2010 marked the start of a new era for video games. The industry also transformed itself after it pushed the limits of the PlayStation3, Xbox 360 and Wii systems during the seventh generation.
Respective developers of these systems moved into uncharted territory as they experimented with new ways to play through portable systems, streaming and VR.
The eighth-generation gave developers more room to stretch their imaginations as world-building took centre stage for immersion. Some stories made an impact by celebrating franchise legacies. Other releases created worlds, which evolved with players as they grew up.
Many games revisited some beloved universes. Familiar characters were reintroduced to fit the capabilities of the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.
As the decade to a close, CGMagazine looks back at almost ten years of video games that connected players together and pushed the industry forward.
Instead of choosing “the one” title to sum up the past ten years, we looked at our own team of writers to express their choice and values.
Game: Friday the 13th: The Game
Released: 2017, 2019
Systems: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
I've never been much of a gamer, not touching a system since N64 (released in 1997). But my mom, knowing me better than I know myself, got me a Nintendo Switch. I ended up diving head- first into Mario Odyssey, feeling that old Mario 64 rush, but I was still intimidated by anything that felt "new."
Finally, Friday the 13th came to the Switch. I went for it. After an imperative lesson from my friend, Matt, I went all-out on it, actually able to hold my own in an actual video game. Madness.
But the best part wasn't the confidence to play a new style game (graduating from mostly side-scrollers). It was being able to connect with some of my best friends, who lived hours away over our joint love of Jason Voorhees and horror games, able to play and yell at each other as if the world was smaller.
My comfort in the Joy-Cons felt like the N64’s. It made sense to me. Connecting with my long-distance besties? Unreal.
Now I just need to figure out how to drive that friggin' car.
Game: Dissidia 012: Final Fantasy
System: PlayStation Portable
My favourite video game, and the game that defined its decade for me, is a bit more out there. To start, the game had a few qualities that served to draw me in. I’m no big Final Fantasy fan - I and IV are the only games I’ve put a lot of time into - but I could tell from the box art that Dissidia was a passionately made crossover.
The story mode alone is a massive, full-length RPG experience, and Duodecim’s additions of a world map, parties, and optional dungeons allow it to fully come into its own as an epic celebration of Final Fantasy.
Throw in your (extra, extra customizable) free battle, online multiplayer, daily login rewards, funny little email chains, TWO in-game shops, a music player (for a killer soundtrack), a model viewer, and the most unlockable and progression-gated content you’ve ever seen, and you’ve got a very rare example of a fighting game that’s a complete single-player package.
The grind is overwhelming, omnipresent, and horribly necessary to enjoy higher levels of play. The satisfaction of unlocking and learning can keep you going for hours in Dissidia, and I doubt I’ll have another experience that’s quite like it. Heck, just the chance to spend an hour going through the whole soundtrack was a good reason to bring it on trips.
I hope you’ll try it yourself some time, and discover the stores of treasure and fanservice it holds.
Game: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Released: 2011, 2016, 2017
Systems: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, PCVR, Nintendo Switch
In many ways, Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the game this decade just could not get over. A solid case could be made for CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, but the sheer staying power of Skyrim’s constant re-releases has made it an indelible marker of the video games industry from 2010 to 2020.
Of the platforms listed above, I own Skyrim on four of them.
I bought the game in 2011 for Xbox 360 at a whopping price of $0.36 USD thanks to GameStop’s return credit system, a handy gift-card, and sheer excitement.
Each time I got another copy of Skyrim to review, I sat there and played through the whole opening, through Bleak Falls Barrow, and to my first dragon encounter outside of Whiterun. Even in PSVR which made me hilariously motion sick.
While I spent many Bethesda E3 conferences waiting for a mobile release announcement, the fact is, we all bought Skyrim so many times we can’t even joke about it anymore. In 2019, we may not have had a proper re-release of Skyrim in a few years (though a case could be made for The Elder Scrolls: Blades just being a mobile version of Skyrim), we still use the game as a cultural touchstone.
How many “Destruction 100” and “Khajit has wares” memes have you seen in the last six months? Probably more than one. Because even though this game is over eight years old, it is a fixture of the internet zeitgeist from the early days of modern social media.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will stay with us until the entire internet takes a collective arrow to the knee.
System: PlayStation 4
Bought it on a whim despite my interest in the souls series diminishing, ended up playing it straight through within a couple of sessions. The world design, specifically the way everything connects, combined with the Gothic, Lovecraft-inspired visuals and the inclusion of the chalice dungeons is why Bloodborne is my game of the decade.
Game: Papers, Please
If you are never played 2013's dark, depressing border control simulation Papers, Please then you're probably living a happier, healthier life than I am. Out of everything I played in the past 10 years, this is the only game I can think of that is definitely on my personal top ten games of all-time list. In it, you run a border checkpoint in the authoritarian country Arstotzka as the requirements for entry become more and more draconian. You're paid per person you let through and fined for mistakes you make.
Normally, when I play a game, decisions there is a grim kind of efficiency to it. The best decision is the one that benefits me the most. That's not Papers, Please. Papers, Please is the game that asks you if a typo is enough to violate a person's privacy or if ignorance of a new law should keep a person from going home. It reminds us that while some laws are arbitrary and silly, some keep people from blowing up innocent people. Papers, Please asks the players if it is more important to obey your conscience or make enough money to feed your family for the week. It's the game that reminded me of how important indie games can be and that some games don't really need to have a defined genre. If you've never played Papers, Please you should give it and the developer's a more recent release, Return of the Ones Dinn.
Game: Final Fantasy XIV
System: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3
With so many incredible games to come from this decade, in the end, I had to go with Final Fantasy XIV.
After a tumultuous first attempt to break into the MMO genre with Final Fantasy XI, Square Enix took many lessons from that experience to not only create an incredibly successful MMO, but one that truly feels like it belongs to the mainline Final Fantasy franchise in terms of narrative, gameplay, art direction, and soundtrack.
The persistent support for the game from the development team -- thanks in part to their commitment to listening to users feedback, and in part to the team being regular players themselves -- has made it one of the most enjoyable and engaging long-running MMORPGs available today. It pushed the boundaries of the popular franchise by bringing fans into a multi-player experience without sacrificing the heart and themes fans of the series kept coming back for, and breathed a breath of new life into it, after some previously divisive titles.
Game: Monster Hunter World
System: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Monster Hunter World steals my game of the decade for being one of the most captivating action-RPGs I’ve ever played. While the 3DS entries were where I originally sunk my teeth into this previously niche monster-slaying franchise, World sparked a massive explosion of new players from all around the globe to pick up the game and experience the thrill of battling ferocious beasts together with their friends for the first time.
Capcom designed MHW to be the perfect jumping-on point for new players and they did a fantastic job by incorporating so many new quality of life improvements, while also appealing to series veterans with never before seen monsters and fleshing out the moveset for each of the 14 playable weapons with a wide assortment of badass techniques.
The recent expansion of Iceborne is just the cherry on top that not only bolstered the already diverse roster of monsters but added even more depth to the combat with the introduction of the clutch claw. Packing just as much content to experience as the base game, it’s easy to sink hundreds of hours into Monster Hunter World: Iceborne and still feel like there is so much to grind through and work towards. Currently, the game is still being updated with new monsters to fight against and new cosmetics to collect, which only serves to feed my growing addiction for this decade-defining title even more.
System: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PS Vita, PC
To me, trying to quantify the "Game of the Decade" seems like an impossible task. There have been so many games in the past 10 years that have both evolved and pushed the medium forward in so many ways, so many games that have showcased both the best and worst sides of the industry; how could anyone choose just one?
I thought long and hard about my choice, scouring over 10 years of game releases, and to me, there can be only one choice for "Game of the Decade." And that game is Undertale.
I tried to think of the biggest games of the last 10 years: games like Skyrim, Bioshock: Infinite, Journey, GTAV, or Breath of the Wild; monumental games that deeply moved me, or were genuine evolutions of their respective genres and franchises. But no game stuck with me over these many years as Undertale has.
Undertale is, in my opinion at least, a trues masterpiece; one of the best representations of video games as art over the last decade. Its gameplay is simple and familiar, yet completely different and a total subversion of the RPG genre. Its story is wonderfully crafted, and beautifully told; being funny and heartfelt, yet sorrowful and deeply touching, backed by amazing characters who you can't help but fall in love with. All backed by an incredible meta-design that adds so many layers to the entire thing.
Few games have had the kind of cultural impact that Undetale has, with dedicated fans still pouring over its many gameplay and story elements, and several games trying to emulate its style of gameplay, and meta-design. It's been five years since it's release, and I still think about it regularly. It's a game that has genuinely touched most people who have played it; and I think when a decade has passed since it's release, we'll still be remembering it fondly.
Game: Grand Theft Auto V
System: PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4
I can't really think of a better game that signified my decade more than Grand Theft Auto V. It's a grandiose refinement on everything the franchise has achieved so far. The story succeeds on all levels. Los Santos feels expansive, but not overwhelming. Each of the 3 playable characters feels distinct, well-written and felt like genuine people living in their world. I can't count the number of times I've switched characters mid-game, not to progress the story, but just to see how they were living their lives before the player took control.
That's not even taking account GTA Online, which is still continuously adding content that feels fresh and exciting, even 6 years after launch. Planning (and failing) heists, racing in ridiculous stunt courses, or just shooting each other with fireworks and flare guns; it's led to some of the most memorable fun moments I’ve ever experienced. Every time I think "I'm going to get bored and stop," they add something new game type or set of co-op missions and I get right back into it without a second thought.
GTA V is essentially the perfect AAA title. It's a massive blockbuster that is fun and chaotic but never sacrifices depth or the quality of its mechanics. It's a game that hardcore fans and casual players can get into and have an equal amount of fun. Above all else, it's the most easily replayable game I've played this generation. It's the only one I've consistently gone back to across this entire decade and felt like I got a new experience out of it every time.
Game: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Systems: Nintendo Switch, Wii U
A friend of mine once called The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild the first great open-world video game. I disagree with that statement, but I understand the sentiment behind it. Because if there’s a game to inspire such bold proclamations, Breath of the Wild is certainly it.
Breath of the Wild makes earlier open-world games feel constrained. It provides you with a set of tools and little guidance, letting you explore Hyrule however you want in whichever way you want.
The sheer freedom one has is unparalleled, as there are a multitude of approaches to any given locations, let alone the plethora of solutions for every challenge you encounter. It’s a world filled with villages tucked in the corners of the map and mountains that unveil new mysteries to uncover.
Breath of the Wild is one of the greatest adventure games because it lets you set the path and pace of your journey. With a new decade upon us, I hope that developers around the world internalize the design principles that Nintendo showcased in their masterpiece.
It’s a world to get lost in.
Game: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Systems: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC
Hideo Kojima found a way to tug at my heartstrings once again. For the industry, the last major Metal Gear Solid game made its mark on a story born from portable systems.
I grew to care about Big Boss over the decade. His life was (literally) in my hands as I snuck my way past Snake Eater 3D and Peace Walker on the PSP. I was emotionally taken after building an army of my own and stressing my R&D team out with endless unlockables.
All of this work in Peace Walker felt undone with The Phantom Pain. The sheer brilliance of it is that I felt Big Boss’ need for revenge and had an opportunity to rebuild. Like him, years of work went down with Mother Base (rest in peace, Goby).
Snake’s been through enough; won’t you say? Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain pushed him as far as Kojima’s imagination going. But the game’s relevance for social issues and open-world missions were enough to hook players in. The open-ended gameplay also made players feel accountable for how their experience went.
As a prequel, I thought it would explain subtle details left in 1998’s Metal Gear Solid. Instead, I was dead wrong. Many moments in The Phantom Pain had me on the edge of my seat, mind-blown at how the plot changed the way we saw the series as a whole.
This was risky storytelling done right in what felt like a final chapter.
Systems: PlayStation 4
Realistically I should pick Dark Souls, given it is the game that more or less kickstarted the genre and without it, there would be no Bloodborne. However, my heart of hearts will not allow this "mind over emotion", and Bloodborne is literally the game that sold me on a PS4. Aside from the oft-acknowledged framerate issues and a lack of build variety (compared to prior titles), the game is damn near perfect. Incredible aesthetic, unreal world-building, mysterious, creepy, obfuscated lore, amazing bosses, some of the best level design in the industry, and the list goes on. I've put a ridiculous and sad amount of hours into the Souls games, beginning with Demon's back in the day, but Bloodborne still reigns supreme. It's not just the GOTG for me, it's my personal GOAT. I might just pick it up and do another run to get me stoked for Elden Ring. From always makes great games, but Bloodborne is simply the best of the best.
Game: Diablo 3
System: PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Since its release back in 2012, few games have held my attention quite like Diablo 3. From the rocky start to the slow evolution over the near eight years since the team at Blizzard has worked to make Diablo 3 the game it should have been. From frequent updates, expansions, and even a slew of free content, Diablo 3 has evolved as the decade has progressed.
While Diablo 3 may have issues it has been a game that I have come back to more than any other release of the 2010s. I even was up late last night playing through another season, this time giving the Crusader a try. It is a game that although simple, has been refined into an edge that hits that special spot to unwind and just enjoy.
While Diablo 4 has now been announced, I believe I will be playing Diablo 3 long into 2020 as I wait to see what Blizzard has in store for the next installment. It is pure demon-slaying fun, and I am excited to delve into the pits of hell one last time as this decade comes to a close.
Happy New Year from all of us at CGMagazine and thank you for following us towards another decade of gaming!