The decade of 2010-2019 is finally over, and we head into the ‘20s with some of the defining years of modern gaming behind us. Some of the games that have blessed (or cursed) us in the last ten years will likely be remembered as some of the best games of all time, with many of the games released in earlier years seeing various fantastic sequels in the decade too.
But, which are the best? I’ve argued with myself a lot over the most appropriate way of doing this list and I eventually landed on this, my year-by-year best game from 2010 all the way up to 2019. I’ll put a couple of honourable mentions in each year, but there can be only one actual. Ready? I’m not.
2010 – Pokémon Black
Hons – Scott Pilgrim Vs The World: The Game, Donkey Kong Country Returns
Ah, those halcyon years before I started reviewing games and played games “for fun”. I’ve can’t claim to be a huge fan of the Pokémon series, but Pokémon Black has really stayed with me since 2010. It might not be the best in the series by a long stretch, but I have fond memories of playing it at the same time as one of my friends playing Pokémon White. I never beat him even once at battling but I enjoyed every moment of it.
2011 – Solatorobo: Red the Hunter
Hons – Dark Souls, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Solatorobo: Red The Hunter is one of the few Nintendo DS games I still own, and with good reason. It might not have been the best game of the year by most measures, but I genuinely loved every moment of it. I loved the goofy story and its dumb twist, the characters were adorable, and the gameplay was unique, if a little clunky. I’m so glad the 3DS was backwards-compatible or I might have missed it. Genuinely excited for the next game in this universe!
2012 – Xenoblade Chronicles
Hons – Kid Icarus: Uprising, ZombiU
The easiest year on this entire list, 2013 was simply all about one game – Xenoblade Chronicles. I lost so much time to Shulk and his merry band of misfits. Firstly, the setting was huge and gorgeous, but was never overwhelming, even for someone like me who really doesn’t like open world. The characters were well rounded and likeable, the combat fluid and enjoyable (if a little bewildering), and the music was simply breathtaking. No other game came close.
2013 – Fire Emblem: Awakening
Hons – Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Killer Instinct
Although I’ve been a fan of the Fire Emblem series for years, 2013 saw the first edition in the series to have a bonafide emotional effect on me. Fire Emblem: Awakening is often lauded as the saviour of the series in the West, and with multiple revisions and tweaks to the formula, it’s easy to see why. In spite of the worrying lack of feet in their world, I would protect my daughter Morgan and her husband Yarne until my dying breath.
2014 – Bravely Default
Hons – Mario Kart 8, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse
In a year that saw me playing the largest amount of local multiplayer I had ever played before thanks to the Wii U, it speaks volumes that my game of the year was the single player JRPG – Bravely Default. I’m a sucker for a good JRPG anyway, especially one with classic turn-based battles, but the whole game shone with new and interesting mechanics (that even included using StreetPass). But that music was just phenomenal; in fact, I still listen to it now while working.
2015 – Bloodborne
Hons – Blazblue Chronophantasma Extend, Until Dawn
Bloodborne ruled my 2015, even going as far as resulting in adding previous games in the franchise to my games of the year lists for their respective years (see 2011). This was a macabre Lovecraftian hellscape that tortured me relentlessly and I loved every second of it. In fact, one of my fondest/darkest gaming memories ever was when my housemate at the time and I both reached the Orphan, all you could hear in the flat for weeks was constant screaming. Good times.
2016 – Final Fantasy XV
Hons – Street Fighter V, Guilty Gear Xrd -Revelator-
This year, for the most part, was a huge fighting game year. I joined the Brighton fighting game community, made a huge amount of great friends, and played A LOT of Street Fighter V. However, in terms of impact, Final Fantasy XV really left an intense emotional mark on me. It wasn’t without substantial flaws, but the characters, story, gameplay and visuals all blew me away. Also, if any one (including sodding Ardyn) harms my precious Prompto, I will utterly destroy them.
2017 – NieR: Automata
Hons – Super Mario Odyssey, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
What a year this was! Out of this entire decade of games, 2017 was the most difficult one to nail down with a staggering amount of incredible game releases. There’s a good argument for any of the three games above being the game of this year, but NieR:Automata pips it on the basis of being a personally defining experience. I still think a lot about the game now, still listen to the soundtrack now, and still maniacally recommend it now, which speaks volumes.
2018 – Octopath Traveler
Hons – Blazblue: Cross Tag Battle, Dead Cells
Shock and surprise that there’s yet another JRPG on this list, but this is a really good one I swear. Octopath Traveler had the involvement of some of the team behind the Bravely series, and the result is a bonafide masterpiece. The 2DHD visuals are possibly the most stunning I’ve ever seen, the Boost and Break system is incredibly satisfying when you get a handle on it, and the music is an absolutely phenomenal. You honestly owe it to yourself to play this modern classic.
2019 – Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers
Hons – Resident Evil 2, AI: The Somnium Files
Although 2019 might not have been the best year for me personally, I had a lot of fantastic experiences during the year – most of which involved Final Fantasy XIV. This whole year was spent playing the game, and I don’t think any game in recent memory has gripped me more than this. I love the characters, the world, the mechanics, the music, and the fact I can enjoy all of this with my close friends is simply the cherry on the most delicious tasting cake possible.
That’s it, I did it! My ten favourite games of the decade. It really is a testament to how good the ‘10s were for gaming that this list was so difficult to put together. In another ten years I really hope to still be doing this, maybe even for a big outlet, and MAYBE to a better overall standard. But for now, I just want to go into 2020 with a fresh head, especially seeing as the year kicks off pretty soon in with Tokyo Mirage Sessions coming to Switch.
One last thing though, what were your games of the decade? Did I miss your favourites, or relegate them to the honourable mentions? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter, and chat to you all soon!