted the battle royale from a rough around the edges genre popular among enthusiasts to a mainstream obsession.
While PUBG may have fallen on tough times as of late, it remains the most tense battle royale title out there. Considered by some to be a horror game in disguise, PUBG showed that the battle to be the last one standing is as much about fortitude as firepower. – MB
96. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
2012 | Firaxis Games | PC, PS3, X360, Vita, iOS, Android
Tactical, turn-based games don’t get much better than 2012’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown. The gameplay builds upon the concepts of the 1994 original and is as highly addictive and polished as any game of its ilk. It’s a finely-tuned package whose myriad mechanics work in perfect harmony, from the blinding “Fog of War” to the ever-important “panic” gauge. This is a must-play game for every tactical RPG fan and to this day stands as one of the best examples of the genre. – BB
95. Outer Wilds
2019 | Mobius Digital | PS4, XBO, PC
The universe is going to end in about 20 minutes, and you’re the only person who can stop it. The problem is that you don’t know why the universe is ending, how to stop it, or even where you are. Fortunately, you’re to be stuck in a time loop that allows you infinite tries to discover the answer to all these questions. At a time when open-world games are more about filling empty space with largely hollow objectives, Outer Wilds captures the thrill of discovery, exploration, and figuring things out on your own. – MB
94. Rainbow Six Siege
2015 | Ubisoft Montreal | PS4, XBO, PC
It’s a simple concept: one team of players defends a building from the inside, while the other team attempts to infiltrate and eliminate. Ubisoft Montreal squeezed every drop of potential out of the idea and gave us Rainbow Six Siege, a shooter unlike any other. From the balanced tactical gameplay to the destructible environments, the game is calibrated perfectly and breathes new life into the Rainbow Six franchise in a creative, clever way. It’s one of the best close-quarters shooters we’ve played in the last 10 years, and to this day, jumping back into Siege is always an intense affair. – BB
93. New Super Mario Bros. U
2012 | Nintendo | Wii U, Switch
You’ve played a 2D Super Mario Bros. game before. You’ve probably even played one with friends. As such, you can probably imagine the basic joy of playing another expertly crafted Mario game, which is certainly what you get here.
New Super Mario Bros. U’s greatest trick is how it takes advantage of the Wii U’s often underutilized tablet controller. That peripheral opens up a new world of multiplayer manipulation possibilities that has made this game a favorite among co-op gamers. – MB
2014 | Respawn | XBO, X360, PC
Jumping into a hulking Titan in Titanfall for the first time is one of the most empowering sensations you’ll ever feel in a video game. It’s flat-out badass to wreck shop and squash foes like ants. Respawn’s multiplayer shooter is notable for its unique take on the genre, which sees players jump into and out of their 20-foot Titans, a feature that adds an incredible amount of depth to the otherwise traditional shooter gameplay. Titanfall is notoriously one of the most underrated franchises in modern gaming, but real fans know what’s up. – BB
91. StarCraft II
2010 | Blizzard | PC
It’s amazing that we finally got a StarCraft sequel this decade. Arriving 12 years after the release of the first game, StarCraft II is set four years after the initial conflict between the Terrans, Protoss, and Zergs, and protagonist Jim Raynor is now at odds with the Arcturus Mengsk, the former rebel leader who’s become emperor fo the Terran Dominion.
While the game’s campaign should not be missed, it’s really the sequel’s improved multiplayer component that’s solidified StarCraft II‘s place as one of the best of the decade. This is indeed a RTS masterpiece and every bit the sequel that fans had long hoped for. At a time when the RTS genre is in a bit of a flux, StarCraft II reminds us of its simple pleasures and stands as a modern benchmark for the genre. – MB
90. Mortal Kombat X
2015 | NetherRealm Studios | PS4, XBO, PC, iOS, Android
Three great Mortal Kombat games have released between 2010 and 2019, and Mortal Kombat X is the very best of them. After the timey-wimey shenanigans of Mortal Kombat 9 left a whole bunch of fighters dead, it’s up to a new generation of foul-mouthed kids — many of them the offspring of popular characters in the series — to stop a civil war on Outworld that threatens Earthrealm.
Yes, the story is zany and at times truly nonsensical but the real highlight here is the combat itself, featuring the most refined controls in the series to date. Additional gameplay options, such as the variations that allow you to pick specific movesets for each fighter, help this installment feel fresh. X-Ray moves, Brutalities, and Quitalities emphasize the gore, which is really what we’re all here for anyway! – JS
89. Untitled Goose Game
2019 | House House | PS4, XBO, Switch, PC
Untitled Goose Game is such a nice note to end the decade on. A casual stealth-puzzler, you play as a mean goose who loves to torment the citizens of an unsuspecting town who just want to go about their business. But this goose isn’t just gonna sit by and let peace and order reign. No, this goose is going to steal your glasses, your keys, an important town landmark, and much more before he’s through. Few games are as funny or exude more charm than this deceptively simple and truly engaging little indie. Honk! – JS
88. Dragon Ball FighterZ
2018 | Arc System Works | PS4, XBO, Switch, PC
The Dragon Ball franchise has suffered no shortage of tie-in games in the last few decades, but few of them are as good as Arc System Works’ latest fighting game adaptation. Set during the Dragon Ball Super era, this 3v3 fighter features all of your favorite characters from the series as well as an original fighter only found in the game but designed by series creator Akira Toriyama! Dragon Ball FighterZ‘s anime art style is an immediate eye catcher, and its fast-paced combat — including a “Vanish Attack” that allows you to instantly teleport behind your opponent — sets it apart from the competition. – JS
2015 | Nintendo | Wii U
Aside from GoldenEye, Nintendo has never been known for its competitive shooters. But that all changed in 2015 with the release of Splatoon, a simple but fun arena shooter that’s age-appropriate and fits snugly into Nintendo’s pantheon of party games. One criticism lobbed at Nintendo over the years is its inability (or perhaps refusal) to create compelling new characters. The Big N has pretty much relied on the same cast of gaming icons for the past 25 years. Fortunately, Splatoon’s Inklings are the best character designs Nintendo has created in years. – BB
86. The Stanley Parable
2013 | Galactic Cafe | PC
The Stanley Parable isn’t for everyone—it’s bizarre, somewhat disturbing, and actually not very fun to play at all. But it’s also an essential game that everyone should at least play once, if only to expand their personal understanding of what games can be. There’s no combat or real action involved, but it’s a fascinating stroll into the surreal as you guide Stanley through an ever-shifting office space that threatens to swallow him whole. Boundary-pushing doesn’t even begin to describe this instant-classic from developer Davey Wreden. – BB
85. Animal Crossing: New Leaf
2013 | Nintendo | 3DS
Animal Crossing: New Leaf is one of those Nintendo games (and there are a lot of them) that is so fun to play and works so well that it’s hard to critique. The tried-and-true Animal Crossing formula is expanded in New Leaf in the form of deeper sim and customization options, but for the most part, the game stays true to its predecessors and simply improves upon them in myriad ways. It’s so easy to get lost in this game—from decorating your house to running the town as mayor—that it’s basically impossible to pick it up and not become obsessed with it. – BB
84. Halo: Reach
2010 | Bungie | X360, XBO, PC
Bungie’s final Halo game is also one of its best. Featuring a whole new cast of heavily-armored Spartans who must fight to protect the human colony of Reach from the merciless Covenant, this Halo prequel tells the story of what happened right before Master Chief and Cortana crash landed on the Halo ring. Fortunately, Reach doesn’t fall into the usual prequel traps, only nodding to the franchise’s first installment when it really needs to. For the most part, this is a standalone game about the bond between a squad of super-soldiers and the dire situation they’re in. If Halo: ODST, in many ways the precursor to this bigger game, had a decidedly happy ending, Reach takes things in a completely different direction, raising the stakes for its heroes as they desperately try to protect humanity’s last hope from the enemy.
The game also features Halo‘s last truly great multiplayer mode, which benefits greatly from the addition of armor abilities such as jetpacks and the ability to sprint (which was still not a basic Halo mechanic in 2010). Plus, this was the last Halo game to feature Firefight, a cooperative horde mode where friends could team up against an onslaught of Covenant enemies. The multiplayer component alone is worth the price of admission. – JS
83. Dragon Quest XI
2017 | Square Enix | PS4, XBO, PC
The prospect of “getting into” a series by starting with its 11th installment likely strikes you as daunting and absurd. Still, that’s roughly the proposition offered by Dragon Quest XI, a game designed to attract new players while pleasing veteran fans of the series. Remarkably, this game comes fairly close to achieving its loftiest goals. This title’s pure JRPG elements blend well with its modern aesthetics and sensibilities to form an adventure that captures the genre’s very spirit, while also subverting some familiar tropes regarding the hero of legend that will surprise you. It’s a meticulously well-crafted nod to a time gone by as well as a look at what could be. – MB
82. Beat Saber
2019 | Beat Games | PS4, PC
The jury is still out on VR games and devices. While many recognize the potential of the platform, the expectations for what VR is and can be often remains too great to clear. Beat Saber offers an elegant solution to that conundrum.
As a relatively simple rhythm game in the style of Guitar Hero and other such titles, it proposes that the value of VR (at least at the moment) is less about achieving seemingly impossible dreams and more about how that technology can enhance the simple pleasures of gaming. The result is a rhythm game that sends you into that same zen state the genre is known for while allowing you to feel like you’ve been transported to another world where there is only the beat and your reflexes. – MB
81. Apex Legends
2019 | Respawn | PS4, XBO, PC
Free-to-play multiplayer shooter Apex Legends gave us a new way to experience the popular battle royale genre just as it was starting to feel like there was nowhere left for the genre to go. Indeed, Fortnite and PUBG might be responsible for popularizing battle royale games but Apex Legends perfected the formula with its mix of diverse characters, fast-paced traversal, and creative abilities.
Unlike its predecessors, Apex Legends incorporates elements of hero shooters like Overwatch to give the game its unique personality as well as an emphasis on teamwork and strategy. You need to work alongside your three-player team, mixing and matching the different Legends and their abilities, to survive the game’s intense firefights and down-to-the-wire showdowns for first place. There’s rarely a dull round of Apex Legends. – JS
80. Super Mario 3D World
2013 | Nintendo | Wii U
It is the secret, horrible fate of every Mario game to be compared to the games that came before it. The result is the elevation of a few series classics that leaves other installments in the series gasping for the air needed to create their own legacies. Still, Super Mario 3D World has always felt like an especially underrated part of the platformer series. It perfectly captures the platforming bliss of the original games while adding a dash of 3D elegance that does not compromise the spirit of the title. In a just world, it would rightfully compete for a spot on the Mt. Rushmore of Mario titles. – MB
79. God of War 3
2010 | Santa Monica Studio | PS3, PS4
The original God of War trilogy often feels like a fever dream of vaguely accurate mythology, combo multipliers, and ridiculous violence. Did such an outlandish piece of gaming truly exist?
It did, and God of War 3 represents the thrilling climax of everything it gave to gaming. There’s a joy to setpiece game design, and few other games this decade offered the same spectacular setpieces that God of War 3 threw at you with remarkable consistency. At the heart of it all, though, was some fundamentally incredible gameplay and a truly epic story that confirmed that this series has always been about more than flash. – MB
78. Saints Row: The Third
2011 | Volition | PS3, X360, PC, Switch
The original Saints Row was a slightly lighthearted open-world crime title that was clearly chasing the success of Grand Theft Auto 3. Its sequel upped the insanity enough to finally establish an identity of its own. But it was Saints Row: The Third that kicked down the door.
As one of the most absurd games of this decade, Saints Row: The Third offered a dizzying array of sights and sounds that often left you laughing, even if it was just because you couldn’t quite process what you were playing. It still stands as the franchise’s finest hour. – MB
77. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
2014 | Monolith Productions | PS4, XBO, PS3, X360, PC
A shining example of a licensed video game done right, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor harnesses the power of the Lord of the Rings franchise perfectly. The game itself is super fun to play—scouring the open world for high-ranked orcs and assassinating them with bloody finesse feels great and holds up throughout the entire campaign. Yes, the combat is derivative of Rocksteady’s Batman games, but the Middle-earth milieu helps to set the game apart. And the Nemesis system, in which enemies you fight on the battlefield remember you and interact with you differently on second meeting, remains a major innovation that few other games have been able to replicate. Shadow of Mordor more than does its source material justice, and that’s saying a lot. – BB
76. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
2019 | FromSoftware | PS4, XBO, PC
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a troll. No, seriously. Look past its stunning graphics, wonderful music, and compelling world, and you’ll see the beating heart of a troll. Those who went into this game expecting more of the Soulsborne formula were likely stunned, watching themselves die and die again at the hands of an early challenge.
That’s because Sekiro isn’t just another Soulsborne game. It’s a high-octane action title that challenges you to master its more subtle mechanics while never taking its foot off the gas. It’s much closer to Ninja Gaiden Black and Devil May Cry than other FromSoftware titles, and it proves that there is so much more to this particular style of action RPG than a few design conventions. – MB
75. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2011 | Nintendo | Wii, Wii U
Skyward Sword’s legacy will always be partially based on the things that it failed to do. It never quite took advantage of the Wii’s motion controls, some of its dungeons and bosses felt like last minute additions, and its world structure felt antiquated. Some say that its shortcomings resulted in the innovations of Breath of the Wild.
Years later, though, it’s easy to see Skyward Sword for what it really is: a tribute to the Ocarina-era of Zelda games that boldly attempts to translate that style of design to the modern era. Skyward Sword captures many of the best elements of what came before, but it’s ultimately the army of little design touches that it employs to forge its own legacy which makes it so easy to love nine years later. – MB
2014 | Kojima Productions | PS4
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: there will never be another P.T. The game’s bizarre arrival, the speed at which its popularity spread across the internet, and the circumstances of its tragic departure all make this title a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. It also happens to be the absolute scariest horror game of this decade.
P.T.’s simple (if often confounding) premise allows its creators, Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro, all the room they need to simply devastate you. Like those nightmares you have where you wander your own home knowing that something isn’t quite right, P.T. seems to live and breathe to scare you at the turn of every corner. Its puzzles are still convoluted oddities to this day, and the woman who haunts the hallways of the house in which the game goes down as one of the greatest horror game villains of all time. – MB
73. Nier: Automata
2017 | PlatinumGames | PS4, XBO, PC
It’s nearly impossible to describe Nier: Automata without coming across like a first-year film student who just saw their first French New Wave films. So many of the things that this game does well are about the boundaries it pushes and the conventions it shatters with its bold story, strange characters, and entirely unconventional structure.
If you’re looking for the less…pretentious explanation of its virtues, then we’ll just say that the joy of Nier: Automata is directly related to the joy of discovering what it will do next. While many of those who experience this action RPG often cite the same highlights, the game’s true brilliance comes from how it strings together those highlights with emotion and adventure. – MB
72. Super Meat Boy
2010 | Team Meat | X360, PC, PS4, Vita, Switch, Wii U
For years, fans of old-school platforming games talked in whispers about how the joy of the genre was partially based in its often ridiculous difficulty. While such games may have only offered relatively little content, the number of times it took to beat a level or area meant that every inch gained felt worthy of a victory lap.
Super Meat Boy is one of the first modern platformers to embrace that mentality. The joy of this game certainly stems from its challenges, but its greatest trick is the way that it keeps convincing you that one more try will finally be enough to catch that carrot it constantly dangles in front of you over a pit of fire and spikes. – MB
71. Shovel Knight
2014 | Yacht Club Games | Wii U, 3DS, PS4, PS3, XBO, Switch, Vita, PC
The biggest pitfall of nostalgia is the fear of loving something that hasn’t aged well. Clinging onto a work or concept that is only elevated when viewed through your eyes is often the very thing that prevents creative works to move forward on a grand scale.
As Shovel Knight shows, nostalgia is sometimes more than justified. As a tribute to the classic action titles of the 8- and 16-bit eras, Shovel Knight proves beyond a doubt that there was something about the design of those titles that just didn’t survive the jump to the 3D era. It’s a challenging and utterly joyful adventure that you’ll return to time and again simply because it’s a thrill to play. – MB
70. Papers, Please
2013 | Lucas Pope | PC, Vita, iOS
An exercise in tedium and a fascinating, experiential meditation on bureaucracy and the way it dehumanizes the people it’s designed to serve, Lucas Pope’s Papers, Please is a unique video game to be sure. But more importantly, it’s one of the most unique educational tools ever created. Playing as an immigration officer for the fictional country of Arstotzka is repetitive and somewhat boring, but that’s the point–as you check dozens and then hundreds of immigrants’ papers, you begin to view them not as people with lives, but as blips on a conveyer belt. It’s as frightening as it is enlightening. – BB
69. Life Is Strange
2015 | Dontnod Entertainment | PS4, XBO, PS3, X360, PC, iOS, Android
Life Is Strange is an impressive storytelling feat from Dontnod, one of the decade’s most exciting studios, and one of the most important games of its time. Set in the fictional town of Arcadia Bay, Oregon, the game tells the story of estranged teenagers Max and Chloe, who are reunited by a tragedy that will change their lives forever. When Max discovers that she can rewind time, she and Chloe set a catastrophic event in motion that could kill everyone they love and destroy their town.
More so than any other choice-based adventure game of its ilk, the decisions you make in Life Is Strange weigh heavy on you — not only because you’ll become invested in the game’s likable cast of confused adolescents but how relatable the dilemmas are. Few games have tackled issues of sexuality, depression, drug abuse, and privilege as well as Life Is Strange. – JS
68. Heavy Rain
2010 | Quantic Dream | PS3, PS4, PC
Is Heavy Rain perfect? No. Quantum Dream’s three-pronged noir thriller is janky in both presentation and design. But what’s so brilliant about it, the reason we continue to discuss its merits 10 years after its release, is the game’s artistic ambition. Rather than focusing on reaction time and skill, the game presents moral quandaries and risk/reward scenarios that feed into the story, creating an experience that’s both cinematic and narratively malleable. Today, cinematic games are commonplace. But back in 2010, Quantic Dream was breaking new ground. – BB
67. Injustice 2
2017 | PS4, XBO, PC, iOS, Android
Don’t look now, but this decade truly advanced the once rightfully maligned art known as the licensed video game. Whereas these titles were once seen as the soulless void of the industry, we’re now seeing licensed titles that not only hold their own but innovate.
Injustice 2 is one of the best examples of this exciting trend. It would be easy to slap together a fighting game that features our favorite DC characters (and a few cameos), but Injustice 2 is so much more than that. It’s a refined genre experience that offers a wealth of content, including a story that is worthy of the many stories told in this comic book universe. Its for DC fans, fighting fans, and, most importantly, fans of good games. – MB
2014 | Bungie | PS4, XBO, PS3, X360
Bungie’s follow-up to its seminal Halo series may be even more influential than the sci-fi shooter that put the studio on the map. In 2014, Destiny felt like a whole new way to experience a shooter, mixing the excellent gunplay Bungie was already known for with gameplay elements from action RPGs (especially the looting) and MMOs (the multiplayer raids and dungeons).
While light on story content and admittedly rough around the edges at launch (and for the entirety of its first year), Destiny eventually evolved into one of the most addictive and complete online shooters on the market thanks to its Taken King update and the addition of new modes and a more rewarding, less grindy loot system. It’s sequel has stumbled in confounding ways too but, like its predecessor, it’s finally living up to its promise five years since Destiny‘s original launch. – JS
65. Pokemon X and Y
2013 | Game Freak | 3DS
In 2013, Pokemon X and Y felt like a celebration of everything that had come before in the series. While not entirely revolutionary, these games arguably represent the most refined and beautiful takes on the Pokemon formula that we’ve ever experienced. It also featured a necessary visual overhaul that brought the franchise into the 3D era as well as introduced 72 new Pokemon to find and train as your own. These 3DS titles expanded the scope of the “typical” Pokemon adventure while recognizing that the heart of this series will always revolve around catching them all. – MB
64. Her Story
2015 | Sam Barlow | PC, iOS, Android
Sam Barlow essentially created a new storytelling format with Her Story, his 2015 investigative drama starring Viva Seifert as the wife of a missing man. The gameplay, which revolve around watching interrogation videos and searching through a database, were like nothing seen before, and Barlow and the game were appropriately praised with Game of the Year awards and universal critical acclaim. And that ending…that ending is truly something else. It’s a revelation that sent chills down our spines and proved Barlow to be one of the best storytellers of our generation, regardless of genre or art form. – BB
63. South Park: The Stick of Truth
2014 | Obsidian | PS3, X360, PC, PS4, XBO, Switch
If you had told us 10 years ago that one of the best RPGs of the decade would be a South Park game, we wouldn’t have believed you. And yet, here we are, writing about how great South Park: The Stick of Truth is. The turn-based combat is familiar, simple, and fun, and the campaign is full of hilarious jokes and references to the series, all of which were written by the same people who make the show. Playing as the New Kid and exploring South Park, paying homage to fantasy game tropes alongside Cartman, Stan, Kyle, and Kenny, is a blast (fart attacks galore). But jokes aside, the game is well-made and hilarious, and deserves its spot on this list. – BB
62. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
2011 | Eidos Montreal | PS3, X360, Wii U, PC
Deus Ex: Human Revolution stands as the decade’s greatest vision of a cyberpunk future where the lines between man and machine begin to blur. Adam Jensen is a cybernetically augmented super-soldier tasked with taking down an anti-augmentation terrorist group before it can enact its ultimate plan on the world. But this is no normal “shoot down the bad guys, save the world” assignment for Jensen, who discovers a much deeper rabbit hole during his investigation that leads to one of the world’s most shadowy groups, the Illuminati, the faction that’s been secretly manipulating world events throughout history.
Among this action RPGs many highlights is the variety of gameplay options you have at your disposal. Want to sneak into enemy territory, complete your mission, and get out? You can build up Adam’s stealth stats and customize his myriad augmentations to suit that style of play. Or do you want to go loud and kill every last bad guy in a building? Offensive augmentations like damage resistance and the ability to punch through walls are key here. Perhaps you want to hack your way through enemy systems and use their defenses against them. Human Revolution makes you feel like you can do it all, while also dishing one of the coolest sci-fi stories in recent history. – JS
61. Until Dawn
2015 | Supermassive Games | PS4
A surprisingly fun party game, Supermassive Games’ interactive horror experience Until Dawn took an idea that wasn’t exactly brand new but executed it with a level of quality that has never been seen before. The powerful Decima engine (used in games like Death Stranding and Horizon Zero Dawn) allowed for the developers to render characters that resembled the real-life actors who embodied them. Heroes’ Hayden Panetierre and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Brett Dalton are immediately recognizable, which adds exponentially to the game’s cinematic power. The branching, choose-your-own-adventure story is typical horror movie fare, but the element of interactivity greatly elevates the experience. – BB
2011 | Supergiant Games | X360, PC, XBO, PS4, Vita, Switch, iOS
We’ll always think of the narrator when We think of Bastion. To be sure, the game’s use of a reactive narrator who responds to most of your actions is just the kind of hook that indie titles often need to attract the attention required to get people to give them a shot. Of course, even this incredible gimmick would have led to nothing were it not for everything else the game does so well.
Bastion featured a distinctive art style, refined gameplay, and compellingly simple story. Yet, it was that narrator that showed that the future of gaming was going to be about finding new ways to deliver classic experiences. – MB
59. Wolfenstein: The New Order
2014 | MachineGames | PS4, XBO, PS3, X360, PC
The 2010s were a time of rebirth for two id shooter franchises. In 2014, Wolfenstein returned with a vengeance, reimagined as The New Order, a game set in an alternate future in which Nazi Germany won World War II and took over the planet with its technologically advanced war machine. With a tip of the hat to the occult horrors of Return to Castle Wolfenstein, this reboot imagines a reality where grotesque Nazi experiments have led to the creation of armored super soldiers capable of wiping out any resistance the remaining freedom fighters throw at them. Enter B.J. Blazkowicz, a Nazi-killing machine who will stop at nothing until every last one of Hitler’s men is dead. It’s really as simple as that.
MachineGames does an excellent job of introducing id shooter mechanics to a new generation of gamers raised on Call of Duty. There’s real weight to the gunplay, with plenty of blood and gore to boot, all set in impressively realized environments. Some of The New Order‘s levels rank as the very best in the franchise’s history. – JS
58. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
2012 | Valve & Hidden Path Entertainment | PS3, X360, PC
It’s still amazing that Counter-Strike began its life as a Half-Life mod made by two kids. That mod would soon become one of the most important PC games of all-time.
CS: GO represents Valve’s attempt to refine the many community and developer improvements that the original title has enjoyed over the years and offer it all in one cohesive (and official) package. The result is a global sensation that remains one of the most engaging esport titles on the planet as well as a tense multiplayer shooter that’s quite unlike everything else out there. – MB
57. Resident Evil 2
2019 | Capcom | PS4, XBO, PC
Capcom’s remake of Resident Evil 2 is proof that you can’t argue with the classics. This survival horror fan-favorite rises from the grave with revamped graphics and gameplay mechanics, a way more terrifying Mr. X, and an over-the-shoulder camera that puts you closer to the zombie-killing action. This remake isn’t just about reviving what worked in the ’90s but making it new again.
Resident Evil 2 is a masterpiece of horror atmosphere. Making your way through the creepy RCPD headquarters is unnerving in its best moments, as the undead claw at window panes and groan from the other side of long, dark hallways. The music swells as Mr. X’s booming footsteps grow louder as he gets closer to his prey. Rooms covered in shadow reveal flesh-hungry predators waiting around the corner. Like the best survival horror games, Resident Evil 2 makes you feel like a gruesome death is waiting behind every door. – JS
56. Metroid: Samus Returns
2017 | MercurySteam | 3DS
A remake of Metroid II: Return of Samus, part of Samus Returns’ appeal is the fact that it allows you to experience an adventure that was once only playable on the Game Boy. Considering that Metroid II has long been referred to as one of the best Metroid titles, that’s quite the treat. The game features not only overhauled graphics but also a few new gameplay mechanics, such as a melee counterattack and the new Aeon abilities. Most importantly,At a time when there are simply not enough Metroid games available for current (or recent), consoles, Samus Returns is certainly notable if for no other reason than it offers more of one of the best series in gaming. – MB
55. Mad Max
2015 | Avalanche Studios | PS4, XBO, PC
An open-world game with fast, killer muscle cars and a giant wasteland to explore, Mad Max is one of the most underrated titles of its kind. Released several months after the sublime Mad Max: Fury Road, Avalanche Studio’s own take on postapocalyptic Australia doesn’t have much to do with the movie and everything to do with building up your death machine on wheels and blowing up as many things as possible. Featuring some of the most refined driving mechanics to date, this end-of-the-world demolition derby in the desert really delivers the insanity previously only seen on the movie screen. There’s also an enjoyable story and a few colorful characters to boot. – JS
54. Resident Evil 7
2017 | Capcom | PS4, XBO, Switch, PC
Around the time of Resident Evil 7’s release, a lot of people started talking about what a Resident Evil game really is. With its first-person gameplay, entirely new characters, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre-inspired setting, many people said that Resident Evil 7 lacked the conventions needed to make it a true RE title.
Resident Evil 7 ultimately won over many of its doubters by being the scariest Resident Evil title in years. This game not only brings the franchise back to its horror roots but effectively serves as one of the most complete horror experiences of the decade. – MB
53. Hotline Miami
2012 | Dennaton Games | PC, PS3, PS4, Vita, Switch, Android
Hotline Miami hit the indie scene like a man in a rooster mask charging into a warehouse full of thugs with a hammer in hand. Your first impression of this title will likely revolve around its trippy soundtrack, overtly ‘80s visuals, and over-the-top violence. This is natural.
However, a deeper look reveals one of the most fascinating puzzle games ever made. Hotline Miami tasks you with figuring out how to eliminate rooms full of bad guys in the most efficient (and often brutal) way possible. Its shockingly smart gameplay and level design all serve to advance a story that will haunt you with its psychotic implications. – MB
2014 | Blizzard | PC, iOS, Android
There’s always been something appealing about traditional CCG experiences like Magic: The Gathering, but that appeal has always been tempered by frustrating practicalities. In other words, few people have the money, time, and patience to assemble a deck of physical cards and go out in the world to battle others.
If nothing else, the appeal of Hearthstone will always be partially based on how it digitized the CCG genre. Beyond that, it deserves credit for offering a brilliant mechanical experience that you can instantly learn and spend years mastering, as fresh strategies accompany all of the game’s new cards, events, and modes. Hearthstone is not only the most notable CCG released since Magic, but it’s the most complete and accessible as well. – MB
2019 | Remedy Entertainment | PS4, XBO, PC
Remedy began the decade with a Twin Peaks-inspired mystery about a writer trapped inside his own horror story (more on that later) and ended with something even weirder, if you can believe it. Control is a third-person action-adventure game heavily influenced by the New Weird, an artistic movement that blurs the lines between horror, speculative fiction, and realism. The Finnish studio gives its New Weird vision shape and form inside the Oldest House, the shape-shifting headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Control, a secret government agency in charge of investigating and containing paranormal phenomena.
What protagonist Jesse Faden finds inside this massive Brutalist monolith commanding the New York City skyline won’t entirely make sense but that’s not really the point. Control is an inimitable experience that’s not concerned with being too strange or indigestible for a mainstream audience. Whether you like third-person shooters with bending physics engines, or are looking for something different, you’ll find something to love here. – JS
2017 | Epic Games | PS4, XBO, PC, iOS, Android
Fortnite’s legacy will always be tied into its absurd popularity that led to such things as a cameo in the highest grossing film of all-time. But the truth is that Fortnite is much more than that. It’s the game that not only popularized the battle royale experience but the one title in the age of “live services” that justifies its content releases by consistently reinventing itself and expanding its reach through a series of unique and generally exceptional releases. Here’s the question: is Fortnite the ultimate representation of modern gaming or simply the game that solidified its trends? – MB
49. The Outer Worlds
2019 | Obsidian | PS4, XBO, PC
After the disappointing release of Fallout 76, many people were left with the impression that not only was the Fallout franchise in its twilight years but that the ideas it represented were waning as well. The Outer Worlds may not be a “proper” Fallout game, but developer Obsidian used it to effectively resurrect an era ruled by ambitiously advanced RPG series like Fallout and Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic. The Outer Worlds is its own adventure worth experiencing, but it will forever be remembered as the game that justified your nostalgia for an entire school of RPG game design. – MB
2017 | Polytron Corporation | X360, PC, PS4, PS3, Vita, iOS
This decade will likely be largely remembered for the rise of the indie video game scene, even if the foundations for that revolution were laid years before. This was the decade that saw a series of small visionary creators deliver experiences that major studios had long since abandoned or never attempted.
Fez remains one of the most facinating indie games released to date. It removed enemies, game over screens, and the idea that you can “fail” and replaced it all with a fascinating 2D/3D puzzle experience that forces you to re-examine how you view video game worlds and your own perception of the “standard” video game challenge. – MB
47. Super Mario Maker
2015 | Nintendo | Wii U, 3DS
Super Mario Maker was the embodiment of fans’ love for Mario, allowing them to let their imaginations run wild with the game’s robust level editor, which used iconic sprites and assets that spanned Mario’s history of 2D platformers. And the game’s share feature allowed Mario fans to connect like never before, creating and downloading each others’ creations, with some of the levels almost impossible to complete. It’s a wonder why Nintendo didn’t release a game like Super Mario Maker earlier, but nevertheless, the game is a gift to Mario obsessives everywhere. – BB
46. Telltale’s The Walking Dead
2012 | Telltale Games | PS4, PS3, XBO, X360, Switch, Vita, PC, iOS, Android
The Walking Dead put Telltale’s brand of choice-based adventure storytelling on the map, and for good reason: Clementine and Lee are two of the decade’s most memorable video game characters. This duo’s tragic end amid the zombie apocalypse hit us like a ton of bricks in 2012, and the late game twist is no less hearbreaking almost eight years later.
This is a game that made you feel like every single decision you made mattered and would affect the characters around you in big ways. While The Walking Dead couldn’t always fulfill the promise of its action-reaction consequence system, there are few games on this list that made players feel as invested in the narrative as Telltale’s biggest hit. – JS
45. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
2017 | MachineGames | PS4, XBO, Switch, PC
It’s almost shocking how thematically rich and character-driven Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is, considering its more campy roots. The game takes B.J. Blazkowicz into new territory narratively and provides an incisive look into the nature of tyranny and how its philosophies have poisoned America. But what makes Wolfenstein II so darn good is its tight gameplay, which, when combined with the game’s grisly but fun art style, makes for one of the best first-person shooters of the decade. – BB
44. The Binding of Isaac
2011 | Edmund McMillen | PC
No other genre kicked down the door this decade quite like the roguelike. While its roots can be traced back to the ‘80s game from which it draws its name, the roguelike’s combination of procedurally-generated levels and pseudo-permadeath mechanics spoke to many who came out of the corridor shooter era looking for something more challenging.
The Binding of Issac was one of the clearest early declarations that the roguelike genre was here to stay. Its bizarre, vaguely biblical story complements the game’s simple arcade-like action, all amplified by the more daunting elements of the rougelike genre. Its more accessible than the deepest roguelikes out there, but that accessibility largely only serves to amplify this genre’s incredible replay value. – MB
43. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
2013 | Ubisoft Montreal | PS3, X360, PC
In retrospect, it’s hard to believe that Ubisoft employees needed to convince the company to let them develop a Far Cry 3 spin-off that effectively turned the game into a particularly brutal Saturday morning cartoon. That just sounds like a recipe for success, and it proved to be just that.
At a time of endless (and somewhat uninspired) DLC, Blood Dragon’s greatest innovation may be how it showed that the add-ons’ greatest quality may be its freedom to just get weird with it and offer an experience that is fun above all. Blood Dragon was the perfect remedy for the “too serious” shooters of its era, and it remains so to this day. – MB
2010 | Playdead | X360, PS3, XBO, PS4, Vita, Switch, PC, iOS, Android
At a time when many indie games needed some kind of hook to capture the attention of AAA consumers, Limbo’s black-and-white visuals and lovely and moody animations certainly stood out, but this indie proved to be so much more than a living art project. Like Braid before it, Limbo was a declaration that the timeless appeal of the 2D platformer could be used as the vehicle for fascinating new ideas and design concepts. Limbo is a perfectly crafted adventure that proves that personality wins the day in game design. – MB
41. Gone Home
2013 | The Fulbright Company | PC, PS4, XBO, Switch, iOS
Haunting, heartfelt, and expertly crafted, The Fullbright Company’s interactive mystery drama Gone Home is just about perfect. The scenario of a young woman returning to her childhood home in Oregon only to find it mysteriously abandoned is initially terrifying, and the game capitalizes on this. But as you explore the house and the truth about her family’s whereabouts is unveiled, the game elegantly morphs into a heartwarming love story between two sisters that’ll have you grabbing for the tissue box. Few games feel as affecting as Gone Home—it’s a privilege to play. – BB
40. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
2015 | Kojima Productions | PS4, XBO, PS3, X360, PC
Hideo Kojima’s final Metal Gear game will always be remembered as his most controversial, both for the real-life drama that led to his highly-publicized exit from Konami as well as the cut content that left this installment’s finale feeling somewhat unfinished. But none of this should distract from the fact that this is one of the finest Metal Gear games ever made, thanks to some major improvements to the combat and navigation systems.
While it somewhat lacks the energetic, spy-movie-inspired storytelling of its predecessors (this chapter is quite broody and dark), Metal Gear Solid V has tons of personality, and its emphasis on gameplay over narrative is a nice change of pace from Kojima’s more sprawling, cinematic-heavy installments. Most importantly, MGSV makes you feel like a true soldier of legend, giving you more tools, gadgets, and neat tricks that you ever thought you’d need on the digital battlefield. Here is where you truly become the Big Boss. – JS
39. Diablo 3
2012 | Blizzard | PC, PS3, X360, PS4, XBO, Switch
Oh, Diablo 3. For some, Diablo 3 will always be remembered as the game that launched with server problems, questionable online mechanics, and content that felt lacking in comparison to the legendary Diablo 2. Yet, in a decade that saw so many games benefit from the era of updates, few titles changed their legacy quite as quickly and dramatically as Diablo 3. Thanks to a series of smart patches and the release of a brilliant expansion, Diablo 3 is now rightfully seen by many as a brilliant distillation of Diablo’s best core elements that enhanced the accessibility of the franchise while retaining many of its better qualities. – MB
38. Batman: Arkham City
2011 | Rocksteady Studios | PS3, X360, Wii U, PS4, XBO, PC
Batman: Arkham Asylum mixed Metroidvania exploration with its own innovative “freeflow” combat system to change the way we thought about licensed games. Then Arkham City took all of that and added in an open-world full of bad guys, missions to complete, and Batman lore. While the very nature of side-quest-heavy open-world games means that Arkham City‘s story isn’t quite as focused as its spooky, brilliant predecessor’s, this sequel remains the best version of this franchise’s gameplay mechanics. From grappling and soaring over Gotham City’s skyscrapers to venturing into its most hidden depths, this is a game that never gets old, especially if you love the Batman mythos. There are plenty of fan-favorite heroes and villains, as well as quite a few deep cuts, to find here. – JS
37. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
2011 | Naughty Dog | PS3, PS4
The cargo plane set piece in Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception was one of the most spectacular things I’d ever laid eyes on when I first played it in 2011. Without cutting, we watch Nathan Drake hop onto the plane from a moving Jeep, fight a gaggle of baddies in the cargo bay, blow up said plane, and then parachute down to safety. That’s Uncharted 3 in a nutshell: It’s an over-the-top action adventure game that’s as good if not better than the movies that inspired it. Nathan, Elena, and Sully are perfect protagonists, and the interpersonal drama between them is just the icing on the cake. – BB
2016 | Campo Santo | PS4, XBO, Switch, PC
It’s amazing that we live in a time when a strange little game like Firewatch can make a big splash. It’s a mystery adventure game set in a national park in the late ‘80s that sees you walking and talking and…walking and talking some more. But by god if this game isn’t more riveting and engaging than 90% of games made for 10 times the budget. Firewatch isn’t doesn’t have AAA graphics, but its art style is evocative enough to support the meticulously constructed story, acted insanely well by voice actors Rich Sommer and Cissy Jones. – BB
35. Alan Wake
2010 | Remedy Entertainment | X360, PC
A writer visits a small town to battle writer’s block and escape the expectations of his next release. During this trip, he finds himself in the middle of a supernatural catastrophe created by his own mind. This is basically a Stephen King game.
As one of the most notable cult classics of this decade, Alan Wake’s legacy will always partially be tied into how overlooked it was and how some of its shortcomings led to its status as such. What truly makes this game special, though, is its status a true horror adventure that is certainly incredibly scary in parts but is more about experiencing a journey through a world that celebrates the genre as well as it utilizes its best aspects. – MB
35. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
2016 | Naughty Dog | PS4
At least for now, Uncharted 4 seems to be the final adventure in Nathan Drake’s years-long quest for treasure. He ultimately found what he was looking for in his own family, a powerful farewell for the series that speaks to the storytelling prowess of the mighty Naughty Dog.
Uncharted 4 isn’t as revelatory as its predecessors were when they redefined the action-adventure genre on the PS3, but it’s a game that’s polished to an ungodly extent and puts story first, boasting a cast of characters that feel like real people. When you get goosebumps watching a couple of video game characters playing Crash Bandicoot and eating bowls of cauliflower surprise on a couch, you know you’re taking part in something special. – BB
2015 | Toby Fox | PC, PS4, Vita, Switch
Few games released this decade inspired quite the passion that Undertale ignited. While the most adamant of Undertale fans have adopted a sometimes unfortunate Rick and Morty-esque love for this title, there’s no denying that it’s worthy of such enthusiasm.
Undertale calls back to RPGs like Earthbound with its quirky characters, active combat mechanics, and humorous writing. You can’t really call this a throwback, though, simply because there is no way you can formulaically recreate design aspects like genuinely clever writing, refined mechanics, and memorable boss fights. Undertale only inspired the love that it received because it’s one of the best examples of what happens when a uniquely talented game designer gets to make their passion project.
2017 | StudioMDHR | XBO, PC, Switch
Cuphead‘s 1930s animation-inspired art style is extraordinary, an early Walt Disney fever dream that looks unlike anything else released this decade. The game’s visuals are spectacular, full of hand-drawn characters, confections, and environments that leave you wanting more games cut from the same cloth. But what makes the game a classic is its tight bullet-hell gameplay, which can be punishing but is always fair to the player. It was a risk for StudioMDHR to develop such an artistically out-there title, but the gaming community thankfully embraced Cuphead wholeheartedly. – BB
31. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
2013 | Ubisoft Montreal | PS3, X360, Wii U, PS4, XBO, Switch, PC
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a masterclass of open-world design, but we stan pirates. After bringing the series’ original story to a close, Ubisoft had to figure out new territory to explore. Luckily, it still had most of human history to ape from, including the golden age of pirates, who stalked the Caribbean for treasure in the 1700s. With a minimal connection to the previous games, making this installment a perfect jumping on point for new players, Black Flag set sail for a big adventure on the high seas, and it’s still one of the most memorable tales the franchise has produced. This game lets you truly live your pirate fantasies: dig for buried treasure, pillage enemy fortresses, command your men in hectic ship battles, and drink rum. Oh, and you can do some parkour-heavy assassin stuff, too. – JS
30. Dead Space 2
2011 | Visceral Games | PS3, X360, PC
Nothing will ever top the original Dead Space, a masterpiece of both horror atmosphere and storytelling, but this sequel is a very close second. Dead Space 2 picks up where the first game left off, setting up a new nightmare for former ship engineer Isaac Clarke to survive, this time on a space station orbiting one of Saturn’s moons. The game assaults players from its shocking opening scene and doesn’t let up until the credits roll, giving Isaac plenty of Necromorphs to decapitate, dismember, and blow up. It’s a decidedly more action-y adventure with a more seasoned monster-killer but it has no shortage of scares along the way. This one also features one of the most gruesome playable sequences ever put in a video game. We love to see it. – JS
29. Call of Duty: Black Ops
2010 | Treyarch | PS3, X360, Wii, DS, PC
Black Ops is not only the best Call of Duty game of the decade but perhaps the best in the entire series of first-person shooters. A slightly trippy, paranoia-filled campaign takes the Call of Duty story into new avenues where even reality is called into question. If the first Modern Warfare was Infinity Ward’s major push towards “realism,” then Black Ops is the total opposite, a fever dream of a shooter told as if it were coming from the mouth of a conspiracy theorist. Who really killed JFK? You’ll find out here.
If story campaigns aren’t your thing, Black Ops also offers some excellent Zombie levels: the nostalgic Kino der Toten (“Cinema of the Dead”); Five, which pits John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Robert McNamara, and Fidel Castro against the undead horde invading the Pentago; and Dead Ops Arcade, a top-down version of the survival mode. We lost hours playing these in college! – JS
28. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
2013 | Nintendo | 3DS
Time will tell what the legacy of the 3DS will be, but you get the feeling that the device will always be partially defined by the relative failures of its core technological gimmick. However, the 3DS also deserves to be remembered as the platform that brought us some of Nintendos’ best handheld titles.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds deserves to be near the top of that list. At a time when the future of “classic” Zelda adventures is very much in doubt, the brilliant A Link Between Worlds reminds us why such experiences are prized in the first place. If you’ve ever played and loved A Link to the Past, you’ll know why you’ll love this game, but you may be surprised to find the ways in which this game shows how many more adventures that timeless formula can yield. – MB
27. Fallout 4
2015 | Bethesda Game Studios | PS4, XBO, PC
In hindsight, a sequel to Bethesda’s bold reinvention of the Fallout series was inevitable, but back in 2015, it seemed like it would never come. While it doesn’t exactly top its predecessor as an all-time great game, Fallout 4 gets most of Fallout 3‘s innovations right, and has a twisting, entertaining story to boot. This sequel moves the action from the Capital Wasteland to Boston, where the shadow of the mysterious, technologically-advanced Institute looms over the rest of postapocalyptic society. You play as a Vault Dweller who is initially searching for their son but is soon thrust into a much bigger conspiracy involving artificial intelligence and much more.
Fallout 4 mostly takes an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to gameplay, while adding a few new features such as crafting, base-building, and a more complex armor system. Overall, it’s a fine game if not exactly the major jump fans expected after the seminal Fallout 3. – JS
26. Mass Effect 3
2012 | BioWare | PS3, X360, Wii U, PC
How do you wrap up a story as massive as Mass Effect‘s? About as well as BioWare did in 2012. While it’s impossible to please everyone, Mass Effect 3 does its best to tie up all of the loose ends from the first two games while also giving Shepard and a few returning favorites satisfying arcs of their own. But this final fight against the merciless Reapers is bigger than any one character, and Mass Effect 3 feels appropriately epic, with big, explosive action sequences and galaxy-altering life or death decisions (perhaps to a fault). Taken on its own, without all of the story baggage, Mass Effect 3 is a great action RPG that will thrill you and break your heart in turn. – JS
25. Horizon Zero Dawn
2017 | Guerrilla Games | PS4
What’s most notable about Horizon Zero Dawn are its living, breathing, insanely detailed environments. Perhaps only The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt can rival the beauty and dynamism of Horizon’s open world, created with Guerrila Games’ powerful Decima engine. It’s breathtaking to see a storm cloud approaching as Aloy tracks down her prey on the open plains, and then to see the environment around you change organically, altering the experience in a way that’s beyond cosmetic. The game’s story is unique and well-written, its art style is extraordinary and strange, and Aloy is one of the coolest, most fully-realized female protagonists of this generation. – BB
2011 | Mojang | PC, PS4, PS3, XBO, X360, Switch, Wii U, 3DS, Vita, iOS, Android
Few games in the past decade have had the cultural impact that Minecraft had. It transcended generations, spawned an endless line of toys, clothing, and merchandise, and became the best-selling video game EVER. And it’s all due to Mojang’s brilliant idea to create a gaming sandbox that was truly wide open but required a measure of inventiveness, and imagination to enjoy to the fullest.
In the years following its release, the game’s community blossomed into a sort of online art collective, using the game’s creative mode to build massive in-game structures paying homage to everything from Mario, to Harry Potter, to the Notre Dame. Minecraft remains a prominent franchise, with new ways to experience the world coming soon. – BB
23. Marvel’s Spider-Man
2018 | Insomniac Games | PS4
The rise of the MCU hasn’t exactly been well represented in the world of video games. Quite frankly, it’s impossible to feel like the lack of notable Marvel video games during the MCU era is a missed opportunity that deprived us of some potentially notable experiences.
Marvel’s Spider-Man suggests that the future may offer something brighter than that, though. It’s a distinct adventure that yields a world, story, and characters that are very much of its creators’ design. Insomniac used a refined version of the modern open-world formula to deliver an exceptional Spider-Man story that captures the feeling of being one of Marvel’s most beloved heroes better than even the best movies ever could. – MB
2016 | Blizzard | PS4, XBO, Switch, PC
Overwatch was only Blizzard’s fourth entirely original property and, as such, was released under the weight of some considerable expectations. As hard as it may be to remember now, there were also some who felt that Overwatch could never live up to the expectations set by fellow team-based shooter, Team Fortress 2.
The fact that Overwatch managed to meet or surpass nearly every initial expectation remains one of the decade’s most impressive accomplishments. The game’s blend of MOBA-like teamwork, clever objective-based match types, and simply satisfying shooter gameplay proved to be one of the biggest surprises of the decade. – MB
21. Stardew Valley
2016 | ConcernedApe | PC, PS4, XBO, Switch, Vita, iOS, Android
Stardew Valley‘s success isn’t entirely based on its addictive gameplay loop, depth, colorful visuals, incredible soundtrack, or even its surprisingly deep story. It’s how the game encourages you to experience it.
The game is a series of discoveries that starts with something as simple as realizing that pickaxes break rocks or that clams can be sold for gold. Every step in this world opens up a series of new possibilities that allow you to organically discover thousands of options at whatever pace you feel playing. Stardew Valley isn’t a farming game, but a game about discovery. – MB
2015 | FromSoftware | PS4
It would have been so easy for Bloodborne to be another Dark Souls game. From a business standpoint, we doubt that Sony would have balked at the idea of a PS4 exclusive Dark Souls game. From a creative standpoint, it’s clear that Dark Souls still had plenty left in the tank.
Instead, FromSoftware used Bloodborne as proof that the Souls genre is more about a series of larger concepts than it is a collection of strict mechanics. Bloodborne is a more action-based experience that brilliantly utilizes elements of Lovecraftian and Gothic horror to craft a unique world that’s yet to be replicated. – MB
2012 | thatgamecompany | PS3, PS4, PC, iOS
Unlike other forms of entertainment, video games are evolving in wild, wondrous ways all the time, and Journey represents a true paradigm shift. It’s a ravishing game that’s not chaotic, but serene. Not competitive, but empathetic. Not rigid, but nebulous. Thatgamecompany harnessed the power of video games as an art form to create an experience that’s emotional, but in an abstract, almost primal way. When the story reveals itself in full at the game’s conclusion, it’s a revelation.
But really, it’s the way the sand glistens. It’s the feeling you get when a trusty companion leaves your side without a word. The game’s heart and soul can be found in the little moments that hit you in the gut out of nowhere. – BB
2016 | id Software | PS4, XBO, Switch, PC
While we were initially skeptical about a “modern retelling” of the Doom series back in 2016, the final product quickly put us at ease. Doom not only recaptures the spirit of the action-packed, gory originals but makes all of the series’ trademark ingredients feel fresh again. With only hints of a story tying this murderous rampage through a demon-infested Mars together, this reboot is really all about the fast-paced gameplay, gruesome monsters, fiery atmosphere, and tight level design. There are no conceits or pretensions here. Run into a room, kill all the demons inside of it, destroy the portal to Hell, and repeat. It’s that simple and, with all of the various weapons and sharp things to kill the monsters with, it’s that fun. – JS
17. Red Dead Redemption II
2018 | Rockstar Games | PS4, XBO, PC, Stadia
It would have been easy for Rockstar to deliver just another Red Dead Redemption game and bask in the accolades. While some people (mostly) jokingly referred to Red Dead Redemption as GTA with horses, that basic formula still resulted in an undeniably enjoyable experience that doubled as the best western game ever released up to that point.
Red Dead Redemption II is more than that. It challenges preconceived notions of video game pacing and open-world storytelling. While there are times when its attempts to do so lead to unnecessary frustrations, Red Dead Redemption II ultimately succeeds in sucking you into a fully-realized world populated with meaningful characters and substantial adventures. Its Rockstar’s best open-world game yet. – MB
16. BioShock Infinite
2013 | Irrational Games | PS4, X360, PC
BioShock: Infinite’s legacy will always be associated with controversy. The game’s themes, characters, worlds, and mechanics have firmly divided everyone who has played. Despite its divisive design, BioShock Infinite remains a game that is worth remembering, debating, and, ultimately, playing. It’s a bold title that tackles some tricky issues with questionable tenacity, but it never fails to present its most divisive topics as part of a cohesive world that feels like the fully-realized consequence of some pretty strange ideas. It also happens to feature arguably the best uses of licensed music in video game history. – MB
15. Rocket League
2015 | Psyonix | PS4, XBO, Switch, PC
Picking up a controller and playing Rocket League for the first time is an unforgettable experience. This game, which fuses soccer with fast, high-flying cars that are prone to exploding, just feels so good to play. The controls are as responsive as can be, and the rules are so simple that players are freed up to focus on having fun rather than futzing around with how the hell the game works.
What’s more, the game is as fun to watch as it is to play. Watching great players go head-to-head never gets old, and watching highlight reels is even better. Rocket League is the purest gaming experience of the decade. – BB
14. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
2018 | Bandai Namco Studios & Sora Ltd. | Switch
You could argue that the initial appeal of the Super Smash Bros. franchise lies in the novelty of seeing so many famous characters share the same screen. As that novelty faded over the years, though, Super Smash Bros. became much more about the incredible fighting mechanics that inspired one of the more surprising competitive scenes in recent years.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate represents the best of both worlds. The game’s absurd roster of stars is simply shocking, but it’s the way that Ultimate arguably perfects its already incredible controls and features that make it a damn good fighting game. This game proves that the Smash Bros. concept can really be so much more. – MB
13. Dark Souls
2011 | FromSoftware | PS3, X360, PS4, XBO, Switch, PC
Dark Souls is the most influential game of the decade. In the midst of an era where highly-scripted corridor shooters ruled the day and fulfilled that fabled promise of allowing people to experience video games that felt just like the movies, Dark Souls offered a more obscure story, environments that truly encouraged you to explore them, and a level of difficulty that would soon become infamous.
Most importantly, Dark Souls proved that many of the concepts that once defined great gaming had been dormant for too long. Rather than simply revive them, it repackaged ideas like pattern-based challenges and engaging boss fights in a way that took advantage of some of the more underrated design innovations of the era. It’s the absolute best of modern and classic gaming as well as a title that loudly proclaims the power of its strong creative voice. – MB
12. Fallout: New Vegas
2010 | Obsidian | PS3, X360, PC
Fallout 3 was an incredible game, but it was clear that Bethesda was limited by the burden of translating some of Fallout’s core concepts into a 3D world. As such, so many of the more subtle and complicated things that the Fallout series truly excelled at in its earliest incarnations didn’t exactly survive the initial transition.
Fortunately, Fallout: New Vegas represents the glorious comeback of those more complex RPG elements. Developer Obsidian fought against a buggy engine and a tight production schedule to turn in an RPG adventure that is all about navigating the possibilities and burdens of player agency in a world where it often feels like you can’t properly predict the consequences of your decisions. It’s a true role-playing game that takes place in a world you wouldn’t want to live in but can’t help but be engrossed by. – MB
11. Mass Effect 2
2010 | BioWare | PS3, X360, PC
Mass Effect 2 is not only the best installment in BioWare’s space opera-inspired action RPG series but one of the greatest space-themed games of all time. Following up a video game marvel like Mass Effect, which allowed players to explore ancient galactic civilizations and uncharted planets like they were the captain of the USS Enterprise, was no easy task but Mass Effect 2 managed to deliver on its promise and then some. Tighter third-person shooter controls, more focused storytelling, inspired level design, and a colorful cast of characters that not only emphasized the paragons but also the renegades helped this sequel majorly improve on its predecessor. The game also begins with one of the best opening act twists ever. You won’t see it coming. – JS
10. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
2015 | CD Projekt Red | PS4, XBO, Switch, PC
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has been called the greatest RPG and open-world game ever made. While such declarations are usuallymade by the title’s most adamant fans, at the very least, The Witcher 3 excels like no other game before (or possibly since) when it comes to crafting a world where it feels like every character, side story, and out-of-the-way locale is worth interacting with. There is no such thing as a wasted narrative moment in this title, and every quest is worth experiencing. The Witcher 3 proves to be one of the most interesting uses of the open-world format in terms of advancing our ideas of storytelling in a video game. – MB
9. Mario Kart 8
2014 | Nintendo | Wii U, Switch
When it comes to kart racing, a genre that was surprisingly fruitful in the second half of the decade, there is no better entry than Mario Kart 8, a jam-packed Nintendo racer that adds new twists to the classic series while also celebrating its long history. Most impressive is the plethora of both original and fan-favorite tracks included in the game as well as the customization options that allow you shape your kart however you like. Best played with friends but offering a good challenge at the 200cc difficulty level, you’ll lose hours zipping through the game’s 48 courses, as you unlock new characters and vehicle parts. This is the ultimate party game. – JS
8. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
2011 | Bethesda Game Studios | PS3, X360, PS4, XBO, Switch, PC
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a language unto itself. The simple utterance of phrases like “Dragonborn” or even obscure memes like “Arrow in the knee” are sure to break the dam and unleash a surge of memories upon the millions (and millions) that experienced this game. Skyrim represents Bethesda’s perfect middle-ground between the sometimes overly complicated open-world RPGs of their early days and the sometimes overly simplified open-world RPGs of their recent years. It’s a bountiful title based on gameplay that will hook veterans and new fans alike as they make their way through a world that always feels like its hiding its best surprise around the next corner. – MB
7. Grand Theft Auto V
2013 | Rockstar North | PS3, X360, PS4, XBO, PC
Few games have captured the insanity of modern life better than Grand Theft Auto V. But Rockstar’s only GTA title of the decade not only captures the mayhem of a tech-boomed, celebrity-obsessed society, it laughs at the whole mess. Here is a game that’s as surreal and psychedelic as it is a comment on wealth inequality, our unchecked consumerism, and our addiction to social media. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun to play, with some of the best missions ever produced in the series.
Grand Theft Auto V mixes up the formula a bit by allowing you to play as three protagonists of vastly different backgrounds: Mike is a former bank robber who sold out his friends for a plea deal, Franklin is a young buck trying to get out of the hood any way he can, and Trevor is an ultra-violent meth dealer who loves chaos. Their stories become intertwined in exciting and unexpected ways, leading to one of the most epic heists ever designed for a video game. Fast-paced car chases down the San Andreas expressway, last-ditch dives off skyscrapers, and plenty of guns and bullets are all delivered with irreverant humor and an impressive attention to detail. – JS
6. Super Mario Odyssey
2017 | Nintendo | Switch
The Super Mario Galaxy games were so utterly immaculate that it was hard to imagine how Super Mario Odyssey, which looked to be cut from the same cloth, could possibly improve upon its predecessors. But Nintendo exceeded expectations and gave us what is arguably the greatest 3D platformer ever made.
It’s truly stunning the way Super Mario Odyssey constantly introduces new ideas, concepts, designs, and gameplay mechanics from its opening moments all the way to the end. Everything you see and experience feels novel and unique, and as the title eludes to, there’s a persistent sense of progression and discovery to Odyssey that few games can hold a candle to. – BB
5. Red Dead Redemption
2010 | Rockstar Games | PS3, X360
The 2010s are bookended by Red Dead Redemption games, and the first remains a stunning achievement of open-world gaming and atmosphere. Until its successor arrived eight years later, few titles had ever captured the dangerous, desolate, and dusty atmosphere of the Wild West quite like Red Dead Redemption, which ironically is a tale about the end of this era of American history.
Modern civilization is starting to creep into this land of gunslingers, thieves, and bounty hunters but there are still men like protagonist John Marston keeping the spirit of the West alive. When Marston is “recruited” by lawmen to hunt down his old gang mates and bring them to justice, the weary pistolero has no choice but to comply. With one of the greatest third act twists ever featured in a game, Marston’s adventure, which takes him from seedy watering holes to enemy hideouts in the desert to a revolution in Mexico, remains one of the greatest Western stories ever told in any medium. – JS
4. God of War
2018 | Santa Monica Studio | PS4
God of War could have gone wrong in so many ways. The idea of turning a series known for its absurd mythological stories and gratiutous sex and violence into a nuanced adventure that explores the more intimate aspects of human relationships amid the backdrop of a battle between gods sounds like an admirably ambitious recipe for failure.
What makes God of War work as well as it does is the quality of its writing. While that speaks to the game’s dialogue and characters, the strength of this title’s writing is really found in the ways that its developers explore a story about a father and son across a series of stunning setpieces bolstered by some surprisingly deep RPG mechanics. This is one of gaming’s greatest marriages between personal journeys and epic adventures. – MB
3. Portal 2
2011 | Valve | PS3, X360, PC
Portal 2 expands and builds upon the ingenious puzzle-shooter gameplay of its predecessor in marvelous ways. Each new feature—co-op play, gels, lasers, tractor beams—is weaved into the fabric of the core gameplay perfectly. But the true beauty of Portal 2 is its story and characterizations. Stephen Merchant’s Wheatley is one of the best characters to ever grace a game, period, and GLaDOS and Chell’s unlikely arrangement in the game’s final act is just fantastic (and don’t forget Atlas and P-Body!). Valve created a masterpiece in Portal, but Portal 2 takes The Cake. – BB
2. The Last of Us
2013 | Naughty Dog |PS3, PS4
Does The Last of Us feature the greatest video game story ever told? There’s a healthy debate to be had on that subject, but there’s no doubt that a big part of the reason why The Last of Us is rightfully remembered by many as one of the best of the decade is because of its story about a man named Joel and a girl named Ellie who are both just trying to find a reason to soldier on in a world devoid of hope.
While developer Naughty Dog established its as one of the most exciting storytelling studios on the planet with the evolution of the Uncharted series, The Last of Us showed that the developer was able to maintain that incredible pace and sense of excitement while telling a much more heartfelt story that relies heavily on your interpretation of some complicated moral conundrums. It’s possibly the most profound apocalyptic story since The Road. – MB
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
2017 | Nintendo | Switch, Wii U
The game that launched Nintendo’s latest console into major financial success is also one of the best RPGs the company has ever produced. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild not only brought the classic Zelda formula to a new generation but seemingly perfected it by giving us a huge open-world sandbox to explore and experiment in. This version of Hyrule is bright, charming, and full of surprises, a living and breathing world made up of diverse environments with their own wild life and ecosystems to discover. And the setting is complented perfectly by a darker, Majora’s Mask-like story in which Link and Princess Zelda have already failed to stop Ganon.
Breath of the Wild‘s biggest strengths, beyond the beautiful art design that makes it the best-looking installment to date, are the freedom of exploration and emphasis on allowing players to figure things out for themselves. Here is a Zelda adventure that’s like a mystery box that you can open as slowly or as fast as you like. From the very early moments of the game, you can choose to go in whichever direction you want and do whatever you want — the only way to succeed in this game is through trial and error.
By the end of Link’s journey, you truly feel like the quest you’ve just finished has been your very own. The game sticks with you long after you’ve completed it, fond memories of its gorgeous vistas, charming and dangerous creatures, mind-bending puzzles, and challenging dungeons serving as a testament to its brilliance. – JS
John Saavedra is Games Editor at Den of Geek. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @johnsjr9.
Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014.
Bernard Boo is a freelance contributor. Read more of his work here.