Obligatory end-of-the-decade list #3

Spoiler Warning:
There may be spoilers ahead for the story-focused titles on this list. If you don’t want to see spoilers for a game you haven’t yet played, feel free to skip that entry and move on to the next.

As the decade draws to a close, I’ve taken a look back at some of my favourite television series and films of the 2010s. Now it’s the turn of video games, and it’s been a good decade for the medium overall.

I used to work in the games industry, writing marketing blurb and website content for a large games company, so I might look at things slightly differently than the average gamer. I’ve also found that, due to a combination of my health worsening and just getting older, my ability and desire to sit down and play games isn’t the same as it used to be ten years ago. As a result, there are some titles which people hold up as being absolutely fantastic that I just haven’t played this decade – including games like Red Dead Redemption II, The Witcher 3, and God of War. That they aren’t included on this list doesn’t mean they aren’t great games, it’s simply that they aren’t titles I have any personal experience with.

With the rise of on-demand streaming for films and television, it’s safe to say that in most cases, most people can watch any film or TV series that they want to. There are even, shall we say, ways to get around pesky restrictions for those who sail the high seas. Ahoy, mateys. So in that sense, TV and film is one platform that everyone with a screen can access. Not so for games, where different titles are released on different systems – some being exclusive to just one. A person’s preference for games is therefore going to be tied to the platform they use to play and the titles that system has available. My primary gaming machine is PC, but I’ve been lucky this decade to play on a variety of others.

Let’s look back briefly at the systems we’ve seen this decade. Obviously PC has been there for the whole decade, chugging away in the background. In 2010, the main consoles that were available were the Wii, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. These consoles were into the latter half of their life by this point, having been released in 2005 and 2006. In 2012, Nintendo launched the Wii U, which didn’t sell particularly well, and in 2013 Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were released. Following the failure of the Wii U, the Switch came out in 2017, and these three consoles are the primary ones in use today. The 2010s also saw the mass adoption of smartphones, which are a legitimate gaming platform in themselves, and finally just a few weeks ago, Google jumped into the gaming market with its streaming service called Stadia. There were also a couple of handhelds, the Nintendo 3DS and the PlayStation Vita.

As I said for the previous lists I’ve made, everything here is wholly subjective. These aren’t games I’m saying are “objectively the best”, they’re simply the titles I personally found to be the most interesting, entertaining, or memorable over the last ten years. And aside from my number one pick, which is my favourite game of the decade, the rest of the list could really be in almost any order. So with that out of the way, let’s jump in.

Number 10:
Minecraft (Multiplatform, 2011)

Promo artwork for Minecraft.

I came to Minecraft quite early in its life, when it was still in beta. I was with a girlfriend at the time who had got into it through watching YouTube videos of playthroughs and wanted me to try it out. The early versions of the game lacked a lot of features that are available currently. When I first played, there was no Creative Mode option, no villager NPCs, no End portal, and a lot of other elements. But it was nevertheless a fun game, and one that was great to play together with other people.

Minecraft took me by surprise by blowing up the way it did. I didn’t expect this scruffy little game, with its incredibly outdated pixel graphics and that seemed to be all about building mud huts and chopping trees, to become a global gaming phenomenon. Shows what I know, eh?

The core appeal of Minecraft is that in its randomly-generated world, players can basically do anything they want. People have done everything from using Creative Mode to make incredibly detailed artwork to redstone-powered in-game computer systems which actually work. Schools have even started using Minecraft as an educational tool, teaching kids how to interact with and use computers. And Minecraft is everywhere, on every platform and system from consoles to phones to PC and even the Raspberry Pi mini computer. And it’s picked up a worldwide fanbase that must number in the hundreds of millions.

The combination of exploration, collecting resources, building, and fighting monsters has been incredibly alluring, and while Minecraft may seem simple on the surface, there’s so much to do that it’s easy to lose many, many hours in its simple, pixelated world. I’ve had great fun taking an empty world and building castles, digging huge caverns and tunnels, travelling to different realms, and fighting off some of Minecraft’s iconic creatures. And compared to a lot of players, I’ve barely scratched the surface.

The PC version of Minecraft has also benefited from a very active modding community, with some incredible mods that completely change the game. One such mod is even credited (at least by some people) with spawning the battle royale genre that has taken the gaming world by storm in the last three or four years.

All in all, Minecraft is a rare, genre-defining title and its success has been imitated by many other games – so much so that “Minecraft clone” is a legitimate game genre in itself at this point – but never bettered. That it still has such an active playerbase over eight years after its official release is testament to its place in the history of gaming.

Number 9:
The FIFA series (Multiplatform, annual releases)

Promotional screenshot for FIFA 18.

In 2010, I picked up the World Cup edition of FIFA. I’d played several FIFA titles in the 1990s – FIFA ’97 on PC, World Cup ’98 and FIFA 99 on the Nintendo 64 – but I hadn’t touched the franchise since the turn of the millennium. It had changed hugely in that time – not just graphically, but the AI too.

Though it’s probably fair to say that FIFA games this decade haven’t made such groundbreaking changes as they did in the previous one, for me as someone coming back after such a long hiatus, I was absolutely struck by how much better World Cup 2010 was than the titles I remembered from years prior. While FIFA games absolutely can be enjoyed in single-player, where I had the most fun was playing against friends one-on-one.

I’m not a big online gamer, but if I have two control pads and someone to play with on the couch, FIFA is definitely one of my go-to series for a fun time – assuming, of course, that the other person is a football fan. For non-fans, there’s obviously much less enjoyment to be had.

The most recent edition of FIFA I played was FIFA 18, which has some minor improvements over games earlier in the decade, but nothing that I’d say that majorly changed the game experience. What I find the most fun isn’t playing as my favourite team with my favourite players, but picking a less-known team in a different league, building a team of players, and challenging for the league title or a cup. FIFA is a surprisingly adaptable series in that respect – there are a lot of options and ways to play. Depending on how long or short you want matches to be, and how much input you want to have in the management of your team, you can spend either hours in the backroom playing with different tactical choices and player options, or just blitz through a campaign of short matches all the way to the end of the season and the cup final. There’s something for everyone – or at least, for every football fan.

There are some absolutely legitimate criticisms of the FIFA series for the way it charges players for random in-game content in its Ultimate Team mode, and the way that recent iterations of the game – especially on platforms like Nintendo Switch – haven’t really brought any new gameplay to the table for a full-priced title, and I don’t want to ignore those. But for me personally, as someone who doesn’t play online and doesn’t buy in-game items, FIFA is a lot of fun and offers a lot of content for people who enjoy football. And the massive improvements made since I first played it in the 1990s are still impressive, even if the pace and scale of gameplay and graphical improvements has fallen away in recent years.

Number 8:
Shenmue I & II (PC and PlayStation 4, 2018)

Ryo Hazuki (left) faces down an opponent in this promo screenshot from Shenmue I & II.

I was a huge Shenmue fan when I had a Dreamcast, so when this remaster was announced I was incredibly excited to jump back into that world. It’s a little bit of a stretch to call this a remaster, though, as while the game is upscaled to fit modern widescreen displays, and there were some minor changes to controls to better suit modern control pads, the games are essentially identical to their respective 1999 and 2001 releases – including, so I hear, some of the same bugs and glitches as were present two decades ago. Though I did encounter a few bugs in my playthrough (the same cutscene repeating, getting stuck in the environment, etc.) I can’t say for sure whether those are bugs which were carried over from the original versions or not.

Though Shenmue I & II haven’t really aged all that well from a gameplay perspective, it was absolutely a nostalgic treat to be able to replay these classic games I enjoyed years ago. And the first game in particular was a landmark in the history of gaming – for me personally as well as the industry. Prior to playing Shenmue, most of my gaming experiences had been in flat, 2D worlds. The few 3D titles I’d seen or played had been games like Super Mario 64 – which is a great game in its own right, but not what you’d call cinematic. Shenmue completely changed the way I viewed games; no longer just digital toys, they could tell stories that would be just as at home on television or in the cinema. I love that about games, and my favourite titles ever since have been ones that told great, immersive stories. The chance to recapture some of the way that felt was too tempting to pass up, so I couldn’t wait to replay Shenmue.

Shenmue I & II was a return to a game world I hadn’t visited since the early 2000s when I traded in my Dreamcast for an Xbox when that console failed, and as a piece of nostalgia, getting to enjoy these titles again was wonderful. Shenmue is a series all about telling one story, and the unique world it created – with characters and businesses operating on a day-night schedule, variable weather conditions, and the freedom to ditch the main quest and just explore the environment or play games in the arcade – was groundbreaking for its time and still something special today.

In an article earlier this month, I wrote how I was very disappointed that Shenmue III won’t be completing Ryo’s story, despite having what is almost certainly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do so. I still haven’t bought that game, and I’m not sure whether I want to until I know whether there will be a sequel – or any other conclusion to the story. But that disappointment hasn’t detracted (much) from my enjoyment of this rerelease of the first two titles.

Number 7:
Mario Kart 7 (Nintendo 3DS, 2011) & Mario Kart 8 (Wii U, 2014; Switch, 2017)

Being able to race underwater was new in Mario Kart 7.

Ever since I played Super Mario Kart on the SNES in the mid-1990s I’ve been a fan of Nintendo’s fun and silly racing series. Both of the main entries this decade – 2011’s Mario Kart 7 and 2014’s Mario Kart 8 – have been absolutely amazing. The less said about Nintendo’s money-grabbing mobile version the better, though. I got to play Mario Kart 8 months before release at a press event, and I was in awe of the game’s hugely improved graphics. For a while it seemed like the Wii U tanking would mean fewer people would get to play this great entry in the series, but Nintendo repackaged the game for Switch in 2017 – where I’m not ashamed to say I bought it for the second time.

A racing sim this ain’t, so leave your $500 sim cockpit at home, and pick up a controller (or a pair of Switch joy-cons) because Mario Kart is pure arcade racing goodness. When I was working in a big office, a group of colleagues and I would regularly play Mario Kart 7 via the Nintendo 3DS’ Download Play feature, and those races could get very competitive! Mario Kart 8 is also a great multiplayer game, and on one occasion I had a birthday tournament with some friends. As a split-screen game, it’s absolutely perfect. Its simple controls mean anyone can jump in and play, with races being easily accessible to a newcomer – even someone new to gaming.

My favourite character is Dry Bones – the skeleton version of Koopa Troopa – so I was pleased to see him (or her, I suppose) return for the Switch version of Mario Kart 8. It’s always nice to be able to play as your favourite – and I’d been playing as Dry Bones since Mario Kart Wii. The expanded roster of characters this time around should give players plenty of choice, as will the variety of customisation options for karts. Putting together the best kart – with a combination of body, wheels, and glider – to win races has become an important strategic element of the game!

At the end of the day, Mario Kart 7 and Mario Kart 8 are just good, solid fun. With Nintendo’s typical high quality, these really are games anyone of any age can have a fantastic time with. Whether you want to kill five minutes with a single race, or spend hours trying to unlock all the characters and vehicle options, there’s something for everyone to do in this fun, casual title.

Number 6:
The Last Of Us (PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, 2013)

Ellie and Joel in an atmospheric piece of promotional artwork for The Last Of Us.

The Last Of Us was the PlayStation 3’s swansong – one of its final titles that really showed off what the system was capable of. In 2013 the games industry was gearing up for new consoles, but famed studio Naughty Dog had one last hurrah for the departing generation, and released what is arguably the PlayStation 3’s finest game.

Set in a post-apocalyptic environment where most of humanity has fallen victim to a fungal infection that turns people into zombies, The Last Of Us is really a character-driven story, a road trip game where main characters Joel and Ellie cross a hauntingly beautiful rendition of an overgrown, largely deserted United States. There’s a variety of enviroments, from crumbling cities to open areas of countryside, and to call the world “atmospheric” wouldn’t do it justice.

Joel is the game’s main protagonist, and while players get a turn playing as Ellie, The Last Of Us is really Joel’s story. The ending is gut-wrenching, and whether or not you agree with Joel’s decision to save Ellie’s life – and in so doing, rob humanity of the chance to cure the cordyceps disease – it’s an incredibly powerful ending. I’m not sure whether the game really needs a sequel; you can’t usually get lighting to strike twice. But regardless, a sequel is due out next year and I’ll be interested – if cautiously so – to see where it takes these incredible characters.

The best post-apocalyptic fiction, whether in the format of a game, book, film, or television series, takes relatable, down-to-earth characters and throws impossibly difficult situations at them. For me, The Last Of Us is right up there with films like I Am Legend and TV shows like The Last Ship as a standout piece of work in the post-apocalyptic genre. By focusing so much on two characters, their journey, and their growth, the game takes everything great about storytelling and makes it an interactive experience. The best games, at least in my opinion, are the ones that manage to do this. And The Last Of Us is absolutely among the best games of the decade for that very reason.

Number 5:
Banished (PC, 2014)

An example of a town players can build in this Banished promo screenshot.

Banished is a complicated town-building and management game. Players take control of a group of citizens who are starting a new life after being banished from their society. Aside from planning and building the town, it’s important to manage resources like food, clothing, firewood, tools, medicine, and citizens’ happiness, and getting the balance right between all of these elements is incredibly tricky to master even after hours of trial and error.

The amazing thing about Banished, considering how much there is to do, is that it was all created and programmed by one person. Every aspect of the game was designed and put together by just one guy, and that’s just incredible to me. There have occasionally been other indie titles with just one creator, but none have come close to being on par with Banished. This game would still have made this list even if it had been the work of a team of developers or a whole studio, but considering only one person worked on it, I’m speechless, truly.

The world that players’ citizens inhabit is randomly generated each time, meaning no two towns will be alike. While it’s relatively easy to get started, scavenging available above-ground resources, in order to maintain a town that will be viable for 50+ years of in-game time, it’s important to put sustainability at the heart of playing the game. Forests can be replanted, but if players clear the map from end to end it’s easy to run out of other resources like iron or stone. And striking the right balance to keep everyone in town fed, clothed, equipped, healthy, and happy is a task that is difficult to get the hang of, and one that varies with each map and each playthrough, giving Banished almost unlimited replayability for people who really get into it.

Number 4:
Super Mario Odyssey (Switch, 2017)

Cappy and Mario in New Donk City in a promo image for Super Mario Odyssey.

For a few years in the 2010s, it seemed as though Nintendo was only interested in 2D Mario games, titles which imitated the character’s NES and SNES heyday but with up-to-date graphics. Those 2D platformers were okay, but Super Mario Odyssey is on a whole other level.

Playing out like a massively expanded version of classic 3D platformer Super Mario 64 – complete with a version of that game’s iconic castle – Odyssey takes Mario on an incredible journey all across the Mushroom Kingdom and beyond. There’s plenty of nostalgia here for returning fans, including throwbacks to previous titles in the franchise, but there’s also loads to do for new players, and you don’t have to be a Mario fan to have an amazing experience.

For what is I believe the first time, it’s possible to customise Mario’s outfit. This simple change alone provides tons of fun, and an additional incentive to collect all the hidden coins throughout Odyssey‘s expansive levels. I’m a big fan of character outfits and customisation, and being able to style Mario in such a wide range of outfits was great fun.

There’s a range of different environments in Odyssey, with no two levels being alike. From a cityscape to a dark forest all the way to the moon, there’s a lot to see and do. The game revolves around collecting moons – which replace the power stars from Mario 64 – and while a couple of hundred is enough to unlock all the levels and defeat Bowser, there are literally hundreds more available. 100% completion of the game is possible, but difficult – and requires a heck of a lot of time. This is a title to come back to over and over, and an undoubted classic of the genre and the generation.

Number 3:
Grand Theft Auto V (Multiplatform, 2013)

Promo artwork for Grand Theft Auto V featuring protagonists Michael, Franklin, and Trevor.

For a lot of people, Grand Theft Auto V will be the game of the decade, and understandably so. Rockstar’s most recent entry into its action/crime franchise is a juggernaut – regularly appearing in top ten sales charts and on Steam as one of the most played games even six years after its initial release.

The main reason Grand Theft Auto V has been so successful is its online mode – though as a predominantly single-player gamer this isn’t a mode I’m familiar with. Instead, what I like about this game is its single-player campaign. The characters are great to interact with, and watching them team up and work together is more rewarding because players get to spend time with each of them. In previous Grand Theft Auto titles, players took control of a single protagonist. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, Grand Theft Auto V‘s approach, having multiple protagonists, has arguably led to more immersion and the feeling that missions have higher stakes. Watching two or three characters you’ve played as interacting with each other is a very different experience than watching a sole protagonist interact with NPCs. There’s a personal connection that exists between player and character – one which Grand Theft Auto V uses to great effect.

While the story is a fun, over-the-top parody of America as it was in the early 2010s, where Grand Theft Auto V really shines is in letting players loose in a huge open world. Half of the fun of any Grand Theft Auto title is in taking time off from story missions and roaming around, blasting the soundtrack from the radio of your stolen car, and just soaking up the atmosphere of the world that has been painstakingly created. And that’s just as true here as it was in Grand Theft Auto III, which was the first title in the series I played back on the original Xbox, or in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which first featured the city of Los Santos.

Los Santos is a parody of Los Angeles, and the city is created in absolutely amazing detail. Even more than six years after release, this open world’s scale is impressive and it looks great to boot. There’s a lot to do even when not taking part in a mission, far too many side activities to list here, and it’s quite easy to see how people have sunk thousands of hours into this game. Grand Theft Auto V is a title which has lasted from the end of the last console generation right through the current one, and I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest to see it ported to next year’s PlayStation 5 and next-gen Xbox. How will Rockstar possibly be able to follow its success? I wrote an article about that.

Number 2:
Civilization VI (PC, 2016)

Promo screenshot of Civilization VI.

Civilization VI might be the game I’ve spent the most time with this decade. It’s certainly my most-played game of the last three years, that’s for sure. It’s a game that hooks you in and keeps you coming back for more.

My first experiences with PC strategy games back in the 1990s were real-time strategy games like Age of Empires and Command and Conquer. Early games in the Civilization franchise didn’t really appeal to me because they were slower and, in my opinion at the time, less exciting as a result. So when Civilization VI came out in 2016, I wasn’t particularly interested at first. But after reading some very positive reviews online I decided to give it a try – and I’m so glad I did.

Playing out like a digital board game rather than a video game, Civilization VI lets you build cities, colonise the world, and defeat your opponents through a variety of victory conditions: cultural, domination, religious, scientific, or simply by having the highest score at the end of an arbitrary time limit or turn limit. Each of these victory conditions requires a different play style to achieve, and which one seems best to pursue can change depending on the outcome of wars and diplomacy with other factions in the game.

Despite some glitches here and there, including one introduced by an update at one point, the AI in the game is very good and plays to win. On harder difficulty settings, you’re in for a real fight! There are also some great custom scenarios – shorter games with different factions and specific victory conditions. I also had great fun trying to unlock various Steam achievements – some of which required oddly specific circumstances like capturing an oil well in the final turn of a game, or building districts in a city in a specific pattern. Achieving some of the more obscure ones – especially ones that hardly anyone else had – became a fun game in itself for me.

The game takes players from the stone age through to the near future (as of the most recent expansion pack) and various technologies can be unlocked along the way, improving your cities, units, and abilities. There are plenty of civilisations to choose from, with the number almost doubling thanks to several expansion packs. Unfortunately, the price for the game plus all its current expansions can be a bit steep – but it is on sale on Steam from time to time, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for those sales to get the game at a discount.

Civilization VI converted me from a real-time strategy fan to someone who appreciates a slower turn-based game. And I’ve spent hundreds of hours in this game, customising everything I could (I like to give my cities names) and having a whale of a time. The randomly-generated maps, and the fact that there are far too many civilisations and leaders to play against in a single match, means that Civilization VI has huge replayability potential once you get stuck in. And I really, really did get stuck in for a while there.

Honourable Mentions:

For every title on the list above, there was at least one other I could’ve picked. It really has been a great decade for games, and with more people than ever now owning a console and playing games regularly, things can only get better as the 2020s roll around. Just before I crown my favourite game of the decade, here are a few titles which almost made this list (and one bonus subscription service – let’s look at that first!)

Xbox GamePass (Xbox One and PC, 2017) – GamePass aims to be the “Netflix of video games”, and that’s exactly what it is. A huge number of titles can be played for a single subscription fee, and I’d absolutely recommend it to anyone on a budget. An Xbox One S with a GamePass subscription (and an internet connection) is enough to get you stuck into this generation’s games without spending a huge amount of money up front.

Star Trek Online (PC, 2010; Xbox One and PlayStation 4, 2016) – It wouldn’t be one of my lists without a Star Trek title, and Star Trek Online is a lot of fun – provided you can tolerate playing with thousands of other people. I can’t, but that doesn’t mean I don’t recognise it’s a good game.
Fortnite (Multiplatform, 2017) – As a title that has brought millions of new people into the hobby, and changed the way companies approach charging for games, Fortnite is a landmark in this decade’s gaming landscape.
Plague Inc. (iOS and Android, 2012) – I didn’t expect to find a mobile game so genuinely different and interesting, but this fun strategy title – in which you play as a virus trying to wipe out humankind – is just that.
Victoria II (PC, 2010) – A massively in-depth grand strategy game that must take years to master, set during the 19th Century. Notable for allowing players to play as literally any country in the world – and expand to colonise and conquer it.
Planet Coaster (PC, 2016) – A spiritual successor to the classic Rollercoaster Tycoon series, this surprisingly detailed theme park builder is difficult, but a ton of fun.
Meow Motors (Multiplatform, 2018) – It’s basically Mario Kart with cats. What’s not to love about that?
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One, 2019) – I can’t rank this game because I haven’t been able to play it yet, but everything I’ve read sounds amazing and I can’t wait to jump back in to a galaxy far, far away.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Multiplatform, 2011) – I’d been an Elder Scrolls fan since Morrowind, and Skyrim did not disappoint – a massive open world, tons of NPCs, several factions, and hundreds of missions and quests to get stuck into.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, 2011) – Another franchise I’d long been a fan of, Human Revolution is a well-built prequel with fun gunplay and interesting ways to genetically and technologically modify your human character.
Halo: Reach (Xbox 360, 2010; Xbox One and PC, 2019) – It’s funny to be ending the decade replaying a game from the very start, but Halo: Reach is a fantastic story-driven FPS and was original developer Bungie’s final entry in the Halo series.

Number 1:
Mass Effect 2 (PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3, 2010)

Jacob, Tali, and Commander Shepard in a promo screenshot for Mass Effect 2.

What can I say about Mass Effect 2 other than “wow”? This game’s incredible story of a no-hope mission to stop nefarious aliens from abducting human colonies is without equal in gaming, and would be at home in any big budget television series or film franchise.

I came late to the Mass Effect party, only playing the first game in the series several years after its 2007 release. I must confess that I wasn’t impressed at first. Mass Effect 1 struck me as a poor rip-off of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic; a generic clone of Star Wars from a studio that didn’t have the license any more. But after running out of things to play, I gave the first Mass Effect 1 a second chance, and second time around it hooked me into its world. By then, Mass Effect 2 was due for release and I picked up a copy on launch day. To say I was blown away would be an understatement – the game is such a massive improvement on its predecessor.

Gameplay is fantastic, a cover-based third-person shooter with a few different weapons to choose from and a variety of powers, including technological and the fantasy-based biotics (which I felt on my initial look at Mass Effect 1 was a poor clone of the Force from Star Wars). There are numerous planets to explore, and players get their own ship to command. Planets and missions don’t have to be done in the same order every time, giving some variety to additional playthroughs.

But what really shines in Mass Effect 2 are the characters and the story. Essentially, Mass Effect 2 is a team-up story: players must recruit the best team possible for an incredibly dangerous mission into uncharted space. Each team member needs to be recruited, then have their loyalty to you and the cause cemented by completing an additional optional mission, usually to resolve part of their backstory. Once these missions are complete, and the Normandy (the player’s ship) has been suitably upgraded, it’s time to take the fight to the evil Collectors (revealed to be pawns of the series’ main antagonists the Reapers).

The final mission of the game – dubbed the “suicide mission” – is one of the most intense sequences I’ve played in any game. The characters we’ve spent so long with can die, permanently, if the mission doesn’t go exactly right. First-time players will probably need a walkthrough to complete this final mission successfully. It’s an incredibly powerful story, with consequences for the final part of the trilogy (which came out two years later).

Mass Effect 2 also included some great expansion packs, adding additional story content which paved the way for Mass Effect 3 nicely. These expansions were well worth the money, and added hours of extra gameplay to what was already not a short game.

Being able to play the game as a nice guy or evil badass, as well as deciding who to recruit, whether to bother with their loyalty missions, and whether to try to keep everyone alive or make sacrifices in the endgame all combine to make Mass Effect 2 a game well worth revisiting. I must’ve played all the way through half a dozen times. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s a long game!

The Mass Effect series was also unique, at least at the time, for letting players choose to play as a male or female Commander Shepard. Both options were fully-voiced, meaning there’s even more reason to come back to the game after beating it the first time.

Mass Effect worked so well as a trilogy, despite its controversial and somewhat lazy ending, but the standout part has to be Mass Effect 2. It built on the universe its predecessor created, streamlining the gameplay to really shine a spotlight on its amazing story. Mass Effect 3 would round out the trilogy, and unfortunately since then, the franchise hasn’t been able to recapture the magic of its second instalment. This is definitely a series worthy of a next-gen remaster, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see that some time in the 2020s.

When it came to choosing one title to top this list, Mass Effect 2 was the first one that came to mind. And when I stacked it up against other games, even ones I’d played a great deal more of, Mass Effect 2‘s amazing story won out, and I’m happy to crown it my game of the decade.

So that’s it.

Those are the games I personally had the most fun with over the last ten years. If your favourites didn’t make the list, please keep in mind that there are a lot of recent games that, despite wanting to, I just haven’t got around to playing yet. And as I said at the start, this whole thing is entirely subjective. It’s been a wonderful decade for games, one which has seen the medium grow beyond all recognition. Thanks to the almost universal adoption of smartphones, and the ease of smartphone gaming, millions of people who wouldn’t have ever called themselves “gamers” are getting into the hobby for the first time. And blockbuster titles like Minecraft and Fortnite have done wonders for the industry.

There have been some drawbacks and issues – loot boxes and random in-game monetisation is, despite what companies claim, akin to gambling, and I fear that some young people are going to have issues as a result of that in future. We need to keep a weather eye on some of these companies, and be unafraid to call them out when they misbehave.

But overall, the 2010s will be remembered as a decade which, though it didn’t see such a radical improvement in graphics or available computing power as the 1990s or 2000s, took gaming as a medium forward, pushing the boundaries and finally breaking into the mainstream as a legitimate entertainment form. Gaming is no longer looked down on by the majority as a nerdy hobby for sweaty teenagers. More and more people have become gamers themselves, and the decade has rewarded them with some absolutely incredible titles, both in terms of single-player story experiences and online multiplayer titles.

All of the games listed above are the copyright of their respective developers and publishers. All screenshots and promotional artwork were taken from IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.