GAMINGbible's Greatest Games Of The Decade
GAMINGbible's staff has been gripped by what can only be called incredibly tepid arguments over the past few weeks, breaking our last ten years of gaming down into just 25 titles we consider to be the very best from the decade that's been. And here it is: GAMINGbible's 25 Greatest Games of the Decade.
But how did we reach this 25? Every member of our staff (that's eight people, you know) put together their own top 10 lists, and positions were allocated points - so, the game at number one got ten, the game at number ten got one. You can work out the rest. A simple system, we're sure you agree. And a system that's given us a clear, definitive top 25.
But that's enough about the maths. Let's just get right down to it, shall we?
Batman: Arkham City
(2011, Rocksteady Studios)
Batman: Arkham City is a perfect sequel in every regard. It takes everything that made its predecessor such a hit and improves on pretty much aspect of it, freeing Batman from the confines of the preceding Arkham Asylum and allowing him to prowl the rooftops of a cordoned-off section of Gotham City. The clever puzzles, tense stealth and outstanding combat are all still present and correct - there's just so much more of it to enjoy - plus one of the best Batman-versus-Joker stories to date in any medium.
There's an internet joke that says the summer of 2016 was the closest we ever came to world peace, because everybody with a smartphone was out playing Pokémon GO. While that might be stretching the truth just a tiny bit, there's no arguing that Niantic's AR catch-'em-up took the world by storm. Official numbers are hard to come by, but many put downloads for the mobile game in excess of 1 billion - that's one in every seven people on the planet owning the game. Prepare for profit, and make it a-lot-of-it!
Football with cars could so easily be a gimmick, but the magic of Rocket League is that you quickly learn it will take real effort to master the control of your car. The difference between novice players and experts is clear to see, simply from how high they are off the pitch. New players boost up and down the arenas, rarely leaving the ground, while pros will race up the sides of each space, boosting themselves off the walls to intercept balls in mid-air. And it's a testament to the game that it's more interesting to watch than real football.
Nier: Automata is the best kind of crazy - a gorgeous, nonsensical, but deeply engaging voyage through a dystopian world that combines brilliantly inventive combat with an absolutely stunning soundtrack. This is one game that's just as likely to play you as your are to play it, as you invest countless hours trying to unravel the real meaning behind this tale of life, death, and sacrifice.
Life Is Strange
Life Is Strange delivered a suckerpunch of a story that disarmed audiences, and then pulled the rug out from under them. Gameplay was simple yet effective, but each decision carried true emotional weight in Max's story, and the wider tragedy of the doomed Arcadia Bay. When Foals' 'Spanish Sahara' played over the final moments - however they panned out for you - there couldn't have been a dry eye in the house.
(2016, Respawn Entertainment)
Like its predecessor, Titanfall 2 had an excellent multiplayer, stuffed full of heavy mechs and high-speed acrobatics. That freedom of motion and top class first-person shootery became the basis of the battle royale hit Apex Legends. But it's the single-player campaign where Titanfall 2 is truly special. Full of invention and ideas, developer Respawn introduced mechanics, developed them, and moved onto something new before anything outstayed its welcome. Forget Half-Life 2, Titanfall 2 is the top dog of shooter campaigns.
Don't you worry your little heart about that number five: if Persona 5's your first rodeo with Atlus's acclaimed series, you won't be at a loss for previous-installments context as it's a wholly standalone experience. And what an experience it is, too, taking trademark supernatural schooldays stylings into real-world Japanese locations, and laying out a realms-spanning story that puts the fate of the world in the hands of, well, a group of kids, really.
Thankfully, they're able to motivate those around them to support their cause, helped no end by an array of powerful Personas - kind of like Pokémon, but born from an individual's subconscious. Hmm, kids taking charge and saving the world? Sure there's a parallel to be made there with today's climate crisis situation and those leading the calls for change, but I can't quite put a finger on it...
(2012, Terry Cavanagh)
From the off, Super Hexagon is an exceptionally demanding rhythm game, with most players struggling to even survive for 10 seconds. However, this unapologetic challenge only makes it more satisfying to see your best times creep up, higher and higher, until eventually you can play for minutes at a time without thinking.
The game's marriage of high-energy chiptune music and vibrant, punchy art makes it stick in the mind even eight years after its release, and there are few greater thrills in this medium than hearing its announcer's "excellent" when a new high score is achieved.
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
(2016, Naughty Dog)
When the first Uncharted game came out, it was almost universally written off as a mere Tomb Raider clone. While there may have been an ounce of truth to that in the beginning, Naughty Dog's franchise ramped up to become one of the best written (and best acted) narrative-centric proposals in the modern action-adventure genre. Uncharted 4 gave Nate more heart, his story more gravitas, and ultimately delivered the perfect ending for the seasoned treasure-hunting buccaneer.
(2018, Matt Makes Games/Extremely OK)
Despite its intense and challenging pixel-perfect platforming, Celeste is never anything less than charming and patient, encouraging you to learn, improve, and do a little better each time. This focus on self-improvement is baked into every aspect of the game, from its approach to design right through to the story, which respectfully and thoughtfully portrays the lead character's struggles with anxiety and depression.
Super Mario Odyssey
(2017, Nintendo EPD)
Mario's first move into the third dimension on the N64 was a true game-changer for platformers, and ever since Nintendo's mascot has been at the forefront of innovations within his genre of choice. Odyssey's new addition was a sentient hat, which initially seems rather throwaway - pun intended - before the incredible scope of what Cappy is capable of becomes clear.
From traversing otherwise impossible geography across mesmerising level designs, to taking control of enemies and acting as the player-two character for co-op sessions, Cappy is quite the star of this Switch essential, the best mainline title starring the mustachioed plumber since Super Mario Galaxy.
(2011, Valve Corporation)
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It's easy to assume a Valve game will be good, especially when they were coming off the high of the first Portal and Left 4 Dead 1 & 2. But Portal 2 was more than a good sequel: it made the first game look small by comparison.
From the start of the game, you see the familiar testing environments fold back on themselves to reveal the facility's innards. The whole game is like seeing behind the curtain of the first, with the AIs GLaDOS and Wheatley breaking down the concepts of design in their dialogue and puzzles. It's an altogether more ambitious game than the first and one that, even though it released at the start of the decade, is still one of the best we've played of the last ten years.
The Walking Dead: Season One
(2012, Telltale Games)
Most zombie games before The Walking Dead focused on the action of an undead outbreak - but Telltale put story at the centre of this critical and commercial hit. The team showed how invested you could become in the lives of these characters, simply by talking with them and making choices, from seemingly trivial either-or decisions to high-tension instances of life or death. All of this built to a heartbreaking finale, solidifying Lee Everett and Clementine as two of the best characters in gaming.
Red Dead Redemption 2
(2018, Rockstar Studios)
Red Dead Redemption was the game that proved cowboys were still cool. Red Dead Redemption 2 was the game that proved sad cowboys were even cooler. Rockstar's other franchise only released its latest entry at the tail end of 2018; but RDR2 hit with such an impact that it immediately cemented itself as one of the greatest yarns of all time. Brawls, bullets and betrayals were dished out by the bucketload, leaving a lasting impression on anybody who played it. That's without even mentioning all the memes, boah.
(2016, Blizzard Entertainment)
Arguably the most exciting FPS game of the decade, Overwatch has earned juggernaut status in casual gaming and esports alike. Although only offering online multiplayer, Overwatch is packed with variety, thanks to its huge array of unique characters and expertly tuned game modes. Combined with an in-depth story told through both the game and other media - such as online animated shorts - it's easy to see how Overwatch became such a phenomenon. After all, the world could always use more heroes.
God of War
(2018, SIE Santa Monica Studio)
Part sequel, part reboot, 2018's God of War reinvented PlayStation's action series into an open-world adventure dripping with spectacle. Kratos became a wounded hero battling inner demons and his role as a father as strongly as he did the very real monsters of the Norse world, bringing new nuance and complexity to the series. Perhaps the game's best new feature is the Leviathan Axe, a brutal weapon woven into the game world making it hard to see how this series ever existed without it. God of War will stand as one of the last big exclusives for the PS4, and one of the best games on this generation of hardware.
(2019, Mobius Digital)
An open-world space game with no focus on combat and all of its emphasis on exploration might not sound like what you're after, but anyone who plays Outer Wilds will doubtless find themselves immediately obsessed with peeling back its many layers, exploring ancient and terrifying worlds, and uncovering the truth behind a cosmic mystery. Horrifying and life-affirming all at once, Outer Wilds is a beautifully designed triumph on all counts.
Red Dead Redemption
(2010, Rockstar San Diego)
Rockstar's first Redemption (but not the studio's debut Red Dead, of course) might have been superceded in scale by its 2018 sequel, but warm memories of this Wild West adventure have stayed with us.
The story of former bandit John Marston's quest for salvation was a true epic at a time when few games really sucked the player into their worlds with convincing depth, offering the feeling of a society that went about its business whatever the player's role within it. With several moments of high drama and just a little heartbreak, this is a cowboy job that we'd all happily pay again and again for.
Grand Theft Auto V
(2013, Rockstar North)
Not just any game can boast to have sold over 110 million copies, generated close to an estimated $6 billion in revenue, and hold seven Guinness World Records. But then, Grand Theft Auto V isn't just any game.
Closer to a cultural phenomenon than a piece of entertainment software, it's hard to imagine a world without it. Rockstar's prize franchise has never shied away from controversy and it likely never will, especially in today's balmy political and social atmosphere. But GTA V showed how the studio's provocative tone could be successfully married to a world to fully lose yourself in.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
(2011, Bethesda Game Studios)
What can I say about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim that hasn't already been said? It's one of the most immersive, richly detailed and mind-bogglingly massive RPGs of all time. Whether you choose to be a lusty Argonian, a stealth archer, a nord warrior, a stealth archer, or a stealth archer, the wintry wastes of Skyrim amaze and delight - regardless of if it's your first or 31st playthrough.
(2018, Insomniac Games)
Marvel's Spider-Man is the game fans of the wall-crawler had been waiting all their lives for. Insomniac Games took the characters and world of one of the most iconic heroes of all time and created a game that mixed thrilling traversal and fluid combat with a heartbreaking story that manages to capture the spirit of Peter Parker better than the last 50 years' worth of comics, movies, and games combined.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
(2015, CD Projekt Red)
From cult concern to role-playing powerhouse, the rise of the Witcher franchise has been a marvel to behold, and it's with 2015's Wild Hunt that CD Projekt Red's grandest ambitions finally became achievable thanks to the era's advanced gaming hardware. Technical successes aside, The Witcher 3 is a deliciously richly written adventure with a cast of characters who you actually care about, locations to fall in love with, and a hefty dollop of moral ambiguity that'll test your own boundaries when it comes to screwing entire villages over.
Absolute freedom is an oft-promised feature of open-world video games; but none, arguably, have touched the go-anywhere, do-anything wonder that is Minecraft.
Mojang's procedurally generated sandbox release of 2011 is probably as close as any of the games here come to representing a legitimate 'second life' in a virtual realm, be that an existence of peace and exploration or one of foraging and survival. Minecraft is a game that's redefined the possibilities of its medium, and engaged a generation in a way that most other titles can only dream of.
The Last Of Us
(2013, Naughty Dog)
Few games can claim to have resonated so hard with audiences that they're considered to be one of the best titles of all time, let alone the last decade. The Last Of Us redefined the idea that a game couldn't take you on an emotional journey on par with the greatest Hollywood movies or bestselling books. Gameplay, graphics, acting talent and more contribute to the cacophony of splendour that make this game so important, and who can forget that opening sequence?
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
(2017, Nintendo EPD)
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is Nintendo firing on all cylinders. It's a game bursting with charm and innovation; one that manages to pay tribute to the franchise's past while carving out a bold new path for the future. Set in a sprawling, gorgeous world, it constantly rewards you for having the courage to explore, the wisdom to solve its puzzles, and the power to take down its most challenging enemies. It's a modern classic, and a worthy number one.