There’s no doubt that the 2010s were defined by significant innovations in gaming. It hosted a wide range of gaming hardware, from the Nintendo 3DS to the strongest PCs. Mobile became dominant in the industry, and gaming became more popular than ever before.
Naturally, this was the decade that I truly became invested in the medium, and I had the fine pleasure of playing through a wide range of diverse, compelling, and artful experiences that I will hold in the highest regard. In celebration of a decade’s end, I compiled a list of fifty games from the decade, ranking them from the fiftieth to the first. Only two rules dictate the games eligible for the list:
- The game must have released anytime between 2010 through 2019.
- If it is a remaster or remake, I must have played that version of the game for it to be eligible (Sorry Ace Attorney HD :/)
Due to the expansive nature of the list, each entry has a maximum of three sentences, akin to a lighting round. Regardless, I hope to extenuate the finest qualities that these games demonstrate.
Without further ado…
50. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
A faithful tribute as a spiritual successor to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. The new wall-painting mechanic adds a new dimension to traversal in Hyrule and Lorule, and compliments the open-ended nature of game progression. The best installment of The Legend of Zelda on the Nintendo 3DS.
49. The Witcher III: Wild Hunt
Exceptionally rich and detailed RPG with an enormous wealth of content to explore. It is preferable to experience the prior installments in the franchise, but it remains easy for anyone to become absorbed within the game’s world. A great game that can persist for years.
48. What Remains of Edith Finch
A brief but harrowing tale about the demise of a family that is attributed to a curse from their lineage. It remains quite artful in its presentation, and gives the player opportunities to interpret the narrative for themselves. The dark horse of adventure games.
The colorful cast enhances the variety of the shooting genre, and encourages great experimentation. Synthesizes some of the best elements of MOBA and FPS for a title perfect for hopping into once in a while. The cavalry’s here!
46. 428: Shibuya Scramble
A deceptively compelling live-action visual novel. The game’s structure requires one to consider the relationships of the entire narrative, and find the optimal choices that push the story forward. A bundle of comedy, thriller, and mystery.
45. Yakuza Kiwami
One of the most over-the-top action games to arise within the genre, yet also the most emotionally grounded from a storytelling perspective. The backbone of Kiryu’s journey starts here, and its complex web of yakuza conflicts gripped my attention. A remake well done.
44. Rayman Legends
Truly revitalized the potential of the 2D platformer. Stage variety, conceptual intrigue, and a bright aesthetic come together to form the madness that is Rayman Legends. Undoubtedly the best game Ubisoft has put out in the decade.
The supernatural island mystery of a lifetime. Uncovering the hidden secrets of Edwards Island proved too compelling to ignore, always keeping the pace with the lack of cutscenes to intrude. The perfect midnight game.
42. Doki Doki Literature Club
One of the cutest visual novels of all time. All of the female characters feature a hidden depth that comes to the forefront as you spend time with each and every one of them. And it’s a free game that definitely won’t play any tricks on you!
41. Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
Interesting departure from the other Fire Emblem installments on the Nintendo 3DS. What downgrades might be present in map design are bolstered by a fantastic roster of characters, with Alm and Celica standing out as personal favorites. It certainly lurks in the shadows of the 3DS catalog, but undoubtedly warrants a playthrough.
40. Gravity Rush Remastered
Gravity-bending physics and challenges put this game on the map. Learning to balance the powers at Kat’s disposal made the journey that much more memorable, and the art design is endearing. Don’t strand yourself from purchasing this game!
39. Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
A natural crossover of staples in the visual novel space. The infusion of puzzle elements from the Professor Layton games into a title that is fundamentally more aligned with Ace Attorney does wonders for the game’s intrigue. I object to anyone that asserts otherwise.
38. Donkey Kong Country Returns
One of first great platformers to kick off the decade. It was a joy to get back into Donkey Kong Country after having played the original games on the SNES, and there is a phenomenal challenge awaiting the most dedicated players. About as hearty as a hand of bananas.
37. Animal Crossing: New Leaf
A game that rewards patience and persistence. There is a tangible sense of growth as one builds their personal town from scratch, and it genuinely invests the player in its maintenance. A shame Isabelle and the mayor fled their responsibilities to join Smash Bros., so now’s a perfect time to fill in!
36. Astral Chain
PlatinumGames’ riskiest installment in their catalog. The duality of combat brings a new layer of action to the table, and experimenting with new weapons and tactics opens an astral plane of possibilities. Become a master fighter at NEURON, or Lappy will hunt you down.
35. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
A fitting end to the journeys of Nathan Drake. While a bittersweet conclusion to the franchise, the graphical and technical improvements cement Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End as an early demonstration of greatness on the PlayStation 4. There are no uncharted waters left once all loose ends are tied up.
34. Xenoblade Chronicles 2
A breathtaking landscape of nature and wildlife serving as the backdrop for a fun sequel in the acclaimed franchise. However, it is the game’s expansion Torna: The Golden Country that elevates the quality of the game to its highest point. Think you can take Xenoblade Chronicles 2?
33. God of War
Encapsulates a unique, continuous means of rebooting a franchise. God of War carries the weight of the past on its shoulders, contributing to a new interpretation of the series that finally caught on with me. Give it a shot, boy.
32. Super Mario 3D World
Amongst the best modern Super Mario games. The most creative world designs and level ideas can be found here, and the geometry of the levels is elevated with the introduction of fun power-ups and clear pipes. The cooperative play is insane in Super Mario 3D World, and stands as one of the best multiplayer experiences on the Wii U.
31. Pokémon HeartGold/Pokémon SoulSilver
An amalgamation of the fourth generation’s innovations into a fantastic remake of beloved games. Johto and Kanto are beautifully recreated, compounded by some of the greatest battles in the history of the franchise. Where you have a heart of gold or a soul of silver, either game is right for you.
30. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
A great subversion and provocation of the fundamentals that make Danganronpa what it is. It successfully recontextualizes the franchise in a new light, and left me thinking about the implications of this game’s existence for months to come. One of the ultimate visual novel experiences.
29. Sonic Mania
The Sonic the Hedgehog made by fans, for the fans. Speeding across familiar zones and blasting through new locales revitalized a series in long need for a return to its roots. A celebration of the nostalgic platforming game that is easily the best Sonic the Hedgehog game in two decades.
28. Bravely Default: Flying Fairy
The most customizable RPG to release this decade. It doesn’t hurt that the cast and world is wonderfully rendered, but its the extensive range of options and adjustments available to the player guarantees no one player’s experience will resemble that of another. I’m not lying to you when I helm Bravely Default an essential game before a spiritual sequel’s release in 2020.
Arguably the best rhythm game on mobile platforms, and my personal favorite title on smartphones. Nails the balance between accessibility and challenge, with hundreds of great songs to play along to. Cytus single-handedly encapsulates what can be created when mobile is utilized to its greatest potential.
26. Resident Evil 2
Horror at its finest. It’s the shining point of Capcom’s resurgence in the latter half of the decade, reviving the phenomenal horror that defines its iconic franchise with a graphical overhaul that will drop your jaw. Anyone in need of a good scare will not be disappointed in Resident Evil 2
25. Octopath Traveler
An eightfold journey of wondrous proportions. The disjointed narratives lend itself perfect for the Nintendo Switch, and serves as a great throwback to the era of 16-bit adventures. A powerful masterclass of audio-visual production that hides a great dose of combat prowess.
24. Marvel’s Spider-Man
No doubt the best superhero game of all time. From the exhilarating web-swinging to the authentic narrative, Marvel’s Spider-Man was a great testament for the evolution of Spider-Man as a gaming icon. After all, with great power comes great responsibility
23. Persona 5
Perhaps the most accomplished game in visual design and style. Elevates the creative potential of RPGs to broaden their appeal to new audiences, and does not compromise in delivering an exceptional tale of teenagers finding their new place in society. All things considered, that ain’t bad.
22. 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors
Psychological thriller explored with the grace of a ballerina. Its multifaceted story branches across a nine-hour stretch of survival horror, investigation the various consequences of different choices in order to reach the true ending. By the end of it all, there’s zero doubt that Kotaro Uchikoshi and his team struck gold.
21. Bayonetta 2
Bayonetta 2 feasts on its endless replayability to deliver the premier action experience. It rivals the monstrosity and precision of Devil May Cry, all while building upon its foundations to reach new heights. A lovely game to play with a cup of tea.
20. Bioshock Remastered
The epitome of political intrigue and worldbuilding in gaming. The underwater city of Rapture holds an allure that prompts exploration of every nook and cranny, unveiling a tragic collapse of a prosperous city succumbed to chaos. Remastered beautifully for modern platforms this decade, Bioshock is a prime example of narrative excellence.
19. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Remastered
With the release of Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection for current-generation consoles, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves immediately stood out as a clear favorite. With the greatest action sequences and locations in the entire series, exploring with Nathan Drake has never been more cinematic. Just pray you don’t run into Mr. Lazarević.
19. Splatoon 2
I dare you to name a more seamless integration of creative ideas for a third-person shooter. Splatoon 2 oozes with colorful style, bolstering the amount of content available against its predecessor and expanding upon the universe with new lore. All kids ands squids can get in on the action.
17. Horizon Zero Dawn
An optimal open-world of epic proportions. The seamless integration of robust wildfile and mechanical beasts make up the nucleus of a compelling action game ripe with fun bowplay and countless secrets. A beautiful horizon awaits your view at each and every turn.
16. Kid Icarus: Uprising
The perfect revitalization of a dormant franchise. Kid Icarus: Uprising soars to the skies with a revamped combat system, stellar gameplay options, and a lovely cast that fosters great banter between personalities like Pit and Palutena. To truly appreciate this game, I hope you learned how to read.
15. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
This colorful rendition of The Legend of Zelda shines even more than in the remake of a GameCube classic. With the power of the Wind Waker, the player travels the grand seas on one of the most calming, adventurous entries of the franchise. Trust me, there’s not too much water.
A sweet game portraying serious subject matters in an uplifting manner. The challenge inherent in the platforming is exceptional, yet actively encourages you to overcome all hurdles to reach the end. Once you beat this game, consider treating yourself to a big slice of strawberry shortcake.
13. Fire Emblem: Three Houses
A new caliber of strategy game. Choices await all the time in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, and witnessing the fruition of your actions in the classroom and battlefield never fails to satisfy. Dorte the horse would be proud.
12. Pokémon Black/Pokémon White
The splendid concoction of Pokémon at its best. These games easily recreate the core essence of the series present from the beginning, yet introduces a sleuth of new mechanics and ideas that pushed the boundaries of Pokémon in fruitful ways. Literally a perfect balance of new and old, yin and yang.
11. Fire Emblem: Awakening
A strategy game with a great deal of heart. While my preferences lie with Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Fire Emblem: Awakening pushes ahead with a great sense of nostalgia and awe that permanently hooked me into a new genre of video games. In the case someone questions its placement here, all I did was tip the scales.
10. Xenoblade Chronicles
Xenoblade Chronicles melds the ambition and expansion associated with western role-playing games with the narrative and combative prowess typical with JRPGs. The ensuing conflict between the Bionis and Mechonis is beautifully explored through the lens of phenomenal characters, across grand landscapes of rich detail. I could easily insert a joke here, but I’m not really feeling it right now.
9. Hollow Knight
The only game I managed to play that featured a world of bugs. Its beautiful aesthetic hides a robust universe with dozens of challenges and secrets to seek out, packed into a sweet Metroidvania-like adventure. In case the title deceived you, it’s the furthest thing from hollow.
8. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
The FromSoftware game that broke through to me. With a brutal challenge to overcome and a skillful combat system to master, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice never pulls any punches, but does so in service of maintaining a game balance that rewards practice and persistence. With that said, you’ll probably die more than twice.
7. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair
Simultaneously the most comical and unsettling visual novel I played this decade. With a great deal of self-awareness inherent in its design, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair appreciates its audience, and crafts a game meant to subvert your expectations and deliver a quality story. Be prepared to say hello to despair once again.
6. The Last of Us
A zombie game where the zombies aren’t the the most important part. Hiding underneath the surface of The Last of Us is a poignant, riveting tale that follows Joel and Ellie, one that challenges their morals and reignites their inner conflicts. All the parts of this narrative click into place, and the game remains one of the greatest stories to be told in gaming history.
5. Super Mario Galaxy 2
Super Mario Galaxy 2 might be spoken in the same breadth of its predecessor, but its obsession with refinement and polish distinguish it from the plethora of Mario games in existence. With a grand collection of new planets to explore, this game can rest easy knowing its amongst the best of an iconic franchise. And Yoshi’s here!
4. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
The appeal of this game is already in the title. It is the ultimate crossover of gaming universes that has continuously built upon itself to realize the greatest iteration of the fighting game, and rarely does a week go by where I don’t jump into Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for a quick bout. Words cannot express how grateful I am to play such a game.
3. Persona 4 Golden
Persona 4 Golden is truly the golden ticket of the PlayStation Vita, but more so the golden child of gaming’s entirety. It remains impossible to undercut the tremendous achievement of game design on display, and will stand the test of time for generations to come. Only when you play Persona 4 Golden will you realize this truth.
2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Hyrule has never been so expansive. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild hosts a true open-world that places great importance on the journey over the end point, and that journey is marked with fond memories and discoveries that are wholly unique to each player. A great breath of fresh air for gaming.
1. NieR: Automata
NieR: Automata is the best embodiment of gaming’s potential that I can name, and easily the greatest game that I played from the entire decade. This game could not exist in any other medium, and its masterful storytelling and compelling universe only serve to reinforce this twofold. Something truly special awaits you in NieR: Automata, and I hold confidence in crowing it the rightful king in this decade of video games.