2010’s 20 Best Video Games of the Decade

Games of the Decade

The end of the decade is upon us and with that comes the influx of “Best Of” lists, so it would be remiss of us not to look back in retrospect at the decade of gaming, and what a decade it has been. Starting out with last-gen consoles still at the fore, the world of gaming has come a long way in 10 short years and we’ve been treated to some absolute masterpieces during that time. From open-world odysseys to pulsating puzzlers, sizzling shooters to bombastic battle royales, here are the top 20 games of the decade. 

20. Games of the Decade: Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds

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When PubG dropped in 2017 to next to no fanfare, few could have predicted how it would revolutionize the gaming industry. The first major entry in the revitalized Battle Royale genre, PubG broke new ground for the likes of Fortnite and Overwatch to follow. Created by Irishman Brendan “PlayerUnknown” Greene, 100 players jump from a plane onto a heavy militarized island. Empty-handed at first, each player must fight for supplies with the sole purpose of survival and killing the opponents.

Within a few short months of launch, PubG had sold over 50 million copies and two years on still hovers near the top of Steam’s most popular games. Combining skill, drama, and excitement, PubG changed the gaming industry as we know it in the latter few years of the decade to firmly cement itself as one of the best games of the 2010s.

19. Games of the Decade: Metal Gear Solid V

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Fans were made to wait a long time for the fifth installment in the Metal Gear Solid series. And we mean, like, a looong time. In what was iconic game developer Hideo Kojima’s final work with Konami, thus ending his stewardship of the MGS series, he went out in truly breathtaking style. With the perfect balance of story and strategy, executed in one of the most visually appealing landscapes in gaming, it was the creative embodiment of everything Kojima sought to bring to the MGS series.

The full-blown sandbox-style open world meant gamers were given the ultimate freedom to explore the stunning landscapes crafted by Kojima and his team in a way that pushed players’ resolve and patience like no previous entry in the classic stealth series. Okay, the ending was a little botched, and if it weren’t for that, MGS V would have eased into the top 10. That aside, this game is justly considered one of the top games of the decade.

18. Games of the Decade: Far Cry 3

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While the first two entries in the Far Cry series could be called sleeper cult hits by many, only achieving full respect in retrospect, the franchise was brought to the fore commercially and critically by 2012’s third installment. Throwing players headfirst into an island ruled by the sycophantic psychopath Vaas, excellently portrayed by Michael Mando, later of Better Call Saul fame, we take control of Jason Brody as he looks to save his friends from the terror that rules the island.

Far Cry 3 can certainly be considered the peak of its parent franchise, which has spawned into somewhat of a phenomenon since the success of the third entry. The fourth and fifth followups, along with multiple spinoffs, have definitely done justice to the overall series, but have failed to really build on the immersive character experience and the spoiled-for-choice strategy of attack of their 2012 predecessor.

17. Games of the Decade: Dishonored 2

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Dishonored defined the decade for a generation of players in that it was one of the first games to teach us that there is no right or wrong way to go about playing a game. Players were permitted to explore the neo-Victorian world of Dunwall at their own leisure, with the game disregarding whether you stuck to the stealthy approach or went for all-out combat against an army of Overseers.

On top of an aesthetically beautiful environment, players were treated to one of the best anti-heroes of the decade in protagonist Corvo. Dishonored’s unique art style, brooding setpieces, engaging story, and innovative design were beautifully woven together to provide one of the most unique gaming experiences of the last 10 years.

16. Games of the Decade: Red Dead Redemption

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Likely the oldest entry on this list, 2010’s Red Dead Redemption set the open-world genre up for a game-changing decade. Assuming control of one of, if not the, greatest protagonists in video game history, John Marston, players are tasked with hunting down his old crew and confronting the demons of the past across the last days of the old west. Rockstar, who are no strangers to crafting fantastic backstories, forever altered the future of what a lead character should be with Marston’s silkily slow, measured tone.

Not only did Rockstar craft one of the most visually pleasing game worlds and fill it full of a rich tapestry of characters, each with their own unique backstory, but they revolutionized the audio experience in games. It’s so hard to resist simply stopping your horse in its tracks to drink in the exquisite range of chirps, hisses, and screeches as one pans the camera across the jaw-dropping landscape surrounding the banks of the Rio Grande.

15. Games of the Decade: God of War

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2018’s Nordic reimaging of the Greek mythology class provided one of the cinematic highlights of the decade in gaming. Fully utilizing modern game engines, Santa Monica Studio brought the world of Kratos from ancient Greece to wonderfully stony, snow-laden environs of Old Norse. God of War picks up where 2010’s God of War 3 left out and is a fantastic way of reinventing the series for a new generation of gamers, likely not even born when the 2005 original first came out.

While this game is an undoubted visual masterpiece, its greatest strength lies in the relationship between protagonist Kratos and his son Arteus. Cleverly leveraging the unique abilities of the pair, gamers are encouraged to explore multifaceted approaches to solving puzzles. The father/son chemistry is something that’s largely absent from games, and the overall story regarding Arteus’s origins are brilliantly unraveled at the game’s climax in a manner that succinctly sets up a highly-anticipated sequel.

14. Games of the Decade: Fallout: New Vegas

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There’s something almost sadistically beautiful in roaming the futuristic radioactive wasteland that the Mojave Desert has become in the world of Fallout. New Vegas begins rather unusually, with the player being shot in the head and left for dead by a man who sounds eerily similar to a certain Chandler Bing. Could we be any more surprised? The answer is, of course, yes. If there’s one thing that Bethesda has mastered in the open-world genre, it’s how to fill a game world with surprise after surprise.

While main story arcs have never been Bethesda’s strong suit—just look at any Elder Scrolls games—New Vegas stands head and shoulders above the rest in this regard, as players seek vengeance on those who wronged us before. Added to this an even more impressive array of sidequests and some of the best DLCs of any game ever, and Fallout fans were spoilt for choice on what to do first. Bethesda really hit the nail on the head with New Vegas by managing to populate an exquisitely desolate desert environment with a rich vein of characters and tasks.

13. Games of the Decade: Overwatch

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Overwatch sort of turned the first-person shooter format on its head without us really realizing it. In many other FPS games, with Call of Duty as the classic example, we fundamentally play each class, character, or division in the same way, albeit with variations on weapons and abilities. Overwatch’s range of unique playable characters and the rich backstory to each that exists outside the immediate gameworld have turned this concept on its head.

As is a recurring trend on this list, a lot can be said for a game that genuinely invests in its characters and the overall lore of the game world, and Overwatch is no different. Not one, not two, but three military commanders who all faked their own deaths and came back as masked vigilantes. The daughter of one of those commanders who has a bad-ass Egyptian eye tattoo, flies, and shoots rockets at people. A robot with PTSD who lives with a dwarf engineer who has, like, 50 kids. And that’s only skimming the surface.

12. Games of the Decade: Destiny

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There were few games this decade that brought together the gaming community like Destiny did. Similar to World of Warcraft way back in the noughties, players are encouraged to work together to find a way through or around a variety of obstacles or bosses. Destiny actually failed spectacularly in the way Destiny intended it to, with players forgoing the flimsy backstory in favor of finding the most inventive ways to take advantage of the game’s many loopholes.

Bungie has patched out those old exploits, closed off the loot cave, and dumped the gaps in the bin. They are gone forever. It is impossible to dip back into Destiny and play the loot cave as it once was. However, for those who were a part of the original, beautifully flawed mess that was Destiny, those memories will not be forgotten

11. Games of the Decade: League of Legends

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One thing the decade will be remembered for in terms of gaming is the undisputed rise of professional esports. From a literally non-existent concept in 2010 to paying out higher prize pools than Tiger Woods got at the Masters in 2019, esports have become an absolute phenomenon. At the forefront of that surge in popularity is League of Legends, which in itself is more of a sport than simply a game.

Matches last about 45 minutes, and the intensity of each match is unrivaled by any game. Players must farm, gank, and duel their way to supremacy, reading and managing the game just like a footballer does with a 1-0 lead in the 89th minute. The euphoria of victory in an LoL match has yet to be matched by any other competitive game, and its role in the rise of what is now a billion-dollar industry means LoL is perhaps unlucky to miss out on a spot in the top 10.

10. Games of the Decade: Horizon Zero Dawn

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When the first trailers for the futuristic yet prehistoric epic that is Horizon Zero Dawn began to drop, gamers had their eyes opened to the jaw-dropping potential of the current generation of consoles. Assuming the life of Aloy, arguably the greatest female lead in gaming history, gamers are thrown into an incredible game world that draws on inspiration from other generational hits such as Skyrim and The Witcher 3 with one notable addition—robot dinosaurs.

Beyond just the stunning visuals, incredible character performance, and the sheer thrill of taking down a Jurrasic cyborg behemoth, HZD’s greatest strength is its premonition of the end of the world as we know and the fantastic vision for the world that proceeds ours. Tying it all together through Aloy’s quest for answers around her origins, we are treated to a millennia-long story that flashes by in the blink of an eye. Horizon Zero Dawn truly is a game for the ages.

9. Games of the Decade: Portal 2

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Very rarely does a game come along that sets itself so far apart from the mainstream but is taken to the collective hearts of the gaming world like 2011’s Portal 2. Yes, it is a puzzle game, but aren’t all great games spawned from puzzle classics? And do they have portals? No. Elegant simplicity is often overlooked in gaming, with developers doing everything in their power to create more scope, more scale, and more plot. Portal 2 sticks with what it does best, and boy does it do it better than anyone.

Complemented by some fantastic voice acting from the likes of Stephen Merchant and Oscar winner JK Simmons, Portal 2 is a genuine laugh-out-loud experience when one doesn’t feel like bouncing one’s head off the walls. Portal 2 had a distinctive personality and one that has endured almost a decade later to ensure it’s regarded alongside the biggest hits of the last ten years.

8. Games of the Decade: Minecraft

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Minecraft is perhaps unlucky not to break the top five on this list, but that is more a testament to how spoiled we as gamers have been in the last 10 years rather than a disservice to the sandbox sculpting classic that introduced a generation of kids to the endless possibilities of gaming. Since its release all the way back in 2011, Minecraft has been teaching us that there are no constraints to the human imagination and that if you can dream it, you can do it.

That’s pretty high praise for a game with the most rudimentary graphics ever seen on the current generation of consoles, but just like Portal 2 (which launched in the same year), Minecraft is a testament to the fact that charm lies in simplicity, and charm sticks with us as gamers a lot longer than visually stunning backdrop. As gaming continues to evolve with new technology and ideas, Minecraft’s longevity stands as a reminder that sometimes what people want more than anything else is just to be able to do their own thing.

7. Games of the Decade: The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild

Source: YouTube/IGN

Zelda is one of the most iconic gaming series of all time, there is no argument against that. So, to reinvent an iconic game such as that carries with it the greatest weight in gaming—expectation. The team behind Breath Of The Wild blew that notion out of the water in 2018 with an instant timeless classic. That it can be played by people of all ages, of all tastes, of all skill levels, and work and respond to them all speaks to how well-designed Breath Of The Wild was. For a lot of people, it was the sole reason why they bought a Nintendo Switch.

Breath of the Wild was a bold step forward in limitless choice, with the sprawling map offering a less condensed but equally active gaming world to some of the larger scale releases on Xbox and PlayStation. We barely have an idea about what the sequel might be like, but its world will certainly have to be something special to surpass this kingdom of Hyrule.

6. Games of the Decade: Fortnite

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If this list were strictly about the most influential, game-changing titles, Fortnite would be miles ahead in the distance. Taking the Battle Royale genre previously revitalized by the likes of PubG and H1Z1, Epic Games blew the gaming world wide open by giving away its flagship game for free. Yet such is Fortnite’s universal popularity that here we are, just over two years later, with the most profitable video game ever made.

But its become more than just a game. Fortnite is a global phenomenon, a massive digital playground that has developed a devoted community and made in-game events dominate headlines as if they happened beyond the confines of Loot Lake or Tilted Towers. Fortnite does have its detractions though, such as the fact it is widely accused of ripping off PubG, and it maybe overemphasizes microtransactions. Nonetheless, it cannot be argued that Fornite shifted the lines on the playing field this decade, and is a worthy entrant on this list.

5. Games of the Decade: The Last Of Us

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The Last Of Us was by no means innovative or new, but it brought with it a freshness that beleaguered the death and decay of the world it inhabited. It did not reinvent the zombie genre, nor the stealth game, yet The Last of Us remains a classic that makes us grieve for characters we never met, mourn a world we never saw, and root for this broken man and his live cargo. The game’s true triumph lies in what would be an Oscar-winning screenplay if it was portrayed to us on the big screen.

We said earlier in this list that Aloy of Horizon Zero Dawn might just be the best female lead in a game. Well, if she’s got any competition, it’s definitely coming from The Last Of Us’s Ellie. “So don’t tell me that I would be safer with someone else because the truth is I would just be more scared,” she tells Joel in what is one of the most touching and heartwarming alliances ever seen in gaming. Has anyone ever been so relieved to see a protagonist choose not to do the right thing at a game’s finale as with TLOU? I think not.

4. Games of the Decade: Grand Theft Auto V

Source: YouTube/IGN

There’s a reason why the fifth installment in what is undoubtedly one of the greatest video game series of all time is the biggest selling console game ever. GTA V took the open-world crime classic to new heights in 2013 and has remained in the top 20 best-selling games every year since. The freedom to traverse the heavily Californian-influenced landscape of Los Santos by sea, sky, or street gave players a taste of the unadulterated freedom that comes with the heavily stylized new-age gangster lifestyle flaunted by “retiree” Michael De Santa.

First, there’s Michael’s struggles to maintain the family man lifestyle, coupled with his need to mentor the spritely future crime kingpin, Franklin Clinton. Add the neurotic Trevor Phillips and his psychotic babbling to the mix, and we were given the perfect trifecta of antiheroes to take on not only the fictionalized FBI, CIA, or whatever other secret government organization seeks to put us down, but also to contend with the issues of the past and the consequences of the future. That GTA V sits only fourth on this list is a testament to the three to come.

3. Games of the Decade: Red Dead Redemption 2

Source: YouTube/Rockstar Games

The follow-up to the 2010 cowboy classic is a shining example of just how expansive storytelling can be in games. It’s also exactly how to execute a prequel. Set 12 years before the events of its predecessor, we find ourselves in the boots of Arthur Morgan, a gruff, grizzled hulk of a man witnessing the last days of the wild west unfold before his very eyes. That we become equally attached to Morgan as we did to his future protegee John Marston speaks volumes for Rockstar’s ability to craft the perfect antihero.

Red Dead Redemption’s main story arc is certainly a long haul, clocking in at about 60 hours of gameplay to complete. However, that daunted few players and the further we tick through the last days of Arthur Morgan, the more we find ourselves pleading against time to not let the story end. Watching the new era of industrialism sweep across the luscious beauty of the old west is heartbreakingly beautiful in how it metaphorizes a way of life that grows more and more obsolete. Red Dead Redemption 2 is quite simply a masterpiece.

2. Games of the Decade: Skyrim

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Bethesda’s 2011 Nordic classic pushed the boundaries of what an open-world RPG could be. With a level of depth that was unprecedented for the time, Skyrim went beyond that and responded to whatever type of gaming experience the player wanted. If you wanted to play as an axe-swinging maniac and charge through dungeons, you could. If you preferred to slip and sneak your way through castles as a Vampire overlord, knifing and silently striking from shadows, Skyrim said go for it.

While the main storyline may be a little lacking, with the whole dragon fighting thing running its course pretty quickly, Skyrim was backed up by a rich tapestry of side quests and story arcs that were equally, if not more, fulfilling than the main plot. That the game is nine years old and still being re-released, still being talked about, and still being played, is a testament to how much of an impact it’s had.

1. Games of the Decade: The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt

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The world of The Witcher 3 remains the single greatest gaming landscape ever committed to the medium of video gaming. The possibilities of what can be done across the swamps of Velen, or the isles of Skellige, or the streets of Novigrad are as close to endless as it comes. The world of Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels are brought to life in such breathtaking beauty that one could lose hours simply staring at the sun shining through the trees, or the blades of grass glittering in the moonlight.

On top of this, The Witcher 3 has one of the most brilliant stories ever playable in gaming, with magnetic protagonist Geralt of Rivia and his supernatural protegee Ciri being chased across dimensions by the wicked Wild Hunt. The level of lore dedicated to this game means that finishing just the main story can take anywhere between 25 and 200 hours, with additional side arcs and some of the best DLCs ever made for a game, meaning that some players are still returning to take on Geralt’s armor over five years later. No other fantasy ever felt so mucky, so rich, so real.

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