To understand where we're going, it helps to look at where we've been.
The end of one year and dawning of the next is always a time of reflection and quiet contemplation on what has been, and what we hope is yet to come.
More importantly, it's when we have the excuse to make #BestOf and #YearEnd lists ranking anything and everything that can conceivably be ranked.
Once every 10 years, though, we get lucky and are presented with the opportunity for an even greater #BestOfDecade list.
More games to play, love, and rank.
We're all gamers at Enjin (and coincidentally just over a decade old as a company), so we couldn't pass up the opportunity to make a list of our own.
Without further ado, here are the 10 games that stood out above the rest.
Enjin's Top 10 Games of the 2010s
Honorable Mention: Minecraft
The game that changed gaming, inspired conventions, and propelled YouTubers to the top of global subscription charts. We grew up alongside Minecraft, engrossed by everything that it's created and all of the possibilities that lie ahead in its future.
Alas, its 10th anniversary earlier this year means that by definition, Minecraft just missed the cut, being released in 2009.
That small matter of chronology wasn't enough to stop several Enjineers from including it in their picks, and given its consistent popularity throughout the entire decade, we couldn't make a decade-end list without honoring our blocky brethren.
Honorable Mention: Amnesia
One of the great things about us as gamers is that we all have strong opinions over what our favorite games are—regardless of whether anyone else agrees with us.
With over 70 games nominated across all the submissions, this meant a lot of games scoring maximum points from one Enjineer, and exactly zero points from all the rest.
A survival horror game from the very start of the decade, it's actually the oldest game on this list.
Looking at it now, the graphics may look a bit tired or cheesy, but a good story and gameplay can always compensate for lackluster graphics, and Amnesia is scary. Like, really, really scary.
Games can make us experience emotions like no other by putting us right at the heart of danger. Amnesia was our highest ranking horror game of the decade, proving that while looks may fade, class is permanent.
10. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Hideo Kojima's magnum opus and love letter to cardboard boxes.
The Metal Gear series has set the bar for quality consistently high, and The Phantom Pain allowed Kojima to leave the series on a high after Konami split from Kojima Productions.
What we loved about it: As well as a complex story of grief and loss, The Phantom Pain offered a tremendously deep and rich core gameplay experience. Some love to go the stealth route, some like to go brute force, and others favor subterfuge.
There's a right outcome, but there isn't a right or wrong answer.
As long as you play skillfully, any of those approaches is a viable option in most circumstances. MGSV allows you to suit your game experience to your philosophy and playstyle, ensuring that everyone can take a different experience from it which is best suited to them.
Of course, many of the favorite MGS tropes cropped up, including the aforementioned cardboard box disguise, but evolved to a whole new level.
9. Borderlands 2
Everything about Borderlands stands out, from genre-bending (a seamless combination of action, FPS, and RPG) and manic art direction to the colorful cast of crazy characters, and above all, the sense of humor to unite it all.
Different character classes (including Gunzerkers, Psychos, and Mechromancers) offer different skills and abilities for players to put to the test in both campaign and multiplayer modes, with a bevy of enhancements on the original edition making this sequel widely beloved.
Facing off against the evil Handsome Jack (an excellent name for an excellent antagonist), the Vault Hunters need to prevent him from enslaving humanity with an ancient monster.
Borderlands 2 featured a considerable deal of additional DLC across multiple seasons, fleshing out some of the (very silly) characters even more, with examples like "How Marcus Saved Mercenary Day" and combination Thanksgiving/Hunger Games spoof "The Horrible Hunger of the Ravenous Wattle Gobbler."
The strength of Borderlands lies in not taking itself too seriously, which proved to be a breath of fresh air to gamers everywhere.
8. Grand Theft Auto V
The Grand Theft Auto series has always been a hilarious parody of American pop culture, sheer mania tied up in a neat and tight narrative bow. And GTA V brought open-world fun with more protagonists and locations than before.
Never without controversy, GTA V is at its core a masterpiece in game writing and craftsmanship, tying together its three main characters with their disparate locations and storylines, providing both personal drama and high stakes alongside the trademark GTA sense of humor.
If you've ever played this game, then you know why it shows up in so many Best of Year, Best of Decade, and Best Ever lists. The weight of expectation is heavy before each GTA release, and yet Rockstar knocks it out of the park time and time again.
GTA Online has extended people's relation with this game for years, providing fresh experiences in surroundings by now so familiar they can navigate the roads with their eyes closed.
7. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
11.11.11 is a memorable date in video gaming history. It is the day that Skyrim was released, and RPGs were never the same again.
The fact that some parents named their kid Dovahkiin that day only goes part of the way in explaining just how influential Skyrim has been in video game culture and design.
An early entry in the decade, its approach to open-world RPGs set the standard for other games to follow.
From epic landscapes to epic soundscapes with massive freedom to explore, Skyrim proved a critically (and commercially) acclaimed entry into the Elder Scrolls series, spawning thousands of mods and memes as it became an obsession to gamers worldwide.
"Khajit has wares if you have coin."
FUS RO DAH!
"I used to be an adventurer like you. Then I took an arrow in the knee."
If you know what any of the above means, then you no doubt look back fondly on Skyrim, as well as the shared experiences that even single-player games can create in the gaming community. That's why, nearly a decade on, it holds a place of honor in lists like these.
6. Red Dead Redemption 2
If you missed out on the plaudits for Red Dead Redemption 2, then you may want to have your eyes, ears, and pulse checked.
As sequel to one of the most highly-rated games of all time, it might have been difficult to live up to the hype, but Rockstar managed to exceed it.
The dying embers of the Wild West make for a compelling setting, with Arthur Morgan a man out of time in a world that no longer understands him.
There's so much to love about RDR2, let me count the ways:
- Engrossing stories set in times of change.
- Gorgeous cinematic visuals of lush natural landscapes.
- Released in 2018 (the most recent title in our top 10, making best advantage of all that technology has to offer).
- A direct link to the amazing Red Dead Redemption.
- Driven by a principled badass who tries to protect his family (some parallels with 2018 contemporary God of War there).
And its success was testament to quality: RDR2 had the highest-grossing weekend in entertainment history.
The Old West may be long dead, but its spirit clearly lives on.
5. Dark Souls
If you've been around gaming for a while, you've probably seen some memes about Dark Souls, a sadistically difficult RPG created purely to break the will and spirit of innocent gamers.
They're all true.
Dark Souls is fiendish, deceptive, cruel, unforgiving... and thrilling, rewarding, engrossing, and brilliant.
FromSoftware's flagship doesn't hold your hand so much as it nails it to the wall, but with deep and challenging gameplay comes a greater sense of achievement when one finally dispatches a particularly demonic boss in the land of Lordran.
Gaming is not always Player vs. Player or Player vs. Computer. Sometimes it's Player vs. Self, as defeating the challenge of a game becomes a matter or personal pride.
Dark Souls brought ultra-difficult gaming experiences back into the spotlight in an age of increasing casual gaming, and its influences can still be felt today.
4. Portal 2
The second-oldest game in our top 5, Portal 2 was released in April 2011 but still elicits warm memories and approval amongst gamers.
In an industry where serious fare is very much de rigeur, Portal 2 went heavy on humor with GLaDOS proving to be one of the most hilarious antagonists in gaming history, more than ably backed up by Wheatley (voiced by Stephen Merchant).
What did we love about it? The combination of laughs and sheer brain-stumping befuddlement.
Portal 2 practically helped define the puzzle platformer for the modern age, involving cunning use and understanding of environments alongside a big helping of lateral thinking.
And unlike most other games in the upper echelons, you don't have to surrender your free time for weeks on end, with a relatively short playthrough clocking in at around six hours on average.
Quality > Quantity
Portal 2 proves that a good idea and great game design is just as important as utilizing the full power of all the latest tech available.
If you want your games to stand the test of time and have as much appeal a decade in as they did at release, studying the design and processes behind the making of this game can go a long way.
3. Fallout: New Vegas
The Fallout series may have come under a bit of flak recently, but when it's good, it's good good.
Fallout: New Vegas proved to be the favorite installment in the franchise for several Enjineers.
This is the oldest game to make it into our top 5, released way back in October 2010, and whilst some of the graphics and character models may admittedly have aged poorly, it remains one of the high points of a renowned series.
What we really loved about this compared to other Fallout titles was the story and how it evolved. The writing for the game is what sets it apart, still feeling fresh out the vault all these years later.
It ticks all the classic Fallout formula boxes, but it ticks them all so very, very well.
The setting is perfect for Fallout's post-apocalyptic theme, replacing a shining example of unchecked consumption and hubris with a desolate merciless desert.
Factions abound, seeking your help or plotting your demise, from the Brotherhood of Steel to a group of Roman (or Fauxman) Legionnaires, making for great replayability, even a decade on.
Companion characters actively enhance the gameplay experience with their backstories and motivations, rather than just filling space (physically and narratively).
Vivaaaaaaa New Vegas!
2. God of War (2018)
When God of War (2018) appeared on PS4, it had been a long time since Kratos made an appearance on a console game, and a lot had changed.
But it had changed for the better.
Kratos, killer of gods, swapped the sweltering Mediterranean setting of ancient Greece for the cool climate of the Scandinavian wilderness.
However, once you've established a reputation for killing gods, deities looking to take you down can never be far behind, and thus he becomes embroiled in the world of Norse mythology.
But this isn't the same anti-hero Kratos we've come to know and fear.
The prologue of the game sees him lighting his wife's funeral pyre, leaving him to honor her and care for their sickly son, bringing communication and pseudo co-op gameplay into a series that had always been about a rampaging juggernaut.
Kratos works differently from a gameplay mechanics perspective, as well as from a moral mechanics standpoint. As much a reboot as a sequel, this God of War doesn't do new for newness' sake.
Despite being released the same year as the excellent Red Dead Redemption 2, God of War stood up to the test, bringing home award after award and great rewards for SIE Santa Monica Studio.
1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Some might cry foul and say it had the benefit of a Netflix adaptation featuring a frequently-shirtless Henry Cavill bringing it back to the forefront of cultural consciousness just as the decade closed out.
I won't dispute that Cavill's Geralt of Rivia looks good in a bathtub, but what I will argue in favor of all day long is that anyone who picked up the game nearly five years ago still carries fresh and vivid memories that make it seem like just yesterday they were deciding whether to put Place of Power points toward Igni or Aard.
It's not worth playing now because the Netflix show brought attention to it—it's worth playing now because it's always worth playing.
A living, breathing, beautiful, terrible world as much as a video game, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is everything an RPG should be: the consequences of your choices affecting the overall narrative, with those choices being guided by you and your own moral compass, rather than central diktats determining only one valid course of action.
This isn't just luck making a great story from the book series fall from the sky. The script for this game was as long as four novels, with almost 1,000 speaking roles and over two years spent recording all the dialogue.
While Witcher contracts can leave you brute force hacking and slashing your way through drakes, drowners, and kikimoras, the interactions with the humans of the Continent can be just as perilous as any monsters, but require much more subtlety to navigate.
Sidequests never feel like they were put into the game as meaningless padding though; they all help to craft the world and reflect the lives of the people living there.
Everything Geralt does, every choice he makes, feels like it truly matters. This is a game to get lost in, to get emotionally invested in—to the point that you may find yourself spending hours trawling YouTube for additional lore, tutorials, and decision paths.
There's a variety to the quests as broad and deep as the variety of characters, from deeply flawed and tragic figures like the Bloody Baron, to joyous creatures like Johnny the Godling, to the terrifying Crone sisters... and that's just on one map.
Ultimately, the Witcher 3 presents you with a world that you shape—and that is one of the most compelling aspects of video games as an entertainment medium; the fact that the player has control over the narrative, rather than just sitting by as a passive observer.
If you needed a break from the the dark and heavy narrative of the game, there was always the respite of a game of Gwent, a minigame crafted with such care and attention that it spun off into two standalone games, Gwent and Thronebreaker.
And to top it all off, CD Projekt Red shipped additional DLC at a fair price, providing more gameplay experience than most full games can offer in their entirety.
Well played CDPR, well played.
Here are some fun facts about the rest of our team's picks:
- We love a lot of games. In total, over 70 different games were nominated, and no two people selected the same game as their top choice.
- There's something for everyone. Genres spanned the full range of gaming, from adventure to CCGs, horror to puzzles, RPGs to shooters, roguelikes to sports, and more.
- An acquired taste: The only series to be a number one pick by more than one person was Dark Souls, with two selecting Dark Souls and Dark Souls 3 respectively as their top pick of the decade.
- Early and late: The earliest games people nominated were actually 2009 releases (Minecraft and League of Legends), with the latest release nominated being Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice from March 2019.
- Franchise players: Several series or universes garnered multiple nominations for different games, including Assassin's Creed, Battlefield, Call of Duty, Dark Souls, God of War, Pokemon, Red Dead, and The Witcher.
- Platform exclusivity is a double-edged sword. Despite being critically and commercially acclaimed, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild only garnered one nomination. Accessibility is a key factor to universal enjoyment.
It's been great to look back at the last 10 years in gaming and the many memorable titles and advancements that have come along with it.
Now, as the 2020s dawn, we're more excited than ever before to see where gaming will go—and what amazing games the next decade will bring.
From all of us at Enjin, thank you for a magical year and decade. We wish you the happiest of holidays and a wonderful 2020.
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