When we sat down to contemplate our top games of the 2010s, it was immediately obvious just how difficult of a task it would be. This decade perhaps more than any before it had the widest range of video game experiences. It’s a decade that saw visuals get close to near photo-realistic levels in the latter part, with incredibly-detailed, high-definition worlds simply becoming the norm. But along with all of the enormous AAA experiences saw the reign of indie titles like never before. Extraordinary games developed literally by a single independent person or small team revitalized originality in gaming and ensured unique experiences catering to practically everybody. It’s also a decade that saw multiple console launches that took us all the way to 4K as well as one that seems to have blurred the lines between console and portable once and for all.
With one of the most diverse lineups of games of any decade, we thought it best for each of our writers to choose their personal Game of the Decade along with the nine other games they felt best exemplified the last ten years for them. So without further ado, here are the games released between 2010-2019 that were the most special to us here at Hardcore Gamer:
Beck’s Game of the Decade:
Final Fantasy XIV
Through the ashes of a massively failed project, Square Enix completely rebuilt Final Fantasy XIV from the ground up to be a remarkable MMO. Over the last four years, though, the game has seen the best content to ever be introduced, from the Gothic fantasy of Heavensward to the more traditional, colorful fantasy of Shadowbringers. The latter in particular has offered the best Final Fantasy story in over twenty years, containing a masterful villain you can somewhat sympathize with, and relatable themes. It’s amazing how far the MMORPG has come, not only from the original 1.0 release, but A Realm Reborn as well. It greatly hearkens on nostalgia of past games, and I’m not talking about some of the newer releases, but all the way back to the first Final Fantasy.
There’s not a single game in my library that I’ve accumulated more time with, potentially to an unhealthy degree. I’ve met many friends and acquaintances over the years and experienced some of the best content Final Fantasy has to offer. I never thought I’d ever get into raiding and participating in the more hardcore content until last year, but I love it. Working together as you progress and figure out certain fights, concocting your own strategies to success and helping others; it’s time consuming but immensely gratifying. While Square Enix built it so you could play most of the content without having to go through a network of guilds or groups, I found it far more fun to put myself out there. There’s even communities within communities, and while there’s toxicity to be found in spots, most of my experience has been incredibly positive. For me, it defined the last decade and hopefully it will define the next. I never thought I’d get into an MMORPG to this degree, yet here I am, almost every day logging in to find something new to do.
|2. Bloodborne||7. Dark Souls III|
|3. Persona 5||8. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice|
|4. Nioh||9. Deus Ex: Human Revolution|
|5. Resident Evil 2 Remake||10. Alpha Protocol|
|6. Mass Effect 2|
Chris’ Game of the Decade:
Picking a favorite game from the past decade was no easy task but the title that impressed me the most was NieR: Automata. A sequel to the 2010 cult classic Nier, NieR: Automata takes place thousands of years in the future in a dystopian world where humans have fled to the moon while androids and machines are fighting an endless war. It can be debated whether the original or sequel had more interesting characters or heartbreaking scenarios but Automata showed a vast improvement in gameplay mechanics. What makes Automata so memorable is difficult to do justice without actually experiencing it. The story and its presentation are prime examples of why video games should be viewed as art the same way films are, as this is one of those games that can get tears flowing with the best of depressing cinema.
The story of 2B and 9S is an emotional tale but this extends not only into the relationship between those two androids but many other machines and androids encountered throughout the game. Alongside the gripping emotional narrative the machines offer great moments of commentary on human nature and modern society, as they have started using their limited AI to replicate what they’ve witnessed in society to interesting and occasionally humorous results. After the story the greatest asset is the original soundtrack, which perfectly fits the one of the game. The single greatest moment in the soundcheck occurs toward the end of the Japanese language version of the song Weight of the World (around 4:35 if anyone wants to check) when the singer’s voice breaks as if she’s started crying, which can continue to be heard for the remainder of the song. NieR: Automata is not only a great game but one that transcends the assumed limitations of video games as a medium.
|2. Horizon Zero Dawn||7. Dragon Age Inquisition|
|3. Dragon Quest XI||8. The Last of Us|
|4. Divinity: Original Sin II||9. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim|
|5. Red Dead Redemption||10. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night|
|6. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt|
Cory’s Game of the Decade:
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
A lot of the last generation seemingly has gotten buried, but there’s no denying the impact of what The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim had on the gaming world in the last decade. Yes, Bethesda milked the franchise and plenty of memes came from it. On the other hand, you have to wonder if Game of Thrones would have had the success it had if not for Skyrim due to people wanting something similar to watch rather than play. Skyrim is such a unique experience that Bethesda only did one Elder Scrolls this decade outside of the MMO. It was converted to VR for a completely different experience. The PC community had a field day with mods that would either increase the visuals or replace NPCs and other enemies with random icons.
Skyrim’s playability stands out on its own with including the Shouts mechanic and battling literal dragons. The music would be worth paying to see in concert. Nothing truly says winter like Skyrim does, no matter how hard Game of Thrones tries. The ability to craft your player towards a specific style and to make them good or evil is just the base of the cake. Joining specific guilds and factions to truly craft who your character is and a game that just has so much depth led me to play 400 hours of this over the course of a few years. Players would have to brace themselves with random encounters and pay the price for their decisions all making for the premiere individualistic experience. The fact that so many people got caught up in all the great aspects of the game and didn’t complete the main story is truly a good thing about the game. Unnecessary fetch quests after beating the story that feels forced for the sake of having replayability is not really a thing here. The launch of the game went smoothly and provided the best single player experience in the past decade. While it may feel a little dated now and clearly fans are anticipating the next game, it’s completely viable to go back and play this masterpiece.
|2. Grand Theft Auto V||7. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night|
|3. Diablo 3||8. Gran Turismo Sport|
|4. Resident Evil 7||9. X-COM: UFO Defense|
|5. Resident Evil 2 Remake||10. Twisted Metal|
Fran’s Game of the Decade:
When tasked with picking a personal Game of the Decade, so many different games came to mind. It actually became a contemplative assignment as I found myself going down the rabbit hole of titles I’ve experienced. Goodness, I’ve played so many games in the last decade that it’s almost difficult to believe. My criteria for “Game of the Decade,” however, comes down to a memorable experience that’s lasted the entire decade — and beyond. Dark Souls is my Game of the Decade because of the cultural impact it has had in gaming history and because of the sheer number of times I’ve revisited it over the years. This first installment in the Souls series expanded on gameplay from its Demon Souls predecessor to create an intuitive experience like no other. Everything from combat to exploration relied on the player’s intuition and technical skill to finish the game. But it’s also more than that, as Dark Souls’ intricate level design created an interwoven map with shortcuts and various routes to the same destination that required even more reliance on the player’s knowledge of the game. Would we wander into an area with enemies that were too high level for us? Would this shortcut actually lead to the safe-haven of Firelink Shirne and bridge the gap between areas? There was so much of the game that we needed to figure out for ourselves and that made for a rewarding experience once we did figure out the title’s intricacies.
It’s also a component of the game that beckoned players to try multiple playthroughs and discover new elements. While the game might have come out in 2011, I’ve played Dark Souls (and all of its successors) so many times over the years that it still hasn’t gotten old. Everything from creating new character builds to attempting specific story lines have drawn me to the game time and time again. It was the first game that truly challenged me as a veteran player and forced me to master technical skills. It became a social game that I would play with friends because of the summoning feature — where we could run around and laugh at our own mistakes. It’s also a title that helped spark the “souls-like” genre for the future of gaming. There are so many current generation games that have taken the Dark Souls approach to some component of its gameplay — whether its combat, map layout, boss design, etc. — it’s difficult to ignore the title’s cultural significance. Because of the impact Dark Souls has left on me and gaming overall, I’ve chosen it as my Game of the Decade.
|2. Transistor||7. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt|
|3. Journey||8. Hyper Light Drifter|
|4. NieR: Automata||9. Overwatch|
|5. The Last of Us||10. Batman: Arkham City|
|6. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild|
Jacob’s Game of the Decade:
The 2010s were a crazy decade for gaming, weren’t they? Some things changed for the worse, but I think gaming as a whole has gotten better. We’ve had a ton of fantastic games come out in these past ten years and one of the greatest has to be Supergiant Games’ Transistor. Transistor is that special kind of game that only comes around once in a generation; everything about it works together beautifully to create a truly engrossing experience. Its setting, the city of Cloudbank, is a place filled with eye-catching sights thanks to its cold and dreamy art direction. Every location is ornate and beautiful, but altogether too clean; it’s as if the whole world is artificial. Transistor’s story and lore play into this, describing a place that’s impossible within normal reality but totally feasible within virtual reality. There’s even the implication that everything the player sees in Cloudbank is just a metaphor for computer processes. All of Transistor is up for interpretation and the game thrives all the more as a result.
Transistor’s greatest strengths have to be its combat system and protagonist, though. I’ve never seen anything quite like Transistor’s combat anywhere else. It’s a system that’s both turn-based and real-time, giving the player a wealth of options. One can use both styles or focus entirely on either one. Character builds can be changed constantly, vary dramatically and behave differently within both styles of combat. As for Red, our protagonist, she’s able to captivate without saying a single word thanks to being shown through the eyes of the one closest to her. Suffice it to say, Transistor is a unique and wonderful experience that’s shined brighter than any other this decade. Try it if you haven’t already.
|2. Hollow Knight||7. God of War|
|3. Mass Effect 2||8. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim|
|4. Persona 5||9. Super Mario Odyssey|
|5. NieR: Automata||10. Minecraft|
|6. Halo: Reach|
Jake’s Game of the Decade:
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
No game has been able to capture my imagination, sense of nostalgia and taste for adventure quite like Breath of the Wild. It’s truly a masterpiece both for video games and the Zelda series. With the ability to climb every mountain, pick up any weapon and take down giant monsters, it has taken the legend to new levels. I’ve put in hundreds of hours just enjoying every second and still pick it up from time to time. It even brought me back to the days of my first adventures through Hyrule and it takes ones breath away with how far The Legend of Zelda has come. A wide open area, advancements in Link’s character, splendid art design and a fulfilling story culminate to give me a thrilling adventure every time I play. Plus, downloadable content that was released makes it even more of a challenge.
There are so many mysteries in the game that keep me in constant awe. Everything about Breath of the Wild makes it one of the best games of the entire decade. With a sequel on the way I am more than excited to see what my next journey will bring in this long-running and beloved series.
|2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim||7. Splatoon|
|3. Pokemon Black and White||8. Pokken Tournament|
|4. Dishonored||9. Super Mario Odyssey|
|5. Pokemon X and Y||10. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate|
|6. Shovel Knight|
James’ Game of the Decade:
It’s hard to overstate how strongly Minecraft hit when it launched into alpha in 2010. While the test versions were available as early as 2009, most people heard about the game when the alpha launched a year later and videos that seemed truly incredible showed up. Someone made a replica of the NCC-1701-D in Minecraft, can you believe that? By today’s standards the Enterprise isn’t a bad little starter project, but at the time it was mindblowing a game could allow that kind of open creativity. By mid-January 2011 sales were over a million, which seemed unbelievable at the time but is only 0.56% of last May’s 176,000,000 units. While Minecraft’s popularity has slowed down a little since its most popular period there isn’t a game out there that wouldn’t do deeply questionable things to see the additional four million units it’s picked up in the intervening time between May and now. The 2010s were the decade of Minecraft, and with very good reason.
It’s easy to take Minecraft for granted, just part of the background hum of gaming, but several smart decisions have kept it alive and welcoming. Most important is that Minecraft has always kept all-ages, remaining kid-friendly while still having more than enough depth to make teens and adults happy. Creative mode and the modding community make it so everyone can play their own way, whether that be a builder-vs-world assault on staying alive or a straightforward focus on building, building and building some more without any fear of creeper-holes marring the structures. The constant updates its received have guaranteed players always have something new to look forward to and the migration to a new engine has been handled carefully to make sure both the old Java and newer Windows 10 versions are viable options. Minecraft has taken care of its players over the years and they keep coming back for more. Unless they grow out of it, in which case give it some time and odds are good they’ll come back ready for more, rediscovering the game of their youth is still as good in reality as it is in memory.
|2. Thumper||7. The Binding of Isaac|
|3. SuperHot VR||8. Dragon Quest Builders 2|
|4. Firewatch||9. Polybius|
|5. Pinball Arcade||10. Factorio|
|6. Talos Principle|
Jordan’s Game of the Decade:
The original Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii will always herald a personal importance, being the game that brought my passion and interest for video games back from the brink of oblivion. So it’s evermore beneficial that the game that reignited the flame, nearly a decade on, remains one of the defining examples of what JRPGs can be in the so-called “modern” era. Monolith Soft may have already tested the boundaries between fantasy and sci-fi previous, but Xenoblade’s putting the struggles and above all else, the coming-together of its characters, to the forefront is what truly shone. The genuinely diverse cast on show on the surface aren’t anything to write glowingly about. But it’s their interactions, their trust in one another and at times the simple banter they share with each other that gave this “main party” such a welcome levity of humanity and more importantly, reason to care. Both in their triumphs, but also in their own personal failure-come-redemptions.
But to go beyond its story — to architect a curious world (the organic and synthetic contrasts of Bionis and Mechonis alike) that made you feel small in a gigantic world but in no way insignificant or to dish out a soundtrack that strove for all manner of emotional/contextual relevance. Even the combat system, with its fitting emphasis on synchronous co-operation, complete with a narratively-relevant “foresight”-styled gimmick. Xenoblade Chronicles was one of the few games of the past decade whose 120+ hour requirement to see the end credits was worth every second. What starts as a simple tale of revenge eventually unfolds into an astounding showcase of character bonds, environmental wonder and a growing investment for the reason behind this world’s very being.
|2. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel||7. Bloodborne|
|3. Cuphead||8. Pony Island|
|4. DOOM (2016)||9. Tetris Effect|
|5. Undertale||10. Spec Ops: The Line|
|6. Fallout: New Vegas|
Kevin’s Game of the Decade:
The Last of Us
Naughty Dog, perhaps better than any other studio, showcased how cinematic a game could be back in 2009 with Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. The near perfect blend of storytelling and gameplay catapulted the studio into mainstream recognition. Who knew that, just a few years later, Naughty Dog would manage to topple their own work with a brand new IP. The Last of Us (released 2013) became the ultimate embodiment of combining gameplay and storytelling into one compelling package. Set against the backdrop of the fall of humanity to the Cordyceps virus, the game follows Joel as he attempts to escort an immune survivor, Ellie, to a group researching a cure. What starts as a simple mission quickly spirals out of control and ends with the players unsure of who are the good guys and who are the bad.
Emotional, tense and both heart and gut-wrenching at the same time, The Last of Us pushed boundaries in plot, performance, graphics and gameplay, delivering an experience that’s still talked about to this day. Despite being nearly seven years old, The Last of Us remains at the forefront of discussions within the industry and is why its sequel, The Last of Us: Part II, is so anticipated. It’s been a banner decade for gaming, and PlayStation in particular, but nothing comes close to topping the combination storytelling, performances, artistic design, and gameplay of The Last of Us.
|2. Journey||7. Horizon Zero Dawn|
|3. God of War||8. Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep|
|4. Battlefield: Bad Company 2||9. Bloodborne|
|5. Marvel’s Spider-Man||10. Call of Duty: Black Ops II|
|6. Titanfall 2|
Kirstin’s Game of the Decade:
The last ten years were some of my favorites for gaming as a whole, but the one title that always sticks in the back of my mind is Xenoblade Chronicles. This title crafted a world, characters and story that weaved itself into my mind and has made it hard to forget anything about the monumental adventure it delivered. While I initially brushed this title off when looking at footage, I eventually came back to it because I felt so intrigued by it. When I finally started playing, it gripped me immediately and from start to end I was in love. JRPGs have always been a mixed bag with me with many requiring too much grinding or tedious repetitive gameplay, but Xenoblade Chronicles was built around its side quests and exploration for experience instead of hacking away at monsters continuously to get stronger. All the quests just deepened my interest in the unique world and many side characters to the point I found myself more immersed than with any other game I’d played in quite some time.
From start to finish, Xenoblade Chronicles never lets up. The story is constantly wanting to move forward, but always gave me time to explore the massively amazing titan world at my own pace. At times there was so much to do it almost felt overwhelming, but it was always easy to reel it back and focus on the task at hand. This title is also the owner of what I would consider one of the best video game soundtracks ever made and one I still regularly listen to. Xenoblade Chronicles went above and beyond what many thought the Wii was even capable of and made a name for itself as one of the system’s most outstanding titles for its environments alone. So whether it’s exploring the gorgeous world, listening to funny quips of the characters, experiencing the emotional heartbreak they go through or simply fighting monsters this title earned my love and will remain one of the best gaming experiences I hope to continue sharing with others.
|2. NieR: Automata||7. Ys III: The Lacrimosa of Dana|
|3. Save Me Mr. Tako||8. Kid Icarus: Uprising|
|4. Gravity Rush 2||9. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective|
|5. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate||10. Stardew Valley|
|6. Ai: The Somnium Files|
Kyle’s Game of the Decade:
In a decade where triple-A game publishers have pumped millions upon millions of dollars into development and marketing, attempting to create “live services” with more homogenized gameplay and diminishing returns, it feels satisfying to be reminded that one of the most successful and influential games that had a vastly larger impact on gaming and pop culture was a little indie RPG was made for about one thousandth of the budget. Well, “little” may not be the best word to describe Undertale, as Toby Fox’s absolute gem concealed a massive amount of detailed gameplay and intelligent writing underneath its 8-bit exterior. Characters like Sans and Undyne still remain insanely memorable years after the game’s release, largely thanks to incredible writing and a sharp, terrific sense of humor that was present throughout everything, alongside surprisingly dramatic and even horrifying moments as well. But what made Undertale stand out — scratch that, what makes it STILL stand out — is how far it went in deconstructing RPGs and video games in general. Would save scumming be ethical if people knew what power you had? Can you really justify attacking enemies who don’t actually want to hurt you? And how far would you truly go for one hundred percent completion? It has so many surprising twists that going in blind is still recommended if you haven’t played it.
Undertale is a game hearkening back to the days when urban legends about hidden secrets and cheats were gossiped about and shared with friends when it came to video games, where experimentation and exploration is wholly encouraged in order to discover the insane amount of tricks put into the world (like a seemingly innocent donut you purchased hours ago now allowing you to skip a whole boss battle). And it is a terrifically designed world, one with a lot of love poured into every inch of it. Cripes, we don’t even have room to discuss the unique and perfectly-executed mix of gameplay genres, especially when it comes to combat. So let’s just end by saying that Undertale was the decade’s most clever, fun, creative and shocking game, and I am fully determined to stand by that claim.
|2. Celeste||7. Sunset Overdrive|
|3. Cuphead||8. Night in the Woods|
|4. Fallout: New Vegas||9. What Remains of Edith Finch|
|5. Shovel Knight||10. Dead Rising 2|
|6. Tales from the Borderlands|
Steve’s Game of the Decade:
Grand Theft Auto V
The 2010s truly ended up being an amazing decade for gaming that offered up unforgettable experiences from every genre. Choosing a single game to be the overall favorite is a near impossible task, but one game’s legacy made it impossible to ignore. While games can offer anything from an emotional, psychological experience to adrenaline-pumping action, one thing that ultimately has us coming back for more is the pure fun and escapism of the medium. And when it comes to that in the past decade, it’s hard to top Grand Theft Auto V. Featuring an enormous world that seemed like a self-contained universe, it’s easy to get lost in the game for hours on end as you do practically anything desired.
The driving mechanics are spot on, the action fast and the world fully-formed. It’s a game where even a radio station has an impact (I still regularly listen to many of the songs debuted or showcased in the game). One of the best-selling games of all time that continues to be purchased almost ten years after its release, Grand Theft Auto V is the culmination of the fantastic series in a way that will be hard to top next generation. It might not be a revolutionary experience, but it’s an endlessly entertaining one that won’t be forgotten.
|2. The Last of Us||7. Hotline Miami|
|3. Tales from the Borderlands||8. Red Dead Redemption|
|4. Journey||9. Persona 5|
|5. Bloodborne||10. Lumines Electronic Symphony|
|6. Call of Duty: Black Ops II|