GameCentral names the best video games of the last 10 years, including The Legend Of Zelda, Bloodborne, Portal 2, and more.
As if trying to decide the best games of the year wasn’t difficult enough, the fact that it’s also now the end of the decade (depending on who talk to – we’re certainly not getting into the argument of when it officially begins) means it’s incumbent upon us to also try and create a list of the best games of the last 10 years. An almost impossible task given the vast stretch of time and the fact that so many great games have almost no point of comparison.
And yet at the same time we’re pretty happy with our final top 10, even if there are lots of classic games we’ve had to leave out. Many have described this as a new golden age for video games and looking at the best of the last 10 years it becomes hard to argue against that. Although we didn’t want to get into the whole issue of the decade’s most ‘influential’ games, which is a very different question as to which are simply the best.
These are the games we enjoyed playing the most, so while Roblox or Fortnite may have been more successful that doesn’t necessarily imply anything about their quality. There are, obviously, hundreds of amazing games we’ve had to leave out but those closest to making the cut include The Witcher 3, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Undertale, NieR:Automata, Skyrim, Astro Bot, Splatoon 2, and Wolfenstein: The New Order.
10. God Of War (PS4)
Perhaps the most fascinating thing about Sony’s soft reboot of God Of War is that it wouldn’t have been nearly as effective if protagonist Kratos hadn’t been such an obnoxious sociopath in the earlier games. But time changes everything and the new game portrays his slow migration from monster to positive role model astoundingly well. Kratos’ story arc, and that of the other characters, is handled superbly, and all while being part of an action adventure that’s more than good enough to stand on its own merits.
God Of War also represents the most effective use of what’s come to be known as the Sony formula, with much better action than The Last Of Us and storytelling that, if only because of the more open-ended structure, feels as if it gives more agency to the player. The fact that it’s intended as the start of a new trilogy makes the prospect of the PlayStation 5 launch all the more enticing.
9. Mass Effect 2 (360/PS3/PC)
A lot can change in a decade and no one knows that more than developer BioWare. Today they’re in the precarious position of just coming off twin flops Anthem and Mass Effect: Andromeda, but back in 2010 they were in the middle of their greatest achievement to date: the Mass Effect trilogy. But even without the controversies over the third game’s ending it was always the second one that was the best – which was surprising really because in terms of plot it was really more of a side story.
The overall lore was never the most important element in Mass Effect 2 though, but instead the relationships you had with your crew; where romance was often an option but so too was simply being a friend who would listen or offer advice others would not dare to give. With its fair share of cornball sci-fi elements, and the option to play as an increasingly more amoral character, the end result was a near perfect mix of space opera, action role-playing, and virtual socialising.
8. Portal 2 (360/PS3/PC)
With the announcement of Half-Life: Alyx for VR headsets the prospect of new games set in the Half-Life/Portal universe is once again a reality. But it’s Portal that’s going to be the hardest act to follow. The originals managed to catch lightning in a bottle twice in a row, which was especially hard for the sequel which was many times longer than the original and had a greatly expanded cast.
But it all works superbly well, with one of the best scripts in gaming and some equally wonderful celebrity voice-acting. But none of that should take away from the fact that Portal 2 is also a fantastically clever puzzle game, that somehow manages to find the perfect balance of difficultly where it’s a genuine challenge but there’s still no overt hand-holding. If there is ever another game then great, but Valve are going to struggle to ever top this.
7. Bayonetta 2 (Wii U/Switch)
Traditional action games have almost become an endangered species over the last decade. Not in the general sense, of course, but most action titles today are either multiplayer games or feature some kind of role-playing element. But Bayonetta 2 (and its predecessor, released in 2009) are good enough that they, together with the more recent Devil May Cry 5, have been able to hold the fort all on their own.
PlatinumGames has put out some great games this decade, but Bayonetta 2 has been the purest distillation of their talents so far, with a combat system that is superficially easy to pick up but subject to layers upon layers of additional depth, the more you learn the intricacies and unlock more moves and weapons. The bizarre plot and storytelling don’t do much to enhance the experience but Bayonetta herself is one of the best new characters of the modern era and due to make a very welcome return in Bayonetta 3.
6. Ultra Street Fighter 4 (360/PS3/PS4/PC)
We were unsure whether to include Capcom’s seminal fighting game in this list or not. Not on the basis of its quality but because the original edition came out in 2009. Ultra Street Fighter 4 though, which contains all the major DLC released for the game, came out in 2014, and since it remains the most important fighting game of the last two generations it seemed right to include it.
In many ways an expanded remake of Street Fighter 2, the fourth game revived the whole genre and effectively saved it from extinction. Although it’s much better now than it’s given credit for, Street Fighter 5 failed to follow up that success, with a poor launch and a lack of content, but every successful one-on-one fighter today owes that fact to the success of Street Fighter 4 and its elegantly simple but endless entertaining combat.
5. Divinity: Original Sin 2 (XO/PS4/NS/PC)
The best role-playing game of the decade does not come from any franchise you would normally expect but instead little-known Belgian developer Larian Studios. The true heir to Baldur’s Gate and the computer role-playing games of the 90s, Original Sin 2 is a staggering work of interactive fiction, with so much depth and flexibility it feels like almost anything is possible. Its world is one of the most interactive in all gaming, not just in terms of objects but the characters you meet and how you influence them, whether through the XCOM-inspired combat or simply talking to them.
From the character creation tools to the split-screen multiplayer (except on Switch), the game is impossibly generous in term of its features and yet still manages to have surprisingly witty and accessible dialogue. Original Sin 2 is an incredible achievement and it’s going to be fascinating to see what the same team does with Baldur’s Gate 3.
4. XCOM 2 (XO/PS4/PC)
Although most of the games in this top 10 got a 10/10 score that doesn’t mean any of them are perfect, but if not for some performance issues on consoles XCOM 2 comes extremely close. Mind you, so did the original reboot, which also mixed top-level strategy with fast-paced, turn-based combat in a game whose infinite permutations ensure a completely different experience no matter how many times you play through its campaign to free the Earth from invading aliens.
But it’s not the depth of options that’s impressive about XCOM 2 but the fact that they never overwhelm what is a remarkably easy game for new players to get into. At a basic level the combat is no more complicated than pointing and shooting and the strategy level decisions open up slowly enough that you move from equipping soldiers to autopsying aliens to researching killer robots and it all seems like second nature. Expansion pack War Of The Chosen is equally good, and adds even more depth to what is undoubtedly the best strategy game of the decade.
3. Bloodborne (PS4)
If there’s one thing this generation has not been good at it’s introducing new IP. Almost everything, good or bad, has been a sequel or licensed game and yet some of the few exceptions have become amongst the most influential games of the decade. FromSoftware’s Dark Souls series inverted everything anyone thought they knew about video game difficulty and how far people were willing to push themselves if the game itself justified the effort. But it is the slightly more action-orientated Bloodborne that is so far the pinnace of From’s achievements, with absolutely peerless world-building and level design that draws you into a nightmare world that constantly evolves into something more and more terrible.
And yet always you’re given just enough hope that you can keep one step ahead of the game, with a combat system that, like the game world itself, proves to be far more varied and versatile than you first assume. Bloodborne is difficult, but only in terms of the amount of concentration and forethought it requires – raw skill is not really the issue. There’s been little sign of a sequel but if new game Elden Ring manages to be even half as good it’ll be a very special game indeed.
2. The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild (Wii U/Switch)
When a franchise has been going for 30 years and is already established as one of the most critically acclaimed video games series ever, a complete reinvention from the ground-up is the last thing you expect. But Breath Of The Wild is the most daring game Nintendo has ever made and it’s a gamble that pays off in every way imaginable. It not only reinvents Zelda but the whole concept of open world video games, while at the same still maintaining a very clear evolutionary connection with the original NES game.
Despite the massive size of the world map there’s something new to see and do around literally every corner, and yet the game is entirely non-linear and allows you to explore and experiment however you want. The lack of hand-holding is remarkable for a modern game in such a big name franchise, but the overwhelming feeling in Breath Of The Wild is one of freedom and it’s as exhilarating in the first few hours as it is hundreds later. Like all the games in our top four, a good argument can be made that it’s the best game ever made and almost makes you pity Nintendo for taking on the challenge of making a sequel.
1. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
Not only is it near impossible to compile a top 10 list of games of the decade but even once you do that you have to decide something almost equally divisive: which is best, Super Mario Galaxy 1 or 2? But the answer has to be the sequel, which somehow manages to make the original feel safe and unambitious by comparison.
Abandoning any attempt at coherence or storytelling its only mission is to entertain in the most imaginative and unpredictable ways possible, with a new idea on almost every level. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is pure interactive entertainment, that tries to ensure every moment, every action, and every button press is enjoyable in its own right. Combined with the equally inventive stage and boss design, and one of the greatest soundtracks of its generation, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the best game of the decade and one of the best video games ever made.
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