Video games may be super lame, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been a very important part of my life in the 2010s. So with that in mind, I’d like to feature some of the very best the past ten years had to offer. It won’t be comprehensive and it won’t be ranked, so don’t try and argue with me because I left off Dark Demon Hunter X 🙁 It’ll mostly be limited to one game per series/creator/whatever so that I can talk about many different types of games.
First, honorable mentions for very good games that I liked a lot: Mario Odyssey, the excellent adventure platformer; Shovel Knight, the superb adventure platformer; Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which could theoretically be a platformer; and Fire Emblem Awakening, Game & Wario, Stardew Valley, and Into the Breach, none of which are platformers in any shape or function.
As for the main entries:
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (2014)
What a delight this game was! Nintendo’s backup budget title in 2014 existed mostly to tide over the precious few Wii U owners who weren’t interested in either Bayonetta 2 or the new Smash Bros. It didn’t need to be anything other than a quick diversion, but instead it was one of the most charming and innovative puzzle-platformers I’ve ever played. Also, calling it a platformer may be the biggest stretch imaginable since Toad can’t even jump, but it really does keep its 3D Mario core strong, even if the gameplay is completely different.
Something about the concept of diorama level design in video games really appeals to me. That one Luigi’s Mansion stage in Smash Bros is a good example. The 3D effect on the 3DS often served to do this, too. But Captain Toad was a game entirely centered around rotating and navigating these tiny diorama-like levels. An entire game based around it! It’s a wonder why so few games have made use of this concept since then.
Civilization V (2010)
I have like 250 hours of gameplay on Civ V according to Steam, and there is a whole lot of time not counted thanks to playing offline or playing on someone else’s computer. After obliterating every facet of Civilization Revolution both on Nintendo DS on the go and on Xbox with endless multiplayer matches with friends in high school, it was time to upgrade to the real deal–Civilization V, one of the most addictive games in existence. It isn’t as refined as its successors and not as depthy as Civ IV, but it’s a damn fantastic game and one I can hop into at any given moment. Though I shouldn’t. I’m trying to write this post…
Halo Reach (2010)
Hey, it’s not my fault Halo 3 didn’t come out in the 2010s. I’m certainly not saying Halo Reach is better than that one, but… Halo Reach is really damn good. For one, it has this hilariously stupid story that plays like an over-the-top tragedy written by 12 year olds. The campaign is super great and playing with friends has never been better. For two, the Forge mode is so robust that people are still making maps today! For three, Halo Reach does a loadout/progression system to mimic Call of Duty, but doesn’t feel cheap and gross.
I don’t really play shooty games that much anymore (I only have a Switch and a Super Famicom), but if I ever decide to revisit one and play it, it’ll be… Halo 3. But then Halo Reach will come soon after.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017)
Back when this game was first revealed, I was 100% convinced that Link was gonna be a girl this time. The reveal trailer was pretty mysterious already, but for some reason I got the impression that Link was a girl and nobody was gonna tell me otherwise.
…Link was a boy after all.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 (2010)
They perfected the 3D Mario platformer game with Super Mario Galaxy 2. The first Galaxy, while one of the better games to ever exist, was still focused on the 64-era mission-based gameplay and maybe didn’t have enough room to go completely crazy. So Super Mario Galaxy 2, acting like an expansion pack that assumes you already beat the other game, is able to deliver the insane power-ups and bizarre worlds and fantastic level design that makes it one of the best games of the decade.
They eventually wore the formula thin with 3D Land and 3D World, but for a time, I was honestly convinced that level-based instead of adventure-based may be the way to go for Super Mario games. (Luckily, Super Mario Odyssey proved me very wrong.)
One time, I made an album of horrible music called the trol seasson rock oprah, and the final song called Twelve featured some Homestuck tune that Toby “Radiation” Fox made. Weeks after it came out, I PMed him on the MSPA Forums asking for permission to use the tune sarcastically, and to my surprise, a few days later he replied saying “yeah that’s ok but never show me anything like this ever again” and from then on I pledged myself to pay penance to him by backing any and all Kickstarters he ever made.
Anyway yeah I backed the Kickstarter for Undertale and then it turned out to be one of the coolest games ever. But now twelve year olds are obsessed with it, and I can’t help but think… What if it was my song that caused this? What if Twelve… is the reason why the average age of Undertale fans is now twelve?
Did I curse Radiation for good?
Xenoblade Chronicles (2012)
JRPGs are generally way too long and have constant filler to pad a 20-hour game into a 70-hour slog. Xenoblade Chronicles looks at other JRPGs and says, “Gee, it’d be a shame if I… modernized an entire genre by taking the best of Western RPGs and using that to remove the stuff people have hated about JRPGs for decades… A real shame, huh…”
It’s a real surprise when a 70 hour game turns out to genuinely be worth playing for 70 hours. Xenoblade is something else. Also the story is pretty decent, which is a mega-surprise for any JRPG.
Kid Icarus Uprising (2012)
All y’all posers complained about the hand cramps while I was out here forging the best weapons ever.
Kid Icarus: Uprising marked the real transition from the 00s to the 10s. A reboot of an obscure NES game given the AAA treatment, with an anime-inspired art style, a self-aware (and extremely entertaining) storyline, addictive side modes that fuel replaying the main game incesstantly, and of course online multiplayer where you shoot people. It’s the epitome of everything that came to define the best of 2010s in gaming, all synthesized together in gorgeous glasses-free 3D. I even wrote all of this same stuff way back in 2012 when I gave it a hypberbolicly high 98/100 score. Props to the past version of me.
It’d be a contender for one of the greatest games of all-time in my eyes… if it weren’t on the 3DS… Maybe we can port it to the Switch sometime, huh…?
Mass Effect 2 (2010)
The entire Mass Effect Trilogy flows together so well that it’s hard to pick a favorite, but I guess since the first game is not from the 10s and the third game has that idiotic co-op multiplayer component you’re “encouraged” to play to get a better ending, Mass Effect 2 is the one I’ll pick.
You really do play these more for the story than the gameplay, since they’re competent shooters at best and the RPG elements are thin, but the sense of adventure and exploration is just so overwhelmingly cool. Mass Effect 2 in particular, despite not having the literal planetary exploration that the first game had, feels like a whole season of Star Trek: The Next Generation crammed into one game. If you’re playing the completed version with all DLC, it’s even more so, because this game had some of the best DLC expansions the world ever got (also they did a “free” Season Pass just to force you to buy the game new or you have to pay extra, which is the most EA thing ever done).
Also, I’ll never forget the fun times I had trying to figure out if I was gonna kiss Thane or Garrus or Jacob, or if I’d stay faithful to Liara who was absent from this one. The ultimate space adventure game was also the ultimate teen romantic drama!
I fucking hate this game.