IntroductionThe 2010's are almost over. Soon it'll be 2020, that distant faraway futuristic year used in sci-fi films. We won't have flying cars (well not yet), but we do have foldable phones and all kinds of nifty new gadgets. And gaming in particular has evolved tremendously in the last 10 years, taking us from 720p graphics all the way to 4K 60FPS and beyond with insane high-end PCs and even with the Xbox One X (if only just barely).
As next-gen consoles like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X loom in 2020, promising insane high-end console gaming with ray tracing, 8K resolution, higher frame rates than ever before, and boosted resolution, it's important to take a look back and see how far the industry has come.
So we present to you my personal picks for the top 10 games of the decade. I've gone through each year and selected my favorite titles for that year, complete with some runners up. It's nearly impossible to pick just one game.
Read Also: The Best Tech of the Decade
2010 - Halo: Reach
2010 was a great year for gaming, and picking a top game was decidedly hard. Mass Effect 2 might be one of my favorite RPGs of all time, up there with Morrowind and Dragon Age: Origins, but Halo: Reach was the apple of my eye in 2010. No Halo game commanded more of my time than Reach. You see, I'm hopelessly addicted to Firefight. I'm still addicted to this day (today I played 6 games of Firefight Limited on Halo Reach on PC).
Reach had it all: Crazy PVP, an engaging and riveting campaign, and of course my all-time favorite game mode, Firefight. I was so hooked that I decided I only really cared about Firefight and Campaign. I never once played an online match of PVP (although I spent days playing the Reach beta back in the day).
Halo: Reach had (and still does have) a profound effect on me as a gamer. It was Bungie's swan song to the Halo franchise, and it really resonated with me on so many levels.
I still fire up ODST to play its classic Firefight mode solo Heroic on Chasm Ten. I'll be hearing FIREFIGHT, SET START! in my head till the day I die.
And that space mission! Holy hell was that exciting back in the day.
- Mass Effect 2
- Fallout New Vegas
- Red Dead Redemption
- Alan Wake
2011 - The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Okay this one was a given. Skyrim is one of the most influential games released in the last 20 years, let alone the last decade. Bethesda has re-sold the game umpteen times and we always keep buying it simply because it's a damn good game, warts and all.
Back in 2011, I received my first review copy for a game ever. It was Skyrim. I was blown away that I even got it, let alone that I got to play it early. Not only that, I got it in time for my birthday. That was special to me, and so was the actual experience.
Back in my Morrowind days I was in love with Solsthiem, and always read up on the Nordic homeland of Skyrim. Once the game dropped and I got the review copy, I spun that disc in my Xbox 360 for hours and hours on end, greedily experiencing the now-dated RPG mechanics, getting roadblocked by frustrating bugs, and just grinding and exploring. It was a magical time when Bethesda was on top of the world and still making singleplayer games.
But only on PC did Skyrim unlock its true potential. Mods changed everything, and opened up a new dimension of play that I still enjoy today. There's nothing like a Bethesda game with mods and I'm still blown away by the creativity, dedication, and raw talent of the modding community.
As for the other games...2011 saw two of my other favorite titles launch: Dragon Age II (yeah, I know, but I still love it) and Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a game I hated at first but only learned to love as time went on.
Skyrim got even better with the release of the Special Edition, which brought mods to consoles for the first time ever (although Sony severely gimped PS4's console mods for some weird reason). This was and still is revolutionary and I hope it continues with The Elder Scrolls VI.
- Dragon Age II
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution
2012 - Halo 4
For me, 2012 wasn't a huge year for variety gaming. I mostly slaved away at Diablo III, trying so desperately to love a game that only gave sadism in return. The reports are true: Diablo III was a horrible, greedy, and soul-sucking mistress at launch (Only later did it redeem itself, but more on that later).
As a result, I didn't play a whole lot of other games. But one game I did play a lot of was Halo 4.
I was super duper apprehensive that 343 Industries, a new studio, could handle the weight of Halo. Bungie had just splintered away to do their own thing (which would turn into Destiny) and 343i took over the mantle. But holy hell did they deliver.
Halo 4's campaign was gritty, thought-provoking (that ending though), and genuinely fun, and its multiplayer was pretty nifty too. The MP wasn't the best, but it was passable and still had some enjoyable moments--the armor abilities were cool, the new Promethean weapons were so-so, but ultimately it was Halo. The art direction was incredible (it still is) and 343i did a good job introducing us to this new ambitious Reclaimer Trilogy.
The best part of Halo 4 was Spartan Ops. Since I love Firefight, of course I'd love Spartan Ops, which was basically Firefight with a campaign story to it. These little episodes commanded a lot of my playtime and expanded my expectations on what a Halo game could be.
- Borderlands 2
2013 - Grand Theft Auto V
Okay just like Skyrim, this one's a given. There's no entertainment property like Grand Theft Auto, and certainly no game like GTA V. The game is a juggernaut, a title that just won't stop making billions. It's a runaway success.
Even when it launched in 2013 on PS3 and Xbox 360, the game was huge. The three-protagonist story arc that took us all throughout Los Santos in a carefully orchestrated high-stakes robbery spree was reminiscent to old stylized heist films from the 60s and 70s. There's something timeliness about GTA V's campaign, as if it's captured an irreverent and horribly offensive satirical chunk of our era and froze it in stasis.
There's just so many crazy memories GTA V has to offer, but there's really nothing like playing a brand spanking new Grand Theft Auto. The NPCs, the exploration, the graphics and physics and sheer freedom...all wrapped up with an interesting, hilarious, and very ridiculous campaign made it the best game of 2013.
This says a lot because 2013 saw the release of next-gen consoles, as well as some huge hits like FFXIV A Realm Reborn, one of the best MMORPGs ever made, and AC4: Black Flag. Even with the mind-blowing visuals of Killzone Shadow Fall and the massively addictive "real Diablo III" that was Path of Exile, GTA V was the top dog in this slice of time.
- Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
- Saints Row IV
- Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
- Killzone Shadow Fall
- Path of Exile
2014 - Destiny
Hoo boy. This one was another really really tough one. 2014 was great for games, and there's a few titles in particular I spent most of my time on. But none other comes close to Destiny.
Back in 2014, Destiny was something brand new. It promised a new era from Bungie, one filled with never-ending FPS carnage in a roaming world teeming with loot. Players weren't just Spartans any more. They were space wizards and heroes from a forgotten age of magic and high-tech. It was a sci-fi nerd's dream game, all wrapped in the high-intensity chaos of a Halo game.
Destiny brought everyone together. Randoms joined up in fireteams to take on missions or just roam around the planets, meandering from Mars to the junked frostlands of Old Russia. We collected loot, we hunted, we did Strikes (Destiny's version of Firefight!), and we slaughtered each other in the Crucible.
But there's one stand-out moment that defined what Destiny is: My first Vault of Glass raid. Picture a marathon that captures the spirit of those all-nighter Halo LAN sessions from the original Xbox era, complete with a linear story-driven pathway with exotic visuals, insane loot possibilities, and challenging mind-bending puzzles.
Just like there's nothing like a Bethesda game with mods or a new Grand Theft Auto game, there's nothing like playing a new Destiny raid. It's a compelling, captivating, and frustrating experience that brings people together from all over the world, acting like a magical portal to gaming's best moments.
Eventually the studio lost their way and severely frustrated their playerbase, necessitating the excellent The Taken King reboot (Bungie did this a second time with Destiny 2, a lukewarm launch game that inundated players with seemingly-worthless activities, but all of that changed with the big Forsaken update).
- Diablo III: Reaper of Souls
- Dragon Age: Inquisition
- Alien Isolation
2015 - Fallout 4
2015 was an awesome year for gaming. And I know what you're thinking: How the hell can Bethesda's janktastic Fallout 4 get the top spot? How is it better than The Witcher 3?
My simple answer to that is: Mods.
Back in 2015, I had just joined TweakTown. Fallout 4 was the first game I actually reviewed on this site. Although I loved vanilla Fallout 4 on PS4, the game only opened up with mods. Modded Fallout 4 is one of the best experiences I've had with a game in the last five years; gamers got the chance to utterly manipulate the world, the code, and tailor-make their experience as they see fit.
It's not just mods that made Fallout 4 so great, though. I started dabbling with console commands on PC and did some wacky things, like gigantizing myself or shrinking myself to a teeny-tiny ant-sized survivor.
I built some crazy settlements using the wide breadth of mods available, making a ridiculous kitschy monstrosity that I was proud to call home. I imported weapons, tried my hand at making some of my own mods (it's not easy at all), and ultimately found Fallout 4 to be a kind of playground of enjoyment.
All that changed of course when Bethesda rolled out the Creation Club, which essentially introduced paid mods via an in-game marketplace. This ultimately interrupted and broke the best thing about Fallout 4.
Each successive Creation Club update broke the vital script extenders that the best mods relied on to work properly. It still happens today, and I haven't actually tried to play my modded Fallout 4 game since 2016.
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
- Dying Light
2016 - Watch Dogs 2
2016 was another stalwart year for gaming. Watch Dogs 2 tops my list for one simple reason: Ubisoft's immense world-building talent.
Watch Dogs 2 has some of the best-looking, immersive, and interesting world-building I've seen. We're talking Grand Theft Auto levels--hell, some of the dynamic NPCs are more reactive than GTA V's NPCs. The game is predicated on basically turning the entire high-tech world into a playground for you enjoyment; as a hacker, you can pretty much manipulate the entire city, from transforming actual cars into remote controlled toys of destruction to hacking someone's phone and making it explode.
The storyline was irreverent and hilarious, if not a bit ridiculous and Mr. Robot-y at times. Watch Dogs 2 invigorated the franchise and allowed me to marvel at the amazing San Francisco-based cityscape with its quirky characters, plethora of secrets, and massive sardonic satirical snark.
There was always lots to do and the game suffered from the usual Ubisoft content overload, but Watch Dogs 2 broke a lot of this pacing with its bombastic style and in-your-face rebellious attitudes. The gameplay was pretty good, allowing for a chaotic mix of hacking and shoot-em-up savagery with 3D-printed guns.
But the real star of the show was the Bay Area, which served as a technical test-bed for Ubisoft's next-gen NPC and world-building. Everything from the lighting, the atmospheric effects, the physics systems, and of course the AI-based NPCs are all on point and create a really immersive and memorable experience.
- Final Fantasy XV
- Deus Ex Mankind Divided
2017 - Assassin's Creed: Origins
This one was tough too. 2017 was packed with hits like Breath of the Wild, which is the entire reason I bought a Switch, the excellent Prey reboot, and Capcom's true return to terror with Resident Evil 7.
But no game spoke to me like Assassin's Creed: Origins.
I feel like this game was made for me. As someone who absolutely adores Hellenistic Egypt, AC: Origins was everything I had ever wanted to see from the period made corporeal and interactive. The Pharos of Alexandria, Khufu's Horizon and the other towering cyclopean pyramid-tombs at Giza, the Great Library, the Sphinx, Alexander's Tomb...the list goes on and on and on.
Ubisoft's attention to detail in these new modern AC games is staggering. In Origins we saw people making dyes and sifting through silt, they venerate the Hellenistic gods that mingle Egyptian and Greek polytheism, and they walk, talk, and act as ancient Egyptians likely did. It's literally like time traveling to one of the most profound and mystifying periods in ancient history.
The story was masterfully crafted, weaved around one of the best characters in the series, Bayek, who's charming, captivating, and admirable. The combat is chaotic and there's RPG mechanics thrown in to keep you playing for long periods of time all the while collecting precious high-grade loot.
- Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- Resident Evil 7
2018 - Red Dead Redemption 2
Rockstar's second game on this list needs no introduction.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is simply the best-looking game on any console, and that goes double for PC (our review is coming soon). Yes, it's meticulous, and yes, it's frustrating, but all of its mind-blowing visuals and a heart-filled storyline completely make up for these mechanical shortfalls.
The game's story is the best part, hands down. It's set in 1886 Old West, a period when the West was getting a lot more civilized and a lot less wild. Outlaws are being hunted down and driven out. Arthur and his band of miscreants, who survived by means of violence and robbery, are being left behind. Soon they find themselves in a world they no longer recognize or fit into, which of course makes them more lawless and desperate than ever.
It channels everything about the era and is immensely authentic, from the shopkeeps to the cities and the horses--everything you see, do, or interact with is painstakingly detailed in 1886 Old West flair.
The game hearkens back to old Spaghetti Westerns, tapping that Sergio Leone danger with the Magnificent Seven mysticism. It's truly transcendent and something special, even if the annoying controls often get in the way.
Given the caliber of what Red Dead Redemption 2 offers, I'd say it's not a game. It's an experience. And that's why it tops our 2018 list.
- God of War
- Assassin's Creed Odyssey
- Outlast 2
2019 - Control
Control is hands-down the best game of 2019.
It's weird, it's bizarre, it's...different, but most importantly, it's brave. Remedy Entertainment tried something new with Control, weaving an intriguing cerebral storyline with distinct X-Files, Men In Black, and Twin Peaks elements in a style that's all its own. The result is an action-packed thrillride with freedom, Metroidvania elements, and some of the best-looking environments in gaming today.
The story is mind-bending and always keeps you guessing, the combat is innovative and filled with nifty powers like the levitation and telekinetic throws--all of which let you absolutely wreck the destructible environments, and the general ambiance is something reserved mostly for David Lynch films.
Turn RTX on for absolutely mind-blowing reflections and lighting effects.
- Destiny 2 Shadowkeep
- Layers of Fear 2
- RE2 REmake
Last updated: Jan 1, 2020 at 06:11 am CST