The Best Games of the Decade (2010

The Best Games of the Decade (2010

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.

2010

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.

25 Scariest Games of This Generation

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 5

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.

Minecraft

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.

NBA 2k11

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.

Starcraft 2

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.

Super Meatboy Forever Official Screenshots

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.

2011

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.

Dark Souls

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.

Portal 2

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.

Terraria

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.

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