The Best Games of the Decade (2010 – 2019)
Spanning two console generations and thousands of game releases, the twenty-teens have been incredible for both game developers and their fans alike. While we thought about putting together a definitive ranking of the best games that came out between 2010 and the end of 2019, it quickly became apparent that there were way too many awesome games to crown just one as the decade’s best.
To that end, here are – with no particular ranking – our favorite games of the last ten years.
Click through the gallery above or scroll down for the full list.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Amnesia: The Dark Descent is practically the gold standard of video game horror. Its ability to simultaneously terrify and intrigue the player can be attributed to the myriad of ways in which it mixes up the thrills and its excellent Victorian setting. One minute you may be pursued by a very real invisible creature in waist-high water, the next find yourself dogged through the halls of a prison by a noisy monster that was never really there to begin with.
Retracing the protagonist Daniel’s steps through the ever-more-disturbing halls of Brennenburg Castle yield frights that startle in the moment, and revelations that still unsettle hours after playing.
For more, see our full Amnesia review here.
Civilization V takes the depth that makes 4X strategy amazing and simplifies it in a way that allows just about anyone to get a lot out of it. Especially after its second expansion, this hex-based iteration of the legendary human-history simulator series does a fantastic job of letting you play out basically unlimited "what if?" scenarios with all manner of distinctive world leaders.
Its more restrained one-unit-per-tile tactical combat and an innovative approach to government make it feel like very much its own game, even among its similar siblings. For more, see our full Civ 5 review here.
Call of Duty: Black Ops
The first installment of the Black Ops sub-series in Call of Duty remains one of the best games in the overall franchise to date. The compelling single-player espionage story coupled with an exceptional multiplayer suite and what would ultimately become the new foundation for the Zombies mode forged a gameplay trifecta that still shines from a design perspective, even if its visual fidelity pales in comparison to its modern-day descendants.
For more, see our full CoD: Black Ops review here.
Fallout: New Vegas
All of the Fallout games are great, but New Vegas stands above the rest thanks to the depth of its characters, its dark sense of humor, and the flexibility of its story.
Several factions with deep, shades-of-gray characters populate the wastes with interesting moral decisions, making the conflict between the New California Republic, Caesar’s Legion, and the mysterious Mr. House feel like anything but a black-and-white choice between good and evil. The fact that we get to decide the outcome makes it even better. For more, see our full Fallout: New Vegas review here.
Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect 2 is one of the best role-playing, cinematic, story, and character-driven experiences of the last decade. The series reintroduced us to BioWare’s talent for connecting players to the game world’s diverse cast of amazing characters, both new and returning.
Well-written dialogue choices and their resulting relationship branches made every dynamic feel like they were wholly your own. And BioWare’s skill for storytelling extended from those inter-character dynamics to planet explorations and the discovery of varying civilizations and political constructs that wove into the story in a way that forced you, as Shepard, to contend with them.
For more, see our full Mass Effect 2 review here.
This pixelated building simulator may look like a basic block construction kit to the untrained eye, but beneath this low-poly pile of cubes lies one of those robust, sophisticated, and endlessly inspiring video games ever made. Minecraft can be played as a survival game where players craft weapons, raise rudimentary structures and survive the night against hordes of horrible skeletons and spiders.
But the freeform creative side of the game captured an entire generation of streamers and content creators to tackle their takes on everything from the Millenium Falcon to sprawling kingdoms and even complex, fully working machines – all from a set of blocks that look like they were designed in Microsoft paint. Nine years after its initial release, the game still receives tons of new content and connects with millions of players all over the world, all eager to put their creativity to use.For more, see our full Minecraft review here.
It's easy to pinpoint the exact moment that the long-running NBA 2K series launched itself into the stratosphere of success and its main competitor, NBA Live, sank into a rebuilding mode it has yet to escape: the Fall of 2010.
That year, NBA Live – then attempting to rebrand itself as NBA Elite – got canceled at the very last minute, while NBA 2K11 jelled into an incredible pro basketball simulation that, oh yeah, also happened to sign the elusive legend himself, Michael Jordan, to finally appear in a video game. For more, see our full NBA 2K11 review here.
Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption set a new benchmark for cinematic storytelling in games. John Marston’s epic tale is punctuated by blockbuster moments – the siege of Fort Mercer, crossing into Mexico and that ending – that live long in the memory.
Its dusty, hostile open world, eclectic cast of characters, and the tales they told all combined to create a masterpiece that we’d spend most the decade waiting for the follow-up to.
For more, see our full Red Dead Redemption review here.
Fundamentally, StarCraft 2 is an RTS in which units adhere to a strict rock-paper-scissors arrangement of strengths and weaknesses. Surprisingly, that simplicity allows for seemingly limitless depth, with player tactics having evolved over a decade of thriving activity.
As a multiplayer game, SC2’s strengths has helped not only generate an iron-strong community, but also practically establish modern day esports. And as a campaign, Blizzard demonstrates that RTS games need not be purely mechanical, detached affairs; StarCraft 2’s use of characters, music, and continually surprising objective design make it one of the most joyful and affecting strategy games in existence.For more, see our full Starcraft 2 review here.
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Though the first Super Mario Galaxy wasn't part of this decade, the sequel is the better game anyway, and there probably hasn't been a better mainline Mario release since Super Mario Galaxy 2. Many more planets awaited you in the 2010 Galaxy follow-up, and on each one a new challenge, gameplay twist, or clever gimmick.
Most crucially (and adorably!), Super Mario Galaxy 2 adds Yoshi to the gravity-bending gameplay formula, and we are all better off for it.For more, see our full Super Mario Galaxy 2 review here.
Super Meat Boy
Super Meat Boy set the bar for precise, challenging platformers nearly a decade ago, and that bar that hasn’t been met by many since. It’s merciless and difficult but in ways that can be mastered, and it feels fantastic when you finally conquer a particularly insane level.
It understands the importance of speed as you run fast, die fast, and respawn fast, not leaving you enough time to get frustrated with any of your plentiful failures. For more, see our full Super Meat Boy review here.
Batman: Arkham City
Arguably the height of the Batman: Arkham series, Batman: Arkham City expanded on the brilliant foundation of Arkham Asylum's empowering combat and dense world design with a much larger chunk of Gotham to explore.
Surprises and fan-pleasing references are hidden in plain sight around every corner, and the sprawling story has no shortage of classic villains to tangle with, from Joker and Two-Face to the more obscure Victor Zsasz and Hugo Strange. On top of all of that is an expanded range of gadgets that makes scouring the entire city for Riddler trophies a Batman fan's dream.
For more, see our full Arkham City review here.
Look, you don't get an entire genre of game named after you and not make it on a game of the decade list. Dark Souls is arguably the most influential game of the decade. Understandably, Demon's Souls did come first, but Dark Souls paved the way for the entire SoulsBorne franchise to become a cultural phenomenon, largely thanks to its central theme of survival and dedication.
Persevering among impossible odds (that often feel unfair) is a universal truth that every human understands. But what keeps people coming back is the tight combat system, intricate weapon upgrade trees, fashion souls (dressing up with armor pieces), and world-building tucked neatly in the background and item descriptions for those willing to indulge themselves with a story of cyclical madness and suffering.
For more, see our full Dark Souls review here.
Marvel VS Capcom 3 (+Ultimate)
After more than a decade of hopeless dreaming, the fighting game community was finally blessed with a new Marvel vs. Capcom game. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 instantly reinvigorated the community with a modern character roster and a whole new set of combos and exploits to excavate from the complex game engine.
With the help of weekly locals and major tournament livestreams, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 delivered many of the most exciting — ahem, hypest — moments in FGC history, generated lasting memes ("When's Mahvel"), and made Jay Snyder an Evo champion. And while many were frustrated with Capcom's double-dip, the separate release of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 ensured the game's mechanics and variety could last the devoted Marvel community another decade. For more, see our full MvC3 Ultimate review here.
Like any good sequel, Portal 2 takes what made the original so great and makes it much, much greater. The puzzles are more complex and brain-breakingly satisfying. The story and world are far more rich and detailed.
Not only is the overall scope of Portal 2 much broader, it even throws in a fiendishly difficult co-op mode. It's just as well Portal 2 set the bar so high, because Valve doesn't seem in any rush to make a third game. For more, see our full Portal 2 review here.
Saints Row: The Third
The first Saints Row was more or less an ersatz Grand Theft Auto with ragdoll physics and character customization, and the second one began to color outside the lines, but Saints Row The Third was where the franchise really came into its own and showed its true colors (which are purple and silver, for the record).
The third entry transformed the eponymous heroes from a street gang to a cadre of celebrities running a global consumer brand, and then literally dropped them into the brand new city of Steelport, which rapidly became the goofiest sandbox action game to date.
For more, see our full Saints Row 3 review here.
I’m willing to bet plenty of people reading this wrote Terraria off as nothing more than “2D Minecraft” years ago, but it’s so much more than that. While it’s not an unfair comparison outright, Terraria more than distinguishes itself with a copious amount of RPG elements, intense boss fights, and loads of customization options to flex your personal playstyle on every new world. Couple that with some top-notch developer support that has consistently added new content since release, and Terraria deserves to stand tall all on its own.
For more, see our full Terraria review here.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
There's a good reason why Skyrim has been ported to everything – even Amazon Alexa: it's fantastic. It is the quintessential open-world fantasy role-playing game. That it was released in 2011 and still hasn't been surpassed in its genre here at the end of the decade should give you a good idea of how high it set the bar. Sure, it birthed many a meme and suffered many a glitch, but look at the game proper and you'll quickly remember why you fell in love with it.
It's a stunning, lived-in fantasy world rich with characters and lore and offers hundreds and hundreds of adventures both big and small. Its first-person quests took you to the lowest dungeons and the highest mountaintops, and don't forget, it also had DRAGONS. For more, see our full Skyrim review here.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Before New Leaf, this cozy, low-stress simulation series had appeared in both Nintendo consoles and handhelds alike, but on 3DS it had finally found the perfect home. The little handheld was powerful enough to display beautiful graphics and animation and its portability inspired players to bring their towns with them anywhere to meet friends and share their game worlds in real life.
Fishing, bug collecting, buying furniture, and yes – even paying off a mortgage – have never been this fun and charming.
For more, see our full Animal Crossing: New Leaf review here.
Borderlands 2 improved on the already-great Borderlands with little tweaks and improvements to the experience in almost every category; BL2 brought better characters, a better antagonist (Handsome Jack), improved (though not perfected) inventory management, and even the series' best DLC pack, 'Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep'. To this day, we'd be hard-pressed to recommend a looter-shooter that looks and plays as well as this one does. For more, see our full Borderlands 2 review here.
There's nothing quite like Diablo's hack-and-slash-and-loot gameplay formula. Blizzard further streamlined and refined that formula for the third main entry in the series. And as flawed as Diablo III was early on (hello, Auction House), Blizzard deserves credit for improving and expanding on the game until it became the new gold standard for the genre. The series even managed to make a seamless jump to consoles in the process.
For more, see our full Diablo III review here.
Far Cry 3
Do you know the definition of insanity? It’s a video game where you lure jaguars into pirate outposts, shoot alligators with grenade launchers to finish a craft project, die repeatedly by squirrel-suiting directly into a tree, and set literally everything on fire. Far Cry 3 was like a cross between drunk Skyrim wearing a party shirt and a mid-’90s Mountain Dew commercial that got banned for upsetting animal rights activists. The vivid, colorful, often psychedelic open-world setting of Far Cry 3 was a refreshing change after a slew of serious linear shooters with drab grey and brown palettes.
You wanna know the definition of insanity? Not acknowledging this as one of the best games of the decade. For more, see our full Far Cry 3 review here.
Fez is one of the most clever puzzle platformers around, with mind-bending complexity and a deep web of secrets to uncover when you dig past its adorable exterior. It’s a beautiful game, and one that subverts its own pixel art style at times to surprise and excite. It can be easy to get lost in its branching 2D-3D hybrid world, but it’s one more than worth finding your way through.
For more, see our full Fez review here.
Fire Emblem: Awakening
While Fire Emblem had slowly been gaining popularity in the West, largely thanks to the inclusion of some its characters in Smash Bros., Fire Emblem: Awakening for the 3DS is what really sealed the deal for the seminal tactical RPG series. Even if Switch's Fire Emblem: Three Houses furthered this popularity substantially, many hold strong that Awakening is the franchise's apex. Awakening set a standard for Fire Emblem moving forward by making the series more accessible, and adding a focus on inter-party relationships that will remain the norm for its foreseeable future.
For more, see our full FE: Awakening review here.
FTL: Faster Than Light
No game simulates the feeling of being in command of a starship flying by the seat of your pants like FTL: Faster Than Light. It's a game you shouldn't expect to survive – more likely, you'll be blasted out of the sky by a vastly superior enemy ship or boarded by a death squad of giant killer insects who massacre your crew.
But FTL’s isn't about winning – it's a story generator, where you get to talk about the time you got a killer beam weapon combo that cuts enemy ships to ribbons while your ship remains cloaked, or vented a boarding party into space. Its tactical combat never gets old, tons of loot and random events keep every game feeling unpredictable, and unlockable ships force you to change up your strategies. And every so often, you might even win.
For more, see our full FTL review here.
A gruesome, fluorescent, neo-noir top-down shooter that often rapidly veered into beat-em-up and stealth territory, Hotline Miami was the arthouse indie darling that kicked the door down so hard it broke our nose and knocked us unconscious.
Taking a few not-so-subtle cues from Nicolas Winding-Refn’s Drive, a big huge throbbing pile of grimy synthwave tracks, and a choice selection of charming animal masks, Hotline Miami felt like an arcade game from an alternate reality where Reagan served a third term, cocaine was legal, 3D graphics never panned out, and everyone had way more to worry about than video game violence. For more, see our full Hotline Miami review here.
Mark of the Ninja
Pure stealth games are hard to come by these days, but 2012's Mark of the Ninja served as a shining example of why this genre shouldn't be going extinct. Its beautiful cel-shaded, comic-book-style art gave it a distinct look that brilliantly complemented its gameplay, and its story even managed to keep you hooked for the duration of the adventure. But it's that gameplay that left Klei Entertainment's most distinct mark on Xbox Live Arcade. You got to do all sorts of ninja-y things, like crawl along ceilings, throw ninja stars, and silently slit the bad guys' throats. It oozes both blood AND style.
For more, see our full Mark of the Ninja review here.
Pokemon Black & White 2
One of the most standout features of Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 was the innovative key system, which made it the only core Pokemon that enabled players to change the difficulty. It’s a sought after feature that still has yet to make a return to the series, but Black 2 and White 2 had even more going for it.
The extended backstories and narrative points make its story one of the best in Pokemon history, and the content seems to never end even after the credits. It has new cities to explore, an always-on Pokemon World Tournament, and dozens of other things to do and see, making it a standout Pokemon adventure of this generation. For more, see our full Pokemon B&W Version 2 review(s) here.
Spec Ops: The Line
Although it must be said that the story owes a lot to Three Kings (great movie), Spec Ops: The Line became legendary as the war shooter that highlighted the cost of human lives over the usual cool-factor, and the futility of war over just the frags. Leading your squad through a desert hellscape into worse and worse situations, with little to no hope of a happy ending, was a new experience for many gamers.
Spec Ops took us to darker places even than "No Russian," and kept us there for longer stretches of time. A game willing to ask: where is the line? For more, see our full Spec Ops: The Line review here.
TellTale’s The Walking Dead (Season 01)
Adventure games are hardly new, but Telltale's twist on them certainly was. In stripping away almost everything but the dialogue and dialogue choices, the studio was able to let the story become the single most important thing in the game, and they never did it better than in their first season of The Walking Dead.
The choices you make along the way in this first and best season range from savage to heartbreaking, and the final moments are some of the most emotionally impactful in any game ever. You won't forget this story. For more, see our full review of TellTale's The Walking Dead here.
Assassin’s Creed Black Flag
Not content to just one of the best games in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Black Flag is hands-down the best pirate game of the decade, if not all time (though it isn’t necessarily fair to compare a modern AAA open-world action game with the likes of Sid Meier’s Pirates! or The Curse of Monkey Island).
Sailing the seas of Ubisoft’s digital Carribean was – and is, to this day – one of the best times a would-be assassin could have in the animus. From its excellent naval combat to a staggering amount of discoverable content (ranging from battling ghost ships to hunting down literary leviathans like Moby Dick), coupled with one of the best uses of the franchise’s historical premise, the origin story of the Kenway family’s tie to the Brotherhood of Assassins remains a stellar example of how good Assassin’s Creed can be.
For more, see our full AC4: Black Flag review here.
Dota 2 starts with the simple objective of destroying an enemy base, but its heroes and their unique abilities plus an abundance of items and nuanced mechanics all work together to make it one of the deepest team strategy games around. Since it came out of beta in 2013, it's undergone so many significant changes that, while not always perfect, continued to bean engaging and exciting game to learn.
It isn't made more complex just by adding more heroes or maps, though. Valve makes the most of Dota's main map with meaningful changes and gameplay additions, all while keeping most of its 100+ heroes relevant during any given meta. Dota takes an incredible amount of time to even begin to master one of its five roles, but if you're down for the challenge, it'll definitely be a game experience you'll unlikely find anywhere else.
For more, see our full Dota 2 review here.
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen
This is perhaps one of the most underrated games of all time. Dragon’s Dogma borrows elements from some of the best games out there, with combat and atmosphere that calls to mind such storied titles as Dark Souls, Monster Hunter and even Shadow of the Colossus. Climbing over giant monsters is always a thrill, and the combat in general is extremely varied and challenging, and there’s an interesting social aspect thanks to the “pawns” hired on from another player’s game. This gives you all the benefit of interacting with others without actually requiring you to, you know… interact with others?
Best of all, the ‘Dark Arisen’ expansion improves nearly everything from the original release and adds an entire new area to grind your high-level characters through. If you haven’t played this game before, you truly must correct that ASAP. For more, see our full Dark Arisen review here.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
Is there a better comeback story this decade than Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn? After a disastrous launch that threatened the reputation of the entire Final Fantasy series, director Naoki Yoshida mounted a miraculous comeback that not only saved Final Fantasy XIV but delivered gamers one of the best MMORPGs of any generation.
Players can change classes on a whim, queue up into dungeons with a simple click of a button, or forgo the story entirely to focus on crafting or cooking. And, with the promise of a more streamlined story update and the ability to tackle dungeons with NPCs, that accessibility is about to become even better. Final Fantasy 14 spent this decade in a state of rebirth. It will likely spend the next decade thriving.
For more, see our full review of the new FFXIV: Shadowbringers expansion here.
Forget about all the games that it inspired, forget the internet debates, forget ‘walking simulator’. Gone Home is a game that made you think, down to your shivering fingers, that it was a horror story, then revealed itself to be a love story. There are few games that can manage that sort of balancing act, of showing you all its cards but only playing its real hand when it’s absolutely necessary.
It’s a concise masterpiece in down-to-earth storytelling, something even rarer in the gaming landscape of 2013 than it is now. Games will keep flattering by imitating its form, but few will be able to match Gone Home’s core quality. For more, see our full Gone Home review here.
Grand Theft Auto 5
The studio that invented the modern sandbox game raised the bar once more, and like its predecessors, Grand Theft Auto V told an enthralling story about the criminal underworld, skewered The American Dream, and offered a sprawling, intricate virtual world to explore and/or create a pile of flaming cop cars in – but this entry was palpably more grown up.
Everything in GTA V was leaps and bounds ahead of previous entries visually, technically, tonally, and stylistically. The decision to move between three drastically different protagonists, essentially giving the story its own id, ego, and superego (or at the very least, three monkeys trying to avoid seeing, hearing, or speaking any evil) was more than just a novel way of adding variety, it helped keep even the most absurd and game-ey activities grounded against its pitch-perfect sendup of 21st-century southern California.
The multiplayer component, GTA Online, is still going strong six years later thanks to its incredibly active community and regular drops. It’s hard to succinctly describe how impressive a game Grand Theft Auto V is, but what’s truly amazing is that in addition to all this, it still managed to be a really fun video game.
For more, see our full GTA 5 review here.
Kentucky Route Zero
Kentucky Route Zero is a great American novel, just in video game form. Quiet and surreal, Kentucky Route Zero is a magical-realist game that follows the lives of seemingly regular people along the eponymous Route Zero.
Players flow through a dreamlike story that's short on conflict but has plenty of mystery and ambiance. Kentucky Route Zero was an early example of the "artsy indie games" genre. But, even as the term falls into disuse, Kentucky Route Zero's achievements in visual arts and writing continues to withstand any and all cynical generalizations about indie games.
For more, see our full Kentucky Route Zero review here.
Even dedicated indie gamers scoffed at the notion that paperwork could be made into a thrilling game, but that's just what Lucas Pope did with Papers, Please. As a beleaguered checkpoint worker in the retro-pixel Soviet Satellite State of Arstotzka, you do little more than process papers, cross-reference it with ever-changing sets of rules, take or refuse bribes, and tranq dart a few folks who try to jump the line. Yet, most of us soon found ourselves hypnotically addicted not only to the game loop, but the involving story that ultimately leaves the fate of a nation in your hands.
For more, see our full Papers Please review here.
Spelunky (Enhanced Edition)
Spelunky wasn’t the first rogue-like or rogue-lite, but it certainly influenced just about every one that came after it. It is, quite simply, a masterclass in game design, with not only every run being different than the last, but every run also telling its own story.
Stories about that one time an explosive crate blew up and knocked a rock into the shopkeeper, and how you persevered despite having an angry old man with a shotgun following you for the rest of the run. Or how you managed to make it all the way through the mines and the jungle without losing a single heart, only to whip a UFO in the caves, have the spacecraft blow up a piece of ground to your left, knocking a mine towards you, which blows up at your feet, sending you hurtling into the abyss. Spelunky is absolutely full of unforgettable gaming moments just waiting to be discovered, and the best part is, those moments will be unique to you.
For more, see our full review of Spelunky here.
The Last of Us
The Last of Us raised the bar for cinematic storytelling in games, and it's a bar few games have managed to reach in the years since. Naughty Dog's story is beautifully written and rendered, with incredible performances by Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson tying it all together. It forces players to deal with moral complexities, to reckon with Joel's actions and Ellie's fate. The Last of Us is a storytelling triumph, and one that sticks in the mind years after its first release.
For more, see our full review of The Last of Us.
Inkle’s first success was in turning the classic Sorcery! series of adventure game books into compelling video games. But with 80 Days, the British studio went one step more, using video games to take a choose-your-own-adventure structure further than it ever could on paper.
Over the course of writer Meg Jayanth’s 750,000 words of branching storyline, this tale of love, loss, adventure, weird Victoriana (and much more besides) reveals itself to be a wild new take on a familiar form, a game anchored by text, but never beholden to it, and able to indulge in so much more play as a result.
For more, see our full 80 Days review here.
The best action games are the ones that allow you to express yourself through the game’s combat in a dance of skill and violence, and few games are able to pull that off better than Bayonetta 2. It has style in spades, but more important than that is how well Bayonetta 2 actually plays.
It largely sticks with the brilliant combat from Bayonetta 1, but builds on it with the addition of the spectacular Umbran Climax that gave you super powerful attacks at the cost of your magic meter, and an arsenal of some of the most unusual, but fun weapons you’ll find in any action game. For more, see our full review of Bayonetta 2 here.
Five Nights at Freddy’s
Though Five Nights at Freddy’s is mostly known today as a cult phenomenon that helped launch a million YouTube careers, the first game remains a tightly-wound little horror machine, able to evoke scares through simple, brutally effective mechanics. Turns out being stuck in a room with limited access to cameras and doors to defend yourself from relentless nightmare animatronics is a sure way to make you scream.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is an excellent and intuitive digital card game inspired by the likes of MTG. Altering a crucial handful of aspects from its at-times-esoteric source material, Hearthstone is easy to understand and play but difficult to master.
Its single-player adventures challenge new and returning players while the ever-evolving ranked seasons offer an arena for competitive players to assert their deck-building dominance. Its success prompted a wave of imitators but none have quite hit the high bar for ease of use and instantly addicting gameplay set by Hearthstone. For more, see our full Hearthstone review here.
While it was never originally envisioned as a game – rather a teaser for one – P.T. still deserves a spot on any “Game of the Decade List”. To this day, you hear stories of people who have held onto their old PlayStation 4 consoles simply because it still has P.T. installed on it.
The legacy P.T. left is still shrouded in mystery, with folks to this day having opposing theories on how to actually beat the bone-chilling demo. Yes, Death Stranding is now here, but the Silent Hills that got away will go down in gaming history as one of the most sought after games that will never see the light of day.
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
It may not be the most faithful thing to the Lord of the Rings lore and its combat is ripped almost wholesale from Batman, but Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor has a secret weapon.
The Nemesis system's ability to generate an endless parade of orc and uruk villains, each with their own colorful names, personalities, and strengths and weaknesses, gave extraordinary life to this open-world action game. And when you can start capturing them and turning them to your side, it can be hard not to feel a twinge of sadness when your favorite pets fall in battle. For more, see our full Shadow of Mordor review here.
What started as a Kickstarter-funded pixel art action platforming game starring a knight with a shovel went on to become one of the most beloved and instantly recognizable franchises of the decade. Shovel Knight wears its inspiration of classic NES games on its sleeve – everything from Mega Man to Duck Tales and Zelda made its way into Shovel Knight’s DNA in some way. But Shovel Knight utilizes those retro games as a jump off point to create something wholly new and modernized, making it one of the best games in its genre.
For more, see our full review of Shovel Knight here.
Bloodborne, as weird as it sounds, is like an antique clock. The elements that make up the game are like precisely-machined materials where each piece clicks and glides into each other perfectly. Every facet of Bloodborne is so meticulously crafted that it feels like it hasn’t aged at all since it was first released in 2015. While Bloodborne shares many similarities with Dark Souls particularly with how combat works, the real magic of Bloodborne is how it translates the fear of the unknown into a tangible gameplay loop.
More than that, the world From Software created feels so mysterious and infinite that fans are still convinced there are undiscovered secrets hidden within the game. Bloodborne is so successful at worldbuilding that it almost feels like an Eldritch object itself. For more, see our full review of Bloodborne here.
Metal Gear Solid 5
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain took the tactical espionage action formula and applied it to a massive open-world, giving players unprecedented freedom, as well as a huge toolbox of weapons, gadgets, vehicles, and companions to complete their objectives however they saw fit. Even if his name wasn’t written all over it (which it was) Hideo Kojima’s fingerprints were present in every corner of the game, from its grandiose and labyrinthine story, to its quirky sense of humor, to its willingness to reward curious players.
For more, see our full MGS5 review here.
Pillars of Eternity
With Pillars of Eternity, Obsidian proved that there was still a massive audience for old-school CRPGs, and that they could still build one that would stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best of ‘em. The team delivered a product that was designed around the core customer for these kinds of games, with virtually no incentive to dumb it down.
Pillars of Eternity was tough as nails, required thoughtful character building and tactical combat management, and rewarded players with exceptionally deep combat and storytelling. For more, see our full review of Pillars of Eternity here.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
2013's Tomb Raider reboot is brilliant, but its sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider is a bonafide masterpiece. Taking (admittedly circular) inspiration from Uncharted and expanding on it in nearly every aspect, Rise of the Tomb Raider is part action-adventure, part RPG, part Metroidvania, and all amazing. A new, more complex take on Lara Croft’s personality definitely helped, too.
For more, see our full Rise of the Tomb Raider review here.
Rocket League’s “soccer with cars” pitch can seem deceptively simple on the surface, but it’s undoubtedly one of the most technical and challenging competitive games around.
Picking up Rocket League is a bit like learning to play an instrument: you’ll be absolutely terrible at first (and know it), but the more time you spend with its precise controls, the more you’ll be rewarded with flashy aerial goals that make even your opponents spam “Wow! Wow! Wow!” For more, see our full Rocket League review here.
The Witcher 3
The Witcher 3 is as close to a perfect game as we’re likely to see in this generation. This is a game that was so carefully and meticulously crafted, that even its most forgettable side missions would overshadow the A-plot of most other RPGs. Even if you’ve read all the books, you have to admit that not only did the developers nail these absolutely unforgettable characters in every way, but they may have even improved upon the source material.
This is a game that unapologetically handles moral ambiguity, sexuality and dark humor in a way that never feels edgelord-y, which is nothing short of a miracle. The Witcher 3, in short, is a goddamn masterpiece. For more, see our full review of The Witcher 3 here.
Undertale's music and select characters — we're looking at you, Sans — may be what's most generally known about this RPG, but they're only a small part of what makes it an incredible game. This adventure stars your human character falling into the underground world of monsters. Here, you’re the thing to be afraid of, but Undertale gives the player the option to be an unyielding fighter or a merciful traveler with its spare option.
Given that most monsters you’ll fight have unique personalities and attacks, it makes your choice far more engaging. The way you choose to go about your adventure doesn’t change the destinations, but the outcome of the story and monster encounters vary greatly. For more, see our full Undertale review here.
The Yakuza games are basically beat-em-up RPGs with intense, convoluted campaigns, and an abundance of bizarre sub-stories and minigames – and the latter is where Yakuza 0 shines. Slot-car racing, disco dancing, karaoke, erotic wrestling, real estate, batting cages, phone sex, host club management and fishing are just a few of Yakuza 0’s many activities — and that’s only what you’re focused on the main game, which frequently involves using breakdance-fighting to pummel street punks so hard that money flies out of them. Thankfully, it seems like Yakuza 0 got people’s attention, because SEGA has since localized and released six more Yakuza games, with another on the way.
For more, see our full review of Yakuza 0 here.
Few developers have honed the art of level design like Arkane Studios, and Dishonored 2 sees the developer working at the height of the craft. Each unique location is meticulously thought out, combing an ornate steampunk aesthetic with a myriad of pathways and opportunities that allow for an almost endless variety of stealthy (or, if you prefer, stabby) approaches.
The game’s pinnacle achievement, The Clockwork Mansion, is a level that you can literally transform around you, revealing new routes and opening you up to new dangers. Combine all this with supernatural powers that are as much tools as they are weapons, and you have the immersive sim of the decade.
For more, see our full review of Dishonored 2 here.
The odds of DOOM rebooting itself into something that could even remotely live up to its legendary, industry-changing predecessor was somewhere between slim and none. But id Software, infused by a new generation of talented developers who grew up on the old id guard's classic, managed to strike a near-perfect balance of reverence for the originals with a fresh, bold redefinition of DOOM for modern times. It accomplished that with speed and ultra-violence.
DOOM (2016) plays FAST – just as the original did for its time in 1993 – and you can get downright medieval on the asses of your demon enemies thanks to the Glory Kill system, which allows you to essentially perform one-button Mortal Kombat-style Fatality moves on weakened bad guys. Even better, DOOM offers a meaty campaign in which you gain new and improved abilities as you go, meaning you become even faster and more ultra-violent as the game progresses. For more, see our full Doom 2016 review here.
Take the creative leads behind Telltale's The Walking Dead: Season 1 and set them loose on their own original idea and what do you get? Firewatch, a riveting, artistically beautiful story of a man named Henry, who's a bit lost in his life and trying to help find his way forward by spending a summer alone as a firewatch lookout in the Wyoming woods.
Except it turns out he's not truly alone; he's got Delilah, a fellow lookout the next tower over who becomes Henry's only other true human point of contact over the course of the season. The Olly Moss art direction, incredible writing, and award-winning performances by Cissy Jones (Delilah) and Richard Sommer (Henry) make Firewatch one of the finest adventure games of the decade. For more, see our full review of Firewatch here.
"Are games art?" is a question that has long since been answered (in the affirmative), but any holdouts would've surely been won over by Inside, Playdead's 2016 follow-up to its seminal puzzle-platformer Limbo. While Inside is not narratively related to its predecessor, it is clear that Inside could not and would not exist without Limbo.
Inside has exactly zero dialogue in its entire three-hour campaign, but it nevertheless tells one of the most strange and compelling stories of any game this decade, about a boy infiltrating a dystopian industrial complex and finding…well, you really should see for yourself. Its ending will stick with you for a long, long time after you complete it.
For more, see our full Inside review here.
MLB: The Show
The great sports wars of the last decade, which saw EA and 2K battling for exclusive sports video game rights, had at least one loser: gamers. We lost NFL 2K in football and MVP Baseball. But out of that darkness rose MLB The Show, which has spent the better part of this decade as an elite simulation recreation of America's pastime.
Ever-impressive graphics, fantastic player animations, and rock-solid pitching, batting, and fielding engines make for the total package. Plus, the perennially good Road to the Show mode gives players a good excuse to keep playing every day in an effort to get their created player promoted to the bigs. MLB The Show is a baseball game so good that it's a shame that only PlayStation gamers get access to it. Fortunately MLB itself had the same thought, and The Show will be coming to Xbox and Switch in 2021 or 2022.
For more, see our full review of MLB: The Show here.
Many tried to crack the hero shooter over the past 10 years, but it took Blizzard to take these seeds ideas and grow something truly special in Overwatch.
It's a dizzying amalgam of unique character design, stunningly realised style and compellingly dynamic gameplay that has never stopped being ludicrously fun. Overwatch is a singular experience that is far and away the best of its kind. It offers variety, depth, diversity and flair that very few come close to matching. For more, see our full Overwatch review here.
There's no more stylish game this generation than Persona 5. From its opening cinematic to its soundtrack full of earworms to its incredible character and world design, Persona 5's aesthetic is memorable and indelible. But Persona 5 isn't a case of style over substance — it's both, with a deep, layered JRPG that features a fantastic combat system, inventive dungeons, and a layered relationship system that makes your choices during the school day just as important as the ones you make in the wacky mind palaces of despicable foes.
For more, see our full review of Persona 5 here.
It’s hard to explain exactly what makes all the elements of Stardew Valley gel together so well. The game’s disparate parts (farming sim, dating sim, management sim, RPG, dungeon crawler) have been done better by other games, but somehow Stardew Valley seamlessly combines these elements into one experience that makes you strive for perfection of each facet. You’ll obsess over building the perfect self-sufficient farm.
You’ll run errands, celebrate birthdays, get married, get divorced, fix a bus, and help the mayor look for his missing shorts. Since time management is the most important factor in the game, you’ll learn to become incredibly efficient in doing all of these. And that’s what’s probably the most impressive thing about the game: you can have so many different experiences in a single day, that by the time your character’s head hits the pillow at night, you’ll feel incredibly accomplished. For more, see our full Stardew Valley review here.
Superhot VR’s fantastically clever time-manipulating concept empowers you with the superhuman reflexes of a slow-motion action hero. Shattering waves of glass-like enemies while moving your face out of the path of incoming bullets is a thrilling challenge in both the cryptic story mode and the endless mode that follows.
For more, see our full review of Superhot VR here.
The island of The Witness can be a tranquil, beautiful place to spend your time – when you’re not staring at a seemingly unconnected series of coloured symbols for 2 hours while losing your own mind that is. Not only does Jonathon Blow’s puzzled-packed paradise teach you to use parts of your brain you wouldn’t usually kick into action, but is a world laden with allegorical imagery and philosophical prose that insists you do so. It’s a deeply enriching experience unlike anything else this decade. For more, see our full review of The Witness here.
The original Titanfall was an Xbox One exclusive with no campaign and a bare-bones multiplayer suite. But oh, was that skeleton impressive. Titanfall 2 did absolutely everything right as a follow-up: it fleshed out the phenomenal multiplayer gameplay, went multiplatform, and most notably, it added what is perhaps the very best first-person shooter single-player campaign of the decade.
The twists and turns are best found out naturally, without anyone spoiling them for you, but suffice it to say it starts great and only gets better from there. For more, see our full Titanfall 2 review here.
XCOM 2 builds on the brilliant, high-stakes tactical combat of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and its War of the Chosen expansion made it even better. It has the same tension of going from a technologically inferior underdog to powerful war machine, with the constant threat of the permanent death of your customized soldiers looming over every decision.
It turns the formula of defending Earth from alien invaders on its head by boldly recasting XCOM as a guerrilla force attempting to liberate the planet from alien occupation, making the situation feel even more desperate than ever. For more, see our full XCOM-2 review here.
Despite some faltering steps when it initially launched, Destiny 2 has done a tremendous job trying to find that sweet spot as they poke and prod the engine into a place the community is happy with. Fast forward to 2019 and Bungie has made vast improvements to that original sandbox, improving its suite of competitive options and infusing some much-needed narrative into the overall experience.
With regular updates and cross-save (especially since they’ve gone free-to-play) it’s not surprising that Destiny 2 was the number 1 paid and free game on Steam this October. Destiny 2’s future looks brighter than ever, especially with a team as committed to getting it right as Bungie. For more, see our full Destiny 2 review here.
Divinity: Original Sin II (Definitive Edition)
Categorizing Divinity 2 as a CRPG is almost reductive… it’s so unique and does so many things well that most of us that played it were consistently astonished throughout the experience. Larian’s development team put their heart and soul into emulating the “do anything” feeling of a tabletop game, and pulled it off better than almost any other game out there. Got a nigh-invulnerable troll blocking the bridge? Teleport some lava under that sucker! Trick him into moving aside with clever wordplay! Lead some other hostile creatures to him! Set up a bunch of oil barrels and burn the whole goddamn bridge down!
No matter how you wanted to play, Divinity 2 never disappointed. The writing in this game is A+, the characters are exceptionally compelling, and everything on down to inventory management is an addictive joy to experience. Add to this exceptional post-launch support, optional co-op multiplayer that really works, and a mod community the likes of which I’ve never seen in this sort of game before, and you’ve got yourself one of the best games of all time, let alone this decade. For more, see our full review of Divinity: Original Sin 2 here.
Dragon Quest XI
In many ways, Dragon Quest XI is a very typical DQ game. You're a plucky, young hero who sets out on quest to save the world from evil forces, but in this way DQXI falls strictly into the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it” category.
A JRPG in the most traditional sense, but wholly unique in its undeniable charm, innovative battle mechanics, and absolutely stunning graphics. Legendary designer Akira Toryiama's characters spring to life in a colorful, joyous adventure, full of excellent, funny writing, and a fun, albeit predictable story. This is Dragon Quest at its finest. For more, see our full DQ XI review here.
Fortnite: Battle Royale
Fortnite: Battle Royale may not have been the first battle royale to market, but its approachable art style, free-to-play price tag, and stellar post-launch support in the form of seasonal events meant that it was destined for massive success.
It’s also managed to infiltrate more aspects of pop culture than perhaps any game before it, with tie-ins to mega-franchises like Star Wars and The Avengers, making it perhaps the best-marketed video game of… well, ever – one that’s even helped to usher in a new era of cross-platform-play between consoles, PC, and mobile devices. For all the latest updates and secrets, check out our Fortnite wiki here.
Hollow Knight has clearly taken inspiration from a number of sources – Castlevania, Dark Souls, and plenty more – but it’s used those amazing games to build something that can surely be counted proudly among them.
The gorgeous subterranean caverns of Hallownest are as deep and winding as they are exciting to explore, letting you go in any number of directions and still find adventure, bosses, and whole lot of bugs. In a time where Metroidvanias are flourishing, Hollow Knight stands as a pillar of the genre. For more, see our full Hollow Knight review here.
Horizon: Zero Dawn
What is still one of PlayStations 4’s most gorgeous games thanks to the stellar Decima Engine, Guerrilla Games’ Horizon Zero Dawn is a familiar-yet-refreshing take on the post-apocalyptic open-world. Set way WAY after the events that ended the world, Horizon Zero Dawn’s setting tells the story of a civilization that is no longer aware of what the world once was.
One minute you’re in an overgrown jungle, the next you’re walking past ancient moss-covered cars and street lights. Taking on huge dino-machines with traps and ranged weapons is a refreshing take on open-world combat, and there’s no feeling like stripping an enormous foe down to its bare-bones, and actually starting to feel bad for it, right before you make your final blows. For more, see our full review of Horizon: Zero Dawn here.
Mario Kart 8 (Deluxe)
Mario Kart has had its ups and downs, but Mario Kart 8 checked just about every box you’d hope for from the series. It looks and sounds great, the courses are awesome, and its selection of racers and customizable karts is plentiful. Even if Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a suped-up port, it’s one that improved on the original in subtle but exciting ways, cementing this as one of the best in the series.
For more, see our full Mario Kart 8 review here.
Nier: Automata thrust cult director Yoko Taro into the limelight. After toiling away for years on beloved, but underplayed, RPGs like the Drakengard series, a new gaming celebrity suddenly became a household name. And it makes sense – Nier is easily the best-looking, best-playing game he’s ever been associated with.
Thanks to the talents of Platinum Games, Nier: Automata combined Taro’s epic story of an eternal war between androids and machines, with the smooth, stylish action that Platinum is known for. The result is a game that is both an excellent story to experience and a joy to play.And thanks to Nier: Automata’s incredible success, Taro will likely be a more regular name in the decade to come. For more, see our full Nier: Automata review here.
Super Mario Odyssey
Super Mario Odyssey is just plain, good old-fashioned Nintendo fun. While not the riskiest game in the Mario series, Odyssey takes the franchise back to its roots of visiting gorgeously-designed worlds and filling them with interesting ways for Mario to collect stars (oh sorry – it’s moons this time). Of course, the slight twist this time around is that Mario is joined on his adventure by the charming Cappy, a hat Mario wears which allows him to possess objects and creates found throughout the world. It’s a delightful reminder that Nintendo is still the king of the mascot platformer, and with an ending that left most of us joyfully surprised, Super Mario Odyssey will go down in history as an absolute must-have for the Nintendo Switch.
For more, see our full review of Super Mario Odyssey here.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
In an era where every franchise goes open-world, Zelda looked to innovate by tapping into its past, distilling the franchise down to its purest form: exploration. Like the Original Legend of Zelda, Breath of the Wild's emphasis on exploration combined with its litany of mechanical systems coalesce into a breeding ground for players to craft their own stories, and encouraging them to not be afraid to improvise along the way.
In the same way the original Legend of Zelda paved the way for action/adventure games with its emphasis on exploration, Ocarina of Time helped bring gaming into the third dimension, so too did Breath of the Wild redefine the open-world — by making it feel alive and worth exploring. For more, see our full Breath of the Wild review here.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
While Uncharted 4 came out a year earlier and ostensibly marked the end of Nathan Drake’s adventuring career, it was The Lost Legacy that truly nailed what an Uncharted experience on the PS4 could be. Offering a shorter, more condensed adventure, Lost Legacy was able to deliver all the highlights of what we expect from the franchise – exotic locations to explore, thrilling chases, and breathtaking setpieces all punctuated by plenty of witty quips and banter – but it also proved that the franchise could survive even without Drake as its leading man.
Choosing to explore the relationship between series bad girls Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross was a surprising choice for many, but paid dividends by the time the credits rolled. It gave Naughty Dog a chance to explore new themes with its protagonists, and that there’s still plenty of treasure hunting to do after The Last of Us 2 comes out next year. For more, see our full review of The Lost Legacy here.
What Remains of Edith Finch
What Remains of Edith Finch is not a game for the faint of heart. What may be one of the most tragic video game tales ever told, its story has your unnamed character reliving flashbacks of how one member of each generation of the Finch family died in a tragic way.
While some are more gruesome than others, they all add to the mystery — was/is this family really cursed? What happened to them all? While we wouldn’t dare spoil the ending to a game so centered around story, what we will say is that it’s one that you’ll almost never see coming, and it’s fantastic. For more, see our full review of Edith Finch here.
Wolfenstein: The New Colossus
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus took the really excellent bones of Wolfenstein: The New Order, its inherent campy weirdness and its blood-soaked violence – tightened it up, chucked in some of the best characters in the series, and added a really traumatic childhood storyline to boot.
It did everything that the already excellent New Order did, but in a way that felt like a TV production company who knew this season would be their last and therefore pulls out all the stops.
For more, see our full review of Wolfenstein: The New Colossus here.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Piling on the RPG elements turned out to be just what the Assassin’s Creed franchise needed. Odyssey is the best the series has ever been, offering a beautiful Ancient Greek sandbox that is so big and fun it feels like you could play it forever.
It’s still a stealth game if you want it to be, but the expanded weapon and combat systems mean it can also be a straight-up action game if you like. And this isn’t a “jack of all trades, master of none” situation. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey lets you role-play and explore its many, many regions and islands in your own way. For more, see our full AC Odyssey review here.
Celeste may be one of the best intersections of gameplay and story ever made. It’s undeniably an excellent platformer, with creative levels that can be both satisfying and challenging at the same time and a dash mechanic that’s as precise as you are skilled. But the way Celeste’s message winds into your actions and Madeline’s journey up the mountain elevates the whole package far beyond the sum of its parts.
For more, see our full Celeste review here.
Forza Horizon 4
How good is Forza Horizon 4? Put it this way: Forza Horizon 3 would've been a lock for this list…until Horizon 4 came along and somehow upped the ante. Playground's driving game (it's a bit disingenuous to pigeonhole it as just a racing game) is for anyone who loves cars.
Whereas Forza Motorsport laser-focuses on hardcore simulation closed-circuit track racing, Forza Horizon builds an open world around the Horizon music festival, lending the game a joyous, summertime, carefree, laid-back attitude that also inherently encourages exploration, car collection, and social hangouts without relying solely on competition to bring people together. For more, see our full review of Forza Horizon 4 here.
God of War
God of War impresses from the opening seconds of its story to the incredible ending, all experienced without the camera ever cutting. But that unique viewpoint is just one of many, many impressive aspects of it, an expertly crafted and thoroughly rewarding experience.
Sony Santa Monica has found ways to make a previously one-dimensional gaming icon emotionally nuanced, richly performed, and more complex without ignoring his troubled past. And built on top of this incredible character study of a father and son relationship is brutal, satisfying combat with one of the best weapons in action gaming history, plenty of secrets to explore, and a startling world that you can't help but explore every inch of. God of War is evolutionary, revolutionary, and unforgettable. For more, see our full God of War review here.
Monster Hunter: World
With 14 unique weapons that play entirely differently, endless armor customization options that change more than just fashion, and incredibly difficult (but fair) fights that reward players with an incomparable sense of accomplishment, Monster Hunter: World is in a world of its own when it comes to endless replayability and challenge.
Add in the dozens of thoughtful, crowd-pleasing free updates, and you have a recipe worthy of the Meowscular Chef himself. For more, see our full review of Monster Hunter: World here.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Rockstar's third ode to playing Cowboys in the sandbox slowed things down considerably, and whether you enjoyed opening individual drawers and limited fast-travel or not, it was a bold pacing decision coming from a triple-A developer.
The meditative vibe, along with unmatched weather and lighting and the core gameplay elements that have made Rockstar games legendary, combined to form a sprawling, layered experience that encompassed a dozen action set-pieces and a moving treatise on loyalty, betrayal, and legacy. To those who identify more with The Man With No Name than The Godfather, Red Dead Redemption 2 is Rockstar's standout property. For more, see our full Red Dead 2 review here.
The Return of the Obra Dinn
It’s fitting that Return of the Obra Dinn’s standout bit of equipment is a pocket watch, because this game feels as intricately designed. Looking past its wonderful “1-bit” looks, fantastical twists and magical-realist mechanics, the heart of Lucas Pope’s long-gestated sophomore release is a detective game.
And it’s the best detective game ever made, a constant exercise in deduction, leaps of logic and all, that sees shards of mystery fit together as satisfyingly and seamlessly as, well, clockwork. For more, see our full Obra Dinn review here.
If you've ever yearned to explore the deep blue sea but don't happen to have a billion dollar submersible lying around, Subnautica is the next best thing.
This game combines elements of Minecraft and No Man's Sky, giving you free reign to explore a hostile alien ocean, craft new gear and venture to ever deeper and more enticing depths. And thanks to a wide variety of modes and difficulty levels, Subnautica is only ever as challenging and stressful as you want it to be. For more, see our full Subnautica review here.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Twenty years after its initial N64 debut as a slapstick but competent Nintendo character mascot party fighter, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate to solidify the franchise’s status as the definitive, all-encompassing, industry-wide celebration of video games with just three little words: “Everyone Is Here.”
Ultimate brought together every single character who had ever appeared in a Smash Bros. game before and then some, connecting iconic greats like Solid Snake, Sonic, and Banjo Kazooie under one roof to beat the crap out of each other – with or without items. The amount of video game history references and nods in “Smash” is borderline overwhelming and the franchise continues to satisfy casual children and hardcore tournament level pro-players alike. For more, see our full review of Smash Bros Ultimate here.
How do you make Tetris better? By creating an audio/visual experience that is nothing short of a spiritual movement. Tetris Effect takes the compelling, still impeccable puzzle gameplay of Tetris, and marries it with music and a backdrop that dynamically reacts to the player's choices. Moving, turning, and clearing Tetris blocks affects the flow of the world, and ties the player to what's happening on-screen through the music being produced. It's an incredible trick – because there's no exact song your moves are pulling from, what each player creates is their version of the song and world.
For more, see our full Tetris Effect review here.
Beat Saber is not only the ultimate demo game for immediately showing the uninitiated how cool VR gaming can be, it's also an incredibly challenging test of skill and coordination when you crank up the difficulty. Slicing through waves of color and direction-coded blocks flying at your face is exceptionally satisfying when you nail it – and the original soundtrack has some real earworms, too.
For more, see our full Beat Saber review here.
Part superhero action game and part Twilight Zone thriller, Control is one of the most unique third-person shooters ever. From the extraordinary world built in and around (and dimensionally adjacent to) the Federal Bureau of Control’s Oldest House HQ to the exceptional design of its combat encounters and boss battles (not to mention having what might be the best use of Force-like telekinesis since Jedi Knight II), Remedy created something truly special with Control.
For more, see our full review of Control here.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Fire Emblem has been steadily winning over fans for decades and Three Houses is the culmination of the best parts of the series on a grand scale.
The perfect balance of relationship building, tactical combat, and a compelling narrative with some of the best written and acted characters in franchise history help make Fire Emblem: Three Houses an easy addition to our games of the decade list. For more, see our full Three Houses review here.
Super Mario Maker 2
Super Mario Maker 2 improved on everything about the original, with the most accessible set of game creation tools ever made. Not only are the number of possibilities for level creation astonishing, the premade levels rounding out the game's story are among the best Mario levels ever put to pixel. There's no doubt future generations of game designers will cite childhood experiences with Super Mario Maker 2 as the catalyst for a lifelong passion.
For more, see our full review of Mario Maker 2 here.
Many games are the best of their kind – few are a new kind altogether. There is simply nothing quite like Outer Wilds, a bizarre chimera of time loop structure, archeological fantasy, comedy space sim, first-person planet explorer and meditation on existence.
That Outer Wilds attempts to be all of this at all is a marvel, and that it succeeds would be a miracle if it wasn’t clear how meticulously, perfectly designed it is. There may never be another game like this, because no one else will be as brave.
For more, see our full Outer Wilds review here.
Sword & Shield fulfilled a fantasy many fans had waited years for: to play a mainline Pokemon game on the TV. The eighth generation of Pokemon games managed to remove some friction points the series has had since its inception, including the ability to skip tutorials in a completely natural way.
Sword & Shield's Wild Area gave fans a slight taste of the Pokemon MMO we've been clamouring for, and while it doesn't expand the rest of the game's relative linearity, it offers a consistent reprieve from it, allowing players to spend hours in their attempts to catch 'em all (all that were included the games' Dex, that is). For more, see our full review of Sword/Shield here.
Resident Evil 2 (Remake)
A heated debate around the IGN offices lately has been whether remakes should be considered for Game of the Year, and Resident Evil 2 Remake is the most frequently name-checked piece of evidence FOR. No expense was spared in translating a legendary experience into modern terms: new controls, a new engine, new voices and sounds.
It's not just a refinish, but a fully-realized interpretation of the game for a new generation. The dev team's love and care shine through, and with RE3 Remake already announced, it looks like we're in for a whirlwind romance with our old flames from Raccoon City. For more, see our full RE2 remake review here.
Slay the Spire
There are a lot of good deckbuilding video games out there, but few touch upon the absolute greatness of Slay the Spire. It somehow combines deck-building and rouge-like elements with perfection, and cradles the unbelievably well-balanced and satisfying gameplay within a dark and gritty dungeon crawler.
Each run of Slay the Spire varies so vastly, its replayability is nigh endless. There’s just something about building creative decks that just work in the most delicious of ways that produce mass serotonin, making Slay the Spire delightfully (and concerningly) addicting. For more, see our full Slay the Spire review here.
What games made your list that might not have been on ours? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to check out our picks for the best games of this year in our 2019 game of the year awards, or what to expect from the start of the next decade with all the big releases coming in 2020.
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