As I mentioned in my previous Favorites of the Decade article, I originally planned for one list. But that list became so unwieldy I decided to break it down into two. My previous list was all about my favorites from the last decade—the games that meant a lot to me personally, and were the ones I kept coming back to.
This list will be the games I believe are the most important of the last decade. It won’t be comprehensive, and it’ll be skewed toward popular titles in popular genres. These aren’t “the best,” but rather games that I thought had the biggest impact in video games or the biggest influence.
This list is in no particular order.
God of War
Despite this list not being in any particular order, I thought God of War would be great sitting at the top. There are two reasons for this: one, the obvious reason, is that it was a masterfully crafted game that gave extra dimension to a character that many of us grew up with. And two, Kratos’ journey from womanizing god killer to father is one many older video game players have taken.
When I first saw a trailer for Doom (2016), my cynicism got the best of me, and I expected the worst: too much dialogue, too many cutscenes, too slow—not Doom. I grew up on Doom, and it was an integral part of my childhood. Needless to say, they didn’t mess it up. In fact, Doom (2016) IS Doom, and it sent a clear message to those who thought that first person shooters had to veer towards slow realism: fast, brutal, no-filler first person combat still had a place in the modern video game repertoire.
I really struggled with this one. I think Uncharted 4 is a bit of compromise between Uncharted 2, Uncharted 3 and The Last of Us. Naughty Dog has become synonymous with amazing single player experiences delivered at the highest production values. Each of these titles weaves story and gameplay together to create a cinematic experience that elicits thrills, frights, and genuine emotion. Uncharted 4 represents the culmination of their work, and their highest bar—until The Last of Us 2, I assume.
Every time I make one of these lists, Bloodborne is my first consideration. It’s nearly perfect. It doesn’t have a Lost Izalith, the unfinished area from Dark Souls, and it incorporates the infamous soulslike multiplayer invasion mechanics that the amazing Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice omitted. But despite my praise for Bloodborne, I just can’t ignore the impact that Dark Souls had. Dark Souls isn’t even the first in the series—it was a spiritual successor to the also amazing Demon’s Souls—but it was the game that made From Software’s brand of risk/reward known to all who play games, and beyond. Even recent games like Jedi Fallen Order had souls-like mechanics, and “copycat” games like The Surge are forging their own versions of From Software’s brand of difficulty.
Breath of the Wild
3D Zelda games were never my cup of tea. I love fantasy games, but way back when Nintendo 64 released and games were clumsily being translated from their 2D counterparts into their 3D versions, I just couldn’t accept the transition. I’ve been spending over a decade since trying to “get into” The Legend of Zelda again, with the only 3D Zelda title I completed being Windwalker way back at its release—and I even remember thinking that was a chore.
I grew up playing The Legend of Zelda, and even when games like A Link Between Worlds released—a follow-up to the Super Nintendo A Link to the Past—I actually loved it. But it wasn’t until Breath of the Wild that I realized how amazing a 3D Zelda could be. Its huge open world, and quest to end an evil that brought about an apocalypse, mixed together to create an experience that was mostly unparalleled the entire decade.
I haven’t spent much time with Fortnite. I feel like a failure as a game reviewer, but the fact is, I missed the battle bus (so to speak). There may be a day when I really put some time into it, but when I was making this list, I couldn’t deny the impact Fornite has made on the video game landscape—even for those who haven’t played. It’s an objectively important title, and it, to me, represents the glut of battle royale titles that helped define the decade. Games like Player Unknown’s Battleground, and Apex Legend were just the popular tip of a massive iceberg of games and modes dedicated to being the one who prevails. And while those other titles have faltered in popularity, everyone is still flossing and dabbing in Fortnite.
Another phenomenon, Overwatch is undeniably one of the most important games to come out in the last decade. Esports were in their infancy at the beginning of the decade, but then games like Overwatch and Rocket League came along (among others) to push the concept of competitive video games to the general public.
And it’s not just Overwatch’s contribution to esports, but its draw from fans of all ages. One of my fondest recent video game memories was watching the open play floor at a convention while kids I thought were too young to play Overwatch were able to not only hold their own, but wreck face—often alongside their own parents.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Rockstar Games had made their mark before the last decade, but they certainly weren’t going to lose their grip.
Grand Theft Auto V released at the turn of the console generation, and combined with Grand Theft Auto Online it almost deserves to be on this list, Red Dead Redemption 2 ends up taking the place on this list—and for a lot of the same reasons as Uncharted 4 did. Red Dead Redemption 2 is the culmination of all that came before it. It combines Rockstar’s irreverence with cinematic storytelling, and a large open world and a sprawling, epic story.
Rocket League is one of those games that I kept hearing was great, but I hadn’t tried until years later. It has addictive gameplay that is both easy to pick up, but with a skill ceiling in the stratosphere. It may not be something that looks impressive, but if you’ve ever played it, you understand why it’s gripped so many, and became such an esports staple that colleges (including DuPaul University) are making entire centers dedicated to competitive video games because of games like Rocket League.
If there was one game that was the go-to game in the decade where VR became mainstream, it was Beat Saber. Beat Saber brought the rhythm game into a whole new arena, and made it even more immersive than before, and the physicality of the game brought a whole new dimension–and a hell of a good workout.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes : This probably should have been on my favorites more than this list, but KTANE represents the other end of VR: the non-rhythm game. It’s probably one of my favorite titles, and it doesn’t even need to be played in VR—the headset just adds an extra layer of immersiveness, and isolation, that makes Keep Talking work so well. Defuse bombs with your friends—one person works the bomb, while others scramble to solve the various puzzles in the bomb defusal manual before everything goes boom.
The Witcher 3
I haven’t played The Witcher 3. I know. I’m the worst. But I can’t leave it off of this list, even if it ends up all the way at the bottom. Geralt’s silver locks make their way onto every screen I look at, and the praise of The Witcher 3 often follows. It has great side quests in its amazing open world, but the combat could be a little better. Or so I’ve heard. One day soon I’ll make it through this classic, but I thought it was important to mention the impact it’s had, either way.
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