The 2010s will be remembered in the video game business as the decade where the industry truly took over pop culture. Graphically, games have not made the same evolutionary leaps as they have in previous decades. Regardless, the medium is stronger than ever.
The way we buy games is changing. Esports is rapidly expanding into a worldwide juggernaut. Anyone with a Twitch account and a computer to stream with can become an overnight celebrity. In 2013, we made the leap into the current generation of Xbox and Playstation, while Nintendo made a miraculous comeback with the console-handheld hybrid Switch in 2017.
Along with the gaming industry as a whole, the games themselves keep getting better year after year. The sandboxes are getting larger. The stories games tell are more complex. The newest AAA titles are entire worlds unto themselves, with locations, societies, and lore made more expansive than ever. It’s incredible to think about how far gaming has progressed in ten years, let alone the last 60+ years.
No one’s list will be the same
Out of the countless thousands of games released over the last decade, which ones stand out as being a cut above the rest? The question is naturally a subjective one— No one has the same taste in games, and it’s a question that can send the internet into a years-long debate that can never truly be settled.
For this list, I have some criteria in place. Obviously, only games first released between 2010-2019 are included. Also, Only games I personally played long enough to have a solid opinion on will be included. I guarantee there will be games left out that others believe should be considered top ten. Likely, the reason it isn’t on my list is that I didn’t play it enough, or I simply didn’t like it— Sorry Witcher fans.
Here’s our list of the top 10 games of the decade!
10) Persona 5
Release Date: September 15, 2016
Platform: Playstation 3, Playstation 4
Genre: Heart-stealing JRPG
Metacritic Score: 93
Unfortunately, Persona 5 is one of those games that would fall victim to my dreadful habit of dropping out of a game dozens of hours in, only to not get back around to it. Regardless, I did get to spend plenty of time with the game. I keep promising myself that I will get back to it one day, and I will. One day…
The first thing you notice about P5 when you load it up is that this game is busting at the seams with style. The characters, the scenery, the costumes, even the freaking menu, look like they belong at New York fashion week. The developers appear to prioritize the look of the game, but what’s under the hood is just as impressive.
Beneath the paint and polish is a fantastic JRPG. Persona 5 manages to tell a fun, exciting story that keeps you engaged right from the start. Each member of the phantom thieves is deep and flawed in their own way. Each mission and every interaction in Joker’s day-to-day life is meaningful.
Gone are the procedural dungeons of Persona 4, replaced with palaces that need to be conquered with stealth, smarts, and strength. I usually hate anything to do with stealth in a game, but Persona finds a way to make it fun. Battles should be mostly familiar to fans of the franchise, but with small layers added on to keep things fresh. There are plenty of minigames, relationships, and side quests to keep anyone busy.
For its sense of style, quality story, and engaging gameplay, Persona 5 is a worthy game and a perfect way to kick off our top 10.
The first of three games released in 2018 to make our list, Spider-Man for the Playstation 4, manages to get so many things right where virtually every game with the wall-crawler’s name on it has gotten wrong. This iteration gives players a quality story (without having to revisit the spidey origin story for the millionth time), characters you can care about, in spite of what side of the law they fall on, and an expansive city to freely web-sling through to your heart’s content.
There’s no shortage of things to do, sights to see, crimes to stop, and items to collect. Building the skill tree is the right amount of grind and customizability. The battle mechanics and even the skill tree take a lot of cues from the Batman Arkham game series. It’s easy enough to pick up and takes time to master, but also not impossible to do so.
Even after completing the story, there are lots of loose ends to tie up and plenty of DLC episodes to dive into, and even a new game+ mode if you want to relive the adventure again, with the decisive advantage of all your suits, skills and mods. Did I forget to mention the costumes? There are 42 of them to unlock. Put the vintage comic suit on when you get it; it’s the best.
This is the Spider-Man game we’ve always wanted and is well-deserving of a top 10 spot for its enduring playability, awesome suits, and engaging story.
8) Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
When the Nintendo Switch released in 2107, we knew it would only be a matter of time before we had a new Super Smash Bros. to go along with its daring new hybrid console. A year later, the most ambitious smash title ever conceived was released to the world.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate sports the most jam-packed roster of any smash title. You get 74 playable characters— All the fighters from the previous smash titles, plus 11 new entrants to the series. Even more are being added via DLC, with Phiranna Plant, Joker from Persona 5, the hero form the Dragon Quest series, Banjo+Kazooie, and Terry Bogard from the Fatal Fury franchise already released. Countless other characters from across the gaming universe are also represented in the form of spirits, a new mechanic introduced in the game.
Incredible roster aside, the game boasts an impressive story mode as well, called World of Light. You start as Kirby, the lone survivor of an attack that captures everyone in order to create evil clones. You have to travel the world, knocking everyone back to their senses, as well as collecting spirits to aid you in the ultimate battle against Galeem.
Of course, where the game truly shines is in its multiplayer modes. Smash remains a family favorite in my home, with endless combinations of characters, arenas, and battle rules to choose from. It’s usually the first game I pull out when I have friends or family into gaming come over.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Makes my top ten list for its fantastic roster, nearly limitless playability, and bringing families and friends together in a way most games cannot.
7) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
It should be no surprise that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is on the list. The absolute endurance of the game is reason enough. As one of the older games in our top 10, it’s still one that people play regularly to this day, and likely will continue to be until we get the inevitable next chapter in the Elder Scrolls series.
Skyrim is arguably the nearly perfect RPG. What it lacks in a unique story, it more than makes up for with its expansive open world, plentiful skill trees, lore, and a great cast of characters spread throughout its world. It’s the type of game you can easily find yourself fully immersed in for hundreds of hours.
Once the remastered edition released in 2016 to current generation consoles, many players found themselves reliving the adventure along with new fans who may have missed this epic adventure the first time. Sadly, I was one of those people who missed it until the remaster. While I haven’t had the time to get through the main campaign, the dozens of hours I’ve put in are proof enough that this is a game worth putting in the time whenever you can find it.
Few games pull off an open world as complete as the world of Skyrim while layering a fun and complex RPG on top of it. This game easily earns its place as a top game of the decade.
6) God of War (2018)
2018 was an excellent year for gaming, with three out of our top 10 including games from that year. The third and final game on our list from 2018 is God of War. The latest installment in the long-running series continues the story of a much older Kratos, as he attempts to repair his relationship with his son Atreus after the death of his wife.
Naturally, wherever Kratos is, there’s surely a pantheon of gods that needs destroying. This time, Kratos finds himself in the world of the Norse gods who have no problem getting in his and Atreus’s way as they embark on their fateful mission.
God of War takes a significant evolutionary step forward in this game. Kratos is no longer the rage-fueled destroyer he once was. He is now older, wiser, and determined to leave his past behind him. You get to see a side of Kratos most never would have thought possible. Santa Monica Studios went above and beyond to create something that wasn’t just another GOW game, but something that is completely next level, blending excellent gameplay with an even greater narrative and compelling storytelling.
There has been no greater story told in the series. Pair that with game mechanics that feel both familiar and new, along with deep character development, and you have our #6 game of the decade.
5) Red Dead Redemption (2010 – PS3, XBox 360)
I can already hear thousands crying out— “WHAT!?!? What about Red Dead 2? That game is so much better!” Having played plenty of both, I don’t believe RDR2 is the better game. My reasons are simple, but many.
First, Red Read Redemption 2 takes what made the first so much fun, and makes it into a chore. Second, there is so much going on in RDR2, that I constantly felt overwhelmed by it. The scenery is gorgeous, the world is enormous, but it left me feeling like if I wanted to be this involved in being a cowboy, I should go and be one myself. So. Many. Meters. Health, stamina, food, smoking, dead eye, horse meters… the game is a classic case of doing too much.
The first Red Dead Redemption is beautiful, fun, thorough, and exciting from beginning to end— all without becoming overwhelming. Oh, and it has one thing that RDR2 doesn’t have (yet): Undead Nightmare.
I have incredible memories of sinking days worth of time into RDR. Traversing the wild west on horseback, taking on the lengthy campaign that continues even after John Marsten defeats his enemies and reunites with his family. Taking on hordes of zombies and riding the horses of the apocalypse in undead nightmare. RDR never once felt like a chore the way the sequel does.
Groan at my choice if you want, but to me, Red Dead Redemption is the superior game. The graphics are a bit outdated by today’s standards (though not by much), but I would still go back and play this over RDR2 any day.
4) The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
When the Nintendo Switch debuted in 2017, the company came out of the gate swinging for the fences with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I think this game being released as a launch title is the reason the Switch has become the success it is.
The beginning of the game gives you the same vibes as the original 8-bit Zelda. You start in Hyrule with little else but the clothes on your back, dropped into a world you know nothing about. Though this time, there’s no old guy in a cave to hand you a sword, just a ghost to tell you to save the world.
Breath of the Wild is universally praised by critics and fans alike, and for good reason. The game brings all of the best elements of a Zelda game together, gives you a massive map with countless secrets to unearth, and lets you figure out how you’ll get to your ultimate goal. BOTW does a great job of pointing you in the right general direction without ever holding your hand. Given the graphical limitations of the Switch compared to other consoles, BOTW’s world is visually stunning, in spite of some of its more cartoonish inhabitants.
Breath of the Wild is a masterpiece of a Zelda game, and is definitely the best game of 2017. But this is the top 10 of the decade, and there’s three games that stand above it in my eyes. This is where things are going to get interesting, possibly infuriating, depending on how you feel about what’s to come.
The nerve! The unmitigated gall of us! A blocky, silly kids game is seriously top 3?!? Hear me out…
On the surface, Minecraft doesn’t look like much of a contender. However, don’t judge this blocky book by its cover. Under the hood, it is one of the most impressive undertakings of the last ten years, and its longevity, like that of Skyrim, is undeniable proof of that.
Minecraft is a game that is almost anything you want it to be. You want an adventure? You got it! A limitless sandbox for your creative whims? No problem. Online multiplayer game to unleash wanton destruction upon an unsuspecting world and people? Sure, why not? Take the picture at the top of this page, for example. That’s Minas Tirith from the Lord of the Rings. Someone took the time to build that into a nearly perfect 1:1 replica in a game that has nothing to do with LOTR.
The main reason Minecraft makes the top three is its impressive longevity. After eight years, it shows no signs of slowing down. This is a game we could be talking about well into the next decade or longer. Minecraft is the type of game that will always have new generations picking it up and enjoying it.
With constant updates from Mojang, and an army of mods to shape the game into whatever you want, there is something to satisfy everyone from hardcore adventurers to casual builders. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny the impact Minecraft has had on gaming as a whole.
2) Grand Theft Auto 5
Wherever you would put this game personally, Grand Theft Auto V undoubtedly belongs on this list. Debuting two months before the release of the PS4, Rockstar took everything that makes a GTA game great and cranked it up to 11. There’s good reason that it boasts the highest Metacritic score on the list (along with Breath of the Wild).
The area in and around Los Santos is massive. You get not one, but three main protagonists. A lengthy single-player campaign. An ultimate sandbox to satisfy anyone’s desire for destruction and mayhem. Tons of sidequests give you an excuse to veer off the main story path whenever you please. GTAV online gives you a reason to stick around long after you’ve exhausted your options in the main game.
Warning: Language, violence. It’s a GTAV clip.
For a series that prides itself on violence and destruction, GTAV manages to tell an impressive story about the dark side of society. It gets over-the-top and zany at times, but that’s part of the fun. The game’s radio station soundtrack is as impressive as ever, with something for everybody to jam to while running over unsuspecting pedestrians, or from the cops.
There’s little reason to wonder why Grand Theft Auto V is the third best selling game in history with over 110 million copies, behind only Tetris (170 million) and Minecraft (154 million). In spite of all this, it’s still not #1 on my list. I think you’ll be quite surprised at what takes my top spot…
1) Fallout 4
Here we are, the top of the 2010s gaming mountain. Standing at the pinnacle, above all others is…
Sure, it’s an awesome game, but the best game? It’s certainly not the highest-rated game on the list, tying for the lowest on the list at an 87 with Spider-Man. It has sold 15 million copies across PS4, XBone, and PC. A good number, but not GTAV good. I can hear your exasperated wailing from here. Sorry, my list, not yours. So once again, hear me out…
Fallout 4 is the best time I’ve had playing a game over the last decade. Hundreds of hours, multiple playthroughs to see each ending. Dozens of hours spent on settlement building alone. Exploring every nook and cranny, digging up every secret I could find. There is no other game in this decade I have spent more time, or given more effort than this one. I can safely say there’s no other game I’ve given this much attention to since Final Fantasy VII in the late 90’s.
When I first heard about this game, I had never played a single Fallout title. For whatever reason, the series just never piqued my interest, not until I learned this particular game is based in the Boston area. That was reason enough for me to give the game a spin and see what the Fallout universe was all about.
From the moment the game data started loading and showing off its old-timey instructional videos, I could instantly appreciate the developer’s sense of humor. From the moment the story of the protagonist started, I was hooked. Hooked on the story, the 1950’s aesthetic of the community, everything. You could feel the panic of trying to escape nuclear annihilation. I was hooked on every moment.
As you finally take control, I found exploring the wasteland Boston has become over the course of 200 years as engaging and exciting as if I had never picked up another video game in my life. Dogmeat is a good boy— no, the best boy. Combat is both fun and challenging enough to keep your senses sharp. I loved discovering new things about the world, old landmarks, a city built out of the remains of Fenway Park. I willingly spent nearly all of my free time for weeks doing everything I could think to do.
What makes a game truly great is the experience you have with it. Fallout 4 was my favorite gaming experience of the last decade, by far. That’s the only reason I need to put it at the top of my list.
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With a new console generation on the horizon, the landscape of gaming is sure to change again as the march of technology ceaselessly continues forward. I think we can safely look back on the last ten years and agree that this generation has had a hell of a run.
Now it’s time to tell us what your favorite games of the decade are! Hit us up in the comments section below and give us your top 10, why our list is awesome/trash, or share your favorite gaming memories of the last ten years!