20 Games that Defined the 2010's
As we head into the first month of a new exciting decade, I wanted to look back and reflect on these amazing last ten years. 2010 to 2019 is, in my humble opinion, the greatest decade in gaming to date. I don't just measure that in obvious technological improvement related advantages like graphics or performance. Yes, games look better than ever before, but experimentation and evolving technology have allowed for greater story telling and immersion than ever before. The decade of 2010-2019 gave us so many amazing enhancements to being a gamer that have brought gaming even more to mainstream than any previous decade. Gaming isn't just for nerds, just for kids, just for "boys" or anything. Anyone, any age, any gender, any lifestyle can be gamers! This decade gave us the 8th generation of consoles, the most powerful and most capable generation. We have seen amazing technological evolution like wide adoption of backwards compatibility, 4K gaming, HDR, and more immersion enhancements. We saw the launch of the Nintendo Switch; the first time console level gaming truly was able to be taken on the go. This brought AAA and high quality games to our break rooms and bedrooms. Photorealism arrived with incredibly visual games like Detroit Become Human, Until Dawn and more. Tech wasn't the only advantage the 2010's had, some of the greatest stories ever told have been told this decade. We got amazing stories from Life is Strange, God of War, or Mass Effect all giving us incredible narratives. Massive beautiful open worlds like Red Dead Redemption 2, Assassin's Creed Origins, Breath of the Wild, and Horizon Zero Dawn all gave us massive worlds that weren't just large, but detailed with life. Online gaming has also brought gamers closer to developers than ever before. While the single player experience is by far not dead, the multiplayer experience has evolved with many companies doing it right. Now players and developers can work together to enhance experiences long after launch, when done right this can be a magical relationship for story telling and social gaming. The most successful and biggest live service experiences like Overwatch, Fortnite, PUBG, and Apex Legends have done it thanks to close relationships between studios and the player bases, allowing for live regularly updated shared experiences. As hard as it would be to write a top games of all time list, If I were honest, this decade was so powerful it wouldn't surprise me to admit most of the games would be from this past decade.
Below, are games that I feel defined the decade. I don't necessarily argue that they were the definitive "greatest" games of the last ten years. This is a combination list of my favorite games that I enjoyed, but also games that I think stood out for their biggest and most memorable impact on the decade from a cultural or technical impact. These are the games that I will most remember when I think back on these past ten years.
I also want to state up front that there are a few games I know will be on many people's list that are absent from mine because they either just didn't appeal to me or I haven't played enough of it to have an opinion. Mega-hitter like The Last of Us, Horizon Zero Dawn, Skyrim, Red Dead Redemption 2 are examples of timeless games I either never got into enough or didn't personally appeal enough to me, even though I know they are objectively amazing. A big example is the Witcher 3 which I'm currently playing through now but haven't got too far yet. If there is a "Game of the Decade" for you that isn't on my list, make sure to comment on the social media post associated with this article and let us know!
Keep in mind the games listed below ARE IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER and are all amazing, with the exception of the "Game of the Decade" listed last.
Life is Strange - Story hits neW Heights
Some games are on this list for their technological breakthrough's, their characters, their visuals, their gameplay, their impact on multiplayer. Life is Strange is on here for all of these but also for one Hella of an experience. (inside joke for LIS fans). The experience LIS brought was groundbreaking. It was one of the first games that I've played that was entirely cinematic and story focused. This is a story about Max who discovered she has time traveling powers, and using it to save her friend Chloe from being killed in the very beginning sets off a butterfly effect of events throughout the entire game. Time altering choices gave me some of the biggest WTF moments of the decade, including the revelation of a murder mystery set as one of the story plots to the game. LIS interweaves something as out there and sci-fi as Time Travel with something as mundane and normal as going to school. The world of Arcadia Bay is beautiful and a joy to explore. I am usually one of those gamers that hate having to pick up useless crap scattered throughout the world to learn about the world, but LIS does it in such a charming and beautiful way it makes you want to look at each and every item in the world around you. Many games offer choices and branching events, but few do it with simultaneous scope and subtly as LIS. From grand choices that dictate whether or not individuals die to small decisions such as whether or not a plant dies in your room. The journey Chloe and Max go on, and the greater implications of saving Chloe in the beginning leaves us with also one of the biggest and most emotionally impactful endings of the decade.
God of War - Games can be mature, like a great film
God of War won Game Infinite's GOTY 2018 with a 10/10, and for good reason. This was not the God of War hack n' slash franchise we once knew. This was a mature, gritty, emotional story about a Father and his Son. It is set in a dark and beautiful world. The Norse mythos backdrop to the world and the art style made God of War deceptively one of the more beautiful games of the year, but it also had a emotional weight we didn't expect. Kratos is an older wiser and gritty protagonist on an emotional mission to pay homage to his late wife and along the way his bond with his son grows. What makes this game even more timeless to me is the way it proves that gaming is more than pastime or more than esports shooters. God of War is a game I would show to someone who doesn't understand gaming. God of War is like a great film. It is mature, has emotional weight, and the cinematography is an art. The single camera approach to the game with no camera cuts makes this feel like a mature cinematic film less than a "just a game", really adding an artistic flare to this game.
Breath of the Wild / Super Mario Odyssey: Games leave the home
In 2017 something amazing happened: The Nintendo Switch released. It is hard to remember that just a few years ago, there was a time when many gamers (myself included) thought Nintendo should just give up on hardware and become purely a publisher. The Wii U was a massive failure and many gamers hadn't played a new Nintendo game in years. My childhood memories of Nintendo greatness had faded, and I spoke frequently that Nintendo should just start bringing their games to Xbox or Playstation. It was going to take a miracle to save Nintendo. It felt like there was no need for a third console as Xbox and Playstation filled all the voids we thought we had. Then Nintendo revealed the Nintendo Switch. It was so different. It promised something never accomplished before: console gaming on the go. Nintendo found the need it could fill and blew it away. The Nintendo Switch was a massive success and in 2017 stole the show by giving us two easy GOTY contenders. Super Mario Odyssey was my favorite game of the year, and I couldn't put it down. It was a amazing adventure that perfectly balanced nostalgia and new elements. While SMO was my favorite personally, objectively Nintendo also gave us an even bigger incredible masterpiece. Breath of the Wild was absolutely a sensation. Not only was it an amazing 10/10 experience, it accomplished it on the go. It was also a system seller. The Nintendo Switch launched with a such tiny launch lineup, with BOTW as pretty much it's main game to buy. BOTW also was being played by almost every coworker I had. If a game can sell a system and get people who don't play games to buy it, it has to be special.
Assassin's Creed Origins
I have been an off and on Assassin's Creed fan for years and my opinion of the franchise has been very tidal. The first game is just awful, and in my opinion it was surprising a sequel was ever made. I skipped the amazing Assassin's Creed II for that reason, missing out because when ACIII brought me back to the franchise I went back to II to find it amazing. Unity pushed me away again because it looked ugly and rushed. Ubisoft took a lot of feedback and decided to slow down the production time, giving Origins more time in the oven then their previous several games. While I will often quote Syndicate as my favorite game in the series because I love the London setting; it was the one that gave me a taste of my desire to visit World War II; and because Evie is my favorite character in the franchise. However, I chose Origins for this list because I think it is objectively the better game and the one that really solidified me as an Assassin's Creed fan. It was the first one I 100%'d, and it contained one of the most beautiful worlds I've ever experienced in gaming. As great as London was, nothing could beat the vast open desert of ancient Egypt. Climbing the Great Pyramid of Giza is one my greatest moments visually. I can't express just how gorgeous the world of Assassin's Creed Origins truly was. It felt never ending, and the visual experience of riding across the vast deserts or flying as an eagle across the world. Beautiful is a world that is overused but it truly expresses this game.
Bioshock Infinite - Best Ending
Never has a game made me instantly go to YouTube to look up endings and ending explanation videos like the ending of Bioshock Infinite. Never has a game made me text my friend telling him he needs to buy a game. Never has a game made my friend message me late into the night going WTF when he finished it. Bioshock Infinite is an incredible master piece, with a beautiful heavenly world in the sky. Bioshock taught us "Escort Missions" can also be a joy instead of a dread with Elizabeth being very likable and actually helpful. I never had played Bioshock 1 or 2 when Infinite came out but I am so glad I gave this game a try. To this day I quote Bioshock Infinite as the best ending ever in a video game as it is so WTF and so out there. If you have yet to play this game you do not need to play the originals as it is largely a separate story.
Beyond Two Souls / Detroit Become Human - photorealism arrives in gaming
When I first played Beyond Two Souls, it quickly became one of the more amazing cinematic experiences of the decade to me. Beyond did something I never experienced before. There is a rule of thumb that cutscenes usually look better than gameplay, with some games have stark differences between the two. I've never had a game trick me into not knowing a cut scene is over. There were several times when control was given back to me went unnoticed as I was waiting for the cutscene to continue only to find out it was the actual game. Beyond Two Souls is a game I often reference any time when a studio references how hard it is to build for consoles. This was a PS3 game and it had better visual models than some games launching today at the end of the PS4 generation. Beyond was the first game I played from Quantic Dream and it introduced me to "Cinematic Gaming Experiences". These are narrative focused games with a heavy focus on photo realism and impressive human models. When it was paired up with an interesting story and talented voice actors Beyond quickly jumped into my hall of fame. Replaying it on PS4 with visual enhancements only enhanced this experience.
With Beyond becoming an instant classic to me, I was so excited to hear Quantic working on a new game set in a Android filled near-future dystopian world. Detroit Become Human is another amazing story. It features some incredible branching paths and player choice that rivals the Mass Effect games. It took everything about Beyond and took it to the next level with beautiful future environments, an engaging story about equality and humanism, and emotional weight. Even for gamers who don't like narrative focused games, I still recommend trying this. I cant recommend enough just how likable and real these Android characters were and how invested I became in the tiniest detail of this universe. I weighed every decision knowing my actions were going to decide life or death for these Androids the game so convinced us to feel for. For Sci-fi fans it is a must-play. Detroit Become Human received a 10/10 from Game Infinite and was my personal "favorite" game of the year, despite God of War receiving our GOTY 2018.
ALL THINGS Respawn Entertainment
I trust Respawn. Quickly rising to the top spot in my opinion of game developers Respawn sits king, a spot previously held by the sadly fallen Bioware. Respawn could pitch any game, and I will be a day one adopter. Despite who their overlords are, (EA...) they have managed to do what no other developer under EA has. They not only have survived but thrived without loosing what makes studios great. Titanfall 2 is one of the greatest shooters of our generation. The buttery smooth gunplay that Respawn has become known for really shined to masterpiece with Titanfall 2, but it wasn't just another amazing multiplayer experience like the also great TF1, but it was paired up with the greatest shooter campaign seen this decade. I swear if you haven't play Titanfall 2's campaign go on literally any platform and pay the 5$ you can find this gold gem for and play it. The saddest thing about Titanfall 2 is despite how amazing it was, EA made it go up against Call of Duty and Battlefield 1 in a year the also already had the massive sensation, Overwatch. This poor launch strategy hurt this game in sales. However, Respawn adapted and gave us Apex Freaking Legends. I have put more hours in Apex Legends than any other game this year and it is one of my all time favorite multiplayer experiences up there with Overwatch. The characters, the map, the smooooooth gameplay, everything makes it addictingly great. I weighed and debated so heavily whether or not I was going to put Apex Legends as my GOTY 2019 but ultimately decided to give it to Respawn's other game Jedi Fallen Order for its story and ending. While JFO I felt narrowly, oh so narrowly was objectively better in "overall" offering, Apex is still my favorite game and something I will keep coming back to over and over. The fact that this studio of ex-cod developers known for shooters convinced Disney to let them make a third person Jedi game (something both EA and Disney were very skeptical on) also shows their flexibility and talent. This team builds gaming gold.
2019 was a year where I wrestled hard on the GOTY slot and the top three were Apex, Jedi Fallen Order, and Outer Wilds. Outer Wilds was the first 10/10 I gave out for the year, and it was for good reason. This indie masterpiece is just absolutely incredible. It is one of the most fun I have had in a space exploration game ever. The beautiful art design and the whimsical environment offers incredible charm. The premise of the game sets you exploring a single solar system that is incredibly detailed and crafted. There is a premise about the way the game makes you explore and how time works in the game that I do not want to spoil because experiencing it yourself is part of what makes this game great. It provides a sense of urgency in a game genre (exploration) where there usually isn't any, without the sense of dread of missing the many details and beautiful landscapes around you. Some people didn't like the flight mechanics, and I will admit there is a learning curve; however, it went for realism. In space you have to put as much effort to stop as you do to get there, and they offered us a glimpse as the floaty slippery feel that is moving in space. I can't describe more about how great this game is without spoiling so many things that you need to discover: the unique planets, the mystery of the solar system, why X thing is happening over and over. Just go play it you'll thank me later.
Tomb Raider (2013)
The 2010's is where I discovered my love for the Tomb Raider franchise. I remember playing the rebooted Lara journey back in 2013 but I didn't get to fully finish it until I revisited this year. I considered Shadow of the Tomb Raider for this list but I decided to go where it all (re)started. This trilogy of Tomb Raider gives us an amazing experience. We also got to see the franchise mature with less-sexualized Lara Croft. Instead we are given a strong and brave adventurer who goes on a journey. This gritty, darker, adventure sees us crawling through old tombs and fighting wild animals. It is scary, beautiful, and adrenaline pumping the whole way through. This Tomb Raider game re-ignited the third person adventure genre for the current generation of consoles. It also pushed forward technological evolution. Crystal Dynamics did an incredible job animating Lara's hair and dealing with mud and dirt in a way that looked believable. The Lara community is also a strong and supportive group of gamers that are one of the reasons Tomb Raider became the foundation of one of our three Gi Channels.
Journey to this day is one of the most beautiful gaming experiences so far. It is so simple and elegant at the same time. This beautiful indie adventure takes us on a ...traveling adventure?? (trying to avoid using journey in the description). The Wanderer is traveling through a beautiful desert towards a mysterious light in the distance. The music, the scenery, the zen nature to the whole experience all lend itself to this GOTY 2013. With no words or narrative this game from That Game Company manages to tell an incredible story purely through visual artistic flare. The ending feels like what I imagine ascending to Heaven itself must be like. While Journey was originally a reason to buy a PS3, it has since come to PC, PS4, and iOS. While I know not everything needs a sequel, I would love to see a Journey 2 someday.