Jan 23, 2020

The Best Games of the 2010s

A lot can happen in a decade — especially in the video game industry. Over the course of the 2010s, the industry has seen the fall of giants, the dawn of free-to-play games, and the dominance of digital downloads, just to name a few. Despite all these shifts, the one constant is the quality of games. With so many incredible releases from the past decade, it’s a tough ask to narrow them down to a single list. After much deliberation, we came up with the best 10 games to encapsulate the 2010s.

  • Release: January 26, 2010

    Released in 2007, the first Mass Effect asked a lot of gamers. Produced as a trilogy from the very beginning, players had to play the future sequels in order to see how their choices in the first game played out. While dialogue trees and player choice were nothing new, doing it on such a grand scale was.

    From the moment you boot up Mass Effect 2, it’s clear that the game improves on its predecessor in every way. The third-person shooting is tighter, the twists are bigger, there are more varying dialogue choices, and there’s a much greater focus on character development — mainly your crewmates.

    Speaking of the development of your crewmates, the second half of the game focuses on exploring every member of your crew. Rather than getting little tidbits of character development from pedestrian conversations, Mass Effect 2 uses loyalty missions to dive into what makes this diverse cast tick. These missions give players agency in learning about your crewmates, which creates a much stronger bond going into the final mission.

  • Release: October 4, 2011

    Although Demon’s Souls pioneered FromSoftware’s ridiculously hard, yet incredibly rewarding, gameplay loop, it wasn’t until the 2011 release of Dark Souls that this style of game became mainstream. Dark Souls became so mainstream, in fact, that many games are still compared to it.

    During a time when games felt too easy, Dark Souls’ crushing difficulty was a breath of fresh air. Mashing buttons wouldn’t get you far in this dark fantasy. Learning enemy patterns, carefully dodging their attacks, and executing your own counterattack were the keys to survival. However, when you inevitably fall in battle, the mistakes made serve as chances to learn and improve.

    When video games skewed far too easy in order to appeal to a broader audience, Dark Souls took the opposite approach. The overwhelming difficulty captured a nostalgic feeling of risk versus reward not seen since the NES.

  • Release: November 18, 2011

    Due to current trends in video games, it’s hard to think that Minecraft was a phenomenon in the early half of the 2010s. Since being purchased by Microsoft, it’s even harder to think of Minecraft as the indie darling it started out as.

    Starting development in 2009, Minecraft pioneered the early access funding model. For a small price, those interested could play early versions of the game while supporting its development. As new features were added, the price would increase. However, those that bought in early would receive all future updates free of charge.

    While Minecraft revolutionized how indie developers approach game development, that wasn’t the key to its massive success. That key was the game’s ability to replicate the endless possibilities of playing with Lego blocks. The Creative mode was a destination for millions to build whatever they desired without any restrictions.

  • Release: March 13, 2012

    If you had to distill Journey down to one word, that word would be “art”.

    Although it can easily be finished in one sitting, Journey is an experience like no other in gaming. There are no tutorials, no dialogue, no limitations. Alone in the desert, the only direction given is the profile of a mountain in the distance.

    How you get there, the puzzles you solve, and the players you meet along the way are all part of this unbelievable journey. A journey that every gamer should take.

  • Release: June 14, 2013

    After years of colorful mascot platformers, Naughty Dog looked to redefine their image with the PS3. While the Uncharted games proved they can pull off a cinematic action blockbuster, The Last of Us was the developer’s tour de force.

    From first impressions, The Last of Us may play like the deluge of zombie games to come out around the same time. However, its story was a step above the rest. Tasked with delivering a possible cure for the zombie-like infection, Joel and Ellie travel across what remains of the United States. As they cross the country, Joel and Ellie learn to rely on each other in order to survive. However, survival isn’t without sacrifice.

    Despite faltering in a couple of areas, the strength of The Last of Us’ narrative has kept it in the mind of all who’ve played it. The game has received such universal acclaim that Naughty Dog will return to this post-apocalyptic world for The Last of Us Part II.

  • Release: May 19, 2015

    From the books to the brand-new Netflix series, there are a plethora of options to experience the story of Geralt of Rivia. Still, none of them compare to the depth and fully fleshed out world of CD Projekt Red’s magnum opus.

    The Witcher III: Wild Hunt is one of the most densely populated open worlds printed to disc. There is quite literally something to do around every corner. So much so that you can spend tens of hours in the opening area alone.

    While a game may have lots to do, not everything may be worth your time. That’s especially true of open-world RPGs, where more effort goes into the main questline. However, side content in The Witcher III is just as polished as the main story content. Heck, Gwent is so good that it spun off into its own game.

  • Release: May 24, 2016

    For the longest time, first-person shooters — especially those focused on competitive online multiplayer — appealed to a particular audience. An audience obsessed with prestige, kill/death ratios, and perfection. Such an audience did as much to push away players as to draw them in.

    While some competitive shooters appealed to casual players, none did on the scale of Blizzard’s Overwatch.

    Instead of focusing on the individual, Overwatch is entirely team-based. Players can choose between 31 characters, each with their own unique playstyles and skills. The diverse cast makes it so anybody, no matter their skill, can find a character to their liking and make meaningful contributions to their team.

    On top of that, Overwatch is ever-evolving. Blizzard adds new characters, stages, cosmetics, gameplay tweaks, and events on a regular basis. The game is even compatible with Overwatch 2’s multiplayer; meaning players will receive all multiplayer updates made for the sequel.

  • Release: March 3, 2017

    Ever since Ocarina of Time set the template for 3D Zelda games in the late 90s, none of the preceding 3D entries could escape its shadow. No matter what changes they made to the formula, they were always seen in comparison to Ocarina.

    Following the launch of the Wii U, Eiji Aonuma and his team promised that the next 3D Zelda would challenge series conventions. Using the first Legend of Zelda as inspiration, the team created a Zelda so non-linear that you can tackle the final boss upon booting up the game.

    Breath of the Wild’s greatest strength is the freedom it gives players. From the highest peak to the lowest valley, every inch of Hyrule is explorable. Considering you can scale any surface — as long as it isn’t raining — the game encourages players to step off the beaten path and create their own wild adventure.

  • Release: July 25, 2017

    If there was one video game that you didn’t stop hearing about since its release, it’s Fortnite. It smashed records and became a pop culture phenomenon that played a huge role in defining the late 2010s.

    Although Fortnite started out as a third-person Minecraft-inspired tower defense game, the game took off with the release of its free-to-play Battle Royale mode. Fortnite Battle Royale took the 100-person free-for-all structure of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and injected it with the construction of the game’s tower defense mode.

    Fortnite is a juggernaut with no signs of stopping. The stats prove it. As of March 2019, the game had 250 million players. Plus, the game made $1.8 billion in 2019.

  • Release: April 20, 2018

    On the PS2 and PS3, God of War was a beloved action game. However, the formula had grown tired by the release of 2012’s Ascension.

    How do you revitalize a beloved series? Well, Sony Santa Monica’s answer was a drastic overhaul. The linear structure, hack-and-slashing action, and focus on Greek mythology was replaced with open-ended environments, up-close and personal combat, and a world trenched in Norse mythology.

    More importantly, Kratos evolved from a one-note protagonist fueled by rage to a broken-down man trying to deal with his past trauma while being a good father to his son, Atreus. It’s that relationship with Atreus that pushes this God of War from just a game of pure spectacle to an unforgettable experience only capable in the medium of video games.

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