Hey gang! It’s Andy Larson, world class comic book podcast host and occasional insane gamer. I only say occasional because there are massive amounts of video games that are extremely popular that I’ve never played. In fact, after the PS3, I held out on buying a new video game console for years until the Nintendo Switch and the pressures of being a loving and adoring Dad to my cute kids finally got the better of me last year.
However at the same time, I do pay pretty close attention to video game news and have written more video game related articles here at GotS than most of my other fellow co contributors. In fact, even during those dark days when I refused to buy a PS4 or Xbox One, I still found myself downloading massive amounts of newer titles via Steam to my PC, most of which I never played. So at least I was aware of them, and there importance to video gamer culture..even as they sat there collecting dust.
Yes, at the end of the day, whether it was because of the podcast, the massive influx of comics I have to read now, or again the fact that I want to be a good Dad to my kids, the 2010s will be remembered as the decade that I largely took a break from playing a lot of video games.
So when it was decided that for January’s list challenge around the GotS offices would be a recap of the top video games from the last decade, I won’t lie that I started to sweat some. I mean, I never even played Fortnite! Or Dark Souls! Or The Last of Us! Oh brother, am I in for a world of hurt! I can feel my street cred as a gamer just being sucked down the tubes!
But then I remembered that the decade is in fact, a hell of a lot of time, and in fact, there have been plenty of really great games released in the past 10 years, that are not only critically acclaimed, but I actually played them! So although I won’t front that most of this list is made up of games that were released in the first 5 years of this decade, they are all games I played and more importantly beaten. That’s always a true test of a good game as to whether I’d invest the time to actually play it through to the end.
So without further ado, here’s my list of the My Top 10 Favorite Video Games of the 2010s!
As my representative of the traditional side scrolling adventure game which at least to me should never be a game genre that goes out of style, I had to include one of those entertaining examples of this type of game I’ve played in years. Fusing a rich and fascinating backstory steeped in Mexican culture and the tried and true game mechanic of the hallowed Metroid-vania, Guacamelee goes well beyond just its quirky premise. I mean it would be easy to dismiss this game as a Symphony of the Night clone in a Lucha Libre mask, but I feel in doing so, you’d be severely undercutting both the incredible design work as to the look and feel of the game as well as the insanely well done board layout.
Trust me it’s not easy to build a game where backtracking to different sections once you’ve unlocked certain powers that make them accessible. I’ve seen a lot of games attempt to do this, but few make it as fluid and natural as Guacamelee does. Plus some of them are downright original, such as turning into a chicken to access smaller areas and my personal favorite transporting back and forth from the worlds of the living and the dead, which is a concept very much at the heart of Mexican folklore.
Plus it’s got a great Co op 2 player mode, and for god’s sake, how many times can you say you played a video game where you get to suplex a magical talking Jaguar man to death!?! That is after laying down the big elbow on his furry punk ass!
9.) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
I know what you are saying. Skyrim so low on my list? What gives?!?
Well, honestly I was nearly thinking of not including the game at all until my better judgement sensors deep within my brain told me that its omission would be like committing “list contest” suicide, and that no self respected gamer would vote for mine if I didn’t. So yes, you could consider it’s inclusion on my list more than a little pandering to the masses, but it’s not as if I didn’t enjoy the game while I was playing it. Hell, I actually played this game while my 6 month old son was curled up is his BABYBJORN resting on my chest.
In fact, I played this game for over two years, until I had earned every single trophy that the original game had to offer on the PS3, before I defeated the final dragon, beating the game once and for all, and throwing the game in a box never to be seen again.
But that’s why it’s so low on my list. Despite all of that, I didn’t think it was very good. Sure, from an open world perspective, the game blew my mind with the breath of things you could accomplish. Things that gamers had been aching to do in an RPG forever, like taming and riding your own dragon for God’s sake! And for all of that it definitely belongs to be on a list of the top games.
However, at the same time, the overall story was pretty bland and more importantly it suffered from the same problem that plagues all of Bethesda’s games. This little something I call “God Creep”. Whether it was this game or Fallout 3 or 4, there eventually becomes a point in the game where you get to such a high level and amass such great equipment, that every single challenge the game presents becomes easy to defeat. You are just so Godlike in terms of your power that you can accomplish anything, do anything, and all foes are crushed beneath your feet. You don’t care about the reason you are doing a quest because there are no stakes if you lose. It’s just a giant open world hack and slash at this point, and that just doesn’t cut it for me.
So although I respect Skyrim enough as a game and enjoyed it well enough to include on my Top 10, I can’t rank it any higher because it lacks in both story and challenge after a while, and I expect more from a truly great game.
8.) Super Mario Maker 2
As previously mentioned on one of my Monthly Hit List articles last year, the moment I took my cohost, Chad’s advice and picked up a copy of the original Super Mario Maker game, a sandbox style level building game featuring arguably the most famous video game character ever, I was indeed hooked. However, with the release of it’s sequel on the Switch, my expectations for a game that was even better than the first have been blown away!
Although I will admit that I miss the WiiU’s touch screen approach to level building, the fact that they have included several key additions to the Switch version of this game that has made for an immensely satisfying family experience. First and foremost, this game introduces local and online multiplayer modes to the Super Mario Maker show as it were. This includes the option for co-op course creation, where a buddy can join you locally to help create whatever crazy complex Mario levels your combined imagination can cook up. This helps greatly with minimizing fights between my kids as to who gets to build the course as well as teaching them how to collaborate on a shared project.
Additionally, the new ability to allow up to 4 players to complete the user-made courses, is insanely great as since the original Super Mario Brothers Wii, one of the major draws of the side scrolling Mario games has been the ability to play them co op.
But what really put this over the edge and got this game on the list was the recent addition of the “Master Sword” item as a power up item which transforms Mario into Link from Legend of Zelda complete with sword, arrow, and bomb attacks! So it’s pretty much like getting a side-scrolling Zelda game builder now as well as a Mario game!
Yeah, I know “building games” might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but c’mon every kid in the 80s wished at some point they could make their own video game. This game gives you all the tools to do just that in all that wonderful 8 bit goodness, so if you are going to pony up some cash for one, I would highly recommend that it be this one.
7.) Borderlands 2
When it come to first person shooters, I hate to say that train passed me by a long time ago. As someone that’s never been a particular fan of the genre, I can say I honestly haven’t missed the fact that I’ve never played games like Overwatch, Destiny, Forenite, Far Cry, and/or the host of Call of Duty games released since this decade began. In fact, when I was looking for a token inclusion from this genre for my list, I managed to limit it to just two.
The first was Bioshock Infinite, which I will admit was gorgeous to play what with all the swinging along the sky-rails, diving from zeppelins, and the entire steampunk vibe. In fact, this was 11 entries long, it would be probably made the list.
The only issue I had with it was the story so damn depressing, especially the ending which was the epitome of being a “one hell of mind f*cking debbie downer”, and like I said about Skyrim, story matters.
So instead I went with a shooter that had enormous personality, charm, and dark humor enough to even make my wife sit up and play through completion. Yep, I’m talking about heading back to Mad Max style planet of Pandora to fight Handsome Jack and his crew of cronies on the way to liberating a vault full of goodies in Borderlands 2.
As is the case with some of the very first sequels to a successful video game, Borderlands 2 managed to pull a Mega Man 2 of sorts, carrying over the successful aspects of its predecessor while expanding its scope and fixing imperfections without going overboard. The co op multiplayer was tight, the trading and upgrading of weapons and gear solid, and the difficulty was well balanced to allow for a rewarding challenge without feeling like you were simply frag bait. For the record, I was an Axton guy. The wife of course played as Maya. Yeah, we rawked it as that sweet ass gaming couple everyone wants to play with!
Plus again, there’s that crisp funny tongue and cheek humor that seems to satire other shooters in a way that I hadn’t seen before. I mean, there’s a quest in which they beg you to just shoot this guy in the face. And his name is Face McShooty! And he screams at you “FACE FACE FACE FACE FACE!” after which point if memory serves he says “Thank you” after shooting him in said face. It’s just tremendous. I’ll take that any day over the crushingly serious tone that Bioshock gave me. That was like driving to someone’s funeral…
6.) Diablo 3
What took you so long Blizzard? Seriously…it was over a decade since the release of the expansion pack to Diablo 2! Too Busy counting all that Worlds of Warcraft money that’s been dumped in your lap over the past several years?
Regardless, I guess they knew what they were doing as this game went on to set the new record for “fastest-selling PC game” by selling over 3.5 million copies in the first 24 hours of its release, and became the best-selling PC game of 2012 by selling over 12 million copies. Now even 8 years out, this game has sold over 30 million copies and has been ported on nearly every single big name system out there including PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch.
And rightfully so given how visually stunning and enjoyable the game ended up being. It’s hard for me to say that Blizzard shouldn’t take its time with all Diablo games from this point on just based on how wonderful this one turned out to be. I mean, sure you could just say this is more of the hack ‘n slash brawling against waves and waves of disgusting looking devilish creatures, but from the character selection to socketing and enchanting of certain weapons, to the enhanced quest system, a random level generator, and a random encounter generator all working towards giving you a different “game” as it were every time you started a campaign, everything is built to maximize your ability to replay this game over and over again.
Of course, the multiplayer is also a key reason I’ve included this game on my list and Diablo 3′s ability to make that co op happen everywhere and anywhere, with it’s “drop in and out” function was a huge improvement to Diablo 2.
For the record, it did become quite the family affair at the Larson house, with my brother Dave playing the Witch Doctor, Ethan as the Demon Hunter, Nicole as the Sorceress and my brother in law, Chris, playing as the Barbarian. If you were wondering that meant my character was the Monk.
In retrospect, it’s wasn’t a terrible class for me as he’s a damage dealer but not the main tank. His job is to go in there first deal damage and move on to another group before the enemy has time to strike back. It was pretty much a roamer character which does fit my style to a tee, never in one place, moving around attacking from behind and so forth.
Plus the monk seems to fit my personal appearance as well what the beard and the ahem…less than follicled head. Not that I’m going bald mind you…however I do have some thinning hairline…oh why am I drawing attention to this.
5.) Red Dead Redemption
First off, I’ll admit I’ve never been a GTA guy. None of the Grand Theft games have ever really appealed to me. Maybe it’s because I’m too much of a goody two shoes to car jack innocent people and beat up prostitutes. But you give me some good old fashioned horse stealing and a high noon gunfights in the dusty streets of the Old West, and I’ll be your Huckleberry.
In a game that still plays remarkably well for being a decade old, Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption is a masterpiece of both design and replayability transporting you back to time filled with grizzled old prospectors, cattle rustling, and where the Gatling gun was considered the nuclear option.
Besides having an overwhelming solid story to go along with it’s campaign mode, what I really loved was the multiplayer options. Nothing’s still better than putting together a posse to round up some gang of polecats that have barricaded themselves up in a broken down pueblo deep within the desert mountains. Or riding into town to meet up at a saloon to play a game of Liar’s dice over a shot or two of whiskey. That’s what really made this game special. It authentically recreated all of those great memories you had of westerns over the years and let you experience it for yourself rather than just watch it. That’s pure escapism. That’s the reason you play video games.
Plus if you were bored just hunting mountain lions and robbing stagecoaches, you could load up the Undead Nightmare expansion pack with all that wonderful zombie goodness. Plus you could track down Bigfoot in that version of the game. That’s definitely worth inclusion on any Top 10 list!
4.) Pokemon Go
If you would have told me in the mid 2000s that one of my favorite games of the next decade would have been played exclusively on my phone, I would have laughed out of my mediocre furnished bachelor pad. But here I am a father of two kids insanely obsessed with all things Pokemon and of course sooner or later I had to break down and get the game that has brought more random strangers together in church parking lots than Jesus, I’m talking Pokemon Go!
Devised as an insidious way to make folks play video games while just walking around, it really is a remarkable idea. I mean the whole Pokemon culture is built around this notion of a world filled wild Pokemon creatures just wandering around and you have to catch them! So they built this game which actually made that a reality. Knowing full well you carry your phone around all the time nowadays as opposed to a video game console, they hooked into your GPS, created an elaborate network of Gym locations and Poke stops, and armed an armada of us fans with digital Pokeballs before letting us loose on a world that I still don’t think is fully aware of the consequences of this simple game.
It’s a revolutionary game playing experience that melds the real world and the digital one into an interesting harmony. Of course, things could be better what with Poke duels being still somewhat cumbersome. But with the inclusion of Team Rocket to battle this year, and the possibility of PokeSleep allowing you to train Pokemon while you rest, the sky seems like the limit for this game as it continues to pervade more and more of the gamers everyday life.
Now if they can only use advanced cloning techniques to make the Pokemon creatures real…then the conversion will be complete!
3.) Batman: Arkham City
Yeah, there’s no question that Rockstar Games knows what the heck they are doing when it comes to developing some of the very best bang for your buck titles out there. First it was Red Dead, then they hit me over the head with what’s still the very best super hero related games out there (and I should know…we did a whole show about these).
Unlike it’s predecessor which was more or else a 3D Metriod-vania game, Arkham City really was the first stab at making an open world Batman game, and one of the very few open world superhero games. And just like Red Dead fulfilled a dream of being a cowboy in the old west, Arkham City made you really feel as if you were the Caped Crusader diving from rooftops dishing out heaping helpings of knuckle sandwiches to the criminal underbelly of Gotham. With tremendous voice acting by Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as the Joker, plus an extensive list of the best of Batman’s rogues gallery and all the gadgets necessary to really strike fear into the superstitious and cowardly lot that these bad guys are, it was a game I definitely could not put down for months.
By the way, I have heard that the PS4 Spider-man game is just as good only with Spidey in the role instead of Bats. Only problem is I didn’t play that game so I can’t in good conscience put it on the list. Plus the fact that this game did come first, so who’s to say they just didn’t “Arkham City” up Spidey for it.
2.) Mass Effect 2
Alright. Who am I not to include a game which a lot of folks not only list as one of the greatest games of this decade, but as one of the greatest games ever made of all time!
Yes, in fact, some have said Mass Effect 2 is somewhat of the Empire Strikes Back of video games, in that it’s a sequel that in someways far outpaces its predecessor and really put the particular game franchise on the map. In fact, I could argue that if this game had not been so well received and loved by so many then you wouldn’t have had that equally enormous fan backlash when Mass Effect 3 hit the shelves and it wasn’t up to everyone’s lofty expectations. That’s what happens with a hit of this magnitude. It changes the entire landscape, and suddenly a video game ceases to be just a video game and becomes something transcendental.
Of course, it’s all true as well. This game was beyond excellent to the point that it stopped being a game so much as an interactive movie. You became so attached to Commander Shepard, Miranda Lawson, Garrus Vakarian, the robotic bad ass Legion, the Quarian engineer Tali’Zorah, Krogan super soldier Grunt, and so many others that it felt the same way you did when you saw Star Wars for the first time. These characters were developed so extremely well, that they leapt off the screen and into your imagination. It didn’t hurt that BioWare gave you such interesting side quests explaining their backstories all of them in such wonderful detail. It also didn’t hurt that they threw in that relationship engine which allowed you to get Shepard to hook up with one of his crew mates (cough…Miranda…cough…always sexy Miranda).
In fact, the game inspired such love in me that I even had my definite version of what Commander Shepard looked like. I had gotten some special Dragon armor thanks to the fact that I had also played Dragon Age: Origins, so I put Shepard in that for all field missions. It had such an impact that when I got Mass Effect 3, I instantly had to put him in that costume as well. Anything else just wouldn’t have been the same Mass Effect…
1.) Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Anti Skyrim.
This is what you get when you take everything I complained about with the revolutionary game play of Skyrim and fix it. This is a open world fantasy adventure with an incredibly engaging story, a complex mythology that goes back decades, an iconic hero you immediately want to play as, and a level of difficulty that always challenges but balances that with a real sense of reward.
Of course, its a game that could only come from the Legend of the Zelda franchise, the granddaddy of all open world adventure games. However, more than that, in playing this game, I realized that this was the game I had been waiting a lifetime to play. Ever since the original Legend of Zelda first made me want to pick up a wooden sword back in 1986 and run around in the woods near my house fighting pretend moblins, I dreamed of a game in which the whole of Hyrule was delivered to me in the way Breath of the Wild had.
A game in which I could jump on a horse and ride deep into the deserts of the Gerardo, or scale the fiery Mount Death in search of some secret cavernous labyrinth. In fact, this was the first game I can remember where I actively was excited just to explore the open world they had given me, searching for hours for all the hidden treasures and easter eggs they had loving folded into the tapestry of this video game.
All of that and more came true with a game that did more than just recycle Legend of Zelda Greatest Hits, but added new dimensions to the gameplay and overall saga. Who now could play a Zelda game and not think of the Guardians, those spider like walking cyclopic tanks or the great Divine Beasts, those enormous animal shaped steampunk mechs, both of which added a new dimension to the post apocalyptic feeling the permeated this quest.
I guess the best way I could sum up the impact of this game though is in the eyes of my young son, Jakob. To him, Breath of the Wild is the greatest video game that was ever created. A game that captured his imagination so fully, that even years from now when he thinks about the video game that figure got him interested in the medium, he will think of Breath of Wild, just like I think of the original Legend of Zelda today.
Yes, there’s no doubt that Breath of the Wild for all the reasons I give above plus countless more I could list is the very best game this decade has given me. And I have no doubt that it’s sequel will most likely be the greatest game of the next decade as well.