It feels like a long decade doesn’t it. Among the ever-expanding movie universes and TV shows, we’ve been treated to some of the best games ever made. The last few years especially producing a lot of top tier experiences. This list features my favourite games (and a whole genre) of this decade. There are games that have emotionally hit me and ones I’ve spent a lot of time with. It spans a wider range of genres than I would have thought when I first started compiling it, and I’d go so far to say that the top 3 or 4 would feature on my favourite games of all-time list. There are too many honourable mentions to list and a lot of games that could have stolen a spot. When finished this list felt right and I was satisfied with the chosen games. So for your criticism here are my top ten gaming experiences of the decade 2010 – 2019.
Kicking off at 10 I can have a whole genre as an entry, absolutely. It’s my list. If you’re a Tanked Up listener you’ll know Aadil and I coined the term NEWS games, narrative, exploration walking simulators. This is a genre packed full of narrative experiences. News games, Firewatch, Gone Home and the Stanley parable can tell a story, unlike any other game, not needing the trappings of gameplay loops to fit in-between a narrative. They are more akin to a novel in many ways than their game counterparts and a very welcome shift in storytelling and interactive experiences.
One of the best shooters this decade was made much more exciting by having a squad of friends to play with. Battlefield has always skewed towards team play and BF1 balances its classes well to allow a lot of different combinations and play styles amongst friends. Taking the battlefield series back in time to the First World War was a good and needed departure from the modern setting of 3 and 4. Closely missing out on this list and filling that shooter slot were Call of Duty: Black Ops and Far Cry 3.
God of War (2018)
I’d tried God of War before. The previous games on the original Playstation and PS2 never held me and I’d ignored later releases until the revitalised Norse set God of War hit the hype cycle. It’s hub world and mapped questing areas proving a compelling set of spaces to navigate and explore. The shift in its story to one of reflection, communication, loss and bonding were touching. This and the change to the heaviest of thwonking Axes for combat gave a gravity unseen in many games.
It’s debatably a NEWS game, being somewhat of a walking simulator. To me, it stands apart from other walking sims as an artistic and experientially different game to any I’d played before. The journey up the mountain was full of emotional moments brought on by tonal shifts, soaring music and an intense atmosphere. The additional element of linking up with another to make that climb made it all the more momentous.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead Season 1
An emotionally hitting game which climaxes in one of the only moments I’ve felt real sadness and upset at from a game. Lee and Clementine’s journey has stuck with me over the years, taking on a new level after having my daughter and replaying it. I’m a zombie fan and enjoyed the Walking Dead comics and early seasons of the AMC show. Telltales game fits into the mythos perfectly and is able to stand up telling its own story.
Building an empire through the ages speaks to me on many levels. Taking a real-world civilisation and seeing it triumph over others usually hooks me. There isn’t another game I’ve spent so many hours playing as Civilization 5. It’s a game that built on the fourth entry really well and had me replaying as different Civ’s over and over again.
I’ve played many different 4X and city builder games. Cities Skylines came really close to being on this list, but none have held me like Civ5.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Arthur Morgan, what more do I need to say.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a much slower burn than it’s earlier released Sequel. It’s such a slow burn it turned a lot of people off. I needed exactly what RDR2 gave me at that time. So many other experiences are non-stop, fast-paced and bombastic within the highly polished, expansive AAA space. RDR2 allows you to experience Arthur’s story and the world at your own pace. It keeps you in the world, wanting to drive you along but respecting your want to chase that deer or explore that cabin.
It’s another game which hit me emotionally. I was invested in Arthur and felt the highs and lows of his journey and his life with Dutch and the gang. As with The Walking Dead I had a lump in my throat at those moments.
As with other games on my list, this is my favourite game in its genre and not just of the decade. I love puzzle games, so much I’ll actively seek out games in other genres which have puzzle elements to them. The Witness is a puzzle game first and foremost. One that redefines puzzle loops. Its first-person semi-open world is a great touch to match the differing puzzles throughout the island. This combination worked so well with its tonal shifts I stayed within the world well past finishing the main puzzles, actively holding off completing the game to explore and search the environment and try to beat that insane secret mountain puzzle.
The way The Witness builds you up through its different strategies across the varied types of puzzle is astonishing. It’s so well-paced I never felt either stuck or bored. Only my own understanding lacking when I hit a bump in progress. It’s a high bar for puzzle games to hit and I’ve yet to find one which matches it.
The Witcher 3 The Wild Hunt
I was hooked the first time I swung Geralt’s sword and rode Roach around White Orchard. It was my first time playing a Witcher game yet I felt I knew Geralt, knew the world and knew how I wanted to play. This is my favourite open-world game, favourite RPG and favourite fantasy world all rolled into one fantastic experience.
Its shades of grey in the quest stories make it more compelling than any other RPG I’ve played. Uncovering stories and questing around the world is as much fun as the main questline. No choice was ever right or wrong. I just knew I’d made a decision that I’d prefer to another and thought I’d understand the consequences to Geralt and the world. Of course, as with most sane people I’m all about Yennefer. A flawed yet super powerful character drew me in and I wanted to experience her story as much as Geralt and Ciri’s. Yeah, I was new to the franchise but it was always going to be Yen. The Witcher 3 also has one of the best quest lines in any game, The Bloody Baron. This emotional story was perfectly written. I felt a huge range of emotions toward the Baron and his situation from sadness and loss to anger and pity all in a short space of time. This wonderful story was a standout from many excellent side quests and characters. A truly fleshed out world.
Plus Gwent was a brilliant distraction from the rise and fall of empires, monsters and sexy unicorns.
The Last of Us
I don’t think I’ve been quite so touched by a game as I was during my first play of The Last Of Us on its release. I played around a week after everyone else as the PS3 I had decided to lift off like a Harrier jet engine realising it couldn’t load the disc properly. A screwdriver, some heat paste and a week later I decided to trade it in and pick up a new slimline machine. I finally booted up TLoU and was blown away by the opening, both that moment and the fact that I hadn’t had it spoilt amazed me.
Joel and Ellie’s story held me throughout. It engaged me and had me relating to both characters across its acts. It is a wonderfully written, scripted, paced and acted piece of entertainment. This, coupled with good game mechanics and astounding atmosphere, launched it above every other game I’d ever played. I enjoyed the linear narrative and map design after a few years of open worlds and multi-choice narratives. I connected not only with Joel and Ellie but the world and its other inhabitants. Often these other characters meant ill to the pair but I could still understand their motives. Nolan North as David was harrowing and I think only beaten by Michael Mando as Vaas as the best antagonist of the decade. Zombies as an enemy won’t grow old for me and the way the world had warped with the Virus drew me in. I wanted to explore every corner, find every collectable and learn more about the inhabitants. Characters such as Ish, who we never met, still felt fleshed out and intriguing. Every aspect of this game demanded my attention and I was happy to give it.
It was a very close call between this and The Witcher 3 as my favourite game of the decade. The Last Of Us picks the spot because it isn’t just the game of the decade but my favourite game ever. It’s elevated above other games as a wonderfully written, acted and shot experience. I thought it such a compelling experience I played it 3 times in a row.