Another decade has passed us by. Back in 2010, the Xbox 360 was really hitting its stride, NVIDIA launched its GeForce 580 with a whopping 512 CUDA cores, and we still didn't get Half Life 3. We also got tons upon tons of amazing games of all shapes and sizes, saw the rise of games "as a service," and saw video game streamers become mega-celebrities.
It always comes back to the games, though. The thousands upon thousands of highly-skilled engineers, passionate artists, and tireless developers that make our favorite hobby a reality produced billions of hours of fun and relaxation for millions of customers across the globe. And hey, one of those customers was humble little old me.
As we move into 2020, I thought it was more appropriate than ever to take a look back at the past decade of gaming and highlight, in no particular order, some of the best and most impactful titles upon yours truly. Let's rewind the clock.
Netflix for Xbox games
Games a la carte
Many of these games are available as part of Xbox Game Pass, which is a Netflix-like affordable subscription service granting access to dozens of games on both Xbox and PC.
Mass Effect 2 (Jan 26, 2010)
I suspect this game will be on millions of other people's lists, but it's almost impossible not to include it. Mass Effect 2 is a cover-to-cover masterpiece and won BioWare a place in the hearts of millions of gamers.
Set in a sci-fi future where humanity has joined an interstellar community of alien civilizations, Mass Effect 2 deals with a galaxy-destroying threat with an eclectic cast of alien and human heroes, with deep RPG systems and hyper-satisfying combat. Mass Effect 2 also had some incredible DLC in the form of Lair of the Shadowbroker and Overlord, which added heaps of story content and additional context. They simply don't make them like this anymore.
Sci-fi space opera
A space adventure like no other
Mass Effect 2 is a sci-fi space RPG set in the distant future. Tactical cover-based shooter combat joins rich storytelling in this epic adventure.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (May 19, 2015)
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is another decade-defining title, from CD Projekt RED. Based on the books of the same name, The Witcher 3's attention to environmental detail, visceral combat, and world-class writing solidified this game's place among the legends of the past ten years.
Set in a magical medieval world, The Witcher 3 follows Geralt of Rivia, a monster killer-for-hire as he gets entagled up in all sorts of political conspiracies while hunting down a missing loved one. Witcher 3's haunting beasts, harrowing twists, and stunning atmospherics will stay with me forever.
An essential RPG
The Witcher 3 is an excellent RPG full of romance, political intrigue, and of course, gloriously violent monster-slaying.
World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria (September 25, 2012)
Although World of Warcraft itself was released several years earlier, the game receives massive game-sized expansions every few years to keep players coming back. Mists of Pandaria launched in 2012, adding a vast new oriental-themed continent to the game, complete with Blizzard's biggest story effort yet.
I remember Mists of Pandaria fondly for Thunder King patch, which added a gigantic raid dungeon, and, for my warlock, an epic solo quest for cosmetic green fire spells — something warlock players had been asking for for years. Mists had its problems, but I have so many warm memories of being one-shotted by gigantic snails and grinding lizard men. Only WoW players will understand the addiction.
The problems don't stop WoW being fun.
Loot RNG, under-tuned skills, and broken leveling experience aside, Battle for Azeroth's raids and dungeons remain a ton of fun to experience with friends, especially if you're not new to the game.
The Long Dark (August 1, 2017)
The Long Dark made one of the biggest impacts on me this past decade, introducing me to a whole new genre I had no idea I'd enjoy. The Long Dark is the ultimate survival simulator, set during the events of a massive atmospheric catastrophe. The world is on the cusp of a new ice age, and you're stranded in the Canadian wilds with little more than the soaking wet clothes on your back.
I'll always remember my first encounter with a bear in The Long Dark, as it emerged hulking out of the mist on a frozen lake, leaving me with dire wounds. Yet, I survived, barely. It was the sort of experience that you'd typically expect of a scripted event, but here it was in The Long Dark, dynamically, dragging myself limping and bleeding into a nearby cabin.
The Long Dark is simply sublime, and worth trying for any fans of tense, first-person action.
Long, cold winter
The Long Dark is an incredible survival game set in northern Canada. A meteorological disaster causes your plane to crash in the wilderness, sending temperatures plummeting and driving the local wildlife insane. Your only aims are to scavenge, craft, and survive.
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (November 11, 2011)
Few end-of-decade games lists would be complete without a mention of Skyrim, which remains hugely popular to this day.
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the fifth instalment in the popular first-person RPG series. At the time, the game was so vast in scale and scope that few games could even hope to compare. The world map was simply gargantuan, filled with all sorts of secrets, side quests, characters, and hidden secrets waiting to be found. Even now, people are finding new things about the game almost a decade later.
Skyrim hasn't aged particularly well, but thanks to various mods it can be elevated to compete with today's open world titles. It's still worth a look, and hey, you can buy it on practically every single platform in the universe.
Skyrim is a legendary game, and for good reason. Even today, few games struggle to approach its depth and scope. An RPG must-buy.
Stellaris (May 9, 2016)
Stellaris is a viscously addictive, persistently-updated 4X strategy game on PC, and now Xbox One. In Stellaris, you can tailor your very own intergalactic empire dozens upon dozens of combinations and options. Be a cyborg nation hell-bent on assimilating the galaxy, be a peaceful trading mushroom race, or become an intergalactic insectoid crime syndicate. The choice is truly yours.
With epic sci-fi visuals, excellent mod support, and dynamic story events, Stellaris is like a black hole for your free time.
A 4K masterpiece
Stellaris is an addictive 4X strategy game set in a distant interstellar future. Design your very own space empire, right from the comfort of your PC.
Darkest Dungeon (19 Jan, 2016)
Darkest Dungeon took me completely by surprise, but my longing for turn-based JRPGs of old, abandoned by Square Enix, led me to give it a try.
Darkest Dungeon is a Lovecraftian RPG roguelite set in a bleak, horror-filled world. As the heir to an abandoned family manor, you're charged with cleansing the surrounding wilds of horrific monsters and beasts, while restoring your estate to its former glory. Mercenaries, heroes, and wanderers are all lining up to help you do the job, although your fledgling community may find its bitten off more than it can chew.
Darkest Dungeon is satisfyingly tactical, hauntingly atmospheric, and strangely addictive. This horror RPG will suck you in and not let you go, and it's one game I've happily purchased three times this gen for multiple platforms.
Horrors in the dark
Darkest Dungeon is an addictive and rewarding roguelike with haunting narration and biting gameplay that leaves a lasting impression.
Minecraft (November 18, 2011)
I suspect this is going to be on a lot of people's lists, but hey, it's more than deserving.
Minecraft is arguably the biggest game of all time, and for good reason. The blocky craft 'em up has been consistently updated with massive improvements over the years, and repeatedly sucks me in for more building time and time again. The fact that it is one of the most pervasive cross-play experiences on the planet surely helps, with gamers from virtually every platform now able to connect together and play on the same realm.
I've lost hundreds of hours to Minecraft survival mode projects, and have loved every second of it.
Keep the bees
A lively world of bees, plus some other things
So much has already been said about Minecraft. How it's a masterpiece, and a true, genuine classic. It now also has bees. BEES!
The Flame in the Flood (Feb 24, 2016)
The Flame in the Flood is a fun isometric roguelike survival title, and made me fall in love with Microsoft's ID@Xbox indie development program.
Set in a flooded world, The Flame in the Flood charts your progress to travel across a flooded America, aboard a makeshift upgradeable raft. Along the way, you'll have to manage your hunger, thirst, and other supplies, while navigating starving wolves and various other threats.
The game is simply stunning in its presentation, with gorgeous stylized art and a stellar bespoke soundtrack from Chuck Ragan, which I still listen to even now. Do yourself a favor and give this one a try, if you haven't already.
Fun in the flood
Survive the flood
The Flame in the Flood is a unique take on the survival genre, complimented by its excursionary gameplay and pupper companion.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown (October 9, 2012)
Although the recent XCOM sequels are far bigger and better in terms of scope, I have to give a shoutout to Enemy Unknown on the Xbox 360 for helping me fall in love with this storied franchise.
XCOM is a turn-based tactical game which pits your operatives against an evolving alien threat. In the game, you have to manage your base while travelling throughout the world, taking on aliens of all shapes and sizes. As exciting (and frustratingly difficult) as the gameplay can be, the arms race between the humans and the alien threat is what really hooked me into this series, as you gradually improve your weapons and tech to take on the game's more advanced threats.
Save the world
XCOM is an incredible series, and it all started for me with Enemy Unknown on the Xbox 360. Command an elite unit of super soldiers against a sprawling alien threat, and save the world (maybe).
This War of Mine (November 14, 2014)
If there was an award for bleakest game of all time, This War of Mine would surely be in the running.
This War of Mine is a strategic survival game which focuses on the victims of war, rather than the heroes and villains. Set in a fictional war-torn state, you have to manage a group of survivors, settled in a makeshift shelter, struggling for good, warmth, and water. In addition, you have to manager your character's mental states, which can deteriorate fast due to the conditions.
This War of Mine flips the idea of war gaming on its head, and it's a stark reminder how fragile civilization can be. I love it.
War is hell
A fragile world
This War of Mine turns the idea of war in video games on its head, showcasing the civilian tragedy in a way rarely seen. Harrowing and incredible.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (February 19, 2013)
Once upon a time, there was this little franchise called Metal Gear, robbed from us by a huge falling out between the franchise's creator, and its parent company. Thankfully, most of the games remain available on Xbox and PC, including my past-decade favorite.
Metal Gear Rising: Revegeance is a cyborg action-oriented spin-off, with larger-than-life super villains and truly insane combat, complete with slow-motion, precision samurai slicing.
MGR has some of my favorite boss battles in gaming, complete with some of the most satisfying combat I've ever experienced in the genre. I love it, and hope, that somehow, some way, we get another one some day.
Slice and dice
I need scissors, 61!
Metal Gear Rising is a hack n' slash with a side order of cybernetics and Kojima-isms. Built in partnership with Platinum Games, Metal Gear Rising is arguably the last great Metal Gear title we may ever get.
Fallout New Vegas (October 19, 2010)
Before the debacle of Fallout 76, Fallout was a beloved apocalypse RPG franchise with a storied history. Fallout New Vegas was arguably the ultimate culmination of the franchise, built by Obsidian Entertainment.
Although the game launched in an atrociously buggy state, subsequent patches (and occasionally, mods) fixed up the majority of the issues. Fallout New Vegas took the franchise to new heights with its karma system, faction-oriented story telling, and improved gunplay.
I spent hundreds of hours in the Mojave Wasteland, and hope that some day Fallout can be as good as New Vegas was, once again.
Crawl out through the fallout, babeh
Fallout New Vegas is the pinnacle of Fallout gaming, and it's available on PC, and also Xbox One thanks to backwards compatibility.
Prey (May 5, 2017)
I would argue 2017's Prey is one of the most criminally underrated games of this generation, and it pains me to think we may not get another one because of this.
Arkane Studios' Prey took everything I loved about Bioshock, Half-Life, and Deus Ex and combined them into a slick sci-fi shooter, with complex, problem-solving gunplay which asked players to utilize their environment as much as their weapons.
Beyond the satisfying tactical-style stealth gameplay, Prey also had some stunning atmospheric treatment, set aboard a lonely space station with impeccable world-building detail. Its soundtrack was also haunting, especially so in a game where any random object could be an alien threat.
Best Campaign Shooter
Atmospheric sci-fi shooting
Prey is an incredible (and underrated) atmospheric shooter that combines the best of Dead Space tension and Bioshock-like evocative world-building.
Monster Hunter World (January 26, 2018)
I haven't organized these games in any particular order, but honestly, if I had, Monster Hunter World may have come out on top.
Monster Hunter World is Capcom's biggest title to date, and for good reason. The mammoth monster-hunting action RPG got its claws into me and is still hanging on on the eve of the game's second anniversary, owing to some truly stellar post-launch support from Capcom.
As a hunter of the Research Commission, you're part of an exploration team on a new continent, filled with gigantic beasts and strange ecosystems. Some of those beasts are ancient and slumbering, and their revival could spell doom for the entire world.
With crazy weapons, four-player co-op, a rich customization system, and dozens of monsters to battle across all sorts of locations, Monster Hunter World has destroyed all other similar service-based RPGs for me, and remains one of my most-played games two years later. Simply incredible.
Hunt monsters with your friends
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is an incredible co-op RPG where you and up to three friends can hunt down gigantic monsters and craft astonishing gear.
See you in 2020!
These aren't necessarily the best Xbox and PC games of the past decade, they are simply my personal picks, for various subjective reasons. No matter your tastes, the past decade has seen some truly wonderful efforts from across the industry, elevating the industry ever further above movies and music as the number one form of entertainment (in my humble opinion).
In any case, I'd love to hear what your favorite games of the past decade were in the comments here, and also, what games are you looking forward to in the future?
Also, from all of us at Windows Central, have an awesome holiday break and an epic new year.
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