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The Top Ten Video Games of the Decade

Our best video games of the decade.

I’ve seen a lot of these click-baity past decade top ten lists and decided I should throw my ninja cowl into the ring. There were so many great titles released in the last ten years its hard to decide which ones are worthy of a top ten list. But then I remembered that I didn’t care. These lists are made for discussion and hurtful comments from keyboard warriors with nothing better to do.

What I’m trying to say is this is VGN’s top ten games of the decade not THE top ten games of the decade. If somone else thinks Destiny is the number one game of the decade that’s ok…but I do question your taste.

We based our picks on the game’s overall impression on consumers and its impact on the industry. So lets get this list underway before you leg falls asleep on the can.

10.) Mass Effect 2

Bioware’s crown jewel. After the uber successful Knights of the Old Republic Bioware decided to create a space opera rpg set in a galaxy not far far away but right here in our own Milky Way. The original Mass Effect didn’t invent the FPS action rpg but it created a special franchise where our decisions really did affect the events of the game.

Yes we know they didn’t affect the end of the trilogy but that doesn’t take away from how good the second game was. Mass Effect 2 had the best story beats, the best characters, the best voice acting and some of the best missions of the franchise. Also it graced us with it’s presence on the PS3- no longer a Xbox 360 exclusive.

Mass Effect 2 brought in a new combat system that made the game feel more action/adventure FPS rather than stat based shooting like Sytem Shock or Deus Ex. At first I thought this was going to be a huge departure from the rpg mechanics but it was the right call. The shooting was great even though your teammate AI could of been better. Usually they were in the way or they just got themselves killed.

The dialogue choices were fantastic and at the time no other game was this in depth when it came to talking to NPCs. Today it seems kind of basic and that’s understandable. You could respond like a dick, an angel or be neutral. It was what followed that mattered. Missions changed and people treated you differently depending on how much you were liked or disliked or sexy. Creating a love triangle on your ship will not get you that captain of the year award but it was fun watching it unfold. I didn’t think my Shepard would have to choose between the perfect looking Miranda and an alien who requires a full size helmet to breathe.

I’ve played all four games and for some reason all my memories of Mass Effect come from the second game. That’s not to say there weren’t good moments in the other entries but the second one just had more good moments and it was consistently good.

9.) Zelda: Breadth of the Wild

It’s hard to imagine how they can possibly top Breadth of the Wild. Nintendo’s flagship action rpg always raises the bar and is a no-brainer killer app to move consoles. Originally released on the short lived Wii-U BOTW came in like a hurricane and swept very loyal and casual fans of the franchise off their feet.

A new game featuring a vast open world seemed to be all the rage this past decade and it doesn’t look like that trend is slowing down anytime soon. Unfortunately some games that like to boast that they have hundred of hours of game play in a huge sandbox. That is unfortunate because a lot of these games are full of, well- filler! The Zelda franchise is no stranger to open worlds full of dungeons and annoying enemies that bounce around. It seems only fitting that this franchise took the action rpg sandbox genre to a different level.

The Breath of the Wild world feels alive and gives the player a lot more freedom than a typical open world rpg. The reactive properties of different items around the map allowed the player to experiment. For example if you use fire on materials that realistically should be flammable it will be. The results can help you in your quest or solve some well thought out puzzles. The combat is some of the best in the biz and that always comes down to one thing: easy to learn hard to master. If any action game can nail that concept down you got yourself an addictive game play mechanic. That usually equals success (unless you’re Titanfall 2).

We should also mention how gorgeous this title is. Zelda has always set it’s own benchmark to be the best looking title on their respective console. Ok so it wasn’t it’s prettiest on the original NES but starting with the 64 it has been the title to show off what the Nintendo console can do. The Wii U version still looks great and the Switch version makes you appreciate how they can get so much graphical horse power out of that little thing.

Zelda: BOTW ended up being the best selling Zelda game of all time. Albeit there are two versions of the game but that’s not the point. The point is it’s one of the best games of the decade.

8.) Mario: Odyssey

This was a tough one to choose as the excellent Mario Galaxy 2 is a personal favorite. Mario: Odyssey brings together all the fun mechanics of Mario Galaxy as well as Mario 64. It truly is Mario evolved and a great system seller as most Mario games are.

Nintendo’s open world games seem to be consistent home-runs with the above mentioned Zelda: BOTW and Mario: Odyssey. This new version of Mario features a unique world that reflects- our world. When I first saw the previews I thought this was going to be Mario: GTA.

Mario: Odyssey is everything you would expect from a Mario and more. I especially like the call back levels to the 8-bit era. If this were a film it could be criticized as fan service but it’s not a movie. It is a title that features more creativity and art than any modern movie I can think of. But that’s a subject for a different blog post.

Mario’s has a hat that’s alive! That sentence alone may not be enough to describe the great features of the game-play but it should. One would have to play the game to get how great this new feature is. The point is this is a very old franchise (in video game years) that always seems to think of new ways to give Mario new powers to keep the game-play fresh. Trust us when we say that not only is his googly eyed hat adorable but it contributes to an extremely fun experience you can only get on the Nintendo Switch (and Switch Lite).

7.) Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain

What a sad game this is. I don’t mean sad in the sense of atmosphere or mood. Remember when Otocon’s sister EE died in his arms and her pet parrot said his name in her voice after she dies and he started bawling hard? That was legitimately sad. Steven Speilberg once said, “I think the real indicator [that games have become a storytelling art form] will be when somebody confesses that they cried at level 17.” Well Mr. Spielberg I give you Metal Gear Solid 2: The Sons of Liberty.

Now lets fast forward to Metal Gear Solid 5 and how it never reaches that level of emotion. What makes this game a downer is how there is half a story. We all know why and it’s because Hideo Kojima was completely unreasonable after years of being treated fairly by Konami. Why are you looking at the screen like that? Have you heard something different?

Behind the scenes issues aside you can’t argue with how amazing this game is. Yes the story is lacking compared to other entries in the series but this is the pinnacle of stealth action game-play. Maybe you don’t like stealth and want to go out all Rambo style? The Metal Gear games always rewarded you for not being a homicidal maniac but it doesn’t quite punish you for going guns blazing either.

This game gives you the freedom to be a one-man army or a stealth ninja. The more lives you take the more tales of a horned demon start to spread among your enemies. A piece of shrapnel lodged in your forehead will start to grow like a devil horn the more murderous you are. The Metal Gear games didn’t exactly punish you for killing but they always made a note of mentioning it. I can’t help but think of the Sorrow boss fight in Metal Gear 3. You walk up river against a herd of all your victims. It’s really cool ideas that gave this entire series it’s addicting charm and The Phantom Pain is no different.

The best part of Metal Gear Solid 5 is you will always have a different experience every time. When this game came out it was a lot of fun to trade war stories with your buddies. Such a shame we won’t get another Metal Gear game from Kojima. Even though we didn’t get an in-depth story with a hundred plot twists it’s still a great way to go out.

Add in the camouflage system from Metal Gear 3 and not to mention a fantastic sound track and you have one of the greatest Metal Gear and overall video game of the decade.

6.) The Last of Us

Ok it’s another zombie apocalypse game. Haven’t we’ve done this genre enough? Why won’t these games/movies/comics etc die? It’s like it’s a…zombie genre?

We’ve all thought about that but we keep getting great content in the genre and The Last of Us is arguable the best. It plays out like a great novel. And that novel is The Road. Is it a similar story? Sort of but it’s all about the execution. The chemistry between Joel and Ellie makes this entire game. As you control Joel you are tasked with protecting Ellie who might be the key to curing this whole outbreak. Along the “Road” the characters become so engrossing that it’s really hard not to care about them.

The game play is fantastic and some of the best combat I’ve played in a stealth game. Crafting shivs and making your own traps is very satisfying. It’d be one thing if this game was all great acting and writing with garbage game play. It’d be called out on its pretentiousness and it’d find its way to the bottom of bargain bins and no PS4 re-release. When a developer creates a wonderful story and balances it with amazing game play you get something special. Naughty Dog deserves the accolades it received when this title released. It was a great send off to the PS3 and a great title to show off the PS4.

This is a game that had no business adding a multiplayer mode but it did. It was also very successful and created a huge following. It seemed like this game could do no wrong. Lets create a map with 4 v 4 and see what happens. Well thanks to it’s great combat mechanics people ate it up like a clicker eating up Joel’s jugular when we was too loud trying to sneak up on one of them.

The sequel is scheduled for Q1 2020 and I wouldn’t be surprised if it finds itself on the best games of the decade 2020-2030.

5.) God of War

What was I just writing about great writing plus great game play? Actually the formula for God of War follows the Last of Us template. A scruffy tough as nails protagonist escorts a young naive kid. The two aren’t very warm to each other at the beginning but by the end form a very strong bond through their adventures.

God of War is gorgeous. Even on the peasant launch-PS4 and PS4 slim it looks amazing. This is why you purchase a PS4- any version of it. The larger than life enemies would make your younger siblings beg you to keep playing so they can see more of this crazy world.

Not satisfied with kicking some Greek god ass Kratos retires in a world ruled by Norse mythology. This was the right call as vikings seem to be all the rage lately. It was probably thanks to Marvel’s Thor, the hit show Vikings and another game called Hellblade. Even if Vikings and Norse mythology were considered lame this game would beat you over the head and you’d ask for more.

The game play mechanics and rpg design made this game feel incredible. Your axe kind of felt like you were using Mjonir. You throw it by a crowd of enemies and wait for them to align as they get ready to attack. With the press of a button Kratos gestures and the axe flies through the air as it cuts down his enemies. It doesn’t get more satisfying than that.

The maps actually accounted for a large open world. You couldn’t go to many places at first and it always seemed kind of linear. That is until you wanted to complete everything. There isn’t a pixel of this map that is boring. Even if you went to the same place over and over again it was all eye candy.

Some games might hold you by the hand just to show off the game and tell you a story. I don’t know if God of War has this feature but this is not an easy game if you’re a completionist. The Valkyrie fights were some of the toughest boss fights I’ve ever completed. No I’m not a Bloodborne/Dark Souls fan so I’m sure there are tougher ones. If you wanted to 100% complete this game it would take work and time. But if you ask me and technically you did because you clicked on this article- the difficulty only adds to the value of God of War.

4.) The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt

Toss a coin to your Witcher, oh valley of plenty, oh valley of plenty. What a great show. Like many other gamers around the world I too re-installed the iconic rpg because I wanted more Witcher. According to Steam when the show launched more people played The Witcher 3 than ever before.

Released back in 2015 right in the middle of the decade The Witcher 3 is still one of the most in-depth rpgs of all time. Featuring a vast open world with side-quests that would be main quests in smaller rpg titles, The Witcher 3 will go down as one of the best games of all time.

What makes the Witcher 3 stand out to me is the outcome of your quests. There are different ways to complete these story lines and some of them are more right than others. What the heck do I mean by that? I’ll give you an example. Spoiler alert! The game has been out for half a decade so whatever. Anyway, one side quest has you investigating vampire activity in a large town. People are scared and corpses are turning up everywhere. This is a long quest so I’ll get to the point of it. After your investigation you think you have the vampire responsible because he’s attacking a prostitute. You interfere and you can slay him where he stands or maybe take a moment to think and ask some questions. I like to look tough in front of the ladies because it makes me feel like a big man so I killed him where he stood. I brought my findings to the people who hired me and everyone was safe and happy. The end! But it wasn’t I screwed up. A friend of mine who played the same mission did not kill this guy attacking the whore. He talked to him which led to more of the mission which led to the real killer/vampire. When we talked about this mission we couldn’t believe that the game let me think that I successfully completed this mission. I never would of known.

This is exactly what sets The Witcher apart from other rpgs. Lesser evils and morality being grey instead of black and white.

3.) Skyrim

Member when Bethesda was universally loved by all even though some of their games had bugs that made them border-line unplayable?

Lets not get into Fallout 76 we all know it’s criminally garbage. This is a happy list and Fallout 76 has no place on it.

Skyrim is a hall of fame game. By that I mean when you hear its name you know it’s an all time great like Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky. Released upon the world in 2011 Skyrim continues to sell and continues to be the standard in which modern rpgs are measured against.

I can’t think of any other game that has been repackaged and re-sold on so many different platforms.

Bethesda would if they could

As a VR defender I have to say that it is absolutely fantastic on VR…when you can get it working. This is still Bethesda we’re talking about.

Lets talk about the base game and why it’s so important to the medium. The Elder Scrolls games always boasted large open rpg worlds with many dungeons to crawl as did many other games. What set Skyrim apart from them and its own predecessors was its world building and its immersion into that world. NPCs had their own jobs and lives and couldn’t care less if you were around…unless they needed something.

The mission design made it stand out too. Besides the main quest you can choose to do missions for the Fighters Guild, The Dark Brotherhood, The Mages Guild, and the Thieves Guild. Not to mention Daedric missions and a civil war in which you have to pick a side to complete. Sprinkle in some random NPC missions and this is a game that can take you well over 100 hours to complete. The missions didn’t feel called in either.

I remember doing a random drinking contest with some guy only to wake up in a farm field. You had to retrace your steps and find out what the heck happened the night before as you run into people you pissed off while inebriated. It turns out it was a Daedric mission and all of this happens when talking to a random stranger at a bar.

Some may argue that the game is dated and the engine is in a real need of an upgrade and they’re not wrong. What you can’t argue against is the demand for this game as it has landed on almost every console including Alexa which isn’t a console.

Skyrim is a very user friendly rpg that is a hit with every type of gamer and that’s thanks to its great menu design and it’s simplicity on the surface. The more you play this game you begin to realize how in depth it is and how there is something here for everyone which is not an easy feat for any rpg.

2.) Minecraft

Minecraft is a phenomenon and there’s no other way to describe it. If you know people who hate video games because they think it’s a waste of time or for nerds use this game as your main argument. I can’t think of another game that can bring together adults and children to work towards building…anything. All you need is imagination and the know-how on how to execute. Think of what you want to build and think of the materials you’ll need then get to work on getting those materials. I can’t think of a better way to nurture creativity in a young childs mind.

Minecraft brought creativity and simplicity to the main stream. It looks like an 8 bit FPS but it is so much more than that. You start out in a field of pix-elated green and you need to use the world around you to create more things that lead to the creation of more things. A wooden axe is great but how about a metal one? Better mine a hole and hope you find some iron but you got to build an oven to black smith some metal tools/weapons. Now you need stone and wood to create the fire. And on and on it goes.

Minecraft is the best selling video game of all time. That’s not hyperbole and it’s not one of the best selling video games- it’s number one. It’s creator Markus Persson sold it to Microsoft for 2.5 billion dollars. 2.5 BILLION DOLLARS! Did Microsoft even haggle with this guy? And if you follow the news it turned Mr. Persson insane as he made crazy comments on the Internet. I guess it’s possible he believes certain people with certain progressive beliefs are evil before he became insanely rich but who cares. He’s rich we’re not we live in crazy times lets move on.

Minecraft to date has sold over 180 million copies. It is safe to say that its not going anywhere and it wasn’t a fad. It’s simple yet complex and that always makes a special kind of game. Who knows what will topple this giant but if something ever does I hope its soon because I want to play it.

Honorable Mentions:

A few titles we thought of but were too lazy to insert it into the list and we didn’t feel any of them were number one:

  • Marvel’s Spider-man PS4
  • Horizon: Zero Dawn
  • Fortnite
  • Rainbow 6: Siege
  • Uncharted 2
  • Gears of War 3
  • Gone Home
  • Bloodborne
  • Dark Souls
  • Pokemon Go

1.) Grand Theft Auto 5

Minecraft is the best selling video game of all time. Hold my beer GTA 5 says. GTA 5 is the best selling piece of entertainment of all time. That includes movies, books, tv, music etc. No one doesn’t own this and if they don’t they will. That much is clear.

GTA 4 was beloved but I think some people had some issues with it. It was a technical marvel on the PS3 and Xbox 360 but it seemed like it was so close to something but couldn’t reach it. Niko was a great character and Liberty City looked amazing so what did GTA 5 have that GTA 4 didn’t?

GTA 4 was the first GTA to offer multiplayer but it seems like it was more of an experiment. GTA 5 online is a behemoth and has made so much money that Rockstar has abandoned any single player DLC. Pewdiepie started with COD on the YouTubes and we all know how that went. Other people followed and it led to live streams of a ton of games like Fortnite and PUBG. GTA 5 offered a ton of entertaining streams and vids which usually ended in a lot of laughter. After launching a lot of YouTube channels and careers it’s not wonder this free advertising had people downloading this title faster than a private jet smashing into Mount Chiliad.

GTA 5 featured everything we all loved from GTA but with gorgeous graphics and an in-depth online mode it’s no wonder people keep buying this even today. GTA Online is not going anywhere and one has to think when GTA 6 will get released? Does it have to get released? GTA 5 has been out for a long time but even today I can’t say the graphics look dated.

There are those that will argue about GTA Online being what’s wrong with video games today. The inclusion of a casino which is banned in some countries show how predatory this live service can be. It is an industry issue and it’s easy to blame the big fish on top. Look at number two in this list, Minecraft. It’s a kid friendly game that promotes creativity but it’s got a ton of micro transactions that I’m sure drive some kids crazy. Especially with all the themed skins like Star Wars or Harry Potter or just pick your favorite franchise and Minecraft will sell it to you.

The greediness and predatory strategy is a topic for another blog. You can’t argue its success and you can’t argue how big of an achievement being the number one selling entertainment property is. If you grew up in the 80s the all time best selling entertainment item might be Peter Frampton: Frampton Comes Alive on vinyl. Or maybe Michale Jackson’s Thriller or the Star Wars Trilogy? None of that comes close to GTA 5 and that’s why it’s the number one video game of the decade.

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